Our skin is the body's largest organ. It is our outer mantle of defense. It must be healthy to do it's job properly. Healthy skin needs to breathe and retain a sufficient level of moisture for a healthy glow and elasticity.
1. Detergent-Free. Most commercial soaps contain synthethic detergents and preservatives. These chemicals can be irritants; are usually very drying; and strip the skin of its natural oils. Detergents and synthethic fragrances are among the most common skin irritants.
Ever read the ingredients on the label of a commerically produced soap? How many of them could you pronounce? Did you know that many of these ingredients are unnecessary for cleansing purposes? Many of the ingredients are for aesthetic purposes only and others are added only to extend the shelf life. Our skin does not discriminate--it absorbs them all.
2. Mild & Moisturizing. Most homemade soaps are made with various blends of skin nourishing oils. Most are also superfatted which means they are formulated with extra oils to provide additional moisturizing benefits. Many handmade soaps are mild enough for babies, especially, castile soaps. Genuine castile soap is 100% Olive Oil. Some soapmakers add 20-50% coconut or palm oil to enhance the lathering quality. Castile soaps made from 100% Olive Oil while extremely mild and moisturizing generally produce a slow, stingy lather of a slight "slimmy-like" consistency. Olive oil is a natural humectant attracting and holding moisturize close to the skin without clogging the pores
3. DIY friendly. You can make your own soap using simple ingredients from your kitchen just like our grandparents did. But now due to a few modern inventions and improvements we can get consistent, predictable results. Many of the ingredients in commercially produced soaps can clog our pores.
Many handmade soaps have a naturally long shelf life without any synthethic preservatives. I recently pulled out a 6 year old pail of handmade soaps from my outdoor storage building (not climate controlled) and most were still useable and even had some remaining scent. I use a natural preservative in my soap--Grapefruit Seed Extract which has other skin nourishing benefits. Handmade soaps will usually last longer during the use of the bar, as well. My typical 3.5 oz. bars last about month with regular daily use and I love to shower and bath. This makes them very economical.
As for the aesthetics, to use a trite cliche, "Beauty is in the eye of the Beholder." Personally I believe handmade soaps are much prettier and creative than any commercial bar. You can design a custom soap recipe for your specific skin care needs.
I began my own soapmaking adventures 12 years ago because of severe skin problems and the benefits were immediately noticeable. I could never go back to commercially produce soaps.