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Making Soap: Part Science & Part Art

It was when I was but a tender youth (many many many years ago...) that I first delved into the craft of soapmaking.

Those were the dark ages, the days before the Internet. Back in those days, we did things the hard way. I went to the Library. Checked out a stack of books. Studied Saponification charts and did a bunch a math-y things (yes, we did have calculators waaay back then). Then, I probably forgot to return the books on time and had to pay a fine.

The Science part of making soap is called Saponification. This is when Sodium Hydroxide (or lye) reacts with oil to make soap. Each oil or butter has a Saponification value, that is, how much of that oil it takes to convert an amount of lye into soap. This is important because if you end up with any unreacted lye you will have one harsh bar of soap on your hands.

Back in the olden days of my youth, I would carefully calculate amounts of lye and specific oils by hand to avoid skin-burning soap. For a math-adverse person this was an annoying and time consuming process.

Dark ages indeed! I have since revisited my love of soap making, and have found that many things have changed: No longer stacks of books! No longer painstaking recipe calculating! No more library fines.

Now, making soap is as easy as plugging percentages into an online soap calculator. Bam! Exact oil and lye amounts instantly appear. Miraculous!

This gives me more time to focus on the fun part of soapmaking: Art!

So many colors! Designs! Smells! Additives! Literally, the possibilities stretch as far as your imagination can take them.

Did you know that Oatmeal can be a powerful soothing ingredient that is amazing for irritated skin? You can add it to soap to reap its calming properties.

So, why make or purchase handmade soap?

Much the the commercially available 'soap' isn't really soap at is a mix of detergents, which can be drying to the skin. Often, if the store-bought bar IS soap, they have removed all the naturally-occurring glycerin from the soap to sell. Glycerin is a natural by-product of the saponification process, and it is wonderfully moisturizing to the skin.

So, treat your skin and give it a try! Enjoy the part science, part art, and completely unique product that is handmade soap!

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