Why Lye?

Brooke Starks

My first encounter with lye was seeing the phrase “no-lye” in bold letters on boxed hair relaxers as a child. I thought to myself “whatever that is, it must be really scary and bad for you!” (not knowing that the relaxer was bad enough). So why is it in our soaps?

 The truth is, ALL soap contains lye. If a cleaning product does not, it is simply a detergent, which means the lye has been replaced with chemicals that are more harmful to our environment and to us.

 Basically, in soap, the lye and oil molecules combine and chemically react to create soap and glycerin. So, once you receive a bar of soap, it no longer contains “loose” lye. The lye has already partnered up with an oil molecule and transformed into soap, and it is no longer harmful to your hair or skin!

 Again, ALL soap contains lye, so check some of the soaps you already own. Manufacturers often avoid using the word “lye” in the ingredient label because of its undeserved notoriety. You may see other names for lye like these:

Sodium hydroxide (the scientific name for lye)

Sodium palmate (lye and palm oil)

Sodium olivate (lye and olive oil)

Sodium cocoate (lye and coconut oil)


Lye is not “really scary and bad for you” as I previously thought, especially after it has been made into soap. For further clarification and research purposes, check out the following links, or feel free to ask any questions by emailing!