\nAnd why are we so pedantic about keeping it out of our hair and face bars?\nWhen you get down to it, soap is ‘the alkali salt of a fatty acid.’ You get true soap by mixing oils or fats, like coconut or olive oil, with a strong alkali – sodium hydroxide makes bar soap and potassium hydroxide makes liquids and creams. Soap is a really good at cleaning (we’ll get to that in a minute), but it does have one serious drawback. True soap is really alkaline – it simply cannot hold its structure below a pH of about 9. While most people’s skin copes with that ok (for which you can thank the acid mantle, which is another blog), your hair won’t. \n \nSo what is pH?\npH means potential of hydrogen. But to keep it simple, it simply means how acidic, or alkaline a substance is. A substance only has a pH when it contains water so technically soap and beauty bars don’t have a pH, until you dilute them on your skin by using them. Here is a pH scale: \n\n\nAs you can see, 1 is acidic and 14 is very alkaline. Extremes on both ends are bad for us, but it’s safe to use both alkaline soap and acidic products such as acid peels (the latter within reason)..\nBut why does this actually matter for hair?\nIt’s a proven fact that products with a high pH damage hair. That’s why we choose to make more expensive, pH-balanced bars for hair and face, instead of more affordable soap-based bars.\nIf you don’t have sensitive skin or other skin issues, you can usually use soap to wash with (see more here). Skin has a pH of about 5.5 (with some variance for age and body chemistry). When you rinse soap off, your acid mantle (secretions from your skin) is washed away, but it replaces itself rapidly – between 20 minutes to an hour after your shower. This acid mantle helps keep pathogens from using your face as an all-you-can-eat buffet, and prevents trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), which causes dehydrated skin. (For those of you who are unlucky and find soap too drying on your body, a soap free bodywash is a great alternative!)\n\nThe bad news is that your hair doesn’t have an acid mantle. The sebum from your scalp doesn’t go very far down your hair, so the hair remains unprotected. Whatever pH product you use on it, is the pH your hair stays for a considerable period. The natural pH of hair is around 4.5-5.5. This acidic pH keeps the cuticles on your hair shaft lying smoothly against the inner cortex. If they don’t lie flat against this inner ‘core’, your hair loses moisture and condition much quicker, looks rough and dull (as light doesn’t bounce off a rough surface) and over time, this causes split ends, loss of hair colour, breakage and severe dryness. Do you ever wonder why they recommend you use a vinegar rinse after using a soap-based shampoo bar? This is exactly why. Vinegar rinses help, but the damage is still done with high pH products.\n \nOkay, so if our bars are soap free and pH balanced, what exactly makes them foam?\nSurfactants. Surfactants do exactly the same thing as soap. In fact, soap is a type of surfactant (which stands for surface active agent.) But the beauty of soap free surfactants is that the formulas they are combined in, can have their pH adjusted to the acidic range required by hair and skin, whereas a soap molecule will fall apart and you will be back to just having oil and water.\nSome surfactants are natural and some are synthetic, but they are ALL produced in a lab, but as we are not scared of chemicals (remember, you are made up of them), we know that that doesn’t mean anything. Of course, we use only plant derived, gentle surfactants (and yes, for those of you wondering, we are tweaking our shampoo bars to be sulfate free over the next few months, though frankly, the drama around sulfates has been a little overblown.) \nHow does a surfactant clean?\nMagic!\nOkay, not magic. But it’s a simple concept. We know oil and water don’t mix as they repel one another. So if you wash your face with water, most of the sebum and makeup will stay where it is. So to enable something to cleanse, you need to ensure it’s able to bind to an oil molecule. But to ensure it’s easy to rinse off, you need to ensure it can also bind to water. How?! By using molecules that can bind to both. The correct term is an amphipathic molecule and it simply means a molecule like the below, which has an oil-loving (hydrophobic) tail and a water-loving (hydrophilic) head. \n\nSo when you use your bar on your wet face, the surfactant ‘tail’ binds with sebum and other oily substances (like makeup), whilst the ‘head’ enables spreading and ensures it can be easily rinsed away.\nSurfactants are also what makes something foam (and yet some of them don’t foam) and are also emulsifiers to make creams, but that is another topic, for another day. (Interested? Let me know.)\nSo is soap more natural than soap-free surfactants (or synthetic detergents as they are called)?\nNot necessarily. Not only does natural not mean in anyway safe, (arsenic, fluoride and cyanide are all 100% natural and 100% fatal in small doses), but soap can be synthetic and soap-free surfactants can be certified natural. So you do need to take each ingredient on it’s own merits. We like the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) certification for surfactants- all of ours are rated at 1, which for those of you unfamiliar, is the highest safety rating EWG gives. Something to bear in mind too, if you are concerned about palm oil, is that by number of bars sold, ~99% of the world’s soap contains palm oil in some form. (Look for palm oil, vegetable oil or fat, palm kernelate or sodium palmitate for just a few names), whereas it is possible to source palm free surfactants with some ease. Ours are coconut, sugar and rice bran derived. \nHopefully that has given you an understanding of why we proudly state that our bars are soap free, pH balanced and colour safe. Please send through any questions on anything I haven’t explained clearly.\nView our soap free bars here.