Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why should I buy handcrafted soap?

1. Handcrafted/handmade soap contains glycerin which is a natural by-product of the soap making process, an excellent moisturizer/humectant and also one of the reasons that handmade soap is so good and feels so decadent. 

Store bought, mass-produced bars normally do not contain much glycerin and have been known to leave skin feeling dry and irritated.  

Aside: Commercial producers often remove the glycerin so they can sell it on its own, but to do so they end up adding ingredients that can be drying. i.e., close to 50% of the base glycerine soap is made with alcohol and sugar water.

Producers of glycerin soap sell to makers who melt, fragrance, colour and pour it into molds. We soap-makers call it 'Melt & Pour' for that reason. It is made with lye, water and oils just like Cold Process soap, but in order for the soap to be meltable, they add alcohol and sugar water.

Unlike Melt and Pour (MP), Cold process (CP) soap will not melt in a microwave. On incredibly hot and humid days, it may sweat but it cannot be melted. 

P&B uses Melt & Pour soap for our soapy embellishments and embeds but the majority of our soap is made using the cold process method.  (Caveat: our Sea Life and our Rainbow Unicorn children's soaps are 100% Glycerin). Glycerine soap is not bad, but it pales in comparison to a good Cold Process soap.

2. Handmade vegan Cold Process soap is made of vegetable oils and vegetable butters that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and nutrients. 

3. Preservatives with cancer causing Parabens and irritating Sulfates are used in commercial soaps to extend shelf life. P&B Handcrafted bar soap has a shorter shelf life because we do not add preservatives. 

If you buy handcrafted soap you should use it within 6 months to a year of purchase, and 3 to 6 months for items that are on sale.  Aged soap (like our Castile) should be purchased and used, not stored  

What is the difference between Body Wash and Soap?

Body wash is made from detergent which helps you stay clean by attracting and rinsing away dirt and germs. Soap is made from Lye, which helps you stay clean by killing harmful germs and washing away dirt.

Let's explore a little deeper: Both Body Wash and Soap are considered 'Surfactants'. A surfactant functions by breaking down the interface between water and oils and/or dirt. Castile (Olive Oil) Soaps were the earliest known surfactants. 

Body Wash or Shower Gel is a liquid product used for cleaning the body. The purpose of body wash is to rid your skin of things like dirt, excess oil, odor, sweat and makeup. Not to be confused with liquid soaps; body wash/shower gels do not contain saponified oil. Instead, it they use synthetic detergents derived from either petroleum or plant sources. If the product is soap, the manufacturer will call it soap. If the product is detergent, it is illegal for the manufacturer to call it soap. Instead they will call it a beauty bar or something similar --without the word soap. This is your clue that it contains detergent (non-soap surfactant).

Unlike soap, body wash and other non-soap surfactants do not kill bacteria*, instead their molecules attract dirt, excess oil, odour, sweat and makeup and when you rinse off the body wash, the dirt etc. is rinsed away too. 

*if the body wash contains preservatives/parabens/phthalates/sulfates etc. like we see in commercial soap; the toxicity of those ingredients will likely kill bacteria as well as extend shelf life. 

Is body wash more gentle to skin than soap?

This is the best question - because the answer depends on what is in the body wash and what is in the soap. You can easily determine whether a product is toxic by looking at the ingredients in the product and understanding their individual level of toxicity. This takes a little time on Google, but is well worth the effort if you are having sensitivity or a reaction to a product.  

This is how I ended up making soap and starting Pine & Bedford Handcrafted. I was shocked at the ingredients I found in my 'higher end' soaps and bath products.

Why does handmade soap go gooey?

If handmade soap isn't allowed to dry thoroughly, it eventually dissolves and melts away into messy soap goo. The good news is that it is easy to prolong the life of your handmade bar soap by using a soap dish that drains excess liquid or a soap saver to raise your soap out of the water that tends to collect in the bottom of the soap dish. Soap savers are made from PVC, relatively inexpensive and last a long time. You can find them in the Soap Accessories section of our website. We also carry a soap saver bag in which you can place your handmade soap to hand it, such that it is kept out of standing water. Soap saver bags are made from a sisal fabric, and provide a light exfoliation.

Can handcrafted soap irritate?

All soap is toxic. In order to kill bacteria on contact it needs to be toxic. If you are worried about bacteria developing on your soap bar between uses, you don't need to worry because the PH of soap is high enough to kill dangerous bacteria.

Good handcrafted soap-makers know how to ensure there are enough beneficial oils and butters in their product so soap does not dry and damage skin even though it is strong enough to kill bacteria.

If you have a sensitivity or allergy to an ingredient in any soap, it can be irritating. P&B intentionally uses ingredients that are kind to skin and we avoid harsh preservatives. Please read ingredient lists in the product pages of our website to ensure that you avoid known allergens. 

More importantly we DO NOT add preservatives to our bar soap. Preservatives can contain Parabens which are known carcinogens. We would rather have a shorter shelf life, than use suspect ingredients. After all, we use these soaps ourselves!

Note: for products we produce that do not have lye (bath whips, shaving creams, butters, lotions and solid shampoo/conditioner bars, shower gels, etc.) we do add a mild preservative to protect you against bacteria and mold. Many of these products contain water and are at high risk for bacteria.

Does P&B use Rosemary Extract, Vitamin E, and Grapefruit Seed Extract as gentle preservatives?

Let's be clear. Vitamin E, Rosemary Oil Extract (ROE) and Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) are all good antioxidants. They help prevent the oils used in soap making from going rancid. They ARE NOT however, preservatives and cannot protect you from mold and harmful bacterial growth in your product. Therefore when there is a risk of mold and bacteria i.e., for bath whips, shaving creams, butters, lotions and solid shampoo/conditioner bars, shower gels etc. we use a preservative.  
Why? Imagine your open jar of bath whip falls into the your tub. You pick it out quick enough to save the product from spilling out, but now you have some excess water in your previously anhydrous (waterless) product. Without a preservative it will begin to grow mold and other harmful bacteria within 30 minutes. As much as we would like to create preservative-free products, we will not risk your health to do it. 

Does P&B make non-soap surfactants?  

Yes. We make a Solid Shampoo Bar, Foaming Bath Whips, Shower Gels and scrubs that do not contain soap.

Aside: Please be careful when choosing a shampoo bar as many DIY bars are made with soap which contains lye. Unless you have very short hair, I would not recommend using soap on your hair because it is too harsh and incredibly drying, particularly if you have processed hair (coloured or bleach) or if you use hair dryers, curling irons or flat irons.

Our Solid Shampoo Bar is made from SCI (Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate), SLSa (Sodium Laurel Sulfoacetate) and Cocomidapropyl Betaine. These products are gentle on hair but even so they do have some level of toxicity. While they are safer and less toxic than SLS, ALS or SLES, let's be clear -- ALL of them (including soap) are toxic.  

As a soap maker, I intentionally choose ingredients that are the least toxic and most beneficial. If we cannot create a product that has a low toxicity risk, we simply don't make it.   

That said, everyone is different. If you purchase a product that irritates your skin, stop using it. If irritation persists - consult your physician. Try to identify the specific ingredient that is causing irritation and avoid it. This can take time. In the interim, you can try our Olive Oil Castile or our 50/50 (Olive/Canola) soap to ease sensitivity while using the process of elimination to better understand the ingredient(s) causing you irritation.  

What is INCI?

INCI (International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients) names are mandated on the ingredient statement of every consumer personal care product in countries that subscribe to INCI.

The INCI system allows the consumer to clearly identify the ingredient content and forces the industry to be transparent about what is in the product. The INCI name is the latin word or scientific name for each of specific ingredient. The purpose for INCI is to make clear (to anyone in any country) what the product contains – all plant-based ingredients are named using their Latin name and all synthetic chemicals by their scientific name.

You will see the INCI names used in the European Union, China, Japan and Canada. You will see them sometimes used in the USA if the producer is selling products to other countries where INCI is mandatory.

In Canada it is mandatory that all cosmetics are labelled using INCI names (the Latin or Scientific name). In Canada, soap is considered a Cosmetic and therefore soap labels must comply to the INCI standards. In the USA, soap is not considered a cosmetic.

The problem with INCI naming is that many of us do not speak Latin, so the INCI name of a plant-based ingredient can quite easily sound like a chemical additive. We have all heard the saying: "If you cannot pronounce the ingredients -- don't buy the product". That advice may work for food we are ingesting, but for cosmetics, ingredients can be wonderful, just identified using their Latin name. Some manufacturers translate the INCI names into English but that results in a long label, particularly in Canada where we have two languages. This too can erroneously turn off an uninformed buyer because they think the extraordinarily long label means the product is chock full of chemical ingredients.

Bottom line: It is best to be an informed consumer and take the time to understand what ingredients are in the product you are buying. We help you do that by adding English and French to our (yes, longer) labels, enabling us to be fully transparent about what is in our products. 

Are essential oils better than fragrance oils?

Some believe that essential oils are better than fragrance oils. Essential Oils are definitely more natural, but they do still cause irritation. Lavender for example, is known to be a calming and relaxing essential oil, but lavender essential oil is a common allergen and can cause contact allergies, meaning it can cause a rash.  

On the other hand, some fragrance oil contains phthalates. Are phthalates bad?" or "is using a small amount okay".  You need to answer that for yourself. We choose to avoid Fragrance Oils with phthalates and we choose to caution users when we include an Essential Oil.

It is dangerous to be black and white on this question, so our best advice is to be diligent about determining what works best for you. 

At Pine & Bedford we follow the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) standards when it comes to using fragrance in our product. The IFRA Standards ban, limit or set criteria for the use of certain ingredients, based on scientific evidence and consumer insights.

At P&B our objective is to maintain a moderate level of fragrance in our product.  That means you can expect to smell your soap when you are using it, but not from another room.

Over time as soap dries on the outside, the fragrance diminishes, however once you begin to use the soap, the fragrance to some degree will return. (Caveat: If the soap is beyond the Best Before Date, it may not throw any fragrance at all and it can still be used if it is not rancid.) 

If you have a product that has too much fragrance for your liking, you can open the package and put it aside (in a closet for example) for a couple of months to see if the fragrance diminishes to a point where it is acceptable. If it is still too strong, consider giving it away.

Can I use a soap beyond the Best Before date?

Yes, you can use soap beyond the best before, but if the soap has mold, or if it smells bad or is showing signs or rancidity (discolouration) -- its best to toss it out.  

Rancid soap bars may have a wet-feeling, or a slick surface. The bar may be orange or rust coloured or may have scattered rusty orange spots. Soap makers call this DOS (dreaded orange spots!). You can cut out an orange spot but if the bar has lots of orange -- it is best toss it.  

Is soap that has been aged more likely to develop orange spots?

In my experience -- YES. We age our Castile soap from 9 months to a year. Our Castile is made from Olive Oil which has an average of 18 - 20 months of shelf life. We identify our best before date based on the best before date of the Olive Oil we use in the product. That means when we cure it for a year, there is only 6 - 8 months left on the best before date, when you purchase it. When it is purchased on sale, the Best Before date is less than 6 months, so please use ‘on-sale’ bars first.  You may be disappointed if you store them too long.  

Bottom line:  Be careful buying a lot of handmade soap all at once unless you plan on gifting it. Instead consider your needs for 3 to 6 months. Take caution when buying handmade Castile soaps or soaps that are on sale because best before dates will be sooner than regularly priced products.

What is the deal with sulfates/sulphates? 

P&B chooses to be paraben-free as well as sulfate-free. There has been an abundance of media coverage on Parabens, less so for Sulphates. So, are sulfates (SLS, ALS, SLES) bad?  
Here is an except and a link from Healthline on Sulphates.  
The highest risk of using products with SLS and SLES is irritation to your eyes, skin, mouth, and lungs. For people with sensitive skin, sulfates may also clog pores and cause acne. ... As with many cleaning products, whether SLS-free or not, prolonged exposure and skin contact to high concentrations can cause irritation.  [”Link to Healthline article:]

Instead of Sulfates (SLS, ALS, SLES) we choose SLSa (aka Lanthanol) because the molecules are too large to penetrate the skin so they are far less likely to cause irritation. SLSa or Lanthanol is derived from coconut and palm oils and is a safe, skin friendly cleanser. SLSa is about 400 times the cost of SLS.

Key Take Away:  We would rather not irritate your skin, then pad our bottom line. In fact we do our very best to keep our product prices as close to those sulfate product prices as possible.