Traditional soaps have long been made by mixing oils and liquid with an alkali. The alkali works on the oils and triggers a chemical process called saponification. Saponification is the act of turning oils, liquid, and alkali into soap. For making bar soap the alkali used is sodium hydroxide, also known as lye.
Soap makers today still make soap in the same manner, except modern soaps are more likely to contain coconut oil, palm oil, olive oil, and other specialty fruit, nut, and/or vegetable oils than animal fats.
Only soap made in the traditional way, comprised of alkali salts of fatty acids is considered a «true» soap. True soap can be found today, made by large manufacturers to small artisan crafters alike. True bar soaps contain surfactants that reduce surface tension between oil and water. Surfactants certainly do the best job of capturing dirt and washing it away.
Although there are many true soaps that are all-natural, many soaps on the market today contain synthetic hardeners, fragrances, or colorants.
Syndet is a hybrid of the words «synthetic» and «detergent.» Syndet bars are made from synthetic surfactants. These surfactants are made from oil, fats, or petroleum products which are processed in ways other than traditional saponification. Instead of alkali saponified animal fats and vegetable oils, syndet bars contain ingredients like sodium cocoyl isothionate, sulfosuccinates, sulfonates, and betaines. Although we as consumers call syndet bars soap, you will never see them marketed that way.
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