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Ingredient Almanac

Unsure about naturally based skincare ingredients and soap terminology? Our encyclopaedia will help you understand what's included in Soap Cult Australia products and why. We'll educate you about ingredients and processes in this handy soap glossary.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is a popular ingredient in soap and skincare due to its ability to absorb excess oil and detoxify dirt and impurities from the skin. 

"Activated" through a high-temperature steam activation process, which increases the particle surface area and enhances its ability to absorb. Temperatures of 600 to 1,200 degrees strip any unstable compounds away and leave a fine powder, capable absorbing toxins, hence its medical use in certain cases of poisoning!

We use it for its ability to absorb excess oil, detoxify the skin and as a natural colourant. 

Aqua

Distilled water.

Calendula aka Marigold

A common flowering botanical herb used in skincare for its soothing properties. We infuse it in oils to draw out its benefits and as dried leaves for texture and appearance. 

Canola Oil

A food grade oil often used in cooking with a neutral flavour. We use it for its rich, unsaturated Oleic Acid that contributes to the conditioning and moisturising properties in our soap. 

Carbon Neutral

Carbon neutral means reducing and offsetting your carbon footprint by balancing it out with carbon reduction projects, such as tree planting.

Castor Oil

We love Castor Oil for its unsaturated fatty acid, Ricinoleic Acid. It works alongside the other oils in a soap formula to stabilise the lather and adds a wonderful slip and glide feeling to it. It also contributes to the conditioning and moisturising properties. 

Chromium Oxide Green

Chromium oxide green is a mossy earthy green pigment that's stable in high pH products like cold process soap, won't fade in UV light and won't disrupt a soap design by bleeding into non-green areas of a soap.

It's used in a wide manner of other applications, such as in paint, sharpening knives and even optical equipment.

In nature, it can be found in some minerals but it's very rare and hence not used. Instead it's produced in a lab to make a stable, high quality pigment that's safe for personal care and cosmetic items.

Citric Acid

An ingredient in our clear soap base. Citric Acid is derived from citrus fruits and helps to adjust the pH and free up more moisturising ingredients in the soap.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It acts as an emulsifier and thickener. It is derived from Coconut, not Palm Oil.

Cocoa Butter

 Cocoa Butter comes from the Cacao tree. The beans are cleaned, dried and roasted and then separated out into Cocoa Butter and Cocoa Powder. Both can be used in chocolate making, baking and skincare and cosmetics. We use a raw, organic and fair trade Cocoa Butter. 

Cocoa Butter is high in Palmitic Acid, a saturated fatty acid that contributes to bar hardness and a stable, creamy lather. 

Cocus Nucifera

An ingredient in our clear soap base. The technical term for Coconut Oil.

Coconut Oil

Coconut Oil is rich in the saturated fatty acid Lauric Acid. It contributes to the hardness, cleansing factor of the soap and makes for a big, fluffy lather.

Skilled soap makers know how to balance Coconut Oil out with other ingredients so it's not harsh or drying. 

Coffee 

We use both ground coffee and whole coffee beans in our products. We like it for the exfoliating properties, scent and invigorating effect on the skin. 

Cold Process Soap

Cold Process Soap is a type of traditional handmade soap where the saponification process occurs on its own without any external application of heat.

Other kinds of traditional handmade soap making are Hot Process, Cold Process/Oven Process and Liquid Soap Making. Soap Cult Australia uses the Cold Process method.

Cure Time

This is when soap makers take time out of their day to listen to The Cure...

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Cure time is how long a bar must sit or "cure" before it is gentle and safe enough to use. The typical time is between four to six weeks, however it can be shorter or longer depending on the soap formula used and ambient factors, like the climate the soap is stored in.

Curing is very important for soap. Not only is the bar becoming harder as excess water dries out (making the soap last longer in the shower) in the first few days and weeks, the soap molecules are still saponifying.

Using a soap that's too fresh will make it melt away quickly, the lather feel a bit weird and slimy and it'll make your skin feel overly cleansed and dry. Ewww.

Essential Oil

Essential oils are the concentrated extracts of plant materials. They can be obtained by Steam Distillation, Solvent Extraction, CO2 Extraction, Maceration, Enfleurage, Cold Press Extraction, and Water Distillation. The method used will depend upon the plant material itself. For example you'd need to use a different method to obtain essential oil from a fruit peel then you would a tree bark.

Essential oils can be everything from thick or thin liquid, all the way to a viscous paste that needs to be melted before use.  

We use Essential oils in some of our soaps for the fragrance and reputed benefits on the mind and body.

Fluorphlogopite

Pronounced flura-floga-pite and simply called synthetic mica by most. It's a colourant that's made in a lab. With uniform edges, size and ability to produce bright colours, it's preferred for use in make up and skincare products. 

Fragrance

Fragrance Oils are aromas made in a lab that contain nature identical, aroma-chemicals and/or essential oils combined together to create the desired scent.

Aroma-chemicals is a fancy name for raw materials that are split apart into different molecules and then arranged in a different order to create scents similar to what you'd find in real life (like chocolate or strawberries for example).

The individual components that go into fragrances have extensive safety testing done by the International Fragrance Research Association (IFRA). Then the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) write a peer-reviewed journal that publishes those safety substantiations. From there, there's a committee that looks at all of that scientific data and decides what can be used on what parts of the body and in what concentration. Those recommendations are then used by suppliers as a guideline in how to use a fragrance safely and in what levels. 

So for example, there are different usage rates for fragrances based on whether it's a stay on or rinse off product (ie. lotion vs soap) and for what part of the body it goes on. Usage rates are typically around one to five percent of the total product.

Glycerin

An odourless, colourless liquid produced when saponification occurs. ie. when cold process soap is made. Glycerin is a valuable ingredient in moisturisers and lotions because it's a humectant, meaning it attracts and retains moisture in the skin. Our glycerin is derived from Canola.

Glycerin Soap

Glycerin Soap or Melt and Pour as it's sometimes called, is a pre-made, commercially available soap in a block form that is chopped, melted and coloured or fragranced. It can then be cast into different shapes with moulds.

Available in a seemingly endless variety of options, it's popular for its ease of use, safety around children when being made and the translucency in clear forms. 

We use reputable sellers and use palm-oil free bases only. 

Handmade Soap

Handmade soap is a catch all term for soap that has been either made from scratch (cold process) or cast by hand (glycerin soap).

Humectant

An ingredient that attracts moisture to the skin. 

Infused Oil (term)

An infused oil is when a botanical has been soaked in oil which is then later used to make soap. The botanical is usually a herb or a flower that has reputed beneficial properties for the skin. A cold infusion is where the plant material is soaked for around four to six weeks in a sterile canning jar. A hot infusion is very similar, except rather than leaving the brew to sit for weeks, it's slowly heated in very hot water for around six hours. In both methods, the plant material is carefully strained out using muslin or cheesecloth until no particles remain. It's then used as a soap making ingredient. 

Iron Oxide

Iron Oxide is a naturally occurring, coloured mineral deposit. In skincare and cosmetics, a synthetic version is used because the natural form can have traces of dangerous or undesirable other metals. Iron Oxides can be mixed with other dyes or Oxides to produce different colours.

Kaolin Clay

Kaolin clay is a naturally occurring clay that's used a lot in skincare and cosmetics. We use it in our soap to give the lather more "slip" and reduce drag on the skin, absorb excess oil and to create a colour effect.

Tin Oxide

Tin Oxide is similar to Iron Oxide, in that it's naturally occurring and is pressed with other colourants to create the desired colour. 

Mango Butter

Mango butter is obtained from pressing the mango seed and extracting its vitamin rich butter. It melts easily and provides a similar sort of moisture and lubrication to the skin as Cocoa Butter does. Mango Butter is rich in Stearic Acid, a saturated fatty acid that contributes to bar hardness and a stable lather. 

Mango (Fruit)

Our mango fruit is locally grown in Brisbane at my childhood home. My mother harvests it fresh and then I chop it up and freeze it until use later in some of our soaps.

We use mango fruit puree to substitute out some of the water in our lye solution. This amps up the skin benefits, adds extra vitamins and makes the lather feel more luxurious. 

Mica

Mica is a catch all term for skin safe colourants derived from the mineral Muscovite. Muscovite is powdered and then various colourants such as Iron and Tin Oxides or dyes are pressed together to create a shimmery colour. 

Olive Oil

Olive Oil comes from the pressed fruit of the Olive tree. It helps to create a hard bar of soap when used in high percentages and is very gentle, low sudsing and low cleansing.

A Castile soap is made exclusively of Olive Oil and is popular with elder skin, babies and patients undergoing medical treatments that make their skin extremely fragile. Alternatively, a Bastile soap is a "bastardised" Castile where Olive Oil is main ingredient but other oils, butters or exfoliants are added in small amounts. 

We use Olive Oil as a main ingredient in many of our soaps but it's always balanced out with other silky, lotion-like lather producing oils and butters to create the effect our customers love in our soap. Olive Oil on its own can make a lather feel really thin, stringy and kinda gross. 

Organic (term)

Organic is a regulated term, (unlike "Natural") and there are governing bodies around the world that can approve "Organic" status if a grower, processor or wholesaler can meet their detailed requirements. 

Polyglyceryl-4 Oleate

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It is a natural, Palm Oil Free emulsifier derived from Sunflower and Canola oils. 

Rice Bran Oil

Rice Bran Oil is a conditioning and moisturising oil in soap. Rich in Oleic Acid, its mildness is beneficial for sensitive and fragile skin. We like to use it in conjunction with Olive Oil - they love working together to make a gentle soap that cares for your skin. 

Salt

We use two main forms of salt. Ordinary table salt and sea salt. Both are loaded with minerals that our skin loves - magnesium, potassium and even calcium. Which one we choose depends on the product it's going into as particle size matters. We like to use it for its exfoliant properties, to cleanse oily skin and weirdly enough, it actually moisturises as well. 

Saponified or saponification (term)

Saponification is the process where triglycerides (fatty acids) and sodium hydroxide (lye) react and combine with each other to form soap and glycerin. 

Basically, it's when liquid oils and solid butters (such as olive oil, shea butter etc.) are melted down and mixed with the correct proportions of a liquid (generally water) and the lye. When combined, the result is exothermic (it produces heat) and the ingredients all interact with each other and combine and eventually form a solid mass of soap. 

Soap makers use special calculators to work out precisely how much of each ingredient is needed to make a safe bar of soap. They also take extra safety precautions with PPE to prevent accidents when dealing with caustic and hot raw soap. 

Shea Butter

Shea Butter comes from the African Shea Tree. Our Shea Butter is purchased through a women's co-operative in North Western Ghana, in Africa. It is raw, organic, unrefined and fair-trade. We use it in our cold process soaps for its skin-loving fatty acid profile. It makes our soap harder, creamier and more gentle.

Sodium Chloride

The chemical name for salt.

Sodium Citrate

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It is a salt of Citric Acid that helps reduce soap scum.

Sodium Cocoate

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It is soap make from coconuts. 

Sodium Hydroxide

Sodium Hydroxide is sometimes called Lye or Caustic Soda. It's the essential ingredient for making traditional cold process soap. When mixed carefully in the correct proportions with water (or other liquid such as milk, juices or even flat beer) it creates what we call a "Lye Solution". 

We list Sodium Hydroxide as an ingredient on our product labels even though absolutely none of it is left in the product. It's the catalyst that creates soap when mixed with the butters and oils in a soap formula and is "consumed" to make soap.

Sodium Stearate 

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It is derived from Canola not from Palm Oil. It acts as a thickener, hardener and stabiliser. 

Sorbital

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It is a sugar alcohol that acts as a thickener and humectant. 

Sweet Almond Oil

Sweet Almond Oil is high in Oleic Acid which contributes to the conditioning and moisturising abilities of a soap. It's mildly cleansing and wonderful for the face.

Titanium Dioxide

Titanium Dioxide is a naturally occurring mineral used to create a white pigment. It is used in everything from tattoo ink, to sunscreen to paint and even ceramic glazes. 

Trisodium Sulfosuccinate

An ingredient in our clear soap base. It is a gentle cleanser and foaming agent that improves water solubility and helps emulsify ingredients together. Derived from Citric Acid.