The handmade soap industry has seen a jump in more experienced consumers who are looking for a natural made product without all of the preservatives and chemical surfactants that are now in our beauty products. Right now on Amazon there are over 1000 books on the subject.
Handmade soap is made with natural ingredients such as coconut and olive oils but it also has to have sodium hydroxide (LYE) to turn the oils into soap. Lye is an alkaline salt used in soapmaking. It is used on olives to make them soft, on pretzels to give it the chewy consistency and used as processing aid in chocolate/cocoa. But I assure you that NO left over Lye is present in any of these items. Lye is hygroscopic which is water loving and absorbs moisture from the air. It will dilute itself all on its own. In fact, if left out in the open it will draw the water and carbon dioxide from the air to dilute itself which eventually turns into sodium carbonate (washing soda- think Arm & Hammer). It’s a little more involved than that but that is the short answer on Sodium Hydroxide (LYE).
What I am saying is don’t buy into what big box companies tell you that LYE is bad, blah, blah, blah. It “is” needed to make soap. Any beauty bar that doesn’t have lye in it is a detergent, similar to what you wash your clothes with. Special safety precautions are needed when working with LYE because it is caustic in its natural form. That’s why it’s important to take a class from a knowledgeable instructor who knows the proper way to work with it. Soapmaking can turn into a creative outlet or a new business for you. It’s relatively inexpensive to make your own soap (less than a $1.00 per bar).