01-18-2017, 11:55 PM
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For new members who may be somewhat confused about the differences between the various types of soap: “artisan”, cold process, hot process, glycerin soap, melt & pour soap…

There is a widely held (but mistaken) belief that glycerin soap the same thing as pure glycerin, or that it is somehow made primarily from glycerin.  But glycerin is a viscous liquid, not a solid substance, and it doesn’t lather – it is not soap.  It is a sugar alcohol, the sweet component of fats, a byproduct of large scale commercial soapmaking.   It is created when oils and fats are combined with a lye solution: a chemical reaction between the fatty acids and lye produces soap and glycerin.  The glycerin can be separated from the soap to be utilized in other products like lotions and creams.
But before talking about glycerin soap, a word about handmade or artisan soap that is not “glycerin soap”. All true soap is made by mixing melted oils and fats with lye.   If no external heat is applied, it is called “cold process soap” and if the soap mixture is heated to accelerate the process of saponification, it is called “hot process soap”.  Regardless of the method used, both of these kinds of soap naturally contain the glycerin created when the oils saponify.  And in the case of artisan shaving soap, most makers add even more glycerin to the soap.

The reasons for using one process instead of the other is for technical and personal reasons:  cold process gives a smoother texture and allows more design possibilities so is often preferred for making attractive bath soaps, and hot process is more rustic in appearance but is ready to use more quickly and is preferred for high stearic acid soaps like shaving soap.  And of course, these soaps can be made with any combination of oils and fats that work, vegetable or animal.

Transparent glycerin soap can be produced on a small scale from the artisan soap I just described, if you clarify it by heating the semi-liquid soap with alcohol, sugar solution and glycerin. This makes a true translucent soap, like the original Pears soap or original Musgo Reale pre-shave soap.  It does not melt as easily as the melt and pour soaps that are designed for that purpose.
And finally, glycerin soap.  Glycerin soap is called “melt and pour” soap because it’s formulated so you can cut it up, melt, scent, and color it and pour it into molds to harden.  Formerly, glycerin soaps were translucent or transparent, and were marketed for their “purity”.  Now some commercial glycerin soap bases are sold pre-colored with titanium dioxide to make them opaque, to mimic more “natural” soaps.  Glycerin soap base is relatively inexpensive and easy to work with.

Glycerin shaving soap is made using melt and pour bases with lather boosters designed to be used as shaving soap, as opposed to bath soap.  Most, but not all, commercial melt and pour soaps contain petroleum derivatives and detergents (like SLS and SLES) or other sudsing agents. There are a limited number of producers of melt and pour soap bases, and fewer still specifically formulated shaving soap products, so shaving soap makers who specialize in melt and pour soaps distinguish themselves primarily through their fragrances and presentation, customer service and good value.
It’s hard to understand why these soaps are often called “glycerin based”, because glycerin is just one ingredient in these soaps, (here are a few different typical ingredient lists):

1.       Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Sodium Stearate, Sodium Laurate, Glycerin, Water.
2.       Sorbitol, Coconut Oil, Propylene Glycol, Stearic Acid, Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Glycerin
3.       Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Stearic Acid, Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Myristic Acid, Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate, Glycerin.
4.       Water, Glycerin, Sodium Stearate, Sodium Oleate, Sorbitol, Sodium Laurate, Sodium Myristate, Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid, Pentasodium Pentetate, Tetrasodium Etidronate

Ingredients are always listed in order from most to least present in the formula: as you can see, glycerin is pretty far down the list in most of them.  So, if you want to know if a soap is a melt and pour soap, check the ingredient label for sorbitol, propylene glycol, and some of these other ingredients.  I don’t mean to say that glycerin soap is a bad product, just that it always strikes me as odd that it’s called “glycerin” soap when it’s really made of so many other things.  Because it commonly contains detergents, not natural soap, it can be a pH balanced choice, and it’s a consistent product, which a lot of people prefer.

I hope I’ve been fair and objective.  (If not, I’ll be happy to edit it.)  I don’t use much melt and pour myself, except for some (really cute!) specialty kids’ soap, but someday I’d like to make my own translucent soap from scratch, just for fun.
Now I should go and finish making my shampoo bars (how did it get to be 3 a.m.?) Wink

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 01-19-2017, 01:30 AM
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Thanks for the interesting information! I don't make shaving soap, I just carefully select it and buy it and came to realize that your shaving soap is one of the very best on the PLANET at any PRICE. It makes me happy & proud that your Co. Mystic Water can make such a top notch quality & top notch performing soap and then price it at such a reasonable price! To me it just does not get any better than that. Thanks for doing your magic!!!


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 01-19-2017, 06:14 AM
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Michelle, thanks for such an interesting and informative post.  It's great to get the facts from an expert.

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 01-19-2017, 10:39 PM
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(01-19-2017, 06:14 AM)TheLegalRazor Wrote: Michelle, thanks for such an interesting and informative post.  It's great to get the facts from an expert.


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 01-20-2017, 06:54 AM
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Thanks for a very informative post.

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 01-20-2017, 08:35 AM
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It would be nice and make a lot more sense if we could all  just collectively agree to call "glycerin soaps" by the name "melt and pour soaps."  Then everybody would know exactly what we're talking about and we'd all be on the same page.  

Thanks for the informative post.

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