My Journey into soap


Once upon a time, I came across Shea butter which sounded like a magical and  wonderful ingredient that my fairy godmother had conjured up with her magic wand and the more I researched it, the more I fell under its spell.

So what did this have to do with my journey into soap, you may ask?  On the strength of a beautiful soft, creamy sample of Shea that I had received  I did some research and ordered 8 kilos of it from Ghana. My excitement and anticipation quickly turned to disappointment when I opened up the huge tub of Shea. I stared at the grey, crumbly, slightly rancid smelling mess, in utter dismay……this just wouldn’t do for my beautiful body products and throwing it away was equally unacceptable. WHAT TO DO?

I ummed and aahhed…….making soap had never been part of my agenda but it was fast becoming an idea worth exploring with so much Shea to dispose of before it became rank smelling and unusable and presented the perfect opportunity for experimenting with. And that was the start of my interesting journey into soap, with some spectacular disasters, but mostly wonderful successes. Even now, I have the odd flop but my knowledge and expertise at producing a luxury, handcrafted bar of soap, improves with every batch. Oh, not to mention the joy it gives me.

Soap CANNOT be made without Lye. Lye is a solution of either Sodium Hydroxide or Potassium Hydroxide mixed with distilled water or another form of liquid. Soap (chemically known as a salt) is the end result of the saponification process, the chemical reaction of lye on a selection of vegetable oils or animal fats. Here at JINJA I only use the best quality vegetable oils derived from an ethical source, no animal fat.

Most commercial soaps mostly contain tallow or beef fat, which is both cheap and plentiful which allows for the production of low cost soap which also contains  “nasties”  and often a long list of unpronounceable names (these will be discussed in a future blog).

Glycerin, which is a humectant and natural moisturiser, is mostly removed from the soap making process in commercial soaps which ass to it being made cheaper without the moisturising properties of a natural, handmade bar.

There are several ways of making  bar soap, one being the cold process, which gives you a fine textured smooth soap or the hot process which gives a coarser texture and definite handcrafted look. As I am an impatient person, hot process is my method of choice as the soap is ‘cooked’ and usable almost immediately whereas cold process soap needs to ‘cure’ for at least six weeks to complete the saponification process before it is safe to use.

Right, I can hear you saying that if lye is a chemical solution and I claim to not use chemicals in my products then how come it is being mentioned? And whilst this is true but if the ratio of oils to lye is correct and the saponification process has been completed properly, the end result will be soap which is perfectly safe and desirable to use without a trace of the chemical left.

Transparent or Glycerine Soaps will always use a solvent e.g. Sugar and alcohol which are just some of the ingredients added to prevent crystals forming as the soap cools. It is a misconception that this soap is superior to normal soap and can be drying to the skin as it doesn’t always contain glycerine. As for Melt and Pour soaps, they may have natural ingredients added to them but they are essentially synthetically based and don’t belong in the 100% natural soap category.

Making liquid soap from scratch is a tricky beast and requires lots of patience. Suffice to say I have shed tears of frustration trying to master this art and have grappled with the soap monster on a few occasions. However, I’m happy to say that I’ve tamed the beast and have produced some really lovely liquid soap.

Whilst exploring the various bases for soap (i.e. solid or liquid) and on the path of my soap journey I have also had to explore natural colorants for soap which has introduced its own challenges, particularly purple, blue and rose. Once, in an endeavour to find a beautiful deep rose, I boiled up some red cabbage, extracting all the pretty pink liquid which I confidently added to a large batch of soap. The result was horrifying, the beautiful pink instantly turned to a muddy orange with such an offensive smell that the whole batch had to be ditched.  On another occasion, I tried using red wine as my liquid but as soon as the sodium hydroxide was added it virtually exploded into a frothing, bubbling mess that threatened to overrun everything in the room. Again I stared in horror at this violent chemical reaction until it mercifully calmed down. The soap I used it in, ended up being a translucent brown, certainly not a lovely wine red.

JINJA’s handcrafted soap is not cheap once you remove all the chemicals and add in the very best natural and organic oils, botanicals, teas and tinctures. Essential oils, which in themselves, are very expensive, are used to add fragrance and not the cheaper fragrance oils or parfum.

JINJA Skin Care’s soap is made with love and passion for you to indulge in and to spoil your loved ones with as special gifts. We will be introducing an exciting range of soaps early in 2017 so watch this space!