Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Scenting in Soapmaking eBook and Contest

Scenting for Soapmaking eBook

Not everyone needs a classroom setting to learn. That's why we have taken our comprehensive manual from our popular Scenting in Soapmaking class and turned it into an eBook. Our class manuals are simply text documents. This new eBook contains all of the manual's text as well as nice photographs, and some added appendixes including worksheets to record fragrance tests and scent blends.

Learn all about how to use various essential oils and fragrances in your soap including how to combine scents for your own custom blends.

Topics include:
  • Essential Oils
  • Blending EOs
  • Fragrances
  • Blending FOs
  • Common issues in scenting
  • How to avoid or fix scenting issues
  • And more
PDF eBook - 61 pages in length

Note: If you have the manual from the Scenting in Soapmaking class, it is nearly identical in text to this eBook. The differences are photos and a pleasing eBook style layout.

Contest:  Want to receive this eBook for FREE?  Tell me what you struggle with in scenting your soaps - CP or MP - by Monday, April 28th 11:59 PM EST.  I will choose one winner for an instant PDF download of the Scenting in Soapmaking ebook on the following Tuesday.

Do you have scenting down to a science but would like a method of keeping track of your blends and tests in soap?  Try our Scent Impression and Testing Worksheet and our Scent Blend Record.   

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Gelled vs Ungelled Soap - What's the Difference?

Vivid colors achieved by gelling soap -
I get lots of questions about a variety of soap topics.  The other day, I was asked what the differences were between gelled and ungelled soap.  They had read some confusing and misleading posts on forums about the differences, including that cure times were shortened and fragrances were stronger in gelled soap.  I realized that this may be a question that others want to know more about as well, hence the explanation on gelled vs ungelled soap.

Here are the facts,  which are gathered from chemists who work with testing various aspects of soapmaking, and well known industry leaders who have conducted their own experiments but not to the standards of a chemist (in other words, the experiments are not lab quality but certainly reliable information).  In my experience, I have to agree with their conclusions.

The only differences of a gelled vs. ungelled soap:
1.      It behaves differently when submersed in water for long periods – like after 18 hours (this will never matter to anyone - seriously)
2.      Some FD&C dyes and micas coated in FD&C dyes will be stronger and brighter if gelled and muted if ungelled.  
3.      Gelled soap sometimes appears glossy while ungelled soap appears matte, but not always.

That’s it!  

Some information circulating the Internet about cure times and fragrance strength is not proven and doesn't even make sense.  Allow me to explain.

When a soap goes through a gel phase, it heats up.  Soap that is heated takes on a gelatinous appearance, hence the name.  The gel phase will hasten saponification.  Most saponification occurs in the first 24 hours while still in the mold.  The curing time is not so much waiting for the saponification process as it is waiting for the soap to become milder to the skin and to lose some of the water in the soap.  
LabColors tested through a partial gel phase reveal
stronger colors with gelling - from

According to experiments conducted by Kevin Dunn, a chemist specializing in soapmaking, it appears most soaps have a rather short peak in a gel phase and the temperature typically stays below 180°F.  The only soaps that reached 180°F in his experiments during gel phase had high water content (amounts that most people would never consider using).   Now, some fragrance oils can push this temperature higher, but it is more important to note how long the temperature is sustained in the gel phase.  In the experiments, the peaks were short - 20 minutes or so in length at the top temperature.  Therefore, cure times would not be shortened as hot process soap needs a longer cooking time, according to most hot process soapmakers.  I have yet to find experiments documenting length of cook time with length of cure time.  Plus the hot process method requires you to reach a 'fluff' stage to know it is finished cooking, which is well past the gel phase.  Gelled soap just doesn't heat up high enough and long enough to reach that state and warrant shorter cure times.  If you want shorter cure times, HP your soap. 

As for the fragrance sticking better, there is just no evidence of this.  Logically, if your soap had a high percentage of water and you managed to get the temps up around 180°F or higher, it would probably have the opposite effect as the fragrance could theoretically burn or cook off.  However, that isn't necessarily the case, as most soaps go through a gel phase that comes nowhere near these higher temperatures.

Some people feel that you shouldn’t allow a milk soap to gel.  This is not the case.  The gel phase would have to be much higher than 185°F, which is the temperature that can be used to scald milk (scorching it would have to be hotter).  Most gel phases do not even reach 180°F.  You would have to use lots of hot water plus soap at hot temperatures and really work to get it over that temperature.  Adding lye to the milk is the only time there is a risk of scorching.  

Things that affect gel according to the experiments:
·        Size and shape of mold
·        Higher initial temps of oil and lye will cause a higher temp in the gel phase
·        Lower water in formula needs a higher temp to gel
·        Saturated fats reach a higher gel temp than unsaturated oils
·        Fragrances, essential oils, and certain additives can increase the gel temps

·        If you want a non-gelling soap to go through gel, soap at higher initial temps and use more water in the recipe.
·        If you want a gelling soap to avoid the gel phase, lower the initial temps and use less water.

Please post questions and comments below.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Feature Friday - Colorants in Soapmaking Class

Colorants in Soap Making Class

Online Colorants in Soapmaking - A Comprehensive Guide to Color

Learn all about how to use various colorants in your soap, from natural infusions to rich micas and everything in between. This is a comprehensive course consisting of slideshow presentations, videos, downloadable PDFs, and quizzes to highlight important information in a professional format (over 3 hours of content). You’ll be able to learn everything you would in a traditional classroom and ask any questions along the way all from the comfort of your home.

Topics include:
  • Pigments, Oxides and Ultramarines
  • Micas
  • Dyes
  • Natural colorants - herbs, clays, etc.
  • Color Infusions
  • Choosing color combinations
  • Choosing the best colorant for your soap projects
  • Tips and tricks to better coloring
  • And more
You'll also learn how to use mica to create veins, swirl, paint, dust and more. Includes: Colorants Manual PDF

This class is also available in person at local classes in North Carolina.

Testimonials from customers:
This has been the best class and information on colorants...a sincere thank you!
...This has got to be the best information on color for soapmaking I have been able to find. I love how she also taught how to vein, paint, dust, etc. with mica. While some tidbits of this information can be found on the Internet, this class is both thorough and covers everything I could possibly want to learn and then some in one place.
Our classes are unique in the industry.  Each course is designed in logical sequence in a well thought out curriculum.  Classes are very comprehensive and cover small details that are often overlooked in other courses and books, but make life easier for soapmakers (things we wished we had learned as a new soapmaker).  The class is built on a professional platform, where you can learn at your own pace on your own time, anywhere in the world.  You just need internet access and a desire to learn.  

All details can be found on our website at Bath Alchemy Lab.

Pre-order your Pigment Blending Guide - an eBook that covers exactly how much pigment (oxide and ultramarine) is needed to create different shades of color and how to blend different pigments to achieve new colors.  Lots of pictures and exact measurements and formulas included.  Expected to be released by May (hopefully earlier).

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Soap and Cosmetic Business Start-up 101

Starting a new soap and cosmetic business?  You will most likely need to meet the same requirements as any other new business.  Here are some registrations that may apply to you.
Business Licenses

Contact your city's business license department to find out about getting a business license, which essentially grants you the right to operate a business in that city. When you file your license application, the city planning or zoning department will check to make sure your area is zoned for the purpose you want.  Residential areas have stricter zoning.  If you are not within city limits, you would contact your county’s business license department.
Sales Tax License
Sales taxes vary by state and are imposed at the retail level.  If you sell your products at the retail level, you must collect state sales tax on each sale you make.  Be sure to register to collect sales tax by applying for each separate place of business you have in the state. A license or permit is important because in some states it's a criminal offense to undertake sales without one.
Fictitious Name

A fictitious name (or assumed name, trade name or DBA name) is a business name that is different from your personal name or LLC or corporation name.  It’s important to note that when you form a business, the legal name of the business defaults to the name of the person or entity that owns the business, unless you choose to rename it and register it as a fictitious name.  The legal name of your business is required on all government forms and applications.  Registering your fictitious name is done either with your county clerk’s office or with your state government, depending on where your business is located. There are a few states that do not require the registering of fictitious business names.

A trademark is a brand name, which includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used to identify and distinguish the goods or services of one seller or provider from those of others.  Although federal registration of a mark is not mandatory, it has several advantages, including notice to the public of the registrant's claim of ownership of the mark, legal presumption of ownership nationwide, and exclusive right to use the mark on or in connection with the goods or services registered.

If you want to trademark your brand name or your logo, you can visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office at  Since the trademark process can be tricky, you may want to hire a trademark attorney that can help you navigate the process successfully. 

If you live outside the US, many of these topics still apply to you, but under a slightly different name.  Check with your government's website to see which registrations you must complete to start a new business.

If any of these descriptions seems confusing, you can visit any of the organizations named online for further information, or you can contact your business attorney for help.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Feature Friday - Beginner Cold Process Soapmaking Class

Each Friday a different one of our products will be featured.  The rest of the week, free information is provided.

Online Beginner CP Soapmaking Class

Online Beginner Soapmaking - Learn to Make Cold Process Soap

Learn to create soap using the cold process method in this online class, from basic chemistry and recipe building to packaging your soaps. This is a comprehensive, course consisting of slideshow presentations, videos, downloadable PDFs, and quizzes to highlight important information in a professional format (over 4 hours in length). You’ll be able to learn everything you would in a traditional classroom and ask any questions along the way all from the comfort of your home.  

Topics include:
  • Basic chemistry of soapmaking
  • Recipe building
  • Supplies & equipment
  • Safety considerations
  • Step by step demonstrations
  • Additives
  • Molds and preparations
  • Cutting, curing and storing
  • Packaging
Includes: Basic CP Soapmaking Manual PDF

From colorants to essential oils and fragrance and the science and math behind recipe building to lining a mold, everything a beginner may need to know is covered in this course.  Both soaps pictured are demonstrated in step by step videos.  

Customer testimonials:
This class covered quite a lot of information. I was not expecting to learn exactly what occurs during saponification. While it isn't necessary to know for making soap, no one really explains this. Also, I really felt the recipe formulation information was worth its weight in gold. Everything was thorough.
This course was excellent for a beginner ! I learned so much at my own pace ! This was a plus for a working artisan.
I loved this class!  I can't wait to start the next one... 

Online Beginner CP Soapmaking Class

This class is also available in person at local classes in North Carolina.

Our classes are unique in the industry.  Each course is designed in logical sequence in a well thought out curriculum.  Classes are very comprehensive and cover small details that are often overlooked in other courses and books, but make life easier for soapmakers (things we wished we had learned as a new soapmaker).  The class is built on a professional platform, where you can learn at your own pace on your own time, anywhere in the world.  You just need internet access and a desire to learn.

Soap Making Class

All details can be found on our website at Bath Alchemy Lab.

Pre-order the Beginner Soapmaking Manual eBook - Not able to take the class?  Purchase the next best thing.  This eBook covers everything that is discussed in the class, and includes added information in an appendix.  Over 50 pages of quality information on beginner soap making.  Be the first to own this manual and the new eBook format.  Expected to be released this month (March).

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Product Liability Insurance for Soap and Cosmetics

No matter your business, you should have product liability insurance in this day and age.  Not only does it make you look like a professional company, but it protects you and your business against potential liability claims against your products.  

When people sue large companies like McDonald’s for having hot coffee, which is clearly marked as such, then you are just as likely to be faced with frivolous as well as warranted legal actions against you or your business.  It does not matter that you put on the label that allergies caused by your product are not your responsibility or that your candle has a warning label not to leave it burning unattended.  If people don’t know that hot coffee is hot, what makes you think you are protected with your warnings?  A lawsuit without insurance can cost you a lot, including your family assets, even if you win.

Where does one find product liability insurance for a small business?  There are several affordable options.

Homeowners Insurance – Some homeowner’s policies will cover small businesses that operate out of your home up to $5000 in sales.  Be sure to let them know that you want product liability insurance. 

RLI -RLI offers business insurance for crafters. The pricing varies based on what you are making and how much liability coverage you want, but they generally cover up to $5000 in sales. They do not cover candle makers (or soapmakers that also make candles - in other words, candles are off the table). You can look at rate quotes online. Typically, you can get a policy for around $200-250 per year, making it affordable for new companies or those that have low sales.
Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild  HSCG offers a group policy for the soap and cosmetic industry. It is included in the price of membership (membership is $100 and insurance is $375). The annual coverage is for $1,000,000 and there is a $5000 property insurance included.  You can also purchase more property insurance or add $1,000,000 in coverage for additional fees.

Indie Business Network – IBN provides a group policy for the soap and cosmetic industry.  It is $398 per year for $1,000,000 in aggregate insurance for product liability. You can buy an additional $1,000,000 in coverage for $55 more.  You must be a member of IBN, which is $150 per year, in order to buy the group insurance. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Basics of Soap and Cosmetics Labeling

Properly labeling your soap and cosmetics is important for both consumers and your business.  Let’s take a look at some of the rules and what you can do to make sure you are compliant with government regulations.

Required on All Products

Regardless of what you sell from soap to candles, every product should be labeled with the name of the product, the identity of the product (brand), and the net quantity of the product (size or amount).  This information should be displayed on the principle display panel, which means the main, front side of a box or package or the main, front side of a hang tag.  Additionally, the name and place of business are also required, according to government regulations. 

Listing the place of business on the package is the one requirement that gets small businesses nervous.  Since many operate out of their home, they do not want to list the address of the business on the packaging.  However, this is not a request, it is a requirement, and if you sell soap or cosmetics, you must include this.  If you start reading packages regularly both in beauty and in food, you will see that all businesses list the place that the item was manufactured.  I doubt you ever considered driving to the Coca-Cola manufacturing plant to complain that your soda was not fizzy enough.  Likewise, it is highly unlikely anyone will do it to you.  But there is a good likelihood of the government regulatory bodies stumbling upon your package and temporarily shutting your operation down until it meets the requirements.  Professional companies follow required guidelines for packaging.

Required on Cosmetics

In addition to the requirements above, cosmetics (everything beyond soap, including synthetic detergents or soaps making cosmetic claims) have further requirements.  Ingredients are a must, whether you make lotions, scrubs, lip balms, etc.  Consumers have a right to know what they are rubbing into their skin or applying to their face.  Not only is this requirement by the government, it allows the consumer to decide whether the product will cause an allergy or conflict with other products.

Directions for safe use and warnings (if required) are also to be included on cosmetic packaging.  These requirements, along with ingredients can be placed on information panels, such as sides and back or inside a tag.

Regulated Special Claims

Perhaps you make your products with organic ingredients.  While this is a great feature of your products, you may not refer to your product as ‘organic’ unless you are certified through the USDA to do so.  For example, let’s say you make your soap using all organic oils, organic essential oils, and organic herbs for coloring.  They are all certified organic ingredients from your favorite supplier.  Unless you have become certified to sell organic materials, you are not permitted to call or advertise your soap as organic, except in the product’s ingredient statement (i.e.  Ingredients:  Almond oil, organic Lavendula Officinalis (lavender) oil, etc.)  You are also permitted to list the percentage of organic ingredients on an informational panel of your product packaging, but not on the primary display panel or main side of the packaging.  Failure to follow these rules can result in fines of up to $10,000.

Other regulated claims include edible products, FDA approved, made in the USA, and ‘green’ claims, such as recyclable.  This means that there are special requirements that must be met before adding these claims to your packaging. 

The term ‘natural’ is not regulated at this time.  There is no one definition of natural, but most people view it as the product is made up of ingredients coming directly from the earth with little to no alterations.  If you use fragrance oils or synthetic preservative, your product is not considered 100% natural.  You can say your product is 98% natural, but leading consumers to believe that your product is made with nothing but completely natural ingredients when using synthetics is ethically wrong, and possibly able to be disputed legally from a false advertising point of view, although the government itself will not fine you or shut your business down.  You can say ‘made with natural vegetable oils’ if making soap with fragrance to include the term ‘natural’ while remaining ethical.

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