Monday, February 22, 2016

Fragrance Oils vs. Essential Oils: What's the big deal?

There are lots of different kinds of soapers in the world.  Some are all organic (I'm not).  Some are all colorant free (not me).  Some use only essential oils to scent their soaps and eschew fragrance oils entirely (not me, either).  So what's the big deal about essential oils anyway?

Here's what I know about essential oils:
  • They are extracted, in one way or another, from natural plant matter.  Because they are made from natural materials, there tends to be some variability in the end product.  Some of them are just squeezed out.  Some require steaming to extract the oils.  I hear there are other methods, but I don't know about them for sure.
  • Essential oils can be very concentrated.  The name brand oils you see out there being sold for aromatherapy or other uses are often diluted in a carrier oil or the manufacturer recommends that you dilute them yourself so they can be applied directly to the skin.  That's not something you will want to do with full strength essential oils.  Some of them, like peppermint and cinnamon, can cause unpleasant reactions when the concentration is too strong.  
  • You won't see me using those brand names in my soaps for a couple of reasons: 
    1. As I just said:  Some of them are diluted so they aren't very strong smelling when they become even further diluted in the soap.  The carrier oil isn't always specified.  The type of oil can be important to soap making.
    2. They are expensive.  For my soaps, I use about an ounce (give or take) of concentrated essential oil per batch of soap I make.  In order to use enough of those name brand oils to get an equivalent fragrance strength, I might need to buy several ounces for each batch.  That's not cost effective at all and the soaps would be very, very expensive.
  • The cost of essential oils is typically higher than fragrance oils.  Because they rely on the production of natural materials, the cost can vary quite a bit from one year to the next depending on the availability of the plant matter.  If a crop fails, it might not be available at all. 
  • Over time, essential oil scents will fade in stored soaps.
 On the other hand, we have fragrance oils:
  • Fragrance oils are scents that are largely lab created.  As a chemist, I don't see lab creation as necessarily an automatic bad thing.  After all, there is no such thing as strawberry essential oil for a very good reason:  There isn't any oil in a strawberry!  Or at least not enough to make it a viable candidate for essential oil production.  Besides, strawberries are way too tasty to waste on smashing for their miniscule amounts of oil.  If you're going to smash strawberries, make jam!
  • Because they are artificially created, fragrance oils can be allergy inducing.  There are some that I absolutely cannot abide.  Back in the day, when I worked in the lab, there was a product I helped to develop that had the flat out nastiest fragrance added to it.  Trouble is I was the only one who objected.  Everyone else thought it smelled pretty darn good.  It gave me a headache.  Icky.
  • Fragrance oils tend to be less expensive.
  • Fragrance oils can cause problems when making soap because of the composition of the oil.  Some do.  Some don't.  Some aren't worth the risk.
  • Fragrance oils can smell, well, artificial.  
  • Fragrance oils often stick in the soap better than essential oils and will degrade less over time.
I prefer to use essential oils and I will use them when possible because I know people tend to prefer them.  But in some instances, like the strawberry situation I mentioned before, it just isn't going to happen.  And, no, it is unlikely I will attempt to make a strawberry soap any time soon.  Mostly I don't like soap to smell like food.  But I make a few that do.

There are only a few instances in which I will choose a fragrance oil over an essential oil:

  1. When the essential oil is not available or is so prohibitively expensive as to make it impossible to use or;
  2. When I am unable to formulate a soap recipe that will hold onto the essential oil scent.  For example, my citrus soaps will sometimes be scented with fragrance oil instead of essential oil.  Citrus essential oils just don't stick.
I don't really buy into the ideas that essential oils can cure this or fix that thing.  There might be something to it, but that's not what I'm about here.  I make soap that gets you clean and maybe smells good while it's getting you clean. That's it.

I think that lots of essential oils smell good and some just plain smell awful.  We all have our preferences.  What scents do you like best?

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sopalotta Sudzy Soap: Fancy Pants Extra Good Smelling Soap

All of these soaps are made with the same recipes used for my other naturally fragrant and colorful soaps.  They have a bit of essential oil or fragrance oil and some have a little mica colorant added for fun.  Lots of folks make their soaps with tons of added fragrance.  I prefer to go a little more lightly so the scent doesn't interfere later with your cologne choice.

Ahimsa--Made with an olive oil and coconut oil base and superfatted with sweet almond oil.  Scented with sandalwood frangrance oil.  Colorant free!

Ahimsa (with a little bit of Mother's Day in the corner there).

Gardener's Hand Soap--A sturdy soap to clean the garden grime from your hands. Scented with pine needle essential oil and colored with a little green mica for a marbled effect.  Available in spring and summer.

Gardener's Hand Soap

Joyful Squid--Named for my bestie Joan and her lovely daughter Allie.  Joyful Squid is scented with mandarin  and clove essential oils and has a swirl of red oxide colorant.

Joyful Squid

Lumberjack--Very manly.  Just like a lumberjack (and I'm okay).  Scented with vetiver and cedarwood essential oils and tinted with black oxide.


Mother's Day--A very pretty smelling and pretty looking soap.  Scented with rose geranium essential oil (swoon-worthy scent) and swirled with pink mica and powdered hibiscus flower colorants.  The first thing I thought of when I smelled this soap the first time was Mother's Day.  Available in spring and summer.

Mother's Day

Petal Pink--This is my Plain & Simple soap with some pink mica colorant added.  No added fragrance. Very pretty soap.

Petal Pink

Prairie Sunshine--My version of lavender and lemongrass with essentail oils of the same name.  No added colorants.  Just pure lemony goodness.

Prairie Sunshine

Serene Dream--A very nice bastile bar scented with lavender essential oil and swirled with purple mica.  Hands down, this is my favorite of all my soaps.

Serene Dream

Shinto Garden--Ylang ylang essential oil makes this soap smell like a walk through a Japanese garden.  I make this one extra pretty with some pink and purple mica swirls.

Seriously smells amazing.  I wish there was smellavision.

Smuggler--Remember college when you were still too young to drink?  Remember hot chocolate with a peppermint kiss on top and a shot of peppermint schnapps mixed in?  That is what this soap reminds me of:  A drink we called The Smuggler.  Made with real cocoa powder and peppermint essential oil.  Smells like a brownie with a peppermint kiss on top.  I can't recommend eating it, though.  It sort of ruins the effect.

Smuggler--looks a little weird on the washcloth.  I recommend a dark colored cloth.

Stanky Dawg--You know that funky smell that dogs get after a while?  This will wash it off gently but firmly.  I use it on my own short-haired dogs and it works great to de-stinky-fy them.  Made with peppermint essential oil.  Zero added colors.

Stanky Dawg.  Works great if you can get them in the tub.

Sweet Innocence--I swear I used purple mica for color but it looks greyish to me. Sweet Innocence has violet fragrance oil for scent.  Superfatted with sweet almond oil.  Limited edition because I don't like the color.  It will be back...just not in that weird color.

Sweet Innocence.  It sorta looks purple if you squint just right and side-eye it.

Tea Ceremony-- Jasmine fragrance oil makes this soap a real treat to smell.  I add a little green mica glitter on the top and swirl it in.

Tea Ceremony

That's it for now.  I'm always interested in hearing about any particular fragrances you'd like to find.  Let me know!

Sopalotta Zero Added Fragrance, Zero Artificial Colorants Sudzy Soaps

Extra Stout--All the color and fragrance in this soap comes from the dark beer in the recipe.  Smells grainy and earthy.  Made with a cocoa butter superfat.
Extra Stout

Harvest Moon Hand Soap--Smells like grandma's kitchen at Thanksgiving.  Made with ground spices and real pumpkin. Smells great!  Tastes really bad!  Available in fall and winter.

Harvest Moon

Kitchen Sink Hand Soap--Made with brewed coffee and has some ground coffee for texture.  Smells nutty and wonderful.  Cleans your hands so you can make a safe and healthy meal.

Kitchen Sink Hand Soap

Mellow Yellow--This is a fragrance free buttermilk bastile-type recipe with olive and coconut oils.  Contains pureed carrots.  Great soap for a young child.

Mellow Yellow

Nothin' Fancy--The soap that started it all!  Nothin' Fancy is a basic bastile soap made with over 90% olive oil plus a touch of castor oil to provide hardness to the bar.  This recipe serves as the basis for most of my bastile soaps.

Nothin' Fancy.  Ugh!  Ever try to take a good picture of something white?

Plain & Simple--Made with olive oil, coconut oil, and sweet almond oil superfat.  No fragrances.  No added colors.  No preservatives.  No nothing but plain & simple soap.  This recipe serves as a basis for many of my other soaps.

Plain & Simple

Reggae--Believe it or not this soap has no added colors or fragrances.  It's made with red, red wine (Merlot in this instance) which gives it a sweet and earthy fragrance and deep, deep rusty red color.  Superfatted with cocoa butter.


Sowing the Wild--A bastile bar made with oats and honey.  I've made this soap many times and because of the nature of the honey I add, it never comes out looking the same way twice.  In this particular batch, the honey caramelized to produce a rich, dark brown color and it smells divinely of honey caramel.
Sowing the Wild

Next up:  My Fancy Pants line of good smelling soaps with essential oils, fragrance oils, and/or colorants.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Introducing: Sopalotta Sudzy Soap

In the next few weeks, I plan to officially launch my new soap business.  I call it Sopalotta Sudzy Soap.  You can thank my husband for the alliteration.

I've been hard at work all winter testing recipes and making soap.  Here's a little information about  my soaps. 

My soaps are just that: soap.  Soap that gets you clean.  They are real soap.  Not detergents derived from petrochemicals.  There aren’t any added preservatives.  My soaps are made with water or other liquid, various oils, some have fragrance, some have colors, and all of them have lye.

Yes.  Lye.  You can’t make soap…real soap…without lye.  Here’s how I make mine:

The soaps made in the Sopalotta shop are created using the ‘hot process’ method of soap making.  The ingredients for each batch are carefully weighed, mixed, and gently cooked to speed the reaction of the lye with the soaping oils to completion.  This process allows for a shorter time from batch creation to shower or sink.  By the time the soap is poured from pot to mold, the reaction is complete and only a few days of drying time are needed before the soap is ready to package and use.

Every batch is oil heavy.  That means that there is an excess of oil added to the recipe to ensure that all the lye is used up by the time it’s done cooking.  We call that ‘superfat’ in the soap making industry.  I use sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and avocado oil to superfat my soaps.

There are several different recipes available from Sopalotta.  The very first kind of soap I ever made was a bastile type.  What’s a ‘bastile’ you ask?  I started out wanting to make a very gentle soap called Castile.  Castile soap is made from lye and olive oil and water and that’s it.  The trouble with castile soap is that it’s not very hard and it doesn’t last very long.  So some soapers add a little bit of another oil to make the bar harder and thus it lasts a lot longer.  But if it’s not 100% olive oil, you can’t really call it a Castile, can you?  So the soapers started calling it a bastile.  My bastile soaps are over 90% olive oil.
Left: Soap made with buttermilk and carrots.  Right: Soap made with honey. No added colorants here.

Most of my soaps are free of added colorants.  I prefer the rustic and more organic-looking results of the process without dyes or colors.  Some of my soaps will have a little mica colorant to add some visual interest and a little sparkle here and there.  The search for natural colorants is an ongoing process.
Left:  Soap with mica colorant and hibiscus flower powder.  Right: Same soap recipe without colorant added.

I use both essential oils and fragrance oils in my soaps.  Where possible, I prefer to use essential oils over the fragrance oils because the fragrance oils tend to be artificial creations.  But, there are just some scents you can’t get in an essential oil—like a lot of the floral fragrances.  Additionally, some are prohibitively expensive for use in the quantities required for soap making—such as sandalwood.  Sandalwood essential oil is available.  But the soaps would be very, very expensive.

The goal at Sopalotta Sudzy Soap is to create a soap for every body.  From toddler to granddad, we have a soap to get you clean. 

In the next few days, I'll publish a post or two about the different soaps I will have available for purchase on my yet-to-be created website.  I'll also do a post on what got me started making soaps in the first place.  So stay tuned!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

My Latest Adventure

I came to my blog tonight to write a note or two and I was shocked to see I hadn't published anything since Halloween.  So much has happened since then I'm not sure where to start.

  • I gave up on nursing.  It's just not the right thing for me.  Not now anyway.  
  • I also gave up on school.  Also not the right thing right now and I'm becoming unconvinced that college is necessary for success.  My chemistry degree certainly isn't helping me find work these days.
  • I found The Perfect Job in November.  It was a chemistry lab doing R&D work and it was 30 minutes from my home.  I say 'was' because three weeks after I started the company declared bankruptcy and shut down the department I worked in.  Downsized twice in one damn year.
That's when I decided enough was enough.  I've sold my soul to various corporate entities for the privilege of living my life according to their mission statement and 'values.'  I've raced the rats and trod upon the treadmill and tried to walk the thin line of aggressive without being bitchy or bossy and can't stand it any more.


So.  Great!  That's a relief.  No more worrying about getting to work on time and not pissing off my boss and forgetting my lunch.

Now what?  What can I do with my chemistry experience that's fun, rewarding, and might just keep the roof over my head?


Adventure time!  I'm starting a soap making business.  I've been making soap for myself, my family, and my friends for about three years now.  I've been nudged by several people to sell my soaps.  So, what the heck?  Why not?

Over the last couple of months, I've been researching and testing and trying out new soap recipes.  I've been doing market research and getting feedback and searching out venues.  I've almost got my ducks in a row.

More details to come! As soon as I have my website ready, I'll link that here as well.  In the coming weeks, I'll do product reviews and put the spotlight on the recipes and ingredients that got me started.  I hope to have my own mission statement soon.

Most years, I have to admit, winter drags and drags for me.  This year has been so different it amazes me when I think of it.  I've been so busy getting soap made and putting things together and getting things lined up that I haven't had time to think about it much.  Good things are's almost spring!