newbie with lots of questions (lengthy)

itsmeJuly 20, 2005

I bought a bar of handmade soap at a farmer's market and loved it, and thought I would try it myself. It was lye and vegetable oil based, smelled great and lathered nicely. I read up a little and thought I would start with the M & P soap, bought some stuff from Hobby Lobby, clear glycerin and coconut oil added glycerin. I was so disappointed, it was like rubbing a piece of plastic, it wouldn't lather up or anything, the scents were weak. So I mentioned to my mother (70 years old) I thought I would try the lye soap, and she about freaked out--you don't want to try that, it's dangerous, messy etc, and how bad the old lye soaps were (hard, wouldn't lather, only good for laundry, etc). Also she suffers from eczema on her hands and said "that old lye soap would break her hands out, don't give me any of it".

I was rather shocked at her strong reaction. So my questions are:

1. Do the glycerin M & P soaps just not lather, or do I need to add something. Can I remelt what I have and mix something with it to improve it?

2. From what I've read, even glycerin soaps are made with lye to begin with, is that true?

3. I am really not interested in making soaps to be crafty, I am really more interested in high quality products for my extremely dry skin. So would the lye soaps be better for that?

4. My mom said she uses cetaphil soap now to keep her hands from breaking out. Does anyone know if it is made with lye? Is my mom right that any lye based soap will aggrevate her eczema? Would glycerin be better for her?

5. There is almost too much information on the internet, I am overwhelmed at where to start. Can someone recommend a couple of sites that give accurate info for the beginner like myself?

Thanks for any info.

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Hello and welcome to the world of soapmakers. I will try to answer your questions to the best of my knowledge.
1. You used a poor quality M&P soap. I make M&P soap, and it is wonderful. However, I only use the best available, and as far as performance, you can't tell it from Cold Process or Hot Process soap. If you want to make a good bar of soap, use a good base. Because of my allergies to additives, I have to use SFIC base, which is natural and contains no alcohols, surfactants, etc. The lather is exquisite. You can only purchase it on line at various places; I buy mine from Acorn Soap and Supplies.
2. Yes, all soap is made with lye, whether it is M&P, CP or HP. It all begins with lye. Properly made, there is no lye left, so to speak, when the saponification process is done. An improperly made lye soap can cause a lot of skin irritation, as the lye will burn the skin. (So I have heard- I have never used a bad bar of soap, but I have heard people talk about burning their skin.)
3. The differences in the types of soap are minimal as far as skin care. A high quality M&P like SFIC is just as easy on your skin as a super-fatted, all natural CP or HP soap. There are many skin conditioning additives that you can add to each kind of soap (yes, you add things to M&P to enhance it, if you so desire). As far as fragrance, M&P holds fragrance much better than CP or HP, and the fragrance is much more pronounced in M&P. Also, the same fragrance will smell totally different in M&P than it does in CP or HP because the saponification process (which the M&P has already undergone) drastically changes the fragrance.
4. I am not sure what Cetaphil is, but if it is a bar soap it is made with lye. Liquid soap does not contain lye, to the best of my knowledge. By far the best soap for eczema is African Black Soap. Just make sure you are buying real African Black Soap, which looks like a lump of dirt. This is what my customers use for eczema and I do, too. It is pricey, but worth every penny of it. Again, I have sensitivies to additives and chemicals, so I must use all-natural products, which is why I use the African Black Soap over conventional medications.

I hope I have been of help. Happy soapmaking!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 3:08AM
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Thanks so much Susan. I am kinda interested in trying the lye process but if there's not any real advantages (quality of soap etc) I may just stick with the M&P for a while so I don't have to make the investment in scales, pitchers, etc.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2005 at 10:43PM
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That's why I still do M&P and rebatch; the other types of soap are such a calculated process, and I am just nervous about working with the lye. I would much rather skip that part of the process and just have fun, so that's what I do! I also forgot to tell you, if you still have any of that base left that didn't lather, and you want to give it another shot, try adding some castor oil to the soap next time you make it. About 1 tablespoon per pound. That will boost the lather. I agree with you about the internet- the information is almost overwhelming for someone just looking for basic starting stuff. I would suggest browsing this newsgroup and another one, There is another one named the Soap Dish, but it is targeted mostly to CP & HP soapmakers and I don't find it very useful. Susan

    Bookmark   July 22, 2005 at 7:38AM
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What's the trick to making the separate colors stick together? I tried one of the Celtic soap molds and put white in the little troughs and let it cool, then added the base on top. The white channels came off when it came out of the mold.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 10:17PM
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Spray the layer with alcohol before pouring the second layer on top of it. The alcohol will make the layers adhere to each other.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 7:22AM
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Hello Itsme,

Yes, lots of info out there.

Disclaimer: I have never made M&P.

The glycerin that is used to make M&P, comes from the "BIG" companies who make bar soap in the stores. This glycerin is separated out from the lye soap that they sell on the shelves.
This glycerin is a humectant which attracts moisture.

CP soap in the summer months will develop beads of what looks like to be water, but I believe that this is the natural glycerin which is found in soap that has not been stripped. The soap draws the glycerin back in when the conditions are right. I remember that this % of glycerin is around the 5 to 10% of a bar of soap.

Sriston wasn't sure about liquid soap. Liquid (which I again have never made) uses potassium hydroxide, instead of sodium hydroxide, but can be considered a lye for this discussion. In fact, the potassium is the forrunner of the sodium hydroxide. In addition, liquid soap uses (or can use)many chemicals and detergents.
There are many people out there who swear by "hand made" CP soap and the moisturizing properties. Try a couple of well made bars of soap from different soapers, and then decide.
If you like it, then you can consider making it yourself. Using lye and having the equipment can be a bit daunting, but I can't tell you the satisfaction that it gives you knowing that you made it yourself.


    Bookmark   August 11, 2005 at 12:14PM
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mp is a great place to start. i have tried the bases at local craft stores and you are right, they are no good. no lather and just slimy.

if you start with a good base you will have a great soap. try shopping online.

your mom is right, making lye soap can be dangerous if you don't know what you are doing. you have to be really careful as lye is a pretty harsh chemical to mess with. it can cause some serious, serious burns. not to discourage you. just research a lot and be careful. if you want help, you can always check out michael's. they usually have a class for people to learn how to make lye soap.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2006 at 8:10AM
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