How is soap made?
When you mix fats and/or oils with a lye solution (sodium hydroxide and water) you get a chemical reaction that produces soap. You can’t have soap without lye! But—–by the time you get the soap there is no more lye in it. If the ingredients are measured correctly and the chemical reaction is complete (and that’s my job), the lye has all gone through the chemical process and the end result is soap and glycerin. The soap-making process naturally produces glycerin as a by-product (actually about 25 % of the final product is naturally-occurring glycerin) which is what makes handmade soap so wonderful for your skin.
What’s the difference between your soap and what I can buy in the store?
Actually much of what you see in the store is not soap at all but a detergent or a petroleum product. Manufacturers cannot call it soap unless it is produced as explained above, so many of them call their product “beauty bar” or “cleansing bar.” Even the ones that are truly soap will often dry your skin because, in the soap-making process, the commercial manufacturers skim off the naturally-occurring glycerin and use it in their more expensive skin-care products since that is more profitable for them. The result is that the very element you need to soften and soothe your skin has been removed. In handmade soap, it’s all still there.
Why was “granny’s lye soap” considered harsh but your lye soap is considered gentle?
“Granny” often made her own lye from ashes and was not able to accurately determine the strength of the lye. Even when commercial lye was made available, chemistry was not advanced enough to know exactly how much lye was needed for each kind of oil used. Too much lye for the oils used made the soap too harsh. Too little lye for the oils used either made the soap too soft or made it the possible for the extra oils to go rancid. Now we can accurately determine exactly how much lye is needed for every kind of oil used. We can choose our oils to create many different types of soap.
Why are so many different oils used in the soap?
Each oil has distinct qualities. Some produce great lather; some are easily absorbed into the skin; some produce a hard bar of soap; some have moisturizing or conditioning properties. The challenge is to put together the right combination of oils that will produce a hard, long-lasting bar of soap which also has great lather and conditioning properties.
What do you use to color the soap?
There are no artificial dyes or colorants used in our soaps. The colors come from dried herbs and flowers, some of which are in powdered form.
What if I am allergic to soap?
If you have had allergic reactions to commercial soap products, it may not be “soap” that you are allergic to. Quite often it is the detergents, petroleum oils, preservatives, or artificial ingredients in the store-bought soaps that are causing the reaction. Give our natural soaps a try and see if you still have problems.
What if I am allergic to fragrance?
Again, as above, sometimes it is another chemical in the product you are using and not necessarily the fragrance. Choose a lightly scented product and see if you still have a problem. If so, we can make an unscented soap for you.
What if I have a special skin condition?
This is beginning to sound like a broken record, but it could be the chemicals in something else you are using. Handmade soap does not cure skin conditions; however, many people have found that when they start using the handmade soaps (which means they also STOP using the heavily artificial products they were using) their skin condition clears up. We make no claims–just try the soap and see what happens.
Are the same scents always available? Can I get my favorite at any time?
As it becomes obvious that certain scents are in demand, we will do our best to keep them available. However, since handmade soap takes 6 weeks to cure, this is not always possible.
What do you mean when you say “cure”?
Distilled water is used to dissolve the lye and complete the chemical reaction that produces soap. However, the soap is very soft when it is first removed from the mold. It is mild enough to be used within days, but it would dissolve in the shower very quickly. As the soap cures, the water evaporates, making the bar harder and helping it last longer.
What if I would like to order soap for a special occasion?
Do you need a large number of gift sets for an event? We can do special orders. Just remember, it takes soap 6 weeks to cure, so plan accordingly.
What is the difference between your sugar scrubs and those marketed by the “big” companies?
Go to the stores at the mall and check out the ingredients in their salt or sugar scrubs. They are required by law to list the ingredients on their products but you may have to search. I had to peel up the label on the bottom of the jar to find the ingredient list. The scrubs I looked at had lots of good skin-nourishing oils but the first ingredient in the list (which means it is the one in the largest amount) was mineral oil. Mineral oil is a petroleum product that does not absorb into your skin, has no nutritional value, and will clog your pores. Its only “redeeming value” is that it is cheap. You won’t find mineral oil in any Herb Garden products.
I have seen salt scrubs. Why are you producing sugar scrubs?
Salt scrubs and sugar scrubs have the same purpose. The salt and sugar grains exfoliate and the oils soften and nourish the newly exfoliated skin. Salt crystals, however, are more “pointy” than sugar crystals and thus will be more scratchy. Salt will also sting any broken skin and should not be used after shaving. For those reasons I have chosen to produce sugar scrubs.
What if I am in need of a product for a particular problem?
Once I get my inventory back to normal after a big sale, I am always looking for new things to work on. I would be happy to research and experiment if you would be willing to be the “guinea pig.” Just let me know what you need and we’ll work on it together. I’m not a doctor, I don’t have anywhere near all the answers, and I don’t make any promises, but I would like to help and I love the challenge. Maybe we can find something that will work for you.
Have any more questions?
Ask away and come back here to see the answers.