December 13, 2018 Julie Fanning

Baby it’s Cold Outside

Soap Ingredients to Nourish Winter Skin

Over the past couple of months I’ve been approached by people asking me what they should look for in soaps during the winter season. During colder months extra moisture is needed for bare skin exposed to frigid temperatures and wind. But also keep in mind that heating systems in our homes and businesses can dry out skin—causing flaky skin for some folks—and there are others who become overly sensitive to even the slightest exfoliant in soaps that some of us appreciate to remove dry, dead skin.

Options. That’s what we need.

First off, I need to remind you that all artisan soaps are significantly less harsh and drying than commercial soaps (my previous post covers the details). So by using handmade soap you’re already ahead of the dry-skin game. And artisan soaps contain glycerin (aka glycerol), which is a humectant—it attracts moisture to the skin. Glycerin is a natural by-product of the soapmaking/saponification process; when oil reacts with alkaline, it forms soap and glycerol.

There are so many wonderful soapmakers out there, so you have choices to purchase a variety of soaps to keep skin moisturized and happy; while I make my products from vegetable sources, I’ve tried goat’s milk soap and it’s fantastic. Again…you’ve got options! I’ve compiled a modest list of recommended items to look for when you’re shopping. While soap is a wash-off product, there are still moisturizing benefits to the type of product you use to cleanse and the skin can absorb the extra nutrients.


Milks contain creamy fats, fatty acids and vitamins. Milks are great for sensitive skin types, also.

  • Vegan: coconut, hemp, soy, almond, oat (not as fatty, but oats are known to be wonderful for sensitive and delicate skin)
  • Non-vegan: goat, cow, donkey, breast milk (I would recommend personalized, custom orders for this. Expired milk is fine to use in soap.)  Can use raw, unpasteurized, cream, yogurt, butterfat and buttermilk. Goat’s milk, in particular, is not only moisturizing but it has a similar pH as human skin.


There are a variety of butters available; these are all vegetable fats and have wonderful, concentrated skin conditioning properties and vitamins.

  • Shea, cocoa, kokum, mango, avocado

Vegetable Purees

Vegetables contain vitamins and antioxidants that condition thirsty skin. And in the case of avocado, it adds fats as well. Once liquids evaporate during the cure, the vegetable goodness remains.

  • Pumpkin, carrot, avocado

Salt/Ocean Water

Salt contains minerals (like magnesium, zinc, calcium and potassium) and sea salts in particular draw toxins out of the body and can help reduce inflammation. And while it sounds counter-intuitive, soap made with salt water is NOT drying to the skin. Magnesium in particular is fabulous as a skin conditioner, and the lather is SO CREAMY. The past few months I have been using filtered ocean water. Wow. Love how it makes my skin feel—I even wash my face with it.

Aloe Vera

While I cannot find data to suggest what benefits of aloe vera liquid can withstand during the saponification process, it provides a rich, creamy lather and I know it seems to stay on my skin a bit longer. I like it.


While the bulk of soapers use olive oil, there are other super moisturizing options out there that can be incorporated. Some of my favorites:

  • Rice bran, apricot, sunflower, avocado, hemp, castor, babassu


Clay in soap can be great for absorbing extra oil in acne-prone skin. However, there are some that specifically do not dry skin out. In fact, clay helps to retain moisture by maintaining sebum while also acting as an extra gentle exfoliant (for super-sensitive skin, especially in winter) that can aid in sloughing off dead skin without irritation. Favorites for delicate, dry skin:

  • White Kaolin, Yellow/French Yellow, French Pink

Additional Moisture after Washing

Hand washing is something we tend to do a lot during the winter, when cold and flu viruses are more likely to be spread. Additional nourishment is needed for things like hands and cuticles as well as overall skin care this time of year. My recommendation? Look for lotion bars and whipped body butters and creams. My preference is to use items that don’t contain a water element, which is in lotion. I want as much moisture going directly into my dehydrated skin as possible.

For on-the-go cleansing, with regard to hand sanitizers, look for things like aloe, vitamin E, glycerin, silicone to be included. While the alcohol in sanitizer kills germs, it can be drying to skin. Or go with an alcohol-free option.

That’s it…I hope this helps. Shoot me a message if you have any further questions!

I WILL GET OFF MY SOAP BOX NOW. Thanks for reading. ~Julie

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