When you first create a perfume from scratch, you build it drop-by-drop. This gives you the most control in designing a unique and compelling scent. But if you’re hoping to give that perfume as a gift or sell them as part of your product line, you’re met with a dilemma. You probably don’t have the time to create each perfume drop by drop if you’re making 100 or more… so how do you scale drops up, if you take into account that not all essential oil (EO) drops weigh the same amount?
For this question, the answer lies in utilizing your EO supplier’s information about their oils, specifically each oils’ Specific Gravity (that is – weight in comparison to water). For example, the specific gravity of sweet orange from our supplier is .842. Once you have that number (the EO’s specific gravity) for each oil, here’s what you do:
To start, pick a blend recipe. We’ll use one of Lori’s favorite blends that smells like a more grown-up Orange Creamsicle:
This lets you pick a final amount and use your percentages to reach that. For example, let’s say you want 10 oz of your total EO blend. You now know what percentage of that 10 oz has to be sweet orange essential oil (since this blend is made up of 32.3% sweet orange, you would need 3.23 ounces of sweet orange). Petitgrain would be 1.68 ounces, and so on. Easy peasey, right?!
As you can see, rounding has the potential to create some problems (the above percentages add up to 100.02%), but we think it’s close enough.
So there you have it – continue to build your natural perfumes drop-by-drop for smaller batches. But when ready to scale up, use the specific gravity of each essence, do some simple multiplication, division, and addition to figure out the percentage of each aromatic oil in your recipe. By scaling up, you cut down on the total time it takes you to create beautiful perfumes (and also blends for other soap & bath & body products).
Have you noticed the huge increase in the numbers of cosmetics and body products with the word “natural” on them? Natural skin care, natural makeup, natural soap. It’s great, right? Being able to purchase and use all these products full of wholesome stuff, extracted from nature. Right?
Well, maybe. In the US, there is still no legal definition for what is “natural” in cosmetics. There are some private organizations trying to come up with standards, like the Natural Products Association and the Whole Foods Premium Standard. But these are not regulated by the government and can vary widely.
What does “natural” mean?
Unlike “organic” certification, which has guidelines, regulations and oversight, generally the term “natural” means whatever the product manufacturer wants it to mean. Or rather, whatever they want you to think it means. So, if you think that “natural” on the label means that all the ingredients were derived from nature, you’re in for a surprise. In product labeling, “natural” really has no clear meaning.
When shopping for “natural” products, you have to consider what that means to you. Do you expect all the ingredients to be as unprocessed as possible? Or just the main ingredients? Is it important to you that none of the ingredients are synthesized in a laboratory? Does the product have to have 100% natural ingredients? How about 97%? Is 95% good enough?
These are questions that only you as the consumer can decide for yourself. To make that decision, you have to read and understand the ingredients that are in the products. This can be difficult when labels use chemical names, even for natural ingredients. It can be so confusing!
Here are some definitions & guidelines to keep in mind when looking at soap ingredient labels:
The main ingredient in handmade soaps is fats and oils. These are natural, extracted from plants (like coconut or olive oils) or animals (like lard from pigs or emu oil).
Another substantial ingredient in handmade soap is lye, a solution of water and sodium hydroxide. Sodium hydroxide is manufactured by running an electric current through a solution of water and sodium chloride (table salt).
Detergent ingredients, like sodium laureth sulfate, add foaming and cleansing qualities and are found in some soap. While sodium laureth sulfate can be derived from vegetable oils, it goes through several chemical reactions before taking its final form.
Colorants and fragrance (synthetic and natural) together in soap usually make up a very small percentage of a soap bar, around 2-4% of the total weight.
Skin-safe colorants like oxides and ultramarines are chemically identical to their natural counterparts that used to be extracted from the ground. They are manufactured in a laboratory, and so I don’t consider them “natural.” But they can be actually safer to use than their natural versions, which can be contaminated with dangerous heavy metals like lead and mercury.
FD&C or D&C colorants are dyes regulated by the FDA and approved for use in personal products like lotion and soap. They are derived from petrochemicals.
Essential oils are used to bring scent and aromatherapy qualities to soap. They are derived directly from a natural source, like leaves, bark or citrus fruit peels. Different essential oils can be blended to give very rich and complex scents.
“Fragrance” in a soap ingredient list is usually a synthetic compound, blended with chemical components that have distinct odors. Sometimes essential oils are also included in this blend. This is often the only option if a soapmaker wants to make a soap that smells like kiwi, for example, since a kiwi essential oil does not exist.
As the consumer, you get to decide your definition of “natural” when judging skin care products. Just because a soap calls itself “natural” doesn’t make it so. With my guidelines, you can now read and better understand soap labels and choose the products that fit your needs. There is nothing wrong with “Natural Kiwi Scented Soap”, as long as you know exactly what you’re really getting.
We talk about natural products a lot, so it’s no surprise that we love them. After all, we built an entire business out of them! For your skin, your shower, your lips, and even your home. But sometimes we have the opportunity to encounter a type of handmade product (in this case, a DIY natural wood conditioner) that we didn’t even know we needed… until now!
Recently, we helped my mom move out of her house, and while we were getting the house ready to show, my brother needed to refinish her big ol’ butcher block in the kitchen. After a decade of loving use, the boards had gaps (see image below) that we needed to fill so it would be ready and functional for the future owner.
My brother does a lot of woodworking. He would typically use natural “wood conditioner” type product from a home improvement store, or even something like Daddy Van’s polish pictured below (from Lori’s personal collection). But unfortunately, we didn’t have anything like that with us. And then I thought to myself – how difficult could it be to make our own? All these years of working at The Nova Studio, around all these makers has paid off, LOL!
So I headed out to my product making supply area and snagged some beeswax. After melting it, we decided it wasn’t possible to work with it alone – liquid, it was way too hot to handle. When we waited for it to be cool enough to handle, it was too solid to work with. Hmmm…
Back out I went to sift through all my supplies AGAIN, and this time, grabbed some sweet almond oil. We carefully melted the two together over low heat (around 2 parts beeswax and 1 part sweet almond oil) and SUCCESS! It instantly became much easier to work with. (Note of Caution: Be careful when melting waxes of any kind over direct heat… if they get hot enough and reach their flash point, they can ignite and catch fire!)
The butcher block turned out beautiful. That must have been the reason the house sold in just one week!! I really hope the new owners love their newly refinished butcher block as much as we did!
Have you ever tried to make your own furniture polish, wood conditioner, or sealer for food prep surfaces?
If so, please share in the comments below! It’s so interesting to discover, out of pure necessity, a whole niche product making industry that we never imagined :)
Everyone knows plastic is one of those modern conveniences we can’t live without – and which is also killing the planet. So how can we, as bath and body product makers, reduce our reliance on plastic while also keeping up with customer expectations and the slick & shiny packaging of our big box competitors? Perhaps biodegradable shrink film is the answer!
National Shrinkwrap has a great biodegradable shrink film that will leave your soaps looking as professional as the products on your favorite store shelves, but will have a fraction of the impact on our environment. Read more in the data sheet, but here are a few of our favorite tidbits:
The products of this degradation, which continues after physical changes to the film are seen, are not just small pieces of the original plastic but are chemically (completely) different.
No more plastic filtering into the ocean to reside in the belly of our next tuna roll!
Biodegradation occurs over a period of 1-3 years, comparable with most natural materials and completely satisfactory from an environmental viewpoint.
WE love that this type of shrinkwrap doesn’t have a stinky plastic odor when you open it (it really has no odor whatsoever). That’s the last thing anyone would want when they are opening up a beautiful bar of handmade soap.
So what do you think – is biodegradable shrink film the answer for you & your customers? Share in the comments below what you like best about the idea of a shrink film that won’t stick around forever. If you use a different environmentally friendly packaging method, share that with us, too! We can’t wait to see what creative solutions you come up with.
Earth Day is only 2 days away! This time of year, almost everyone we know is doing some form of organizing, cleaning, purging, or clearing. There is just something about Spring that makes it the ideal time to clean our homes & get a fresh start.
We recently read a very troubling study about how traditional cleaners are extremely harmful to women who do weekly cleaning in the home. They examined the long term effects of common household chemical cleaners on over 6,000 participants, both men & women. They found that using toxic cleaning products (sprays AND liquids) that contain ingredients like bleach & ammonia significantly reduced lung function in women (although strangely, not men).
Shockingly, this article likens the damage for women to smoking an entire PACK of cigarettes per DAY! What??
We can’t stand the thought of women getting sick & compromising their health simply because they’re cleaning their homes & unknowingly using the wrong products.
1) Lime & Spruce dropped in my shower (around the edges) right before I get in. Smelled like a bright green delicious forest.
2) Sweet Orange, Clove & Cinnamon added to a makeshift aromatherapy “bath” in my sink. Just plug the drain, fill up sink with hot water from tap, drop the oils in & let them sit there as long as you like. They’ll diffuse the whole room with their amazing scent. Read the full post here.
How to Diffuse & Essential Oil Blends: Guest author & Nova Superstar Stephanie shares some excellent basic info about essential oils, and her 6 favorite blends. This is #1 to use in her home diffuser in the Spring and Fall to combat pollen: 2 drops each of Lemon, Lavender, & Peppermint. This blend would also be killer for home cleaning Read more here.
Read the FULL blog posts & more at the Brand New Blog Category: The Eco-Friendly Home. There are only a handful of posts at the present time, but we plan to add more. If you bookmark it, you can easily check back & see when we add new ones!
We assume that most of you already at least dabble with natural cleaning in your home. What are your favorite eco-friendly home cleaning tips or products? Please share below.
Looking for even more trusted information & tested recipes to get started making your own truly all-natural home cleaning products? Check out our Eco-Friendly Home Cleaning Products Class Handout (psst… it’s on half price sale, just until the end of April – no code needed).
When customers tell us that they have a favorite soap, it’s usually the scent that sets it apart from all the others. This is not surprising, since the sense of smell is the one most closely connected to the limbic system, the part of the brain controlling emotion, memory and behavior. If you have ever caught a whiff of a perfume that reminded you of your long-lost grandma, you’ve experienced this close relationship.
Scents or smells are just a blend of chemical compounds that are released into the air and interact with the scent receptors in our noses. They bind to receptors in the lining of the nose causing the associated nerve cells to send a message to a part of the brain called the olfactory bulb. There the messages are sorted out and the brain is able to detect “lemon” or “buttercream icing” or “baking bread.”
While the smell of plain soap is pleasant enough, adding a scent to soap really turns the practical job of getting clean into an enjoyable experience. Scents that we use to fragrance our soaps are the same chemicals that give fruit, flowers and plants their distinctive smells. Whether extracted from plants or blended in a laboratory, scents are just chemicals that smell!
Smells that come from Mother Nature
Essential oils are concentrated liquids that contain the volatile chemicals that give things odor. The liquid is extracted from its source by either distillation (using heat to separate out the essential oils), solvent extraction (using water and solvents to separate compounds) or expression (squeezing the source to remove the oil from it). Sources of essential oils include things like the peels of citrus fruits, the leaves of plants like peppermint, and the petals of flowers like jasmine.
Some scent molecules are so fragile that they are destroyed in the process of extraction and no longer smell like they did in their fresh version. That is why something like an essential oil of watermelon or cucumber does not exist. For that, we must turn to chemical engineering and what are called fragrance oils.
Smells that come from your friendly neighborhood chemist
Fragrance oils are a mixture of chemicals that are synthesized and blended to mimic the chemical composition of a certain scent. Chemists can analyze the individual chemicals that make up what we smell as “watermelon,” for example, and bring those chemicals together in a laboratory, basically copying what nature can do on her own. This is how soapmakers can make soap smell like cotton candy or banana pudding.
Another reason some soapmakers chose to use fragrance oils is as a substitute for an essential oil that is too expensive or rare. For example, the over harvesting of Indian sandalwood for its highly regarded essential oil has resulted in the species being threatened. A synthesized fragrance oil is a good alternative to help save Indian sandalwood trees.
Let the soap shine through!
Sometimes handmade soap is made with ingredients that lend a mild scent to the finished soap without needing any added fragrance. Goat milk and honey added to soap not only makes for a mild soap, but also gives a delicate, creamy scent. Adding beer to cold process soap can also result in a soap with a light, nutty scent.
Whichever way you like your handmade soap scented, I hope that it brings you nothing but nice feelings and happy memories!
Do you have a favorite scented soap? What is it, and how does the scent make YOU feel?
Nova co-owner Ruth Esteves wrote this post a while ago for her soap blog, and we thought it was a classic & should be shared here too! Ruth is also the voice (& the brains) behind our Cold Process Soapmaking 101 Video eClass. We just love the way she explains things… clear, to the point, always solid information. She how she explains the common question, “Is there lye in your soap?”
Soapmakers often get asked about the use of lye in their soap. The fact is that lye is indeed used to make soap. While in many minds, “lye soap” brings up images of grandmas and washboards and red, red hands, anyone who has used handmade soap knows that it is quite mild and moisturizing. Sound like a contradiction? Well, the truth is that the lye was there, but now it’s gone. Is it magic? Sort of. It’s chemistry!
Why lye, anyway?
Soap, by definition, is the result of a chemical reaction between some kind of oil (like olive oil, coconut oil or cocoa butter) and lye. Lye is a solution made with either sodium hydroxide (to make bar soap) or potassium hydroxide (to make liquid soap). The reaction is called saponification. That’s it. Beautiful in its simplicity, no? The other stuff (colors, fragrance, flower petals) adds to the enjoyment of your shower or bath, but is really unnecessary if you just want something that will clean.
Lye can be added by the soapmaker, like I do when making cold process soap, or it could have been added in a manufacturing facility. In fact, some soapmakers use a soap base that can be melted and then colored and scented. In that case, the soapmaker doesn’t have to handle the lye, but it was still part of the process in becoming soap at the factory before the soapmaker got it.
No lye? No soap. Period.
Where’s the lye?
“But hold on,” you might say, “the soap I buy at the store doesn’t have lye.” It may seem that way, depending on how the soap is labeled. Some ingredient labels list things like “sodium palmate”. This is the chemical name for the result of mixing palm oil and sodium hydroxide – oil and lye again! That bar of soap was made by blending in some already-made palm oil soap. The lye that went into making the sodium palmate was used up by the time it went into the soap, so it doesn’t have to be listed on the ingredient label. Or maybe the label lists “saponified olive oil.” Now that you know what saponification means, you can understand that saponified oils are oils that have been reacted with lye at some point, even if the label doesn’t actually say “sodium hydroxide.”
Another very common reason that a soap label may not list sodium hydroxide is that it’s not soap. Surprised? Many bars in the market today are really solid detergents. Read the labels carefully and you’ll see that they are called “body bars” or “beauty bars” since they can’t call themselves “soap” because they aren’t made with oils and lye.
How can lye soap feel so good on the skin? If lye is used to make soap, why is handmade soap so gentle? The trick is that the lye gets used up during saponification. That’s right. The chemical reaction transforms the oil and lye into (Ta-da!) soap and glycerin. The soap cleans your skin (but not so much that all the oils are stripped off ) and the glycerin is a humectant. That means that it attracts moisture from the air and onto your skin, helping it stay moisturized and supple. And unlike Grandma, modern handmade soapmakers are able to formulate their soap using high-quality, beneficial oils and just enough lye to get a mild, conditioning bar that still gives a lovely lather.
So have no fear! Use handmade soap and enjoy all the benefits that it brings. Because the magic of chemistry has turned those oils and lye into something completely different and lovely: some of the best soap you can use on your skin!
We received an email from a customer asking for clarification on the different types of perfume wheels. After I answered her, I thought I might as well turn it into a blog post & share it! Here is the conversation – and please feel free to join in by posting a question or comment below.
Hello Lori, I’m finally sitting down to play with scents and have discovered something unusual about the different scent wheels.
As you can see, the scents don’t line up in similar fashion, which I find confusing. So for someone like me, who is trying to understand “correct” ways to blend, this seems to me that there really is no correct way. I like your wheel since it does give me the top, middle, and base notes listed, so I can learn which scent are such.
So to use a basic example, a simple complementary blend, where you look across the wheel, are different with each wheel. Although, woody and fruity are pretty close to each other. Am I losing my mind?! Lol
So my question is, do I just pick a wheel (yours, since it is for essential oils, and still use accordingly – complementary, monochromatic, split and double complementary blends) even though every wheel looks different and has scents placed in different spots? I hope I’m making sense. Thanks for your help in understanding.
Hi Ann! It’s totally understandable that you’re confused with three different “tools” that are all called a similar thing (perfume wheel or fragrance wheel).
As I say in my Natural Perfumes eClass (& class handouts), there is no one correct way to blend essential oils – so you’re correct there!
Additionally, each of these perfume wheels is an attempt by the creator(s) to help people understand perfumery. Unless it’s specifically mentioned that things work similar to a COLOR wheel (as in the example you gave with the complimentary listing blending well with its counterpart), I would definitely NOT make that assumption.
Mandy Aftel’s natural perfume wheel tool is explained on the back. There is no mention of scents blending similar to a color wheel. I don’t know if the others are explained as well – I’ve never seen them in person… but I would take each on face value. If they are not explained, I would contact the company and ask for clarification. After all, these wheel’s are supposed to be tools, and what good is a tool if you don’t know how to use it! I would simply take from each of them what you can – but maybe stop trying to find similarities or expecting the information to jive – because that will drive you crazy (and lead you down the wrong path). Hope this helps – and feel free to contact me if you have any other questions.
All of this reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by the queen of natural perfumery Mandy Aftel. “There are no real rules. If a beautiful new scent is created, that path to it is irrelevant.”
Was this info helpful for you? Do you have one of these (or perhaps another) Perfume Wheel? Comment below what you think of handy tools like this. Want to read more about our favorite Perfume Wheel? Click here! Check out our Natural Perfume Making Video eClass, which for a limited time comes with a free Aftelier Perfume Wheel in the mail!
Due to the high pH environment of raw handmade soap (made from scratch), coloring soap is most definitely NOT as easy as we would like it to be.
Have you had the unfortunate experience of your soap bars changing color on you, hours or days after unmolding? Are you having trouble landing that perfect shade of green for your next batch of “Springtime in NY” soap? Are you tired of wasting time & ingredients trying to get the right color to go with your signature soap scents? Want to stop reinventing the wheel and take advantage of tried-&-true experimentation from three soap experts?
If you truly want to understand all the ins-and-outs of coloring soap, and take the guesswork out of coloring soap, then you’ve come to the right place!
You may have seen that we have some pretty awesome resources to help you color your soap, written by soapers with decades of experience in the business. Several of these eBooks were created specifically for the annual HSCG soap conferences.
For soapers wanting to take their plain soap to the next level design wise, learning as much as you can about coloring soap & soap colorant choices really helps. To make it easy (and more cost effective for you), we’ve bundled together what we think is enough information to turn you from a soap novice into a soap color expert, in no time.
The Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild (HSCG) has an awesome HSCG podcast, where Adam Grogin interviews soapmakers on different topics they think would be of value to other soapers. A while ago, we told you about Lori’s other HSCG podcast for would-be teachers… on how much time it really takes to teach classes (in case you missed that one, you can listen in right here). Her second podcast on the topic of teaching classes, also available now (you don’t have to me a member to listen in!) can be found below. Just click on the green arrow icon to listen on your lunch break!
In preparation for her talk at the 2017 HSCG Conference May 2017 in Las Vegas, Lori chose topics that would be helpful to handcrafters considering teaching DIY classes to make extra money. It’s part of a growing list of Teacher Resources that we’ve put together for up & coming teachers.
This “part two” HSCG podcast is all about “What makes a great teacher?” It’s something to help those just starting out, who might be hesitant to try their hand at teaching if they’ve never taught before. It’s about 40 minutes long, so it’s perfect for sipping a cup of tea, or eating your lunch while listening!