12-08-2015, 03:43 AM
#1
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Other than the obvious, what is the difference between tallow - based soaps and vegan soaps? Does tallow have any particular benefit?

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 12-08-2015, 03:53 AM
#2
  • Mr_Smartepants
  • Senior Member
  • Cambridgeshire, UK (CONUS post address)
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Depends on your face.  
For me, my skin prefers tallow soaps.  Some vegan soaps dry my skin out pretty bad.  I find that tallow soaps allow for more residual slickness in the lather.
But just because a soap is tallow or vegan does not automatically make it good/bad.  Only your skin will tell you that.
Try them all, let your skin sort them out! Biggrin

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 12-08-2015, 05:24 AM
#3
  • chamm
  • Expert on nothing
  • Central Ohio
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Honestly, I think most people make way too much of where the triglycerides in their soap come from. There is definitely a chemical difference between tallow and vegetable based fatty acids, but it is such a minor factor in how a soap performs, it isn't much worth worrying about. I think that soaps with a vegetable oil base got a bum reputation because over the last decade, many of the "great" soap makers switched from tallow based formulations to vegetable oil based formulations, as part of an effort to cut costs. Traditionally, most of these soaps were tallow based, because tallow was an inexpensive and readily available byproduct of butchering meat, not necessarily because it was better. But the economics changed, and vegetable oils became less expensive to use, and in making the switch to vegetable oils, these premium soaps also switched to overall lower quality ingredients. For the most part, these reformulations made performance noticeably worse. Additionally, other brands, such as Tabac and Mitchell's Wool Fat didn't reformulate, so there wasn't the same drop in quality. This happened around the same time with many different soaps, so I don't think anyone was being irrational in coming to the conclusion that tallow is better than vegetable oils.

However, there are currently many vegetable based soaps that easily perform in league with the best tallow soaps. Saponificio Varesino, Los Angeles Shaving Soap Company and Martin de Candre (among others) are all vegetable based, and all perform at least as well as tallow based Penhaligon's or Trumper's.

Of course, this is only my opinion. It is made more difficult by the fact that people will approach the question with a significant bias. If you already have it in your head that tallow is better, you can find sufficient evidence to confirm your bias, and easily discount evidence that contradicts it. It is made even more difficult because a double-blind study would be extremely difficult to set up. Soaps of different brands are readily identifiable by scent, and comparing, for example, Penhaligon's pre and post reformulation isn't a fair comparison because there were many other changes made to the soap.

In the end, try many soaps and see what works for you. I would advise against trying to buy based on where the triglycerides come from. I have seen people say "man, this soap is fantastic, but I really wish it was tallow based." It would be a shame to miss out on a great soap just because you had a preconceived idea that it was inferior.

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 12-08-2015, 05:48 AM
#4
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(12-08-2015, 03:53 AM)Mr_Smartepants Wrote: Try them all, let your skin sort them out! Biggrin

This is my mantra! There are both good and bad performers in both soap bases.

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 12-08-2015, 05:58 AM
#5
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(12-08-2015, 05:48 AM)merkur man Wrote:
(12-08-2015, 03:53 AM)Mr_Smartepants Wrote: Try them all, let your skin sort them out! Biggrin

This is my mantra! There are both good and bad performers in both soap bases.

+1

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 12-08-2015, 06:51 AM
#6
  • Nero
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(12-08-2015, 05:48 AM)merkur man Wrote:
(12-08-2015, 03:53 AM)Mr_Smartepants Wrote: Try them all, let your skin sort them out! Biggrin

This is my mantra! There are both good and bad performers in both soap bases.

+1
But in general, I get better shaves from veggie soaps, but a more conditioned skin post-shave with tallow.

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 12-08-2015, 06:56 AM
#7
  • racebmx
  • Sapone Di Paolo
  • Charleston, South Carolina
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(12-08-2015, 05:24 AM)chamm Wrote: I have seen people say "man, this soap is fantastic, but I really wish it was tallow based." 
That one is always amusing.

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 12-08-2015, 07:10 AM
#8
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(12-08-2015, 05:48 AM)merkur man Wrote:
(12-08-2015, 03:53 AM)Mr_Smartepants Wrote: Try them all, let your skin sort them out! Biggrin

This is my mantra! There are both good and bad performers in both soap bases.

+2

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 12-08-2015, 09:09 AM
#9
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(12-08-2015, 06:56 AM)racebmx Wrote:
(12-08-2015, 05:24 AM)chamm Wrote: I have seen people say "man, this soap is fantastic, but I really wish it was tallow based." 
That one is always amusing.

Bow

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 12-08-2015, 10:16 AM
#10
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I dont know but after feel is good. With williams versus razorock clasSic coconut oil.

Different skin type will ket you decide.

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 12-08-2015, 11:14 AM
#11
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Both are great but they have different properties. For instance, something like Mystic Water (with its heavy tallow content + moisturizers) will deeply condition the skin. This is great for cold weather but too much for me in powerfully dry heat. Vegan soaps also can moisturize and condition, though for me the feel is quite different. For the most part, vegan soaps usually restore moisture to the skin whereas tallow soaps tend to make the skin feel "fatty" afterwards.

YMMV of course.

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 12-08-2015, 11:32 AM
#12
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Tallow contains more stearic acid than most vegetable sources, along with oleic and palmitic, which makes it a nice starting point for a shaving soap in terms of lather, stability and conditioning.

Vegetable sources tend to be much lower (palm, coconut) or much more expensive (shea, kokum butter, etc).

That's the basic chemical difference. Like several others have said, however, you can create a very nicely performing soap either way. Stearic acid can be added in its isolated form, small amounts of olive oil benefit skin without killing lather, etc etc etc.

Beyond that it comes down a lot to preferences on how your soap performs, feels on your skin, etc. One shaver's skin conditioning is another's greasy feeling, and what you think of as abundant lather I may think of as a fluffy useless mess.

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 12-08-2015, 11:40 AM
#13
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(12-08-2015, 11:32 AM)Songwind Wrote: Tallow contains more stearic acid than most vegetable sources, along with oleic and palmitic, which makes it a nice starting point for a shaving soap in terms of lather, stability and conditioning.

Vegetable sources tend to be much lower (palm, coconut) or much more expensive (shea, kokum butter, etc).

That's the basic chemical difference. Like several others have said, however, you can create a very nicely performing soap either way. Stearic acid can be added in its isolated form, small amounts of olive oil benefit skin without killing lather, etc etc etc.

Beyond that it comes down a lot to preferences on how your soap performs, feels on your skin, etc. One shaver's skin conditioning is another's greasy feeling, and what you think of as abundant lather I may think of as a fluffy useless mess.
Thanks for the helpful post Eric! Indeed I have found that some soaps that condition wonderfully on one day are too heavy on the next. It certainly varies according to one's skin and perhaps even climate.

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 12-08-2015, 12:11 PM
#14
  • Mouser
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  • Forest City, Florida U.S.A.
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There is definitely a chemical difference between tallow and vegetable based fatty acids, but it is such a minor factor in how a soap performs, it isn't much worth worrying about

Sorry but I have to disagree. There is, for me, quite a noticeable difference, but the "difference" doesn't necessarily exclude either one from being bad, good or great.

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 12-08-2015, 12:42 PM
#15
  • Mr_Smartepants
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Well, once the fatty acids have been saponified, there's very little difference in the resulting molecules.  But the process is never 1-to-1 and any leftover un-saponified fats have enormous impact on how the soap lathers and feels.
I'm not a chemist, so this is purely MY speculation and opinion. Wink

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 12-08-2015, 03:52 PM
#16
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(12-08-2015, 12:42 PM)Mr_Smartepants Wrote: But the process is never 1-to-1 and any leftover un-saponified fats have enormous impact on how the soap lathers and feels.
The leftovers can, indeed, although to what degree, I suppose depends on how close a manufacturer will go to "1-to-1". 
Moreover, substances - added after the saponification step is considered over - like lanolin, glycerin, "butters", etc., also impact lather/feel--but, of course, this is a separate issue. [Image: wink.gif]

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 03-31-2016, 12:03 PM
#17
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The source of triglycerides is much less a factor than the process in which it is made and what other ingredients are used.  The key ingredient for me in well-made soaps is lanolin.  This lends a level of conditioning for me that is lacking from vegan offerings.  The lack of this ingredient in vegan soaps is what turns me toward tallow -- not the tallow itself.  My face tells me that equally well-made vegan and tallow soaps without lanolin can both perform on the same level.

I'd love to see a well-made non-tallow soap emerge that contains what I call the "holy trinity" of conditioning ingredients:  shea butter, kokum butter, and lanolin.  It wouldn't be vegan, but a veggie-based soap none the less.  There are a couple options already available, but they're obscure and not well known.  It's an option the soap market really lacks right now.

I guess I could boil this down to:  Why can't I buy a non-vegan veggie-based soap with lanolin?  Why is lanolin only available in tallow soaps?  They're not mutually exclusive ingredients.  I don't get it.  I reluctantly raise my hand for tallow in "tallow vs vegan" threads, but its not the tallow I love.  It's the lanolin and other conditioning ingredients.

Am I alone in feeling this way?

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 03-31-2016, 12:29 PM
#18
  • kav
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Genesis 4:2-5

Animal husbandry and agriculture both developed from hunter-gatherer's who utilized their entire wild pantry. The two gave rise to many taboos and conflicts
over resources and division of labour and the concept of individual property that come down in both obvious dietary laws and very subtle prejudices.  
I'm the Wildman from Gilgamesh myself.

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 03-31-2016, 12:49 PM
#19
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I have used too many soaps to declare tallow or vegan the championship. What bothers me is a soapmaker who is experienced in either variation cut corners in their respective formulas. I would gladly pay a few extra dollars to experience the best formula the artisan can put forward, IMO.

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 03-31-2016, 12:52 PM
#20
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I have some tallow based soaps and some vegan based that I keep in my rotation.  I try a soap if it gives me good slickness, close shave, and my face feels good afterwards then it is a keeper other wise I sell or trade it.

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