Can Soap ever be natural?

I want to understand why, when and how soap was invented and used on human skin.

This question was born from my using soap or shower gels or shampoos and the subsequent skin conditions which developed over a period of time from itching, rashes, spots, fatty deposits to lumps and bumps.

Knowing how soap is made from a mix of a corrosive substance and oil or fat made me wonder if this can ever be good for the skin.

Nowadays we see the production of Natural or Organic Soap using some lovely seed, fruit and essential oils.   But are these soaps really natural meaning grown in nature?  Surely they are the result of chemical interaction and is this good for the skin?

While soap is made from oil from seeds, fruits or animals it is mixed with an alkaline substance to make it sudsy; how was it discovered in the first place?

The making of soap has its basis in ancient history but before soap was made people in ancient times used Olive Oil or the fat from animals to clean themselves.

They would sit in water (Roman public baths) and cover themselves in the oil and then scrape off the oil along with the dirt.

Using Olive Oil as a cleanser is an excellent way of cleansing and something I experimented with in 1992 and have not looked back.   Now of-course there are commercially made products that are simply Olive Oil, Salt and herbs to use as a skin scrub.

Growing conditions and the age of the Olive when harvested governs the quality of the oil. Olives left too long on the ground or on the tree produce bad oil only good for lamp oil – hence its name Lampante oil.  Nowadays that oil is refined and used in cooking and because of the refining process is considered safe to eat.  It isn’t.

It was in the 19th Century in France when the Olive Oil from Crete was tested and a standard set in soap making  that then formed Marseilles Soap which then standardised Olive Oil production.

So why was the change made from the practice of using Olive Oil to using Soap?

I think a clue maybe the human urine that was collected and used in the tanneries during ancient times.

Along with plant substances Urine was used to help dissolve the meat and fatty deposits left on the Hide.

There is some evidence that the practice of soap making developed from the Tanning Process and even without evidence it is not a difficult leap of the imagination to make.

Originally Women were the soap makers not men and it may be because female urine was better at tanning fish skin than male.

An article describing a method of soap production and a brief history of soap making from the Michigan State University (msu.ed) website states that soap was thought to be discovered when women were washing their clothes in the river and found that the clothes were easier to clean in one part of the river when compared with another.  This particular part of the river near the Hill of Sapo (where the word saponification comes from) animal fat and wood ash were leached from the animal sacrifices on top of the Hill.

While it can be seen that using an alkaline or corrosive substance from Urine, Wood Ash, rain water or Lime causes the oil to be a better cleanser for Hides, Wool and Textiles, why was it considered to be safe for cleansing the human skin?

It is far too corrosive and was used initially to separate the meat and fat from the Hide.

Could this be a cause of fatty deposits in the skin, the body’s way of compensating the depletion of the natural oils in the skin from using soap products and endeavouring to replenish?  We need fat in the skin for a multitude of reasons one being to absorb the sun’s rays and create Vitamin D which is needed to absorb Calcium the most abundant mineral in the body and essential for health.

Cold-pressed Oil is a fantastic skin cleanser.  Cold-pressed Olive Oil is full of good-for-you nutrients which further enhance the health of the skin.  Infuse the Cold-pressed Olive Oil with enough petals and herbs and you then have a perfumed oil which will naturally deodorise the skin.


Crete and Olive Oil Soap

When was soap invented?

Human Urine used in Tanning Hides

History of Olive Oil and Soap

How to tan Shark Skin, human urine used, female urine better than male

Lotta Rahme Book on Leather: Preparation and Tanning by Traditional Methods

msu.ed Soap-making pdf

“It is recorded that the Babylonians were making soap around 2800 B.C. and that it was known to the Phoenicians around 600 B.C. These early references to soap and soap-making were apropos the use of soap in the cleaning of textile fibers such as wool and cotton in preparation for weaving into cloth.”


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