Handmade, artisanal, natural and homemade are all terms that have gained more popularity in recent years. 

Millions, across the globe, are gradually moving from consumer goods conglomerates to small-scale producers for their essential needs. This is a pattern that has influenced the soap and bath products industry as well. Items such as handmade bar soap, body scrubs and natural shampoos are freely available now and are being preferred by people from a mix of demographic groups.

According to Value Market Research, the global handmade soap market is set to reach USD 220 Million (in revenue) by the year 2024. This is indicative of the ever-growing demand for handmade and natural soaps!

1. Benefits of handmade and natural soap: benefits from natural ingredients

Handmade and natural soaps are being preferred primarily because of the natural ingredients in them. From olive oil and coconut oil to butters that are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, essential oils such as lemongrass and thyme with therapeutic effects, to natural exfoliants such as sea salt and coffee. A wide array of natural ingredients are used in handmade soaps.

These ingredients make handmade soaps attractive to most consumers because of the many health benefits they carry. For everything from ensuring healthy skin, to addressing issues such as chronic dry skin, and even treating skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema, handmade soaps are becoming more widely used.

Furthermore, essential oils such as cinnamon are added for their aroma and an ingredient like oatmeal may be added to act as a natural exfoliator in the soap. Many other botanical ingredients are also used in handmade soaps to provide a variety of health and beauty benefits.

For example a handmade soap brand like L'OCCITANE. They are renowned for their use of natural ingredients like almond, rose, and shea butter in their soaps, which are full of antioxidants and vitamins that nourish the skin and keep it soft and supple. And what about the colourful, edible-looking array of bar soaps by Rocky Mountain Soap Co.! Their bars of handmade soap even feature ingredients like real orange juice, known to have a rejuvenating effect on the skin while treating blemishes.\

This is in direct contrast to the growing distrust of commercial soaps, where it is known that harmful ingredients like parabens, phthalates, synthetic fragrances, SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate), and other petrochemicals are used. These chemicals can lead to dryness and itchiness of skin and, more seriously, they can increase the risk of certain types of cancer. 

2. Handmade and natural soap are regarded as ‘true soaps’ and not detergents.

One of the primary reasons that handmade and natural soaps are in high-demand is because they are regarded as ‘true soaps’ and not detergents. A true soap is classified as one that is created using the process of saponification. This involves combining an oil such as olive oil or coconut oil with an alkali such as lye (sodium hydroxide). This results in a chemical reaction that binds the two ingredients together and this is called saponification. This leads to the formation of soap, glycerin and water.

The natural occurrence of glycerin in the process of making handmade soaps is one reason why they are widely preferred over commercial soaps. Glycerin is highly valued as a humectant as it ensures that the skin remains moisturized. Also, the gentle, non-detergent soap component of handmade soaps ensures that the surface of the skin is cleansed of dirt and excess oils without stripping away the skin’s natural film of oil.

The same excitement can’t be reserved for most brands of commercial soap, however. In addition to the bevy of parabens and petrochemicals found in most commercial soaps, there are other scares that have pushed consumers further into the handmade soap camp. It is well known that many commercial soap brands extract the naturally occurring glycerin during the production process.

This glycerin is used, instead, in higher-priced products such as lotions and skin creams. The use of these commercial soaps, devoid of glycerin, removes the skin of moisture and natural oils. This in turn leads to dryness and other skin issues such as flakiness and itchiness.

Most of what we call ‘soap’ is actually not soap at all! Regulatory concerns imposed by authorities such as the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA), prevent most commercial soaps from using the term ‘soap’ on their labels. Although it isn’t illegal to do so, most commercial soap brands opt for the safer route of using terms like beauty bar, cleansing bar, or body bar to market their products.

According to the FDA website, there are very few true soaps available in the market today. They go on to elaborate that most body cleansers we use, including liquid varieties and bar soaps, are actually synthetic detergent products. They can be quite harmful to your skin with prolonged use. This is because most commercial soaps, which are actually synthetic detergents, do very little to moisturize the skin and, instead, they seal the skin and restrict airflow while clogging skin pores.

3. The perceived quality of handmade soap

The benefits of using handmade soap are numerous as we’ve already discovered. Also, with the growing emphasis on handmade products, as well as a more natural and sustainable lifestyle being chosen by millions worldwide, a greater appreciation has also come about for the craft of soapmaking and handmade soaps.

As handmade soaps are mostly produced in small batches, there is an artisanal element to them which consumers have come to value. From the natural colours and fragrant essential oils of these soaps, to their rustic look and feel, and even the aesthetic thought given to their packaging, handmade soaps offer a lot more in terms of value to the consumer.

This is why many of us would gladly give a loved one a bar of handmade soap as a gift, while we’ll almost never think of doing the same with a brand of commercial soap!

The quality of the natural ingredients used, the workmanship involved and the smaller facilities mean that handmade soaps often retail at a higher price than commercial soaps. But for what they discern to be a product of a higher standard, with numerous health and beauty benefits, more and more consumers are willing to pay this difference in price for handmade and natural soaps. 

4. Environmental benefits of handmade soap

A further point in favour of handmade soaps over commercial soaps is that of small-scale production efforts and the sincere concern afforded to one’s environmental impact. Consumers take a great deal of confidence in knowing that the simpler processes and smaller facilities employed in the production of handmade soaps, translate to little-to-no emissions and wastewater discharge. Plus, in using handmade soap, we eliminate the chemicals in commercial soaps from getting washed down the drain and entering the local water supply.

Consumers are willing to pay more for handmade soaps as they realise that they can contribute in small ways to safeguarding the environment, through their personal efforts. Also, consumers see the purchase of handmade soaps as a direct way to support their community and small-scale businesses, rather than corporations.

Homemade soaps also reserve the advantage of being cruelty-free. Handmade soap production is often carried out in small batches in smaller-sized facilities and they do not include testing of ingredients on animals.

The rise in popularity of handmade soaps is quite natural when considering the many advantages they provide in comparison to most commercial soaps. The transparency displayed by handmade soap brands, right from the ingredients used to the processes involved, gives them much credibility in the eyes of consumers. This instantly builds a bond as we’re dealing with the skin, after all, and skincare ought to be an intimate affair.