The only person to answer this is you, there may be no right answer and there may be a case for both.
My family was brought up on traditional bar soap and yes I can also remember being told to wash my mouth out with soap when we had been naughty!
Soap has been around for a very long time and the ingredients have not changed drastically or the process for making it. What has changed is the fragrances we add, artificial or natural and how we package it. There has also been a change to attitudes towards soap, during the nineties it was reported to be unhygienic and now that though has been reversed. People where put of by the potential mess of soap if not stored and left to dry out. Nowadays we have a myriad of choice in soap dishes with holes for drainage so this is no longer an issue and we also have exfoliating bags to store your soap and ensure you get to use the very last piece There are also some creative ways to recycle so last ends, you can find suggestions here for your leftovers
So the technology that is shower gel came along to tease us with its bright colours and sleek bottles. Shower Gels contain an agent to create the bubbles – SLS – or sulfates to you and me and this has been the controversial element of our convenience needs. Have you every noticed how quickly shower gel disappears down the plug whole – like a jellyfish?
Whilst it is easier to transport for swimming, and weekends away there is also the waste products of the plastic bottle at the end – which you can also recycle.
So the winner is….
Neither – both if chosen ethically and responsibility have a place in our modern cleansing and beauty regimes.
This is a question that each soap maker has a choice over. So what is the gel phase when making soap you ask and why do we get so excited or exercised by it?
Each batch of soap made with the same set of ingredients will have a slight difference in the appearance depending on the gel phase.
I make cold processed soap and the gel phase is the reference to the saponification process when the soap gets to a certain temperature and becomes gelatinous, this can occur up to 170 degrees ( not a good idea to put your fingers in the soap at this stage to see if it really is hot!).
Gelling is a common occurrence when making soap. If I have gelled my soap then in the first few weeks of pouring the batch it will become quite hard as it evaporates the water. If I did not gel the soap it will take a little longer to harden and will also develop a slight translucent appearance.
In this age of appearance it is down to personal choice as to gel or not as it does not have any effect on the quality of the fully cured bar of soap.
How Do I Gel?
So if I want to gel my soap I insulate it soon after pouring, this entails placing it in a cardboard box and then covering it in some old towels and left in a warm draught free area for 24hrs. Now what do you class as a warm room I hear you ask? This is personal to you and the environment you live in – however too hot and the soap can ‘volcano’ or tunnel or just explode ( only happened once with some Honey & Oat soap) so watch your temperatures.
If I don’t want to gel my soap then I soap at colder temperature and then place the soap in the freezer or cold area immediately after pouring, I also leave it uncovered except for a top cover to prevent soda ash ( story for another day).
When to gel?
Up to a few months ago I have always preferred to gel with 2 exceptions.
If I am making Honey & Oat soap I do not gel – the sugars in the honey already add heat and I like the paler colour when it is not gelled.
I have also just started to make goats milk soap: gel phase and milk soap are not friends. Any type of milk soaps are best soaped cold (very cold), or else you run the risk of scorching the milk proteins and sugars. From first hand experience this results in a brownish soap that doesn’t smell great!
Also from personal experience I can confirm that it can result in a huge soapy fudge like mess as milk soaps are already prone to getting too hot. I was still able to use the goats milk soap it was just a darker colour thank I had aimed for.
So the question to gel or not is a bit like the marmite question – do you love it or hate it?