Made With Lye vs. Containing Lye: The Reality of Perceptions

Despite what we’ve heard, perception isn’t everything, nor is it a reality. But it is a part of daily life, and the soap world is no exception. How people see products and how their perceptions shape responses are part of everyone’s business, and the impact they have might have nothing to do with their accuracy.

Caught By Surprise

Not long ago, a customer of ours was blindsided by one of the biggest misperceptions in the soap world: that all palm oil is the same. Without warning or a lot of background on the subject, she was scolded by friends for the palm oil in her soap, for being part of the environmental decimation of Malaysia and Southeast Asia. Her friends were of the mind that Just Saying No was the palm oil solution. 

What she didn’t know at the time was, in the five blogs we’ve published on palm oil, we’ve shown that every one of those perceptions, especially the one about Just Saying No, is wrong. 

There’s a big difference between sustainable palm oil and plantation oil. The perception that they’re the same wasn’t our customer’s fault, but it did become her problem. At the time, it caused her to question her products, question us, question most of what she was doing. 

We never know how much specific soap knowledge people bring to the business, even those with experience in skincare. One thing is clear. You can never know too much about the products you put your name on.

Panic Out of Nowhere

Lye is a constant in the soap world. Without it, there is no true soap. As defined by the FDA, “To be regulated as ‘soap,’ the product must be composed mainly of the ‘alkali salts of fatty acids,’ that is, the material you get when you combine fats or oils with an alkali, such as lye.” 

We covered the basics of soap chemistry in a previous blog, but a recent conversation with an anxious customer reminded us it’s never a mistake to repeat and emphasize the basics. 

He called after being blindsided by a question as was addressing a crowd from a podium: Why is there lye in his soap? The basis for the question was wrong in a couple of ways, first, that traces of lye are a rarity in products on our shelves, and second, that products made with lye are the same as products containing traces of lye. 

Not only did this customer feel blindsided, he felt deceived by us. It took a while, including sending him a bunch of information typed up in a hurry, but we got to the point where he understood his product better and understood where the question came from, lack of knowledge.

It’s possible to create the results we want in our soaps.-5

The Reality of Perceptions

Regardless of how misinformed a question or perception might be, it can have an impact. Just as we get calls and emails from our customers, they get calls from theirs. It’s always been our goal in our blogs to act as a resource for our customers, from how to scent their liquid soap to what makes a truly good soap base

We also know that being busy can get in the way of being as informed as we’d like. Knowing where to go when we need to find something out is the next best thing to knowing already. We aim to have our blog and website be as comprehensive as possible, but we’re also here by phone and email to help our customers distinguish between perceptions and facts, to know as much as they can about the products that carry their name.

2 thoughts on “Made With Lye vs. Containing Lye: The Reality of Perceptions

  1. As a seasoned soapmaker, it has been my experience that many people try their hand at making soap without any research into the topic. They get a lye/oil table and go gung ho. No only does this harm the reputations of those of us who make beautiful, mild soaps, it makes them look like fools when they can’t answer simple questions about oils, fragrances or essential oils, not to mention lye. It makes the rest of us look bad. That is why I stopped making and selling soaps, even though I still get many requests to make some again.

    • I would counsel not to allow others’ ignorance get in the way of your reputation and enjoyment of soap making. A quality product will float the maker’s reputation to the top. I became a zealot about making products eliminating unpronounceable chemical names for my immediate family, and I cannot break through the marketing propaganda, even when I prove my stuff is better. “Stupid is as Stupid does” . We can only change ourselves

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