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

And the Winners Are. . .

Just in case you hadn’t heard who won in the five categories of our Design Mania Contest, you’ll want to read on.

 

To recap, our July/August issue was entitled, Design Mania, with tutorials on beautiful soap designs, written by some of the best in the business.  Following that, we asked readers to do their best at replicating those designs and then we let you vote on them.  The results were astounding.  Not only were all of the entries spectacular and artfully done, but we were delighted with the world-wide representation among those who entered.  Of our five winners, two were from the UK, one from Ireland, one from Italy and one from the US!  The winners are listen below, in no certain order:

 

 Giustiniano Francioso, Italy, Drop Swirl (tutorial by Celine Blacow).  Guitiniano is rather new at soapmaking, but his talent is remarkable.  He stated, “It’s my first time to take part in a soap challenge and it was really fun! I never expected to be a winner in a section, so I’m surprised and very happy!I’ve been making soap for one year and this kind of swirl is one of my favorites and  easy to create according to my capacities.

I thank the Saponifier that gave me the opportunity to participate and I thank all those who voted for me.  I hope in the future there may be other occasions like this.  Thank you all.”
Tanya Bainbridge, UK, Paint Chip (tutorial by Cathy McGinnis).  Tanya hit this one out of the park and explained, ”A huge thanks to everyone who voted for my soap – such a lovely surprise!  I really enjoyed the idea of the Paint Chip Challenge.  I’d not thought about getting inspiration from a paint swatch before Cathy originally demonstrated it using Design Seeds’ colours, but what a fabulous idea – it’s one I shall continue to go back to.   I love the magic revealed at the cutting, and how the colours swirl and work together.  I found that one of the most challenging things was being able to match the soap colours as closely as possible to the original swatch – lots of tweaking required; oh, and hoping that the soap didn’t set up too quickly while working on the layers (it was somewhat temperamental in this instance!)”
Carma Wood, USA, Squeeze Bottle (tutorial by Michelle Rhoades).  Carma enjoyed replicated Michelle’s design.  She related, “I loved trying this design!  It was a lot of fun and exciting to cut my soap, because I didn’t know exactly what it expect with this design.  Each slice turned out differently, but unique and beautiful :)  Thank you so much for the contest!  I’m so surprised and happy that I won!  Thank you again!”
Rebekkah Hay, UK, Peacock Swirl (tutorial by Amanda Griffin).  Rebekkah won our voting public over with her fabulous rendition of the Peacock.  She exclaimed, “Thank you very much to everyone who voted for me. I feel very blessed and encouraged. I had so much fun trying this technique and am looking forward to learn more.  Thanks again, I will now continue my happy dance.”
Celine Blacow, Ireland, Tiger Stripe (tutorial by Kendra Cote).  If you’ve seen Celine’s handiwork through the photos she posts or her You Tube videos (iamhandmade), you wouldn’t be surprised that she has won a prize in this contest.  Celine happily stated, “ Oh wow!!!  Thank you SO much, I’m really delighted!!”
Be sure to check out these artists’ work here:  http://saponifier.com/vote-design-mania-contest/.  To see the tutorials, you’ll have to purchase the July/August 2013 edition of the magazine:  http://www.etsy.com/listing/157577754/saponifier-back-issue-julyaug-2013?utm_source=connectionwithetsysh&utm_medium=api&utm_campaign=api.  For soap colorants, check out these companies:  www.celestialcolors.com and http://www.elementsbathandbody.com/Colorants-c-274.html.  See Michelle Rhoades site at:  www.mossycreeksoap.com.
Until next time, may your days be filled with bubbles and wax.
Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

The Soapmaker’s Sweet Spot

What kind of soapmaker are you?  Do you plan out your offerings far in advance?  Do you spend time developing intricate designs and precise colors?  Or, do you make soap as the spirit moves you?  Do you prefer soap with simpler colors and patterns, either because you’re not the fancy kind or to speed production?

 

A more important question to consider is whether it’s important or not to plan far ahead, to make artistically designed soaps, to be a free spirit or to keep it simple.

 

The answer, of course is, it depends–on a number of factors.

 

For some of soapmakers, simply making soap is the satisfaction, be it fancy or simple, unusually shaped or rectangle, scented or not, it doesn’t matter.  The magic of combining the alkali and oils and getting lovely soap is a reward unto itself.  For others, the design part of making soap is a large part of the attraction.  Artistic souls are moved by the possibilities of making patterns in striking color combinations and it keeps them going.

 

As for planning, well, planners know whom they are and free-spirits know whom they are!  For some, planning is painful and stifles creativity, so they make what they want when the spirit moves them.  Others find that careful planning  is the only way to get soap made and made well.

 

So then, should we all be striving for the same outcome?  Absolutely not!

 

If you’re selling soap, you realize that all things about your nature must be tempered by business demands.  It’s a simple fact that you cannot run a successful business without a good degree of planning, regardless of whether you enjoy it or not.  You also realize that you need to produce soap as quickly and as efficiently as possible in order to maximize time and thus, profits.  This realization usually forces us to streamline our creativity into something that we can do easily and can reasonably replicate.  Hobbyists, on the other hand, you have the freedom to spend as much time as you like to develop your skills and put your artistic abilities to work.

 

Even so, I hope that each soapmaker finds his or her “sweet spot.”  Gorgeous or utilitarian, rectangular or round, full of additives or not, well-planned or by-the-seat-of-your-pants, all have a place and a purpose.  Finding your purpose and working with your personality is the key to success, however you define it.  The Saponifier’s goal is to open you up to the possibilities to help you on your way.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne, for the Saponifier

 

PS – Subscribers, watch your inbox today for the 15th anniversary issue!  If you’re not a subscriber, quick!  You have a little time to make sure you get in on the fun:  http://saponifier.com/subscriptions/

Creating Your Signature Soap

Creating your own soap formulas; does the very thought appall you or does it excite you?  Perhaps you’re shrugging your shoulders saying, “I do that all the time.”  or “Been there, done that.  I worked and tweaked and found my own formula a long time ago.”  

 

If you identify with the former, read on.  If it’s the latter, well, read on to see if  you agree.

 

My opinion is that every soapmaker should eventually develop her own formula(s).  It’s fine to start out with a well-designed, simple formula, but somewhere along the line, she should become curious about other oils and percentages and manipulating them to create a signature soap that she loves.  Yes, some of us get a bit carried away with this concept and never stop tweaking, but that’s another story for another day.

 

I’ve known soapmakers who enjoy the experimentation part more than any other component of soapmaking.  I’ve also known a few who found a recipe in a magazine twenty years ago and have used that formula since and that one only.  I suppose that isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s a good formula, but you’ll be a more knowledgeable soaper if you step out of your comfort zone and learn more about various oils and methods by doing some research and experimentation.

 

If you’re a brand new soapmaker, by all means, get a good formula, follow the directions, and make soap (after after putting your formula through a lye calculator).  If your first batch turns out well, it will encourage you to keep going.

 

Once you become more familiar with making soap, study various oils to learn more about what they have to offer soap.  Some oils produce lather, some harden the bar and others are skin conditioning.  A balanced bar will include good percentage of each.  From there, you’ll probably look for formulas for specialty soaps, such as facial bars and mechanics soap.  That’s where knowing your oils will come in handy and will save you valuable time and supplies in formulating those bars.

 

After some time and trials, you’ll consider yourself a knowledgeable soapmaker.  You’ll realize how little you knew at the beginning, and even though your soap was good then, you’re just so much smarter now!

 

Have you created your own formulas yet?  Are you fearful of doing so, or have you enjoyed the process?  Share with us what you’ve learned.

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

It’s Scentsational!

Have you been too busy with after-holiday chores to sit down with your newest edition of the Saponifier?  Well, do as I did.  Pour yourself a nice cup of tea and sit down for a bit to rest and rejuvenate for 2013.  

 

This issue (January/February 2013) is a particularly enjoyable one because it’s all about scent, and few topics interest soap and candle junkies as scent does.  From the lovely cover photograph that sets the tone to Aaron Polczynski’s advice on selling more of your wonderful, scented creations in, Tips for Soap Sales at any Venue, to a cupcake tutorial (and don’t we love the smell of cupcakes?) authored by Loyce Henderson, you’ll be treated with a great read.  Of course, since you’re this far in, you’d might as well also read, Tammy Lane’s, Holidays You’re Going to Love.  It will help you plan ideas for producing and uniquely marketing all of those wonderful items you can give or sell  this new year.

 

If you’re building a line of scents and are looking for advice, be sure to read, Creating a Scentsational Line by Beth Byrne.  She interviewed Jo Lasky, who is a treasure trove for all things scent and most generously shared some of her knowledge with us!

 

If you’re a soap history buff, you’ll devour Melinda Coss’, Savoir Faire, where she describes the history of soapmaking in France, as well as explaining the current situation that soapmakers face there.

 

What scent could be more wonderful than the scent of herbs?  If you’re hankering to begin an herb garden this year, let Wayne Gorman help in his article, Herb Gardening 101.  

 

Isn’t this the perfect time for trying new formulations in body butters?  Marla Bosworth treats us to formulas and instructions for, Winter Comfort:  Slip Into Rich Cocoa and Vanilla Body Butters.  Mmm. . . I can smell them already!  This is also the best time of year, at least in my hemisphere, for enjoying candles.  You’ll find Lyschel Bersch’s Testing for Wick Size in Candles to be informative and helpful.

 

When it comes to narrowing down a scent line, you’ll enjoy Victoria Donaldson’s survey of friends and  family in, Because it Smells Good!  Armed with the most popular scents of our 2012 Raves for Faves article, Victoria describes how various individuals decided upon their favorites and why.

 

Other than making all of the goodies, what could be a better way to spend a little time than reading about them?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Molds: Not Just a Tool, but a Passion!

Soap molds.  They come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and materials.  Some need to be lined; others don’t.  You’ll find fancy molds and plain jane log or slab molds built with scrap wood in just a few hours.  Molds aren’t just a tool, but a passion!

 

We soapmakers love our molds.  For some of us, a walk through the grocery or hardware store is more of a mold-finding expedition than it is securing food for our families or tackling our next diy project.  Every empty container is eyed as a potential soap mold.  We even have our families trained to save containers that appear to be suitable for soap.  This was especially true for me as a beginner making melt and pour soaps.  I used empty juice cans, plastic packaging and bottoms of soda bottles, to name a few.  In doing so, I also learned what didn’t work.  The plastic packaging had to hold up to hot soap being poured into it and a rigid plastic would be next to impossible to remove soap from.  Yes, every soapmaking session was an adventure in resourcefulness and creativity, and it was fun.

 

This kind of behavior isn’t conducive to production soapmaking, yet many of even the most seasoned soapmakers engage in the practice at least once in awhile.  And why not?  It keeps us on our toes and renews our creativity.  It might even lead to the Next Big Thing in our product lineup!  If you think about it, we might not have round soaps had it not been for some clever person  in the hardware store who took a gander at pvc piping, or upon emptying his cylindrical can of potato chips wondered, “Hmm. . . can this be used for soap?”  What’s even better is how soapers share their discoveries so that all might benefit from both their successes and their failures.

 

What about you?  What is the most unique container you’ve ever used for soap?

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

 

Beth Byrne for the Saponifier

Suited Up and Suitable for Soaping (and Candlemaking)

How do you dress to make soap or candles?  Are you covered head to toe in protective gear or are you be found in a t-shirt, shorts, and bare feet?

 

If it’s the former, you’ll want to read on to feel good about yourself or to make sure you’re doing things the right way.  If the latter, well, consider this a lecture.

 

Making soap and candles comes with inherent dangers, mainly pertaining to heat and caustic substances.  We’ve all heard stories about people being burned by lye, caustic soap getting in the eye, burns from a forgotten pan of wax.  To be sure, things happen.  Soap gets spilled on the floor, unnoticed.  A pot volcanoes, sending soap lava out of the pot and all over the surface it’s sitting on.  The candle wax heated up faster than you thought it would and flames appear.  A properly suited up person is in a better position to react quickly and safely than one who isn’t.

 

If it seems like overkill, think about it as if you were an employee of a company or that one of your loved ones was.  What if that company allowed its workers to be barefoot, making soap?  What if your child or other loved one were put to work in that environment without access to safety gear?  I can predict that you would rightfully expect that both you and your loved ones would be properly protected, so offer the same to yourself.

 

Chandlers, think you’re off the hook?  Not so fast!.  Hot wax is dangerous and cannot be removed easily, so as with soapmaking, shoes and socks and a heavy apron are essential equipment for protecting from splashes.  Long sleeves and eyewear are also important.

 

Even in creating bath and body products, certainly safety rules must be obeyed.  The first one that comes to mind is a mask to filter out particulates from powders such as cornstarch and powdered herbs.  The second is to protect the skin from scent by wearing gloves.

 

Finally, wearing a respirator mask when working with scent, whether fragrance oils or essential oils, is just plain smart.  We often worry about scent in regards to our customers, but tend to forget that we are exposed to much stronger scents, more frequently and for longer time periods than  the average user and thus, are more likely to develop problems with scent than the general public.

 

My advice:  get yourself suited up so you can safely pursue your craft!

 

Until next time,

 

May your days be filled with bubbles &  wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Meh or Yeah?

As I was showering the other day, I noted how quickly my husband and I go through soap.   It’s a good thing I make it!  

 

You see, hubby likes that soap-to-body experience– no wash cloths or soap savers for him.  I’ve tried to convince him to use them, but to no avail.  He also tends to judge a soap by its lathering capability, the more lather, the better.  You can quite imagine how low he would rate castile soap.  Moreover, he isn’t particular about scent, as a general rule. If it’s in the shower, he’ll use it.  He also likes larger bars than I do, and prefers rectangles.

 

I confess that I like lather, too, but I also like soap savers, cloths, and other cleansing and holding devices.  Additionally, one of my criterion in soaping is to make a hard soap, except for facial use.  Not that I don’t engineer it to be moisturizing, but if my batch wasn’t hard, then I would consider a batch to improve upon.  I do enjoy a wide variety of scents,  whether essential oils or fragrance oils and yet, I am much more discriminating when it comes to scent than hubby is.  I like different shapes in soap as long as they fit in my hand, as well.

 

Of course, as a soapmaker, I am more attuned to colors and patterns in soap than most of the general public is, and admire those so skilled as to create them.  That same consideration ranks at the bottom of my husband’s checklist.

 

Thinking about our marked preferences caused me to wonder, what makes soap perfect in your book?  Do you insist on hard bars?  Do you search for the most conditioning oils and make them a large percentage of your soap?  Perhaps scent is your biggest concern or you prefer only essential oils or only fragrance oils.  Is a particular shape or size your favorite?  Does it have to be artistic or do you prefer Plain Jane?  Are soap savers and so on, a godsend or a hindrance?

 

Tell us about your perfect bar.  What changes  ”meh” into  ”yeah” for you?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne

Are You a Mad Scientist or Tried and True?

Oil.  I never thought in my life that I would care so much about oil.  Animal or vegetable, organic or refined, it captures my interest.  And for what reason?  Making soap, of course!  Now, I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur of oils and enjoy using many of them and experimenting with them in soap and other products.  Do you?

 

Oil choices and percentages play a major part in making good soap and a soapmaker who wants to be knowledgeable simply cannot remain ignorant of each oil they use and its properties.  Certainly, it’s possible to make soap out of 100% coconut oil or 100% olive oil, and it is common.  In fact, some of the world’s most famous soaps are 100% olive oil.  Yet, to my way of thinking, a truly wonderful bar comes from a mix of oils, each with properties that contribute to a bar that is moisturizing, cleans well without stripping the skin, lathers up well, and is hard enough to last in the tub or shower.

 

How do we find out which oils do what for soap?  Research and experimentation is the answer.  Begin with an established formula and tweak the oils until you reach what for you, is the perfect soap.  It’s part of the process for becoming a confident soapmaker.  Hint:  recipes that you run across calling for a can of this and a cup of that are best ignored.  Can sizes may change over time, so if it doesn’t state what that can size is by weight, move on.  Cup and other types of non-weighed  measurements are also potential problems. Why?  Because even cup measurements from cup to cup can vary, so a cup of shortening might not weigh eight ounces, and lye calculations are based on the weight of each oil.  You could potentially end up with either a very soft batch or a lye-heavy one.  Soap isn’t as forgiving as cooking and the ingredients were meant to be weighed out.

 

But what about you?  Perhaps you have a formula that you have used for years and you’re very happy with it, so you see no need to waste time or money on changing it.  You admit that you know just so much about each oil that goes into your soap, but you do know how to produce a consistent product from batch to batch.

 

Where product production is concerned, I understand the need for a consistent formula, but couldn’t exist without my r&d (research and development) time, but that may not be true for all.

 

Weigh in (no pun intended).  Are you an experimenter (mad scientist) type or a tried-and-true soap/bath and body maker?

 

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

 

Beth Byrne

It Takes all Kinds!

I was thinking recently about all the types of soapmakers and candlemakers out there.

 

Some like to keep things as basic and natural as possible.  In fact, if it were possible to make soap without lye, these individuals would do it.  These candlemakers use natural waxes as opposed to using paraffin wax.

 

At the opposite end of the spectrum, we know soapmakers who are concerned only with the process or the art of soapmaking and are willing to use whatever resources are at their disposal to make the soap they love.  The same is true for some chandlers whose main goal is either production or beauty.  It’s not that this group of crafters don’t care if their products are safe, they just believe that the legal ingredients they use are safe for their customers so they are free to use them as they desire.

 

Most of us, however, fall somewhere between the two extremes.  Some of us insist on organic carrier oils, but scent with fragrance oils. Others use only essential oils, but use synthetic or nature identical colorants.   Still others use no soy or no animal products or no palm oil.  Moreover, good share of cosmetic makers are searching for effective natural preservatives.

 

The choices are nearly limitless and may cause confusion for both newbies and the experienced alike.  What’s really natural or acceptable?  How much not-so-natural is acceptable?  If I make products without regard to their naturalness or acceptability to various groups, are my products inferior?  Add to that other concerns such as moral ones or sustainabililty and you have an entirely new set of questions.

 

With this vast array, we might believe that life would be much easier if we weren’t offered so many possibilities.  What does it gain us?  Quite a bit, actually.  First of all, it causes us to do research, the result being more knowledgeable artisans.  Secondly, it provides us with niche markets.  We can sell to vegans or vegetarians, to those looking for a more natural way of life, customers who avoid certain groups of ingredients or those who are seeking products they like the looks, scent, and performance of.  It really does take all kinds!

 

Where in this wide spectrum do you find yourself?

 

Until next time, may you happily wade in bubbles & wax.

 

Beth Byrne

Next Page »