Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Am Handmade - Upcoming Review on Soaper Star

Celine Blacow is the creative artist at I Am Handmade.  She lives in Dublin, Ireland and creates absolutely gorgeous artisan soap and other body goodies.  I will be posting a review of a few of her soaps over the weekend, but let's just pause for a few minutes and take a look at some drool-worthy photos of her soap while we wait.....shall we??

I won't share which soaps I'll be reviewing, but stay tuned! :)

Go check out Soaper Star, Celine, at iamhandmade!


Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Soap Conference Part Deux

I feel pretty lucky to have been at the conference this year.  I met some wonderful people and left with lifetime friends and family, if you can even believe it.  Well I have decided to be part of the staff next year at the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild's conference in Tucson, Arizona.  I encourage you all to save up now and sign up for the conference.  It's not only a great learning experience, but a chance in a lifetime to meet people you may really connect with.  For now or for life.  It was an experience to say the least.  

Here are some photos that I cherish:

Tricia Samundsen and Me - last day of conference

Amanda Griffin, Charlene Simon and Me - Party Night

Charlene Simon and Tanya Rasley - Winning Duo

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Soap Conference '13 - HSCG- Part 1

I attended the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild's (HSCG) soap conference a couple of weeks ago and I am still feeling the love from the whole experience.  I am utterly shocked, dazed and content by my experience.  Many months ago, Leigh O'Donnell of HSCG, asked if I'd be interested in speaking at the 2013 conference.  ME?!?  I was scared, excited and honored all at the same time.  I've been wanting to go to their soap conferences for many years, but could not attend for different reasons.  Well, this time, I wasn't going to miss it!

So....she asked me what I like to make and I told her "Milk Soaps. I make it differently than how I was taught."  So I told her about my technique and she said it was perfect.  I said,"it's just an easy way to do it.  Like a cheat."  And she shuts me right up and says, "That is innovative!  Not cheating!!  If you teach someone how to do something an easier way, they will want to know it!" 

oh, ok.....So months went by...weeks...days.... until I finally packed up and got on the plane.

I arrived at the hotel, checked-in and found my room.  Ahhh, it was perfect, I fell onto the bed, stretched out and closed my eyes.  Finally.  I head downstairs and who do I find but the lovely Tricia Samundsen!  Then one by one, I meet the crew, coordinators, board members....A ton of people.  Instantly I felt at home.  This was where I belonged when I wasn't with my family.  I felt in in my bones.

Raleigh was my slice of heaven for the weekend.  All mine.  Bwua ha ha!

Dinners, drinks, seminars, breakfast meet-ups, parties and lots of laughs. Just a little background on me, if you don't already know, I am pretty much a homebody and don't go out that much, mostly because of the lack of people that reside here in South Florida, but I've never been a particularly social being.  The conference weekend yanked me out of my shell.  I met some sweet, loving, and interesting people all in one place.  I made friends so quickly.  A treat to say the least.

I spoke at the conference...two seminars in one day, each for about an hour and there were approximately 100 people in each seminar.  Honestly, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it, but the guest speaker was Ann Evanston, who gave a beautiful and inspiring motivational speech the morning of my seminars, that it completely took me to a different notch and I felt okay being ME in front of a crowd I channeled the authentic self that I am and relaxed enough to just be and share what I do instead of worrying so much about what others thought of me.  Big step for me, folks, big step.  



I know that many of you wanted to find out the method I spoke about, (which really isn't anything new) and I have just been too busy to post it.  Here is the basic jist of it.  Please do not make this unless you have a number of successful cold process batches under your belt.  And know that I can't be held responsible for what YOU make...this is just an explanation of how do it.  :)

Overview: We all know that soap is created by combining oils with lye.  But when you add milk to your soap, you’re also adding sugars and proteins to the equation and thus creating a new chemical composition: Milk Soap.  Although that can sound daunting, there is no reason to be nervous about trying milk soap for the first time, or taking another shot at it if you’ve sworn it off because of past disasters.  I’ve devised a way to make milk soaps that come out the same way every time.  For me.

Background: Because milks contain sugar, they will heat up your soap batter and can speed up trace which can leave little time to incorporate the ingredients and finish your soap.  The traditional way to prevent this from happening is to freeze your milk ahead of time and then add lye to the milk cubes very slowly while mixing into a slushy solution.  Many people successfully make milk soaps this way, but it has some issues for me and I hate issues.  My technique alleviates the following problems while producing a few bonus benefits.

Problems with the traditional way:

 “When I add the lye to the milk, it makes a horrible ammonia stench!”   

My lye solution turned orange-y brown”.

 “Freezing milk requires hours of additional planning and wrecks my work schedule.  It also clutters up my freezer.”

 “I don’t like adding milks during the most caustic stage of saponification.” 
- - --  -Some people feel this can damage milks and degrade their benefits.

My solution resolves all of those problems.  You’ll avoid nasty smells and color changes, free up your schedule, and protect delicate ingredients.  All you need to do now is pick the milk for the soap you’ll be making.   

Milk Properties

For the conference's demonstration, I used two milks separately in two different batches:

Buttermilk   It is often used in making baby soap because of its gentle properties and is great for sensitive skin.  It contains alpha-hydroxy acid, which is used in facial preparations.  It isn’t clear if those acids survive saponification (but my technique should up the odds), but buttermilk creates a wonderful smoothness.

Coconut milk is preferred by vegans, and is technically plant milk.  Coconut milk’s main fatty acid, lauric acid, is known for its great skin nourishing benefits and to have both anti-carcinogenic and anti-viral properties.  It adds moisturizing and gentle cleansing qualities in addition to the fluffy lather it brings to your soap.  

SCENT CHANGES:          Milks impart little to no scent in your final soap.   

COLOR CHANGES:          Buttermilk creates a beige soap and coconut milk creates an off-white soap.

Simple Milk Soap Recipe

This is a basic cold process soap recipe which I prepared to demonstrate my technique of making milk soap without the hassle of frozen milk cubes, horrific ammonia stink and discolored lye mixture. 

Concentrated Lye Solution - Caution!  This amount of water is half the liquid typically used with this amount of lye.

Lye Solution

Distilled Water                    210 grams

Lye                                      184 grams


Olive                                    516 grams

Palm Oil                               388 grams

Coconut Oil 76 °                  388 grams
Milk - liquid form, room temp.

Coconut / Buttermilk           210 grams

  • Combine lye and distilled water, mix until incorporated.  Let cool to just above room temperature.
  • Melt and combine all oils.  Let cool to just above room temperature.
  • With your stick blender immersed into the oils and burped, slowly introduce your concentrated lye solution.  Continuously stir; blend in short bursts.  Because the lye solution is concentrated, the soap batter may not thicken consistently.  Don’t worry!  That’s normal.  Just keep stirring with occasional bursts of power until smoothly blended and you reach a light trace.
  • Pour your room temperature (not frozen) milk in at a slow, steady speed while, continuing to stir and apply short bursts of power from your blender until fully incorporated.  Pour into your mold.   You’re done! 

Some other milks you can use (*indicates vegan milks):



Cow (buttermilk, cream, half-n-half, sour cream, yogurt…etc)








Rice*                                                                    (*indicates vegan milks)

I think the seminars were fun and I was blessed with the most fabulous assistant, Tricia Samundsen (my Vanna White).  I received a lot of positive feedback from a bunch of attendees.  I hope I helped some people.  So here is to Leigh O'Donnell and innovation!

At the moment our company, Absolute Soap, isn't carrying straight milk soaps, but we have our Unscented Alabaster Handmade Soap (sea salt soap) that people love.  We are also a vegan soap company and will only be making coconut milk soaps in the future.  Later until Part 2!

Part 2: coming soon.....