Soap is soap, right? I mean, it all gets you clean, one way or another. Some of it smells better than others, but by and large, soap ought to be pretty much a mature technology by this point in history, so what makes the handmade stuff better than the $1 stuff at the grocery store?
Well, several things play into that. One significant difference between supermarket soap and the soap of the sort made by Foam on the Range and countless other handmade soapmakers is the glycerin content. Even assuming that what you buy in the soap aisle at Kroger is actually soap rather than a “beauty bar” made from other detergents and surfactants, it will be soap from which all the glycerin has been removed. This glycerin is a natural byproduct of the saponification process, but many decades ago the industrial soapmakers learned they could get more good out of the glycerin elsewhere – putting it in lotions and creams to replenish skin stripped dry by the harsh soaps this process creates, or during wartime, selling it to make nitroglycerin. We prefer to leave it in the soap where it can add its humectant and conditioning qualities to the cleansing experience, and not leave you scratching like crazy!
We also carefully choose our ingredients to create a simple yet luxurious bar of soap – our SunSoap line is a very streamlined soap (sunflower oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and avocado oil) which continually gets rave reviews. We do make a few soaps with more complex oil profiles to create specific effects, but the majority of our soap is the same simple recipe, refined until it creates just exactly the effect we want: Sunflower oil for rich, vitamin E-laden skin care, adding a creamy texture to the lather; coconut oil to boost lather production and harden the bars of soap (sunflower oil on its own makes very soft soap); beeswax to harden the soap further; and avocado oil for Vitamin A and B and great skin conditioning, too). We didn’t cut any corners on our ingredient choices based on how to make the soap cheaper – all of the decisions were made on the basis of getting the perfect soap with as few ingredients as possible, for simplicity’s sake, and to stay in the 95%+ natural range. Oh, and bar soap doesn’t make all that plastic waste from throwing away shower gel bottles, either!
Of course, the small-batch artisanal quality is worth quite a bit on its own. You know every bar has been personally examined – several times! – and no soap leaves our hands without getting our nod of approval. And the smaller batches let small soapmakers play with color and texture, making new and beautiful soaps a dozen or two at a time; we can bring out new fragrances in small batches to test them – the variety is spectacular! And, of course, you get personal interaction with the craftsman – or craftswoman! – who made the product you’re about to use, who is much more likely than any big business to take your comments directly back to the development pathway and integrate them into future products.
So: Better for your skin, better for the environment, better for the local businesses! Try out an artisanal soap from an Etsy seller, a craft fair, or a farmer’s market near you – I bet you’ll be hooked in no time.