A lot of people are misinformed about lye. I like to compare natural soap to common table salt. Salt is Sodium and Chlorine, chemically written NaCl. Both are extremely dangerous elements by themselves but when combined they make something safe and we need it to live!
Chlorine is a poisonous green gas. Sodium is a highly volatile metal that looks like shiny butter and will blow things up. Yet they combine they make salt and we need it. We can't live without it. The reaction when making soap is similar but more complex.
So lye by itself is not safe, but soap made from lye is safe and neutral. In fact, if it was not made with lye, it is not true soap. You may notice products that say "moisture bar" "body bar" or some other kind of "bar". This is because the FDA does not allow a product to be called "soap" unless it is actually soap. These other look-a-like products are usually detergents.
Natural soaps used to be made with oils and lye in nature. In the old days lye was made by dripping water through ash and added to fats. Soap has come a long way but back then and today, you can't get any soap without lye. Most items available in the store are actually detergents that are far more harsh than soap and strip away moisture. Natural soap is easier on the skin and hair.
Soap was said to be discovered from animal sacrifices. The animal would be burned, its fat would drip below and the rain would fall over the ash creating lye, then it would mix with the fats from the animal. Soap would run into the rivers below and women discovered soap while washing clothing! Amazing!
The easiest way to explain lye in soap is that a small amount of lye is necessary to start a reaction in a large amount of oil. This reaction transforms the oil into soap. There is no lye left in the soap when the reaction is complete. Responsible soapmakers have several ways of testing soaps to be sure that there is no lye remaining in the soap. PH strips are the most scientific way of testing a bar of soap. This can test the exact PH of the soap. While soap is usually slightly alkaline, it is relatively neutral and safe for skin.
Written By Bonnie G.
I, Rachel Uttecht, am the owner and creator of Dirty Kids Soap. I got interested in making all-natural products when I realized the benefits they would have on my skin. By switching to natural soaps my ezcema and psorisis has cleared up completely. Because of this dramatic change in my skin health I now spend my time teaching others the benefits of all- natural skin care products.