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Nowadays, there are a lot of options, from natural soaps to shampoos and shampoo bars. But they all look alike, so we can see why you would wonder if they really are any different. They come in liquid and bar forms, can be colored or clear, and can be scented and unscented. Both are for washing the hair and skin, so what’s the difference? 

Shampoo is designed to cleanse your scalp and hair, while soap cleanses your hands, body and all the little hairs that cover your skin. So they basically do the same thing; cleanse skin and hair. But truth be told, they are different. Most soaps and shampoos contain Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or SLS. This is the ingredient that is responsible for removing oil and dirt. Natural soaps, on the other hand, do not contain SLS.

Natural Soaps Vs. Soap: The “Secret” Ingredient Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

We don’t want to get too technical, but that thing you consider soap actually isn’t soap in the technical sense of the word. Real soap is a simple mixture of vegetable or animal fat and an alkaline solution. The alkaline solution is a combination of water and water-soluble salt. Alkaline solutions you will find in nature include lye. So the truth is, real soap is made from all-natural ingredients – no artificial stuff. 

But so many soaps we use today are not naturally made. They are most often made with a surfactant, which increases the ability of water to spread through something to thoroughly wet it. SLS is just that – surfactant. Then there are the remaining ingredients that just make the product look good and smell nice. So that thing you’ve been using on your body is really detergent and not soap. 

How SLS Works

Many of your body washes, shampoos and hand soaps are in fact more like detergents than they are actual soaps. The SLS makes them lather and foam, and it is often the first or second ingredient in your products. One end of the molecule grabs the oil or dirt on your skin, and the other end attaches itself to water. This way, you wash away the dirt, oil, and grime, and your skin or hair is now cleansed of its impurities. 

The Birth of Liquid “Soap”

Up until the middle of the 1930s, people used bar soap to cleanse their skin and hair. But then liquid coconut oil became available and changed everything. There was the birth of liquid soap that could lather. Initially, this was just used for the hair – shampoo was born. 

Nowadays, we don’t use bar soaps to wash our hair. We don’t, because a bar soap would leave soap scum behind. If you have hard water, it would be worse, as you would be left with a very hard-to-rinse product on your hair and scalp. 

They also don’t recommend shower gels for washing your hair either. It tends to be higher in surfactants than shampoo. So it is easier for you to rinse shampoo from your hair, and shampoo will also pull less oils from your hair, which is important. 

Hand washes also have a higher surfactant percentage. Then there are face washes that have additional ingredients for cleansing the sensitive facial skin and taking care of acne. 

Why Such a Difference Between Regular Soaps and Shampoo?

Chemistry Professor Stephen McNeil from the University of British Columbia notes that SLS is too harsh for your hair. He spoke about how soap works in an interview with CBC. Our hair produces its own thin coating of oil for protection and nourishment of the hair strand. This oil also protects your scalp. A detergent can’t tell the difference between your natural oils and the unwanted oils and grime on your hair and scalp. And so a detergent will remove them all. 

So if you wash your hair with any regular “soap” and some shampoos, you could be doing your hair more harm than good. If your hair is dry, dull, frizzy, brittle and hard to style, you should probably check the ingredient list on your shampoo bottle. 

What some commercial shampoos do to combat the effect of SLS is, they add a conditioner into their formula. This gives the hair gloss, reduces frizz, and makes the hair more manageable. Some products use mineral oils or vegetable oils, while others use man-made chemicals. But even with a conditioning ingredient, the harm from SLS is still so much it cannot be combated without the use of a separate conditioning product. 

Shampoo Bars

Shampoo bars look like soap bars and still contain SLS. Some brands claim that even though the amounts are just as high as liquid soaps, it doesn’t behave the same way because you are only getting the foam off the top of the bar. So you are not getting as much SLS to strip away the natural oils in your hair. 

But you can also find shampoo bars that are free from SLS. These products use coconut oil, which makes them different from commercial soap bars. 

Natural Soaps Free of SLS

Here at Badger Creek, we offer an extensive range of natural soaps that can be used to cleanse your hair and skin. Check out our quick order list or browse our full line of natural soaps.

All our soaps are SLS-free and will keep the moisture in your skin while cleansing away the unwanted stuff. Some people will see a difference right away, while others may have to use the product a bit longer to see a change. Once you do, you will feel the difference from making the switch to our line of incredible soaps, so say hello to healthy and hydrated skin with Badger Creek.  

All our soaps are SLS-free and will keep the moisture in your skin while cleansing away the unwanted stuff. Some people will see a difference right away, while others may have to use the product a bit longer to see a change. Once you do, you will feel the difference from making the switch to our line of incredible soaps, so say hello to healthy and hydrated skin with Badger Creek.