The Process of Creating Artisan Soap

May 22, 2016

Have you ever imagined mixing ingredients together to create a perfect dinner recipe from scratch? You probably consider who will be eating the dinner, if they have allergies or dislikes. You consider what’s already in your kitchen and what you may need to shop for. Then you think about which flavors would work well together, and how they would complement? Crafting a handmade artisan bar soap is not much different.

All before we start to actually craft the bar of soap, we think about the recipe. The process of planning one of our soap recipes all begins with questions, and our questions all really focus on customer needs:

  • Is this soap intended for men, women, or neutral?
    • When considering the targeted gender of a soap, we think about design and fragrance. Anyone is welcome to use any soap, of course, soap doesn’t have a gender, but we consider what scents are “supposed” to be more feminine, masculine, or neutral. We also think about coloring and the type of technique we will use.
  • Will this soap be vegan?
    • For us, that means whether or not we will use palm oil – none of our soaps ever use animal by-products. All of our soaps are vegetarian. We do offer some vegan soaps because we are an overall vegan company.
  • Will this soap be all natural or mostly natural?
    • This comes down to coloring and fragrance, as well. For an all natural soap, we seek to use essential oils and natural colorants, such as spices and clays. All natural soaps are beautiful, but they are also limited. Someone could want an all natural soap scented like strawberries, but there is no such essential oil. Mostly natural soaps use phthalate-free fragrance oils and/or mica colorants. As explained on Brambleberry’s website: “Pigments and Oxides are considered “nature identical” meaning they are the exact same chemical structure as the platelet minerals found in the earth. But they are created in a lab to ensure purity.”
  • What is the main purpose of this soap?
    • This question is important for determining the perfect balance of a bar: Moisturizing, Hardness, Cleansing, Lather. An “ideal” bar of soap would have a perfect balance of all of these properties, but depending on the purpose, some properties outweigh the others.
    • We almost always use olive oil because of the moisturization properties. Sometimes we include avocado oil or sweet almond oil, as these oils are also very softening for skin. We also sometimes use rich butters, such as shea or mango, which increase skin softness. But everything must be in balance – a soap bar made exclusively with olive oil (for example – Castile soap), is a very skin-nourishing bar, but it takes one year to cure, and has little-to-no lather.
    • We always use coconut oil because of the cleansing and lather properties. This is not the same as liquid coconut oil (also known as fractionated coconut oil, or capryl caprylic triglyceride), but 76 degree coconut oil, which is a “hard” oil (meaning it’s solid at room temperature).
    • We sometimes use palm oil because of the hardness factor. After the 4-6 week curing period, the soap bar should be strong, which helps it last longer in the shower. A soap made of purely liquid oils will be slimey to the touch, and will dissipate very quickly. When we create vegan soaps, we have to configure into our formula other hard oils which will create a similar texture of palm.
    • Sometimes we use sunflower oil or safflower oil for their conditioning properties, and sometimes we add castor oil because the thick nature of this oil makes it excellent for lather-boosting.
  • What properties should it have and what additives will help create these properties?
    • If the soap is intended for sensitive skin, we’ll consider adding colloidal oatmeal or regular oatmeal, which is said to help calm sensitive skin.
    • Sometimes we like a bar that exfoliates, so we’ll add coffee grinds, poppy seeds, or flowers, such as calendula and lavender. Depending on the level of exfoliation wanted – the harder the additive, the stronger the exfoliation. For example, we created a coffee soap intended for people who work outside, athletes, or just generally prefer a rougher bar.
    • Clays also offer mild exfoliation, which is great for normal skin.
    • If the soap needs a silky texture, such as a shaving soap, we’ll include bentonite clay, which gives that smooth feeling.
    • Activated coconut charcoal powder is said to draw out impurities, so it’s generally an excellent additive for any soaps intended to be used on the face.
  • How should this bar of soap look?
    • After all of the other factors are considered, we think about the moment we plan on embracing with this bar of soap. Since the premise of our business is based on “scenting” the “moment,” we try to embody and envision how that moment would look in a bar of soap. This is where design is factored. For example, our Beach Bumming Soap (our best seller), we pictured the pink-sands of a Caribbean beach – we use the rose clay to show the dimension of color. The lighter pink is the dryer sand, the darker pink is the wetter sand as you approach the water, and the cosmetic-grade sparkles are meant to glisten as the waves do rolling off the pink sands.

Finally, after all factors are considered, we do our math and calculate our recipe. Then we measure, mix, and mold. After unmolding (which is about 48 hours later), we leave the soaps out to dry for four-to-six weeks.

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