Herb'N Eden

The truth about lye: What you need to know about sodium hydroxide

The truth about lye: What you need to know about sodium hydroxide


Your skincare routine is only as reliable as the ingredients you use. In today’s world where buzzwords like “natural” and “organic” are the new marketing wave, the idea of chemicals in your soap as a bad thing can be misleading. Sodium hydroxide, for example, is a necessity in every soap, even handmade soaps. It’s important to understand the role that sodium hydroxide plays in maintaining healthy skin and why it’s a key ingredient in soap.

What is sodium hydroxide?

Sodium hydroxide is a chemical compound that holds or maintains the pH of skincare products, also known as lye. In soap, it’s combined with animal fat or vegetable oil in a process called saponification. Essentially, soap is a mixture of base oils, a diluted lye solution, and herbal additives.


During the soap making process the lye is heavily diluted with water, and added to the oils to create a thick mixture. The mixture is then added to a mold for 24 hours to harden, and set to cure for 4-6 weeks. During the curing process, the soap bars lose water weight, in which the sodium hydroxide is dissolved. Therefore lye is needed for the chemical process that soap goes through, but it's not present in the final product.

How does sodium hydroxide work in soap?

During the soap making process, the lye is heavily diluted with water and added to the oils to create a thick mixture. The mixture is then added to a mold for 24 hours to harden, and set to cure for 4-6 weeks. During the curing process, the soap bars lose water weight, in which the sodium hydroxide is dissolved. Therefore lye is needed for the chemical process that soap goes through, but it's not present in the final product.

The history of lye in soap 

Many of our parents & grandparents are very familiar with lye soap. Back then, lye soap was much harsher on the skin because it was mixed with animal fat and the advancements in the curation process today didn’t exist. Lye appears in the transcripts of many ancient societies in Mesopotamia and Egypt. As science improved over time, soap makers began to use a synthetic sodium hydroxide discovered by Humphrey Day. The discovery of this alkali made it easier for soap makers to make lye.

TAKE PRECAUTION WHEN DEALING DIRECTLY

When dealing with lye it’s very important to take the proper precautions, as it is very caustic and can chemically burn the skin if touched directly. I have to use goggles and gloves when I make soap and that’s because I learned from experience. I've gotten lye on my skin and in my eyes and it's not a good feeling whatsoever. If it comes in contact with the skin use an acid like vinegar to neutralize, and water for the eyes.

The truth about sodium hydroxide

Sodium hydroxide is used in a lot of products from cosmetics, cleaning, and even food. Even in a concentrated effort to avoid lye, it's nearly impossible. The real about sodium hydroxide is that you can't make soap without it, and that's just not the case if you're making it from scratch. There is a melt-and-pour method if you don't want to deal with lye at all in your soap, but the soap base you meltdown has been made with it. Thankfully, sodium hydroxide is only a small component alongside the other natural ingredients used to make soap. 

Herb'N Eden’s soap has been through a curing process and the lye is no longer present in the finished product. It's better than an ingredient list full of chemicals you can't pronounce and that strip the skin of its natural oils. We give your skin the nourishment it needs to be healthy without cutting corners. 

 

Check us out!

14 comments

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Jun 12, 2020 • Posted by Rushanah

Thank you so much for that wonderful and thorough explanation of why Lye is needed and how it is active in the soap making process. I have come across several people who state they strictly use all natural essential oils only abut never explain that the soap has lye and must have the lye somewhere along the line of processing. Educated well today!

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