The short answer is yes. Lye is what makes soap, soap. However, working directly with lye is NOT necessary to become a soapcrafter. Read on for a better understanding of lye, lye safety and soap making without directly interacting with lye.
Lye is essential to all cold process soap making recipes and is what makes soap…well, soap! Without the lye, your oils are unable to saponify and your soap won’t actually become soap.
We know that working with a chemical like lye can seem intimidating at first, but once you learn the proper and safe way to work with it, it opens up a whole new realm of soapmaking. Here is a Soap Queen Tv episodes that covers lye safety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yR6ttCSrLJI possibilities.
However, if you want to avoid handling lye there are other methods of soap making like melt and pour or rebatch soap making.
Melt and pour uses a pre-made soap base which can be easily melted down and colored, scented, poured or molded. Hence the name, melt and pour. There are limitations to what a soaper can do with melt and pour, but we have a vast number of different recipes and tutorials for melt and pour which will keep you quite busy. To learn more about Melt and Pour Soapmaking visit the Melt & Pour Tab at the top of our homepage.
Another option for making soap without handling lye is Rebatch soap. It is cold process soap which has already hardened and cured, but it can be reheated using a double boiler. Fragrance and color can be added at that point. It does have a more rustic look to it. For more information or a look at Rebatch soap making check out these links:
Rebatch Soap Kit:
Green Tea Rebatch: