Choosing a soap maker is an important task, as your skin is depending on it. There are a couple of basic questions that should allow you to determine the competence of your soap maker immediately. Some handmade soap makers are really melted and pour soap makers. They take pre-packaged melt and pour soap, place it in the microwave for a minute, add color and fragrance, pour into molds, and call this handmade soap making. This is really a task for keeping the kids busy on a rainy day. There is very little skill involved, almost anyone can do it. The worst aspect however is what the manufacturers have to put into the basic batch in order to get it to behave this way in a microwave. The number of chemicals is too numerous to list. This is a bad choice on all counts.
Handmade soap must go through the process of saponification in order to be true handmade soap. There are newer hot process methods, but these are not the methods that the finest old-world soap makers use. If you were to visit the finest castile soap makers in Europe you will find they are using a method called cold press soap making. This timeless method that uses lye as the saponification agent makes the finest soap available today. You don’t have to believe me, just google French, Greek, or Italian soap and read how they make their soap. Most are extremely proud of this old world tradition that they have kept alive all of these years.
If a melt and pour soap maker tries to scare you by saying “our soap contains no lye”, run for the hills. This is a typical disingenuous tactic that is commonly used by inferior soap crafters. Remember, NO LYE NO SOAP! Now with this info, you need to know the other ingredients in the soap and their properties. Some very good soaps have more moisturizing properties and others have stronger cleansing properties. This has to do with the amount and combination of oils in each soap. Lathering oils are coconut, castor, babassu oils, and lard. The more moisturizing oils are almond, apricot kernel, canola, corn, olive, rice bran, and shea butter. Some oils have a great combination of both attributes. Experiment with different handmade soap bars and find out which combination works best for your skin. We have found that any soap that has just one oil is usually deficient in one or more of the qualities that make for a great soap. As you get familiar with the different oils used in soap making, you will find the perfect combination that fits your skin profile.