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The Soap Making Process

Traditionally, there have been two methods of soapmaking, called Cold Process (CP) and Hot Process (HP).  Chemically speaking, both processes are essentially the same and consist of making the soap "from scratch"  by combining oils or fats with a strong alkali such as lye (sodium hydroxide) in a process called Saponification. For hundreds of years, this has been how soap is made.  In its simplest form, soap was made using leftover animal fat mixed with rainwater and fireplace ashes. Over the years, soapmaking became more refined, as soapmakers realized that different fats contributed different properties to soap.  Fats that contributed desirable properties such as lather, hardness, skin-conditioning, and cleansing ability became soapmaking staples, and a multitude of "luxury oils" have become common additives that enable soapmakers to create their own unique products.  

A relatively recently developed process in soapmaking is called Melt and Pour (MP).  MP  typically involves purchasing a pre-made soap base which is free of scent, color, or other additives. The soapmaker melts the base and to this melted base adds fragrance, color, exfoliants, 
butters, oils, etc. - all the additives that determine the properties of the finished product. 

Just as with CP and HP soap, the quality of the finished MP soap depends largely on the quality of the ingredients that go into it.  While most MP bases on the market and in chain craft stores are synthetic detergents of questionable quality, there are in fact a few companies that manufacture extremely 
high-quality soap bases made with luxury oils, beneficial additives and extracts, and even organic bases. These are the suppliers I use, and when I use MP bases, they are always true soap, made with fats and lye, not synthetic detergents.  

Each of the soapmaking processes offers unique advantages, disadvantages, and reasons why a soapmaker might (or might not) use that process. For example, CP can produce a gentle, hard, and long-lasting bar, and its smooth batter allows for beautiful swirls and decorative techniques.  However, using fragrances and colors can be tricky due to the very high working pH of the soap batter. Also, there is a 4-6 week cure time for CP soap, so if someone needs something sooner, CP is not an option.   HP is a little more difficult to make, with constant temperature and pH monitoring, takes longer to make, requires more equipment, and generally yields a less decorative bar of soap. On the other hand, it requires a shorter cure time, therefore is ready to use sooner than CP soap.  MP soap is more expensive to make, and the soapmaker's chosen ingredients are limited by the bases available.  However,  MP soap is ready to use almost immediately, and there are some techniques for creating exquisitely beautiful MP soaps that are just impossible to achieve with CP and HP. 

It is for these reasons, among others, that my soaps are created using all three of these processes.  With all three processes, when a soapmaker knows what they're doing, it is possible to produce a wonderful bar of soap with all the qualities we desire, such as a cleansing, moisturizing, and bubbly creamy lather.  

In addition to using detergent-free bases, all the additives, essential oils, and fragrance oils I use are thoroughly researched, top quality, and skin-safe.  I do not compromise quality for cost, ever.  In fact, I do not even calculate the cost of my products until after it is finished to my liking, I've tested it,  and I've decided to sell it.  Every ingredient I put in my products is there for a reason that will benefit the user. Whether it's mango butter for extra moisturizing, castor oil for a better lather, or beeswax for a longer-lasting bar, you won't find any fillers or harsh chemical ingredients in my soaps. When I use a fragrance oil instead of essential oil, it is always a cosmetic-grade, skin-safe oil, never a candle-making fragrance. Whenever possible, I use herbs to color my soap. When I do use 
artificial color, again, it is a top-grade skin-safe colorant made especially for soap, not food coloring.  When I need to use a preservative in my lotions or scrubs, it is at 1% or less, as well as formaldehyde and phthalate-free. 

I've recently started creating some new products for which true soap is not an appropriate ingredient. For example, castile liquid soap does not produce the luxurious foaming bubbles desired in a bubble bath. For these products, I've done vast amounts of research and decided on a few select synthetic surfactants that I purchase from reputable, well-respected suppliers. You can rest assured that any synthetic ingredient I use has been proven safe, gentle, and environmentally friendly. These ingredients are of course listed on my website as well as on the product labels. 

True soaps are not regulated by the FDA and have no ingredient labeling requirements.  Regardless, I list my ingredients as a courtesy because I know my customers like to know what's in the products they use, and also because I'm proud of what I put into my soaps.  I hope you enjoy using them as much as I enjoy making them.

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