Yes. I make all of my soaps by hand and make the vast majority of them entirely from scratch, using nothing but food-grade oils, distilled water, saponification agent (NaOH/lye), fragrance, and cosmetic-grade pigments, micas, and/or other FDA approved skin-safe colorants. For my glycerin soaps I use a pre-made glycerin base that is free of detergents, sulfates, fillers, and parabens. Even with my glycerin soaps I still color, scent, pour them into soap molds, and decorate the soaps myself. Glycerin soaps are always clearly labeled as such.
Are soaps made with lye safe/gentle?
Short answer: Absolutely. Long answer: These are not your great-grandmother soaps. Lye is used to turn fat into soap. My soaps are carefully crafted so that there is no left-over lye in the finished product. Old-fashioned soap was irritating to the skin because there used to be no reliable way to know how strong the lye water was as it was often sourced from wood ashes soaked in water. On the other hand, these days we have SCIENCE!!! and we can make pure lye solutions and know EXACTLY how much lye is in it. We also have the ability to calculate a balanced chemical equation which means we can know, down to the levels of individual molecules, exactly how much NaOH is needed to turn each and every molecule of fat or oil into a soap molecule or vice versa. If you don’t happen to be a mad scientist like myself, there are also online calculators that will do the calculator lifting for you. Besides using chemical equations, how do I make sure my soaps are always safe and gentle? First, I always use a little extra oil/fat. I “superfat” at 6% to be exact. This means there is a little extra oil in the soap. The second way I know my soaps are safe and gentle is that I actually pH test every batch of soap twice; once when I take it out of the mold and cut it up and a second time at the end of the curing time.
I have scent sensitivities can I still use your soaps?
If you have super-sensitive skin I do occasionally make unscented soaps. That said, I’m finding that many people who think they have scent sensitivities actually have a sensitivity to sulfates and detergents. Sulfates and commercial detergents can often be sensitizing agents, which means that they prime your skin to be easily irritated. You may find that after you’ve stopped using detergents and sulfates your skin is perfectly happy with a little fragrance. If you’re using commercial soap, chances are it is either entirely detergent based or it is soap mixed with detergent. Even high end boutiques often cut their soaps will fillers and detergents. If you want to avoid detergents look for products with lists like “saponified oils of…olive, coconut, etc and” other ways of saying this are “sodium olivate, sodium cocoate, etc” or “olive oil, coconut oil AND lye/NaOH/sodium hydroxide. The only other necessary ingredient in real soap is water. Fragrance/essential oils/perfume and colorants are completely optional.
What do you use to color your soaps?
I mostly use cosmetic grade mineral pigments and mineral micas. They are considered natural because they are minerals that are found in and mined from the earth. Examples include iron oxide, chromium oxide, titanium dioxide, etc. Sometimes I used plant and herbal extracts for my colorants. Examples include cocoa powder, annato seed, orange peel, etc. I will occasionally use naturally occurring colored clays. Very rarely I will use cosmetic grade FDA approved colorants that are not mineral pigments like FDA approved cosmetic dyes. I usually only use dyes in clear glycerin soap (to keep them clear) or very rarely when I need a really bright color like a soap-approved, FDA-approved, cosmetic-grade neon pigment.
How long will my soaps stay fresh? Is there an expiration date?
I do not use preservatives and I usually recommend people use their soaps within 5-6 months. They won’t hurt you or be dangerous in any way after that but the scent may fade and the colors may change. If you keep them for years and/or store them in a humid or warm room (like a bathroom) the extra skin-loving oils may eventually go rancid. Again, it will not hurt you at all, but the soaps may develop orange spots or smell funny. It will still be soap and you can still use it but it won’t be as pleasant to use as freshly cured soap.
Why is my soap getting darker/turning brown?
Some fragrances – especially vanilla, chocolate, and amber – naturally turn soap darker with time. I often try to stabilize the color as much as possible to keep this from happening in my lighter colored soaps but the inevitable will always happen if it was meant to. It is still absolutely safe to use and the change is only cosmetic.
My soap is developing a white film, especially on the top of the bar? What is it?
It is completely harmless and totally cosmtic. What you are seeing are little crystals of soap salts (soap is a type of salt). Some soaps get it and some soaps don’t. Some fragrances make it more likely to occur. It is more noticeable on darker colored bars of soap. Whether or not it forms can be affected by things such as the air temperature and humidity at the time I make the soaps, the air temperature and humidity during the 4-6 week cure, and the temperature and humidity of the room you store it in at your home.
Do you ever use fragrances that aren’t essential oils?
This can be a hot topic issue. It is a misconception that a “natural” essential oil will be harmless while a synthetic fragrance will be harmful. The truth is that many essential oils are far more irritating to the skin than synthetics. Examples of essential oils that can be irritating and are even recommended to be avoided by pregnant women are cinnamon oil, clove oil, rosemary oil, cedar oil, and many many more. So to answer this very tricky question… I use essential oils but I use them in low enough concentrations that they are considered safe for general use. This often means that I round out the fragrance by blending it with a synthetic fragrance counterpart that is considered more gentle to the skin. Most of the time, my fragrance blends will have both essential oils and synthetics in them. If it is your personal choice to only use products that are 100% natural, I do occasionally offer both unscented soaps and 100% natural soaps. But please remember, and I say this as a person with a background in science, health, and medicine… natural isn’t always less irritating. Natural also has a higher likelihood of allergic reactions.
I have a deathly bad allergy to $allergicThing. Are your soaps going to be safe for me?
I occasionally use nuts, nut oils, dairy, and other food products in my soaps. I clean my equipment after every single batch but but there’s no way to ever be 100% sure that a trace amount of a product does cross contaminate the next batch. Furthermore, because this is a hobby business, my soaps are made in my home, in a kitchen that we use for our own food consumption. While my soap-making equipment is stored separate from regular kitchen equipment cross contamination is always a possibility. Lastly, I have a service dog and a pet cat. I do everything I can to keep my products free of pet hair and dander but if you’ve ever had a pet or a child you’ll understand that isn’t always possible.