Skip to Content

Handmade Soap vs Commercial Soap: What’s The Difference?

It might be the battle of the century, an ongoing feud between two heavyweight fighters: handmade soap vs commercial soap. 

But here’s the thing. Once you get them in the ring together, commercial soap doesn’t stand a chance going up against handmade. So why do we still let them go the rounds? And what’s the difference between the two?

Table of Contents

What Is The Difference Between Handmade Soap And Commercial Soap?

Commercial soap is cheap in every sense of the word—that’s the biggest difference. It’s mass produced to save you some change when you’re out buying soap, but it’s also manufactured with little to no consideration for anything beyond stripping dirt from your skin.

Triple milled soap is known as the “premium” version of mass produced soap, but like regular mass produced soap, they still leave a lot to be desired when it comes to quality of ingredients and the skincare results you would expect from a premium priced product.

Handmade soap (sometimes referred to as natural soap or artisan soap) is the opposite. As the name implies, it’s handcrafted by a soapmaker, someone who’s often a master in their field. They use natural ingredients since they’re safer to handle, and better for the soap and the soap user. Each bar packs a powerful punch of skin and body benefits, no cheap shots here.

But even beyond just the way they’re both produced, once you hold them up against each other in the shower, you’ll notice plenty of subtle differences that give handmade soap a competitive edge.

Why Store-Bought Soap Is Bad

Here’s the fun thing about lots of store-bought soap: it’s not actually soap. Most commercial soaps on the shelves of your local supermarket are actually detergents—yes, as in, the synthetic stuff you use to clean your clothes and dishes.

You might have that sneaking suspicion creeping up right now…clothes and skin aren’t really made of the same materials, are they? So should you be cleaning your skin with the same thing you use to clean your clothes?

Nope and nope. Detergents are great on the synthetic fibers in your clothing and, but against your skin, they cause rashes, pH imbalances, and dehydration. 

You might be thinking, “Well I use store soap, and I haven’t had any issues.” Even if you don’t have a sensitive skin type that breaks out against detergents, you’re probably overpaying for cheap soap with no benefits.

Commercial soaps (that are more detergent than soap) rarely do anything beyond the bare minimum of cleaning. On the other hand, handmade soaps are specifically crafted for their skin benefits, scents, and moisturizing properties.

Commercial Soap Ingredients To Avoid

Because commercial soaps are mass produced, they pack in harmful ingredients to mimic the scents and longevity of handmade soap. These chemical additives are often yucky for your skin, and leave you simultaneously dried out and oily at the end of the day. So if for some reason your bar soap leaves your skin feeling sticky, you now know why.

Chemical Preservatives

Before you buy, check your soap for ingredients ending with the label  –paraben. These are preservatives that can do longer-term damage to your endocrine system, the glands that control your hormones. They’re also awful for the environment, so you’ll be doing yourself and the world a favor by straying away from any soaps with a paraben ingredient 

Synthetic Perfumes

Not sure why your skin is suddenly breaking out? Check your soap for synthetic perfumes and fragrances. They’re allergy-inducing, and have the same negative hormonal effects as parabens.


Sulfates give your soap its lather, but they’re also skin irritants. They strip away your natural oils, and on sensitive skin, they can cause rashes. So, while you’re at it, don’t just check your soap for sulfates—also check your shampoo and conditioner, or anything in your shower that has a bubbly lather.

This doesn’t just come from commercial bar soaps though. Also keep in mind commercial liquid soaps or body wash vs natural bar soaps.

Why Handmade Soap Is Better

Winning fighters are always made of the “right stuff,” and in the WWE of the soap world, that’s handmade soap!

When it comes to handmade soap vs commercial soap… handmade soap is the polar opposite of commercial soap. Soap makers use natural, organic ingredients with no questionable additives. It’s great for your skin, and your endocrine system will thank you later.

Plus, it’s a great bargain. Handmade soap comes with natural glycerin—that’s the moisturizing component of soap. Most commercial soaps are stripped of their glycerine so that the manufacturers can use that ingredient to make lotions.

Think about that for a second…Commercial soap makers specifically create soaps that are meant to dehydrate you so that you’re forced to buy a lotion to pair with the soap.

How much do you spend on separate lotions, creams and bars of soap each month? You could be getting all those benefits for the price of a single bar of handmade soap. And, on top of that, handmade soaps tend to last longer. That’s a steal! 

Ingredients Behind Handmade Soap

All handmade soaps start out with lye and oil or fat This creates the base that goes through saponification—the process that makes soap.

From here, a commercial soap would strip that base of its glycerin, water it down, throw in those chemical additives we talked about, and mold their bars (just this alone should tell you that the winner between handmade soap vs commercial soap is obvious).

Quite the opposite, handmade soaps only add natural ingredients to that base, and they leave in the glycerin to keep you moisturized. A few common natural additives to handmade soap include:


  • Coffee Grounds
  • Poppy Seeds
  • Rinds
  • Salt

Natural Scents

  • Flower petals and buds
  • Citrus
  • Essential Oils
  • Loose Leaf Tea


And you’ve probably noticeda lot of these do double-duty! Coffee grounds can serve as a natural exfoliant and a scenter. Avocado oil can moisturize and scent. You’re getting double the bang for your buck, and ingredients that you recognize and trust.

Is Handmade Soap Antibacterial?

Here’s the funny thing: all soap is antibacterial. That’s it’s job! So yes, handmade soap is antibacterial.

Lots of people think that soap kills the bacteria on your skin. This is a misconception. Actually, soap loosens the bonds between the bacteria and your skin, allowing you to rinse off the germs. Quite literally, the soap makes your skin too slippery for the bacteria to hold onto.

Soaps that label themselves “antibacterial” just take that process a step farther, using chemical agents to stop the bacteria on your skin from reproducing. These chemical agents are harmful; not only are they bad for your skin, but they also have the tendency to help bacteria mutate, creating stronger germs that are harder to rinse off.

That’s bad for the environment and for us. So you’re better off buying a soap that doesn’t label itself as antibacterial; it’ll do the same thing for your skin cleanliness, without the environmental consequences.

Is Handmade Soap Effective?

Handmade soap is arguably more effective! Give it two minutes in the ring, and it’s lights out for commercial soaps.

Handmade soap has all the benefits of any bar of soap (cleaning, getting rid of germs and dirt, adding a nice after-scent) and more. And the best part is, no bar is made exactly the same, so you’ve got a better chance of finding a bar that’s just right for you.

Contrary to what commercial soap wants you to think, there’s no soap that works as a one-size-fits-all solution for your skin. Everyone has different skincare needs, and a handmade soap does a better job of recognizing that.

So whether you’re looking for bar soap for your travels or just to keep you clean, always go with handmade soap over commercial variations.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.