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Ingredients in our Handmade Soaps

We make our soap completely from scratch, using raw ingredients and recipes we created.

The ingredients we use to make our handmade soaps vary, depending on the type of soap made. All soaps are made with some kind of fat or oil, some kind of liquid, and of course sodium hydroxide or 'lye'.

Most of us have heard our whole lives that oil and water don't mix. And they don't - Unless you change their chemical composition. And sodium hydroxide does exactly that. It changes the oil and water so that they can blend and become soap. Please make a mental note that although lye is one of the ingredients used to create soap, there is no lye left in our good-for-your-skin soaps! Lye is transformed in the soapmaking process.

Each individual soap listed on our website will include the ingredients used to make that soap along with a general description of the soap. If you buy our wrapped soaps, the ingredients will also be repeated word for word on the paper cigar bands the soap will come wrapped in.

Please click below to focus on the areas you are most interested in, or scroll down the page to read about the ingredients we use in all our soaps.

Botanicals and Exfoliants

Any type of ground botanical added to our soaps, whether pine needles or poppyseeds, cornmeal grits or medicinal herbs, is included within the description. If no botanical is listed in a soap description, you can assume that the soap is smooth in texture with no exfoliant added.

Colorants, Latherers, Hardeners and Preservatives

The ingredients a soapmaker uses to create their soap is an important thing to know, but with skin care products it is also important to know what is NOT used. We use absolutely no artificial colorants, latherers, hardeners or preservatives to make our soaps. The color differences you see in our soaps, from yellow to green to black or brick, are due to the ingredients themselves. The only artificial ingredient that is added to some soaps is an artificial fragrance. We'll address scent ingredients on this page too, so keep reading!

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Animal Products

Goat Milk is used in the more than 50 goat milk cream soaps we make.
We use lard in our Grandma's Ole Lye Soap because that's how it's been historically made. We also use a little lard in our Dog Soap because it adds shine and conditioning to the coat. These two soaps are the only soaps that use lard as an ingredient.

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Olive Oil Castile Soap
Ingredients: Olive Oil, Lye, Water.

The only oil used to make our Olive Oil Castile Soap is Olive Oil. The first 100% Olive Oil Soaps were made in Castile, Spain, in the Mediterrean region where Olive Oil is plentiful. So a soap made only of Olive Oil has traditionally been called a Castile Soap, or Castille Soap when misspelled.

A Castile Soap has become widely known as an excellent quality soap, and it is. Unfortunately, there are many soaps sold today that are called 'Castile' when in fact they contain lots of other oils. Olive Oil is one of the most luxurious oils used in handmade soapmaking. It is also one of the most expensive, having increased in price nearly 30% in the last year alone due to a disappointing olive crop harvest in 2003. A soap being sold as 'Castile' but containing other oils is not a true Castile Soap. So read about the ingredients before buying a soap.

The lather of a Castile soap is low, with larger, open bubbles, and the Olive Oil acts as a humectant, drawing moisture to the skin.

A 100% Olive Oil Soap is the most gentle soap that can be made, which is why it is so often recommended as a baby soap. Situations where a gentle soap may be desirable are after surgery, during and after chemotherapy, and daily care for tender, elderly skin.

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Regular Recipe Soap
Ingredients: Olive, Coconut, Castor and Organic, Sustainably Harvested Palm Oils; Water, Lye.

Our regular base oil recipe is a four oil blend of pure food grade vegetable oils of Olive, Coconut, Palm and Castor Oils. Because of the extraordinary amount of olive and castor oil in our regular recipe soap, these soaps will not dry your skin. But they will not moisturize your skin as much as when we include other ingredients with additional moisturizing properties, like goat milk or butters. If a soap is not designated as a goat milk soap, a shea butter soap, or a castile soap, you should assume it is a regular recipe soap containing the four basic oils.

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Goat Milk Cream Soap Ingredients
Ingredients: Olive, Coconut, Castor and Organic, Sustainably Harvested Palm Oils; Goat Milk, Lye.

When we add Goat Milk to one of our soaps, we try to designate the soap as a 'Cream' or 'Milk' soap to make it easy for everyone to identify. Some names are just too much fun to use so we go alone if we must, minus the Cream name, like with our Dirty Old Man or Hot Flash soaps. We call our Goat Milk Soaps our "middle of the road" moisture soaps. They are wonderfully gentle, lather beautifully with thick bubbles, and leave your skin silky to the touch. Our Goat Milk Soaps are the level of moisture that most people use. Goat Milk has many wonderful benefits, which you can read more about on our Goat Milk page.

We make more than 50 fragrances of goat milk soap, so have fun finding your favorites!

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Shea Butter Soaps
Ingredients: Olive, Coconut, Castor and Organic, Sustainably Harvested Palm Oils; Shea and Cocoa Butters, Water, Lye.

If your skin is very dry, with cracks around your cuticles or fingertips, elbows or feet, then you will probably want to consider our Shea Butter Soaps. Our Shea Butter is harvested in Ghana from the Karite Tree. Shea Butter is a non-greasy moisturizer that can deeply penetrate all layers of your skin and provide a barrier against dehydration. Because shea butter can hydrate our skin tissues so effectively, it can help reduce wrinkles and scar tissue, as well as'plump up' skin thinned by blood thinning medications and sometimes reduce bruising.

Our Shea Butter Soaps are the choice of customers with eczema, psoriasis, rosacea and other frustrating skin conditions. We chose to make our Diabetic Foot Soap in our Shea Butter base in order to create the most moisturizing soap possible. Our soaps are obviously not a cure, but our customers report reduced itching and cracking when using our shea butter soaps. Temporary or short term dry skin challenges due to sunburn or chemotherapy may be eased by a shea butter soap. We make our Shea Butter Soaps in two versions: one with ground medicinal herbs, and the other without.

Shea Butter Hand Repair Soaps
We originally created our Hand Repair Soaps to meet the needs of a crafter's hardworking, calloused hands. So our Hand Repair soaps are loaded with Shea and Cocoa Butters in addition to a healthy volume of olive and castor to truly lubricate your skin. We include ground medicinal herbs with historical lore of helping to heal minor cuts and cracks, because we believe herbs actually do help our skin in many ways.

Shea Butter Facial Soaps
So many of our customers liked the Hand Repair Soaps so much that they started using them as facial soaps. And when that started happening, we began receiving frequent requests to make some shea butter soaps without the ground herbs because some people found them scratchy on the thinner, and often more sensitive facial skin. And so we did.

Our Shea Butter Facial Soaps are made with exactly the same amounts of Shea and Cocoa Butters as the Hand Repair Soaps, but do not contain the ground medicinal herbs. Grandma's Ole Lye Soap

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Grandma's Ole Lye Soap
Ingredients: Lard, Lye, and Water.

We make Grandma's Ole Lye Soap just as it's always been made, with three basic ingredients of lard, water and lye. The reason the homemade soap made long ago was called 'Lye Soap' was precisely because there was lye left in the finished bar. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains, we still hear many a story from people who remember being bathed with lye soap and describe the experience as 'practically taking your skin off.' That's because there really was too much lye in those soaps. Back there, because they were making a soap used for once-a-week-baths or cleaning the floors or laundry, a lye-heavy soap made sense. Sometimes, though, it was just one of the hardships of rural life. You can read more about why this happened frequently on our Lye Soap product page. Our Lye Soap is intended to be a drying soap. Our Lye Soap is not intended to be a good-for-your-skin soap, but one used for specific purposes, such as exposure to Poison Ivy, Oak or Sumac and for laundry.

Scent as An Ingredient And lastly, let's talk briefly about scent. There are two ways to scent a soap - one way is completely natural and the other is not. The 100% Natural process that extracts scent from the flower, leaf or stem of a plant results in an Essential Oil. Some scents cannot be collected naturally or may be too expensive to extract for soapmaking purposes. In that case, a Fragrance Oil is created in a Perfumer's Laboratory to simulate a scent - and that means it is an artificial scent, not a natural scent.

Any fragrances we use are FDA approved, very high quality duplications, that will be appreciated by both your skin and your nose. Many customers with skin sensitivities will be looking for either Unscented Soap or soap made with natural Essential Oils. If we scent a soap with a 100% Natural Essential Oil, we specify that clearly in the soap's description. Otherwise you can assume the soap is scented with fragrance. And if a soap is Unscented, we state that fact as well. Unscented soaps may still have a slight odor that reflects their ingredients, like goat milk or cocoa butter.

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So many different ingredients - So how do you choose?

We are often asked to recommend which of our soaps to try first.

We suggest you try one bar of each recipe - meaning - one regular recipe, one goat milk, and one shea butter and see what you think. Once you try the different moisture levels, you will have a good sense of which of our recipes is right for you and your skin. And truth is, what's right for you will vary from season to season, and region to region due to our climate differences. And of course, your moisture needs also vary through your lifespan. But you probably already know that! Once you know what recipe is best for you, you've got lots and lots of fragrances to choose from within that category or type of soap.

And of course - we make it easy for you to try our soaps! You can buy our Recipe Samplers (with little 1.5 oz slices) or Trial Packs (full size bars). Each of these products contain one slice or bar of each of our different levels of moisture recipes. Every handmade soapmaker makes their soaps differently, and you need to get to know how WE do things.

We hope you will enjoy learning about, and using, Soap Shed Soaps.

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