This seems like a weird question but I'm sure we have all bought soap that looked and smelled wonderful, but after we use it our skin is all dried out and we're not so impressed anymore. This is mainly true of commercial soaps but you may have had this experience with handmade soaps as well. It is my goal to educate as much as possible with this blog so I want to educate consumers about what to look for when buying handmade.
I recently dropped off some of my soaps at Truly Bluegrass where I have items consigned and one of the owners snagged a bar for herself. On my next visit, she told me that she had tried all of the natural soaps in their store but mine was the only one that hadn't dried her skin out. I know why. There is one basic mistake that soapers and makers of other handmade skin care items make. Coconut oil is NOT a moisturizing oil. It is a DRYING oil, especially in soap. If you want to test this out for yourself, go to your grocery store or health food store and buy a bar of Kirk's Coconut Castille Soap. It costs about a dollar and change for a bar so it won't be an expensive experiment-go buy a bar and take a shower with it. It's made with just coconut oil and I GUARANTEE this soap will dry your skin out more than any other soap you have ever used! The same goes with another popular ingredient in handmade soaps-Palm Kernel Oil. I can't imagine you can add enough shea butter to make up for the drying effects of coconut oil AND palm kernel oil in any soap recipe.
That said, I do like some coconut oil in my soap because it makes a firm bar with lots of suds. But my primary ingredient is olive oil. It's stable and moisturizing but isn't creamy and doesn't make lots of bubbles in soap. So the key here, like everything else in life is balance. I use enough coconut oil to make a good lather and make the soap firm, but it isn't my primary ingredient. This is why my soaps aren't drying like other handmade soaps.
What to look for? When I list my ingredients I list the items in order of content-that is the first ingredient on the list is what I have the most of -so when I list the ingredients in my soap I list olive oil first because that is the most plentiful ingredient. This is how you are legally supposed to label items so I always assume that are others are doing the same. So if I look at a listing for a bar of soap and the first ingredient is coconut or palm kernel oil, I assume that the soap is mostly coconut and/or palm kernel oil. I can honestly tell you that if I see BOTH as ingredients, especially the top 2 ingredients, I won't buy it-and yes, I do buy soap from other people from time to time.
Now, ironically, I am off to make Monoi lotion bars with coconut oil. I will be balancing the coconut oil with avocado butter and some light vegetable oils, like almond, grapeseed, sunflower, etc. I am using the coconut oil because it's a must for Monoi oils and I have a bottle of coconut oil from India that has a heavenly coconut scent that I can't duplicate with essential oils.