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!