Soap is made from a combination of fats and can be made with both animal fats like lard or tallow, and vegetable oils like coconut, palm, and olive oil. Each type of oil or fat contains different percentages of fatty acids that aside from fragrances and other additives, are what give a soap its distinctive properties.
Castile soap originated in the Castile region of Spain and was traditionally made from pure olive oil grown from the region. Today’s version is typically made from a blend of plant-based oils (including olive oil) to create a more balanced and versatile soap.
Olive based soaps are very mild and do not dry skin the way many palm-based and coconut oil-based soaps do, making it a great choice for sensitive skin. Unscented castile soap is perfect for babies’ sensitive skin and mature skin alike. Castile soaps like other soaps, can come in a bar or a liquid form depending on the type of lye and the amount of water used to make it.
In the U.S., we are mostly familiar with Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap. You have probably seen the bottles available in a variety of scents in your local grocery store. They use a combination of oils including coconut oil to boost it’s cleansing power and make it a more multifunctional product that can be adapted to a variety of other uses outside of the shower. A quick Pinterest search for castile soap reveals the many uses creative people have come up with for this natural product.
One criticism of castile soap is that the high amounts of olive oil can make it feel greasy, leaving behind an oily (but moisturizing) residue. Fortunately there are ways around this. Using a blend of oils and experimenting with different lye combinations help, but the most traditinal way is a long aging process. Castile soap is unique because it actually improves over time. The bars start out very soft – so soft that bars are difficult to unmold. As all bars of soap age they lose more and more water, producing harder bars that last longer in the shower and clean more efficiently. Most true soaps need a full month to age before they are usable, but castile soaps continue to benefit from even longer cure times. In contrast, soaps with stronger cleansing ingredients like coconut and palm oil begin to crack and become too harsh for everyday use. Even as other moisturizing soaps made with blends of cleansing and lightweight moisturizing oils begin to go rancid after too much time, olive castile soaps continue to just get better and better. A well aged bar of pure olive castile soap is a decadent delight.
Our Castile Soaps
One of my favorite uses for castile soap, because of its gentle, mild nature, is cleaning makeup brushes. We even add lots of tea tree oil to disinfect brushes and prevent unwanted breakouts, but high amounts of tea tree can be drying with everyday use. That’s part of why we use 100% olive oil for our makeup brush cleansers to effectively clean makeup brush bristles without drying them out.
We like to make our castile soap bars for the body with lots of olive oil, but we use shea butter to create a more creamy, lotion-like lather. The firmer bar lasts longer in the shower than a pure olive soap. We know that people who choose castile soap are generally looking for a milder, more moisturizing alternative to commercial soaps with added detergents and robbed of their natural moisturizing ingredients. To intensify skin hydration even more, we use aloe vera leaf juice instead of water.
Stay tuned for our ultra-mild unscented castile soaps for sensitive skin and more castile soap bars in a variety of therapeutic fragrances.