The Magic and Mystery of Soap

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Keep clean, green and be environmentally friendly, the naturally soapy way! When we set out to make soap using linseed grown on the home farm, we had no idea what an historic path we were on.

We knew we wanted to keep the ingredient list short and animal-free, and we didn’t want to use harsh chemicals or production processes that meant that while it was removing dirt, it was also stripping natural oils from the skin – that ‘dried-out-after-a-shower feeling’ that makes you reach for the moisturiser.

But when we started researching, we found that there is a lot more to soap than meets the eye. For a start, it has a very, very long history – there’s evidence of a soap recipe written on a Babylonian clay tablet dated to around 2200 BC! And soaps may have been one of the first home products to transition into a fully industrial process.

Various soap-like materials, it seems, have been made for millennia, in the early days mainly using animal fats and ashes from burning various shrubs. As time went by and the process became big business, large factories made soap in huge vats. When this happened in the UK, the wily old Chancellor had his eye on it for raising money and taxed it. In 1632, the levy was £4 per ton. By 1712 it was up to £25 a ton, almost equalling the cost of production. In 1852 the soap duty was abolished and the government took a hit of £1,126,000 in lost tax revenue. But at least it was cheaper for people to stay clean! Today, the tax is back up 20 per cent – still, you might think, a considerable sum for the right to good hygiene.

In the early days of industrialised soap production, imported linseed oil, along with palm and cottonseed oil, were used. But we believe our cold process linseed soap is unique today. Here’s how we produce our luxurious lather bars.

Traditional cold-process soap making

Unlike most large-scale manufacturers, we make our Linseed Soap in small batches, using a cold process. It is engineered by us to be five per cent super-fatted. That means it will leave one per cent residue of the precious, moisturising linseed oils on your skin, gently restoring softness after each use. Compared to commercial soaps, Linseed Soap is less alkaline, so it’s much closer to neutral pH, putting it in harmony with the needs of the body. There are no added perfumes that risk irritating your skin. Instead, it is carefully formulated to release a delicate scent of pure, high-quality, home-grown linseed. The soap makes a natural lather – there are no harsh chemicals added to make it artificially bubble. And your skin feels silky smooth after washing because we focus on producing a conditioning effect, balancing the mix to maximise the beneficial linolenic (Omega 3), oleic (Omega 9), linoleic (Omega 6), and lauric acids that naturally occur in linseed. Unlike the hot process of commercial soap making, which means bars can be used straight away, we have to leave our soaps to cure for four weeks, and, like us, they get better with age!

There is a widely used metric for rating the various properties of soap (no, we didn’t know that, either, until we started researching!). See how ours compares to the bracketed figures in this graph. You can see Linseed Soap is not too hard; it comes near the top for cleansing; and it’s way out in front for conditioning. When it comes to being bubbly and creamy – two elements that are generally increased by the addition of unnecessary chemicals to soap – ours displays its natural character. We will never add anything that takes away from its natural properties.

We mentioned some seriously good fatty acids earlier. Now those are something we do know a lot about, having spent years learning more about them in relation to linseed. There are 25 fatty acids found in the body, but we’re just going to focus on four of the most important for a healthy, happy skin, all of which are found in abundance in our soap.

Linolenic acid (known as Omega 3) was called Vitamin F, although it’s not a true vitamin but really a fat. This provides moisture and ‘plumpness’ without weighing down the skin; it fortifies and protects the skin's barrier, thereby helping to fend off UV rays and air pollutants, such as smoke, which cause free radical activity that can result in wrinkles and signs of aging.

Linoleic acid (known as Omega 6) was also referred to as vitamin F – a bit confusing but it was because both this and Omega 3 are known as essential fats. Generally, our diet and skin creams contain far too much of this Omega 6 type, which is the precursor to an inflammatory pathway. As you can see from the graph, our soap is low in linoleic acid and high in linolenic acid, making it balanced – just what the skin needs. This is what we mean when we say our soap is engineered for the best balance of fats for the skin.

Oleic acid (Omega 9). This one is a godsend for dry, aging skin since it penetrates easily and deeply into the skin's surface, replenishing lost moisture that naturally comes with age. It also helps prevent the moisture from evaporating

Lauric acid. This fatty acid might ring a bell because there has been a lot of talk about it recently. Lauric acid is found in, among other places, coconuts from which it’s extracted to make a substance called monolaurin, an antimicrobial agent that’s able to fight pathogens, such as viruses and bacteria. A 2009 study found that lauric acid could reduce the number of propionibacterium acnes bacteria, which are found naturally on the skin, but when they overgrow lead to irritation and acne. Lauric acid worked even better than benzoyl peroxide, a common acne treatment, in calming the skin.

To shop our full Beauty From The Farm range of vegan linseed skin care products, click here.

Durwin Banks

Durwin Banks
The Linseed Farm

The Magic and Mystery of Soap