Follow by Email

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Garden Meanderings: Good Soap or Bad Soap?

Good Soap or Bad Soap?

What's the big deal about making good soap?  How do you know if a person makes good soap?  

I was asked these questions not too long ago, and they are very good questions!  The first one is quite easy to answer, but the second one I had to ponder.

Generally speaking, the goal of a soapmaker is to create a bar that is well-balanced, meaning it lathers and cleans well, is hard enough, and yet, not drying.  This is accomplished by using various fats and oils.  Some oils make a hard bar, others a conditioning bar, and so on.  Nevertheless, there are times when a soapmaker will want one that is extra-conditioning, such as a facial bar for mature skin, or extra-cleansing for a mechanic's soap.  Non-soapers would be surprised at all of the possible oil combinations a soapmaker could use, but that's part of the fun for most soapmakers, and thus the big deal about making good soap.

The second question, how one determines if a soapmaker makes good soap is much more difficult to answer.  Aside from what is probably obvious-- if the soap looks or smells funky or has rotting matter in it, you'll have to dig a little deeper.  

  1.    If you wash with the soap and it stings or dries out your hands, it may be that the soap is not mild enough.  Personally, I have never used a handcrafted bar of soap like this, but it is conceivable.  Conversely, if the soap is on the soft side and doesn't seem to clean well, it may not be strong enough.

  2.    Question the soapmaker.  How long have you been making soap?  What oils do you prefer?  How do you know you have made a good batch?  If the person doesn't mind sharing the oils used, the process, her experience, and other details, chance are, you are purchasing good soap!  Although it is possible for one to make a perfectly good batch on the first try and to use the same recipe for each subsequent batch, it's research and experience that produces a really good, knowledgeable soapmaker.  That's the person you can buy with confidence from.

If you're really nervous about whether the soap is OK or not, you can do what most good soapers do, the tongue test.  Ready?  Very gently and quickly, touch the tip of your tongue to a bit of the soap.  Don't lick it.  Don't keep your tongue there for 30 seconds!  Just a quick touch will do.  If you feel the "zing" like a 9-volt battery, the soap is not skin-worthy.  If it just tastes like soap, you're OK.  Or, you could ask your soapmaker how she (or he, of course) tests it!

Batch #1, "Dig My Patchouli" Soap

Batch #2, "Dig My Patchouli" Soap

Which one do you like better?
 Please Vote!!!

This week's ad:  

Clearing out lotions!  All 8 oz. bottles I have in stock are a whopping 25% off. Regularly $12, now only $9  The bottle is metal and features a pump for your convenience. Scents include:

Gingered Orange (tangy orange with a tiny bite of ginger)
Black Raspberries & Vanilla (nice berry scent.  Everybody likes this one)
Spun Sugar  (cotton candy sweet)
Sultry Sandalwood Vanilla (smooth sandalwood with a bit of sweet vanilla.  Very sultry!)

*Note:  I am not discontinuing lotion altogether, I just want to sell these last few before I make another batch.

Get them while you can for gifts and for yourself!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Do These Three Allergens Affect You?

Some are even allergic to the lovely lavender
What about allergies?  Often, customers come to me because they are allergic or sensitive to the commercial products they use, and are hoping that mine will be kinder to their skin.  Often, it's true.  Products crafted with natural oils and other ingredients may be just the ticket for sensitive skin.  Unfortunately, as much as I would like that to be true, it isn't always.

The fact is that people can experience sensitivities or allergies to any number of substances, either natural essential oils or synthetically created ingredients.  What's worse is that they can show up at any time.  A product that you have used for years may suddenly cause a rash.  Your threshold for tolerating a particular ingredient has been crossed, causing a problem for your skin.

(Please note that I will be using sensitivity and allergen interchangeably in the rest of this piece, even though they are not the same.  It just reads better and whether you're sensitive or allergic, both are negative reactions.)

Nevertheless, some substances are more likely to be culprits than others. My first suspect when people speak of reactions is scent, or fragrance oils.  Scents are made up of an unknown number of components, both natural and synthetic, and are proprietary, meaning that only the developer knows exactly what they contain.   The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) is constantly working to keep fragrances as safe as possible, but it is unlikely that it will ever be possible to create fragrances that no one reacts to.  Moreover, if it is not synthetic fragrance, then it might be essential oils, which are derived from various parts of vegetation.  Just as we may or may not be allergic to Poison Ivy, we may or may not be allergic to other plant matter.

If the problem is not due to scent, it may be due to color or a preservative.  A small percentage of the population is sensitive to some preservatives, which hold down microbial growth in products.  Some are very allergic to various colorants.  Virtually any other ingredient, with the exception of water, is on the list of possible allergens or irritants, as well.

What's a person to do?  One method of determining sensitivity is to dab the product in the inside of your forearm, just below the elbow.  Cover with a bandage and go to bed.  In the morning (or sooner, if it bothers you), remove the bandage and check the spot.  If it is red and irritated or itchy, something in the product does not agree with your skin.  Wash it off well and take note of the ingredients.  With time and careful notes, you may discover the offender.

It is important to be very careful if you suffer from many sensitivities.  Taking a bath using a soap you're sensitive to is going to be a bigger problem than a dab on your arm, so do the test with any new product. Read product labels carefully if you know your allergens so you can avoid them.  If you purchase handcrafted products, tell your vendor that you have many sensitivities and list those you know.  Your soapmaker extraordinaire might head off troubles at the pass by steering you toward or away from certain products. Keep in mind that the manufacturer is responsible for accurate listing of ingredients and you are responsible for checking before using and using them safely.

Good business owners want to please thier customers and provide safe products.  I strive to do just that.  Realistically, however, I know that it would be impossible to manufacture a product that no one is sensitive to, so I want to make my customers aware of the possibility.  Together we can keep reactions to a minimum so that you can have the most beautiful, healthy skin possible!


Weekly ad

Clearing out lotions!  All 8 oz. bottles I have in stock are a whopping 25% off. Regularly $12, now only $9  Scents include:
This isn't one of the scents on sale, but  the can looks like this.

Gingered Orange (orange with a bite of ginger)
Black Raspberries & Vanilla (nice berry scent)
Spun Sugar  (cotton candy sweet)
Sultry Sandalwood Vanilla (smooth sandalwood with a bit of sweet vanilla)

Valentine's Soaps:  each bar is $5; package of three conversation hearts is just $10

In addition, orders of $75 and up get free shipping.

Sale good until 2/18/12.  Orders right around Valentine's Day may be delayed.