Featuring Real Stories from soap makers in Singapore.
I make soaps every week, sometimes consecutive days in a week, and I can’t stop…
I’ve never been one who produces amazing craft work. The closest art I could manage was a decent sketch of a still object with a reference. So, the “draw” of soap making is a surprising one even to me. After producing loaves and loaves of soaps, I started reflecting what the attraction of soap making really is.
My first soap making experience was quite nerve wrecking - trying to remember all the safety precautions, measure all the oils accurately and getting the oils and lye solution to the right temperature at the same time. A thousand things were racing through my mind to mentally sequence steps correctly and to make sure I have all the necessary equipment at an arm’s length. That first time was mentally exhausting, yet the process was immensely therapeutic and strangely exhilarating, especially when the soaps were unmoulded to reveal beautiful loaves handmade with love.
After that first time, the basic steps became a no brainer, but that’s when the addiction really kicks in. Not because it became easier, but because I was enticed into challenging myself to do better - to become more efficient in my process, to seek the right combination of oils and additives to formulate better soaps for the skin and to design soaps that look attractive to the eyes.
I became curious about the benefits of different botanicals, herbs, natural minerals, carrier and essential oils to understand what they can potentially do for our skin. I pored over videos, blogs, articles to analyse the best methods to add these ingredients during the process to best preserve their natural goodness. Moroccan red clay pairs seamlessly with rice bran oil and geranium essential oil to help fight the signs of aging while aloe vera, rice bran, sweet almond oils and shea butter make a green clay soap usually used for oily skin a balanced bar suitable even for dry skin.
The amount of consideration to make the ‘best’ soap is endless and the only limit is our own creativity. The challenge steps up even more when we choose not to include palm oil due to deforestation concerns even though it is the most common oil used to make soaps due to its high affordability as compared to other hard oils such as cocoa butter and shea butter.
Refusing to use fragrance oils pose yet another challenge. A simple word of fragrance sounds appealing, but it potentially contains hundreds of synthetic ingredients we will never know exist, many of which we would probably prefer not to put in contact with our skin if we had known better.
Good essential oil on the other hand is derived naturally from plants, the downside though is that they are really expensive, resource intensive and there’s no way to get a natural scent for strawberry or beer for example. In these instances, the soap makers will need to use their creativity to blend different essential oils to best match the additives in their soap so that the design is seamless.
Sounds like hard work? Perhaps. But the entire process from designing, experimenting to the actual making of the soap is totally intriguing for a soap maker. Due to the saponification process, one can never quite predict how the colour of the soap might turn out in the final soap except from experience. Once a new ingredient is added, the whole equation potentially changes again. The interaction between the oils, lye and additives at different temperature and their subsequent exposure to light all play a part as the soaps continue to evolve through the curing process. Without the use of synthetic mica or oxide, soaps can never be as brilliantly coloured, hence soap makers need to test different natural ingredients to achieve the colours that they envision. In some cases, it’s an ongoing quest!
Every soap making session is a different experience. With new oil formulation or new ingredients, soap makers have to be prepared for surprises even if they had researched on what to expect beforehand. The soaps may go into accelerated trace due to the ingredients used or process adopted, unexpected textures may result if the wrong proportion of liquid is applied at the wrong time for the wrong ingredients, design projects may fail because the temperatures were not well controlled. There are so many parameters to it that keeps the soap makers on their toes every session.
The excitement of unmoulding and cutting the soap is what drives the soap makers. The moment of truth in seeing the fruit of your own design and creation materialize is bliss. If it’s not to expectation, tweak the formulae or process and try again! It’s a journey.
Soap making requires curiosity, perseverance, meticulousness and a passion to always wanting to do better. It’s a hobby that is interesting to watch, but even more intriguing to do, hands-on. And the best part, it produces soaps that are kind not only to our skin, but also to our planet. If you are looking to try something new to take your mind away from the stresses of daily life, give soap making a try.
Be forewarned how addictive soap making can be. I can’t wait to try out my next recipe.
Join our Community of Soap Makers!
If you have always wanted to give soap making a shot, come say hello to us! Seasoned soap makers are also welcomed! We just love to gather soap makers together and form a little community! Our studio is conveniently located at 81 Ubi Avenue 4 #10-19 UB.ONE Singapore 408830 (We are just 5 mins walk from Tai Seng MRT).
See Class Schedule here.
Try Li Ting's Soap Recipe!
Olive Oil: 245g
Coconut Oil: 210g
Canola Oil: 140g
Cocoa Butter: 70g
Castor Oil: 35g
Peppermint EO: 21ml Cocoa Powder - 1 teaspoon cocoa powder diluted in olive oil
Watch a full step-by-step video on How To Make Choco O'Mint Soap.
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel @Sugar & Spice Singapore
Li Ting is a regular soap maker at Sugar & Spice behind my.naked.bar – a label she created in hope to encourage more people to consider swapping from a bottled body wash to a good bar of soap, an attempt to extend the lifespan of our landfill at Semakau.
Link to my.naked.bar - https://www.earthdefender.co/my-naked-bar
(Suitable for Beginners!)
Basic CP soap making class Learn how to make natural bar soaps from scratch!
(Suitable for Beginners!)
CP Liquid soap making class Learn how to make natural liquid soap from scratch!
(Suitable for children and adults!)
Melt & Pour soap making class Learn how to make your own handmade soap in the easiest way!
(Rent our workshop for soap making!)
Cold Process Soap DIY Workshop FREE to use our available equipment and facility in studio!Prior CP knowledge is required.