Thanks to all the talk about washing our hands now, soaps are having their moment. But in this age of conscious beauty consumption, perhaps the handmade soap bar seems like a better option the next time you want to pick up that plastic bottle of hand cleanser. According to National Geographic, the beauty industry’s plastic footprint has boomed, with the size of packaging in the United States alone – and not just on personal care items – ballooning by over 120 times since 1960, with almost 70 per cent of that waste piling up in landfills.
Here is where the fun begins. In the past few years, more independent businesses have sprouted with designs that resemble anything like bars of soaps. Think pieces that look like crystals and colourful jelly blocks. Nupur Khemka, founder of homegrown conscious skincare label Mira shares that artisanal soap bars allow designers to do so because of the cold process method used in the production of these soap bars.
The method combines plant-based oils such as coconut, shea butter and mango with sodium hydroxide lye to form a chemical reaction known as saponification that is slowly cured over four to six weeks. Oils and lye do not contain chemical detergents, hardeners or synthetic lathering agents, which may cause skin irritation and pollution. When using the cold process method, glycerin, a natural by-product that is known for its moisturising effects, is distributed throughout the bar.
Apart from choosing the different types of oils to include in the formula, the cold process method allows further customisation from the scent (by adding essential oils) to the colour (natural colourants like clay and milk are used) and the design. But a word of advice for those switching to the bar movement: Since these products do not contain preservatives, they can only be used for up to six months before you need to purchase a new one.
Here, we list some of the brands to know.