I am a 5th year PhD student studying molecular biology and biochemistry. I started making my own soap as a way to alleviate my eczema and I have basically become addicted to soap making since then. I find that with my extensive background in chemistry it has been really easy to learn soap making. It is certainly nice being able to use a skill I have to make something so wonderful and useful. Please check out my blog to see what I have been up to. http://ladybugsoapworks.blogspot.com/
What is the cold process method?
This method involves mixing lye, water, and fats together which will cause a chemical reaction changing the fats into soap and glycerin. Neither lye nor fat remain, only pure, clean soap enriched with naturally formed glycerin. The soap is then left to cure for several weeks to ensure mildness. If you would like more information on soap and how the chemical reaction of saponification works I would suggest you check out Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soap).
What is the difference between cold-process soaps and most commercial "soaps"?
Well first of all check out some of your commercial bars. Are any of them called soap or are they called beauty bars or something of that sort? Most commercial bars are actually detergent bars and not soap. These detergents are much harsher on the skin and are likely the cause of much dry skin. Cold-process soaps are the mildest soaps you can buy. They are naturally full of glycerin. Glycerin is a wonderful substance. It is called a humectant as it draws moisture from the air and helps your skin to retain the moisture. Commercial bars usually do not have glycerin in them since it can be sold for other types of manufacture. One more thing about glycerin. All those clear "glycerin" bars you see in the store are not actually 100% glycerin like they say. Glycerin is a thick liquid not a solid.