About Handcrafted Soap
Also known as "handmade soap" or "homemade soap", handcrafted soap is a blend of both science and art. By combining the scientific knowledge of the last 150 years and the artistic creativity of the soapmaker, each bar is safe, luxurious and unique.
There are several types of handcrafted soap. The actual soap can be made from scratch by the cold or hot process methods or the soapmaker might utilize a ready-made soap base.
Regardless of the method, the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild recognizes any soap made by these methods to be handcrafted so long as at least 50% of the process, from creating the soap to additives and embellishments and on to the final packaging, is done by hand.*
Handcrafted soapmakers generally pride themselves on their unique recipes, developed to create their signature soaps. Soap ingredients are usually food-quality, natural ingredients starting with a variety of vegetable oils such as olive, coconut, or palm, or purified tallow or lard. To these the soapmaker might add specialized oils, nut butters or seed extracts to bring the desired qualities to the finished bar.
Either fragrance oils or plant-based essential oils are typically added for scent. For color or texture, soapmakers often use cosmetic-grade pigments or dyes, botanicals, herbs, spices or other natural ingredients. For those with sensitivities, many soapmakers also make "simple soap" with no additives or scent.
Handcrafted soap comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Soap is liquid when first made, and is then poured into molds to harden. The mold used determines the final shape of the bar, whether molded individually in uniquely shaped molds, or into "loaf" or "bar" molds which are subsequently cut into individual soap bars.
Combinations of techniques can create even more individualized soaps, such as "cupcake" soaps, which use a cupcake-shaped mold for the bottom and then colored soap applied as "frosting". Many cake-decorating techniques have been used by artistic soapmakers to make very realistic-looking types of "pastry" soaps. Small custom molded soap pieces embedded in a larger bar or two or more colored soaps swirled together produce distinctive, artistic soaps.
In addition to all the wonderful ingredients that may be in handcrafted soap and the many different techniques that may be employed, perhaps the biggest advantage of handcrafted soap is in the soapmakers themselves, each of whom invests care and attention to detail into every batch and bar.
When you use a bar of handcrafted soap, you know it was made with the personal touch of a local soapmaker.
* For the complete HSCG policy on the criteria for handcrafted soap, see What is Handcrafted?