Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An update and some rambling about soap....

Hey everybody!  It's been awhile since my last post, huh? 

 I just wanted to update you guys on what's been happening lately for the shop, and give some information on when the holiday soaps will be released.  I've been getting tons of messages for a time frame, and...well....I'm getting them done as fast as possible but I can't really nail down a specific date for ya.  I'm shooting for the end of the month, right after Halloween, so there isn't so much of a mixture out there at once.  Sound good?  It's been so busy (Thanks for all your awesome support!) that I don't even know what the heck I've made in the last month or so.  A few are:  "Sugared Spruce"..."Cookies For Santa"...Frosted Sugar Plum Spice"..."Christmas Candy".....ummmm...what else?  OH!  "Berry Christmas" aaaand...."Gingerbread".  I have at least 3 more left to make and that'll be it for the season.  I will be making a new "Trio" of some kind, as well.  If you'd like a look at some of them, check out the videos on my YouTube channel.  It's going to be a fun batch, and I hope you like them. :)

I also wanted to talk a little bit about a trend I'm seeing on YouTube lately.  Many non soapmaker soapaholics are a unique breed and we love ya.  We do.  When someone is passionate about products that we soapmakers put so much time and heart into, it really makes us feel so good when it's appreciated and loved by buyers and afficionados.  Sometimes I wonder where the heck you people store all of that soap (Next...on "Storage Wars"....lol) but I love ya.  It makes it all so much fun. :)  You are the fuel for our businesses and also our creativity.

I've been seeing a lot of people doing "Lather Tests" on video.  Now, it's not rocket science, and I don't want to insult anyone's intelligence by this mild rant, but I'd like people to keep in mind a coupla things when doing these.  I see many people take stacks of soap from various soapmakers, and one at a time, test their lathering ability on...say...an arm, over and over again.  It's important though to consider that no matter how "good" a soap is, a certain amount of oils will be stripped from the skin, just by the very nature of the product.  Some more than others.  But with each consecutive "test", more oils will have been removed from that spot, and the following soap may appear to lather more than the first one, and on and on.  Ya following me?  Less oil on the skin means that the soap will "grab" more and produce more lather.  So my point (and I do have one) is that this generally isn't a fair representation of a soap, or soapmaker.  It is also important to know something about what makes lather in a handmade soap.  Big fluffy lather is created by specific ingredients in soap.  Coconut oil, castor oil, sugar etc.  Stable lather is produced by other specific ingredients.  The factor to remember is that it is always a trade-off.  The high-lathering ingredients are also more stripping to the skin.  If you have a soap that has so much lather, it's frothing all over the place, I will guarantee you have a soap with a very high percentage of oils that create that.  You will almost always have a soap that is also less conditioning to the skin, despite the high superfats and other tricks of the trade.  The key is balance.  It takes many years sometimes, to create a recipe that produces great lather and also doesn't dry out the skin, and strip all the nutrients away.  Additionally, one person's skin differs from another's.  And what one person likes may be completely different than what someone else enjoys.  It's a wonder I don't blow my brains out....  :P   We try our very best to find that delicate sweet spot that balances all of the elements.  It isn't as easy as it looks.

Now, I don't wanna be a buzzkill here, because the videos are kinda fun...but many people watch these videos for recommendations, and I'd hate to see fledgling businesses get a poor rap because their product wasn't accurately represented.  It hasn't happened to me yet, but sometimes I think to myself "Ouch - that soapmaker just got nailed for lackluster lather", when really, if that soap had been used further down the stack, it would have almost certainly produced more, and that soapmaker's product wouldn't have looked so lame in front of all of YouTube. 

You smell what I'm cookin'?  Good. :)

(Please be sure to check out Holly's other great points in the comments section too!)

So what's a YouTuber to do?  Maybe just switch up the spots on your body or maybe even review a particular company on one video, singularly.  Disclaimers like "This is just my opinion, get off my back" in the downbar, are really sort of flippant and MeanGirlish, honestly.  It makes me sad when I see that. I know most soapmakers welcome honesty and feedback, but just be mindful of the damage you may be causing someone's business.   I know nobody would want that to happen. :)  Let's keep it light and fun and accurate.  So now, armed with more information and food for thought, bring on the new videos.  I always love to see them!

Okay...so that's all.  I hope everybody's having a nice, seasonably warm, fall.  Looking forward to seeing what everyone has been making for the holidays.  You guys are so talented!
Have an amazing day!


  1. I'm looking forward to all your new holiday soaps. Maybe when you have them all done, you can do a release video displaying all of them? That'd be cool.

    I totally agree on the lather tests. I wash my hands a ton and a soap that can feel awesome in the morning may feel more stripping by evening, when all my naturals oils are stripped away.

    I would also like to add to the point that a well-cured soap will so much nicer and have more lather than a soap that is more of a baby. So a one month soap will be so different from a soap that has been curing for 9 months. So to compare them apples to apples...Ya know?

    Water also makes a big difference. Someone may forumulate a recipe for soft water and it will be totally different in hard water.

    So in the end, lather tests are not the greatest test of a soap because everyone likes something a little different and we try to formulate accordingly, but not all soaps are created equal and to treat them as such is unfair.

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  3. Hi Lori :D
    Good Subject! Personally I LOVE the lather test because for some strange reason , I am the ONLY one who doesn't really want a really super sudsy lathery soap.LOL I LOVE the Creamy more Lotion type soaps that barely lather at all :) The cool thing about the test are that everybody gets to see the soaps in action :) If it's gonna sudds up, you can tell, and if it's not & lotiony, you can see that too.
    I think If the buyers have any sense, they will know it's just an example of how the soaps lather up more or less. We get to experience them in a way :)
    As a buyer of an ONLINE product..it's really nice to see the product being used in front of you, because other then that, you're basically taking a chance on it being what you hope it will be.
    Of course I'm speaking from a buyers perspective :) I also think..Peoples products speak for themselves ! Hence, yours! :D that's why I Love & buy them :)
    Have a Goodone

  4. I see your point Mia.

    I'm thinking the appropriate lather test would be to test one soap at a time, under the same conditions, at different intervals. It's not a fair test to use one, then the next, then the next, etc., all at one time, due to the skin being stripped of it's oils little by little. Spacing them out under the same circumstances would be best.

    Also, speaking of skin oils, if you slather your hands in lotion and then go to wash in 15 minutes, the lather will be reduced as compared to if your hands were dry. So that is a condition in which a first lather wouldn't be accurate.

    The bars would also need to be tested in the same condition, as in, whether used before, same size, etc. It all affects the lather. The size of a bar will cause little or more friction right off depending on whether it's a little piece or a large piece. A odd shaped bar, like a cupcake or a bar not beveled will affect the slip first thing and first impressions of lather.

    Also, it's a well know fact in the soaping world that a brand new bar of soap won't lather as well the VERY first time as it will any time following. It's part of that outer 'cure' on the bar. Thus a longer cured bar could appear to be a bit of a dud but later times be lovely and just as good as another. The same longer cured bar though will in turn end up lathering than a young bar because that's the whole point of curing soap.

    Another point I bring up again is water. A bar of soap at my house will lather like crazy and take it to my parents house with well water and it's just a soft and lotion-y lather soap. So thus, if I took a bar of soap that was so gentle and lotion-y at my house, it would just be a flat out dud at my parents house. That is the differences in water and also something a soaper has to take into consideration when formulating a bar. So the same bar can have explosive lather one house with their particular water and then could have a gentle lotion-y lather at another house with their different water.

    So all this to point out that soaps are quite complicated and thus why we spend years formulating and reformulating. This is why we share with friends and family to get a good test of the lather in different places.

    I see how the tests are helpful to some but unless it's done well and accurately it could be hurtful to a soaper that generates a perfectly lovely bar of soap.

  5. Another thought I meant to mention was that soaps just aren't equal. There are castiles, bastiles, salt bars, bars formulated be to used in salt water, etc. I personally formulate a bar for myself that is super gentle and superfatted because I have dry skin. I forumlate another bar for my dad that is more lathery and 'dry' feeling. My dad doesn't want to feel that lotion-y slip. He wants squeaky clean. I don't want squeaky clean.

    Even down to scents, I will adjust my scent depending on who is using it. I can't hand much fragrance in mine so I reduce it. I reduce it for my kids too. But someone else would say (and Lori has) that my soaps are at times lacking in the scent dept. But I did that on purpose.

    So most of the differences are done on purpose. I could even take it to the point that I could formulate a bar for the test only and be quite sneaky about it. :)

  6. Correction: The same longer cured bar though will in turn end up lathering *better* than a young bar because that's the whole point of curing soap.

    No one has ever accused me of being short winded. HA!

  7. Hmmm... I used to do lather videos comparing various soaps all at once because it was more complicated to set up the bathroom with the additional lights (3 lamps + boxes for stability lol) if I wanted to show them on different days. BUT... these days I only demonstrate the lather of 1 company at one time because it is a fairer representation :)

    Speaking from a non-soaper's point of view, I like soaps that lather simply because it's a personal preference. However I am aware that handmade soaps should not be compared to commercial soaps; the water type makes a difference; and that more lather does not mean it's a better soap or that one that does not lather means it's a 'bad' soap. (However, not every non-soaper knows this unfortunately) It's just that even among handmade soaps, I prefer those that have a better lather because I've been spoilt by the likes of Scentsational Soaps, Future Primitive, Creamery Creek, Beacon Creations and know that there are such soaps out there that lather AND moisturize AND are gentle to the skin regardless of skin type ;) These companies have found a balance between lather and not stripping the skin at the same time so yes the key really is balance. There are so many factors which can affect the lather ability to a soap, however it is impossible to ensure that each bar of soap is under the same factor because for instance I receive soaps at different times even though I may order them on the same day because of shipping times and even the soap themselves may have different cure times back at the soapmaker's house. Lather showcases are meant to help buyers have a simple preview of what the soap may be like on a very simple basic level, not really to thrash a company's soap to be honest. Even soapmakers themselves have shown lathering videos of their own soaps in order to allow buyers to see how well (or not) they lather :)

    I don't think buyers would deliberately want to thrash a company, especially not one of the small-home based ones that put in so much effort to make their products and earn a living. However, from personal experience if there is a product that I do not like, then I will not review it because it's such a thin line between constructive criticism and otherwise, and I just don't want to come across as the latter even if I am super duper careful with whatever I'm saying. The same comment can be received very differently by different individuals because we choose to receive it differently.

    I guess the thing that I want to say is that non-soapers make videos from a buyer's point of view with the purpose of reaching other non-soapers, whereas soapmakers make videos from a soaper's point of view. There are videos made where soapers show the process of making soaps with soaping terminology, which us buyers have no clue about but we still enjoy watching the creating process because it's really cool to see how something we use is being made from scratch, and it does make us appreciate the effort even more. Are these videos then made to help other newbie soapers who are learning or are they made with the buyers in mind? ;)

    I definitely agree with Lori on keeping things simple, fun and accurate. But I feel that the degree of accuracy in a non-soaper's video can only be based on their level of knowledge (or ignorance hehe) from a buyer's point of view rather than a soapmaker's :) Of course, here I'm not referring to the minority exception who are deliberately mean in their reviews, those are just trolls with nothing better to do lol

  8. Greats posts guys! It's cool to see it from both sides!!

  9. Hi Holly...

    I totally see your point as a soap maker. And I can see how it could seem unfair.
    But as a buyer, the science of the soap isn't quite what we are thinking about at the time :) lol
    I think we just want to see..is the soap creamy or sudsy...Bcuz even if it has some suds you can pretty much tell its gonna have lots of them once you get it in your own shower. and a creamy lotiony soap...wont suds up no matter what. :)
    Is the scent mellow or strong..and what does it smell like. AND the ever so popular..does it leave a creamy feel after or a squeeky clean feel.

    I agree with snowblume..we are pretty clueless about alot of science behind the soap.

    but honestly, We just want the simple details :)

    thank you for explaining all those things for me.

  10. Wow! What a fantastic comments section here....

    I love your soap L ~ I will definitely have to order some because (can you believe it?) I have never actually tried your gorgeous soap :o

  11. We'll have to swap sometime, T! :)

  12. first of all...can't wait to get my hands on all the new soaps!...

    secondly...while i do enjoy watching the lather vids...i don't go on what they show...because until i get in the shower and loofah away...i'm not going to really know what kind of lather i'll be getting...

  13. I'm just concerned that it's a fine line. A potential buyer watching one of those videos could be turned off by how a product appeared to perform when it could be completely different for them. So thus, they may not want to purchase that soap and could further discourage others. While it's a goal as a soapmaker to formulate the perfect bar for everyone, it's just not always possible.

    I just think it's more of a personal preference in these videos than an accurate test and performance review. I'm sure Tiggy and Kia get abundant sales from seeing their products so praised over. But they've also been testing and testing and testing for years. They didn't just fall into it. So to review a soap that maybe even the soaper knows needs tweaking still...I dunno.

    I almost feel there needs to be a disclaimer. Such as 'this is a personal preference and how a soap works for me in these conditions could vary for you.' But that kind of takes the fun out of it if I'm sure.

    I've tried soap from a well-reviewed soapmaker and coming from a maker's viewpoint, it was awful. Just straight up awful. Scent, feel, etc. But you can find plenty of people in love with the product. (I'll add that it was none that you mentioned Gen.)I also know that the next batch they made could have been tweaked and I'd totally adore it. I'm just not sure I want to spend the money to find out. :(

    My bottom line is that I don't want a soaper to be unfairly represented because I do understand the science behind it. I can adjust my shea butter by 1% or even my superfat by 1% and create a completely different feeling bar. Plus one batch tends to be different from the one before. That's kind of what we do. Ya know?

    Good points though guys!

  14. Thanks, Bean!!! Real soon! :) Great discussion, you guys....I like hearing both points of view. Great ideas...

  15. I understand what you are trying to say Holly, I really do. Of course us buyers know that there is no such thing as a perfect soap, and we are not looking for one either really. I will not speak on behalf of everyone else, but for me I buy whatever works for my skin and also for my family's. That alone is resulting in a different soap category altogether, since I have oily skin and prefer less moisturizing soaps because they tend to break me out.

    From watching all the videos of soapmakers', if it's one thing I've noticed, it's that they are always tweaking their recipe, even if they have been in the business for a long time or whether they are newbies. I'm guessing alot of soapers are perfectionists, and try very hard to come up with a recipe that is outstanding, and it's precisely because of that reason that I am able to appreciate and love buying handmade soaps. Seeing all that effort put into research and tweaking their recipe makes me feel that I can trust them to make a bar of soap that is safe to use and also great for my skin. I have mentioned in my videos that handmade soap have helped fix my chest and back breakouts and I wished I had learnt about handmade soaps earlier so I would have switched sooner! :)

    I do have a personal preference disclaimer on my videos even though Lori may feel that it's flippant and Meangirlish. I put it there not wanting to upset soapers and as a gentle reminder to potential buyers that all our noses, skins and climates are different. You'll be surprised to hear that even with that, I still get msgs from buyers telling me that they didn't like ABC's soap and they bought it because I said it smelled good lol!

    Videos have always been a personal preference, be it a review on soaps or any other product. How often have we turned to reviews by others when we research on a product that we are considering to buy? For me, it's often. However, I do take into consideration the number of good reviews vs. the number of negative ones. If the majority are positive and talk about the general lines (in this case soap) of smoothness, safe to use, TAT, lather, does not dry skin out and good customer service.. then I'm sold. Because I would know that the single negative review could have been just a single personal preference/experience, maybe in terms of scent or perhaps even something like shipping which is out of the soaper's control. I would not base my judgement / buying decision on that single review.

    It is not possible to have a soap be 100% fairly represented because way too many factors are involved that could influence the soap lather like you have mentioned previously. Even climate plays a part in terms of how well the soaps keep. Lather videos are meant to help buyers feel engaged and also show how the product looks / works in 'reality', not to thrash a company or upset soapmakers. Many times when I see a soaper's soap/foaming scrub lather, I rush off to buy it because it's my personal preference. For another buyer who dislikes lather, she might be turned off and might skip buying entirely.

    I definitely understand your concerns Holly, but I also know that unless I am a soaper myself and am running a soaping business, perhaps I cannot fully appreciate the pains that you all go through. In time if I ever pick up soaping, I will probably be ranting about the same thing to you haha! Until that day though I make videos based on an online buyer's point of view, so I hope I don't upset too many soapmakers along the way :)

  16. A little late here, but lather tests are certainly not a fair representation of how your skin FEELS and really don't do much for people with sensitive skin especially. Like Holly and Lori say, lather is a trade off. The best test of soap is not a lather test, but to actually use it in the shower and see what your entire body feels like AFTER you leave the shower.

    Does your skin itch? Is it dry? Does it feel smooth and silky? Does it feel smooth and silky? Does it feel like you don't need to add lotion after the shower? What about even an hour or three after the shower? As someone with sensitive skin, my tests are much more critical than lather alone.

    Unfortunately, when people do lather tests, they are 'educating' the general public wrongly about what might be a superior soap versus others that don't 'lather' much per se. They are harming and influencing the general public because of lather, which is not why the majority of people buy soap anyway. They buy them because of all of the above combinations, smell, how it feels on the skin even hours later, visual appeal, as well as personal ethical preference even.

    It would be too bad that someone decided against a great soap that would actually be beneficial for their skin when they unknowingly base their decision solely on the lather test.

    For testing purposes, try something different than 'lather' alone. Use a soap for a week or even a few days and then report back. Also, what are you looking for? How does your skin feel after? That would be a more accurate and better test. Give more information, rather than lather alone.

  17. Uh oh.....posts are being deleted by the authors. No need to worry you guys, everybody's nice here and are really great people - and know this isn't an argument and nobody's gonna get stupid about it (I hope). Just a discussion about the points we all had about it. That's all....really....please don't worry about that. I love hearing it all :) Come baaaaaaack....lol!

  18. Oh for sure! We can have a discussion and it's so interesting to read both sides! No need for anyone to get upset for sure. This is the stuff that helps us grow!

    I do see what you're saying Gen. This is definitely a two-sided issue and that's all there is to it.