What they don’t tell you about bath soap

Handmade soap (Photo: Malene Thyssen)What they don’t tell you about bath soap
by Murali Chemuturi

Soap is a mixture of vegetable oil with an alkaline solution. The vegetable oils used in making toilet soaps are coconut oil, palm oil and olive oil. The alkaline solutions normally used are Caustic Soda (Sodium Hydroxide) and Caustic Potash (Potassium Hydroxide). Especially coconut oil and palm oil produce excellent lathering properties.

Caustic Soda when applied to a painted metal surface, do you know what happens? The paint is eaten away! When a metal surface (say a car or a coach) is to be repainted, they strip off the old paint using Caustic Soda. Caustic Potash is slightly less caustic. You may also find the chemicals Sodium Tallowate (Caustic Soda plus tallow) and SodiumPalmate (Caustic Soda plus Palm Oil) as ingredients of soap.

Soaps were and perhaps to some extent today, are used as lubricants! Instead of vegetable oils, they use tallow.

The mixture of alkaline solution with vegetable oil contains what are called as micelles. Micelles are cell-like structures that contain a hydrophilic (dissolves in water) and a lipophilic (attaches to fatty substances but doesn’t dissolve in water). That is why when you mix soap with water, it gives a lubricating feeling.

What has this got to do with me, you may ask rightly. Plenty. You soap your body every day at least once and perhaps twice or thrice if you are a cleanliness fanatic.

First, what gives your skin the youthful look? It is the body oils forming a thin film on the surface of the skin that give your skin the smoothness, the glow and the beauty. Now washing them off will do exactly the opposite – reduce the smoothness, the glow and your beauty.

Now when you lather your body with soap during your bath, the lipophilic part attaches itself to your body oils and the hydrophilic part attaches itself to water. When you wash off the soap with water, your body oils are wrenched off from the skin and are washed of with the water. Your skin is deprived of its natural moisture but it gives you a feeling that you are cleaned/scrubbed. This feeling basically comes from the skin reporting the lack of an essential ingredient which we mistakenly feel to be fresh. You feel that you are cleaned off of all the dirt and that you are fresh! What really happened is that your body moisture is washed off and you need to replenish the body moisture. When you are young, that is till you are 40 years old, your body can cope with this depletion of body oils but after that the body’s capacity to fully replenish the moisture depletes. Continuous use of soap depletes the capacity of your body to produce the body oils that give your skin the glow and beauty you desire.

What will happen if the body cannot effectively replenish body oils washed off by soap? Spots starts forming on the skin; skin starts to itch; it stretches and forms wrinkles. Have you ever noticed spots on the back of the palms of old people? They formed because of prolonged use of soap. Because we subject our hands to soap more often than other parts, the effects of prolonged and continuous depletion of oils manifests there first.

When you approach your doctor complaining of dry skin or itchiness, did he ever tell you that it is because you use soap? Not very likely. Even if he tells you, would you believe him? Again, not very likely as it was drilled into you that cleanliness is achieved only by using soap as much as you can. Normally doctors advise you to use moisturizer and moisturizers would relive you of itchiness and dry skin because they supply the moisture your body is not able to replenish.

But why wash off the body oils first and then replenish them?

Now you may question angrily why is everybody saying that soap is healthy? I have not seen an advertisement extolling the virtues of soap recently – have you? Everyone is already brainwashed into believing that soap is equal to healthy skin, just as toddlers believe that it is Santa who brings them gifts on the Christmas Eve.

The soap industry realized what their soaps are doing to people and started adding moisturizer to the soap itself so that what is washed off by the soap part is replenished by the moisturizer.

Does soap really clean the skin? Yes, it does. The dirt and bacteria attach to the thin film of body oils on the skin and when soap washes off the body oils, the dirt and bacteria also gets washed off.

But vigorous rubbing of the skin when taking a bath with the palm of the hand has just the same effect!

Water readily mixes with the body oils and washes off the dirt and bacteria that cling to the thin film of body oil on the skin. Almost all dirt types gets washed off by water coupled with vigorous rubbing, except perhaps mineral oil and its products like grease and lubricating oils. The only difference is that the palm-rubbing washes off only the thin film on the surface of the skin while the soap plucks the body oil from deep within the skin. So, rubbing with the palm doesn’t affect the skin, while soap affects the skin negatively.

When bathing was introduced into Europe, it came with soap nuts that produce a thin lather, and the inventors of soap mimicked the action of soap nuts. Soap is a much more convenient than soap nuts to carry around or use.

Do I advocate eliminating soap?

Modern soaps are using different chemicals to form what is called as surfactants. Surfactants are chemicals that reduce surface tension, among other effects, between water and oil. Its effect is that when surfactant is used with water, it can wash off oil from the body. Basically, it produces the same effect as the mixture of alkaline solution and vegetable oils. I advocate significant reduction in the use of soap. I advocate taking a bath and vigorous rubbing of the skin while washing your body. Use soap occasionally, say once a week or fortnight. If you continuously work with greases and the like, perhaps you need to use soap regularly.

That is the best way to protect your youthful looks and beauty.

New translations of the Ramayana by Dr. Murali Chemuturi!

Sundara Kaanda of Vaalmiki Raamayana

Baala Kaanda of Srimad Raamayana of Maha Rushi Vaalmiki


  1. Thanks, Murali.

    It should also be noted that excessive washing removing the oils from the skin also prevents vitamin D both from being formed on the skin and absorbed via the oils through the skin.

    Also, there are obviously superior soaps, such as Dr. Bronner’s, available in the U.S. These are far less harsh and can actually improve skin health.

    The average soap can also be very polluting, so it’s good advice to cut down on its use all around.

  2. Too Squeegee Squeaky Clean

    Two Castile Soaps
    The two “castille” soaps that I use are:

    Dr. Bronner’s (www.drbronner.com)

    Desert Essence (www.desertessence.com).

    Observe the ingredients on both. I wonder which is healthier?

    Dr. Bronner:
    Water, Saponified Organic and Organic Olive Oils (w/ Retained Glycerin), Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Eucalyptus Oil, Citic Acid, Vitamin E.

    Desert Essence:
    Castile Soap {Water (Aqua), Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Tall Oil,
    Potassium Hydroxide}, Eco-Harvest(R) Melaleuca Alternifolia (Tea Tree) Leaf Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil

  3. I think you just explained why my head, and much of my body feels itchy, Murali.

    I will pick up some Dr. Bronner’s soaps and shampoos.

    Thank you!

  4. :s 🙁 :cheer: 👿 👿 👿 👿 👿 😛 😛 😛 😛

    1. whats the alternative
      did you give us an alternative?

      for an oily person in a hot country with a strong body odour

  5. Alternative to soap

    I am also from a hot country! Bathe twice a day (morning and evening). Vigorously rub your skin while bathing especially in armpits, groin and neck area. Once a week apply a thin coat of oil (olive/coconut/sesame) all over your skin and apply/rub flour made of Bengal gram over the oil and then wash off with warm water. If you can get hold of an Indian store, buy soap nuts and use them.

    Body odor cannot be cured by soap also. You can add rose water to your water while bathing and your body smells great.

    Try and give me feedback how it worked out. I love to hear your feedback.

    All the best

  6. Aleppo Soap
    When I use Aleppo Soap ( pure virgin olive oil, laurel oil ) I don’t even have to use hand cream, even in winter…
    Admittedly, at the moment, buying goods imported from Syria could become slightly problematic… ( alepia.com )
    Lebanese soap, also of the highest quality, is ridiculously expansive, but easily available and divinely scented… ( feniqia.com )
    These people have been making soap for the past 4 000 years… they know what they are doing… These soaps are organic, non polluting and extremely gentle on the skin. Couldn’t do without…

  7. More about Aleppo Soap
    Hi Arunah

    Like you I’m a huge fan of Aleppo Soap.

    The unique combination of Olive Oil (a moisturizer) and Laurel Oils (a natural antiseptic and cleanser) leaves your skin soft and squeaky clean.

    No other soap I’ve tried (including Dr Bronners) ever comes close to the great feeling you get from Aleppo Soap.

    The is a North American company that’s opening this fall called Sinfully Wholesome http://sinfullywholesome.com/ where we should be able to get it. (I wrote to them and they still intend to open in this fall. Syria’s troubles notwithstanding)

  8. hi ,

    thank you for the information. even before reading your detailed article i was having a feeling that why at all we have to use the soaps, tooth pastes, when no other animal uses that kind of artificial stuff, but still their skin, fur glow and healthy. I saw once in discovery channel that bison are taking bath in mud ponds and without cleaning mud they come out from the pond completely wet . ok . now coming to the point ,i have already stopped using bath soap, tooth paste ( another very dangerous material } available in the market. after stopping completely for the first few days my body smelled like the dead rat !. slowly slowly it has come down and now no bad odor at all. the body has its own mechanism built in to throw out what is not required . it is trying every day that only. but unfortunatly we are not allowing it to to do so. believe me i felt the body got a silky touch after stopping using all that. all the toxic waste accumulated all these years was thrown out by the body. that is what was the bad smell! I am feeling great.light

    thanks. my advise to like minded people to stop at once all the cleaning materials. soap. detergents, i add one more to the list , tooth paste.

    get back your health in no time.


    1. hi
      thank you.your reply is just a reply to my message ok. good thought.
      i do agree to some of the points. please bear with me

      murphy’s law says ” any solution to a problem creates new problem”
      if you substitute new solution, it creates a new problem. remember nature dosen’t have a word “soap”. it dosen’t. but nature supports everything and care everything.if you substitute the thing with another one, i strongly believe we will have some other disastrous thing to fall on us in future. at one point of time it is better to stick on to original than the substitute. i substantiate my argument as follows.
      1. herbs do not stick to each other. there is no natural thing to bond them together. the culprit is the bonding agent. there is no technology at place AT PRESENT. if any, let me know.
      2. did any multinational company which manufactures soaps ever declare that they have purchased natural lemon for their lemon flavor and squeezed JUICE for their sops ? . if so, the the nature wont produce so many tons of lemons ANY WHERE IN THE WORLD.
      my argument follows.( space constraint)

    2. ok you stopped using soap,detegents, and toothpaste, BUT you didn’t give the alternative of what you are using??? can u please give your alternative ?

  9. Thanx for this great information
    Wow this is really good information. I am glad to know that other people are talking about alternatives to mainstream hygiene products. I love the Doc’s magic soaps, too.

    I’d like to throw in a couple more suggestions for those who live in hot, sticky climates or those who are concerned about ‘body odour’:

    1. Castile soaps are excellent! Avoid ‘antibacterial’ sopas like the plague as they kill both harmful as well as beneficial bacteria and contribute to to the epidemic of drug resistant ‘superbugs’. A much better alternative is to find a natural castile soap with neem, lavender or perhaps tea tree oil depending on your prefences and personal needs.
    Just adding herbs like lavender into the bath is great, too.

    2.In between bathing with the castile soap, if you are concerned about ‘offensive odor’ during a hot spell or detoxification, all natural body salt crystals are excellent and very economical. they do not contain cancer causing additives like traditional antiperspirants. Perspiring is the body’s way of detoxifying and the last thing any person wishing to maintain a general state of wellness should do is block the function of perspiration! Otherwise, the toxins get reabsorbed into the body, overloading the liver and kidney functions adversely.

    Here’s to good health, everyone!

  10. confused
    continuation of MY earlier message.
    2.no doctor ever suggested what is causing the problem? if they tell the truth their profession will be at stake.
    3. Malthusian theory. there are natural cheks at work. no bacteria will thrive on body at all times. nature checks ,stops at one point every thing. if we eat without washing hands, nothing is going to happen. do we need harmful hand wash solutions?
    4.with all the advance in medical science, what happend to the quality of human life. are we healthy?. a servery tells us that 90% of madicines are not required.
    the argument continues endless. if you believe what you think is correct that makes the difference. i do require pages to continue my argument. if you feel what i wrote HAS AN IOTA OF TRUTH ,i think iis the beginning of learning to live freely. naturally.
    feel free to write.


  11. Easier…
    I dont take shower or bath daily.. maybe once a week. But when I do it, I do it properly. I rinse my body, first I scrub with my hands.. rinse. then apply soap.. rinse and then scrub with my hands again… doing all that properly takes me about an hour! Honestly everytime I do it, a hour goes by..
    Without the soap.. when I scrub.. only a little bit of dirt gets released and it takes a lot of rubbing and scrubbing.. but after I’ve applied soap and rinsed, it comes off so much easier and quicker..the layer of dirt just gets rolled into small bits of thread.. and then I wash that off… and do a one last soap rub and rinse again and am done.
    But sometimes, even after doing all that process… the thread like rolled up dirt sticks to the hair on my hands.. its so annoying because no matter what I do it just wont wash off… and at the end I would’ve to pull them off 1 by 1.. maybe thats whats making me take a whole lotta time.. seriously its painful.. pulling the dirt that has stuck to the hair of my skin.. sometimes it looks like its rolled with the body hair.. I dont know whats causing it. I apply more soap.. rub.. scrub and when I rinse.. there will always be some left..
    I use Imperial leather soap btw. But after reading all that, I will be looking for some of those soaps mentioned above..
    I only wash my body when its itching all over. My nails would be filled with black rolled up dirt when I scratch.. sometimes the scratching feels so good that I make a scratch wound and as a result I have scratch wounds and marks all over my back! I’ve to leave that habit of feeling good when itching. Its really a bad dirty habbit. I need help! 🙁

    1. Take a shower everyday and use olive oil soap and u won’t have that problem al koura soap you can buy at halal stores

  12. Harmful effect of soap on body
    I want to share one important experience normal palm cleaning of of my own . I am not using both soap since almost last 8 years .I found that normal palm cleaning of body while bathing is sufficint enoug for keeping skin helthy . it will reduce water contamination to large extent , a every one knows water is very important source of life for all of us. This will help to save earth to some extent.

    After stopping soap , I observed skin itching problem reduces.One may use soap when he felt that his palm or any part of body was exposed to some unhygenic condistion . Other wise with normal washing by palm with little force is good enough.

  13. My alternatives
    Hello, I enjoyed your article and would like to share my methods. I use two smart water bottles, the kind with the pop top and mouthpiece. In one bottle I mix 1.5 liters of DISTILLED water with 1/3 teaspoon of citric acid. In the other bottle I mix 1 part cayenne pepper, 1 part ground ginger root powder, 8 parts pure borax powder, and 1 part msm powder. I buy 100% organic raw virgin coconut oil from Titan organics and fill up one pill container. When showering I use the hottest water I can stand during washing and will rinse my body off with cold water turned completely on and hot water turned completely off for at least 2 minutes after washing is finished. To wash I dampen my palms, sprinkle on my powdered mixture and scrub my hair down to my feet. Then I rinse off with the citric acid to strip off the borax and give my hair and skin a very nice luster. I then proceed to very lightly coat my body with the coconut oil to seal my skin. The borax is a mild deodorizer but the cayenne pepper a strong antioxidant and deodorizer as it is anti fungal and antibacterial and I have no body odor issues whatsoever. Citric acid, like cayenne, is a powerful antioxidant and antibacterial. I wash my clothes in an HE washer using only 1/2-3/4 a cup of Borax powder and 1/4 cup of white distilled vinegar. Be sure to add the Borax to the powdered detergent compartment and to add the vinegar to the liquid softener compartment. For brushing teeth I buy IPSAB tooth powder (baking soda, salt, prickly ash bark, peppermint leaf) and add 3/4 a table spoon of cayenne pepper and 1/4 a tablespoon of ground ginger root powder to the 4 oz container. Promote gum circulation and clean teeth by brushing thoroughly with a soft bristle toothbrush and rinsing with warm water. I get compliments on my incredibly white teeth literally everyday compared to when I was a child brushing with crest toothpaste religiously my teeth were almost transparent due to my enamel being so thin, and my parents constantly told me my teeth were yellow. For standard dishwashers I use 3 parts borax powder and 1 part citric acid and for hand washing dishes I use Boraxo powdered hand soap (borax, fine toilet soap). Borax powder alone can be used for washing, and as the abrasive powder dissolves while you scrub the cellular walls of the bacteria are 100% obliterated. Borax is primarily used to safely wash infant/baby clothes in this country.

    1. MSM?
      Can you clarify why you add MSM to the powder mix? Thank you!

  14. Not Soap
    What you purchase from your local Wal-Mart does not equal Soap. Where on the packages do you see soap? It is a chemical based detergent. They are not even allowed to label it as soap.

    I make soap…pure natural soap. Please do not confuse the two, they are not the same.

    True you cannot make soap without lye but there is no lye in soap. My soaps contain a plethora of butters and oils and leave my skin feeling wonderful and not dry and cracked.

    1. Guest,

      May I have the recipe for your soap?

      Thank you

    2. Recipe for you soap please!

  15. Using soap nuts
    I want to use soap nuts as an alternative to commercial detergents and soap so as to be able to use the spent water for the garden which has decorative as well as vegetable and fruit plants. Is this OK ?

    1. Soap nuts in place of soap
      Perfect Peter! I congratulate you on your idea.
      All the best
      Murali Chemuturi

      1. What is soap nut and how do i get it? am in Nigeria. Is it good for kids too?

        1. Hi Cindy

          Soap nut is a fruit grown on trees in the forests. They must be available in stores selling forest produce. If you can locate an Indian grocery store in your vicinity, soap nuts would be available there. You soak them in water for a few minutes and then you can use the softened nuts for cleaning your body or washing clothes or dirty dishes too.

  16. No soap, no shampoo
    I have not used shampoo for over a year nor soap on my face for a little longer. My barber, who does not know that I don’t use shampoo, says my hair is thick, shiny, and healthy. My face is neither too oily nor too dry; the skin on my face is just right and healthier than when I was a toddler. I wish I had known about this when I was a child. I also wish I could say that washing our hair and skin with harsh chemicals is the biggest lie we were ever told. Unfortunately, there are many much bigger; however, it is one of the biggest. Be free from soap, shampoo, conditioners, and unnecessary moisturizers! I will never go back to soap and shampoo. Never!

  17. Very interesting article indeed! I always wondered why my skin was itchy and irritated. The crazy thing is, I don’t even need to use soap anymore, I changed my diet and became a raw vegan, that was a big contributor.

  18. What is soap nut ? How can I get it.

  19. Soap nut is a fruit grown on trees in the forests. They must be available in stores selling forest produce. If you can locate an Indian grocery store in your vicinity, soap nuts would be available there. You soak them in water for a few minutes and then you can use the softened nuts and their juice for cleaning your body or washing clothes or dirty dishes too.

  20. wow so beautiful


    1. Hi Nancy
      You can use soap nuts. Soap nut is a fruit grown on trees in the forests. They must be available in stores selling forest produce. If you can locate an Indian grocery store in your vicinity, soap nuts would be available there. You soak them in water for a few minutes and then you can use the softened nuts for cleaning your body or washing clothes or dirty dishes too.
      You can normally vigorously scrub your body with hands and it would suffice for all body except arm pits and groin. There you may use mild soap. For hair, use mild shampoo but once a week or so.

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