The MotherVine Organic, Botanical Soaps

Lovely lavender with muscadine scrubbing power

What is saponification? Saponification is the process of making soap, using a strong base, usually sodium hydroxide (lye), to break oil molecules into three soap molecules and a glycerin molecule. The lye is completely used up in the process so that none is left in the finished soap. We use the cold-process method of saponification where the oils and lye are combined at low temperatures.

How is the cold process method different than milled soap? In the cold process method the oils and lye are combined at 100 F or less. This is important because the low temperature keeps the beneficial properties of our high quality botanical ingredients. Triple milled soaps are often processed at much higher temperatures which can degrade high quality oils. This process is favored by larger soap factories because it is a faster process with less curing time and allows for use of lower quality ingredients and animal fats.

The other major difference is that cold-process soap is mixed, then poured, so all of the ingredients remain. In milling, the soap is made, then broken up by rollers and repressed into bars. If it is triple milled, this process is repeated three times. In commericial mills the moisturizing glycerin that is formed during saponification is removed because it gums up the machinery, making the soap more drying. The removed glycerin is often used in lotions, while other compounds are added back to the soap to make up for the missing glycerin.

Juniper and spruce essential oils with a touch of honey

Why are The MotherVine Organic, Botanical Soaps made from organic extra virgin olive oil, organic palm oil, and organic coconut oil? We have chosen to use certified organic oils for two major reasons:

  1. Organic agricultural methods are more environmentally friendly and healthy for humans than conventional methods because they do not use synthetic pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
  2. Organic oils are free of pesticide residues. This is very important because the soap will contact your skin and the pesticides which accumulate in the plant oils are fat-soluble, of which many types also accumulate in human bodies. Among these are some of the most toxic pesticides, organophosphates, which have been banned in the US but are still used overseas. By using organic oils, we avoid this issue.

For a long-lasting lathering bar, our soaps are made from a precise blend of high quality oils for the following reasons:

  • Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This is the highest grade of olive oil, from freshly crushed olives, extracted by centrifuge, not chemical solvents.   In soap it makes for a gently cleansing bar with wonderful moisturizing properties. Too much olive oil makes for a soft soap that won’t lather.
  • Organic Coconut Oil: This is a highly saturated oil derived from the dried meat and husk of coconuts. In soap it creates a wonderfully fluffy lather and a hard long lasting bar. Too much coconut oil makes for a drying bar.
  • Organic Palm Oil: This saturated oil, made from the fruit of a species of palm tree, is used to make a stable fluffy lather and increase the bar life without drying the skin.

What is the deal with palm oil? There are serious problems with commodity palm oil, which is the majority of palm oil available on the market. Much of it comes from Indonesia and Malaysia where primary tropical forests are being cleared to make way for new palm plantations. Both Greenpeace and the Rainforest Action Network (RAN) are advocating boycotts of unsustainable palm oil due to the impacts on tropical forests and the orangutan in particular. We purchase all of our organic palm oil from a company that produces its oil in Brazil, avoiding the orangutan habitat of SE Asia. Our supplier is the only palm oil producer to sign the RAN Sustainable Palm Oil Pledge, and grows its palm trees using organic methods on degraded ranch lands, not freshly cleared primary forest.

What is the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils? Why does The MotherVine use only essential oils? Most personal care products and soap on the market today get their scents from fragrance oils, not essential oils. Fragrance oils are chemicals which are synthesized in a laboratory, often from petrochemicals. These fragrances are cheap, often under $10-15 per pound, and can be adulterated with other chemicals, like phthalates, which can strengthen and extend the life of the aromatic chemicals. Essential oils are pure plant extracts. The oils we use are produced only by steam-distillation, not solvent extraction. They come directly from the natural plant material and are not synthesized in a lab.  We use essential oils for three major reasons:

  •  Your skin is the largest organ of your body. Although it appears to be a solid barrier, it is in fact absorbing materials from our environment all the time. Following this logic, we decided that we did not want to be producing soaps which would be transferring synthetic chemicals into our customer’s bodies. Of particular concern are phthalates, which are present in many fragrance oils (but never listed on ingredient labels), and which are strongly linked to endocrine disruption in humans.
  • Our driving vision is to help foster healthy relationships between people and the natural world, and our use of botanicals like essential oils is key to this. The sense of smell connects directly to our emotional and memory centers and allows us to experience an invisible world. As pure plant extracts, essential oils reflect the complexities and everchanging subtleties of the natural world and their aromas create a pleasurable and healthy point of relation with the botanical world.
  • Essential oils are directly derived from diverse agricultural crops and thus help support rural economies around the world. Fragrance oils are produced by and enrich only a few large industrial-scale companies. Essential oils come from plants. Fragrance oils come from labs. Essential oils are biodegradable. Many fragrance oils are persistent organic pollutants which remain in the environment for a long time.