Where is the one place on earth whose power and productivity is vital for human existence?
Where many of the world's products and commodities we use every day originate - from medicines, body, and hair care products, to fruits, nuts, and spices, even coffee.
The Amazon, of course!
No, not amazon.com.
Although, yes, we all know that we can procure all of these items and more from amazon.com.
No, I'm not talking about an online warehouse, I'm talking about the South American rainforest.
God's warehouse of wonder.
The amazing Amazon rainforest, the world's largest rainforest, is not only one of the New 7Wonders of Nature of the World, but it's also a crucial contributor to our global climate.
Home to the largest river in the world by volume, holding 20% of the world's freshwater, and the world's second longest river (the Nile River wins that title), the Amazon River, the Amazonian rainforest is an ethereal ecosystem of flora, fauna, insects, and wildlife.
It's dubbed Earth's built-in filtration system because of its production and release of oxygen and absorption of carbon dioxide.
The industrialization and deforestation of the Amazon's rainforest is a shameful topic that's way outside the scope of this post, but I'm grateful that there are compassionate, determined people and organizations who are on the case of saving this remarkable ecosystem and helping it continue to thrive.
So you can see why the best quality oils, butters, and other skincare ingredients hail from the most fertile part of the world.
The good people of South America, Brazil in particular, have direct access to some of the most sustainable, effective, and diverse raw ingredients ever used in the production of skincare products.
And that includes vegetable-based, Handcrafted Soap.
You could say that, when it comes to demanding that their skin care products and cosmetics come from natural, sustainable resources, Brazilians are the most aware among us.
The non-profit organization Union for Ethical Bio Trade researched how much more sophisticated and knowledgeable the average Brazilian consumer is about the origin of natural ingredients and various environmental issues than the rest of the world, including the United States.
Brazilian body care ingredients are world renowned for, not only their lovely pronunciations, but also for offering superior protection for the skin, from being anti-aging and high in antioxidants, to improving elasticity and the skin's healing resiliency.
It stands to reason then that body care ingredients from the region, most notably the oils and butters, would be dy-no-mite in soap.
And they are!
I've outlined only 10 here, five oils and five butters, but believe me, there are so many more.
Want a handy list of the 10 Brazilian oils and butters at your fingertips to make ordering them easy? Download the checklist and keep it in your body care and soap making notes. When it's time to experiment with new oils and butters, you have a resource to help with sourcing your ingredients.
A Common and Valid Concern about Using High-Quality, Natural Ingredients In Handcrafted Soap Making
A question of concern I am often asked by soap makers and users of natural soap is...
Oils, butters, and other exquisite ingredients used in soap making(such as herbs and essential oils) are precious and can be relatively expensive. Won't the rigors of saponification kill or significantly diminish the quality and integrity of the raw ingredients used, therefore lessening their skincare benefits?
My A to that Q is...Yes and No.
Depending on the soap making technique you are employing, some of the healing and medicinal properties of some ingredients COULD very well be compromised.
In Cold-Process soap making, when the saponification process is activated by the addition of the alkali to the fats, the high heat can transform many of the nutritional components of some ingredients, including the oils and butters.
Oils and butters are made up of ester bond compounds called triglycerides. These ester bonds react with an aqueous alkali solution to create glycerin and a fatty acid salt, or what we call soap.
With any ingredient used in soap making, whether an oil, butter, essential oil, herb, etc., some of the chemical compounds in the ingredients will react with the alkali (or break down from the heat of the solution), and some will not.
At the end of the day, technically, it's a difficult question to accurately answer without intense testing and research.
I look at it this way...
When I use handcrafted soap made with high-quality ingredients, the results are impactful.
I believe a significant amount of healing properties of most ingredients do survive the saponification process during Cold-Process soap making.
Of course, like most things in life, this is a subjective theory that is based on my own personal experience and that of others who are raving fans of all-natural, handcrafted soap.
HOWEVER, I will say that it is imperative for common sense to prevail in the high-quality ingredients versus saponification discussion.
I, personally, won't subject prohibitively expensive raw materials such as rose otto or neroli essential oils to saponification.
In spite of the unknown skincare benefits that MIGHT survive, these essential oils are too costly for me to use them in Cold-Process soap. (Someone else may feel absolutely comfortable with adding these essential oils to the soap pot, and to them I say, carpe diem! To thine own self be true, and all that jazz.)
As with just about any topic, there are going to be varying opinions and conclusions.
There is a lot of complexity going on in a soap pot.
As a soap maker, it is crucial for you to develop your own experiences and realizations about different ingredients and the results they produce.
I encourage you to experiment with many types of oils and butters, and also with other methods of soap making.
Hot-Process soap making is purported to "save" most of the healing properties of ingredients.
Making hand-milled soap is another way, and one of my most preferred ways, to make soap with exquisite ingredients.
Just as with any process that is unique and handmade, in soap making, there is no one-size-fits-all approach or outcome.
That's the beauty of this undertaking. There is no right or wrong.
For further reading about the science of soap making...
...and how ingredients behave and survive during saponification, I recommend this book:
From his many years of research, Dunn has determined that some healing properties from essential oils do in fact survive the saponification process.
Now, go and be great with your soap making.
Excellent sources for Brazilian oils and butters:
Medical Advice Disclaimer:
The information in this blog article has not been evaluated by the United States Food and Drug Administration. The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases or conditions. This article provides the reader with practical information regarding handcrafted soap making, based on basic soap-making science and ancient anecdotal practices of health and beauty. In no way should the contents of this article be regarded as medical advice. It is recommended that the reader perform a patch test before using any formula described. The author and all invested parties will not be held responsible for any allergic or adverse reactions, contraindications, or ill effects from manufacturing or using any products described in this article.