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Gifts from the heart

Gifting is a joy for some, and a dread for others. What is it for you?

MEANINGFUL gifting takes both emotions up an extra notch for both groups, or perhaps the latter wouldn’t care.

I’ve always taken gifting quite seriously, as I’m in the camp who believes in finding THAT gift my recipient will love and use. The last thing I want is for my recipient to fret over what to do with the gift, or worse, chuck it away.

I comb through my (somewhat limited and over the years, diminishing) memory bank or subtly engage in casual conversations to suss out his or her latest interests, so that I can zoom in to THE category to start my shopping endeavour.

And like all true-blue shopaholic, I would then embark on a mission, darting from shop to shop to find THE gift. For some reason, my gifts are always bought in store, so I can be sure of its quality by sight, and there are no surprises in a late or delayed delivery.

In recent years, gifting has taken on a slightly different turn for me, ever since I started to pursue a more sustainable lifestyle, to preserve a liveable planet for my children in the future.

The main consideration for my recipient to love and use the gift hasn’t changed, but now I have an additional higher order criterion to fulfill – that is to make sure my choice has less impact on the planet as far as I can help, use minimum wrapping or packaging that’s needed, and best of all, can send a sustainable message where appropriate.

Handcrafted soaps come with minimum packaging.

And that somewhat kicked off my journey in soap making, when I made my first big batch of soaps to gift teachers, to appreciate their hard work for the year. Teaching is not an easy profession, just try volunteering a day at a school and you will understand what we mean by the end of that day. So, having the opportunity to show a little gratitude once a year is something I don’t want to miss for sure.

Why soaps, you may ask. The answer is simple. Cos everybody can use soap!

Granted majority of the people are more accustomed to body wash out of a pump, the good old bar soap is something everybody can use. Most people associate bar soaps with the complimentary ones in a hotel or the $2 bars they buy in bulk from the supermarket. The awareness around handmade cold process soaps and their benefits are almost non-existent, unless they have a friend who is a crazy soap maker like me (who cannot stop churning out new soaps) or they are active in the low waste eco groups.

For some reasons, we’ve seen high incidence of not just adults, but children with skin conditions like eczema. In almost every conversation with a parent who has a school-going child, we no doubt hear of more cases the moment this topic is brought up. An all-natural cold process soap is a good option for people with sensitive skin as it doesn’t contain any SLS which potentially dries the skin over time. Not only that, the natural oils in the soap work as emollients or humectants to help keep the skin moisturized naturally, thus hopefully minimising flare-ups of any conditions.

Curcumin (in turmeric) has anti-inflammatory properties and is one of the ingredients which is said to have potential in helping to allieviate eczema symptoms. Turmeric Sunrise with Lemongrass and Sweet Orange.

So, a good bar of soap can be a great gift for any age, gender, and what’s more they are even good for our planet as they are often available in minimum packaging vs. a bottle of body wash. If the bar soaps are kept dry between uses, each bar can potentially outlast a standard bottle of body wash, keeping more single-use plastic waste out of the landfill.

And you ask, what’s better than gifting a good bar of soap? Our answer, hand make it yourself! Learn how to make a bar of soap from scratch with your own hands and consider formulating your customized recipe to address the exact skin needs of your family and loved ones! Nothing beats that, in our opinion, as a gift from the heart to show you truly care.

Of course, handmade soap is one great option as a gift with love. Many other gifts can be meaningful too. If sustainability is a topic that speaks to you, include that at the back of your mind as you make any gift selection for any occasion. Besides a physical gift, considering gifting an experience, like an art jam, a staycation, an outdoor adrenaline-rushing one or therapeutic indoor sessions such as a soap or candle making workshops for a friend game to try something new. Better still, do it together as a bonding session.

In the past, I used to be against gifting a gift voucher – a gift option that my hubby simply adores for its convenience, but I was not fond of as I felt was a no-effort kind of gift. However, with the additional criterion of caring for our planet, I’ve started to open up to this idea. For one, the voucher can be digital…and the recipient chooses what he or she likes, so it can’t go too wrong.

Being able to share and gift is a blessing and we always believe the thought counts more than any monetary value. To us, a gift needs no occasion. Even if it’s not Valentine’s, Christmas, a birthday or an anniversary, try surprising that special someone to show that he or she is always in your heart.


Li Ting is a free-lance instructor at Sugar & Spice and an avid soap maker behind – a label she created in hope to encourage more people to consider swapping from a bottled body wash to a good bar of soap – her little attempt to extend the lifespan of our landfill at Semakau.

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