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Misconceptions regarding soap abound in our society. Gone are the days when all soap was truly, soap. Nowadays, anything that cleans is called "soap."
You see, real soap is a chemical reaction created when oils meet an alkali. Yes, modern soapmaking involves an alkali, a caustic soda, if you will. Before you recoil in horror, it's important to understand that like a relationship, the two meet, become closer, and finally marry. We soapmakers call this point, "trace." They're such a good match that they become a new product--soap; and not just soap, but a mild, yet cleansing product.
How does this differ from the commercial soaps you'll find in the store? Well, the short story is that commercial cleansing bars and liquids are usually at least partially synthetic detergents. If you didn't know that's what you were using when you bought soap, you likely are.
You might be wondering if it matters. The answer is, not if you only care if you're cleaner after using the product than before. If you simply want to wash up, then commercial soap might suit you best. But, if you want something more pure, you want soap. Since it's made with natural oils and fats, it's not synthetic, the only synthetics being the alkali (which changes on the molecular level once it's soap), some colorants (added at fractional levels), and scent, if it's not an essential oil. In addition, a by-product of soapmaking is the presence of glycerin, a humectant, in the final bar. Humectants draw moisture to the skin.
Real soap, in fact, has been used throughout the ages, being spoken of even in Biblical times. It is biodegradable. You can purchase beautiful soaps that you will enjoy displaying in your bathroom or kitchen. You can get soap in literally hundreds of scents, whether from essential oils (gotten from plant material) or fragrance oils (at least mostly synthetic, but used at a very small percentage of the total). Soap is biodegradable. Soapmaking is a time-honored skill that has been passed down by men and women throughout the ages, and although some practices change with the times, the basic concept remains.
What's not to like?
Soap and Garden - http://www.soapandgarden.com