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The Wonderful World of Handmade Soaps!

by Lisa Salamida
owner of Savor Soaps, an Etsy store

There is something so pleasurable about handmade items... from creamyGinger Icing handmadesoap from Savor beeswax candles with the light natural scent of honey, to slow-cooked, thick and tasty pasta sauce, a perfectly fluffy and flaky handmade biscuit - to handmade soap, lovingly made and scented.

I believe that's part of the draw to handmade soap - it's like a blank canvas - after the basics are down, the world of scent and color and form and function open up to you, allowing limitless combinations.

You may have read that store-bought soap is more like your laundry detergent than true soap. Commercial soap - which is often sold under the term "beauty bar" is not legally soap after too many additives - and takes what is good about handmade soap and ruins it. A rich, thick lather like you get with a wonderful handmade bar is "enhanced" with chemical foaming agents to make you believe it "cleans better." And the lather isn't Mint Chocolate Squares handmade soap from Savoreven what cleans you! The lovely scents possible from essential oils and man-made fragrances are turned into obnoxious, cloying perfume - with the idea that smellier is better.

A gourmet cheeseburger - Angus beef, finely aged cheddar - is going to taste amazing and be better for you than a fast food hamburger. The fast food hamburger is going to be made of cheap material, little attention paid to quality, and loaded with fat and grease to make us believe it tastes good - when we don't need all of that. Commercial beauty bars are the same way - cheap and full of fillers.

What does handmade soap have instead?

Because the crafter is not bound to market research and often works at her/his own whim, you can seen the interesting, imaginative things that soap Chocolate Cardamom handmade soaps from Savorcan be. Textured with a crinkle-cutter or formed in a massage bar mold, scented with peppermint and lemon essential oils, soap can be a therapeutic stimulant. Poured into a smooth mold and colored with rich red mineral mica, scented with crisp rhubarb and raspberry, and you'd swear it's a delicious handmade jam.

Ingredient-wise, when shopping for handmade soap, look for full disclosure. The soapmaker is not required to disclose the ingredients in the US, but it will show you they care what goes into their work and on your skin. My preference is olive oil soap - it takes color so well, it cleans your skin without clogging your pores, and creates a slippery, silky lather that I adore. Palm, coconut, castor, peanut, sesame, sunflower, rice bran, any and all of these oils can be part of a soapmaker's blend.

You can also look for butters - shea butter, cocoa butter, even aloe, avocado, coffee!... each one with wonderful properties too numerous to name in this article.

For scenting, essential oils will be the most natural additions - the oils come Sex Appeal handmade soap from Savorfrom the distillation of a plant (or bark, leaves, etc). Think of it as squeezing the natural essence from something like an orange peel. You cannot get essential oils of oatmeal, or chocolate, or strawberry. Think about trying to squeeze out the essence of oatmeal - it's just not going to happen. But distilling peppermint leaves? Oh yes, and the result is so delightful!

Because fragrance oils - man made ones - have gotten a bad rep (there are a lot of cheap junky ones out there), I have seen some soap makers unfortunately make essential oil claims that are incorrect. Blueberry essential oil, you will not find. Essential oils are also not safer for you, in fact - the essential oil might have medicinal properties that are contraindicated for specific conditions - like pregnancy and high blood pressure. High-quality fragrance oils, on the contrary, are formulated specifically to be safe for the majority of the public. They go through rigorous testing. They often do contain essential oils to form the notes of the scent. And they make the most amazing soaps possible - you'll never find a cheesecake essential oil!

For colorants, micas and oxides are most commonly used, natural minerals and compounds. Often clay, glitter, and colorants like natural tamarind and turmeric are used. Soap colorants should not color your skin, or your bath, Gateau de Citron handmade soap from Savorbut just the bar itself. Very pretty effects can be achieved when swirling or layering the colors. Inside the bar, oatmeal, calendula, poppy seeds, cardamom and other items can be used to give the bar color, texture and skin-treatment properties all at the same time.

Anyone can make soap. It's an incredibly approachable craft. A few simple ingredients - oil, lye, water - and you've got soap. Whether cold process, where the oil and lye combine without any assistance, to hot process where we speed up the soap by cooking it, to melt and pour, which has additional ingredients to make it meltable. The different processes lend themselves to a wide range of finished products - cold process soaps produce the most amazing swirls and ridges when stirred as it sets, and melt and pour soaps can be formed in countless shapes and is a highly work-able medium.

The joy that the crafter brings to her bar of soap should be apparent each time you use it. Made with love, made to pamper you, made to enhance the sensual experience like a relaxing spa vacation.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough handmade soaps from Savor
About the author

Lisa Salamida is the owner of Savor soaps... inspired by culinary masterpieces -- soap confections that tantalize your senses and cradle you in luxury.

With a focus on high-quality ingredients, Savor bath treats combine the best of natural elements with surprising and fun twists. Something new and fresh at every glance.

Shop for Savor Soaps


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