Thursday, October 30, 2008

End of market season...

So sad that last week was the last Saturday market in Nevada City. But we had a *great* time...this is by far, my most favorite venue. Can't wait to get back to it next summer!

I thought I'd post a quick photo of my market set up. The soap on the left shows the new soap size and orientation, the soap on the right is what I used to do. My soap is different from the rest "out there", it's actually really good stuff. So I wanted to make it visually a bit different than the standard soap bar.

I'm busy getting ready for "Paint the Town Pink" event tonight. If anyone is reading this today (Thursday, October 30th), you can still go to this event. It's being held at the Nevada County fair grounds (inside the big main building). The cause is breast cancer...all funds go to helping further cancer prevention and cure. The tickets are $30 at the door. Not only are you doing something good with that ticket purchase, but you'll have fun too! Lots of freebies, fashion show, food and wine. I've got two full boxes of soap samples and I want to give them ALL away tonight!

If I get a chance to take pictures, I'll post one sometime over the weekend.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fall Festivals in Full Swing!

We attended a really cool event yesterday...the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center Autumn Shindig. Wow, was that fun! I kick myself for not bringing the camera, there was so much to see.

My favorites were the organic cotton candy and yummy tamales, The Anderson Family bluegrass, and Penny the award winning face painter (she was *amazing*). There were organic farms with their beautiful fall veggies, jewelry, woven rugs, leather workers, and me, the local soap maker.

The weather was perfect, that filtered fall sunlight that makes colors seem more intense. The location, up in the hills on the way to Malakoff Diggins. It was a pleasure to be part of this group of vendors...several of which I know from my Saturday farmers market. The locals that we met were so friendly and fun, we're already looking forward to attending next year!

Hey, next Saturday, October 25th is our last Saturday market on Commercial Street in Nevada City. This market should be an extra fun one...costumes encouraged!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Fall is here...

I love fall, don't you? The burgundy, gold and orange leaves on the trees, the weather turning slightly chilly (ok, not today, but definitely at night), the occasional rain storm that leaves the air smelling fresh and's the best time of the year.

In the spirit of all that, I've created two new soaps. One is returning from last fall, "Pumpkin Harvest". It's scented with essential oils of allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, and it's loaded with fresh pumpkin puree. I only keep this around for the holidays, so after December, it gets retired once more.

The second new soap is "Carrots, Oats & Molasses". This soap is layered, top half is made with organic carrot juice and oats, the bottom half contains molasses and buttermilk. I left this bar unscented because the carrots and molasses lend their own sweet/nutty scent to the soap. I adore this one.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Soap 101 - Why lye?

I've been getting quite a few questions from customers about the use of sodium hydroxide (lye) in handmade soap. It's great that people are reading labels and questioning ingredients, I'm all for that. However, people need to understand that ALL soap (big emphasis on ALL) is made with lye.

Even the big companies, their soap has it's roots in lye. Some people may tell you that their soap has no lye in it, well to some extent, that's true. There is no lye in my soap either, because once the fats/oils/water/lye go through the chemical process called 'saponification', there is no lye left in the final product. But we all use lye to make the soap. Believe me, if there was a way I could eliminate one more expense, I'd do it (by not purchasing lye). But it's chemically impossible to make soap without it.

Legally, a soap manufacturer doesn't need to list 'sodium hydroxide' on their label. There are other ways to label that excludes the exact words 'sodium hydroxide', so I think this is where some of the confusion lies (no pun intended). I personally feel that it's more honest to list all ingredients used to make a product. That's why sodium hydroxide is on my soap label.

I wrote a one page hand out that explains soap and some of the more common misconceptions. I hope you find it an interesting read.


The Truth about Soap…

Most of the cleansing bars that you buy at the store are detergents, not soap at all. In the industry, they are called “syndet bars”, or synthetic detergent bars. They are made from synthesized chemicals, fillers, petrochemicals, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances.

On the other hand, real soap is made from plant oils (such as olive, coconut and palm) and is a gentle cleansing product more appropriate for use on skin than detergent. Animal fats can also be used to make soap, but we prefer to not use animal products.

Real soap is made by combining sodium hydroxide (lye), oils and water in a process known as "saponification". Some people may question the use of lye in handcrafted soap. The fact is, all soap is made with lye. Yes, ALL soap. What needs to be made clear is that once the process of saponification is complete, the lye and oil molecules have combined and chemically changed into soap and glycerin. There is no lye present in the finished bars of soap.

Saponification simply explained:
Water (or milks, herbal teas) + Fat (oils) + Lye (sodium hydroxide) = Soap with glycerin retained.

Important! Always Read the Ingredient Label
Just because the ingredients do not include the word lye (or sodium hydroxide) - doesn't mean it wasn't used. Soap ingredients can legally be listed three ways. Each example is the same bar of soap:
  • Ingredients: Water, Olive Oil, Tallow and Lye
  • Ingredients: Saponified Oils of Olive and Tallow
  • Ingredients: Sodium Olivate and Sodium Tallowate

Make certain you purchase soap from a soap maker or company that discloses the list of ingredients on the package. If the soap label states, “Vegetable Glycerin Soap”, there are other ingredients in that product that are not being disclosed.

The clear type of soap that is commonly referred to as “glycerin soap” or "melt and pour" is often mislabeled or not labeled at all. Here is a common ingredient list for this product:
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Sodium Stearate , Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid and Sodium Chloride.

And another (these folks get points for listing sodium hydroxide!):
Ingredients: Coconut Oil, Palm Oil, Castor Oil, Safflower Oil, Glycerine, Water, Sodium Hydroxide, Sorbitol, Sorbitan oleate, Titanium Dioxide.

This ingredient list is a collection of surfactants (synthetic foamers) and other chemicals I’d encourage you to look up. Often time’s alcohol is added to make this product meltable when heat is applied. Real soap does not melt in hot weather or direct sunlight.

Here’s another “soap” ingredient list, it’s for Dove’s sydnet bar:

Ingredients: Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoate or sodium palm kernelate, water, sodium chloride, sodium silicate, magnesium sulfate, and fragrance.

Here we have saponified beef fat, some vegetable oils, sodium silicate is a water glass or liquid glass (from Wikipedia), magnesium sulfate is more commonly known as epsom salt, and a synthetic fragrance. There is lye in this bar, they just choose to label their product to disguise this fact.

Compare these ingredient lists to real soap (in this example, Frontier Angel’s Soap formula):

Ingredients: olive oil, water, palm oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil, sodium hydroxide, rice bran oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, essential oils.

Real soap labels are much more pure and contain more natural ingredients than sydnet bars or clear “glycerin” bars, not to mention, they are easier to understand.

Last word of advice about ingredient labels…*always* ask the soap maker what's in their soap if it’s not listed. You wouldn’t eat something without knowing what’s in it (how much sodium/fat/preservatives), right? The same concern over ingredients should apply to soap as well.

There is no such thing as 100% glycerin soap

Sorry, it's true - there is not one on the market today. Glycerin is a clear thick liquid, similar in texture to corn syrup. It doesn't produce any lather or cleansing properties whatsoever. It is simply chemically impossible to make soap using only glycerin.

Bio-diesel soap is not made from 100% glycerin, contrary to what the makers of this product usually claim. Bio-diesel soap should never be used as a cleanser for the body due to trace quantities of methane, food particles and other undesirable waste products. This type of soap should be reserved for industrial use only.

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Copyright 2008