vegan

Natural Colorants

First off, this is not intended to be a comprehensive assembly of all natural colorants that exist – its is merely the short list of those which are used regularly at Apothecary Muse in soap making. Whenever we source a new material, we research the safety of use during manufacturing as well as topically in skin care products on the Environmental Working Group website. If we change distributors, we ask questions about their sources, maintain records of the material safety data sheets for our batches and perform testing in product samples before releasing to the public.

What is different about soap colorants?

Because our methods include cold process which require extensive weeks of curing, many herbal extracts will fade and/or provide minimal herbal benefits after this time, especially if they are stored in direct sunlight. However, these can be used in combination with some essential oil and/or clay combinations that do not fade quite as readily:

Alkanet Root

Annato Seed

Calendula Flowers

Chamomile Flowers

Lemon Balm Leaves

Nettle Leaves

Powdered herbs or clays can be used at about 1 tsp per pound of soap.

Chlorella Powder

Hawaiian Salt

Indigo Powder

Kale Powder

Kudzu Root Powder

Pink Himilayan Salt

Spirulina Powder

Tomato Powder

Natural, mineral ingredients used on average 1/4 tsp per pound of soap.

Activated Charcoal

Bentonite Clay

Morrocan Clay

Mica (natural, not synthetic)

Titanium Dioxide (we practice safe handling during manufacturing)

Chromium Oxides (we practice safe handling during manufacturing)

Ultra Marine (from Lapis Lazuli)

Sometimes you get lucky!

As mentioned in a previous post, the natural deodorant pursuit has been a long, educational one. Just when I think I’ve gotten it figured out, a client brings up a new challenge or in this case, a shortage of paperboard tubes in the size I have been using forced me to readdress my packaging.  Fortunately, I was able to find another version in the same quality which fits my existing labels (although I have to handcut a perforated line in them) and secures the tops more easily.  This solves a BUNCH of issues I’d been ignoring: 1) shoppers sometimes open the sealed deodorant tubes, tearing the custom washi tape, and the larger perforated label is much stronger 2) the pricepoint is reduced to $10, making it more accessible to folks who want to start using a natural deodorant, and reduce their impact on the environment at the same time 3) I can make more product in the batch sizes I’d recently reformulated, although that is balanced out with increased labor and packaging.  So, ultimately the profit is the same per unit, the labor is more, but I expect more quantity of sales.  If I can keep using these and purchase an even larger quantity of packaging, I can afford the increase in labor.  Yes, I know.  I’m a one-woman show – but I got bills to pay like everyone else and once I can secure my own living wage, I’m inching closer to creating meaningful work for someone else.  I am crossing my fingers that this is a step towards more growth and my luck continues!

FAQ: Balm or Salve?

Craft shows and farmers markets are often full of people exposed to natural, handmade skincare for the first time. People often ask for “Chapstick” instead of lip balm, not realizing that is a specific brand name, like Kleenex instead of tissue. Since I only sell what I make, myself, I don’t resell other brands of product.  I try not to come across as if I correcting them, because they may have an association with their choice of words differently than I do and instead I seek to open up the discussion about my process. After all, talking in person with the maker of a product can be quite informative.woodsy warrior salve in tin

The jury is definitely still out on all the similarities and differences between balm and salve – because they overlap in so many ways. My exposure to both is through the world of retail and herbalism, but I took a quick tour in the internet and saw nothing consistent in the examples. Yet, I’d like to suggest there ARE some commonalities not already mentioned. Of course, these are my observation and not indicative of an attempt to rewrite anyone else’s definition. There might still be items in the world that do not fit this definition but are labeled as such. For the most part, they seem consistent in this regard, though:unscented lip balm vegan paperboard tube texture

In a nutshell, it seems that most people would agree that balms sit on top of the skin while salves absorb into skin. Salves generally seem to be softer than balms, and are applied with the fingertip.  Yet, they are firmer than an ointment or lotion, which share similar functions and ingredients albeit different ratios. Any of the above may have herbal infusion or essential oils, while salves specifically seem to utilize more herbs and balms use more aroma, not necessarily essential oils and sometime even flavor – a different kind of extract. Both salves and balms may be functional; however, salves primarily exist to support healing, while balms seem to exist to prevent damage. Balms, being more firm, tend to be formulated in stick form and have a “slip” factor to glide the product from an applicator tube instead of fingertips, versatile for travel and everyday use. Conversely, Salves tend to hang out in first aid kits or medicine cabinets until they are needed and have a variety of consistency. I know mine vary greatly depending upon the season.

Vegan Soap vs. The Fight Club

You’ve seen The Fight Club, right?  If you haven’t, please discontinue reading if you think you might in the future and consider this your final SPOILER ALERT.

fcbp

This isn’t a film review, and I’m not going to cover much of the actual storyline, but how soap-making is portrayed in the film.  For the general public, The Fight Club may have been their only exposure to behind-the-scenes soap business, and I hope my observations put a new spin on the small homegrown community of “soapers”.  We’ve all heard Fight Club references to our craft, so I revisited the film and scraped a bunch of quotes from the collective knowledge database to allow for our intellectual and sometimes hypothetical analysis.  I’m not a scientist or a factory, after all.

Let’s start out by discussing the business plan.

Tyler runs his soap business with all kinds of illegal behavior, which is integral to the film’s development of characters – but not practical at all for real soapers.  First off, the Return On Investment potential (ROI) is damaged by the risk for legal penalties, since they are stealing human/animal fats from liposuction clinics.  Soaping is one of those tasks that is truly Artisanal [if you take Artisan to mean: noun: a lifelong apprentice to a traditional craft, and Artisanal as adjective: student craft].  So, where did he learn how to make soap?

Tyler lays it down with this gem: “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

Seems as though he was inspired completely by the media to take up soaping.  But then in practice, his marketing strategy is unsustainable.  He approaches department stores with backdoor deals and body language really putting his business in the hands of the receivers’ emotions – bound to change on a daily basis.  And, not to mention the fact that he’s selling each bar for $20 wholesale!  How are they possibly going to market that to customers without his seduction skills, everyday?

His philosophy of goal structure: “Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing.

Sure, I spend a lot of time working alone when I’m blending, counting drops of precious essential oil or measuring out caustic lye in order to saponify my chosen base oils – and the power of the aromatherapy is undeniable.  I often think how unfair it is to the consumers of my soap that they aren’t there to see and smell the processing bars.  Unlike the locker room at the Fight Club.  How could one tip the scale at bliss to deduce pain?  “Let me pour some caustic solution on your hand to get you to understand…”  Non sequitur.

Then, there’s the flawed chemistry in the script. Tyler says, ‘when the tallows harden you skim-off a layer of glycerine, if you were to add nitric acid, you got nitroglycerine, if you were to add sodium nitrol and a dash of sawdust you got dynamite – Yeh, with enough soap we can blow up just about anything’.

Soap is defined by the FDA as “the bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product’s detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds“.  Why then, does Tyler refer to the saponifying chemical as Nitric Acid, and not Sodium Hydroxide?  Nitric Acid is the finished chemical reaction in glycerine, not found in cold-process soap that uses fats such as he is using.  Further, non-animal oils/fats with similar saponification values and humectant qualities are plentiful, not to mention you’re only addressing the metabolism of your consumer with your product and not multiple of levels of potential toxicity.  Because his quality of chosen fats would be inconsistent at best, longevity was clearly not part of the business plan.  Not to mention the unfortunate loss of a spendy jacket every time he jumps a barbed wire fence.

So, my summary is that vegan soap must be superior and more cost-effective to that which is produced by Tyler, whether you know that you’ve been talking to yourself or not.

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