To Scent or Not to Scent, Part II

Essential oils require much more knowledge than fragrance oils and thus, more due diligence before using them.

Is the scent skin safe? Is the percentage rate limited? Will it survive cold process soap? Is it permissible for soap but not for bath or leave-on products? Will it work in candles? All of these factors must be known before one can safely use essential oils in candles or skincare products and thus, require the user to do research on each oil he hopes to use. Be sure to seek out reputable sources of information regarding essential oils. Unfortunately, too much misinformation is found out there that is inadvisable, if not dangerous. One of my favorite non-vendor sites for reliable essential oil information is www.aromaweb.com.

 

How much fragrance oil should I use? The answer is simple. First of all, check with the vendor for proper usage rates for your product. That not being possible, the rule of thumb for cold process soap is .7 oz. per pound of soapmaking oils. For instance, if you are making a two pound batch of soap and have measured out two pounds of oils, you will use about 1.4 oz. of fragrance oil. You may safely go up to 1 oz. per pound if necessary, and some scents will perform beautifully at .5 oz. per pound. Hot process will require less scent than cold process soap. Most other products use less scent than soap. Start at .5 or 1% and add a bit more if necessary. This works for most anything outside of cold or hot process soap. Be careful if making cp soap, however, because not all fragrance oils are suitable. Some rice or accelerate, which can be tolerated, but others seize like a motor without oil and require emergency measures to deal with. Save yourself the hassle and inquire about your oils prior to using them in cp and make sure of their usage in other products you intend to make, as well. Note: some fragrance oils, such as those you find in craft stores are not suitable for cold process soap at all; they are meant for potpourri and body products. Additionally, some are sold for use in candles and potpourri, not for products meant to be used on the skin.

 

As you can see, fragrance oils are much simpler to use than essential oils, provided you check the usage information; but don’t let that be an obstacle to using these wonderful, natural gifts of nature! Just be sure to thoroughly research any oil you care to use and use them properly.

 

Want to know whether your colleagues use more fragrance oil or essential oil? Check out the Raves for Faves issue just released today! Need a subscription? http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

To Scent or Not to Scent, That is the Question

The question of scent is uppermost in the mind of anyone who makes soap, candles or bath and body products. Which scents should I use? Should I make products with seasonal scents? Should I use only natural scents or should I use lab made scents? How much do I use? Should I use scent at all? Yes, these scent questions concern each one of us.

 

We should use the scents that those we create products for desire, whether they are ourselves, our friends and family or our customers, right? It is easier said than done, however as the human nose is just so picky. Hmm. . . that may have been a poor choice of words, but I digress.

 

Some insist on no scent at all, while most others have distinct preferences–the patchouli haters, the floral haters, you know what I mean. Certainly, no universally loved scent exists; but get a head start by noting the ten best selling scents in the Raves For Faves article found in our next issue coming out on November 1.

 

Beyond that, try limited editions and small batches to judge how they appeal to your customers or friends and family before diving into anything, because making ten pounds of soap in a scent nobody likes is not a good idea.

 

If you question whether you should scent your products at all or not, it may be a good niche. A business that creates non-scented products for the niche market who is sensitive to or dislikes scent fills an important segment of the market. And think of how much room they have on their shelves without all of those oils! But again, I digress.

 

Natural scent vs. lab made scent is another choice that we each make, and the answer is determined by your market, whether it is you and your friends or your customers. Remain true to your mission and consider those who will be using your product.

 

What to do about seasonal scents? This is a tough one because we often like these special scents, yet we need to know if they will pay off. Ask your customers if you can, or dip your toe in the waters to test them. In any case, do not be persuaded by the gorgeous photos you find on social media to create batches and batches of seasonal products until you’ve proven they will indeed be to your customers like truffles to pigs.

 

We’ll talk proper usage rates in our next blog post.

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

PS – The Raves for Faves issue is released on November 1st. If you have not yet subscribed or need to renew, simply follow this link: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

Tips for Overcoming Irritation

Life’s irritations. Without a doubt, we have a long list of them. From the shrill of the morning alarm to temper-tantrumed toddlers in the grocery store to rude customers, we deal with irritations every day, all day long. 

 

In thinking about it, I realized that life is full of irritations–inescapable by anyone in any circumstance. Rich people, poor people and those in between suffer them. Smart people and those who aren’t so smart encounter irritations. Although we do our best to plan our lives to avoid them, we cannot. We can only conclude then, that we are meant to deal with irritation and that an indicator of our character is how we deal with them.

 

How do I react when confronted with a demanding customer or relative?  What is my reaction when my creations don’t follow my imagination or schedule? How about the show that promised hoards of shoppers with loads of cash to spend, but produced a fraction thereof?

 

Yes, they’re all irritating and downright discouraging; and yet, we have the choice to let the irritations beat us down or to acknowledge them and make the best of the situation.

 

The saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.” I submit to you that every soap has a lather; every candle has a flame; every show has some kind of potential and every customer serves a purpose. We can choose to find how to best handle that soap, that customer or that flopped creation. Make the soap or candle into something different than you imagined and let that customer motivate you to develop a strategy to use the next time you get a someone like her or to correct the situation if she’s right. Observe other vendors to find out what they are doing that you can learn from and be brave enough to try something different.

 

Take a deep breath, gather your thoughts and go on.

 

If you can do it all with a genuine smile on your face, all the better!

 

What do you do to deal with irritation in your craft? Share your strategies.

 

Until  next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

Want to subscribe for more? Just go here:  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

Natural or Chemical? That is the Question–or is it?

Let’s talk, shall we?

 

I am not a chemist, but I hear the term, “chemicals” bandied about in a derisive way by so many of us seeking a more natural life. “I wouldn’t use those products with all those chemicals,” proclaims one. “Chemical-free” is on the label or on a website.

 

You know what I’m getting at.

 

So, what’s the problem? Many of us love making and using natural products, right? So why not eschew commercial products with “chemicals?” The problem is this: everything is a chemical or made of chemicals, natural or not. Even our beloved soap is a chemical process. In fact, Merriam-Webster defines a chemical as, “a substance (such as an element or compound) that is made by a chemical process.” 

 

Yes, it is true we know to a great extent what is meant, the synthetic substances that many of us began making products to avoid; but does this make it permissible to use the term so imprecisely?

 

In my opinion, it does not. It is one thing for John Q. Public to use it, but quite a different thing for those of us who have studied products and learned to make them to use it. A man or woman off the street often has only a vague idea about synthetics vs. naturals; so when they announce their dissatisfaction for synthetics by using the term, “chemicals,” we don’t expect this person to be precise in knowledge or terminology. If those of us who produce products use the terms incorrectly, however, it makes us appear ignorant. If we wish to establish credibility with our customers and our colleagues, we must continually learn and seek to use terms precisely.

 

Think of this in terms of soap. We mentally cringe when we hear detergent bars called soap, do we not? Do we not work to educate our customers regarding the difference between a 100% soap bar and a syndet bar? By the same token, we should work not to misuse terms ourselves, which will build up our credibility among our customers or friends and those in our field.

 

Go forth and use chemicals and chemical processes. . . naturally!

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

 

PS – interested in subscribing? You can do it quickly here: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/
As always, we’d love to hear what you think!

Bath or Shower?

Bath or shower? Which do you prefer? What about your customer base or friends and family?

 

Personally, I love a relaxing bath with herbs, milk, fizzy and other goodies, but the truth is that I rarely take one. I suspect that these days where most of us are rushing here and there or spending our days just trying to keep up with one task after another, bathing just seems like a time-consuming indulgence that we cannot afford.  That being said, my suppositions may not be true for your audience, and finding out is your job.

 

If you’re already considering scent and color, but forgetting about your customers’ preferences when it comes to showers vs. baths, you may be creating products that they don’t really use rather than creating the goodies they’re clamoring for.  Of course, it’s less crucial to concern yourself if you’re a hobbyist; yet the knowledge comes in handy at gift-giving time, when you give a gift they’ll really use!

 

So, how do you find out what your customers want? Ask!  Most will be very forthcoming about their preferences. Ask casually when conversing, form a focus group, conduct a survey or find your own unique way of getting information.

 

Of course, taking a little extra time for yourself is a good idea as is encouraging your customers and friends to do the same, but it’s easier to sell something they already know they want than to convince them they want what you’re selling.

 

 

PS: The upcoming issue of the Saponifier features cosmetics, all sorts of them! Not a subscriber? You can fix that: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

 Also, are you working on replicating the designs found in our Design Mania issue?  Take photos because our contest is coming! Details in the July 1st issue.

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

An Open Letter to New Soapmakers

So, you’re a brand new soapmaker. Welcome to the wonderful world of soapmaking!

 

As you’ve already realized, soapmaking is an attainable art, but one where a certain amount of knowledge is required. Chances are, you’ve asked for help from experienced soapmakers. Some of you, however, report a reticence to share from other, more experienced soapmakers. Fair enough.

 

It’s true that some soapmakers will not share information, instead expecting you to do your research and conduct your experiments to learn “the hard way.” Other soapmakers will share everything they know, perhaps to a fault. Most, however, fall somewhere in between. They want to help, but don’t want to feed everything to you on a silver platter.

 

Why? It’s because they know that the best knowledge is gained from experience and that shortcuts are seldom good teachers. Does that mean you have to tough it out on your own until you figure things out? No! As with everything, it’s not what you ask, it’s how you ask it that appeals to or rubs a veteran soapmaker the wrong way.

 

For instance, nothing turns off a veteran soaper more than hearing the following:

 

“I have never made cold process soap before, but want to sell soap at a craft sale in two months, so please give me a perfect recipe.” (Uh, no. No veteran wants to be part of a plan this foolhardy)

 

“I don’t want to waste ingredients and I’ve never used  ________, so please give me a foolproof recipe.” (Nobody likes to waste ingredients, but it doesn’t mean everything has to be handed to you)

 

“Hi, I want to learn how to make soap and where to get ingredients. Please tell me anything you know.” (Your question is too broad. We hardly know where to start.)

 

All of the above say, “I don’t want to work at it, but I will gladly take all you have worked for.” And yes, my colleagues and I have heard them all.

 

If you want to be a member in good standing of the the Happy Soapmaker Club, you’ll phrase your questions more like this:

 

“Hi, I’m a brand new soapmaker and eager to learn the craft. Please point me to a few reliable sources of information, so I can learn how to make soap the right way.”

 

“I’d like to add ____________ to my soap, but I’m unsure how to incorporate a new oil. Can someone help me or point me where to look for the information?

 

Do you see how the first set of questions come across as selfish and thoughtless of other soapmakers’ time and experience; whereas, the second set shows that you recognize the time and effort necessary to learn your new craft? Most of my colleagues are quite happy to help with specific questions and those that indicate you’re taking the initiative and time necessary to learn. Moreover, it’s simply true that experience is the best teacher, so resign yourself to the fact that not every batch will be “soap contest” worthy. We’ve all been there and continue to learn each day, so we expect nothing more or less from you.

 

Yes, welcome to the world of soapmaking, but be prepared to put some time and effort into learning your new craft!

 

If you want valuable information at your fingertips, subscribe to the Saponifier: http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

Soapmaking Oils: What are They all About?

“I am out of shortening. May I substitute another oil? I don’t want to use palm oil anymore. What can I use instead?”

 

These and similar questions are not uncommon among soapmakers. The answers are at times, simple, and at other times, not so simple. For instance, good 1:1 substitutes for shortening are tallow, lard or palm. Not so simple? The person who wants to substitute shortening without using any of the aforementioned oils! At this point, the soapmaker may have to rework his formula to find one that yields a similar bar.

 

In order to substitute oils, rework formulas or make up our own formulas, we need to know what each oil contributes to soap. This is best accomplished by learning about the fatty acids that make up each oil. The fatty acids that we track for soapmaking oils are: lauric, myristic, linoleic, linolenic, oleic, palmitic, stearic and ricinoleic.

 

Wait! Don’t let your eyes glaze over yet. Stick with me and I’ll try to make it easier.

 

Oils high in lauric and myristic acid contribute to a hard, lathering bar of soap. These include coconut, palm kernel and babassu oil.

 

Oils high in palmitic and stearic acid give us hard bars. These include palm, tallow, and shortening (the hardening which is further enhanced by hydrogenation). Additionally, butters such as cocoa, mango and shea, among some lesser known as illipe and mowrah butter.

 

Finally, oils high in conditioning are high in oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids. This encompasses a large number of oils such as sunflower, safflower, olive, sweet almond, and apricot kernel oil. Although these oils are primarily used for conditioning, they are thought to make soft soap. More about that in our next installment.

 

Learn your oils and you hold the key to creating the perfect soap bar!

 

Want more help with soapmaking? Subscribe today!

 

 Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

 

Oils, What’s Not to Like?

Oils. Who loves oils more than those who make soap and body products?

 

Many of us try as many oils as we can get our hands on (or afford), eagerly reading the fatty acid profiles and attributes of each oil while planning which products would be the best use of our precious oils.

 

To be honest, previous to soapmaking and bath and body, I never paid much attention to oil. I’d use it in cooking, but I never wanted it on my skin. Once I began my journey in producing skin products however, I saw oils in a totally different light. Oil was good. It was pure and was beneficial. It nourished my skin and helped me to heal. It had vitamins! Oil was in nearly every product I created, from soap to salves to lotion and more. What’s not to like?

 

And yet, the subject of oils causes a great deal of consternation among soap and bath and body makers. Which oils should I use? Which oils are good for soap or lotion or shampoo or liquid soap? Indeed, there is so much to learn that I feel as if I have only scratched the surface. I think I have a grasp on the breadth of oils available to me and then I hear of another one I never knew existed. Isn’t the continual opportunity to learn what makes this job or hobby so much fun? By the way, for the purposes of this discussion, my use of the term, “oils,” pertains to fats, as well.

 

Consider CP/HP soapmaking, for example. We have a hundred oils we might use, but we need to narrow our choices down to a manageable few. So, what do we choose? For a long time now, I’ve been convinced that if we were to choose our soapmaking oils and fats according to their fatty acid profiles and properties, we’d choose much differently than we often do and would value certain oils more than others because our opinions had no base in cost.

 

Nevertheless, we are usually restricted by price and availability, which may seem like a bad thing, but it isn’t. There is no shame in using inexpensive oils that are easily available. In fact, many would argue that using expensive luxury oils in soap is a waste of money since it’s washed off almost as soon as it’s applied. Others insist that certain oils, albeit pricey, give their soap a luxurious performance that cannot be matched with “everyday” oils.

 

I tend to side with the former, believing that some humble, commonly found oils are actually excellent oils, providing us with lovely soaps to bathe with.  What about you? Do you enjoy using more common, less expensive oils, or are you a person who appreciates oils more when they’re rare and expensive?

 

Either way, it’s a discussion that ends with, oils. . . what’s not to like? Want to learn more? Subscribe to the Saponifier!
 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth for the Saponifier

Hope That Works

Hope.  What do you think of?  Generally, we think of it as fulfilling a desire of some kind.  For instance, I hope you had a great holiday season, that you made the amount of money you projected, that you enjoyed the season and that you remained sane.  I hope you didn’t gain weight.

 

I was reminded, however, of a more archaic definition:  trust and confidence.  I find that I like that definition even better.  We have a trust and confidence in something coming to pass, whether it be in our businesses, our relationships, our bodies, spirituality or any number of facets of our lives.  Rather than a pleasant, but ineffective kind of “best wishes” hope, we have trust in the future.  I call it, “hope that works.”

 

I then ponder what it takes to produce confidence in the future.  Is it merely an idea of what we’d like see come to pass?  “I’d like to sell more product in 2014.”  How far will that get us?  Like most of our New Year’s Resolutions, they’re nice ideas, but not enough to move us, especially not for the long haul that 2014 will prove to be.

 

Therefore, rather than uttering general hopes, let us make them concrete and attainable.  Instead of, “I’d like to sell more product in 2014,” set a goal and a plan for getting there.  How much soap would you like to sell?  How will you accomplish it? What do you need to do to get ready?  Don’t forget to set realistic dates for each activity to keep yourself moving!

 

It’s more work than a wish, but it’s hope that works.

 

Don’t forget to put a Saponifier subscription on your to-do list for 2014.  You have just a few hours left to subscribe for a 25% discount:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saponifier

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Holiday Hopes

You’ve survived the holidays.  If you’re in the US, you stuffed yourself for Thanksgiving, and then partied and celebrated your way through Christmas or Hanukkah, etc.  Hopefully, in this time period you also sold soap, bath and body products and candles or gave your best efforts to friends and family.  What were your results? I hope that your experiences were all positive!

 

I’m always interested in finding what people like.  The best part to me of doing shows is to observe customers’ reactions upon seeing and smelling products.  I also like finding out what my loved ones like, whether they love lavender or are more partial to citrus.  If you’re a smart business person, you’ll watch and keep notes of what people like so that you make better product decisions in the future.  If you’re a smart gift-giver, you’ll want to keep notes of what your giftees like and what you gave them so that you can continue to give gifts that make them feel special.

 

In spite of the fact that the holiday season is when most retailers make the bulk of their money for the year, I do hope that you got more out of the season than money.  I hope that you were blessed by the love of family and friends.  I hope that you gave back to them and to your community.  I hope that you gave hope this year.

 

More on hope tomorrow.

 

Don’t forget.  Tomorrow is the last day to claim a subscription to the Saponifier for 25% off!  http://www.etsy.com/shop/Saponifier

 

Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

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