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Topic: Bath and Beauty FAQ; Please start here!  (Read 37256 times)
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« on: August 28, 2008 02:03:41 AM »

Hey all!

Just trying to de-clutter around here. This thread now contains several merged threads. To easily acess the info you are after please see these handy dandy links:

Common B&B abbreviations and General B&B FAQ

Melt and Pour Soapmaking

Health Topics & Keeping it Crafty

And please always remember to SEARCH and read all FAQ's and stickied topics on the Bath and Beauty Home Page and the Discussions and Questions Board before asking a question. Commonly asked questions may be merged and/or deleted. [/b
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« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2009 08:07:27 AM »

~Thanks so much to Nymeria for compiling this FAQ! I've put in my own 2 cents (or 3 or 4) here or there too. My writing is in purple to differentiate, although Nymeria and I share most of the same B&B philosophies, we obviously have had different experiences. If there is something you would like to see on this FAQ or think that something could be better explained, please pm me!  (--MareMare)

Welcome to the Bath & Beauty Board FAQ; your one-stop-shop for frequently asked questions! Please note that this FAQ applies directly to the B&B board, if you have any questions about general Craftster rules, please consult the official Dos & Donts of Craftster. Smiley

This FAQ is designed to be as fair, balanced and unbiased as possible to many questions posed on this board.

Also, if you have any confusion as to whether or not something should be discussed on the Discussion Board, please consult sweets4evers Is it craft related? thread. Smiley

And please remember that health questions are a no-no here, if you want a crafty solution to a bit of rashy skin that's one problem, but we're not doctors here! Check out this thread for guidelines on Health Questions

Common Abbreviations on the B&B Board and What They Mean: (see below for further definitions)

Soap related:

FO -- Fragrance oil
EO -- Essential oil
CP -- Cold process soap
HP -- Hot process soap
HPCP -- Hot process crock pot (not hot process cold process...that would be um...medium)
MP/M&P -- Melt & pour soap
CPOP -- Cold process, oven processed soap (you can't make this stuff up!)
ITMHP -- In the mold, hot process
OP -- Oven process
RT -- Room Temp
SWO -- Sweet almond oil
PKO -- Palm kernel oil
OO -- Olive oil
DOS -- Dreaded orange spots

# (as in, "I use 3# lard in this soap.") -- pound(s)

Supplier related:

BB -- Bramble Berry
WSP -- Wholesale Supplies Plus
SC -- Soapers' Choice
MMS -- Majestic Mountain Sage (also "the Sage")

more coming, I'm just drawing a total blank tonight!

Q: What do we talk about on the Bath & Beauty Board?

A: Anything related to bath & beauty of course! The primary discussion tends to revolve around both cold process and melt & pour soap making, but it is not limited to those two items. Lip balms, sugar/salt scrubs, bath fizzies, mineral makeup & candles are allowed to join the fray, as are make-up, hair, & nail art (check out Ambermis amazing anime make-up as proof!), and tattoos! Were very versatile on this board. If it can go in the tub or makes you more beautiful, we want to hear about and see it! Smiley

***Q: Can I make CP/HP soap without lye?***

A: In a nutshell: NO! No lye = no soap!

More detailed: The FDA officially defines soap as fats (or acids) mixed with alkali (or base). Soap is actually a fairly complex chemical reaction called saponification which takes place between the fats and the lye. This cartoon (thanks, Mullerslandfarm for sharing!) explains the process in the easiest to understand way I have ever seen, so do please check it out to fully understand!

People often point out that commercial soap companies (Dial, Caress, Lever 2000, Dove, etc.) have been making "lye-less soap" since the 1940's. While it is true that they have been making a cleansing product, these products are actually detergents and NOT soaps. Chemically there is very little difference between a bar of Lever 2000 and a bottle of Tide. They both rely on chemicals to clean.

*** Q: But if lye burns your skin, how can you use the soap??***

A: Lye soap is safe because there is NO lye in the finished soap. I know what you're thinking: how is that possible?? Again, in the saponification process, the lye goes completely inert and all that is left is the salt or potassium (depending on if you are using NaOH, or KOH). The pH of soap is very neutral and similar to that of your skin.

Which brings up a good point: Many, many, many people and websites will try to tell you that lye soaps are dangerous to your skin because of the pH difference and because lye will burn your skin, yaddi, yaddah, yaddah. This is all rubbish! I believe (hope, is a better word) that most of this information is distributed simply out of ignorance and misunderstanding and not malintentions. So if someone tries to give you this schpeel, educate them!! (Also, a century ago this was probably true, lye soaps were probably on the lye heavy side due to making their own lye from ashes (and thusly not knowing the exact strength of the lye solution) and not being able to accurately calculate the correct saponification values like we can today. Remember, correctly made soap will have a lye discount, meaning that there is more oil in the recipe than you need to use up all the lye. 5-8% is typical and will keep your soap from being drying. --MareMare)

Q: What is "safe" soap pH? How do I test this?

A: Anywhere between 6-10 is considered safe and neutral. Most soap suppliers sell pH strips that allow you to test your soap. You may not use swimming pool or hot tub pH strips because they do not measure in the small increments needed for soap testing.

Q: What is the infamous "tongue test?"

A: I'm including this because a lot of us "hard core" soapers freely admit to using this test. I am NOT encouraging it as it is not technically a great idea, but do as I say and not as I do!

The tongue test, or zap test is literally what it sounds like. Once you have removed your soap from the mold, using only the tip of your tongue, gently press the soap to your tongue. It will taste awful, this is normal and a good thing. But remember when I said soap pH is not different from that of your skin? If your soap is good, when pressed to your tongue you will only receive a bad taste. If it is bad, you will feel a zap. What kind of zap? Have you ever had a static shock? It's kind of similar to that feeling. Not painful, but not pleasant either.

This test is NOT terribly accurate, and is not advised for beginning soapers. But if you've been soaping awhile and want to try it ... you can sit with Smittenheart and me at lunch. Smiley
~Not with me though, sorry, I am of the anti-soap licking camp. Grin --MareMare

Q: What is CP? What is MP? What is the difference?

A: CP = cold process soapmaking. Cold process soapmaking is where you make soap from the ground up; you combine lye with oils and allow the soap to undergo a chemical process called saponification. Cold process allows soapmakers to really customize their soap and control every aspect of it. This is for people who are not nervous about working with sodium hydroxide.

MP = melt & pour soapmaking. Melt & pour is where you purchase a pre-made soap base, melt it down and then add colorants, scents, oils and all kinds of neat stuff to customize it to whatever you desire!

Q: Which is better? MP or CP?

A: This is a question that is entirely a matter of personal preference. Some CP soapers refer to CP as real soapmaking, which implies MP is somehow not real. Dont let this fool you! It really just depends on what you want to do. If you want to make fun, funky shapes with your soap like cake and steak & eggs, then MP is definitely the better venue. If you want to go all natural, CP is probably the better route. Really it boils down to what you want to do!

Q: What is HP?

A: Hot Process soap is the old-fashioned method of cooking soap until it is "done". (Please check Amareluna's Tutorial for specific instructions!) Cold Process soapers pour their soap into molds, let it sit 24 hours, and then remove and allow to cure for 4-6 weeks for the lye to go completely inert. HP, on the other hand, is where you continue to cook the soap after it reaches trace, thus completely curing the lye before you pour it into the mold. HP soap is ready to use as soon as it comes out of the mold.

What are the pros and cons of HP? The pros are that for those who are short on patience, the soap is ready to go! No more pesky waiting! The "cons" are that HP has a distinctively different texture than CP soap. Some find it appealing, others not so much. It's entirely up to you! Smiley

Q: Im new to soapmaking, which should I start out with?

A: I recommend looking over the tutorials on this board and familiarizing yourself with the process of each. Check out some books from your local library or read around on the internet to figure out which appeals more to you. Some people start with MP because its generally the most accessible and affordable option, others start with MP because the idea of handling lye gives them the heebie jeebies. (I do say if you are scared of handling lye, CP is probably not your bag quite yet.) Others start with CP and never look back!

Q: If I buy some glycerin, can I make glycerin soap?
Is melting down glycerin soap the same as using MP?

A: <begin MareMare's rant> No and no. The term "glycerin soap" has somehow become interchangeable with clear soap. I am going to go ahead and blame Bath & Body Works for that one. All soap contains glycerin, so technically all soap could be called "glycerin soap," clear or not. Glycerin is a humectant (draws water to the skin) that occurs as a natural part of the soapmaking process. If you make CP or HP soap, natural occurring glycerin will be part of the end product. Making clear soap is a huge process, and it does not melt down easily like MP. You can buy liquid glycerin to add it to things like lotion (although I prefer to use honey, another humectant), bubble bars, or to make lip gloss, but liquid glycerin is not soap. Essentially, "glycerin soap" means nothing. Many people call melt and pour soap "glycerin soap", but it is my goal to get that phrase to stop being used, at least on this site. Cheesy
<end MareMare's rant>

Q: Where can I find a tutorial for <insert item here>?

A: Have you checked the Tutorial List? MareMare has composed a great list of the most popular tutorials on this board. Everything from no-fail bath bombs to the quintessential CP guide, to making a tampon holder can be found there.

Q: Where can I buy fragrance oils, molds, oils, lye, etc?

A: Have you checked the Getting Started and Supplier List? This extensive list has a lot of the major suppliers listed and linked. While it doesnt have every supplier, it is definitely a great launching point.  

Q: What are some good budget friendly molds?

A: For CP soaping, shoe boxes are great. Line them with freezer paper or a plastic bag and a decent shoe box can last for years. Look for a good, sturdy box where the sides wont collapse on you. PVC pipes also make great circular molds (there is a good tutorial here), and for square molds, old cardboard milk cartons do well, too. Just make sure than any metal molds are lined with freezer paper first!!

For MP, the same molds above work, but also food-grade molds such as plastic candy molds, flexible bake ware (brownie pans, Bundt pans), etc. As with all molds, make sure you are able to get the soap out once its in (dont pour it into a glass jug, for instance).
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011 12:39:55 AM by MareMare - Reason: update » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2009 08:08:11 AM »

Q: What if I want to buy lye locally?

A: Check your phone book or do a Google search for chemical or soap supply stores in your area. Often times typing chemical + supply + your town will give you a good start!
(With the meth epidemic it has become increasingly hard to find lye. A few years ago there was a soap making group on Yahoo! Groups with lye suppliers listed for each state, I'm not sure if it's still active but that could be a great resource. --MareMare)

Q: What is the difference between sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide? Aren't they both lye?

A: Yes they are both part of the chemical family known as lye, but they are not the same thing. Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) is used to make bar or solid soap. Potassium hydroxide (KOH) is used in making liquid soap. If you use KOH in a NaOH recipe, it will not solidify.

*However, keep in mind that you do not simply substitute KOH for NaOH to achieve liquid soap. That is an entire other process. Smiley

Q: What if I want to buy soap supplies locally?

A: Again, check the phone book or do a Google search. Youll be surprised at what you find!
Check out this handy link as well.

Q: What can I use to color my soaps?

A: There is a Colorant Thread that was just started and hopefully will begin to compile information on all the natural and artificial colorants available.

Q: What is the difference between Fragrance oil & Essential Oil?

A: Please consult the Fragrance Oil & Essential Oil Thread. Smiley

Q: I want to post a finished product, do I have to post my recipe?

A: No. While its nice to share, its also completely acceptable to just strut your stuff like a proud, crafting peacock! Smiley

Q: I made a project off a website or out of a magazine (i.e. it wasnt my original idea), may I still post it?

A: Of course! But please be sure to give credit to from whomever you took the idea, e.g. I made this really cool soap from The Soap Queens blog! People get their feelings hurt when you claim an idea as your own when it is not.

Q: What is DOS?

A: Dreaded Orange Spots. (or disk operating system for us old school geeks) These little spots appear in your soap as it cures (for curing, see below) and be mild or severe in nature. First off let it be known that DOS are perfectly safe. They are a cosmetic problem, and while that bar may not look as nice, its safe to use. There are many theories as to why DOS occur, though the big ones seem to be:

*Using oils that are rancid or were not stored properly.
*Curing your soap in a humid area or in direct sunlight
*The combination of oils used
*Lack of preservative in your soap.
*Using hard water.

The ways to prevent DOS are to do the opposite of the above list. Always make sure your oils are stored in cool, dark places (I keep mine in my basement). For more temperamental oils like Hemp Seed Oil, be sure to keep them refrigerated (my rule of thumb is that if you bought it refrigerated, keep it that way!). You can tell if an oil is rancid by it having a sour, pungent odor. Make sure you cure your soap in the coolest, driest place in your home out of direct sunlight. Be sure to use distilled water rather than tap water (see below). Sometimes using a preservative may help (see below), like grapefruit seed extract. Some people claim that using high percentages of sunflower oil, canola oil or rice bran oil can cause DOS but neither I nor anyone I know has experienced this.

Sometimes you can do all of these things and still have DOS. Sadly no one knows for certain what causes them.

Q: Why should I use distilled water?

A: Tap water has many deposits, minerals and other things that are not good to add to your soap. Why? For one thing they may contribute to DOS, and for another it can decrease the uses of your soap; i.e. using distilled makes it last longer in the shower! This is especially true if you, like I, live in an area with hard water. Because you can get a gallon of distilled water for $.69 at Wal-Mart (and refill it for around $.40), I write this under the better safe than angry category. Grin

Q: What are some natural preservatives I can use to prolong my products?

A: From a scientific standpoint, officially there is no such thing as a natural preservative (see next question). Anti-oxidants are NOT preservatives. This includes vitamin E, and honey. Many, many websites will claim they are a preservative but at the end of the day, chemistry (cruel, bubble-popping devil that he is) says no.  Vitamin E is a great moisturizer and has excellent skin benefits, though, and some people claim it does help prevent DOS. Smiley

Q: What are anti-oxidants and why would I want to use them?

A: As the name suggests, anti-oxidants slow down the oxidation process. Without going into a huge chemistry lesson and babbling about free radicals, anti-oxidants can prolong the shelf life of your oils and possibly your soaps. A good habit to get into is adding a little Vitamin E oil to your base oils when you first buy them, as well as storing them in a cool, dry place. (--MareMare)

Q: I'm still confused about the difference between preservatives and anti-oxidants! Help!

A: Think of it this way: Preservatives can be put into your products to slow/prevent the growth of mold and other ickies. Anti-oxidants can be used to slow the aging process of the oils, so they don't go as rancid as quickly as they otherwise would. Anti-oxidants are good to add to base oils during storage as well as products. (--MareMare)

Q: What is GSE?

A: Grapefruit Seed Extract. A by-product of the citrus industry, GSE is a viscous, golden liquid that has anti-microbial, anti-fungal properties. It is often toted as a natural preservative used to prolong the shelf-life of soaps, lotions, scrubs and lip balms.

Officially whether or not this is true is up for debate. Again, the science seems to lean towards no but many soapmakers swear by it. Also, many soapmakers swear that GSE prevents DOS; Ive been using it for years and Ive never experienced DOS.

Q: What are artificial preservatives?

A: The big ones are Phenonip & Germaben II.

Phenonip: A name brand, liquid preservative often used in lotions, scrubs and cosmetics, it is also usable in CP soap as it is oil soluble. Phenonip does contain many paraben-including ingredients (for paraben, see below), so if you use phenonip, be sure to include that on your label. The pros of phenonip are that it is artificial and therefore a strong preservative. The cons are that it is artificial and therefore loses the natural title, and that it contains paraben which is a hot issue right now amongst some people.

Germaben II: Another synthetic preservative, germaben II protects against fungus, bacterial and other creepy crawlies. Because of its versatile nature, it is the most popular of the artificial preservatives. Much like Phenonip, it does contain paraben, but not as much as Phenonip. It is used in lotions, creams, salves, hair products, cosmetics but not soap. The pros are that it is artificial and therefore a great preservative and a well-rounded one at that. The cons are that it is artificial and therefore loses the natural title, and that it contains paraben which is a hot issue right now amongst some people. I believe Majestic Mountain Sage has the quintessential guide here.  
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011 12:25:48 AM by MareMare - Reason: update » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2009 08:08:32 AM »

Q: What is all the buzz about paraben? Is it bad for me?

A: This is another issue thats hard to state definitively. Back in 2002 some researchers at the Tokyo Toxicology Institute did an experiment exposing newborn male mammels to high levels of paraben. They found that paraben mimicked the hormone estrogen and that it limited the production of testosterone and therefore hindered the male reproductive system. In 2004 a study found parabens in breast tumors (breast cancer). At current the official FDA standpoint is: there is no reason for consumers to be concerned about the use of cosmetics containing parabens.

Okay. First off, this is high levels of straight paraben, something we rarely encounter outside of a laboratory. Second, the same case has been made against excessive amounts of lavender EO. (True story.)

So to the heart of this question is it bad for you? In the quantities youd be using it in soaps, lotions, creams, fizzies, make-up, and other B&B products, probably not (again, at current it cannot be stated definitively). To me the big issue is that it is a synthetic preservative and therefore if you want your products to be all natural, avoid it. If you dont mind a few artificial ingredients, use it. But bear in mind that you must list all paraben-including ingredients on your labels, and therefore some people may be turned off by them.

Q: Which is better, animal or plant oils?

A: Again, this is a personal preference thing. Some people swear by animal oils and others swear by plant oils. In effort to keep this as unbiased as possible, lets do the pros & cons analysis:

Animal oils: First let it be known that the old wives tales about animal oils and products clogging your pores and ruining your skin are exactly that: rubbish. So dont let that deter you! Popular animal oils are: lard, tallow, emu oil, lanolin, & beeswax. Lard (from pigs) and tallow (from cows) create a hard white bar of soap with good body and create creamy lather. Emu oil is a luxurious additive that is great on dry skin and can even increase skins elasticity. Lanolin is the oil from sheep wool and is a wonderful moisturizer that makes a hard bar. The pros of animal oils are that they are often very cheap (with exception of emu oil, that is very pricey!) and easy to come by. They are natural, they are utilitarian and they make a darn good product. And, as Mullerslane and I like to point out, they are very resourceful and less wasteful because you are using every part of the animals sacrificed to our dinner plates every day. Wink The cons are that many people are turned off by animal products. While lanolin and beeswax are generally acceptable, some people get very, very passionate about not wanting lard or tallow in their soap.

Vegetable oils: Popular vegetable oils are coconut, palm, palm kernel, vegetable shortening, and olive oil. Almost every soap recipe includes olive oil because of its wonderful versatility and soap properties. Its very cheap, its super easy to come by, and it doesnt have an overpowering odor. Its great in all B&B applications. Coconut oil is also popular because it contributes to a hard, white bar, and is what gives fluffy lather to soap. It is very drying to the skin, but as most people like fluffy lather, its hard to make a bar without it! Palm oil and vegetable shortening are what are most often used in place of lard and tallow. They create hard, white bars of soap and while palm oil usually has to be purchased online from a soap supplier (unless you live next to an Afrikaans food market), shortening can be purchased most anywhere, and is very affordable. It should be noted that when using shortening Crisco, or the grocery store equivalent is what most people use. While it is okay to use organic versions, natural versions should be avoided like the plague! (see below for organic vs. natural) The cons of vegetable oils are that they are not exactly similar to animal oils, and some people dislike the drying nature of them.

Like so many things, it is a personal preference. I always tell people that while nothing says you have to use animal products, you should at least evaluate them and give them a whirl at least once and not dismiss them immediately. You might be surprised! (unless, of course you are vegan or have moral objections. In which case we shall agree to disagree!)

Q: Im a vegan, what are some alternatives to popular animal products?

A: In all fairness it should be noted that there is no such thing as a true substitute for many animal products. Yes you will get very similar results and yes they may be every bit as nice (some nicer, depending on how you feel about it), but they will not have the exact same properties as the animal oils. That being said, here are some alternatives:

Lard & Tallow: The big alternatives are palm oil & vegetable shortening. Both create hard, white bars of soap though some people claim palm oil is drying to the skin, and others turn up their noses at vegetable shortening (see below). They are very common in commercial products and most current soapmaking books will recommend palm oil as the only oil to use.

Beeswax: Used in soaps, lotions, creams, lip balms & salves, this wax creates hardness, body & helps trap in moisture. The most popular substitute is candelilia wax, but there are also other vegetable waxes and synthetic waxes. Candelilia wax has great slip in lip balms (means it slides better on your lips) and is a perfectly acceptable substitute. Soy wax that is used in candles should not be used.

Lanolin: Lanolin is the oil stripped from sheep wool after theyve been sheered and before it gets turned into a fuzzy sweater. It is a wonderful moisturizing agent that traps in moisture and soothes dry skin. To my knowledge -- and someone please correct me if Im wrong -- there is no actual substitute for lanolin. There are many other oils you can use in its place, but nothing veggie-based will have the same properties as lanolin; its special like that.

Q: Someone told me using vegetable shortening makes a crummy bar of soap, is this true?

A: That person can go fly a kite! Vegetable shortening is a cheap, cost effective oil that makes a nice bar of soap. Some soapers even claim that the preservatives in Crisco help their soaps last longer! Much like with animal products, I tell people to not dismiss it right away and give it a try. Again, you might be surprised at what you find!
~I *thought* I didn't like shortening, but one day I was in the middle of a batch and ran out of palm oil. I called Nymeria in a panic and she suggested I try shortening. I loved it and have never gone back to palm oil! My soap is better (harder and less drying) and I'm saving a ton of money! --MareMare

Q: What is the difference between organic and natural?

A: While this is entirely a semantic difference, and it is a BIG difference. Some organic products are natural and some natural products are organic, but just because something is organic does NOT mean it is natural, and vice versa.

Dictionary.com defines organic as: pertaining to, involving, or grown with fertilizers or pesticides of animal or vegetable origin, as distinguished from manufactured chemicals. So what does it mean if you buy organic coconut oil? It means that the coconuts were grown on an organic farm that used manure or other natural fertilizers rather than man-made chemicals. Since coconut oil only has coconut oil in it, it is organic and natural.

However if you buy an organic melt & pour soap base, all it means is that the oils used in the base (the coconut, palm, olive, etc.) were grown on organic farms. It does NOT mean the base is all natural. In fact many of the popular organic MP bases have SLS (sodium larual sulfate, see below) and other non-natural chemicals that some folks like to avoid. I sum up the organic argument like this: If you want to buy organic products because of philosophical reasons, feel free. But if youre buying them because you think organic and natural are synonymous, you are mistaken!

Dictionary.com defines natural as: having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives. In laymans terms, a natural product is free of man-made additives. Many people debate whether or not natural is better than artificial. At the end of the day it is entirely up to your own personal preference. Many soapers will attest that any artificial products we can get our hands on are still a far cry from the artificial garbage commercial products use. Smiley
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« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2009 08:09:29 AM »

Q: What is cure time and how long is it? Why do I need to let soap cure?

A: Cure time is the period of time after your soap has come out of its mold and you have cut it into bars. Place them in a cool, dry area out of sunlight and allow them to cure for 3-6 weeks.

This applies ONLY to CP soapers, not HP, as HP soap is ready to go outside of the mold. Why? Because in HP soap the lye has gone totally inert. In CP soap the chemical reaction that takes place is called saponification; it is what makes the base & acids become soap. However the lye has not gone completely inert and can be very irritating to the skin. Some people, like my husband, have the hide of a walrus and can use soap a few days after it has been made. Others, like myself, need to wait the 4 weeks to be able to use it. The reason you let your soap cure is that not everyone has the same skin type and wouldnt you hate to give your soap to someone only to have it irritate their skin?

The other reason its good to let soap cure is that more of the excess water evaporates leaving you with a harder bar. Harder bars last longer, and longer is better.

Q: What is rebatching?

A: Rebatching is where you use an existing batch of CP soap, or if you purchase special "rebatch base" from a soap supply store and grate it down, remelt it and create a new, different soap. It is synonymous with "hand-milled." Rebatching is  great for soap that didn't turn out quite how you planned; color, scent, texture, what-have-you, and not have it go to waste! It is also a great way to add herbs and essential oils and "preserve their healing properties." Rebatched or hand-milled soap has a very distinctive bumpy texture that some find unappealing and others find earthy and pleasant.

For specific instructions on rebatching, check out MareMare's Tutorial
TeachSoap's Instructions.

Q: What is oven processing?

A: Oven processing is a way to get your CP soap to be ready to use faster. Often used in conjuction with a Water Discount or Deep Water Discount, after your soap has traced and been molded, you place it in a pre-heated 200 degree oven. After placing the soap in the oven, turn the oven off and do not open it for at least 12 hours! This will evaporate a little of the water out of it and force it into gel stage longer. This process can shave 2-3 weeks off of the normal (approximate) 4 week cure time.  (--MareMare)

Q: I want to sell my products, where is a good place to start?

A: Generally your first and best way is via word of mouth. Online is a great, accessible venue in which to get your products out to a wide range of people with minimum cost. Etsy, Artfire, Madeitmyself, Artsefest and many others are available. I recommend checking out each to figure out which works best for you. If you feel confident enough, you may branch into craft fairs, bazaars, farmers markets, etc.

Although on Craftster we don't talk about selling on the regular boards in order to keep our community about sharing our love for crafting, you can check out the Crafty Business Advice Board where it IS ok to talk about selling and get some specific advice. (--MareMare)

Q: What do I need to know to start selling my products?

A: Do a lot of research! Research your individual state's laws and correct INCI labelling practice. Look into insurance. Being organized is a great practice, what if your customers like your _____ but you don't remember how you made it? Keep copious notes, and make friends with spreadsheets. Explore different suppliers and keep up on trends in scents and products. (-MareMare)

Q: Do I need to label my products? What should be on the labels?

A: The FDA has required manufacturers to list ingredients since the mid-1900s. Most states also have laws requiring even small business people (read: you) to label all their products. A lot of soapmakers live by the Im so small theyll never notice, and choose to not label their soaps. Officially this should not be condoned, lol. If you do get caught selling B&B products without a label you can be fined. (Of course I am totally willing to admit that this could just be Colorados policy; if there is a glaring problem with this, let me know!)

From a more practical standpoint, people have been seeing labels on their products for forever so they like to know whats in a product. Its just polite and convenient. Maybe someone is horribly allergic to something (say SLS) or doesnt want an animal product. They want and need to know what is in your soap. So make labels with ingredients! It adds a nice professional look, too! Smiley

What should be on your labels is everything that went into your product. Every oil, every additive, every colorant and every scent. Now, you can get flexible and say fragrance oil and if people ask if its synthetic you can explain, rather than listing your super-secret recipe of coconut, peach, mango & strawberry FOs (gawd that sounds good!), that yes it is synthetic and yes it is a secret! But you must still acknowledge that artificial scents are in there.

~Also please study the difference between using the "regular" names of items and the INCI names, there are specific laws on this! (--MareMare)

Q: What is sellers insurance?

A: For Bath & Beauty products you probably want/need to have Liability Insurance if you sell your products on a larger scale than, say, just to the occasional co-worker. When I was selling wholesale and had my products in stores, yes I had insurance. Now I don't. Smiley You should investigate the legalities and necessities on your own. Several years ago Bomba Insurance/RLI was one of the few companies that would insure small bath and body businesses. Yes, it can be spendy, but work it into your business overhead. Can you really afford to get sued if someone gets sick/goes blind/whatever from one of your products? Just saying.... (And please, don't even begin to sell until you know your products are safe and you have tested them on yourself!)  (--MareMare)

Q: What is the hoopla over petroleum jelly? Is it bad for me?

A: Lets look at what petroleum jelly is:  Petroleum jelly (also called soft paraffin) is a mixture of hydrocarbons (something naturally occurring in crude oil) which is semisolid at room temperature, and it is also odorless. It is a by-product of the petroleum industry. It generally clogs the drills on oil rigs. NOTE: it does NOT contain gasoline as the urban legend (and some anti-petrol. folks) will tell you. It does contain traces of octane which is one of the hydrocarbons from crude oil, but they dont actually pour in gasoline. In the late 19th century an oil rig worker discovered that rubbing petroleum jelly on cuts and burns helped them to heal (technically it acts as a barrier agent and keeps stuff OUT of cuts and burns, it doesnt HEAL them). It gained popularity as a cure all when soldiers were issued jars of Vaseline in their first aid kits in WWII. Its been in home medicine cabinets since.

To answer the second question first, petroleum jelly is not bad for you when properly used. In fact it is a great barrier ointment for burns and diaper rash and works great on chapped skin. To answer the first question, the hoopla around petrol. jelly is that most people find it disgusting. For one thing, its a by-product of the oil industry. Thats not a very appealing advertisement. Petroleum jelly has a very distinctive texture to it that most people are turned off by. Also, when used around the nose (on your upper lip or around your nostrils) you can inhale some of the hydrocarbons which can contribute to lipid pneumonia. The chances are slight, but it should still be noted. Also its gunky, it can behave strangely in B&B stuff and many consider it to be a subpar product. So to sum up, its safe, but there are many better options out there. Smiley

Much like SLS (see below), if you include petrol. jelly in your products, be sure to include that on your labels and be aware that while some people are okay with it, some people will be turned off by it

~Many of us began making our own bath and body products because we wanted to get away from petroluem products (due to allergies or other reasons) and use as few ingredients as possible to make our lotions, salves, etc. Try to find a regular commercial product (in, say, Target) that doesn't have any petroleum products (yes, mineral oil is petroleum) and is fragrance free (something my doctor told me to buy when I was younger. Couldn't find such a thing, had to make my own, the rest is history) --MareMare

Q: What is SLS? Is it bad for me?

A: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and its cousin Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES). It is a foaming agent used in many commercial products to enhance foam and bubbles. It is available through most soap supply stores and is a common additive to bubble bars, bath fizzies, & CP soap. Many MP bases include SLS, so pay attention to the ingredient list!

Whether or not its bad for you is a loaded issue. For sure many people are allergic to SLS and those with sensitive skin will be irritated by it. Some folks have a mild reaction while others have a more severe reaction. There have been lots of articles published on the dangers of SLS, but all of them deal with concentrations that are far above what the FDA considers safe, and therefore what will be in commercial products. (I believe one of the articles mentioned that at above 30% is where you see major issues) Many of the articles published on the dangers of SLS are from websites and magazines promoting natural lifestyles, so they tend to be a little biased.

Most issues around SLS are that it is not natural (synthetic), and that it can cause skin irritation. So whether or not you use it is up to you. But if you do include SLS in your products that you sell or give as gifts, be sure to include that in your label!

Q: Who died and made you the FAQ God? Grin

A: Im just a girl with a solid research background and a lot of time on my hands when my daughter goes to sleep. I like to evaluate issues from all sides and gather lots of information before answering questions or forming an opinion.

That being said I am not infallible and totally not above admitting when I am wrong or if I have left something out or if I have typo-ed something. If you have a suggestion or complaint, please either PM me or MareMare, and either she or I will do our best to correct/solve the issue. It should be said that while I certainly hold my own opinions, I tried to keep them as far out of this as possible so that you may form (or affirm) your own! Smiley

P.S. There are MANY more questions to come on HP, oven-processing and rebatching, but I will come back to them when I have time to gather more information and consult MareMare as she probably knows more than I do!
« Last Edit: May 17, 2011 12:36:05 AM by MareMare - Reason: update » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 20, 2009 10:22:03 PM »

This is the one-stop (hopefully!) laundry list of frequently asked questions about Melt & Pour Soapmaking. This post will be, as are most FAQs, constantly under revision. If there is a question missing, please feel free to send me a PM and I'll be sure to add it! Thank you!!  Kiss

Q: What is melt & pour?

A: Commonly referred to as MP, it is exactly as it sounds: buying a pre-made soapbase, chopping it up, melting it, adding fragrance and color and pouring into a mold. Within a matter of hours you have soap that is ready to use and fun as heck!

Please note: it is not the same as handmilling or rebatching (e.g. shredding and melting Ivory or another soap bar). Those are entirely other processes! Also, the name "glycerin soap" is a misnomer. Glycerin is present in all soap. Just because Bath & Bodyworks refers to its clear soaps as "glycerin soap," does not mean that is the official title. In most soapmaking circles if you ask about "glycerin soap" you will get some strange looks. And it drives MareMare up a wall. Wink

Q: So it's not real soapmaking?

A: P'shaw! Did you make it? Really? It's real soapmaking. It does not, however, involve lye. For many people who have a fear of using caustic chemicals, melt & pour offers a fun, easy solution!

Q: But I want to make, like, "nice" soap. Can I do that with melt & pour?

A: Absolutely! When most people think of MP soapmaking they think of the nasty, sticky blocks of soap you buys at Michael's (see next question), you add a silly color and fragrance, embed a toy, and call it a day. While this is certainly one application, it is far from the truth of today's MP! Many online suppliers sell very luxurious bases containing olive oil, goats milk, hemp oil ... the list goes on! Sure MP can be cute, but if can be downright pampering, too!

Q: Can I use the stuff I buy at Michael's, Joann's, Hobby Lobby, etc.?

A: Technically you "can," but I highly advise against it. And this is not just me being a soap snob, either! For one thing, the bases they sell at the major chain stores are of very poor quality. They're sticky, they're gunky and they are very, very temperamental. Like, very. They're also very pricey. Often times you think you are saving money by purchasing locally rather than online, but more often than not you save money by ordering your base, fragrance & colorant online AND paying shipping than you do buying at the craft stores. Just don't do it!

Q: So are the colorants and fragrances you buy at the chain craft stores out, too?

A: Uh-Yep! Again, they are ridiculously poor quality -- I have yet to see the liquid colors form any resemblance to the color they claim to create (e.g. the red always looks purple and the yellow is just ridiculous), and the fragrances are weak at best. And again, they are expensive for what they are. Do yourself a favor and buy them online. Trust me when I say you will thank yourself in the long run. Smiley

Q: Where are good places from which to order?

A: I typically refer people to what I consider to be the "holy trinity" of soapmaking websites: Bramble Berry, Whole Sale Supplies Plus (generally referred to as WSP on here), and Majestic Mountain Sage. Why do I call them the holy trinity? Because in years of MP soapmaking I have found their bases, colorants and scents to be excellent quality and their customer service departments are always willing to share advice!

Q: Can I buy an organic MP base?

A: Absolutely! I think all of those suppliers carry them. However I feel I should note that organic is NOT synonymous with natural. When buying MP base, organic simply means that the coconut, palm, olive and any other oils in the base were grown in an organic manner using natural fertilizers and no pesticides. The base can still have preservatives, chemicals, etc.

Q: Is there such thing as a natural MP base?

A: *** Edited *** Yes, apparently there is! WSP has a line of Natural MP soap bases! And quite frankly, they look lovely! Having never worked with them, I am going to give them a whirl and report!:) The difference between organic, natural & regular MP soapbase is that organic and regular almost always have SLS-derivatives and preservatives. This natural base appears not to!

Q: Do I have to buy special colorants and scents for MP?

A: Generally, no. Any soap-safe colorant and fragrance will work. That's the beauty of MP soapmaking is that many scents and colorants that don't hold up to the high heat of cold process soaping are totally fine in MP! When purchasing, just be sure to read the information section closely. The websites listed above all list in which applications certain scents and colorants work best. If the information is not listed, drop a line or call. Most companies will be glad to tell you. Smiley

*** PLEASE NOTE: This refers to soap-safe colorants. Things that you CANNOT use are: food coloring, paints, tempra paint pigments, hair dye, etc. ***

Q: What can I use as molds?

A: What can't you use! There are lovely melt & pour molds made especially for soapmaking (all three suppliers above carry them), but candy molds, Tupperware containers, Jello containers (thank you to Crafty gurll for that awesome tip!), silicone brownie molds, milk cartons... the sky is the limit! Just be sure that your mold is flexible and wide enough to remove the soap when it is solid. *** DO NOT USE GLASS BOTTLES AND JARS!! ***If you want to use a Pyrex baking pan (8" square brownie pans are popular questions) or a metal mold, be sure to line with wax paper so you can remove.

Q: I'm using a plastic mold, but the soap won't come out. What do I do?

A: First, try to gently flex the mold. If that doesn't work, try tapping it gently on the counter. If that doesn't work, pop it in the freezer for 5-10 minutes and then try gently flexing or tapping. If those don't work, try using a thin metal spatula to loosen it. Try freezing it longer if needed. Don't give up until you have exhausted every option!

Q: Do I need special equipment?

A: Nope! Your mixing bowls (ones with pour spouts are best), measuring cups and spoons in your kitchen will do just fine! They're just going to get extra soapy. You can even run everything through the dishwasher when you're done. I do typically say if you're using plastic bowls, you may want to dedicate them to soapmaking simply because plastic absorbs fragrance. Years ago I used a plastic mixing bowl for a batch of lemongrass MP and the next time I used it to mix brownies... ick. But glass and metal all wash clean! You don't even need a digital scale (it helps but is not totally necessary) because you can mostly eyeball MP. Just make sure your melting vessel is MICROWAVE SAFE!

Q: I have my mold, my soap, my color and fragrance. How do I make soap?

A: There are MANY detailed instructions and tutorials floating around on here and a plethora of websites. The Soap Queen's blog and TeachSoap have some of the best. But here is the skinny, down-and-dirty version:

1. Figure out how many oz. your mold holds. For these purposes, let's say you have a 4oz. mold. Make sure your mold is clean & dry and set aside.

2. Weigh (or eye ball) 4.5oz of soap. Personally I like to have a little extra so I'm not scraping the bowl and cursing, lol. Chop the soap into small-ish bits. You can grate it with a cheesegrater as some tutorials recommend but personally I just dice it rough.

3. Microwave method: Place your container in the microwave and nuke on 30 second intervals, stirring between each. You want your soap to be JUST melted. Over-cooked soap smells kinda funky and acts funky, too. Remove from microwave when totally melted.
   Double-boiler method: Place your glass bowl with soap over a pot of boiling water (about 1" of water) and stir until just melted. Remove from heat.

4. Add your fragrance and colorant. Typically you use 1-5% fragrance by weight. Now, you can go formal and figure out what that is in weight and attempt to measure it, OR you can do the scientific eyeball method. The rule-of-thumb is this: 1tsp of fragrance per pound of soapbase. So since we're doing about 4oz. here, you'd use 1/4tsp. Stir and see if that is to your liking. I like to err on the side of underscented at first because you can always add. If you pour in too much, you're kinda screwed, lol. Be sure to stir gently so that you don't get too many air bubbles.

5. Once your soap smells and looks pretty, it's ready to pour. Pour gently and slowly into your mold. I like to tap my mold gently on the counter to knock out any bubbles (see next question).

6. Allow to cool and solidify completely. For a bar this small, that'll be an hour or so. For larger batches you'll have to wait longer. Generally I like to wait 8+ hours before removing.

7. Enjoy!! Smiley

Q: How do I get rid of all the bubbles on the surface of my soap?

A: When you pour your soap into the mold, you'll have LOTS of tiny bubbles on the top. The secret is easy: rubbing alcohol. I keep a travel-size spray bottle ($1 at Target in the travel section) full of regular ol' rubbing alcohol on hand, and immediately after pouring the soap I spritz with alcohol. Don't go TOO crazy with this; once the bubbles are gone, stop spraying. Voila! Smooth, pretty soap!
« Last Edit: November 01, 2009 11:53:03 AM by Nymeria » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #6 on: October 20, 2009 10:41:45 PM »

Q: I bought plain ol' MP base. Can I add <insert butter or oil here>?

A: Indeed you can! The rule of thumb is 1T. oil or butter to 1lb. of base. So if you're making the aforementioned 4oz. bar of soap and wanted to add shea butter, you'd add 3/4tsp. of shea butter before melting the soap. It doesn't sound (or look, for that matter) like a lot, but trust me it is! If you add too much of an oil/butter, the soap may not set up right, or will be greasy and that's not good soapmaking!

Q: Can I add clays or <insert grain here>?

A: Yep! When it comes to clays (e.g. French Green, Kaoilin, etc.) I'd do the same rule of thumb as above, but make them scant. Clays can often get gunky and cause your soap to act funky. In a 4oz. bar I'd use closer to 1/2tsp than 3/4tsp.

The most common grain is oatmeal. If you want it to be decorative, use whole oatmeal. If you want it to be exfoliating, pulse it through the food processor first. It may look like a fine, useless powder, but trust me when I say it'll exfoliate. Whole oats will just wash off and clog your drains and won't exfoliate at all! As far as quantities go, start small and add more as you go.

Q: What about spices?

A: You may absolutely add all manner of spices (cinnamon being the most popular) but again, start small and go from there. Also, BE AWARE that adding cinnamon will most likely NOT make your soap smell like cinnamon. It might, but it'll be slight. Let's put it this way, I wouldn't depend on it for scent. Also, too much of any powdered spice can be scratchy on the skin.

Q: Glitter?!?

A: Yes and no. Please, please, please do not just pour your craft glitter into your soap! Glitter is very abrasive and downright dangerous in and around your eyes and face. I know some people do it and claim it's okay, but as a B&B mod, I have to strongly advise against it. Having said that, most soap supply sites sell skin-safe glitters and micas. Just read the fine print to make sure they are MP approved, skin safe, and whether or not you should avoid your eyes with it. Smiley

Q: How do I get stuff to "float" in my MP soaps?

A: The easy answer to this is to buy a Clear Suspension Base. The difference between regular MP base and suspension base is that the latter is specifically formulated to hold herbs, glitter, grains, seeds, and whatever other tiny bits you want to suspend in your soap. (Please don't ask how this works as I have no idea! It involves lots of chemistry, I'm sure!)

Q: What if I don't want to buy suspension base?

A: If you want to use whatever clear base you have at home, it becomes a bit trickier, but not undo-able. Suspension base works better, but it still works. First, it should be noted that if you pour in skin-safe glitter (see above), stir it around and pour into the mold, the glitter/grain/seed/whatever will naturally float to the bottom of the mold. How do you combat this? After you melt your soap, stir continuously until it has cooled to the point where it almost wants to start forming a skin on top. You want it to be very thick, but still pourable. Add your additive and stir well. Pour into molds. Again, it will still want to travel around, but it'll be better than if you just added, stirred and poured while it was hot.

Q: How do I do those awesome layered soaps I see on here?

A: Let's say you want to make a three-layer beauty like the Neopolatin Soapsicles, using the aforementioned 4oz. mold. First you would figure out what 1/3 of 4oz. is: 1.4-ish ounces. So you'd measure 1.4 ounces of soap, melt, and add fragrance (in this case, vanilla), and pour into your mold. Spritz with your alcohol spritzer (mentioned above) to pop any bubbles. Set it aside and let it completely solidify, about 30-60 minutes.

Next you would measure out another 1.4oz. of soap, melt, add fragrance and color (strawberry & pink or a touch of red). BEFORE YOU POUR, take your alcohol spritzer and spritz the surface once or twice, just to get it tacky-feeling. Pour on your second layer, and again spritz to pop any bubbles and let it set up, another 30-60 minutes.

Last, you'd measure out the final amount of soap, melt, scent, color, SPRITZ THE SECOND LAYER BEFORE POURING, and pour your third layer. Spritz to pop any bubbles and allow to completely solidify. At this point I just leave them in the mold for at least 8 hours so that it's completely hard.

Q: My mold has a design on it like this. How do I make the design one color and the rest of the bar another?

A: Easy! First, guesstimate how much soap it will take to make, in this example, the snowflake. I'm guessing a few teaspoons, so I'd melt a tablespoon or so of soap. Melt the soap, add any scent (with this small of an amount you can totally leave it unscented and no one will notice) and color and pour into the design. There are two ways to do this: either with a VERY steady hand and a GOOD pour-spout on your melting bowl/cup, OR you can buy small plastic syringes and load your soap into them and use that. A really nice one comes in BrambleBerry's M&P Tool Kit which is a great thing to have on hand. Either way, get your soap into the design, spritz with alcohol, and then throw the mold into the freezer.

Why the freezer? You'll want it VERY cold so it doesn't melt when you add the rest of your base. As this is freezing, start melting the rest of the bar of soap. If it's a 4oz. mold, you'll want all 4oz. Add color, scent and stir continuously until the soap starts to thicken and cool a bit. Remove the mold from the freezer, give another gentle spritz of alcohol and then pour your soap into the mold. Spritz to destroy any bubbles and voila!

Q: Is it okay to layer clear MP base and opaque MP bases?

A: Typically, no. There are some bases that will work, but most of them do not. Why? Again, I'm sure it involves some chemistry explanation. I always tell people to err on the side of caution and not try it!

Q: But I want a transparent layer and an opaque layer together!

A: The answer is to color your clear MP base with white colorant (titanium dioxide) to achieve a white, opaque color, and then add whatever other color you want. Keep in mind that this method will require a LOT of colorant if you want a dark color.
« Last Edit: October 23, 2009 08:58:49 PM by Nymeria » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2009 09:42:55 PM »

Q: I want my soap to setup quicker, is it okay to put it in the freezer?

A: Technically yes, but I don't recommend it. To me the freezer is there for when your mold won't release the soap, or when you want to solidify a tiny/thin design before adding more warm soap (see above). A lot of people and websites suggest it and condone as a solidifying method, but here is why I don't:

1) You're taking a warmish-hot liquid and throwing it in freezing temperatures and then pulling it out to sit at room temperature. What this means is lots of condensation and sweating. When you put your mold into the freezer you'll notice it fogs up. This creates excess moisture which can freeze and make your soaps feel tacky. When you put them back at room temperature they'll begin to sweat as they thaw and adjust to the warmer temps. They never seem to shake that tacky feeling.

2) When layering soap -- let's say the aforementioned 3-layer neopolitan soap -- you have to remember that liquids tend to shrink when they freeze. Often times layers will fall apart because they shrank before they had time to really "bond."

Of course I'm willing to admit that this entirely my opinion based on my years of MP experience. Some folks don't have issue with it. My suggestion is to try it and see what you think.

****** More to come!!! Under Construction!! ******
« Last Edit: October 26, 2009 11:40:35 AM by Nymeria » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2010 01:22:09 AM »

Hey guys, in effort to keep this board clean and on-topic, we're revising this particular topic.

On the Bath & Beauty Board, more so than others, there is a very fine line between crafting and non-crafting questions. As the old post said, we don't want to stifle conversation, we just want to keep it craft-related. So how can you tell the difference between a craft related and non-craft related topic? Here are a few examples:

Craft related: "I have sensitive skin and suffer from eczema. What oils should I put into my lotions/lotion bar/salve/soap to help this?"

Non-Craft related: "I have sensitive skin and suffer from eczema. What are good treatments?"

In one you are specifically asking about crafting, in the other you're asking a general question. For skin related issues try searching WebMD, or the AAD's Skin Fact Sheet.

The same applies to questions about natural vs. synthetic and certain chemicals (such as SLS). It's okay if it is in context or related to a crafting question, but starting a thread specifically asking "Is SLS bad for you," or "Is natural better," are not craft related.

The biggest area in which we see non-craft related questions tends to be about tattooing and piercing. With these questions, it is acceptable if they are within context. For example if you post a picture of your newest tattoo and explain "so-and-so did it in such-in-such place, hey by the way it's scarring, any recommendations for that," that is okay. But posting a new thread in D&Q saying "my new tattoo is scarring, what can I put on it?" is not craft related.

There are many sites online to help with tattoo care and questions. From what I'm told the best resource is your tattooist or tattoo parlor.

Help keep the B&B board for craft related questions. If you want fellow crafters' opinions on a health matter, try the Friends of Craftster's Off-Topic Chit Chat board.

Thank you for your understanding and helping keep Craftster the awesome place it is! Smiley
« Last Edit: May 17, 2010 01:30:10 AM by MareMare » THIS ROCKS   Logged

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