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A wash with nature

These natural, plastic-free soaps are packed with botanicals
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
A wash with nature

This article first appeared in our ‘Why organic is the answer’ issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 03 September 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

Rachael Robson was making bath bombs with her children when she started thinking about the soap-making process. ‘I was inspired to do some research and realised luxurious soaps don’t need the long list of chemicals found in mainstream soap’, she tells us.

Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) is one example of an ingredient to avoid; it is used in lots of personal care products to create that foamy lather we have come to expect from soaps and shampoos. ‘It’s known to irritate and dry out skin, which conversely can make skin oilier as it overcompensates for the loss of its natural oils’, Rachael explains.

Bubbly bars

With a career as a secondary school science teacher under her belt, Rachael was well equipped to experiment with oils, butters and other natural ingredients until she found the perfect formulation for her own handmade Wharfedale Soaps.

‘I use a combination of castor oil and coconut oil to get a luxurious, creamy foam that also nourishes and protects the skin’, Rachael reveals. ‘I knew I wanted to create a long -lasting and bubbly bar, so my starting point was unrefined cocoa butter, which smells amazing and contributes to bar hardness, with castor oil and coconut oil, which both help to create bubbles. Then I added shea butter and avocado oil for their moisturising powers.’

It took lots of trial and error before Rachael found the perfect balance of oils and butters, and the testing period required time and patience because soap takes six weeks to cure. ‘It was definitely a long, slow process’, Rachael remembers, ‘but it was well worth it!’

Naturally effective

Natural soaps contain glycerin, a by-product of the saponification process, which is a natural moisturising agent. On top of that they can be just as effective as mainstream rivals when it comes to killing germs.

‘My Himalayan salt soaps are naturally antibacterial’, Rachael tells us, ‘but the hand soaps are just as effective. The mechanical action of rubbing your hands together during handwashing removes the majority of dirt and germs, so there is no need for harsh chemicals that strip the skin’s natural protective layers of oil.’

Botanicals and oils

Rachael is always on the lookout for new ingredients and confesses to spending ‘far too much time’ online looking for unusual botanicals, oils and essential oils. Wharfedale Soaps contain everything from sea buckthorn oil, added to create a vibrant orange, to black pepper essential oil for a hint of warmth and spice.

‘I was drawn to add bladderwrack and kelp to my soaps because of the impressive list of minerals they contain’, Rachael reveals. ‘I also use orris root powder, which I found by accident; it holds scents well and supports skin elasticity.’

The deep purple in the Lavender and Rosemary Soap is from ground alkanet root, while nettle leaf powder gives a lush green to Rachael’s formulations and ground calendula petals add a deep yellow to the Gardener’s Hand Soap. Clays are added for colour and to create a lovely creamy lather.

Minimal packaging

‘I really dislike packaging of any kind’, Rachael tells us. ‘Even recyclable cardboard and paper require energy for recycling, so why use it if we don’t really need it? For that reason I don’t individually box my soaps where possible.’

In addition to the collections of Hand Soap and Himalayan Salt Soap, Rachael has created a range of solid moisturiser bars that are also produced using natural ingredients and botanicals. ‘I package these using my own homemade beeswax wrap’, Rachael tells us, ‘which can then be reused indefinitely in place of kitchen wrap.’

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