I made my first batch of soap about a year ago.
You see, back then, I was a coconut oil fanatic. I was convinced it cured everything. Dry skin? Rub coconut oil on it? Hair frizzy? Coconut oil. You’ve seen those memes about people and coconut oil? Yeah, they are talking about the old me. These days I know a lot more about fatty acids and what they do for your hair and skin, so I’m more likely to recommend a specific oil like argan or rosehip for your face, grapeseed for a light body oil, avocado for a richer body oil, and (still) coconut, castor, or broccoli seed for hair. Coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft making it unique among oils, castor oil gives hair unbelievable softness and shine, and broccoli seed oil has naturally occurring silicones which make it great for hair and skin, especially if you avoid synthetic ones.
But back to my story. I was sold on coconut oil about a year ago. Didn’t travel without it. Had a jar in the bathroom and a jar in the kitchen, and a little container by my bed to use as lotion. Then I stumbled across a pretty simple set of instructions explaining how to make coconut oil soap in your crock pot. It looked like fun so I thought I would do it.
It was a failure. Total failure at first. My soap siezed. I didn’t know what to do, so I added a little water so I could stir it longer and even though it never passed the zap test I pushed it into a loaf pan. After 24 hours it still zapped me, and I knew something was seriously wrong. I cut that soap up into chunks, grated it, and cooked it in the crock pot a second time for several hours with a little more water and a little more coconut oil. After this, it didn’t zap me, and I got it into the loaf pan again, but it was sure ugly soap. I didn’t know, I thought it was fine. I sliced it up and left it to cure a week. It was super bubbly soap that was supposed to work as a shampoo bar, but I never could get those 100% coconut bars to work as shampoo for my hair. Other people had better results. My ex-mother in law loves it.
I actually used that soap and found it was pretty awesome. The next batch I made was a lot easier, and was so cool I decided to expand what all I could make and try selling some of it. I cut up both sets of soap and gave them away as tester bars. The picture above is of the very last tester I have from the first soap I ever made. I may keep it forever.
Now, I rarely make cooked soap in the crock pot unless it’s base for liquid soap. Making cold process soap results in a smoother, more attractive bar and you can do more with colorants and fun techniques. Recently I did make hot process peppermint soap. I was even able to add a colorful stripe in the center without too much trouble, so maybe it’s possible to do fancy patterns in cooked soap. I’ve seen it especially with colored clays, and it makes a very pretty rustic soap.
I’d love to make the mermaid soap that Marie has up over at Humblebee & Me. I’m intrigued by the gradual color change and shimmery top, and I want to make more shampoo bars. This would give me a chance to keep developing a shampoo for oily hair, too. However, before I do that, I need to focus on building stock of the product lines I plan to carry all the time.Still, it’s on my to do list.
But that’s how I got started soaping. Learning about cosmetics, skin care, lotions, beard care, hair care, etc…. Well, that just followed along as I researched how to make the best soap and I started making bath and body products as well. The second big thing I developed and made was an arnica pain relief bar which has helped a few people I know.which give the initial cooling sensation and pain relief. Lately I’ve been making more makeup and playing with that.
My next things to learn more about are:
1) a face moisturizer that’s a light, skin loving lotion and not just pure oils
2) lip glosses-seem easy enough, now it’s a matter of time
3) pressed powders (this should be fun, because I’ve tried pressed powders with oil as a binder and it’s been a mess so next time I’m considering trying high proof alcohol and maybe a few drops of glycerine)
4)under eye gels for puffiness and dark circles- still learning about carbomers
5) hair smoothing serum and detangler-I have an idea, I just need to tweak it.
6) a lip balm that incorporates a touch of glycerin or honey to attract moisture to the lips as well as good stuff like cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax, and maybe a drop of lecithin to help emulsify it all. Some essential oils could be nice here or just let the honey taste come through.
7) Finally, because everyone I know is having babies, I’m making extra gentle, coconut derived surfactant based baby bath wash, baby lotion that’s filled with nourishing, extra gentle, oils and butters, and tweaking my baby booty balm to work in cold and warm weather (swapping the beeswax for Ecomulse so it’s not too hard, but not so soft that it’s a liquid mess in the heat of the summer; I had this idea after I remembered that I do this with the solid perfumes I make and they have been the right consistency).
Back to soap for a minute; I’m proud I’ve gotten to a point where I have two or three “go to” fool proof soap recipes that make good, hard, pretty soaps that I can be proud of. It’s taken me almost a year and many batches of soap to develop the one I call “the soap”, but it’s a damn good soap.
The things I like least about all this are making labels, bookkeeping, and handling shipping. If I could get someone else to do that part while I just make stuff, that would be swell (Office Space reference, lol). Nobody wants to do the business stuff in their business. Everyone wants to just create. But it’s gotta be done. And it gets done. Eventually, reluctantly, painfully, but it gets done.
And it all started with coconut oil.