Natural soap and gentle cleansers are two popular options for people looking to cleanse their skin without harsh chemicals. While they may seem similar at first glance, there are some key differences between these two types of products. Natural soap is made from plant-based oils and butters, such as olive oil, coconut oil, and shea butter. These ingredients are gently saponified (meaning they are mixed with an alkali solution) to create a cleaning agent that can effectively remove dirt, oil, and bacteria from the skin. Natural soap is typically biodegradable and free from synthetic fragrances, colors, and preservatives, making it a good choice for people with certain sensitivities or allergies.
Gentle cleansers, on the other hand, are formulated with a milder surfactant (a substance that helps to remove dirt and oils) and may also contain emollients (ingredients that help to moisturize and soothe the skin). Gentle cleansers are typically less drying and less irritating than soap, making them a good choice for people with dry or sensitive skin. However, they may not always be as effective at removing dirt and oils as natural soap.
Another thing to consider is the pH of these products. The pH of a product refers to its acidity or basicity, and it can affect the way a product interacts with the skin. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most basic. Healthy skin has a pH level of around 4.5 to 5.5, which is slightly acidic.
Natural soap is typically made from plant-based oils and butters, which are saponified (mixed with an alkali solution) to create a cleaning agent. This saponification process can result in natural soap having a pH level that is slightly higher than the pH of healthy skin. For example, the pH level of pure castile soap (a type of natural soap made from olive oil) is typically around 9.0 to 10.0. A natural bar of soap is typically around 9.5. This can make natural soap feel drying and stripping to some people, especially if they have dry or sensitive skin, or have botanical allergies.
Gentle cleansers, on the other hand, are formulated with a milder surfactant and may also contain emollients to help moisturize and soothe the skin. These ingredients can help to balance the pH of the product, making it more similar to the pH of healthy skin. Gentle cleansers typically have a pH level of around 5.5 to 7.0, which is closer to the pH of healthy skin. This can make them feel less drying and less irritating than natural soap, making them a good choice for people with botanical allergies, dry or sensitive skin.
It's important to note that the pH level of a product is just one factor to consider when choosing a cleansing product. Other factors, such as the ingredients and the overall formulation, can also affect the way a product interacts with the skin. It's always a good idea to test a product on a small patch of skin before using it all over your face to see how your skin reacts.
So, which is the better choice? It really depends on your skin type and preferences. If you have dry or sensitive skin, a gentle cleanser may be a better option. If you are looking for a more natural and eco-friendly option, natural soap could be the way to go. It's important to note that both natural soap and gentle cleansers can be effective at cleansing the skin, as long as they are used properly. Ultimately, the best choice for you will depend on your skin type and personal preferences.