Regular readers of the Packer’s Pine blog might know that we are huge fans of two things: 1) Soap. 2) Nature.
We’ve built our entire brand around these two passions, by manufacturing natural soaps that are as friendly to the earth as they are to your skin. However, neophytes to the world of soap may wonder, why exactly is natural soap so great?
It’s kinder to your skin.
Natural soaps are generally made from ingredients that are skin friendly. Natural soaps may contain ingredients like glycerin, pine tar, natural fats from plants or dairy, and natural fragrances. These ingredients are generally kinder to the skin than some of the chemicals that are present in industrially made soaps. Some ingredients, like pine tar, are actually used for healing skin conditions.
Soaps made by large commercial operations, like most antibacterial soaps, often contain ingredients that are slightly harsher on the skin and can cause irritation. Sulfates, detergents, and powerful, artificial fragrances can cause skin inflammation in people with sensitive skin. For people with skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis, these harsh ingredients can trigger or exacerbate flare ups. Additionally, ingredients like alcohol or triclosan can dry out the skin, leaving it flaky, irritated, and more vulnerable to cracking and skin breakdown.
Antibacterial soaps can create new problems.
Antibacterial ingredients like triclosan can create new problems when it comes to microorganisms. Because bacteria breed quickly and easily adapt to new environments and challenges, washing constantly with antibacterial ingredients can create new, highly-resistant strains of bacteria.
Why does this matter? Because as bacteria become more resistant to antibacterial products, they become harder to kill. This makes even common infections more severe, and even life-threatening.
Scientists and bacteria are essentially in an arms race, as scientists work to invent new ways to kill or limit bacterial growth, while bacteria rapidly adapt to each new antibacterial and antibiotic. Washing constantly with antibacterial soap limits our ability to fight bacteria, by allowing them to adapt to our best weapons against them.
Why doesn’t natural soap cause resistance?
Unlike antibacterial soaps, natural soaps don’t actually kill bacteria. Instead, they simply help remove bacteria from our skin. When we cover our skin with soap, the soap surrounds dirt, grime, and bacteria like an envelope. As we rinse off with water, the soap carries the grime off our skin and down the drain.
Because natural soap doesn’t use any biochemical mechanism to kill bacteria, there’s nothing for bacteria to adapt to. Rather than attacking bacteria directly, natural soap helps us sidestep bacterial threats entirely.
Some bacteria is good.
Another reason natural soaps are friendlier for your skin is that they can spare some of the bacteria that is supposed to be on your skin. Though you can’t see it, your skin is actually home to millions of bacteria. If reading that makes you feel dirty, don’t! Some bacteria is meant to be there and is actually extremely beneficial.
Having good bacteria colonized across your skin actually prevents harmful bacteria from taking hold. Just as you can’t simply move into a house someone else is living in, harmful bacteria can’t take root and cause an infection in a part of your body that’s already covered in good bacteria.
Unfortunately, antibacterial soaps don’t have any way to differentiate between good and bad bacteria. It is equally effective against both. As a result, it strips away a layer of protection from your skin and can leave you more vulnerable to some types of infections.
Why do we have antibacterial soaps?
There are certain times and settings where antibacterial soaps have their place. For example, surgeons preparing for a sterile procedure should probably use antibacterial soaps. Similarly, so should researchers who need to maintain sterile environments as part of their research. However, regular people who just need to shower or wash up for dinner don’t have a need for complete sterility. All they really need is a medium to remove soilage from their hands and body.
Are some natural soaps better than others?
Yes, but it depends on what you mean by “better.” If you’re ranking by fragrance, then the best soap for you will depend on preference. If you’re shopping for specific features like “sensitive skin friendly” or “camping safe,” then pine tar soap is one of the best options to look for. Legacy brands like Packer’s Pine use pine tar as a key ingredient to keep skin healthy, moisturized, and inflammation-free. Additionally, natural ingredients in pine tar can inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi, without risking antibacterial resistance.
Other natural ingredients, such as olive oil, coconut oil, or shea butter can help keep skin moisturized. For people with dry skin, these ingredients act as an emollient, which locks moisture onto the surface of the skin and prevents flaking, dryness, and itching. Getting familiar with common natural ingredients and the benefits they can have for your skin is one way to take control of your skin’s health and comfort.