Thursday, 30 September 2010


I have been doing a lot of thinking and quite a lot of research lately because of Dove Soap.

I'm sure I'm not the only soap maker who has people come to their stall/shop and pick up soaps, sniff and feel them, enjoy the scents etc. then look sadly at you and say "Oh I'm so sorry, I can't use anything else on my skin but Dove, Id love to buy your soaps but I'm really scared to change"

GGGGRRRRR..***&&$$%@@** !!!!  I used to get a bit upset and spend ages talking to the customer but now I just sigh and say "when you buy your next bar just check the ingredients"

Its not just Dove of course, I am talking generally too but as market leader and a brand that undoubtedly uses very clever marketing to promote its product as natural, full of moisturiser and gentle Dove is the UK’s top Bar Soap with an amazing 23% of the population having bought a Dove product in 2008. And it doesn’t end there: 10 million women use Dove every week in the UK.
I know I'm not the first and I'm sure I wont be the last to make this comparison but really guys, natural soap using the finest ingredients verses a commercially made soap bar, however popular - surely there is no comparison?  or is there?...........

I use the term 'soap' very loosely here, Dove, Imperial Leather, Lever Bro's and most commercial 'soaps' are actually (and legally) considered detergents or Syndet bars and are simply referred to as soap due to their cleansing capacities.  Syndet is an acronym for Synthetic Detergent bar.  Some commercial 'soap' bars can't even legally be called soap  rather they are labeled 'cleansing bar' because they are almost totally synthetic, scented with synthetic fragrances and contain a huge amount of preservatives.

The reason for the fragrance and preservatives used (even in those soaps calling themselves 'unscented' or 'fragrance free') is that they are often used to mask other offensive-smelling ingredients, usually cheap and animal derived.  There are no legal definitions for the terms scents and fragrances so the cosmetic industry can use these and still label their products as if they are free from them.  The foul smelling ingredients used are usually animal fats such as the innocuous sounding 'sodium tallowate' which is actually a hard fat rendered down from parts of the bodies of cows, sheep or horses, also used in foodstuffs or to make candles, leather dressing, soap and lubricants for industry.  Now I know we can all get dirty and all need soap to get us clean but I really don't think many of us need an industrially manufactured, synthetic detergent full of potentially harmful chemicals to clean our skin - we may as well run naked through the car wash!!  (actually that could be fun I guess - but definitely not good for our skin)

Fancy doing this to your face every day?

So what about the claim that Dove contains "1/4 Moisture Lotion" in every bar?  I read some very interesting information in my trawling around and it was uncomfortable stuff.  In 1990 Lever Bro's introduced the innovative product Lever 2000 - an "all-in-one deodorant and moisturising soap for the whole family", then Lever also introduced a liquid Dove and an "all free clear" which contains no perfumes or dyes.  If you look closely at the ingredients it seems that the Lever 2000 bar could also make the same claim as Doves "1/4 Moisture Lotion" bar.

As we soap makers know, lotions are made from Water, oils and emulsifiers.  Emulsifiers are often surfactants or even types of soap themselves.  This is because normally water and oils don't mix, they need help to do it.  The emulsifier or surfactant molecules basically attract water on one end and oil on the other thereby allowing water and oil to be mixed and could be the reason for the claim to have lotion or cream added.  The oils and water that comprise the main part of a lotion would simply just mix with the oils and water in the soap created in the pot and become just another part of the soap formula.  Even if you physically opened up a jar of lotion or cold cream and dumped it into your soap the lotion or cream would simply break down into their basic components and join their other oil and water mates in the pot!!

Looking at the ingredients listed you have to wonder if the wonderful "Moisture Lotion" part is actually the beef fat as Sodium Tallowate, mentioned above, is the leading ingredient in the bar.  Its interesting to try and find the quality lotion ingredient mentioned in the advertising claims that Dove make - See if you can......

LEVER 2000                                                        DOVE
Sodium tallowate, sodium cocoyl isehionate,       sodium cocoyl isethionate, stearic acid,
Sodium cocoate, water, socium isethionate,        cocnut acid, sodium tallowate, water,
stearic acid, coconut fatty acid, fragrance            sodium isethionate, sodium stearate,
titanium dioxide, sodium chloride, disodium         cocamidopropyl betaine, sodium cocoate,
phosphatem tetrasodium EDTA, trisodium           palm kernelate, fragrance, sodium chloride,
etidronate, BHT, FD&C blue no.1, D&C red         terasodium EDTA, trisodium etidronate,
no. 33                                                                   BHT, titanium dioxide and sodium dodecyl
                                                                             benzene sulfonate

sodium tallowate                                                  sodium tallowate
sodiu cocoyl isethionate                                      sodium cocoyl isethionate
sodium cocoate                                                   sodium cocoate (or palm kernelate)
water                                                                   water
sodium isethionate                                              sodium isethionate
searic acid                                                           stearic acid
coconut fatty acid                                                coconut acid (the same as coconut fatty
titanium dioxide                                                   titanium dioxide
fragrance                                                             fragrance
sodium chloride                                                   sodium chloride
tetrasodium ETDA                                               tetrasodium EDTA
trisodium etidronate                                             trisodium etidronate
BHT                                                                     BHT

FD&C blue no, 1 (for colour)                   sodiun stearate (a soapy salt left after
D&C red no. 33 (for colour)                     the glycerin is removed)
                                                                            cocamidoropyl betaine (foaming agent)
                                                                            sodium dodecyl benzene sulfonate
                                                                           (synthetic detergent used for many
                                                                            household and industrial cleaners)  

Where is the lotion?

One last and very significant problem with Dove and other mass produced 'soap' bars is that most, if not all (and I have yet to find one myself) use palm oil in their manufacture because its cheap and easy to come by and Unilever, which produces Dove, test on animals.

Using palm oil at the rate they do supports terrible environmental havoc, in maintaining their incredible demand for palm oil they (and many others) are destroying the rain forests at a frightening rate and are responsible for the slaughter of hundreds and hundreds of Orangutans and their wonderful and diverse habitats.

This is why I no longer use any palm oil in my soaps - You can find "ethically sourced palm oil" but there is no real way of making absolutely sure that it comes from a sustainable source that is not destroying rain forest habitat - my solution, just don't use it! Check out my full explanation about Naturally Made Soaps decision to stop using palm oil altogether here   I really think my soaps are just as good as always - no customer has made any comment about the change apart from - Well done we love your soap.. So until I can be absolutely sure there is a way of ensuring my ethically sourced, sustainable palm oil REALLY comes from a sound, healthy and trustworthy source I'm sticking to the NO PALM regime - and I see no reason to change now.

So for those of you who have customers who need a non scientific explanation about how great your naturally made soaps and beauty products are verses commercially produced soaps and cosmetics you can now show them YOUR ingredients list and how it stands head & shoulders above the commercial soap ingredient lists!!

Sorry for the rant, I really did not mean this blog to be so long but it is something very close to my heart and its why I wanted to make my own Naturally Made Soaps!!  I hope you forgive me for going on a bit............  Id really love to know what you think

Thanks to the Indie Blog, Caring,,,, Greenpeace and Unilever themselves for the information used in this post.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Friends - Friends old, friends new, friends borrowed and Cupcakes!!

A bit of a cryptic title I realise........  Let me explain

Years ago, a lot longer than I care to remember, I was employed as a nanny to look after an 8 month old girl as her mum was running a very busy, stressful cafe business in Totnes, Devon.  Sounds simple - however I was 19/20 years old, did not really know what I was doing and just winged it, like you do when you are young and desperately needed a job!!

Funny thing was that within a week I was smitten, Melody was a lovely child, happy, smiling and really fun.  She was not walking, still on bottles and a nap during the day but I coped.  I gradually got more and more into the role, began to love her mum as much as her and before I knew it I had a life long friend, I have probably known and trusted her mum Gill as a dear friend longer than anyone I know.  The three of us did a lot together including going on a very memorable holiday to Morocco - Mels was not walking, had two mums running around after her, a pool, scrambled eggs for breakfast and sun - what more could a little girl want?

Gill and I had quite a lot more to contend with, let me tell you.  Two women alone in Morocco on a package holiday in a dodgy Tangiers hotel on our own......  say no more!

Well we survived.  I used to take Mels swimming to the local pool in Totnes almost every day, swimming was my thing, I loved it and I was determined she would love it too.  She was great, I got so sick of people telling me how my baby looked just like me that I stopped bothering to tell them that she wasnt mine, she did look like me, dark hair, tall, etc. I sometimes forgot she wasnt mine!!  (sorry Gill) we had such fun together.  I even  photographed her on the Dartington Hall donkey (if you know Dartington Gardens, Totnes, Devon you will know exactly where I mean).  Every child born in the area just HAS to have their photo taken on the donkey.  I have one of myself, aged the same as Mels (about 10 months) and have one of both my own children too (we still have to get a picture of Lola on it).  Here she is:

Mels on the donkey with Ish

Time moved on and so did we all, Gill eventually did not need a nanny any more but we still stayed friends.  Our friendship grew and changed over time, one of those strange things where two women share stories, loves, battles and bottles of wine late into the night, secrets never to be repeated, horrid times, hard times, laughs, fun and unimaginable joy.  I lived with her for a while when I split up from a long term relationship, we tried out different kinds of life when she and her husband split, had a household full of women at one point - what fun that was!, parties, different guys, lots of music and dancing.

Gill then settled with Steve, husband, lover and father to her two subsequent kids.  As all relationships change so did ours, we had our kids, drifted apart, but came together again when we needed to.  She saved me when I suffered an awful divorce and I hope I was there for her when she needed me over the years (though not as often as I - and probably she - would like).  Anyway we are still friends - still love each other - still enjoy making and creating and bouncing ideas off each other when we can make time to do it. 

To cut a long story short, and the whole point of this blog - my lovely first baby is now 28 and getting married! I spent yesterday down in Totnes with them all, Gill and my first baby Melody, my real first baby Aimee and her first baby (my lovely granddaughter Lola) - Are you confused yet? all having a wonderful day, making cupcakes for the wedding cake!!  How totally fabulous is that?

There are a very few times in life when you get a brief, clear and warm realisation why we are here on this planet, why we do what we do and why we keep hold of those who are so dear to us despite changing lives, changing times, moving house and the rest of it.

So here I send my best wishes to my very first baby Melody, her husband to be Sam, her kids, the whole family and most of all MY FRIENDS.  Thank you all for being there when I needed you, I hope I can do the same whenever you need it and I hope our families can carry on the bond.  I am so looking forward to being with you all on your special day this Saturday.

And most of all thanks to you Mels, putting up with me practicing being a mum on you!!

Me and Melody XX
Remember your friends - they are always there for you and always special.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

My day job

So what do I do when I'm not making soap, designing soap, selling soap, all the other things that go with running your own business, keeping chickens, walking dogs, looking after my lovely granddaughter Lola, running a house, re building a ruined farmhouse in Portugal and generally running about like a headless chicken?   You might well ask...

I'm an Arts Development Officer for our local government authority East Devon District Council.  For how much longer?  That's another story.  With all the government cuts we are a dying breed unfortunately. I used to work full time but had my hours cut to 3 days a week, then 2 and it's just not possible to do the same job in only two days, nor is it possible to live on the salary.  That's one of the reasons I decided to create Naturally Made Soaps last year so perhaps it's not such a bad thing after all.

Elmfield House Honiton - Thelma Hulbert Gallery, my office is ground floor on the right, desk in the window

I am based in the most beautiful Grade ll listed Georgian building Elmfield House in Honiton, East Devon.  The house was the last home of the artist Thelma Hulbert, hence the gallery name.  We have just undergone a major transformation thanks to the support of Arts Council England and the District  Council. Our gallery now occupies the whole of the building with a stunning new ground floor gallery space that was formerly Thelma's studio so it's very apt. We also proudly boast a dedicated learning room, a project room and a shop with refreshment area.  We have also been able to retain a room dedicated to showing the work of Thelma Hulbert.  Thelma's work has largely been overlooked by the British Arts establishment. She was a teacher at the Camden School for Girls but, following a successful exhibition of her work at Whitechapel in 1962, she was persuaded to give up her teaching job.  Thelma was a contemporary of Victor Passmore and Barbara Hepworth to name a few and although these artists became far more famous Thelma produced some striking and well loved painting.  She moved to Honiton late in her life and continued painting until her death in 1995.

Our lovely new gallery space

I am based at the gallery and do feel very fortunate to work in such a lovely environment.  I work with a great team of people and, though it can be very stressful managing artistic staff and having overall responsibility for the gallery and arts provision in the area, it is a great job.

I now face the difficult decision of deciding when it will be right to give up the day job and concentrate fully on soap. It's a tough one and I know I'm not the only person with this difficult dilemma.  Do I give up my income that pays my housekeeping bills allowing Naturally Made Soaps to grow and expand or do I give it up, thereby freeing up much needed time?  I really do need the time too, an extra two days would be bliss.   Anyone out there had to make this move?  I'd love to hear how you fared and what you learnt.

Monday, 6 September 2010

New images and a brigher feel to the website

Hi everyone, it's is your hopeless blogger Soapchick here!
I really have been meaning to update my site more often and I really promise that I will more often in the future.

Firstly can I say a huge big thank you to all my new followers, it is so nice to know that what I write doesn't just disappear into the ether, never to be read or noticed and I really do appreciate all your lovely comments too.  After a long hard day, and there have been lots of them lately, there is nothing nicer than logging on to see if anyone has made a comment and I get so excited when I see I have a new one, sad but true.  Im not sure why I dont have more followers, I need to nag people on my facebook page I think, oh and twitter.  By the way, if you have a little time on your hands do go and look at some of the other blogs and websites Ive listed down the right hand side of this blog, they are fabulous and will really give you some great ideas and inspiration - not just soap either.

Thanks also to the new blog followers from the Soaps-n-lotions forum, its a good place, very nice helpful people and a wealth of fantastic soaping information.  In fact, I always think there is too much, I could spend ages just flicking through the stuff especially the pictures of other peoples soaps, the trouble is if I did I would never get anything done,  I just love soap porn, don't you?  Anyway thanks to Topcat and Lindy for taking a trip to my blog and following me, thanks guys!
If anyone is interested in taking a look at the forum and my last post - an introduction as I have not posted for so long I thought I had better start again!, go to

So where am I?  Life is very full on, Ive just completed two really big wholesale orders one for Germany and one in the Isle of Wight so Im feeling a bit smug about that, Ive dreamed up a few different colour combinations for new wedding favors which look cute and Im really getting down to Christmas soap designing.  Yes I know, go on moan!! I feel the same way but honestly Im really not wishing the dark days of winter upon us its just that the time it takes to get a design into some kind of production, work out new labels, take photos, do the marketing and allow enough time for the soaps to cure, before I know it November is upon me and then I start to panic.  Im trying hard to get in early this year so it wont be so hectic - wishful thinking I know.

My new Wedding header
Mini wedding favors 1 (Scent - Lavender eo)

Mini Wedding favors 2 (scents - Strawberry and Vanilla Bean)
I'm pleased with these little lovelies, Ive used my new leaf cutter and I'm very happy with the results, especially how the leaves now have a slight curve in them which looks so much more lifelike, and that is what I am always striving to do.  I'm planning to try some new cutters to get away from the daisy flower look so watch this space.

Anyway, I have also been trying to refresh my website a bit, some of you may have noticed if you have visited lately.  Ive re-taken lots of new photos and added extra ones to the product descriptions.  Its funny how over time the soaps morph into different looking things and unless you go back and look you just don't notice.  I now make my White Chocolate and Strawberry Gateaux in a totally different way from how I did in the beginning so keeping everything updated is a long and constant process.  I used to use Melt &Pour soap for the curls and hearts but I am really trying to get right away from M&P, I hate the way it weeps everywhere and I really don't like the ingredients either so, as I am getting better at manipulating Cold Process soap now Im trying to replace the M&P additions wherever I can and the Gateaux is a perfect example, it now contains only great qualiy CP soap - YIPEE!

Old original White Choc & Strawb Gateaux

The New White Choc & Strawb Gateaux
Actually now I come to look at it, I really like the top one too.  Its just such a shame that M&P soap is a pain and drips everywhere.  Living in Devon its always damp and rains rather a lot (that's why its so green) and any soap with M&P in is just impossible to sell in an outdoor situation unless its tightly wrapped in cling film.  As this soap is packed with cocoa and shea butter I really like people to be able to pick the soap up, feel it and smell it, all the senses need to be used not just one, with cling film covering it that is not possible and it really frustrates me.  Perhaps the time has come to see if I can make my own clear soap from scratch?  What do you think? 
Do you like the original or the new one better?
Id love to hear your opinions.
Speak to you all soon - sooner that last time I promise!!