The History of Soap
I was washing my hands one day and I began to wonder, what’s the history of soap? Yes, I tend to think of weird stuff while in the bathroom. And sometimes I get my best ideas when in the shower! But I digress, I wanted to write a post about soap because many people think all soaps are created equal. I mean, soap is soap, right? Not really, soap is NOT soap. Before I start to overwhelm you, let’s begin with a short history of soap.
The History of Soap, Part 1
The first soap recipe goes as far back as ancient Babylon. Back then, soap consisted of a combination of ashes, cypress, and sesame oil. Then our friends the Egyptians used a soap made of animal and vegetable oils and alkaline salts to create a soap like substance to bathe in. The next appearance of soap in the history of the world was in Roman times, where it was looked down upon to bathe with soap. Eventually it became more accepted and soap was made with lye as a way to carry away impurities from the body and clothes.
The History of Soap, Part 2
In the Middle Ages, soap making became a real industry and soap makers were in the company of carpenters, blacksmiths and bakers. Later in the 16th century, soap was made with vegetable oils, such as olive, instead of animal fats and began it’s more industrialized production. Manufactured soaps became more available in the late 1800s and soap went mainstream as people realized the importance of hygiene to kill harmful bacteria.
This leads us to present day, where we now have all sorts of soap varieties and concoctions. Soap has undergone quite a transformation from bygone days. We have liquid soap, foam soap, anti-bacterial soap, not to mention plain old bar soap. So many options…how do you know how to pick the right one? Maybe you use the one your mom used? Maybe you use a highly scented one that makes you smell like roses for days? No matter which soap you choose, it’s important to know the dangers commercial soaps hold.
What Does Soap Do?
The Dangers of Commercial Soaps
Soap is a surfactant designed to cleanse and kill germs but regular soap can contain artificial ingredients that irritate the skin. It also kills much of the beneficial bacteria that we need. Yes, bacteria can be good for us! Most soaps contains a compound called SLS or sodium laurel sulfate. This ingredient strips the skin of its natural moisture and can also cause some serious skin conditions, even cancer.
What about antibacterial soap? Many people use it because they think it’s helping to kill even more germs. Well it does, but it also kills the good bacteria and causes microbes to become resistant to it, creating even worse strains of bacteria. In addition, they contain triclosan, a pesticide which enters into blood and skin tissue. Tricolsan has been proven to interfere with the body’s thyroid function, causing a host of other problems. It also has allergenic effects and can be contaminated with dioxin, which causes health problems as severe as weakening of the immune system, decreased fertility, altered sex hormones, miscarriage, birth defects, and cancer.
So next time you reach for the antibacterial soap, you may want to think twice. Don’t despair, many other safe options for soap exists. If we look back at the history of soap, our predecessors had it right. If we revert to the old fashioned soaps of yesterday, such as olive and coconut oil soap (often called castile soap- my favorite!) we will do alright.
What do you use for soap? Have any recommendations? Share them in the comment section!
Stay natural…stay beautiful…go green!
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