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These days, when it comes to coconut oil, all this is quite a lot. It might not be Starbucks, but coconut oil  is everywhere enough that it’s developed its own backlash. Missing the Point The problem with backlashes is – for the sake of a snappy headline and a hip take on cultural trends – they miss the point of trends. They miss seeing that the popularity of coconut oil coincides with a general cultural reassessment of traditional food and diet beliefs. As high as coconut oil is in saturated fat, nutritional thinking until recently would connect it only to raising bad HDL cholesterol and therefore bad for the heart. The popularity of coconut oil is evidence of questioning conventional beliefs, looking beyond the surface for more substantial science. Traditional Food Wisdom Wasn’t Enough The truth is, coconut oil is also especially potent at raising good HDL cholesterol. Nothing was as simple as it seemed on the surface. It wasn’t just bad anymore. It was also, well, good. Plus, as an oil, it wasn’t just fat. It was high in anti-oxidants. It might actually contain its own balance. Coconut Oil in Soapmaking As popular as coconut oil is in food, soapmaking discovered it long ago. And once it was discovered, coconut oil became a standard. As a soapmaking oil, coconut is many things at once. Some oils contribute only one characteristic to soap – fluffy lather, bar hardness, or nourishing capability. Coconut oil has a part in them all. And because it contains mainly medium-chain fatty acids, unlike most other oils, coconut oil enhances a soap’s interaction with water, adding to its cleansing properties. From the Beginning Coconut oil has been a part of Botanie soap from the beginning. With all it contributes, it’s been at the heart of our base oil blend for 18 years. Which, indirectly, speaks to its current popularity. Cultural cycles run so quickly in our era of social media and instant news that backlash is nearly always on the heels of popularity. Trends often seem no more than that, here then gone, when in fact many have much to contribute to the present and the future. Though it has for some, coconut oil will never replace beauty products in everyone’s bathroom. Even though it’s most often solid at room temperature, it won’t be replacing butter in everyone’s kitchen. But judging from its history in soapmaking, and its reconsidered status as a food, coconut oil seems much more likely to find its sweet spot as a future food tradition rather than disappear as a trend.  
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Olive oil. We use it to cook. We use it for its antioxidants and overall health benefits. It’s also used regularly for making soap. With so many of us using olive so often, it bears pointing out that we’re not always getting what we think we are. In the world of organic and natural, there are products that consistently make it hard to trust their quality. In the case of olive oil, it’s difficult to guarantee authenticity. The olive oil industry has a past worth investigating and annual revenue of  over $1.5 billion that encourages deception. How Much Isn’t As Advertised? It’s been reported that nearly 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold in the world isn’t what it says it is. It lacks authenticity. It is either cut with cheaper carrier oils or it is imported and relabeled. Often, Spanish extra-virgin olive oil gets passed off as Italian, simply by putting a new label on the bottle. Italian Police conducted a mass intervention into the fraudulent acts of the olive oil industry. They arrested 23 people and confiscated 85 farms during this raid, bringing to light the severity of the situation. Low quality oil was being passed off as “fine Italian oil,” making the fake olive oil industry a booming business for scammers. According to the University of California Davis, nearly two-thirds of the extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores was not what it claimed to be. The Problem Is American, Too The U.S. isn’t immune to fraudulent activity. In 2007, storage units in New York were busted for counterfeit olive oil. The facility held 10,000 cases of what appeared to be extra-virgin olive oil, when in fact, the bottles contained mostly soybean oil. How do we know, then, what’s real and what’s fake? There are a few ways to test whether or not the olive oil you purchased stands up to its claims of authenticity. First off, despite popular belief, color isn’t actually an indicative property for determining quality. Tips for Smart Buying A factor you should take into consideration is the packaging. The best oils are contained in darker glass bottles, which prevents the oil going rancid from sun exposure. Additionally, pay attention to the labels on the bottle. Definitely ensure that there is an expiration date visible somewhere on the bottle and watch out for phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy.” An Olive Oil Workaround If taking precautionary measures seems frustrating and your heart isn’t set on olive oil for soap-making, sunflower and safflower oils are a great alternative! Olive oil produces good quality soap because it contains 80-82% oleic fatty acid, which contributes moisturizing ability to the lather. Both sunflower and safflower oils contain 81-85% oleic fatty acid. From a soap making perspective, there is no functional difference substituting sunflower and safflower for olive oil. The final, high-quality soap product is unchanged […]
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For some, organic farming and organic products are new ideas. For others, organic products and production have been part of their lives for years. For these folks (us included) organic production has long been seen as responsible production – proven, scientific, and part of a sustainable future. But even we were a bit surprised by two aspects of the organic world we didn’t know enough about. The Unseen Organic Certification is an expensive proposition. This isn’t the most visible aspect of the process, but it’s a big part of the organic commitment. For some, it’s too big. Farmers, especially, can find the financial burden of certification too much to carry in a profession that is often wildly uncertain. Not pursuing certification, though, doesn’t mean farmers don’t incorporate organic principles into their agricultural and production practices. In fact, many of them do. What We’re Seeing Our interaction with ingredient vendors over the past year has revealed a number of farmers who’ve become producers, offering non-certified, yet organically produced essential oils. Buying straight from the grower/producer – eliminating the middle man – made more than one otherwise expensive oil significantly less expensive. That fact alone made soap costs easier to manage for our customers. This “unseen organic” might be the purest commitment any of us make, employing time-consuming and often expensive organic agricultural practices without getting any of the marketing benefits of certification. These are the commitments that deserve the most respect, commitments that acknowledge consequences of agriculture that extend beyond individual economic pursuits, consequences to  overall soil and water health, to the larger community, and to the future of agriculture. Organic Plus Biodynamic agriculture can be traced back to the early 1900s, but it’s been in the news much more recently. We just got an email this week asking if we are interested in certified organic and certified biodynamic herbs. These days, you’ll see the biodynamic label on produce and packaged goods in stores that also sell organic products. In fact, biodynamic and organic are linked. Products meeting biodynamic standards must first meet organic standards as established by the USDA’s National Organic Program. But there’s more. Here’s a general description from the Biodynamics Association: “Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition … Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised.” Whole Foods even has a Frequently Asked Questions page on biodynamic products. Biodynamic Certification Another way to look at biodynamics has much in common with organic. When you look at what it takes to become certified, what it means to be organic takes on a very specific meaning, The same is true for biodynamics. This page […]
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Industry on the Rise Essential oils sales are soaring and the trend doesn’t look to be slowing down. The market is estimated to reach $11.67 billion by the year 2022, according to Grand View Research Inc. The uses of essential oils range from aromatherapy to topical use and the benefits of these products are no mystery to consumers. The soap industry is no stranger to the use of essential oils. They are often used in the soap making process to provide quality, natural scents to their products. So, for a company focusing on quality and an emphasis on natural products, essential oils must also meet these high standards. The essential oil industry poses an interesting dilemma for consumers, considering the lack of agreed-on standards and inspection agencies.  Just as with any product, there are levels of quality among essential oils and there are numerous ways to spot the high-quality oils from those of a lower quality. Essential oils can be “pure,” meaning there are no additives or diluents included in the product. There are also “synthetic” oils, which ultimately consist of a cheaper oil, such as vegetable oil, with a scent added to the base in order to give the impression of a “pure” oil. There are a few processes you can go through in order to make the distinction. The first one of these processes is to look out for misleading or deceptive phrases. For example, the words “Nature Identicals” commonly show up on essential oil products. Really though, this term is basically a code word for synthetic! On the other end of the spectrum however, the term “therapeutic grade” usually implies a higher quality oil. Packaging Pay attention to the packaging! Pure essential oils require packaging in glass containers to avoid the breakdown of plastics or other chemical reactions that might take place between the chemical compounds of the oils and the plastic itself. The glass should also be a dark color in order to avoid any adverse effects from UV rays. One simple test to perform when inquiring about the purity of essential oils is to place a few drops of the product in water. If the water appears cloudy upon application, then the change in opacity signifies an additive or diluent. Recognize the Plant Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the Latin names of plants. Through this knowledge, the ingredient labels are better deciphered and allows you to determine what plants the oils actually originated from. On a similar note, know which portion of the plant was used in order to create the oils. For example, oil made from cinnamon bark is always of higher quality than that of oils generated from cinnamon leaf. The cinnamon leaf would also be at a cheaper point, which is another possible indication of its lower quality. Know the Supplier The most important aspect to consider when purchasing essential […]
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Ever use a soap that didn’t lather or that left your skin feeling tight and dry, despite the label being full of ingredients meant to pamper your skin? The internet is full of specialized reasons and advice, but the cause of most underperforming soap is, like a lot of things, simple and fundamental. And it’s also as old as soap itself. The problem isn’t lack of exotic ingredients, but a weak foundation – poor formulation of the soap base itself. It Comes Down to This Here’s the scoop on formulation, and you’re not required to actually like chemistry to share in the news. Soap is the result of a full chemical reaction in which a section of an oil molecule (or fatty acid) attaches to a sodium ion. By choosing oils that have specific molecular properties (in other words, choosing the right fatty acids) and blending them in the right proportions, it’s possible to create the results we want in our soaps – creamy, fluffy lather that’s extra moisturizing in a long-lasting bar. Give and Take There’s a catch, though. Fatty acids that give soap one property can diminish others. Oils that contribute to fluffy lather can make a soap drying to the skin. If you find a mix that creates nice lather as well as a bar with decent moisturizing ability, you can be left with soap that barely lasts, dissolving too quickly in water. Good soap formulations are tricky, because they need to juggle and solve all the variables, finding the balance that maximizes the most desired qualities – creamy fluffy lather, moisturizing ability, bar hardness, and shelf life – all in one soap. Don’t Be Fooled Here’s the most important thing to take away from a formulation discussion. If you don’t have a well-formulated base, exotic ingredients won’t produce the soap you’re looking for. In the right blend, shea butter can be a great enhancement. But adding a specialty ingredient – because it’s seen as recipe magic or simply to justify putting it on the label – can’t fix soap with a bad foundation. Heart and Soul Too often, when customers bring us a recipe for a bar they’ve always loved, we see a jumble of glamorous ingredients that are expected to yield extraordinary soap. The problem is, glamorous ingredients aren’t what produces extraordinary soap. Our formulation advice is always this: keep it simple and focus on the soap’s properties – its heart and soul – not a fanfare of ingredients that give you dazzle without substance.  
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If it weren’t for the chemistry of soap and the nature of organic regulations, we could put the USDA logo on our soap. Lye makes up 12-15%, by weight, of the original ingredients for bar soap. It doesn’t exist in the final soap product, but organic regulations require that ingredients be traced back to the beginning, to the product’s origins, and then be accounted for in organic percentages. Quality and Transparency As it is, we make every one of our soap bars with a minimum of 85% organic ingredients, a fairly common number for organic soap. It’s not carved in stone, but 85% is a good point of reference, especially for consumers. It identifies a particular level of soap quality. And, when it’s used by the soapmaker to describe their own product, it also shows a commitment to honesty and transparency. Liquid soap tends to be slightly less organic than bar soap in percentage, more in the 83% range. The reason might be obvious. Liquid soap has more water than bar soap. Water doesn’t count against you in organic percentages, but it can’t count for you, either. When water makes up a bigger portion of overall ingredients, the portion that can count toward organic percentage is reduced. Lots of Rules Playing by the organic rules means there are a lot of rules. We’ve always thought the process is worth it, though, especially being able to prove the quality of our product to customers, rather than just telling them and asking them to trust us. Not that we wouldn’t love to reach the 95% level and wear the logo. We know it means something. Especially now, with so much in factory skincare turning out to be bad for us, the organic seal is something to trust. Organic Is More It’s not just numbers behind the trust. It’s the spirit of committing to the most natural product possible, throughout the supply chain. In the case of soap, that means no synthetics or toxins to irritate the skin and cause long-term problems over time. It means no toxins washed down the drain and passed on to others. Organic means safe, high-quality products you can feel good about using, and it means an industry you can feel can good about supporting when you shop.
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Olive oil. We use it to cook. We use it for its antioxidants and overall health benefits. It’s also used regularly for making soap. With so many of us using olive so often, it bears pointing out that we’re not always getting what we think we are. In the world of organic and natural, there are products that consistently make it hard to trust their quality. In the case of olive oil, it’s difficult to guarantee authenticity. The olive oil industry has a past worth investigating and annual revenue of  over $1.5 billion that encourages deception. How Much Isn’t As Advertised? It’s been reported that nearly 70% of the extra virgin olive oil sold in the world isn’t what it says it is. It lacks authenticity. It is either cut with cheaper carrier oils or it is imported and relabeled. Often, Spanish extra-virgin olive oil gets passed off as Italian, simply by putting a new label on the bottle. Italian Police conducted a mass intervention into the fraudulent acts of the olive oil industry. They arrested 23 people and confiscated 85 farms during this raid, bringing to light the severity of the situation. Low quality oil was being passed off as “fine Italian oil,” making the fake olive oil industry a booming business for scammers. According to the University of California Davis, nearly two-thirds of the extra-virgin olive oil found in California grocery stores was not what it claimed to be. The Problem Is American, Too The U.S. isn’t immune to fraudulent activity. In 2007, storage units in New York were busted for counterfeit olive oil. The facility held 10,000 cases of what appeared to be extra-virgin olive oil, when in fact, the bottles contained mostly soybean oil. How do we know, then, what’s real and what’s fake? There are a few ways to test whether or not the olive oil you purchased stands up to its claims of authenticity. First off, despite popular belief, color isn’t actually an indicative property for determining quality. Tips for Smart Buying A factor you should take into consideration is the packaging. The best oils are contained in darker glass bottles, which prevents the oil going rancid from sun exposure. Additionally, pay attention to the labels on the bottle. Definitely ensure that there is an expiration date visible somewhere on the bottle and watch out for phrases like “packed in Italy” or “bottled in Italy.” An Olive Oil Workaround If taking precautionary measures seems frustrating and your heart isn’t set on olive oil for soap-making, sunflower and safflower oils are a great alternative! Olive oil produces good quality soap because it contains 80-82% oleic fatty acid, which contributes moisturizing ability to the lather. Both sunflower and safflower oils contain 81-85% oleic fatty acid. From a soap making perspective, there is no functional difference substituting sunflower and safflower for olive oil. The final, high-quality soap product is unchanged […]
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For some, organic farming and organic products are new ideas. For others, organic products and production have been part of their lives for years. For these folks (us included) organic production has long been seen as responsible production – proven, scientific, and part of a sustainable future. But even we were a bit surprised by two aspects of the organic world we didn’t know enough about. The Unseen Organic Certification is an expensive proposition. This isn’t the most visible aspect of the process, but it’s a big part of the organic commitment. For some, it’s too big. Farmers, especially, can find the financial burden of certification too much to carry in a profession that is often wildly uncertain. Not pursuing certification, though, doesn’t mean farmers don’t incorporate organic principles into their agricultural and production practices. In fact, many of them do. What We’re Seeing Our interaction with ingredient vendors over the past year has revealed a number of farmers who’ve become producers, offering non-certified, yet organically produced essential oils. Buying straight from the grower/producer – eliminating the middle man – made more than one otherwise expensive oil significantly less expensive. That fact alone made soap costs easier to manage for our customers. This “unseen organic” might be the purest commitment any of us make, employing time-consuming and often expensive organic agricultural practices without getting any of the marketing benefits of certification. These are the commitments that deserve the most respect, commitments that acknowledge consequences of agriculture that extend beyond individual economic pursuits, consequences to  overall soil and water health, to the larger community, and to the future of agriculture. Organic Plus Biodynamic agriculture can be traced back to the early 1900s, but it’s been in the news much more recently. We just got an email this week asking if we are interested in certified organic and certified biodynamic herbs. These days, you’ll see the biodynamic label on produce and packaged goods in stores that also sell organic products. In fact, biodynamic and organic are linked. Products meeting biodynamic standards must first meet organic standards as established by the USDA’s National Organic Program. But there’s more. Here’s a general description from the Biodynamics Association: “Biodynamics is a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming, gardening, food and nutrition … Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised.” Whole Foods even has a Frequently Asked Questions page on biodynamic products. Biodynamic Certification Another way to look at biodynamics has much in common with organic. When you look at what it takes to become certified, what it means to be organic takes on a very specific meaning, The same is true for biodynamics. This page […]
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Industry on the Rise Essential oils sales are soaring and the trend doesn’t look to be slowing down. The market is estimated to reach $11.67 billion by the year 2022, according to Grand View Research Inc. The uses of essential oils range from aromatherapy to topical use and the benefits of these products are no mystery to consumers. The soap industry is no stranger to the use of essential oils. They are often used in the soap making process to provide quality, natural scents to their products. So, for a company focusing on quality and an emphasis on natural products, essential oils must also meet these high standards. The essential oil industry poses an interesting dilemma for consumers, considering the lack of agreed-on standards and inspection agencies.  Just as with any product, there are levels of quality among essential oils and there are numerous ways to spot the high-quality oils from those of a lower quality. Essential oils can be “pure,” meaning there are no additives or diluents included in the product. There are also “synthetic” oils, which ultimately consist of a cheaper oil, such as vegetable oil, with a scent added to the base in order to give the impression of a “pure” oil. There are a few processes you can go through in order to make the distinction. The first one of these processes is to look out for misleading or deceptive phrases. For example, the words “Nature Identicals” commonly show up on essential oil products. Really though, this term is basically a code word for synthetic! On the other end of the spectrum however, the term “therapeutic grade” usually implies a higher quality oil. Packaging Pay attention to the packaging! Pure essential oils require packaging in glass containers to avoid the breakdown of plastics or other chemical reactions that might take place between the chemical compounds of the oils and the plastic itself. The glass should also be a dark color in order to avoid any adverse effects from UV rays. One simple test to perform when inquiring about the purity of essential oils is to place a few drops of the product in water. If the water appears cloudy upon application, then the change in opacity signifies an additive or diluent. Recognize the Plant Additionally, it’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with the Latin names of plants. Through this knowledge, the ingredient labels are better deciphered and allows you to determine what plants the oils actually originated from. On a similar note, know which portion of the plant was used in order to create the oils. For example, oil made from cinnamon bark is always of higher quality than that of oils generated from cinnamon leaf. The cinnamon leaf would also be at a cheaper point, which is another possible indication of its lower quality. Know the Supplier The most important aspect to consider when purchasing essential […]
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Ever use a soap that didn’t lather or that left your skin feeling tight and dry, despite the label being full of ingredients meant to pamper your skin? The internet is full of specialized reasons and advice, but the cause of most underperforming soap is, like a lot of things, simple and fundamental. And it’s also as old as soap itself. The problem isn’t lack of exotic ingredients, but a weak foundation – poor formulation of the soap base itself. It Comes Down to This Here’s the scoop on formulation, and you’re not required to actually like chemistry to share in the news. Soap is the result of a full chemical reaction in which a section of an oil molecule (or fatty acid) attaches to a sodium ion. By choosing oils that have specific molecular properties (in other words, choosing the right fatty acids) and blending them in the right proportions, it’s possible to create the results we want in our soaps – creamy, fluffy lather that’s extra moisturizing in a long-lasting bar. Give and Take There’s a catch, though. Fatty acids that give soap one property can diminish others. Oils that contribute to fluffy lather can make a soap drying to the skin. If you find a mix that creates nice lather as well as a bar with decent moisturizing ability, you can be left with soap that barely lasts, dissolving too quickly in water. Good soap formulations are tricky, because they need to juggle and solve all the variables, finding the balance that maximizes the most desired qualities – creamy fluffy lather, moisturizing ability, bar hardness, and shelf life – all in one soap. Don’t Be Fooled Here’s the most important thing to take away from a formulation discussion. If you don’t have a well-formulated base, exotic ingredients won’t produce the soap you’re looking for. In the right blend, shea butter can be a great enhancement. But adding a specialty ingredient – because it’s seen as recipe magic or simply to justify putting it on the label – can’t fix soap with a bad foundation. Heart and Soul Too often, when customers bring us a recipe for a bar they’ve always loved, we see a jumble of glamorous ingredients that are expected to yield extraordinary soap. The problem is, glamorous ingredients aren’t what produces extraordinary soap. Our formulation advice is always this: keep it simple and focus on the soap’s properties – its heart and soul – not a fanfare of ingredients that give you dazzle without substance.  
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