Sandalwood soap is a type of soap made with essential oils derived from trees of the genus Santalum. These essential oils are fragrant and aromatic, and are often used to make incense and perfume, as well as soap. Most sandalwood soap is all-natural and is often vegan as well, containing no animal products, although some soaps made with sandalwood may contain ingredients that are not vegan, such as goat's milk. Sandalwood essential oils are calming to the skin and therefore useful when applied to skin that is irritated, dry, cracked, or affected by acne. The oils are also used in aromatherapy to reduce tension, and also have antimicrobial and antiseptic properties.
Trees of the genus Santalum are used to distill essential oils that are used in making sandalwood soap. True sandal trees are grown primarily in India and Australia, and are protected species. A third variety of true sandalwood was once grown in Hawaii, but it was so widely used during the late 18th and early 19th centuries that the species eventually died out. The limited availability of true sandal trees makes their oil expensive and difficult to come by, so many fragrances, soaps, and types of incense are made with oil derived from a wide range of species, not all of which are in the genus Santalum.
Sandalwood essential oils used in soaps must first be steam distilled from small pieces of sandalwood. The process of steam distillation involves boiling the wood so that it releases steam, and then condensing and separating the resulting oils. Pure sandalwood oil is extremely strong and needs to be diluted with a milder base oil before it can be safely applied to the skin. Oils are added to a heated soap base, such as glycerin, and then the mixture is molded into individual bars of sandalwood soap and cooled.
The aroma of sandalwood soap is a bright, spicy, woody fragrance that seems to promote relaxation and reduce tension, which is why sandalwood oils are often used in aromatherapy settings. Sandalwood soap also soothes skin irritated by dryness or rashes, and sandalwood shaving soaps are effective at preventing or treating razor burn. Facial soap made with sandalwood is helpful in eliminating blackheads and other forms of acne, due to its antiseptic properties.
Sandalwood soap also speeds the healing process of burns, cuts, scrapes and other minor flesh wounds, again due to its antiseptic quality. Washing feet affected by ringworm or athlete's foot with a sandalwood soap can help eliminate the fungal infection. The antiseptic and antimicrobial properties of sandalwood oils are largely due to the presence of a chemical compound called Beta-Santalol, which also contributes to the characteristic woody aroma of sandalwood oil.