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 creamy 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 even 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.
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 can 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.
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!
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.
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.