Thursday, 30 September 2010


I have been doing a lot of thinking and quite a lot of research lately because of Dove Soap.

I'm sure I'm not the only soap maker who has people come to their stall/shop and pick up soaps, sniff and feel them, enjoy the scents etc. then look sadly at you and say "Oh I'm so sorry, I can't use anything else on my skin but Dove, Id love to buy your soaps but I'm really scared to change"

GGGGRRRRR..***&&$$%@@** !!!!  I used to get a bit upset and spend ages talking to the customer but now I just sigh and say "when you buy your next bar just check the ingredients"

Its not just Dove of course, I am talking generally too but as market leader and a brand that undoubtedly uses very clever marketing to promote its product as natural, full of moisturiser and gentle Dove is the UK’s top Bar Soap with an amazing 23% of the population having bought a Dove product in 2008. And it doesn’t end there: 10 million women use Dove every week in the UK.
I know I'm not the first and I'm sure I wont be the last to make this comparison but really guys, natural soap using the finest ingredients verses a commercially made soap bar, however popular - surely there is no comparison?  or is there?...........

I use the term 'soap' very loosely here, Dove, Imperial Leather, Lever Bro's and most commercial 'soaps' are actually (and legally) considered detergents or Syndet bars and are simply referred to as soap due to their cleansing capacities.  Syndet is an acronym for Synthetic Detergent bar.  Some commercial 'soap' bars can't even legally be called soap  rather they are labeled 'cleansing bar' because they are almost totally synthetic, scented with synthetic fragrances and contain a huge amount of preservatives.

The reason for the fragrance and preservatives used (even in those soaps calling themselves 'unscented' or 'fragrance free') is that they are often used to mask other offensive-smelling ingredients, usually cheap and animal derived.  There are no legal definitions for the terms scents and fragrances so the cosmetic industry can use these and still label their products as if they are free from them.  The foul smelling ingredients used are usually animal fats such as the innocuous sounding 'sodium tallowate' which is actually a hard fat rendered down from parts of the bodies of cows, sheep or horses, also used in foodstuffs or to make candles, leather dressing, soap and lubricants for industry.  Now I know we can all get dirty and all need soap to get us clean but I really don't think many of us need an industrially manufactured, synthetic detergent full of potentially harmful chemicals to clean our skin - we may as well run naked through the car wash!!  (actually that could be fun I guess - but definitely not good for our skin)

Fancy doing this to your face every day?

So what about the claim that Dove contains "1/4 Moisture Lotion" in every bar?  I read some very interesting information in my trawling around and it was uncomfortable stuff.  In 1990 Lever Bro's introduced the innovative product Lever 2000 - an "all-in-one deodorant and moisturising soap for the whole family", then Lever also introduced a liquid Dove and an "all free clear" which contains no perfumes or dyes.  If you look closely at the ingredients it seems that the Lever 2000 bar could also make the same claim as Doves "1/4 Moisture Lotion" bar.

As we soap makers know, lotions are made from Water, oils and emulsifiers.  Emulsifiers are often surfactants or even types of soap themselves.  This is because normally water and oils don't mix, they need help to do it.  The emulsifier or surfactant molecules basically attract water on one end and oil on the other thereby allowing water and oil to be mixed and could be the reason for the claim to have lotion or cream added.  The oils and water that comprise the main part of a lotion would simply just mix with the oils and water in the soap created in the pot and become just another part of the soap formula.  Even if you physically opened up a jar of lotion or cold cream and dumped it into your soap the lotion or cream would simply break down into their basic components and join their other oil and water mates in the pot!!

Looking at the ingredients listed you have to wonder if the wonderful "Moisture Lotion" part is actually the beef fat as Sodium Tallowate, mentioned above, is the leading ingredient in the bar.  Its interesting to try and find the quality lotion ingredient mentioned in the advertising claims that Dove make - See if you can......

LEVER 2000                                                        DOVE
Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoyl isehionate,       sodium cocoyl isethionate, stearic acid,
Sodium cocoate, water, socium isethionate,        cocnut acid, sodium tallowate, water,
stearic acid, coconut fatty acid, fragrance            sodium isethionate, sodium stearate,
titanium dioxide, sodium chloride, disodium         cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoate,
phosphatem tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium           palm kernelate, fragrance, sodium chloride,
etidronate, BHT, FD&C blue no.1, D&C red         terasodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate,
no. 33                                                                   BHT, titanium dioxide and sodium dodecyl
                                                                             benzene sulfonate

sodium tallowate                                                  sodium tallowate
sodiu cocoyl isethionate                                      sodium cocoyl isethionate
sodium cocoate                                                   sodium cocoate (or palm kernelate)
water                                                                   water
sodium isethionate                                              sodium isethionate
searic acid                                                           stearic acid
coconut fatty acid                                                coconut acid (the same as coconut fatty
titanium dioxide                                                   titanium dioxide
fragrance                                                             fragrance
sodium chloride                                                   sodium chloride
tetrasodium ETDA                                               tetrasodium EDTA
trisodium etidronate                                             trisodium etidronate
BHT                                                                     BHT

FD&C blue no, 1 (for colour)                   sodiun stearate (a soapy salt left after
D&C red no. 33 (for colour)                     the glycerin is removed)
                                                                            cocamidoropyl betaine (foaming agent)
                                                                            sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate
                                                                           (synthetic detergent used for many
                                                                            household and industrial cleaners)  

Where is the lotion?

One last and very significant problem with Dove and other mass produced 'soap' bars is that most, if not all (and I have yet to find one myself) use palm oil in their manufacture because its cheap and easy to come by and Unilever, which produces Dove, test on animals.

Using palm oil at the rate they do supports terrible environmental havoc, in maintaining their incredible demand for palm oil they (and many others) are destroying the rain forests at a frightening rate and are responsible for the slaughter of hundreds and hundreds of Orangutans and their wonderful and diverse habitats.

This is why I no longer use any palm oil in my soaps - You can find "ethically sourced palm oil" but there is no real way of making absolutely sure that it comes from a sustainable source that is not destroying rain forest habitat - my solution, just don't use it! Check out my full explanation about Naturally Made Soaps decision to stop using palm oil altogether here   I really think my soaps are just as good as always - no customer has made any comment about the change apart from - Well done we love your soap.. So until I can be absolutely sure there is a way of ensuring my ethically sourced, sustainable palm oil REALLY comes from a sound, healthy and trustworthy source I'm sticking to the NO PALM regime - and I see no reason to change now.

So for those of you who have customers who need a non scientific explanation about how great your naturally made soaps and beauty products are verses commercially produced soaps and cosmetics you can now show them YOUR ingredients list and how it stands head & shoulders above the commercial soap ingredient lists!!

Sorry for the rant, I really did not mean this blog to be so long but it is something very close to my heart and its why I wanted to make my own Naturally Made Soaps!!  I hope you forgive me for going on a bit............  Id really love to know what you think

Thanks to the Indie Blog, Caring,,,, Greenpeace and Unilever themselves for the information used in this post.


  1. I've done the same research on Dove and came to the same conclusion: there is no moisturizing cream in their so-called soap.

  2. Thanks for such a straight forward and well written post! It's such a sad situation! :(
    It's so nice to be part of those offering real soap that's just SO much better!

  3. Wonderful post, thank you! Have you researched RSPO palm oil? Like you, I elimated palm from my soaps, as the orangutans pitiful situatiuon breaks my heart. I also feel great pity for the starving generational farmers there who suffer because the multinational corporations (who sponsor the destruction of virgin forest) have 'tarred them with the same brush'. I can now source an RSPO certified source for palm and will most likely do so in the near future :)

  4. The older I get, the more difficult it is to read the small print! - but it really shows the power of marketing - to be able to sell something like that as 'pure/kind' etc. Incidentally, does the same apply to Simple Soap?

  5. Thanks for your comments, Topcat - I still believe you need to be very cautiul using RSPO Palm oil, read my web research to see that it is not always as reputable as you might wish, that's why I made the decision to go totally palm oil free, I just dont trust them. I can honestly say it has made no difference to my soaps, they still cure well, are the same hardness (you might have to make a few changes in your recipes to achieve this) and still give the same wonderful benefits as we all know real natural soap does. I can now say that even if I did find an ethical source I could trust I would not bother to go back to using palm oil anyway :-)

  6. Horserider195 - I don't know about Simple, I will do a bit of research and find out for you - I'm on a roll! probably going to bore you all for ages now!!

  7. Wonderful post, I will try to make with SLSA ....

  8. Thank you so much for the information. I will ditch Dove and go for my local farmers market instead!

  9. "Oh I'm so sorry, I can't use anything else on my skin but Dove, Id love to buy your soaps but I'm really scared to change"

    GGGGRRRRR..***&&$$%@@** !!!!"

    OMG--- I know! Hilarious! Thank you for this fun informative post!