What's in my shaving soap

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henkverhaar
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Arrowhead said:
OK, I've just read that properly, and since it's all hard science written by a chemist I'm happy to take it as uncontroversial fact. Which leaves me in the same position as Tony: slightly shaken but still convinced, however irrationally, that tallow soaps work best for me. Perhaps what we like about them is just the texture of the lather, though I swear that my skin is in better shape if I use Wool Fat exclusively for a week, regardless of what I put on afterwards.

That may be because companies making tallow soap have been at it long enough to know what makes a good shaving soap in the first place ;-) Of course, if you're making shaving soap with primarily oils and fats, tallow is one of the best bases to start from.

Henk: how would you feel about giving us the lowdown on after shave balms and moisturisers which claim to address the problems you set out?

I'd have to read up on the actual effects but I will think about it...
 
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Thank you Henk a really interesting post. I've noticed that one of my favourite soaps, the Palmolive stick, has potassium hydrogenated tallowate as it's major ingredient. Is this a lot different to the normal potassium tallowate found in other soaps?
 
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henkverhaar
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Pete said:
Thank you Henk a really interesting post. I've noticed that one of my favourite soaps, the Palmolive stick, has potassium hydrogenated tallowate as it's major ingredient. Is this a lot different to the normal potassium tallowate found in other soaps?

Should be even better ;-)

Tallow contains 47% Oleic acid, 26 % Palmitic acid, 14% Stearic acid, plus some minor fatty acid ingredients. Palmitic and Stearic acid are saturated fatty acids, and are the prime movers in a shaving soap. The oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, is what makes olive oil soap such a weak latherer. WHen you hydrogenate the tallow, you convert oleic acid into stearic acid, boosting the stearate content in the soap from a measly 14% to a whopping 61%. If one could easily obtain hydrogenated tallow, that would be the ultimate homecooking shaving soap feedstock!

Henk
 
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726
That's really good info Henk, thanks. A lot of shavers have been baffled as to why a 49p soap stick can outperform their expensive soap from Jermyn Street. :lol:

Here is another one. Erasmic sticks were reformulated about a year ago and the opinion of most users is that the new soap is a terrible performer compared to the old. Any clue from the ingredients? (old formula on the left)

SDC10145.JPG
 
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henkverhaar
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Pete said:
Here is another one. Erasmic sticks were reformulated about a year ago and the opinion of most users is that the new soap is a terrible performer compared to the old. Any clue from the ingredients? (old formula on the left)

SDC10145.JPG

That's an easy one, assuming that the info is correct (if not, they'd be in flagrant contempt of the law ;-) ). The new one contains ONLY sodium soaps, contains palm fatty acids and coco fatty acids, and NO synthetic foam stabilizers. Coco fatty acids give a cleansing soap with no lather, palm contains a reasonable amount of stearic and palmitic acids but not enough to provide an excellent, creamy lather, plus without potassium soaps and without synthetic surfactants, there is no stability to the lather. In fact, this formula spells disaster even from reading it. Formula looks like it was generated by someone without knowledge of shaving soaps, and without testing (or with no regard for customers...). The old one, with tallow, stearate, potassium soaps and PEG14, will easily be a great lather recipe.

Henk
 
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Thanks Henk, more good info. :cool:

Another puzzle for me is the Culmak soap. Many people have said it is the same soap as the Truefitt & Hill so I got a cake of the much cheaper Culmak to compare it. They are wrapped the same, look the same, weigh the same and smell the same. After using both I would say the T&H is better but not by much.
On examining the ingredients I got this

Culmak:
potassium stearate, sodium stearate, potassium cocoate, aqua, sodium cocoate, glycerine, paraffinum liquidum, parfum, tetrasodium EDTA, pentasodium penetate, tetrasodium etidronate, CI77891

T&H:
sodium palmate, potassium palmate, sodium palm kernelate, aqua, glycerin, potassium palm kernelate, stearic acid, parfum, paraffinum liquidum, isopropyl myristate, tetrasodium EDTA, sodium chloride, bht, tetrasodium etrioronate, pentasodium pentetate, CI77891
 
OP
henkverhaar
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Pete said:
Thanks Henk, more good info. :cool:

Another puzzle for me is the Culmak soap. Many people have said it is the same soap as the Truefitt & Hill so I got a cake of the much cheaper Culmak to compare it. They are wrapped the same, look the same, weigh the same and smell the same. After using both I would say the T&H is better but not by much.
On examining the ingredients I got this

Culmak:
potassium stearate, sodium stearate, potassium cocoate, aqua, sodium cocoate, glycerine, paraffinum liquidum, parfum, tetrasodium EDTA, pentasodium penetate, tetrasodium etidronate, CI77891

T&H:
sodium palmate, potassium palmate, sodium palm kernelate, aqua, glycerin, potassium palm kernelate, stearic acid, parfum, paraffinum liquidum, isopropyl myristate, tetrasodium EDTA, sodium chloride, bht, tetrasodium etrioronate, pentasodium pentetate, CI77891

Definitely not the same. T&H has a load more sodium soaps than potassium soaps whereas the Culmak is probably 50/50. Culmak has 'saponified' stearic acid and coconut oil, where T&H has saponified palm oil and palm kernel oil. Neither have foam stabilizers, so I would expect the Culmak to provide the better, creamier, more stable lather. Both have vaselin for lubrication. If you prefer the T&H this may be due to the isopropyl myristate, an emollient not unlike lanolin.

Henk
 
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Thank you for that information Henk, I know it was probably a pain to write but it clearly has helped many demystify the ingredients list on their soaps...to a degree. I am 100 times more informed after reading that but still no where near the level of understanding you clearly have.

I found this page listing ingredients for quite a few soaps for anyone interested.

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.theshaveden.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4780">http://www.theshaveden.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4780</a><!-- m -->
 
OP
henkverhaar
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1,241
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Audiolab said:
I found this page listing ingredients for quite a few soaps for anyone interested.

<!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.theshaveden.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4780">http://www.theshaveden.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4780</a><!-- m -->

Yep, that's where I got my examples from.

Henk
 
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3,242
henkverhaar said:
Oh, and to briefly tackle a common misconception among new agers, greens, and other traditional soap lovers: NO, fatty acid soaps are not better, or milder for the skin than synthetic products. Most synthetic detergents approved for skin contact are much more gentle than fatty acid salt soaps with their pH of 9.5 to 10. Most home soapers don't know much about either chemistry or toxicology, and even if they did, they would still fall for the 'traditional is always better' ruse.

Ah, a subject close to my heart. As a home soaper, I have many customers with sensitive skin or eczema, who can only use the type of soap I make, which does not contain any of the additional ingredients to increase or stabilise foam discussed in Henkvernaar's very interesting and informative post, nor petroleum derivitives, nor additional glycerine. Neither do I use synthetic scents or colours. I know from my own experience that both my own and my partner's mild eczema has disappeared since we have been using my soap. So, setting aside the various health scares about some of the additives currently used in cosmetics, including soap, which I accept may well not be supported by hard evidence, I am sure that SOME people have an adverse reaction to some of these ingredients. I do of course accept that certain constituents in essential oils also have the ability to cause irritation or allergic reaction in certain individuals, but those ingredients will be included AS WELL as the synthetics added to most soaps sold in the supermarket.

I was very interested in the comments on stearic and oleic acid; my shaving soap contains a paltry 7% stearic and a whopping 41% oleic. However, my customers seem to like it and find it effective. It is also hard and long lasting. My partner has been using a bowl of it containing about 100g since about April (shaves about 3 times a week), and he hasn't even used half of it yet.

As regards natural always being best, I do tend towards that view where I can see no compelling reason to add synthetics. I would also query how tests can be done to determine safe levels of the synthetic additives in cosmetics; it might be possible to show that the amount in only one product is safe, but we don't live our lives in a controlled environment; people will often be using several products a day, or use products in ways not envisaged by the manufacturer. Have tests been done to calculate the cumulative effect of using several products and/or their interactions with all the other synthetics in the air, food, water etc.?

I would also query the high Ph levels quoted by Henkverhaar, and as best I can judge my soaps would be more like 8.5 to 9. But as Henkverhaar rightly says, I am not a chemist nor a toxicologist. Henkverhaar, if you have the facilities to do an accurate check on the Ph, I would be very grateful if you would test my soap in exchange for a free sample or two.

The four members who 'won' my free samples and one who bought a stainless steel bowl will be getting their soap later this week......I have invited them to leave feed back on the forum. So I will leave it to them to judge whether a natural soap can deliver or not - and hope that I am not shot down in flames :)
 
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