When things are tight and you struggle to keep the bills paid, simple things others take for granted.. like a hair cut.. take on a different value. I can pinch pennies and do without in many areas.. but skin care is not one of them. I may be aging but I refuse to look it. I am not into, nor can I, spend a lot of money to keep my skin nice. But I do spend more than others that are in the same stretching a dollar place I find myself. Buying the cheapest bar of soap at a place like Wal-Mart is something I now refuse to do.
At one time I figured all soap was the same and so proceeded to purchase bars that gave me the most soap for the least money. Then one day I ran out of my purchased stuff and had to use a bar of hand made soap my mother had given me as a gift. It was a nice decorative bar for the side of the sink and I loved the fragrance. However, until I ran out of the cheap stuff I never considered using it.
So forced to take the bar into the shower and use it because I had nothing else, I discovered a luxury I suddenly did not want to give up. My skin was not dried out and it had a much softer look to it. I loved lathering up that bar and got pretty frumpy when it was almost gone. So I set out to find more hand made soap.
When I finally located some I was a bit shocked at the price. $5 for a handmade bar of soap compared to probably fifty cents for the cheap department store stuff. Because I was in a position where I had to watch where my money went needed to get the best value for every cent.. I argued with myself. I loved the feel of my skin with the hand made soap and thought I was worth it. I mean.. it was my skin and I could consider it an investment. But $5 a bar was kinda steep. I would go through a bar about every month and knew there were other places that money really needed to go. I really wanted handmade soap for my skin so I came up with a compromise.
Always one that thinks I can make it myself I started to search online and even invested in some books on making hand made soap. It all seemed pretty straight forward.. warm and mix oils and add to lye and water.. blend well and pour into molds. I figured I could make soap much cheaper than purchasing it so it would allow me to indulge in a little luxury and still satisfy my need to be financially frugal.
During my research I found that all oils bring different characteristics to a bar of soap. Coconut oil brings lathering to a bar of soap and a pure coconut bar of soap will actually lather in salt water. Olive oil, on the other hand, brings incredible moisturizing properties to a bar of soap. A pure olive oil bar, called Castille, is an excellent choice for dry skin. Other oils will increase the hardness of soap. So with all the oils out there.. sunflower, safflower, grapseed, walnut, castor and many more.. you can create soap with many different properties.
And if the oils did not give enough variety you can also add butters like Shea, cocoa, coffee and mango. You can also add things like oatmeal or coffee grounds to give a bit of exfoliating properties to your bar. If you have oily skin you can add clay or tea tree oil to help manage the excess oil your skin produces. Being a bit of a mad scientist I found soap making satisfied my need to experiment and create. And it gave me my desired luxurious bar of soap. The sky was the limit and I found I enjoyed making soap so much I made enough to sell and created a nice little business for a time with it. I had gone from getting what I wanted cheaper to having it pay for itself.
But things happen and I had to stop. The business ended and I moved across country to start over. Knowing it would be a while before I would be in a place to make soap again, I hoarded all the bars I had in my possession at the time. I still love my soap and it has been 20 years now since I have used a commercial bar and my skin looks like it belongs to a person 15-20 years younger than I actually am. Though I still have plenty of soap.. the desire to create some more bars finally got to a point where I made the decision to get back into it.
Buying several oils, even from a grocery store, is expensive and I was still pinching the pennies. So I bought an oil here and there when I grocery shopped. You can get olive, peanut, sunflower, safflower, coconut, castor, walnut and soybean oil at Wal-Mart or any other grocery. In time I got the oils I wanted in a bar of soap. I also make a nice body butter, so when it came time to order fragrance, I did order some shea, coco and mango butters. I purchased my fragrances and butters online at Brambleberry. This site is great for anyone wanting to get started with soap making. There are supplies, oils, butters and even videos on how to create beautiful bars of soap.
It took months to finally get a collection of oils and when I finally had a few extra dollars I ordered the fragrances and butters. I also picked up a 1″ x 4″ x 8′ board that I cut up and made into a couple molds. The time came when I had all I needed to make soap and just had to find a day to indulge myself in making it. It was getting hot, and when the temps went triple digits and forced me to stay in doors, I got some of my chores done earlier in the week and decided the time was now right for some soap making.
Soap day finally arrived and I dug out my old recipe book I created when I was selling my soaps. But I had a different mold so had to recalculate the volume of soap I was going to be making. I also wanted to change up the recipe some, so with the tweaks I needed to do I needed to I headed over to SoapCalc.
Soap is a reaction between oils and or butters with lye. Each oil needs a slightly different amount of lye to convert it into soap. That is where the calculator comes in. You create your recipe in percentages and determine the final volume and the calculator gives you back the amount of each oil as well as the amount of lye to use. I played a bit to create a soap bar with the hardness, lather and conditioning properties I wanted then printed the recipe.
I warmed my oils, mixed my lye with water, blended the two and added fragrance at light trace. Since one of the fragrances was Oatmeal Milk and Honey I added some finely ground oatmeal and poured into the larger mold. I had ordered a second fragrance and Branbleberry sent a one ounce sample so I made two more smaller batches and got them into the mold. I had a blast creating my soap and was looking forward to trying out my new creations.The next step is the part that I just hate about making soap. It isn’t instant so now I had to wait.
It takes time for the soap to be created from the oil and lye mixture and it even goes through a pH change. I even had to wait to clean up everything I used to make the soap. My bowls and stick blender were covered in a soap film but yet it still wasn’t soap. It was just starting the process of turning to soap and it would need to complete the process before being messed with. If I tried to clean up immediately I would be dealing more with the oils which made for a greasy mess. And the lye was still in a state you could get your skin burned. So a good over night sit allows you to pretty much just wash them out the next day as you rinse off the newly created soap.
The wait in the mold allows the soap to be created and get solid. You will find that soap as it is created heats up a lot. It will generate a lot of heat then eventually cool. It can then be removed from the mold. Generally that is the day after it was created. Though now soap, you still cannot use it because you will notice it is still pretty soft. That makes it easy to cut into bars but they will not last long in the shower.
I used my miter saw and box to get nice straight cuts and it helped me keep each bar the same width as well. After cut the soap will need to sit for about a month to cure. The soap’s pH will change and it will dry and harden during this curing time. You can use the bar after a few weeks, but it will tend to be consumed faster because it is still rather soft. Allowing the water to be removed and the bar to be hardened will make for a longer lasting bar in the shower.
Being frugal is a necessity for some and a choice for others. But I think we all have areas where we have a little indulgence because we flat out refuse to deny ourselves in this area. For some it may be having a pet. Others it may be allowing a child to pursue a dream. For me it is the hand made products for my skin. It sure makes what I have to give up in other areas a lot more bearable. As I start my day, for just a few minutes, I forget the stress of keeping my head above water and just enjoy the decadent luxury that bar of soap brings me. I may not have a big fancy house or drive an expensive car.. but I have my soap and I am content.