Handcrafted Soap

Handcrafted soap is a rather popular product, as it is available in an array of scents and designs. Most of these soaps are ultimately used for bathing, or as beauty products, as opposed to heavy-duty cleaning (like detergent soaps do). Soaps can be molded into countless designs and wrapped in innumerable ways. They are usually homemade and easy to make, and are considered cost-effective gifts that emphasize the creativity of the giver and personality of the recipient.

What makes it different?

Although they basically serve the same purpose, the main factor that separates handcrafted soap from industrial soap is the greater amount of moisture that is retained after saponification. The making of industrial soap usually involves the removal of alkali (superfatting) via adding excess fat to the mixture. In addition, the glycerin is not taken out, leaving a smoother sensation on the skin after use.

This type of soap is called "superfatted" soap, and contains excess fat. This is more conducive to maintaining healthy skin than industrial soap, though it is highly preferable to strike a balance in how much glycerin is allowed to remain in the soap, as it can get too "greasy" even after rinsing.

Handcrafted soap also differs in their molds, since they provide a greater chance for creativity in design. Handcrafted soap vendors, or even soap making hobbyists, place a lot of effort in shaping their products, as this contributes largely to their prospective buyers' appeal. Scents are also more customizable, as different oils may be added to the soap, allowing for an even more personalized touch. The added fragrances may come from plant-based essential oils (which usually have aromatherapeutic benefits), animal-based scents, synthetic fragrance oils, or even combinations of all three may be added to the handcrafted soap.

Generally, soaps and cosmetic fragrances come from plant-based essential oils, animal-based scents and/or synthetic fragrance oils, and are often a complex blend of many different parts.

How are they made?

Before you can mold and shape away to your heart's content, you've got to make the soap first. The process of creating soap by deriving chemical acids from fatty acids is called saponification. There are several ways to make soap, the melt-and-pour, and hot and cold processes are some of them.

Saponification occurs by boiling fat and lye at a temperature of 80 – 100 degrees Celsius. Before the advent of modern thermometers, saponification was determined to have occurred by the disappearance of the easily distinguishable taste of lye. However, today, it is highly discouraged to "taste" soap to verify saponification. Following saponification, the soap is extracted from the solution by adding salt and allowing excess liquid to drain off. The mixture is then placed into a mold, and is designed to one's preference. It is advised that the soap not be used until after three weeks. Similar to wine, this is called "aging", and the quality of the soap is much improved by the length of time it is aged.

A more convenient method to make handcrafted soap would be to use instant "melt-and-pour" soaps, which are ready made products and can be purchased online or at stores that specialize in soapmaking. Essentially, they are melted in the microwave and then poured into molds or shaped with cookie cutters. This is a good option for beginners, or if it is not possible to wait three weeks before the soap is needed.

Where can I find them?

Depending on the size and ingredients, handcrafted soap can sell for as low as $2.49 (such as Oatmeal and Honey Neem Oil Handmade Soap), and as high as $19.79 (Lavender Essential Oil Handmade Loaf Soap) on eBay. It's important to consider that some essential oils used for the fragrance greatly contribute to the price at which the soaps are sold. You might also want to check out sites like that from Country Rose Soap Company, as they offer decent prices for a variety of good handmade soaps. Their prices range from approximately $4 to $5 for individual bars of soap.

Handcrafted soap can be purchased in gift shops or on the Internet, as its charm as a novelty gift item is rather timeless. However, most individuals prefer to actually make the soap themselves, as the personalized, "do-it-yourself" feature is one of the qualities that appeal most to potential buyers. Making handcrafted soap is a good way to unleash your inner artist, at the same time can be a fun reason to take that extra shower after a long day at work.