14 April 2012

Handmade Soap

Today's Guest Post is brought to you by Celine Blacow, handmade soap maker.  Her soaps actually look edible as you'll see from the beautiful photographs.

Why Buy Handmade Soap?


It's a good question - why should you pay €5 for a bar of soap when you can go to the nearest Lidl or Euro Store and buy 10 bars of their cheap soap for that price?


Ask yourself "How well do I value my skin?"  Did you know that your skin is the largest organ in your body? In an adult, it covers 3,000 square inches and without it, the body cannot survive. So, I bet you value your skin now that I told you that?!


So let’s look at the El Cheapo brand of soap you can buy in your local Euro Store - many of the industrial manufactured soaps are made with harsh chemicals that can strip your skin of its natural moisturisers. How often do you use a soap that smells really nice but makes your skin really rough, dry and red afterwards? Too often?


On the other hand, artisan handmade soap is designed for various skin types by the choice of oils and additives used. For example, Olive Oil is a superb oil for making soap and has been traditionally used for years in Castile soap - why? Because it is excellent for your skin; it's a natural humectant (that is, it draws moisture from environment, into your skin). Other oils such as Sweet Almond and Avocado are particularly good for dry, sensitive or mature skins and additives such as clays and a clever blend of essential oils can really help oily skins.


Every single bar of handmade soap contains natural glycerine - this is produced as a result of the chemical reactions that take place when soap is made and it is an amazing ingredient as it, again, draws moisture from the air into your skin.



Asian Pear & Lily Handmade Soap

Remember the El Cheapo brand you were thinking of buying? Well, the manufacturers of that are watching their bottom line all the time - pound for pound, glycerine costs more than soap, so they cleverly remove it from the industrially made soap and sell it on to cosmetic manufacturers making a nice big profit - after all, they've made soap and glycerine so they have two products to sell. They've sold the glycerine to companies that make lotion ... you know, the exact same lotion you have to use after using the soap because it makes your hands so dry... do you hear their ching ching as the dollar signs pop up in their eyes?! Do you begin to wonder if El Cheapo really is such a bargain after all?


As a soapmaker and lover of handmade soap, I appreciate the value that glycerine brings to my skin. All of my handmade soaps retain all their skin loving glycerine so, whilst the soap cleanses, it also helps to moisturise and condition your skin. I wouldn't know how to remove it even if I wanted... but I don't, I like it in there, it loves me, it loves my skin.


Buttered Maple Pecan Pure Silk Handmade Soap


So, you might be wondering how handmade soap is actually made ... here comes the science bit - to make soap, you need oils and/or butters, liquid and lye. What is lye? Lye is an acid that, when it comes into contact with the fats, will cause a chemical reaction called saponification - this is what turns the oils/water/lye combo into soap. Will the lye burn your skin? Absolutely not - in fact, it's not even present in the final soap - the full
chemical reaction will have changed the basic oil/water/lye combination into soap (this is why you don't see lye written as part of the ingredients because it's not there in the final product).


For handmade soaps, the oils/butters combination chosen is very interesting - a clever soap designer can create a formulation to increase a soaps conditioning power, cleansing power, hardness and bubble factor. They can adjust a recipe to suit any skin type - not only that, but they can add other ingredients that boosts the soap performance. Additives such as herbal infusions, the use of milks/creams as the liquid portion, clays etc will each add their own unique features to the soap. In this way, you are actually purchasing a designer item - designed with you in mind!


I only choose the highest quality pure skin-loving oils for use in my soaps (after all, I use them too and I love having good skin). Oils such as Olive, Coconut, Apricot Kernel, Rice Bran, Avocado and Sweet Almond are used along with rich butters such as Shea and Cocoa Butters that help to enhance the moisturizing capabilities of the soap. I do use Palm Oil but only use an organic variety that comes from a sustainable source.

I love fragrance and colour – it brings happiness to my life! I fragrance my soaps with a blend of Essential Oils and Fragrance Oils (these are synthetic aromatic oils that often contain essential oils as their basis). Some people worry about the use of "synthetic" fragrance oils but be assured that all the oils and colours we use are specifically designed for cosmetic use and are totally skin safe. I only use colours that are cosmetic safe and allowed for use in the EU … but there are a huge number of these and I love to use a blend of bright, vivid colours highlighted with white but I do some more muted soaps too, it all depends on what way the muse moves me that day.


Zest For Life Pure Silk Handmade Soap


I often choose additives such as Coconut Milk, Buttermilk, Goatsmilk, Aloe Vera and, my absolute favourite Tussah Silk to include in my soaps - these add an extra luxury element and are hugely moisturising. And, you'll have noticed that I also like to use some very natural ingredients from my own kitchen storecupboards such as various milks, oats, carrots, lavender, poppy seeds etc because they all add their own beauty to the soaps.

Once you've decided that your skin is worth it, make sure to take care of your handmade soap - keep it stored out of water on a soap dish or soap drainer and use a natural sea sponge, cotton washcloth or shower scrubby to get biggest bubbles ever from your soap - this helps foam it up even more which means you end up using less than if you just rubbed it directly on your body. Loving your soap means it'll last longer and that means value for money!


So... do you still fancy buying the El Cheapo brand of, ahem, soap or do you want to venture into the heady world of handmade, artisan products - products I like to think of as practical art, designed and handmade, produced with care and attention and a loving respect for not only the product but the customer too?

When you think about it, €5 for sheer luxury ingredients and a once off piece of useable designer art is such a bargain... maybe you should buy lots?!!

Written by Celine Blacow of www.iamhandmade.com who is a Soap Maker/Designer based in Dublin, Ireland. Please feel free to check out her blog at www.soaperstar.blogspot.com and her You Tube channel (if you are particularly interested in the making of handmade soap) at www.youtube.com/thesoaperstar.