We often get the question "Do you make your soap with lye?" To which we respond, "yes of course! You can't make soap without it" Well, this is disconcerting to some as lye is a very strong and dangerous base, not to applied to skin right!? So what's really going on here? Isn't there lye in my soap???
The easy answer is while real soap must be made with lye, no lye remains in the final product (thank heavens!). Soap is made using what is called a saponification reaction, and this reaction involves the reactants, Triglycerides (the oils and butters used) and Lye (sodium hydroxide), coming together to form two new compounds. Namely; soap and glycerin (AKA Glycerol). For those brave enough, note the chemical reaction below.
So what's going on here. Notice on the left side of the arrow, there are two compounds. First is this monstrous compound on the far left, that is your oils and butters. For us, that comprises a mix of olive oil, coconut oil, and palm kernal oils. That is being added to NaOH, seen immediately to the right of that of our oils. NaOH of course, is our lye.
That arrow represents the direction of the reaction and to the right of the arrow we have our final products. First we see Glycerol or more commonaly called Glycerin (~25%), and of course our saponified oils (~75%), and water.
Notice! No lye remains in the final product. The lye is needed to "break the tails" of the triglycerides when forming soap. This reaction results in the formation of glycerin, which leaves your skin soft and moisturized. Water is also produced and this evaporates off during the curing process leaving long lasting, hardened bars.
The saponification reaction produces soaps that are opaque in nature. I am often asked, "but don't you have glycerin soaps?" "Glycerin soap" has become synonymous with transparent soaps. However, soaps made using the saponification reaction produce mild soaps which are rich in glycerin.
So if you haven't already tried handcrafted soaps made with lye, I hope you do so soon. I can not tell you how many customers have told me that after using these soaps they will never go back to commercially produced soaps.