How Soap Works

How Soap Works

Need To Know:

I make soap because I love the artistry, chemistry and the surprise element of the best laid plans. I also like connecting with people through soap and their skin. Not sure why exactly, yet it seems to be what I love. So I’m learning as much as I can about the soaping process, how it works on skin of all kinds, what scents are appealing, and what designs. Oh, and I’m an esthetician.

I began making soap because the more I learned about skin being and esthetician the more aware I became of what is actually in the products I was using. Just like I do with my food, if I couldn’t pronounce it easily I looked it up. The more I researched the more I was dumbfounded at how naive I’ve been by buying what I “thought” was safe chemicals to put in my hair, on my body and face.

I walked the entire laundry detergent shelf only to discover not one soap had ingredients on it. That is the day I began making my own. I progressed into soap.

Now, I adhere to this philosophy: either someone is intentionally trying to do harm or accidentally, so my best reasoning is to be as aware as I can of that person or entity’s intentions. I’m about as transparent as I can be, so here are my intentions:

  1. To create a soap that smells great,
  2. Soap that looks great, and
  3. That is straight forward on the skin, which means, it does what it was intended to to, CLEAN – Not clean my blood stream, just my skin.

Even my esthetics education and practice has not helped me understand skin penetration and how soap actually works, like my own research and journey. My soap journey has educated me to a better, more comprehensive understanding of how soap actually works.

Understanding Skin

It is an exit door for the body. It generally only lets things (chemicals, body waste, water) out. It does not let things in. Generally. Chemicals can be added to break this protective barrier, but those chemicals have to be the correct molecular structure and size. 

What is the intention of soap? Does the creator care if it penetrates the skin? How does this product work?

This is a description that helped me to understand the process.

Human skin has unique properties of which functioning as a physicochemical barrier is one of the most apparent. The human integument is able to resist the penetration of many molecules. However, especially smaller molecules can surpass transcutaneously. They are able to go by the corneal layer, which is thought to form the main deterrent. We argue that the molecular weight (MW) of a compound must be under 500 Dalton to allow skin absorption. Larger molecules cannot pass the corneal layer. Arguments for this “500 Dalton rule” are; 1) virtually all common contact allergens are under 500 Dalton, larger molecules are not known as contact sensitizers. They cannot penetrate and thus cannot act as allergens in man; 2) the most commonly used pharmacological agents applied in topical dermatotherapy are all under 500 Dalton; 3) all known topical drugs used in transdermal drug-delivery systems are under 500 Dalton. In addition, clinical experience with topical agents such as cyclosporine, tacrolimus and ascomycins gives further arguments for the reality of the 500 Dalton rule. For pharmaceutical development purposes, it seems logical to restrict the development of new innovative compounds to a MW of under 500 Dalton, when topical dermatological therapy or percutaneous systemic therapy or vaccination is the objective.  The 500 Dalton Rule of Molecules for Skin

A little more about how soap works. The rule of thumb for cleaning skin: “oil attracts oil”.

Normally, oil and water don’t mix, so they separate into two different layers. Soap breaks up the oil into smaller drops, which can mix with the water. It works because soap is made up of molecules with two very different ends. One end of soap molecules love water – they are hydrophilic. The other end of soap molecues hate water – they are hydrophobic.

Hydrophobic ends of soap molecule all attach to the oil. Hydrophilic ends stick out into the water. This causes a drop of oil to form:


These drops of oil are suspended in the water. This is how soap cleans your hands – it causes drops of grease and dirt to be pulled off your hands and suspended in water. These drops are washed away when you rinse your hands.  How Soap Works

Enticing Oil Into The Water

Soap entices the oil of the skin into water. The goal of soap is to attach the oil properties of its molecular structure to the oil, and therefore, dragging along the dirt of skin or hair. Soap breaks the surface tension of water, it flattens it, soap can therefore be washed way taking oil and dirt with it.

Now, we don’t want to be too clean. If we are too clean, or remove too much oil, then our skin feels dry. Our skin needs oil. So the up shot to having really drying soap is that you are super clean. The down side is that the acid mantle of skin is now striped off and you’re body will replace it. Not if we create imbalance more imbalance will follow. To replenish this acid mantle we apply another oil or cream.

Everyone’s acid mantle is slightly different, so finding the right soap for your skin and desires is important.

My soap formulas are as simple as necessary. I only add oils if I want a particular outcome.

I create a middle of the road soap. I’ve cultivated formulas that are bubbly, cleansing (but not too cleaning), a hard enough bar to not disappear in the shower, and still be attractive.

Making soap brings me joy, and I hope others too.


More links to help you see the big and small picture of skin and hair care.

Study of oil penetration of hair 

 More on the history of penetration of skin. 

Opening the Cuticle

Fragrance: Natural or Chemical

Absorption through Skin

The post How Soap Works appeared first on Sorcery Soap™.

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