What are we not telling you?

Soap maker’s love what they do.  I know I do.  To bring something useful, beautiful to look at and a wondrous experience to smell is a joy I love to share with others.  I constantly try to find new ways to make things better, make them prettier, longer lasting, smell better and make you feel better.  But I can’t tell you that.  FDA regulations prohibit that.

As a soapmaker, we can only tell you it cleans, smells great.  Period.  End of sentence.  We cannot make any claims that it softens rough, dry skin, that it exfoliates to bring back your skin’s youthful glow and appearance.  We cannot tell you it helps with acne, psoriasis or eczema.  Nope.  We tell you it cleans. We’d love to be able to tell you what it does to help your skin look and feel healthier, but we can’t.  So, we have to leave it to you to educate yourself in the various ingredients we are obligated to place on our labeling.

About that….labeling.  Since some like to say ‘it softens’, it’s no longer just a soap, it’s now a cosmetic.  Big difference and it become obvious in the labeling.  We then have to use the INCI – International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients. We learn Latin quickly as least as far as it extends to plants, oils, seeds and other additives.  Those long, multi-syllabic Latin words on the back of every bar of soap many of us make is the Latin name for the oils and other ingredients we’ve used to make that fabulous bar of soap.  We list them in descending order, too, by the way.  The common name is also given along with the INCI name so you can find those ingredients through an online search and discover for yourself what it is.

So why do we use the things we do in our soaps?  We have very good reasons for using the many oils, butters, clays, humectants, etc available to us today.  We’ve studied, done our research then applied that knowledge to a recipe for a product that will perform as specific function.  However, that function cannot be told directly to you because then we’d be beholden to the FDA to the tune of thousands of dollars in testing, certifications, fees etc before we could ever release one thing to you.  We know we’ve made something wonderful!  We’ve tested it on ourselves and others who’ve volunteered.  No animals ever.  We’ve tweaked and honed, modified or scrapped it altogether to start over before you ever see it on our shelves or online stores.  But for most of us, we could not afford FDA regulatory demands to provide you with these amazing products even though we’ve had plenty of positive feedback on it, glowing testimonials, requests for more or larger amounts.

So now to the nitty-gritty of what I add to my products and why.

I love Sweet Almond Oil!  INCI – Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis. Why do I use it?  It’s light – light in colour, light on the skin, and sinks in to soften and moisturize.  It’s in all of our bar soaps, several oil-based products such as Body Oil and sometimes I use it in lip butters. (Why lip butters and not balms? FDA regs state a balm is a drug, so it’s butters for us.) Emulsified and/or hydrogenated forms of almond oil are used for specialized butters infused with beneficial essential oils.

Coconut Oil – INCI Cocos Nucifera.  This gives your bars that foaming bubbling action.  The more coconut oil in a bar, however, can be drying, so there’s a fine line to steer along in making your bar no longer super bubbly but now it’s drying you out and you’re making a mad dash to the lotion bottle.

Olive Oil – INCI Olea Europaea. A mild oil, popular in baby soaps and used as the only ingredient in castille soaps, thus the reputation for mildness they boast. It takes about 1 year for this soap to fully cure out which is why you don’t see much of it around as our fellow soapmakers sell out extremely fast and have trouble keeping it in stock continuously.  Great moisturizing oil and gives stable lather to soaps containing other oils.

Argan Oil – INCI – Argania spinosa nut oil.  Excellent oil for use with hair care products in that it offers soothing, softening character to the hair’s cuticle.  It’s great when blended with jojoba for hair serums for calming the frizzies, which can apply to women’s hair care as well as mens facial hair. You find it in many mens & womens grooming products and  shampoos.

Cocoa Butter – INCI – Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter. This gives our bars a creamy, rich dense lather, particularly when used in combination with coconut milk!  It doesn’t take a lot and the results are beyond your wildest dreams.  Cocoa butter is used widely for body butters, helping with soothing tight, dry skin, provides antioxidants, and makes for a butter that is hard but melts on body contact.

Grapeseed – INCI – Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil.  I love using this one in our Bugs Me Not. Lightweight oil because it absorbs quickly, leaving no heavy greasy after-feel. Typically used in anti-acne recipes for this reason.

Mango Butter –  INCI – Mangifera Indica (Mango) Seed Butter.  Another that provides rich, creamy lather and it also conditions the skin without feeling heavy or sticky.  It’s often found in lotions, body butters, lip balms and used as a superfat for bar soaps.

Rice Bran Oil – INCI – Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil.  Many use this as a close sub for olive oil because of its mildness and its contributions to a creamy lather.It’s ideal for mature or sensitive skin.

Shea Butter – INCI – Hydrogenated Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter). Gives a hard bar with conditioning silky feeling lather that stable.  It helps skin troubled by blemishes, dryness & wrinkles.  It’s great in body butters, but lends those same qualities to bar soaps. In body butters, lip balms or lotions, it can feel a bit heavy, but is so beneficial, it’s worth including at low percentages.

Stearic Acid – (that is the INCI name).  We use this in our cream soaps to lend thickness and body to the soap.  It offers creamier lather that is superior in stability, which cream soap needs since many use it for shaving, which we all know can take a while.  Sometimes it’s used in bar soaps, but I have not included it in any of my bar soap recipes except for the shave bars.

Sunflower Oil – INCI – Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil. Sunflower seeds are packed with Vitamin E (INCI – Tocopherol) which you probably already know is a powerful anti-oxidant.  This alone makes it a valuable ingredient in many applications!

Aloe Vera – INCI – Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice.  A wonderplant in my opinion! It’s fantastic is all types of soaps, blends into shea butter for an outstanding moisturizer that soothes, cools, and helps in healing skin that’s injured by any means.  Great in lotions, body butters, hair care products, balms, liquid soaps, cream soaps & bar soaps.

Coconut Water – INCI – Cocos Nucifera water.  Rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, enzymes, amino acids, cytokinins and antioxidants, coconut water is typically taken from a young coconut.  One still slightly green.  It’s a great thirst quencher and that characteristic remains when applied to lotions, bar soaps, cream soaps and liquid soaps.  The cytokinins are thought to slow down the aging process while the water hydrates to give skin a more glowing, youthful appearance.

These are just for starters!  There are virtually thousands of additives available to the savvy soap maker looking to raise the bar on her soaps’ quality and properties.  We all want to help people feel better but we can’t tell you how or by what means.  We simply research and hope you’ll reach out and ask why we do what we do with the things we use.  We are always happy to enlighten out customers.  What do you want to know more about?  Is there a special herb, clay, additive of another sort you’re seeking help with?  Want to know more?  Feel free to email me to read more.  I’m always happy to help!

neecysnecessities@live.com

Quiet places, fragrant spaces

Let’s take a lazy Sunday afternoon stroll.  We’ll direct ourselves towards the most beautiful part of Charleston – the Battery and rainbow hued line of homes nestled happily in the same area as historic old homes that soar majestically across the street from the warm waters of the ocean.  The light is fading softly into twilight.  The sky pinkens as lavender sends slender strands above our heads but we don’t see that.  Our minds are floating along on the breeze that is pulling us to the sidewalks that front those glorious old homes, their whispers of stories long past teasing us as we walk by.  A scent is calling to us, like a siren song, we cannot resist.  It’s the scent of history, secret hideaways where trysts could occur at any given time, a heady perfume that taunts us.  Its the scent of the south at its exotic best. The blooms of day have done their best, leaving their perfume behind to fill the air yet the shy blooms of the night are already beginning to reveal their beauty and a redolent fragrance that rivals the finest perfume houses of France.  

hidden garden with fountain softened

hueandeyephotography

Those pristine homes along the waterside slowly wink on with light within and suddenly we are offered a chance to bear witness to sweeping staircases that arch around the walls of great entryways where white-gloved hands once glided as well-dressed young women descended to parties or balls.  History is whispering to us to stop, be still and listen to its story.

Spanish Moss in a garden softened

found in pinterest

A gentle breeze lifts us, guides us, a casual brush of the bearding Spanish Moss that drifts from the trees we saw on earlier walks through old live oaks.  Their ghost-like appearance gives us a chill yet a sense of relief as well from the heat of the day.  Summer in the south can be hard on a body.  Hot, humid, sticky, making your sofa or bed call to you like a lover to rest, cool off for just a little while.

That mindset, that lazy relaxed feeling is all my mind sees when I breathe in the glorious fragrance that is called Elderflower.  Originally purchased from Mad Oils (it can now be found at Arizona Mad Oils), the flowers for this batch were made back in the winter of this year.  The leaves were piped from  Soap Dough recipe #001 from Sorcery Soap’s second book as this type of soap recipe lends itself perfectly to reach a consistency ideal for piping with pastry bag and tips.  I love approaching soap dough this way.  It’s far more comfortable for me than shaping, though the flowers were done that way with punches and the same dough recipe.  Using a piece of plastic over the punch smooths out the edges to make the flowers much more realistic, softer, prettier.

Soap Dough Flowers and Leaves.jpg

Hand Shaped Flowers and Piped Leaves 

This was done in a tall, skinny mold and only one colour for the swirl within.  For this one, it isn’t about the swirl, it’s about the scent.  That scent.  Words fail.  Bad thing to say in a blog, isn’t it?  But adequately describing the scent and the feelings it evokes is nearly impossible.  It’s a scent of summer days, walks through shady groves on well-worn paths and trees older than our country surrounding us on both sides.  It’s one of old homes that housed the elite and the everyday man while living in a time and area that speaks softly of gentility, well-groomed person and manners to match and dripping glasses of sweet cool tea.  The occasional lemonade doesn’t go amiss, of course, nor would a mint julep, two fingers of the finest bourbon to be had and a cigar that sends curls of smoke around our heads on a wrap-around porch.

You feel that cool greenness from those secret gardens tucked away from sight, the heady blooms that open in the heat of the day as well as those that only shine their best at night.  It’s a glorious blooming of many flowers that are pristine, deeply green in stem and leaf, dance in the summer rain.  This is a newfound favorite.

Full and fun size bars

Full size and Fun size bars

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unique Yet Useful

DSCN1385These cupcake silicone molds, originally meant for cake, or brownies if you prefer, were discovered in Amazon and they were an immediate Must Have.  I had to try these in a soap cupcake.  In they went into a cart and bazinga! they arrived a couple of days later! Thank you Amazon Prime!

For this batch, I chose a milk soap.  A boozy batch might discolor too much into the dark side, which I didn’t want, well only partially, so I stuck with a coconut milk soap.  I suppose if you prefer goat milk you could use that, but I don’t use goat milk in any of my soaps.  The only milk I’ve used for the past several years has been coconut.  It adds a richness to the lather I don’t get with any other milk.  It also makes the soaps vegan-friendly.  The batch was split 1/3 – for the pot & 2/3 for the dirt.

DSCN1387 The color was a blend of two Mad Micas – Tangerine Dream and Hot Man on a Tin Roof.  To explore their magnificent micas for yourself, click here.  This was poured into each little ‘pot’ to a set level, then a ‘spacer’ was placed down into the soap to push it up to the top as much as possible and create a space into which the’dirt’ portion would be poured.  centre spacers DSCN1388The glass beads weighed the spacers down.  I really doubted the cups would be pushed upwards but wasn’t taking chances. They stayed in overnight then were removed.  The dirt part was made and tinted with more of the Hot Man on a Tin Roof.  dirt portion poured

After the ‘dirt’ set up, which was after a another two days, it was time to make some soap dough using a recipe from Bee Iyata’s second book, A Soap Recipe Book of Light and Shadow which you will find here.  It creates a smooth piping consistency unsurpassed by any other types of soap I’ve tried.  So this batch was destined to become the leaves, using Mad Mica’s Lorne Green, which is a soft medium tone green with a slight gold overtone.  I added a pinch of  their Crazy Eyes Green for a bit of depth.  DSCN1395 Once it was adequately thickened for piping, the leaves were piped on and a dollop was added to some Russian piping tip flowers I’d made with a soap dough recipe from the same book last winter that were then hand-tinted.  It’s a natural feel for me, approaching soap dough in this way.  I’m a former cake baker/decorator so a pastry bag in my hand is very comfortable, familiar.  Fresh Flowers Webshot_1840_1738

The Tangerine Dream was not deep enough, so next time I’ll use more!  There are several things I’d do differently if another batch is made one day, steps eliminated, thus making this a far easier and less labor-intensive project to produce.  As is, it would be obscenely expensive to make on a regular basis from the labor alone, so it’s not one I’ll make any profit on once these are all gone, but the smiles they bring are more of an incentive to repeat than a monetary one.

In this business you have to love what you do, to be in it for the love of it, to let it give you a creative outlet through which you express your joy of the craft, the desire to make something unique yet useful for someone, even a stranger far away, knowing they’ll smile when they see these for themselves in their hands while you’re at home and never see that response to your work.  That is what makes it worthwhile for me.  Some things are done for the sheer joy of it.  No personal gain is expected or even wanted at times.  I don’t often approach my work in that mindset, but now and then a playful side sneaks out and wants to play in the sunshine.  It gets its time in the sun because it’s deserved, earned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can never have too much support

As an entrepreneur, support is vital from every direction,  every skill level, every demographic and every professional network out there within your industry.  Over and above all of those is family.  Family support can easily make or break a business.  When your siblings, your parents, your spouse, your children, (whatever applies to you presently) support what you do and make an effort to help get your business known, the brand is spoken of in public at the right time in the right place, it means more than your own life’s efforts to you personally and professionally.  The more supportive, the better.

With my own business, in a very competitive town with so many bath & body crafters already saturating our town, it’s nearly impossible to find a market that will allow you the opportunity to sell in their market.  If they already have a soap or bath & body product crafter, they aren’t interested in having a second one in their market, even if the two types of soaps or lotions are miles apart in looks or content.  Enough “No thank you” and “Sorry , no room left!” have been said to make me think twice about my career change.

I left a part-time position with no benefits, no decent pay rate, no paid vacation or sick leave for personal reasons.  Sticking with my bath & body business became more vital than ever at that point.  It’s long hours, 7 days a week, no paid vacations, no benefits, but it feeds a part of me that needs feeding.  It’s necessary for me to make something useful, something (hopefully) beneficial, something beautiful that brings others a smile.  Makes them happy inside and out.  Makes them feel better.  To feel better for your own sake is… well, nothing’s better than that!

As a bath & body crafter, that support is coming first from my wonderful, adorable husband.  It was his encouraging words that pushed me to step off into the deep end of the entrepreneurial pool again and go back into business for myself, making soap this time around.  In case you’re wondering, the first time around, I was a baker.   Breads, cakes, cookies, pies.  Desserts and treats.   I loved it.  Still do and miss it….occasionally. But now I’m running an online business selling bar soaps, liquid soaps, cream soaps, a hybrid of liquid and cream soaps with sugar for a creamy rich sugar scrub, lip balms, lotions, body creams, body whips, and plans for other lines running fast and furious through my overactive brain.  I love it and my brain never stops thinking of future possibilities!

Support came from other avenues as well.  My youngest son (28 years old now) has touted my business almost from day one and that boosted my self-esteem back up where it needed to be to march forward even when things were flagging.  My love of the work never wavered, but the need to rethink whether to close or keep trying faltered more times than I’ll confess to anyone.  This biz is not for the faint of heart!

 

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The latest addition to the growing support system, just added this week, is Indie Business Network.  Just from exploring the web site, reading blog posts, listening to past podcasts, I can tell I’ve made one of the best decisions of my professionally life in joining this network.  I won’t drop my membership to the Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetics Guild membership because they too offer a lot of information and provide support in many areas I can use throughout the year along with insurance and certification that stays valid as long as I remain a member.  But the IBN is fulfilling a huge need with bits of vital information that I can glean from their site, their Facebook page, their blog, Podcasts, and other social media outlets on a DAILY basis.  I’m so glad that I’ve added them to the support system for my business and hope this will bring the results I’m hoping for at last.  Thank you, Indie Business Network for being there with all the expertise and encouragement you provide to your members, new and ongoing! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fifth Petal

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry wrapped me in a warm blanket of mysticism, mystery, intrigue, history, jealousy, love and a thousand other feelings for about a week as I devoured the story of four young women that are descendants of four girls hung as witches in 1692 Salem, Massachusetts.  The story stand on a firm foundation of historical fact as the original young women were quite real as was their dark fate.  Were they really witches or innocent young women with an enemy that had more power and held the right ear in the community?  This story takes that line of thought and gives it a turn or two along the way and in the end you find yourself feeling heartache for their loss regardless of your opinion of their leanings in faith.

Having never read the Lace Reader despite having my eyes drawn to it repeatedly shortly after its release, I now know I MUST read that one to gain more insight into these richly drawn, deeply flawed characters.  They are like family now which made leaving their circle all that much harder to do. Only a few of the characters from book one are carried forward into this book but that doesn’t make it any less captivating for the reader as these characters have a story of their own to tell.

The Fifth Petal can definitely be read along without the preliminary story from book one, but why would you want to when such fascinating people exist in both?  If you have read The Lace Reader then you really should read The Fifth Petal though how much closure it will bring is hazy at best.  Perhaps with a couple of the characters, it may bring some, but with others, well, let’s leave that open to debate.

Snow, Molds, Micas, and more

We’ve had the weathermen doing a slow, painful dance around the forecasts all week while they try to figure out this cold front headed our way that carried the promise of snow into the southern states starting this weekend only to get to Friday and watch them begin the backstep. We’re now into Saturday night and there’s no longer the threat of winter weather in North Carolina as much as there was around Thursday of last week, as the boundary has moved further south into South Carolina.  My sympathies to all of the Sandlappers out there.

Anyone who knows me well knows I despise winter weather.  This incompatibility has only grown over the years – my age has increased while counterbalanced against my decrease in tolerance. This has actually become a physical problem now, too.  Every cold morning brings migraines.  Not much productivity follow migraines as they don’t play well together. So it’s taught me to follow that adage that goes something like ‘make hay while the sun shines’.  And I do. I cram as much as possible into one day that’s good so that ‘bad day’ that is inevitable can be spent trying to move without nausea or pain.  I say this not to seek sympathy but rather to explain why there are many times when I go silent.  Those silences are either because I’m avoiding the brightly lit computer screen or I’m extremely busy taking care of business.  We all know I’d much rather be making something!

The need to create lively, new & fresh looks for my products is the goal for this year.  With that goal there was a need for some new colours, new molds and new fragrances.  I’ve finally ordered some tall skinny molds!  That was as exciting for me as the fragrances and colours!  I’m easy to please like that.  Still, the colours for this year are some new ones to extend the shades for colours we have already, some darker, some lighter hues of one now in stock.  The fragrances are new ones for us as well as we work with local suppliers for our boozy bar ingredients.

Speaking of…..I was competely thrilled to find out there is a meadery in town here!  Had no idea! The name, Honeygirl Meadery, offers several delish sounding meads and they sell at the Farmer’s Market all year round.  You KNOW I’ll be visiting their booth in a couple of weeks!  I’m all shopped out for right now but will definitely stop by to pick up the flavours I mentioned in a private message in Facebook.  Pop into their page in Facebook and read about them to see if there’s something there for you.  They do ship, so if you aren’t local, you can order online if your state allows ordering across state lines & online. Spoiler alert – I have my eye on their Lavender Mead and the Hibiscus Lemonthyme.  What’s about you?  Take and look at their listing and tell me if you like what you see.  Which ones speak to you?  Look for those two in future batches this year.

We’ve picked out some amazing scents from Nurture Soaps and Nature’s Garden that we are very excited to get our greedy little fingers around soon.  Some of them are really interesting  names, so we’ll see what they’re like.  They’re intriguing to say the least. We’ve ordered some new flavours for our lip balms so there will be a longer list of selections to choose from very soon.  The new fragrances are also going to be used in our cream soap and sugar scrubs that use our cream soap as a portion of the base.  The other portion is our mad-from-scratch liquid soap.  We do NOT use premade bases.  Like my grandmother used to say – “You don’t know where it’s been!” , so using my own as the base keeps control and provenance in my hands. The cream soap is a long process to complete, taking months to be finished and properly done, so a new batch is needed sooner rather than later and I’ve considered using some of our new meads in that, too.  It’s been on my mind since the last batch, frankly, so we’ll see what is used.

We currently have a Black Raspberry Nectar Mead and a Watermelon Nectar Mead from Redstone Meadery which is in Colorado.  (I bought these before I knew about Honeygirl.) Doesn’t that Watermelon Mead sound delicious?  I’ve actually tried a taste test of it and yes indeed it IS delish!  We have Redstone’s Sunshine Mead on order which is an Apricot Mead for a future batch as well and some Angry Orchard Hard Cider for an apple soap, too.

So you can see that our Boozy Bars selection is really growing by leaps this year and we hope everyone will find one they are dying to try because they’re really fantastic in the lather department and the new fragrances are ones we are very excited to offer!  Keep following for the production of these new batches and products.  Thanks for following and reading along!

Getting back on the horse

Where do you go to find your mojo?  How do you get around writers’ block without pulling out all your hair?  What inspires you to step out of that creative desert and back into the refreshing shower of ideas? Do you go with a really good program on television, something smart and snappy, something “Catch”-y maybe? I loved that show last year and watched the entire season in one go while ironing one afternoon then pulled it back up again today just to try to get moving again after several days of no motivation, no inspiration, frustration that when a fleeting second of motivating ideas hit there was something else demanding my attention elsewhere.  We all have been in this dark place from time to time and while we all hope it’s temporary, it seems endless while we are wallowing in its depths.

I’ve stuck my head in the sand for several weeks, waiting for the chance to sit and work on something real, using my hands, my mind and my heart, but it hasn’t been possible to get all three in the same place at the same time lately.  Thank goodness for Hulu, Netflix and YouTube.  Without them I’m lost.  Apparently I was a bit more silent than usual as a friend checked on me in Facebook.  It made me realize that perhaps someone does notice when I’m not participating, posting, cheering others on from the sidelines, creating, stirring things up a bit now and then.  The numbers tell the tale as well when they dive below triple digits in the reach.

Honestly though I often feel Facebook is taking more away from my creative time than feeding it or serving its purpose.  If it isn’t helping my business, why be there? It draws you in like a black hole, stealing away your time, and it’s certainly stolen mine.  Things were stolen from me in 2010 that can never be replaced despite being mainly of value in sentiment only, they were precious to me.  They are gone now.  That was not my choice. The loss of time from Facebook is of my own doing.  My choice.  And clearly not the best one.  It has its purpose and should remain a device only, to be used as a tool for networking, marketing, advertising, promoting, no more than these.

Perhaps this is where my mojo goes.  Into the abyss behind the screen of Facebook and for that reason it is now time to step back from it and be less of a cheerleader for others and more of a cheerleader for myself and build onto what I started in 2011. My business needs me more than others need me.  It needs nurturing.  I’ve loved it all along but it wasn’t enough.  It need more attention from me so now it will have it.  Blogs will continue, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, even Google+ and yes, Facebook too, but much less of it.  Mainly for the what’s new in the business page, less of the roaming around to see what everyone else is doing and how they are all doing.