We know that our customers are conscious of what they’re putting on their bodies. That’s why we make our full ingredient lists available on each product page.
But sometimes it’s not clear to an average person what these things are, and why we use them in our products. So here’s a list (in alphabetical order) of each ingredient we use, and what it contributes to your favourite Tubby Tabby soaps!
Activated charcoal (carbon)
Activated charcoal is a totally-natural, plant-derived charcoal product. Basically, it’s what happens when you burn something like bamboo (which is where ours comes from). Some folks think it’s got great skin benefits, but we use it primarily as a colouring ingredient in our soaps.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV)
This totally natural, fermented vinegar is often used to delicious effect in food. But its acidity is also welcome in hair products, as acidity helps to close the hair follicle and protect it. We use ACV in our hair products for this reason.
Ground apricot seed makes an appearance in some of our soaps. This is the shell of the fruit’s seed, ground up into small pieces. We use it as an exfoliant in our soaps, and sometimes for visual appeal, as it speckles the soap!
Arrowroot is the same stuff we feed our babies in biscuits! It’s a totally-natural, edible, plant-based starch that doesn’t have much flavour or odour. We use it in our products (typically body butter) in small amounts to improve consistency and make it easier/more pleasant to apply.
It’s what it sounds like! Oil from the avocado we know and love. We use this in our products because avocado oil is super nourishing for the skin.
We use unrefined, all-natural beeswax from our friends at African Bronze Honey in some of our products. This B Corp is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, so we feel great about sourcing our beeswax from these folks! We usually use beeswax in our lotions and balms.
Behentrimonium Methosulfate is a biodegradable surfactant (cleanser) that is derived from Canola oil. You’ll see it in the ingredients list of some solid shampoo bars because it’s part of a conditioning agent we use: BTMS-50. Contrary to what the name sounds like, this product isn’t actually a sulphate and is a gentle and eco-friendly ingredient.
Bentonite clay is a naturally-occurring clay that comes from volcanic ash. We like to use it because it adds slip to soaps, as well as very gentle exfoliation. It’s also very absorbent, so it may help with skin that’s particularly oily.
Benzoic acid (sodium benzoate)
Benzoic acid is a naturally-occurring substance that helps plants make food for themselves. This acid, when combined with lye to make soap, is called sodium benzoate. Sodium benzoate appears in our ingredients list sometimes because it’s in the melt-and-pour (glycerin) soap we use to make our clear embeds.
Borax is a naturally-occurring salt (derived from the element boron). It’s also known as boric acid sometimes. This ingredient helps with boosting the cleaning and whitening properties of our laundry soap. It’s not safe to eat, though, so we recommend keeping our laundry soap out of reach of children.
Burdock root (or burdock root extract)
Burdock root is from a plant you’ve probably seen many times without knowing it. If you’ve ever had a pet who came back from an outdoor adventure with burs in their fur, that’s because they’ve come across a burdock plant that’s gone to seed. The roots have been used medicinally and culinarily for millennia, and some root beers even contain it. We typically use yellow burdock root for natural colour, but burdock also lets us add natural antioxidants to our products. (When we talk about extracts, that just means we’ve made a tea or similar and strained the solid burdock root out.)
Butylene Glycol is a solvent used in a pre-mixed ingredient we use in shampoo bars in small amounts: BTMS-50. This solvent is biodegradable (it’s actually used to make bio-plastics!).
Cane sugar is the less-refined version of white sugar, making it a little more nutrient-rich and a golden colour. Ours is Fairtrade Certified and also organic. We add it to some products because it helps to naturally boost lather.
Canola oil (rapeseed oil)
Canola oil (sometimes also called rapeseed oil) is a widely-used, plant-based oil in the food industry. Like most oils, it can be made into soap as well! In beauty products, it’s very gentle and nourishing on the hair, so we use it often in our shampoo bars for that reason.
Sometimes we use this beloved vegetable in our soaps because it gives a wonderful, creamy beige colour. Typically it’s listed in the ingredients as carrot root powder, just to clarify that we’re using the root rather than the leaves.
Castor oil is pressed from the seeds of the castor bean plant, which (as it turns out) actually isn’t a bean at all! (Rather, it’s a beautiful, flowering plant with huge leaves, native to eastern Africa.) We use castor oil in all of our soaps because it helps them have a more stable lather.
Cetyl alcohol is derived from coconut and is biodegradable. It’s used in some of our shampoo bars because of its conditioning properties.
Cocamidopropyl Betaine is a gentle, biodegradable liquid surfactant (cleanser) that’s derived from coconuts. Even though the name sounds very technical and scary, this ingredient helps us keep our solid shampoo bars gentle and more environmentally-friendly, while also offering great cleaning power.
Cocoa butter is the solid oil that comes from cocoa beans. It’s very hard and that’s partly what makes chocolate so firm. We use it in our soaps because it helps make the bars hard and it’s also super moisturizing. As a bonus, it makes the soap smell very slightly chocolatey if we don’t scent it!
Cocoa powder (cacao)
This is the same cocoa powder you use in your favourite smoothies and cakes! In soap, it adds a beautiful colour, so that’s why we use it.
Coconut milk (or coconut milk powder)
Coconut milk is made from coconuts, as you’d expect! It’s a great vegan alternative to cow’s milk and is also nourishing and moisturizing like cow’s milk or goat’s milk. We use it for that reason in some of our soaps.
Coconut oil is the very same coconut fat that you’ve probably used in a DIY sugar scrub or vegan brownies recipe! We use this amazing oil in our soaps because it creates big, beautiful bubbles and has better cleaning ability than most other oils (when made into soap, that is).
This is the same ingredient you likely eat in your favourite sauces, gravies and even pastries! We occasionally use corn starch when we’re molding pieces of soap by hand, particularly when they’re a bit too sticky. (Kind of like how you dust your rolling pin when you bake.)
DL-panthenol (pro-vitamin b5)
Panthenol is also known as pro-vitamin B5, and it helps keep the hair hydrated and protected from the elements. We use it in our solid shampoo bars for this reason. (Remember those Pantene commercials? That’s where you’ve seen this ingredient before!)
Essential oils are very concentrated, aromatic extracts from various plants. Each type of oil is said to have therapeutic uses, but with a wash-off product like soap, we feel it’s not worth mentioning in most cases (though we will on the product page, if applicable). We use a number of different types (such as rosemary and lavender), but overwhelmingly, it’s just for natural fragrance.
Fragrance (also called parfum) is just what it sounds like. We use fragrance oils in some of our products, as the scent stays much better than with essential oils, and our fragrance oils are actually gentler on the skin and hair than some essential oils. (Cinnamon essential oil, for example, can burn the skin if used in a high enough concentration to hold its smell in the final soap.) We very carefully select oils that are skin-safe and high-quality, so that our products smell amazing!
French green clay (illite)
French green clay (also called “illite”) is a naturally-occuring clay that gives a lovely green colour to soaps. While it does also offer gentle exfoliation, mostly we use it for its lovely colour.
Goat’s milk (or goat’s milk powder)
Goat’s milk is what it sounds like—the milk that comes from goats. Sometimes we use this in our soaps because the natural sugars in the milk enhance the lather in the final soap. But more often, we use it because it’s very moisturizing and nourishing for the skin.
This is the very same sweet treat you might enjoy on your breakfast! We use honey in our products because it’s a natural humectant (a fancy word for something that draws moisture to it, helping your skin stay hydrated). The natural sugars in the honey also boost the lather of the soap. We use a brand called African Bronze Honey, which is fair trade, organic, raw and sustainably harvested from wild forest bees.
This rice protein is added to our solid shampoo bars because it adds to shine, volume and softness of the hair. It’s derived—as you’d imagine!—from good, old-fashioned rice! Other proteins like this exist (quinoa, oat, etc.), but rice is one of the most readily-available ones, so that’s what we use.
Indigo is a natural, plant-based dye. It’s used for tons of things, but we put it in our soap just because it makes it a pretty blue-grey colour!
Iron oxide is a naturally-occurring substance that you’ve definitely come across before! The most famous form is common rust (what happens when iron meets the oxygen in water and/or air for long periods). There are several (naturally-occurring) types, all of which are beautiful, vibrant colours like orange, yellow and black. That’s why we use them as natural colorants.
Kaolin clay is a naturally-occurring clay that comes in a few different colours. Usually, our kaolin is white, but we also sometimes use red, pink and purple kaolin in some of our soaps. We add them for very gentle exfoliation and sometimes for natural colour as well.
Lauric acid (Sodium laurate)
Lauric acid is a naturally-occurring fatty acid that makes up about half the fatty acids in coconut milk, for example. Sodium laurate is what happens when that fatty acid is combined with lye to make soap. This ingredient is present in the melt-and-pour (glycerin) soap we use to make some of our clear embeds, so when it appears in our ingredients list, that’s why.
Lavender buds (flowers)
Lavender buds are the flowers from the lavender plant. They don’t keep their scent forever, so usually we add them purely for decoration on the tops of our soaps.
Madder root is what it sounds like: a plant root! It has a beautiful reddish colour, so we use it to colour our soaps naturally.
Mango butter comes from pressing the oil out of mango seeds. It’s extremely moisturizing, which is why we use it sometimes in our soaps to give them a nourishing boost.
Mica is a shiny, naturally-occurring rock that can be split into very thin layers. When it’s ground into a powder, it works as an extremely fine glitter of sorts, that also gives colour. We use mica powder to colour our products.
Milk (or milk powder)
When we say “milk” we mean cow’s milk by default. Sometimes we use cow’s milk (or skim milk powder) in our soaps because it’s very moisturizing for the skin. The natural sugars in the milk also boost the lather in our bars when we use it.
Oatmeal (colloidal oatmeal)
Oatmeal makes an appearance in our soaps occasionally. It’s a wonderful, natural, gentle exfoliant, as well as being moisturizing. “Colloidal” just means it’s ground up finely.
This is the very same ingredient that you’ve likely had on a beautiful salad recently! Our olive oil isn’t extra virgin or anything, as flavour isn’t our concern when we’re making soap. Rather, we use it in our products because it makes them nourishing and moisturizing to your skin.
Palm oil comes from the fruit of a specific type of tree called—you guessed it!—an oil palm. Because there can be a lot of social and environmental abuses in palm production, we only source palm that is RSPO certified, meaning it’s sustainably produced. We use palm because it helps us have harder bars of soap, which in turn last longer for our customers, rather than melting away quickly in the shower. We are in the process of developing a palm-free formula, so we can eventually phase out soaps containing palm.
This acid occurs naturally in phosphorous stones, but is also sometimes created in a lab. Like many things, this ingredient is a good example of the phrase, “The dose makes the poison.” When fully concentrated, it can burn the skin, but in very low concentrations, it’s useful as a plant fertilizer and even a food flavouring. In soap, it helps as a sanitizer, making sure the soap doesn’t grow any harmful microbes. When phosphoric acid appears in our ingredients list, it’s because it’s in the melt-and-pour (glycerin) soap we use to make our clear embeds.
Pink himalayan salt
This beautiful, naturally-pink salt from the Himalayas is used for many culinary and medicinal purposes. In our products, it’s typically for gentle exfoliation and/or to harden our bar soap naturally.
Polybutylene terephthalate is a biodegradable synthetic resin (similar to an eco-plastic). This ingredient is in the biodegradable glitter that we sometimes use on our soaps to add a little sparkle!
PolyLactic acid is an eco-friendly alternative to petroleum plastic. It’s derived from plants (most often corn) and is fully biodegradable. This ingredient is in the eco-friendly glitter that we sometimes add to our soaps for some sparkle!
Potassium hydroxide (lye/caustic potash)
Potassium hydroxide is a type of lye that makes a soft final product, so it’s what we use in our liquid soap. In order for oils to turn into soap (a process called “saponification”), they need either this lye or sodium hydroxide, another type of lye. So we put potassium hydroxide in all of our liquid soaps. Without lye, there would be no soap!
This synthetic substance is a cousin of alcohol, and absorbs water, helping to make glycerin soap clearer and meltable. If you’ve ever used melt-and-pour soap, it’s probably had this ingredient. When propylene glycol appears in our ingredients list, it’s because the soap has glycerin embeds in it, and the manufacturer of the soap we used has used this ingredient to make that glycerin soap.
Pumice is a totally natural ingredient that comes from volcanic rock. We use ground pumice in some of our soaps to give them extra exfoliating power.
Salt (sodium chloride)
We sometimes use regular table salt (coarse or fine) in our soaps for decoration, or to help harden our bar soap.
Shea butter is one of nature’s most nourishing and skin-loving oils! Ours is fair trade (purchased from African Bronze Honey), hand-processed and unrefined. This helps it keep all its natural goodness so it can pass that onto your skin! We typically use shea in moisturizers, lotions and body butter for maximum effect.
Sodium carbonate (washing soda)
Sodium carbonate is commonly known as washing soda. It’s a totally natural powder that’s chemically close to baking soda. Our grannies have been adding washing soda to their laundry for many decades to help boost the cleaning power of the detergent. We typically only use this ingredient in our laundry products.
Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (SCI)
SCI is a very gentle surfactant (cleanser) that helps boost the cleaning power in solid bath products. It’s used in eco-friendly cleaning products like shampoo bars because its PH is lower (which the scalp needs). It’s so gentle that it’s often used as an alternative to SLS or SLES in baby products because it’s so much milder. SCI is fully biodegradable, so we use it as a more eco-friendly surfactant in our solid shampoo bars.
Sodium hydroxide (lye)
Sodium hydroxide (commonly called “lye”) is a crucial ingredient for soap-making. This is basically a salt that transforms fats into soap! On its own, it’s quite caustic, so we’re sure to use proper safety protocols during soap-making. However, when the process of converting oils into soap (called “saponification”) is complete, the lye is all used up and you end up with a perfectly safe, mild and moisturizing soap. This is the magic of chemistry! All of our soaps contain either this lye or (for liquid soaps) potassium hydroxide, a different type of lye. Without lye, there would be no soap!
Sodium lactate is a naturally-occurring liquid salt that is clear and odourless. It’s sometimes added to food as a natural preservative (kind of like table salt). We add it to our products because it helps make soaps harder (if solid) or thicker (if liquid). It’s also what’s called a humectant, which is a fancy word for something that draws moisture to your skin or hair, helping it keep hydrated.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfoacetate (SLSA)
SLSA is a gentle surfactant (cleanser) that’s derived from vegetable oils like coconut or palm. It’s used in eco-friendly cleaning products like shampoo bars because its PH is lower (which the scalp needs). It’s also a safer alternative to SLS or SLES. Unlike these harsher surfactants, SLSA is fully biodegradable and gentle enough to use even on sensitive areas like the scalp without irritation. We use SLSA in our shampoo bars because it’s safer for people and planet.
Sorbitol is a type of sugar alcohol that naturally occurs in various fruits (it’s actually why prunes help keep you regular!). In soap, it helps make soap clear, and so it’s added to the glycerin soap we use for our transparent embeds (the little shapes we put in and on our soaps sometimes).
This is the same leafy green you love in your spinach salads and smoothies! When powdered, spinach is a beautiful, natural green colourant. That’s why we use it in our soaps.
Stearic acid (sodium stearate)
Stearic acid is a naturally-occurring, oil-like acid that is found in plants like palm and coconut. Ours is always sourced sustainably, so if it’s palm-derived, it’s from a RSPO-certified source. Stearic acid, once combined with lye, becomes sodium stearate. We use stearic acid in our shaving soaps because it’s the best at creating a lather that will stick around for the whole time you’re shaving.
Sweet almond oil
We specify “sweet” almond oil because there’s also a bitter one. Bitter almond oil is like a very concentrated essential oil, with a strong almond scent. But for soap, we use sweet almond oil, which is just the fats extracted from the almond nuts. (You can also use this for cooking, though it’s more expensive than things like peanut or canola oil, so that’s why it’s less common.) Sweet almond oil makes our soaps very moisturizing, and that’s why we love adding it to our bars!
Titanium dioxide is what happens in nature when titanium oxidizes (ie. is exposed to oxygen). This white powder is used for a ton of things, including whitening food and colouring paint. In our soaps, it serves to give the final product a lighter colour, so we use it to adjust colours as needed.
Turmeric is the same spice you know and love in the kitchen! Some folks feel it has anti-acne and/or anti-eczema properties, but we mostly use it for its beautiful yellow colour in our soaps. (Turmeric extract is just what we call it when we’ve made a tea or similar from it and strained the turmeric solids out.)
Glycerin is a natural by-product of making soap. When you mix lye water and oils, the results are soap and glycerin, which is naturally very moisturizing. A lot of companies remove the glycerin from their soap (glycerin is valuable, so they re-sell it), leaving behind what is basically a detergent. Handmade soap makers leave the skin-loving glycerin in to make sure their soap is nice and nourishing. Sometimes we also add glycerin to liquid soap because it’s extra moisturizing and helps keep the soap shelf-stable longer.
Vitamin E (tocopherol)
Vitamin E (usually in oil form) is used in some of our topical skin products, like our body butter. Its technical name is tocopherol and it’s a naturally-occurring group of compounds that are said to help repair skin. So that’s why we use it!
Water (usually distilled water, specifically) is crucial to soap-making, and most of our products have good, old-fashioned water as a substantial ingredient.