Itchy skin from handmade soap...Need your help

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gogreen

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Hi All,

I have been on hiatus since my baby was born a year ago. Before I took off some time from soap making, I posted a question about itchy skin from handmade soap. The skin on my legs would itch so bad after using my handmade soap that I had scratch marks that would bleed. I always use a moisturizer after the shower. I use sensitive skin ECOS laundry detergent & no dryer sheets. I don't wear perfume. The incredible itching came after I started using my handmade soap. However, my husband's skin is fine & he loves my soap! I made 100% true castille soap for my baby & her skin is fine too. Here is some additional background:

-I've been making soap for 4 years, took a class with a (certified) soap maker so I know what I'm doing :) at last until there's the unexpected failed batch...happens to the best of us!
- I use all organic oils from Columbus Foods, distilled water and food grade lye from Essential Depot
- My CO is rarely above 22%,Palm under 30%, and a rich amount of OO. I've also added various organic butters, shea (which I'm not allergic to), mango to different batches
-Before using palm, I melt it down & mix it so the steric acid which settels shouldn't be an issue
-I don' use any fragrance or EO's...all soap is unscented
- I use an online soap calculator from Summer Meadow Bee
-Sometimes I CPOP, other times just CP & wrap the soap
-SF is always between 7-8%
-I've tried goat's milk, oats & still itchy
-I do a zap tongue test before using any soap
-Cure time is minimally a month
-I've tried rubbing all the oils/butters I use in my soap directly on my skin to see if there was a reaction (a suggesgion from another person here) & would you believe there is none...no reaction at all, so I know I'm not allergic to the oils/butters

HELP!!!! I wonder if there is an end product from saponification that is irritating. Any advice/help would be welcomed! I am ready to start making soap again, now that we have survived being first time parents. But I actually want to USE my soap. Could it be that I dissolve the lye in (distilled) ice & let the lye melt the ice, I find it helps to control the temperature.

Many thanks for your patience reading this long message...if you got this far :)
 

AlchemyandAshes

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Could it be the pH of your soap? I'm assuming you've used commercial detergent (sold as soap) with no problem, and depending on the type/brand, it could have a lower/more acidic pH than your handmade soap (more alkaline). That would be my best guess if you have tried these things:
1. Not lye heavy
2. Not allergic to any oils/butters in your soap
3. Upped the superfat
 

gogreen

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Thanks for your reply. I have tested for allergy, my SF is 7-8% not higher b/c I don't want to get DOS. I do the zap test before using each batch. Any other thoughts?
 

AlchemyandAshes

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DOS is not associated with a higher superfat, it's usually due to the types of oil used, like Canola or Soybean. So superfat away! :lol:
http://cavemanchemistry.com/HsmgDos2006.pdf
http://www.zensoaps.com/singleoil.htm

And I don't believe that a zap test would be the same as a pH test...zap test checks for lye heaviness, which of course would make the pH higher, but you could not be lye heavy and still have high pH. Handmade sops in general have a higher pH...just the nature of the beast. Maybe your skin is just super sensitive, like baby skin, to pH? Just a thought...
 
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I don't have any idea what could be causing your itchy skin. I think Alchemy&Ashes brought up a good point that the soap may just be too alkaline for your skin. Have you tried applying a toner after you use the soap? You may not experience the itchiness if you rebalance your skin's acid mantle right away.

Have you tried a comparison of your soap with a commercial brand? For example, you could wash one side of your body with your soap and the other side with a store bought soap.
 

lsg

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Why not try making a small batch of pure Castile soap to see how your skin reacts to that?
 
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That's a good idea about making a Castile batch.

I just thought of something else. You mentioned you had applied the oils to your skin to see if you are sensitive to any of them. However, lye chemically alters the properties of oils so there would be a difference after saponification. For example, coconut oil may not bother your skin since it is emollient but after saponification it becomes drying. You may just be sensitive to it in soap. I don't know if it would be a problem since you stated you used it at 22% but it may be something to else to consider.
 

gogreen

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Wow, thank you to all who responded! You gave me lots of food for thought. How do I lower the pH of my soap? I have in the past used commercial soap with no problem, but don't want to go back to it b/c of all the chemicals. I have made a batch of pure castille soap & get the same reaction when I use it. I can try to up the SF, what would you suggest (nothing that would make the bar too soft)? Did I menton that it's only the skin on my legs that itch? Again, many thanks!!!
 

judymoody

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Pretty much everything I'd have said has been ruled out.

I'd up the superfat. I live in a dry climate and am prone to dry skin. I SF at 10% for most of my recipes, occasionally up to 12-13%.

5%-7% SF makes me itch. 8% is borderline.
 

Katred

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I had red, itchy skin on parts of my legs one winter and I finally figured out that I was taking too many hot baths/showers in combination with using soap that was slightly drying. I started using more lotion, taking fewer baths (which was hard...I freaking love baths in the winter!) and using a really mild soap and it helped a lot. I would try tweaking your formula to be milder and using some really good lotion or cream on your legs.
 

gogreen

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Again, I can't thank you all enough for taking the time to resond. I'll try to SF at 11% for the next batch & see what happens. I don't take many hot baths & my showers usually only last about 10-15 minutes. Any other ideas?
 

new12soap

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I have read that Ph is not necessarily a good indicator of how mild a soap is, and I think anything with a Ph high enough to bother you would bother the skin on your whole body, not just your legs. Have you used the pure castile soap you made for the baby? Does that bother you? How about trying a commercial soap again for a few weeks, then maybe you can tell if you have developed a sensitivity to your moisturizer? I think the first thing I would do is stop the moisturizer. The only other suggestion I would have would be to make several single-oil bars and see if any of those soaps bother you. If you make a 100% coconut oil bar you can superfat it at 20% so it won't be quite as drying. If I had to guess I would agree with Hazel, you may have a sensitivity to the coconut oil soap even if plain coconut oil doesn't bother you. You may want to try a 100% lard soap if you do not object to using animal fats, it is a very mild soap. If you are using frozen distilled water for your lye I can't see how that would be a problem as long as the lye is completely dissolved.

Remember when you make a change to stick with it for at least a week or so, if you change soaps every day that can irritate your skin and then you would only compound the problem instead of narrowing it down.

Do you double rinse your clothes? Even a sensitive detergent can leave residue. Double rinse, and I would throw 1/2 cup white vinegar in the first rinse.

Do you take any medications? Is there any rash? Are you walking outside in the grass in shorts?

I'm sorry, I know these seem like silly questions, I just can't figure out why if you are reacting to the soap would it only be a problem on your legs...

Let us know how it goes, good luck to you
 

gogreen

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new12soap said:
Have you used the pure castile soap you made for the baby? Does that bother you? yes, the pure castille does bother me, which would eliminate the thought that it's the coconut oil. How about trying a commercial soap again for a few weeks, then maybe you can tell if you have developed a sensitivity to your moisturizer? I think the first thing I would do is stop the moisturizer. I have tried changing back to commercial soap & it gets better, but not fully eliminated. I changed my moisturizer as well and it's neither better or worse.The only other suggestion I would have would be to make several single-oil bars and see if any of those soaps bother you. If you make a 100% coconut oil bar you can superfat it at 20% so it won't be quite as drying. If I had to guess I would agree with Hazel, you may have a sensitivity to the coconut oil soap even if plain coconut oil doesn't bother you. You may want to try a 100% lard soap if you do not object to using animal fats, it is a very mild soap. If you are using frozen distilled water for your lye I can't see how that would be a problem as long as the lye is completely dissolved.

Remember when you make a change to stick with it for at least a week or so, if you change soaps every day that can irritate your skin and then you would only compound the problem instead of narrowing it down.

Do you double rinse your clothes? Even a sensitive detergent can leave residue. Double rinse, and I would throw 1/2 cup white vinegar in the first rinse.

Do you take any medications? Is there any rash? Are you walking outside in the grass in shorts? No rash, no meds & no walks in shorts..all good thoughts though

I'm sorry, I know these seem like silly questions, I just can't figure out why if you are reacting to the soap would it only be a problem on your legs...
 

thefarmerdaughter

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I would assume unless you have some sort of religious objection, that you are shaving your legs...? when shaving you remove the hair and the top of the outter most layer of skin. that in combo with your homemade soap maybe causing the problem.
 

Maythorn

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I think I would stop using your handmade soap. I'm only supposed to use Cetaphil, Dermasil and Grandpa's Pine Tar soap on my dry areas of skin. It was hard to admit the problem and go out and buy what I always thought I could improve upon at home but nice to have my skin normal again. The peeling and itching was so bad I had to use the strongest steroid available by prescription on my hands.
 

Loolee

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My thought was shaving too. I would quit shaving and see if that helps.

I would also use a good moisturizer. I use a body dew spray that is made up of various oils and something to make it less greasy.

do you use a body puff? Or anything abrasive on your skin? Try just rubbing the soap all over and rinsing.

I would also try leaving out the fragrance and see if tat helps.
 

gogreen

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No shaving?! I would like baby #2 :p

Thanks for your thoughts...I don't use anything abrasive on my skin just plain old soap & water, and no fragrance in anything (laundry soap, no perfume, fragrance free moisturizer, etc...). I'm pretty much at a loss, but I am going to try making a batch with 11%Sf as someone here suggested. It's going to be hard waiting the 4 weeks to see if it works!
 

green soap

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Maybe try a goat milk castile? unscented - uncolored soap made with 100% olive oil and goat milk. Use semi frozen goat milk and stir often for best results. This seems to be the mildest soap, tolerated by people with very sensitive skin. If you use 11% SF the shelf life might suffer a little though. Just store the soaps in a cool dark place.

Does hand crafted liquid soap also bothers you?
 

Lindy

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That actually might be a good idea. Formulate, or buy a handmade Pine Tar soap. They are amazing for psoriasis, eczema and other types of dermatitis. Mentioning shaving, most shaving soaps (goo out of a can) is full of detergents and this could be contributing to your problems. Just some random thoughts...
 

gogreen

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How do you make pine tar soap? I've heard about it, but know absolutely nothing about making it. I've tried GM castile with 7% Sf & still had the same problem.
 
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