Despite popular belief, lye soap is not harsh and it doesn’t burn skin. When farmers and homesteaders in the past made soap, they did not use correct proportions of lye and fats. They produced soap with residual lye in it. That soap burned skin. Unfortunately, the oldies ruined the reputation of lye soap for us. Fortunately, modern homesteaders and soap makers have great resources available to them to make lye soap that is cleansing, soothing, conditioning, and pampering.
How is modern lye soap different from the old handmade soap?
Soap makers in the past leached their own lye from wood burning ashes. The exact concentrations of their lye solutions were unknown. It was a guess work. Now we purchase 100% pure food grade lye from reliable suppliers.
Proportions of Lye in Soap Recipes
In the past, the exact amounts of lye that went into soap making were unknown by most homesteaders. They simply eyeballed the recipe. And when too much lye was used for making soap, residual lye in soaps made them very harsh and irritating. Now we have saponification charts and lye calculators that allow us produce exactly what we are looking for, – soft and soothing pure natural soap with no traces of lye in it.
Superfat / Lye Discount
Modern soap recipes are calculated in such a way that a little extra fat is still present in the soap and all of the lye is used up. That minimal extra fat adds to the moisturizing and soothing properties of lye soap.
Lye is Unavoidable in Real Soap
By the way, all soaps are made with lye. If the soap making process doesn’t use lye, the resulting product is not soap, but a detergent. The store-bought soaps are detergents that are made from synthetic chemicals. Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is not a synthetic chemical, it is derived from nature. That’s why store-bought soaps often clog pores, cause acne, skin dryness and irritations. And the natural lye soaps cleanse, sooth, and heal skin.
A Little Science
The soap making reaction is very, very simple. All it involves is a combination of fats and lye:
Fats + Lye –> Soap + Glycerin + Residual Fats
Or, if you want it a little more scientific,
Triglycerides + Sodium Hydroxide –> Sodium Stearate + Glycerin + Residual Triglycerides
Sodium stearate is the soap component. It forms foam and removes grease and fats, unclogs pores, reacts with noxious air pollutants deposited on our skin. It also removes urushiol, the plant toxin of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac.
Glycerin is a beneficial moisturizing byproduct of soap making. Glycerin is removed from commercially manufactured lye soaps.
Residual fats (triglycerides) also moisturize our skin.
Benefits of Lye Soap
General Skin Care
Daily pampering with lye soap cleanses and conditions skin, gets rid of dry and itchy skin, rashes and irritations.
Lye soap unclogs pores, reduces inflammation, and balances skin pH. Washing face with lye soap daily reduces acne and blackheads. It leaves skin silky and radiant.
Balancing Dry or Oily Skin
Lye soap fends both dry skin and oily skin. The way it works is very simple and ingenious.
Dry skin: Glycerin in the soap moisturizes dry skin. There is very little need or no need at all to use lotions any more.
Oily skin: This is the type of skin that has overactive oil (sebaceous) glands. When harsh soaps are used on oily skin, they make skin overly dry, but just for a short period of time. Oily skin reacts to dryness by producing extra lubricants by the oil glands. Such skin becomes oily almost immediately after washing.
Using lye soap on oily skin leaves the skin mildly moisturized by glycerin. Under these conditions, the oily skin doesn’t have to work overtime to produce oils any more. You must be patient though. This doesn’t happen overnight. You have to “train” your oily skin to slow down oil production by the hyperactive glands. It may take weeks to achieve noticeable results.
Seborrheic Dermatitis & Dandruff Treatment
Lye soap is used in the treatment of seborrhea and dandruff. Simply washing your hair and affected areas with lye soap reduces the flaky skin and irritation. Some lye soaps prescribed by dermatologists are medicated with aspirin, coal tar, zinc, or other additives.
Eczema, Psoriasis Relief
Because of the emollient qualities of lye soap, it is used by people with eczema and psoriasis to relief itching, irritation, and minimize the symptoms.
Sun Burn Treatment and Prevention
Using lye soap on the bare skin before going out in the sun minimizes sunburns. Lye soap helps cure inflamed skin if the sunburns already happened. Lather lye soap on the sunburned area and leave it overnight. Repeat until sunburn is gone. Lye soap speeds up the healing process.
Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac Treatment
Washing the affected skin area with lye soap immediately after contact with the poisonous plants may help avoid the reaction altogether. If some time is passed after the contact, the reaction is very likely to happen. To minimize the reaction, wash the area with lye soap as soon as possible, and rinse with water. Repeat washing a few times. Lather lye soap on the affected skin and leave it on until the next wash. Skin reaction will disappear soon.
Insect Bites Cure and Insect Repellent
Washing the bites with lye soap reliefs itching and swelling almost immediately. Lather lye soap on your bare skin to repel mosquitoes. A bar of lye soap in your kitchen cabinets will keep ants in check.
Lye Soap Slows Down Skin Aging
Soothing, moisturizing, and antioxidant qualities of lye soap slows down formation of wrinkles and age spots when used daily.
These are only few examples of the benefits of lye soap.
Hunters’ Trick (can be a health benefit at times)
Wash with unscented lye soap to become “invisible” when you go hunting. Lye soap removes human scent and animals become unaware of you presence. Happy hunting!