Comparing Soap Ingredients: Farm-Made Goat’s Milk vs Corporate-Brand Soaps

Reader Contribution by Julia Shewchuk and Serenity Acres Farm
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Recently, I was at a store handing out samples of our all-natural goat’s milk soap when a woman walked up to me and asked for a sample. She told me that she had very sensitive skin which was itching constantly and that her doctor had recommended to her to use Dove brand soap. She said switching to Dove didn’t help — her skin was still itching.

Curious as to the ingredients, I bought a bar of the doctor-recommended “Dove, Unscented, Sensitive Skin”, and deciphered the ingredients, which were printed in light turquoise print on a white shiny background. I had to get help to read them — a friend could barely read them with 20/20 vision, so anyone without perfect vision would not have been able to read the ingredients. (Hmmm.)

Corporate-Brand ‘Soap’ versus Farm-Made Soaps

Here are the ingredients listed on the Dove label, with a comparison to the ingredients in our Goat’s Milk Soap. The definitions and explanations for the ingredients were taken from the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website. No interpretations or judgements were added.

To help with reading the ingredients, here are the definitions of three that occur throughout:

Surfactant is a compound that lowers the surface tension between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid so that they can be better blended.

Viscosity is a measure of a liquids resistance to flow. Honey is very viscous, water is not.

Chelating is removing chlorine, chemicals, metals and other mineral deposits from your hair or skin.


Serenity Acres Goat Milk Soap

Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate

Sodium Salt – surfactant; a cleansing agent


Fresh Goat’s Milk

natural, high in alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic acid, breaks down dead skin cells and leaves behind new skin cells – cream is moisturizing, full of vitamins – contributes to the creamy and conditioning qualities of the soap

Stearic Acid

Natural occurring fatty acid – may be of animal origin or plant based (not specified here); can be harsh and irritating – surfactant, cleansing agent, stabilizer

Grade A Olive Oil

contributes to conditioning qualities of the soap

Lauric Acid

Natural occurring fatty acid, common in coconut oil – surfactant, cleansing agent, emulsifier

Coconut Oil

contributes to cleansing and bubbly qualities of the soap

Sodium Tallowate or Sodium Palmitate

Rendered beef fat – may cause eczema and blackheads – surfactant, cleansing agent, foam booster or sodium of palmitic acid, found in olive oils, coconut oils, or body fats – cleansing, emulsifying, viscosity controlling

Organic, Sustainable Palm Oil

contributes to hardness and creaminess of the soap

Water Aqua

Purified Water

Sodium Isethionate

Organic Salt – antistatic, cleansing, hair conditioning, skin conditioning

Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)

highly caustic and reactive inorganic base which combines with the oils through a chemical process and so changes into soap and glycerin. After the 24 hour saponification process, no lye remains in the soap. All real soap is made with lye.

Sodium Stearate

A natural occurring fatty acid – surfactant, cleansing Agent, emulsifying, viscosity controlling


Essential or Fragrance Oils

aromatic oil produced from a plant

A fragrance oil is an artificial chemical aroma carrier.

Cocamidopropyl Betaine

A synthetic surfactant – associated with irritation and allergic contact dermatitis – antistatic, hair & skin conditioning agent, cleansing, foam booster, viscosity increasing.


Sodium Cocoate or Sodium Palm Kernelate

Sodium Salt of fatty acids from coconut oil – cleansing and emulsifying sodium salt of the acids derived from palm kernel oil surfactant – cleansing, emulsifying, viscosity increasing.


Dipropylene Glycol

Synthetic Solvent – associated with irritation of skin, eyes or lungs – solvent, viscosity decreasing


Sodium Chloride

inorganic salt (table salt) – viscosity increasing


Tetrasodium Etidronate

Diphosphonic Acid Derivative – chelating agent, stabilizing, viscosity controlling


Tetrasodium EDTA

Chelating Agent associated with organ system toxicity and enhanced skin absorption



Naturally occurring organic compound – scent of cotton candy and caramel so used to impart a sweet aroma; masking, tonic


Titanium Dioxide

Inorganic compound (white); colorant, sunscreen agent opacifying agent; ultraviolet light absorber- reduces lather and moisturizing


It is also remarkable that nowhere on the package is this “bar” labeled as a soap. And there is an easy answer for it: It is not a soap. It is a detergent and, therefore, cannot be called or marketed as a “soap”. A soap is specifically defined as fatty acids which are neutralized by an alkali such as lye.

So, after looking at the table and comparing the ingredients, wouldn’t you much rather use on your skin — the largest and most permeable organ of your body ÿ a real soap with seven ingredients, all of which you can pronounce, or a synthetic detergent with 15 ingredients, most of which you have to look up as to what they are and what they do?

I’ll let you be the judge.

Yours Always, Julia

Julia Shewchuk owns and operates Serenity Acres Farm on 80 acres in Florida. Serenity Acres runs on solar, is Animal Welfare Approved-certified, houses anywhere from four to 10 WWOOFers and interns, and is the home to 58 dairy goats, 16 Black Angus cattle, 278 laying hens, 3 horses, 3 cats, 4 house dogs, 6 livestock guardian dogs, and 6 ducks. Read all of Julia’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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