In the last few years, the interest in making one’s own soap or purchasing handmade bars has exploded. Many of these crafters take their profession quite seriously, investing in professional education, garnering experience and working to create the very best product they can. We are proud to count ourselves among them.
However, there are those who see handcrafted soap as a way to make a quick buck. Sadly, I’ve seen multiple Facebook and blog postings from people seeking advice with soap recipes, with some variation on the idea that they “need to churn out some soap and make extra money this summer.”
In its purest form, soap-making is mixing a base with a compilation of fatty acids to create a completely different product. While you do not have to be a chemist to make soap, it certainly helps to have more than a rudimentary understanding of the nature of the process, the interrelationships between the ingredients and what to do if the recipe suddenly goes awry.
Artisanal soap is a blessing to many and has helped many a person reverse dryness, itching and flaking. Artisan makers have the ability to individualize recipes, use only organic ingredients and create works of beauty and art for use while bathing. Premium soap is a small indulgence we are all entitled to in our hectic, stressful world.
So, how can you determine if your source of handmade soap comes from a knowledgeable and skilled artisan? Use these tips to help you discern quality before buying.
- Ingredients — An experienced soap maker should be able to tell you what they used to create the soap and, more importantly, the specific benefits of those ingredients.
- Type of process — Ask if the soap maker used a melt and pour, hot or cold process method — and why. If you get the deer in the headlights look, move on.
- Hardness — If you can press a divot into the soap, it may not be fully cured, or it may have a large percentage of liquid oils or soft butters. A lack of hardness can lead to the soap washing away quickly.
- Orange spots — This is an indication of excess oils in the recipe that were not converted into soap. The bar will eventually develop an odor and has the potential to go rancid and become unusable.
- Chalky or crumbly texture — This undesirable texture is a potential indication that too much lye was used making the soap. It will be highly alkaline and thus drying.
- Labeling — If the seller promotes their soap beyond being just a cleanser — moisturizing or conditioning, for example — they are legally required to list all the ingredients on the label or packaging.
- Certification — Dedicated handcrafted soap makers have the opportunity to become certified through the National Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild. Hundreds of makers achieve certification every year by investing the time and money into education/testing to ensure they produce a quality, skin safe product. Visit the National Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild to find one that appeals to you!