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!


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


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!



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! 











A world in a book

I love to read.  Always have.  It’s a little vacation that requires no luggage, no driving, no flying, no stressful packing and unpacking within certain weight limits.  It’s purely mental.  A trip inside your own mind, where all the world may lie at your feet in seconds, take you far beneath the sea, soar above the clouds, travel to distant places or even some that don’t exist.  Yet.

Even when we were little, Dr Seuss gave a tiny, early glimpse of what we could do if only we are open to the opportunity when he wrote “Oh the Places You Will Go!”  And we spent the rest of our lives finding the answer to that question.

Where did you end up?  Was it where you’d hoped to go or somewhere else that was a surprise, a shock, a disappointment?  Did you take that road less traveled or one well rutted by time and travelers before you?

So with World Book Day here, let’s think about the places you will go within the covers of a book or on the screen of an eReader device. A ‘thumping, good read’. One that’s transforming.  One that’s informative, one that excites you, intrigues you, makes you think.  Keeps you awake all night flipping the page to see what happens next.  Where do you want to go?  What type of reading do you like to do when the day is rainy, cool, and thoroughly a misery outside?

I’ll confess to you now, while I love to collect as many textbooks as I can on math & science, a day like today brings out the lazy brain side of me.  I like a cozy read, or book with a twist, one that’s by some author no one’s heard of yet.  I delved deeply into the listings in Amazon, scored a series, Wisteria Witches by Angela Pepper on this occasion.  The two primary characters are like a cross between Gilmore Girls and a Stephanie Plum adventure.

The humor is sharp, sarcastic, thoroughly enrapturing to read while the story line is fun, just enough adventure to keep you turning the page into the wee hours of the night/morning.  I’m currently on the third book in the series, Wisteria Wonders.  I started the series only about 4-5 days ago, which is indicative of how engrossed I’ve become in this series. (Ask the guys at the auto service department how many times they called my name before finally walking over and tapping me on the shoulder to tell me my car was finished!)  I’ve laughed out loud at many of the things said and thought of in each book and now with the fourth in the series coming out in July, the fun continues.

So tell me all the places you will go on World Book Day.  I’m happily residing in Wisteria where no one ever gains weight from a diet of doughnuts and cupcakes and wishing I could find this magical place.  Meanwhile, I’d love to know where you are in your reading adventures.





Change is good. Right?

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time you’ve probably noticed the theme changes. One of my many personality flaws is my need to change things up.  Frequently.  Well it’s been a lifelong thing with me.  I was one of those kids who rearranged my room practically on a weekly basis.  There’s no telling what condition the floors were in by the time I moved out!  But I had to.  I loved to change things up, breathe fresh air into a part of my world that heretofore had lain hidden, dark and gathering dust bunnies and forgotten or lost items.

My web site’s theme also suffers the same fate.  The theme has changed several times, only to evolve into a cleaner layout each time.  Like this blog.

I started out with homey, rustic or cozy looks, thinking it should make you want to put your bunny-slippered feet up, tuck your legs beneath you and read, read, read.  Then time passed and I realized I wanted something sweet, appealing to that feminine side in many of us that loves a good movie, good book or a creative past-time that yearns for exploration.  Shabby Chic lives in my heart, but it doesn’t always allow me to emote on every level.

Then I leaned towards clean lines, orderly layouts, easy-to-read fonts. This one has been the hardest to stick with.  I’m a font hoarder.  I’m sure there’s an intervention or 12-step program out there or perhaps there should be for people like me but I’d never attend.  I’m happy to wallow in my wealth of typographical largess. It’s my happy place.  Still, not everyone finds it easy to read some of them even if I can. So, here we are.  In a clean, orderly layout with a  basic font that’s easy to read.  And surprisingly enough, I like it!

This organized place, theme-wise and life-wise, is where I reside now.  It’s not always going to be cabbage roses and sun-bleached colours of shabby chic, but they still exist in my world, just not everywhere.  Only on those very special things I reach for when I need a lift. Being tidy with the ecommerce and literary world is a good thing as it’s about growth.

People are not static creatures.  They perpetually grow, change, evolve, morph into someone else until they finally land on their feet solidly with a confidence that will carry them through to their golden years, or at least they’ll attempt it with all they have to do so.  That is human nature.  Yours.  Mine. Everyone’s.  So growth is good and change makes it real. A palpable thing. A tangible image you can place a time and date stamp on for all to see.

Literary Inspiration

Being a former employee of a library, former homeschooling mom of four for 9 years and the crafter of cupcakes and designs for my daughter’s baby shower for her then-pending delivery of daughter Kenzie, children’s classics are familiar territory and a wealth of artistic inspiration for many things in various channels of my current life. I mentioned the baby shower specifically because the theme was Alice in Wonderland and the decorations and packaging for many things on the food table related to elements of the story.

These flags on the left for the cupcakes were printed onto a sheet of cardstock, a background of antiqued with aged edges printed on them and cut out to fold around a cut bamboo skewer using two-sided tape.  They rose to only about 1″ above the top of each cake from the bottom of the flag to the surface of the frosting.  The blue gradient was also printed onto cardstock using a background from PicMonkey, also cut out then punched with a hole punch, strung onto 1/8″ ribbon wrapped around the threads of an 8 oz Mason jar (no lid), and the tag would hang along the side of the jars tempting the guests to “Drink Me”.

Cupcakes on the stand

Drink Me all in a row

These decorations were so much fun to do that I decided to keep them stored in a file for future use with other events or for use as ideas or springboards for other projects.  I’m also a huge font hoarder and found a font that resembled Alice In Wonderland type of style used in other media outlets. That font is the one you see on the tags in the images above for the cupcakes and jars.It was done in bold to be easier to read.

With that design style in mind, this approach was pulled from the archives to use for labeling the samples of body lotion and liquid soaps done for the web sites.  I often send out several samples with each order but had no sample sized bottles until recently.  The liquid soap samples were done last night with a hang tag using the Alice in Wonderland-inspired packaging idea – each tag is tied it around the neck of a bottle.  The tags are hand-printed. One side reads “Wash with me!” and the other gives the scent name and weight in each bottle plus the “Body Wash” product name.  Inserts are printed out with the ingredients of samples in bottles or jars as they are very small, often oddly sized or shaped and hard to label. Sample tagsFinding inspiration is always possible, it just sometimes lies just beyond our line of sight.  Close your eyes and let your imagination take over when you hit the wall.  I’ve hit it so many times we’re now on a first name basis.  It happens all the time.  Push come to shove, hit Pinterest and live in there for a little while until you have enough great ideas to last a long while.  Just don’t do it too often.  It can suck you in and you’ll not come back out for days.