I have been wanting to branch out a bit and try some other products for a while. I have made lotion with great success, and if you’re looking to try lotion yourself, I can’t recommend Anne L. Watson’s book Smart Lotionmaking highly enough. Her recipes have all worked well for me, and I am especially in love with her Almond & Cocoa Butter lotion.
I had been wanting to try making bubble bars for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The recipe can take a lot of experimentation, and I wasn’t excited about wasting a lot of ingredients trying to get it right. I have watched Anne-Marie Faiola’s tutorial on making bubble bars, and hers seemed to have come out all right. If you are looking for a recipe to start, you might try hers. Here is a video tutorial.
However, after watching this tutorial by Katie White of Royalty Soaps, I was convinced to try the recipe she used in the video.
The first time I tried to make the bubble bars, I used too much glycerin, I think. One thing I will say about the instructions provided by Nicole is that they are very thorough. While it’s impossible to account for every variable someone might experience, one suggestion Nicole makes is to adjust the wet ingredients if you are finding your bubble bar dough is too wet (I’m being a bit cagey here out of respect for Nicole’s work, but if you purchase her recipe, you’ll see what I mean). I also couldn’t stop myself from fiddling overmuch with the bubble bars while they dried, the end result of which was that it took a long time for by first batch of bubble bars to harden, and they were lumpy and not very pretty. However, I tried them in the tub, and each time I’ve tested, they’ve produced lots of bubbles that last for a pretty good while.
I used less of one of the wet ingredients in my second batch, and I have told myself to leave them alone. I snapped a picture of them. The light is not too good because it was 10:00 P. M. when I took it, but I think this second batch turned out really pretty.
I scented them with a sample of Pikake Flower fragrance and colored them with Nurture micas.
In my testing, I found I could use half a bubble bar to get a pretty good amount of bubbles. And much cheaper (and with a few nicer ingredients) than the bubble bars made by a certain large artisan cosmetics company.
During the month of September, spring and summer soaps will be on clearance so we can make room for fall and winter soaps, including our Christmas favorites. It is the perfect way to capture that last little bit of summer as the leaves are turning.
But that’s not all! You can use the coupon code HAPPYBIRTHDAY all during the month of September to save 10% on your purchases, even on clearance items!
The first nine orders received starting on September 1 will receive a free bar of Maine Blueberry soap (approximately 3.5 ounces and a $4.00 value). Remaining orders will receive one free soap ball while supplies last.
Using herb and flower infusions in soap can add a little something extra special to your soap. I love using both chamomile and calendula (marigold) infusions in my soap. Both impart a pretty butter yellow to the finished soap. There is a slight scent in the oils, too, but I find that scent doesn’t usually survive the saponification process, and I have used fragrances and essential oils successfully in soaps with infused oils.
There are a couple of techniques you can use for infusing oils. You can put the flowers or herbs in a jar, pour your oil over them, and let them infuse for several weeks, but I like the slow cooker method, mainly because it’s quicker, and I’m impatient.
I purchased these handy “tea bags” from Bramble Berry (who is not sponsoring me; I just like the product). While you can pour the oils directly over the botanicals, I have found it is pretty messy, and you have to strain the oil later. The tea bags allow the botanicals to infuse the oil without making a mess. I try to use about ½ to 1 ounce of botanicals (which is a lot more than you’d think—they are light). I put the botanicals in the tea bags and seal them closed with an iron. Then I put them in a jar, I pour olive oil over the filled tea bags. I put a few inches of water in my slow cooker, turn it on low, and gently lay my jar in the water. I let the oil infuse in the heat of the slow cooker for about five hours, turning the jar over every once in a while (be careful; it’s very hot). The jars can be hard to open afterward, but I have a nice infused olive oil to use in my soap when I’m done.
This soap is made with calendula-infused olive oil and decorated with calendula petals.
If you want to try out infused oils in your own soap, check out this recipe for a one-pound batch.
Infuse dried calendula flowers in olive oil for this conditioning soap. This soap is superfatted at 6%.
Infuse dried calendula flowers in olive oil for this conditioning soap. This soap is superfatted at 6%.
Put the calendula petals in the tea bags and iron edges to close.
Place the calendula bags into a large jar.
Put the jar on a scale and tare the scale. Add a bit more olive oil than you need. This recipe calls for 170 grams, but some of the oil will be soaked up by the calendula petals and the bags; it will be hard to get every last drop out again.
Screw the lid tightly on the jar and place it in a slow cooker on low. Let the oil infuse from 2-5 hours.
Set the infused oil aside to cool. It will be too hot to soap with right after the infusion.
When your infused oil is cool, prepare your water and lye. Measure out 162 g distilled water and set aside. Measure out 59 g lye in a separate container and set aside. Carefully add the lye to the water and stir until it is dissolved. Set the lye solution aside to cool.
Measure out your hard oils (106 g coconut, 106 g palm, and 22 g shea butter) and melt them down.
Add 170 g infused olive oil and 21 g castor oil to the melted hard oils.
Once your lye water has cooled (I usually combine my oils and lye water at about 100ºF), add the lye water to the oils and blend to a light trace.
Add your fragrance (optional) and either whisk in or stick blend carefully.
You can add calendula petals to your top for extra decoration. Calendula petals keep their color in cold process soap, so you can even add it to the soap itself.
Whether or not the soothing qualities of calendula survive the saponification process is up for debate, but the infusion does impart a nice, light color to the soap. Why not try it and see if it works for you?
After working with a shop through this site for nearly year, I have decided that I will be using Etsy exclusively to sell my products. Etsy seems to work better and is easier for my customers, and I know it works better and is easier for me. Working with my own shopfront has been an interesting learning experience. Everything I have learned has only affirmed for me that I will better serve my customers on Etsy.
You should see the changes taking effect here on the site shortly. I will still be blogging here and making YouTube videos when I can. I’m not really going anywhere. I’m just streamlining a bit and making things a bit easier all the way around. Thanks to those of you who joined me in my experiment. See you in the Etsy store, I hope.
I use kaolin clay in most of my soaps. Kaolin clay is a natural and gentle clay that is kind to sensitive skin but also adds slip and silkiness to soap and helps the soap’s fragrance “stick.” Some fragrances, especially citruses, don’t fare well in the harsh environment of the chemical process involved in soapmaking. Kaolin clay gives the fragrance something to “cling” to and helps the soap better retain the scent. Kaolin clay is such a fine powder that it adds the mildest exfoliation to the soap, and it’s one of the clays that works well with all skin types. Dry kaolin feels like a smooth, fine powder and is often used in cosmetics and face masks. Kaolin cleanses and detoxifies, so it really does add a little something special to soap.
I use a bit more than a teaspoon of kaolin per pound of oils in most of my recipes that don’t include other clays. For instance, in my Marseilles-style soap, which I call Provence, I use French green clay, and adding kaolin in addition would make the soap crumbly and chalky. Because the kaolin clay in my soaps is used throughout the bar and not as a colorant for a swirl, I simply add it directly to my oils before I add my lye water, and I stick blend it well to make sure the clay is dispersed and no clumps remain; however, I should add that I have not noticed that kaolin clumps a lot, unlike some other clays. You can use up to a tablespoon of clay per pound of oils, but my own experiments with clay in those amounts produced a chalky soap. Your own experiments may yield different results. My own experience is that soap with clays, including kaolin clay, feels smoother and silkier without any detrimental effects on the amount of lather.
Bonus: a picture I took just today of my Johnny Appleseed Soap, which like my other soaps, has a little over a teaspoon of kaolin per pound of oils.
Do you ever read over recipes or watch soaping videos and wonder why soapmakers use the ingredients they use? After all, the only essentials for a good bar of handmade soap are oils, water, and lye. However, certain additives do impart some nice qualities to your soap, and in a series of posts, I wanted to share some of the “extra” ingredients I use in soap and why I use them.
Heavy cream has a lot of fat in it—36% fat or more. Goat milk typically has 4-5% fat. Cream is very rich and smooth. While the benefits of milks—especially goat milk—are widely known, not as many soapers use cream, possibly because of the expense. I wouldn’t try substituting all of the water in a recipe with cream, and not only because of the cost, but also because of the high fat content. The cream will likely congeal fairly quickly, even if you freeze it first, because the lye will react to the fat in the cream. If you have made milk soaps, you may have noticed that if you set the milk and lye mixture aside for a few moments, it does start to thicken as the lye reacts to the fats in the milk. Another reason you might not want to use cream as a total water replacement is that the high fat content might really throw off your superfat percentage.
So how do I use cream in soap? I usually add about 4-5% of the amount of oils to a batch of soap. So, for example, if I make a batch of soap that is 500 grams (I always measure in grams; it’s more precise than ounces and easier to convert), then I would add about 22 grams of cream to the batch. I admit this is approximate because I usually add a round number of grams of cream to my soap. For example, my typical batch is about 2.5 pounds of oils, or 1120 grams, and I usually add about 50 grams of cream to a batch that size. I would recommend using heavy cream at a rate of about 3-5%. You really don’t need to use a lot. When I use cream in my soap, I remove the same amount of water from the recipe. For example, in my batch with 50 grams of cream, I remove 50 grams of distilled water from the recipe. If you use full water and cream, you might find your soap takes a little longer to harden. I have not experimented with using full water and cream.
Before I add the cream to the oils, I warm it up a bit so that it is the same temperature as the oils (more or less). Then, I add my cream directly to my oils and stick blend it before adding the lye. I have noticed that it will not emulsify completely with the oils. Typically there are tiny white flecks of cream floating on the top of my oils. I usually give the oils one more quick stick blend before adding the lye water, but it probably isn’t necessary because once the lye water is added, it will all blend.
I first noticed the benefits of using cream in soap by accident. I made a batch of Creamy Coconut soap with coconut milk and cream.
I mainly added the cream because I felt it would be in keeping with the name of the soap to have both real coconut milk and real cream in it. When I used it in the shower, I noticed how smooth the bars felt. If you can believe it, I didn’t immediately realize this smoothness was because of the cream. I thought it might have been the coconut milk.
I started noticing that other soapmakers used cream in their soaps, and when I ordered soaps from these soapmakers, I noticed how smooth their bars were. At first, I wasn’t sure why their soaps were so much smoother than mine either because there are so many variables—oil recipes, other additives, and the like. But eventually I realized it was the cream in the soap that added smoothness. I have used cream in almost all of the soaps I have made since that discovery (I typically do not use it in milk soaps, with the exception of Creamy Coconut).
In addition to smoothness, cream adds some of the same benefits as other milks in soap—extra conditioning being the main benefit imparted by heavy cream. I mainly enjoy the feel of soap with cream in it. It is definitely smoother than soap made just with water. It feels silky on the skin. I typically do not have to use much lotion at all because of the conditioning oils and butters in my soap, but I have noticed even less of a need to use lotion in those soaps made with cream.
Adding just a little bit of cream can add some great qualities to your soap. With my recipe of just 50 grams, I am adding 18 grams of fat, so my superfat percentage will not be drastically different from my calculation.
As usual, David Fisher has experimented with cream and shared his results. You can see what will happen if you add lye to cream in his tutorial. I personally have not found it necessary to freeze the cream I use in my own recipes. In addition, I have never noticed any discoloration as can happen when you use goat milk in place of water. I actually haven’t tried using just a small amount of liquid goat milk and adding it directly to the oils as I do with heavy cream, so you might find that solution works just as well for you.
Dissolve the lye in the distilled water and set aside to cool.
Melt coconut oil and palm oil.
Add olive oil and castor oil to melted hard oils.
Add heavy cream to oils and blend.
Combine lye water with blended oils when both reach about 100ºF. The temperature doesn't need to be exact, but it should be close.
Blend with stick blender until you reach trace.
Add fragrance or essential oil and stir well until thoroughly combined.
Pour into a mold, cover mold with plastic wrap, and drape with towel. One pound of oils will make approximately 1.4 pounds of soap.
Let soap go through gel phase and saponify for about one day before unmolding.
Note: you can substitute coconut milk, like I did, for the water simply by using 151 grams of frozen coconut milk and slowly adding the lye to the milk until the lye is dissolved. You can also use colorants. I have not had issues with this soap overheating or acting strangely in gel phase, but keep and eye on it, and remove some insulation if it appears to be getting too hot. Also, you can opt not to gel this soap and instead put it in the freezer overnight. The cream might make the soap heat up in the refrigerator, so it might need the additional chill of the freezer to prevent gel phase if you choose not to gel.
New England Handmade Artisan Soaps had a short hiatus this summer, but we’re back with restocks of favorites soaps and a brand new soap.
Heavenly Honeysuckle is back for the summer! Don’t miss it; once they’re sold out, they won’t be back until next year. Heavenly Honeysuckle’s olive oil, shea butter, and rich cream will condition your skin and the scent will transport you to a field of wild honeysuckle.
Lemon Lavender Buttermilk is back! It was a favorite last time we had it in stock and sold out quickly. Buttermilk is rich in alpha-hydroxy acid, and the scent of lemon and lavender is so clean and fresh.
Oatmeal, Milk & Honey is back with a new look! Made with olive oil, shea butter, raw local honey, and colloidal oatmeal, this soap is a real treat for your skin, and as a bonus, it smells like delicious oatmeal cookies!
Lilac & Lavender is brand new! The fresh scent of lilac with a hint of lavender in a bar with conditioning olive oil, shea butter, and pure cream will be a delight for the senses. Lilac & Lavender is sold out. Please check for it again soon.
Check out these and more great handmade artisan soaps in the shop.
If you make soap or other scented bath and beauty products, today might be your lucky day. I have some fragrances that I am not likely to use, but you might find them useful to have. I am listing the fragrances below with an approximate weight. I am sorry, but I can only ship in the US because of the cost of postage. If leave a comment on this post or you email me at [email protected], along with the fragrances you want and your zip code, I can give you a shipping estimate. After you confirm you would like the fragrance, I will send you an invoice via PayPal. You do not have to have a PayPal account in order to pay, as PayPal works with both credit and debit cards, too. Prices are discounted from the full price you would pay from the seller. Please note that depending on what you buy and where you are located, shipping might be more than the cost of the fragrance.
Note: If you make any requests this week, I will need to wait until July 3 to fulfill them.
Bramble Berry Fragrances
Sun-Ripened Raspberry, 1.5 oz + 4 oz (one unopened bottle)—$1.50 for the 1.5 oz, $4.00 for the 4 oz, or $5.00 for all of it
Chipotle Caramel, 0.15 oz (enough to make lotion or bath bombs)—shipping only
Passionfruit Rose, 1.9 oz—$1.90
Cranberry Fig, .35 oz—shipping only
Energy, 2.15 oz—$2.15
Crisp Apple Rose, 1.6 oz—$1.60
Nature’s Garden Fragrances
Madagascar Spice, 3.7 oz—$3.70
Lick Me All Over, 1.9 oz—$1.90
Twilight in the Woods, 2 oz—$2.00
Cotton Candy, 2.4 oz—$2.40
Sandalwood, 3.8 oz—$3.80
Gingersnap Cookies, 2.7 oz—$2.70
Sea Salt and Lotus Blossoms, 5.6 oz—$5.60
Sweet Pea, 6.2 oz—$6.20
Fresh Cut Roses, 6.8 oz—$6.80
Honeysuckle, 16 oz—$11.00
Spearmint, 10.3 oz (note: this is the fragrance, not the essential oil)—$8.00
Nothing smells more like summer coming on than the scent of honeysuckle. I lived in Georgia for a long time, and it grows simply everywhere. I did find a patch of it here in Worcester even. I smelled it when I was out walking, and there is no mistaking that scent. In fact, when I participated in the S.O.A.P. Panel, it was the only scent I could identify among the test scents because I know it so well. I purchased the fragrance as soon as Bramble Berry started selling it. My batch of Heavenly Honeysuckle soap sold well last year, and I hope people like it with some changes I made to the colors.
I love the way wet soap looks, don’t you?
By the way, I used Nurture’s micas in this soap: Amaranth Pink, Yellow Vibrance, and Pink Vibrance. I am really in love with Nurture’s micas. No one is paying me to say that, either.
I’m not sure what will happen when I cut this one. Last time, I had some titanium dioxide crackle, which sometimes happens with heat like this fragrance generates. It’s a floral, and if you’ve soaped florals before, you may know they can misbehave. Sometimes I think titanium dioxide crackle looks cool. We’ll see what happens when I cut it.
If you’ve been following some of the news surrounding the Personal Care Products Safety Act of 2015, a bill introduced by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME), you may have read some alarming and even irresponsible reporting that led you to believe that the U. S. Government is about to shut down all handmade soapers for good.
This simply isn’t the case, and you have no cause to be worried about New England Handmade Artisan Soaps or most of your other favorite handmade soapers. In fact, this bill is not likely to impact my business in its current form.
Congress is cracking down on homemade soap. No, Congress is not targeting handmade soap. This bill is an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Safety Act designed to “ensure the safety of cosmetics.” Handmade cosmetics are not being targeted any more than any other company that manufactures cosmetics is being targeted. The argument is that smaller businesses cannot afford the fees associated with registering products, but businesses that make less than $100,000 per year are exempt entirely from the requirement, businesses that make between $100,00 and $500,000 a year are exempt from the fee, and businesses that make between $500,000 and $2,500,000 would pay not more than $250 annually. Fees are graduated from there. I believe that very few homemade soapers would be impacted by this bill at all, and those soapmakers that are impacted are not going to be driven out of business by the regulations.
This bill will make it impossible for small soap companies to remain in business. Actually, this bill just requires that soaping businesses earning more than $100,000 per year register and provide lists of the ingredients they use as well as report known adverse events. Labeling requirements will be stricter, but I personally think they should be. Right now, I am not required to label the ingredients in my soap at all as long as I make no cosmetic claims about it. I think that’s wrong. People buy handmade soap precisely because they want to know what’s in their soap. I should add that my friends in Europe who make soap currently DO have to comply with the same types of regulations that this bill would introduce, and as far as I know, it has not adversely affected their businesses. Celine Blacow of iamhandmade.com is one example of a personal friend. I am sure there are many others.
Handmade soaps are all natural and much safer than commercial soaps, so this bill makes no sense. The government should worry about commercial soapmakers. Even if the bill were only directed at handmade soapers, which isn’t the case, and even though handmade soaps are perhaps more natural and safer than commercial soaps, it is really commercial soapmakers that this bill will affect the most because it is commercial soapmakers who are more likely to use the specific ingredients that Senators Feinstein and Miller suggested be reviewed for safety in the act’s first year: diazolidinyl urea, lead acetate, methylene glycol, propyl paraben, and quaternium-15.¹
My advice to anyone who is worried is first of all, read the bill. Second, follow its progress in Congress. Supposedly, May 10 was supposed to be the day we learned whether or not the bill had made it out of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, but I can’t tell that the committee has acted on this bill. If it passes the committee’s hearing, it will be voted upon by the Senate, then the House, and then signed into law by the President before it becomes law, so it has some distance to go. You can sign up to receive alerts on the bill on Congress.gov like I did. Finally, you can write to your Senators and Representatives and let them know you want to make sure that whatever version of the bill passes through their hands includes provisions that will not make the law too onerous for small businesses to comply with.
Most of all, it is important to educate yourself about the bill’s details before worrying that it is the end of the handcrafted soap industry. I am quite concerned about the amount of misinformation being distributed mainly because it is scaring my customers and my soapmaking friends.
Diazolidinyl urea, propyl paraben, and quaternium-15 are preservative agents (quaternium-15 is also a surfactant). Lead acetate and methylene glycol are used in hair products (dyes and straighteners). Asking for a review does not mean these ingredients are not safe.