Making great all-natural soap!

How We Make Soap – 1

Real soap, by definition, is what you get when you combine fatty acids – in our case, vegetable oils, with a lye/liquid mixture.  You no longer have oil and you no longer have lye – just soap.  Making soap is actually a straightforward process, it’s mostly about precision and ingredients. At Bogue we’re not satisfied with good soap – we want to make great soap.  This means quality ingredients, a terrific recipe, care and precision in process and, of course, a love for what you’re doing.   I’ll begin this conversation about how we make our soap talking about ingredients – we always use the best ingredients we can for each product which takes us on a virtual buying trip around the globe, and also into our own kitchens.

Our liquid of choice is generally goat milk because of the plethora of benefits it brings to a bar of soap.  It’s rich in vitamins A, E, B6 & B12 that all nourish the skin; it’s rich in caseins (fatty acids/proteins) that are easily absorbed and hydrate dry skin leaving it smooth and supple; and it’s close to the same PH level as skin so it helps to maintain the skin’s natural acid mantle that fights bacteria.   Goat milk is loaded with alpha-hydroxy acids that act as a natural exfoliate, plus it’s a natural emollient that helps moisturize and soothe your skin. We use goat milk in all our soaps except for the vegan bars which are made with handmade coconut milk and almond milk.  Not just any goat milk – we get fresh raw goat milk from local ranches.  The raw milk isn’t pasteurized or homogenized so it has more fat to saponify in the soap.

With goat milk for a liquid and lye for an alkaline, the only other ingredient absolutely necessary for soap is a fatty acid.  This can be any fat – vegetable oils from your kitchen, shortening like Crisco, even rendered animal fat.…think Brad Pitt and Fight Club!  For Bogue Milk Soap; however, the oils are gourmet vegetable oils and butters, usually a combination of at least five oils.  They are selected for the properties they bring to the specific soap we are making.  Some are universally beneficial to soap, like coconut oil for its moisturizing and lathering properties and palm for the hardness and stability it brings to a bar (discussion of sustainable palm oil – which we use – will come in another post).  We use jojoba because it is gentle even to sensitive skin and it’s packed with vitamin E, B-complex, copper, zinc, selenium, iodine, and chromium – all great for skin.  Cocoa butter is loaded with anti-oxidants and known for rejuvenating skin.  Jojoba and cocoa butter both contribute to a hard long-lasting bar of soap.  Castor oil moisturizes and produces a rich creamy lather.  And of course, we use olive oil.  Olive oil is one of the most popular oils in soap as it is non-greasy and doesn’t clog pores, and it is gentle.  It contains an antioxidant called hydroxytyrosol that is only found in olive oil and has anti-inflammatory effects that can help heal skin abrasions, rashes and even sunburn. By itself, though, olive oil a very soft bar so it does well in a combination.

So with these ingredients, we can make a really good bar of soap.  In our next post, I’ll talk about some of the additives we think make our good soap great…

Wanna-be Chemists

I believe soap makers are frequently frustrated wanna-be chemists, except, of course, for those who actually are chemists. Don’t get me wrong – soap is a visceral, sensual product and the end results appeal to everyone at some level, but making it takes you to a whole different place.

For me, there is a thrill in the research, development and testing of the vast number of possible combinations of oils available for fine soap making. I love seeking oils that will produce the result I am looking for without compromising the quality I am used to. The potential to screw up your batch with one wrong oil is always there, but the satisfaction of getting it right is worth it.

Even more exciting is developing a blend of essential oils that provides the result I seek, and at the same time, smells great! Every essential oil has its strengths, caveats and benefits. I start every blend with the soap it is intended for and then seek out oils that produce the desired benefits. Beginning with the best oil for the purpose and choosing ones that add benefits and I believe will blend well, I work drop by drop until I have exactly the blend I want.

And then I smile…