I have been asked a lot of questions about my soap. Here are the answers!
What is the difference between your soap and conventional soap?
Conventional "soaps" produced today are actually synthetic detergent bars. Commonly known as syndets, they are made by combining fatty alcohols with acids. The fatty alcohols can be plant derived, but they can also be distilled from petroleum products. Any glycerin produced during the manufacture of syndets is usually removed and used for more profitable ventures. While some sydnets may contain a few naturally occurring ingredients, they are often home to numerous man-made chemicals. Some common syndet ingredients are:
- SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate)
- Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate
- Peg-7 Glyceryl Cocoate
- Sodium cocoyl isethionate
- Alpha olefin sulfonates
- Alkyl glyceryl ether sulfonate
- Sodium cocoyl monoglyceride sulfate
- synthetic FD&C dyes
- synthetic fragrances
Cold processed soap, on the other hand, is made by combining natural oils & butters (either animal or vegetable based) with an alkali base, usually sodium hydroxide. In the past, the alkali solution was made by allowing water to seep through wood ashes. This was potassium hydroxide, and it made for softer soaps. Today we use sodium hydroxide for hard bar soaps, and potassium hydroxide for making liquid soaps and shaving cream soaps. In either case, we refer to the alkali base as lye. When we make soap, the lye molecules break apart and combine with the fatty acids in the oils. This process is called saponification. The result is a combination of soap (actually a type of salt!) and glycerin. The glycerin is not removed from handmade cold processed soap. Once the soap has saponified, there is no lye left in the soap. This process is mostly complete in 24 hours, but it takes another 6 weeks or more for a soap to cure. Curing allows the soap to harden, and for the lathering properties to fully develop. Some common ingredients in cold processed soaps are:
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- avocado oil
- palm oil
- sunflower oil
- cocoa butter
- essential oils
- colorant (natural or synthetic)
- fragrance (natural or synthetic)
Are your soaps natural?
The term "natural" has no legal definition as far as the FDA is concerned. To me, though, the word natural means the opposite of synthetic. It means that it can be found, harvested, or processed from something that already exists on the earth. If the only way to make a product is to make it in a lab, then it is not natural. My soaps are either 100% natural, or all natural except for the fragrance. The oils and butters that I use are completely natural. I use only natural colorants. I have unscented soaps, and many scented with only essential oils. The only exception that I allow in my soaps is the occasional use of fragrance oils. These fragrances are made from a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients, and are used in only very small amounts. I work very hard to reduce or eliminate things that I feel are not beneficial for my family or the world we live in. Even with a bit of fragrance added to a small number of my soaps, I still believe that my soaps are a vastly superior product than the conventional syndet bars. If you personally want to avoid the frangrance oils, good for you for going the extra mile! To make that as easy as possible, I clearly list all of my ingredients next to each soap in my shop. The ingredients are listed in order from the largest amount by weight to the smallest, according to FDA Guidelines, so you will find fragrance oils listed near the very end if they are used at all. And, as always, feel free to contact me if you have a special request.
Is your soap organic?
By law, soap can not be labelled as organic unless it contains at least 95% organic ingredients, not including water or salt. A soap that has at least 70% organic ingredients can state that it is made with organic ingredients, but it can not be called organic soap. My goal is to use as many organic ingredients as possible, because I believe that it is the right thing to do for our bodies and for the earth that we were given. As of today, all of my soaps are at least 60% organic, and most are between 80-90% organic. It is extremely difficult to do, because the FDA counts the lye used when calculating the percentages - even though there is no lye left in the finished product. Because I must use a certain amount of lye to make my product, my hands are tied. Some larger companies work the system by replacing the water in their recipe with an organic liquid so that it will count toward their organic totals. I could do that too, but why would I add grape juice, for example, to my soap when it provides no benefits? To me that seems like it is done purely for label appeal, and I think that is misleading to their customers. I only use alternative liquids when it makes sense to do so - like when I add carrot puree to a soap for a boost of vitamin A. In addition, some oils are very difficult to source that are Certified Organic. When that is the case, I will use the next best thing - which is Non-GMO verified. If I can't find an oil that is Non-GMO then, and only then will I use an oil that is conventionally grown or produced. I list my ingredients clearly on my website, as well as which ingredients are organic, so you will always know exactly what you are getting.
Are your soaps palm-free?
Many of my soaps are palm-free. You can click on the Category "Palm Free" on my soap shop page to see only the soaps which are not made with any palm products. I do make some soaps which use palm, but I use only palm oils and butters that are RSPO certified to be:
- orangutan habitat friendly
- fair trade
Many soapers use lard as an alternative to palm oil, because it produces similar results in the finished product. Each of us has to decide for ourselves which battles we are going to fight. I have chosen not to use lard, because I prefer to make plant based soaps.
Are your soaps vegan?
Many of my soaps are vegan. I use only vegetable oils and butters to make my soaps. Some soaps are made with beeswax or honey from my own hives, and I do not label those products as vegan. While many vegetarians would approve of the use of these bee products, I feel it is best to avoid any possibility of causing offense. It is for that reason that I use the most restrictive version of the term when labeling my products.
How do you get such beautiful colors without using synthetic dyes?
There are basically five ways to color soap.
1. FD&C Dyes
I do not use FD& C dyes. These are the synthetic colorants that you see in everything from kids' soft drinks to lipstick. There is nothing natural about them, and there are too many other natural alternatives available for me to even consider using them.
2. Vegetable & herb based pigments
Some soapers use powdered herbs, seeds, and vegetables to color their soaps. I applaud their efforts, and the soaps are beautiful! But they just aren't for me. Those colors tend to be muted shades of green, brown, and orange. As a very finicky artistic science person, I really need the box of 256 crayons to make my point, not the 8 pack. Okay, I don't need it. But I want it. Badly.
Clays are a great natural way to color soaps. They come in shades of pink, gray, green, and white. The clays also lend different properties to the finished product. For example, I add clay to my Pink Grapefruit Swirl bar, because it adds a silky feeling and adds "slip".
Oxides are, quite literally, ground up bits of earthly elements. How much more natural can you get? When iron reacts with the oxygen in the air, it oxidizes. It changes color, and that oxidized material can be used as a colorant. This process can be duplicated under controlled conditions, so that heavy metals (such as lead) and other contaminants can be excluded. This results in a safer product. In my opinion, this is no different than making ice cubes. You can get your ice from the top of a frozen lake, which is in it's perfectly natural state. Or you can make safer, cleaner ice by combining only the purest water available and freezing it in a controlled setting. Is the ice that I make at home not natural? Is it safer? It is for this reason that oxides are my go-to colorant. They come in only a few basic colors, but they can be mixed and blended to create any color you can imagine. On my ingredients list, you will see oxides listed as "oxides", "iron oxides", or "titanium dioxide".
Micas are the trickiest of all the colorants available. That is because mica, in and of itself, is completely natural. Micas are, literally, flakes of stone. I remember gathering chunks of it in the mountains outside of Spokane, WA when I was a little girl. It is beautiful, sparkly, and readily available. But it only comes in one color, which is basically gray. Here is where the tricks start. Micas can be purchased in hundreds of different colors. If they have been dyed with FD&C dyes, then they are no longer an all natural product. If they have been colored using oxides, then they are still natural. I only buy my micas from a reputable dealer that is able to provide documentation (MSDS and INCI Statements) that shows how the micas have been colored. I never use micas that have been dyed using synthetics. The colors are vibrant, they blend easily, and a little goes a long way. I sometimes use these to add a swirl to an otherwise plain soap. But usually I save micas for decorating the tops or faces of my bars, where their sparkle can really make an impact. On my ingredients list, you will see micas listed as "mica" plus the colorants used, such as "oxides" or "titanium dioxide".
Do you take custom orders or requests?
Absolutely! I want my soap to get used and enjoyed. It would be my pleasure to make a customized soap for you. Simply contact me using the link at the bottom of this page. The minimum time to cure a new custom soap is 6 weeks, some soaps take longer. The total time from concept to delivery will be longer if special ingredients, molds, or packaging need to be ordered.