Why we use lye in our soaps
Updated: Mar 28, 2019
In our last post, we talked about what makes Lasabrjotur’s ritual soaps different from the other soaps available on the market. In this post, we want to specifically address why we use lye as part of our soap making process.
While lye isn’t organic, it is one of the allowable non-organic ingredients included in USDA organic standards. The truth about lye in soap-making is simple: there is no true soap, as defined by the FDA, without lye.
So why is lye used? Lye, after all, is also known as caustic soda, and why would we want to have an ingredient on our skin that can cause the chemical burns we’ve seen from Fight Club? Well, the good news is: you’re not using lye on your skin; you’re using soap.
Soap is the result of a chemical reaction called saponification that occurs between lye and a type of molecule called a triglyceride (a fat or oil), where both substances are chemically transformed, creating soap and natural glycerin. Neither of the original ingredients exist anymore. All the lye is consumed in the reaction.
So, while soap is made with lye, it doesn’t contain lye in the final product. Modern methods and measuring scales allow Lasabrjotur to use the proper mixture of oils and lye, ensuring that all lye is consumed during the base making process. In addition, we go a step farther to include more oil than required, further ensuring the neutralization of lye and adding to the soap’s moisturizing qualities.
Still, some soap-makers make a point of positioning themselves as lye “alternatives,” insisting – for example – they use glycerin instead, or make their soap without the involvement of lye. In both these cases, misinformation seems to be a factor. Glycerin is already a created in the saponification process, which is the first step in creating the base of soap.
Understanding chemistry can go a long way toward understanding the products you are using, which is why we are sharing this information with you. As negative as some perceptions of lye can be, soap requires lye, and soap made well can be great for your skin. If you’re getting “soap” made without lye, you aren’t buying soap by its definition, but a detergent made for your skin.
Lye isn’t bad for you, nor is soap made with lye something to avoid. In fact, at Lasabrjotur, our soaps are products made with your skin, ritual intentions, and health in mind, and are far superior in overall quality and gentleness to commercial, non-soap cleansers. Lye is what you should be using.
Ritual Soap Product Highlight
Heithrún, the goat on the hall that stands, eateth off Læráth's limbs; the crocks she fills with clearest mead, will that drink not e'er be drained – Hollander’s translation
Heidrun is a simple soap that harnesses great power. This soap is made with honey and oats in honor of the goat that gave mead from her udders instead of milk. According to the Grímnismál , a Norse mythological poem, she fed from the leaves of Yggdrasil. As she fed, her food was transformed into honey wine, known as mead. The einherjar, those who died in battle and stayed in Valhalla, were the ones lucky enough to enjoy the mead of Heidrun.
Just as Heidrun magically transformed what she ate into mead, this soap should be used in ritual bath to assist in flourishing transformation. Honey is often used in ritual work for its binding properties. In the process of transformation, chemicals are rearranged and bound together to create something more powerful and useful than before. Honey also helps to soften the blow of change with its sweet and calming scent.
Since we are unable to harvest leaves from Yggdrasil ourselves, we used oats, as they are a dietary staple for goats, and a representation of prosperity. Similar to the concept of Heidrun’s continuous wealth of mead, this soap is made with the intention of bringing success through reshaping of the mind and body.
This soap may be used in ritual bath for creating the intent for change. The oats help to physically slough off the dead skin cells that represent everything that needs to be released. In doing so, the oats will create the opportunity for prosperity, while the honey binds the exact intent to the witch for proper transformation.
Named after the Norse goddess of love and affection, this soap honors Lofn with the calming scent of lavender, and serves as a reminder of the loved ones that surround us.
The name Lofn is believed to be Old Norse for “comforter,” or “permission.” She was one of the handmaidens of Frigga, and as stated in the Prose Edda’s Gylfaginning, “The eighth is Lofn: she is so gracious and kindly to those that call upon her, that she wins Allfather's or Frigg's permission for the coming together of mankind in marriage, of women and of men, though it were forbidden before, or seem flatly denied; from her name such permission is called 'leave,' and thus also she is much 'loved' of men.” We named this soap in her honor, for the ability to help provide a way with relationships.
Used for centuries to arouse passion and viewed as an aphrodisiac, lavender is a featured ingredient in our soap, along with comfrey and alkanet. Comfrey is known for cooling, providing energetic notes, and uniting properties, while the alkanet adds a beautiful purple hue to the soap. The color purple represents so many concepts, mainly to: help with creativity, which is needed to conduct magic; and the ability to guide and make changes, which is needed to maintain relationships over time.