Prior to going to naturopathic medical school, I volunteered for an organization called Heifer International at their education ranch in Perryville, AR. It was there that I first learned how to make soap from Suzan in the cottage industries department. I went on to teach several people about soap and how to make it, while I was there.
Soap is made from a chemical reaction between a fat/oil, water/milk, and lye. The chemical reaction takes several weeks to complete, but once properly made and cured you are left with soap + glycerin. Real soap with its inherent glycerin can support the health of the skin. There are several natural ingredients that can also help with specific skin conditions or skin types--clays, honey, essential oils, oatmeal, herbs, etc.
Your skin serves many functions to protect your health. It is a functional barrier. It helps support healthy detoxification through perspiration. The skin also needs healthy bacteria to out crowd other bad actors. During the winter, it is easy for our skin to become dry and chapped. This protective barrier begins to breakdown. This is where soap enters the picture...
Have you ever wondered why many "soaps" dry out your skin? Many products that we think of as soap are actually detergents; furthermore, companies will often remove the glycerin and put it into the lotions we buy. You can protect your skin this winter by switching to real soap, which is often sold by small, local companies. Look for bars with few ingredients that have 100% essential oils. Also, it helps if you spend extra time drying your hands during the winter. Real soap and good drying techniques will help protect your hands.