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Frequently Asked Questions*

* Ok, so not all of these get asked that often... but they are issues we think our customers should be aware of.

Aren't all handmade soaps the same?
No. Not unless you're also of the opinion that all chocolate is the same, all whiskys identical and that there's no difference between budgifreeze bulk apple pie and the sort your mother used to make.

Soap described as "handmade" is usually 'cold process soap' made using largely the same method but there can be a world of difference from one manufacturer's bar to the next.

At the Natural Soap Company, we make our soaps with the best ingredients we can find... it's not always cheap but it does make a difference. So our base oils are literally good enough to eat... we specify food-grade oils that cost perhaps twice the price of less-refined grades. And we don't just chuck a couple of base oils and a scent in there... our soaps might mix three or four bases, including shea butter for smoothness and coconut oil for a princely lather. It does makes a difference. After all, this is a product you're meant to take home and rub on your body.

Our formulation and our execution are also second-to-none. Some handmade soap is dry and crumbly, some is slimey and some is just plain not very nice. We believe bars like this are faulty and wouldn't sell them.

That is, of course, assuming that what you're looking at really is 'handmade soap' at all.

The easy, cheap and quick way to do a creative soap with an artistic look or an original scent is to buy in a ready-made mass-produced soap base, melt it down, throw in a handful of dried petals and some fragrances or whatever and then come up with an honest-sounding earthy description. That's why you'll see a lot of soap described with words like 'fresh', 'herbal' and 'pure' and 'home-made'...

So some freshly-made soap isn't handmade at all?
Nope. It's called 'melt-and-pour' or glycerin soap and is made from a commercial base, either supplied as a solid block or as ready-to-melt soap noodles. We won't deny that some people do amazing things with melt-and-pour soap and turn out fancy-looking products in beautiful and expensive packaging; there's a certain artistry to it when done at its best. But it's not the same thing that The Natural Soap Company and other traditional soap makers produce.

We suggest you always ask a supplier specifically if a soap is handmade from scratch if you're not sure. Check the label too... look for preservatives such as SLS (sodium laurel sulphate) or artificial fragrances. Be wary of bright colours and fabulous fruit smells too... we've tried and tried but we can't find natural ingredients and colourants that give us either of these.

Is your soap good for my eczema?
We're not allowed to promote our soaps as having curative or medicinal properties unless we actually treat them as medicines and get them tested and certified as such. So the short answer is that we can't comment. But we have had several regular customers who have stated that the soap has helped with problem skin. This may be a side-effect of the relatively natural ingredients in our soaps (or indeed in other cold-process soaps)... it may be preservatives, colourants or fragrances in commercial soaps that cause unpleasant reactions. Our best suggestion is that you try our soap for a while and see how it sits with you.

But aren't you the people who used to sell 'NoNits' soap?
Our popular 'No Nits Now' soap now goes by the more obvious, personable and non-medical name of Neem Shampoo Soap. It's the Neem essential oil in it that has a reputation as something head lice find distinctly disagreeable (as well as, curiously, being a scent that many men find distinctly agreeable). There's nothing magical about 'No Nits Now' except its neem content and you'll see neem recommended as a lice putter-offer in many sources.

And no, in our experience, neem soap will not cure head lice; we feel that nothing beats vigorous twice-daily combing for at least 14 consecutive days. Having said that, we know and some of our customers know that neem soap doesn't half put the wind up'em...

And which of your shampoo soaps is best for my dry to middling hair?
Sorry... they're all the same. Unlike typical commercial shampoo manufacturers who delight in offering 19 variations of 13 brands for you to choose from, we accept the simple idea that shampoo is shampoo... it grabs hold of the dirt in your hair so that it then washes away when you rinse. If you want a scientific-sounding gunk with revolutionary properties and little animated arrows that nourish, shine, revitalise for up to eight hours or just rush around your television screen, there are plenty of suppliers out there. And if you find your hair is squeaky clean and a little hard after washing it properly with a good shampoo soap, rinse it through with a dilute solution of vinegar or lemon juice. Works for us...

Has your soap the natural pH of water?
No, it's soap. And soap is, by definition, a somewhat alkaline substance. We could add a bunch of chemicals to it to make it pH7 like water but then it probably wouldn't be soap anymore and we'd have to call it a cleansing bar or something.

Why is your soap so expensive?
Because of the ingredients we use, how we make it (by hand) and how we wrap it (by hand). In practice, we're not particularly expensive compared to some handmade or fancy factory soaps and we certainly don't charge a premium price just for our name.

Are your shampoos and foam baths natural too?
We make our soaps by hand from scratch using the finest and most natural ingredients we can find. Our lip-balms are also hand-made without the use of preservatives or artificial flavourings and colours.

However, our other toiletries are produced using a pre-made base which we scent and finish off here. These products therefore do contain some of the typical preservatives you might find in commercial products, including SLS which some people try to avoid, even though we then scent and colour them using more 'natural' ingredients.

We have several reasons to produce these products this way. Firstly, unlike soap, these are products which actually need certain preservatives to be safe to use and to have a reasonable shelf-life. Nor do we believe that there is anything harmful in the products... almost all commercial toiletries contain similar chemicals.

Nor at this time do we have an alternative. We've looked for but cannot obtain bases which don't use similar formulations and, while we continue to investigate and review the situation, we're not in a position to manufacturer our own alternatives without using such chemicals at present.

Do your soaps contain tallow?
Tallow (beef fat) makes a wonderful, hard, close-lathering bar of soap when used in the right proportion with other basic oils and fats. However, we completely understand that there are many people who do not wish to use animal products on their skin. As a consequence we do not use tallow in our soaps unless specifically asked otherwise. We don't use other animal products, to the best of our knowledge, except for goat's milk and beeswax. Where these are used in particular soap recipes, we give adequate warning of their presence on this website and on the soap label so that people who choose not to use them can avoid those particular bars.

Do you use palm oil in your soap?
We use palm oil in our soaps as, in our opinion, it provides attributes to the soaps that cannot be replicated by any other fixed oil — hardness, mildness and general "niceness" (unquantifiable, but after 20 years of soapmaking, I know what I mean!).

We are very aware of the controversy about palm oil usage. We keep our palm oil percentage to 30% or less of the total amount of oils used in our soaps and we only ever use palm oil from sustainable sources. Most of our palm oil is from The Kerfoot Group and there is a good article on their website about their 'Fair For Life organic palm oil', which is the oil we buy, here:

Fair for Life Palm Oil

We sometimes source palm oil from Friars Pride but again we buy their more expensive Q-Gold palm oil, made from sustainable sources.

Do your soaps comply with the cosmetics regulations?
Yes, we're certified! We are proud that our handmade soaps fully comply with all legislation governing the manufacture of cosmetics in the UK and Europe. Our soap recipes are independently lab tested and certified as safe for use. Our labels use the appropriate latin-style INCI naming standards for ingredients. Our weighing is carried out on trading-standards approved and inspected stamped scales. Not all handmade soap sold in the UK meets these legal requirements and it is worth checking before choosing where to buy your soap.

Try our
guest soaps..

We started making our small 50g bars for hotels and guesthouses but they've become a surprising favourite with many of our customers, not just as soap in the guest bathroom but for the sink in the downstairs loo, as thank-you gifts and favours or just to keep in a handbag or overnight washbag when you're travelling...
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Cedar & Lemon

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A deep forest green bar, designed to appeal to men and women alike. Avocado oil has been included for its wonderful skin-benefiting properties. Cleanly scented with essential oils of lemongrass, litsea cubeba and cedarwood.

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Evening Primrose

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A beautiful soap - emollient and gentle. Evening primrose oil, sweet almond oil and apricot kernel oil all play a part in the feel of this lovely soap. Scented with essential oils of frankincense, sweet orange and grapefruit.

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