CURIOSITY | What is artisan soap?

We've been making handmade soaps for more than 15 years now, and get a lot of curiosity questions about the differences between our soaps and other soaps.

Recently, I had a conversation with a new curious neighbor who heard that I make soap. This person asked, “Why do you care? There are a lot of soaps on the market, that clean and don’t cost a lot.” To which I replied, You can buy that, but I choose to put clean, high quality and less harsh on my skin. I’m not comfortable putting unpronounceable chemicals and detergents like SLS which is to wash cars and dishes not a human body specially on my skin.

Here is what the FDA has to say:

“Today there are very few true soaps on the market. Most body cleansers, both liquid and solid, are actually synthetic detergent products. Detergent cleansers are popular because they make suds easily in water and don't form gummy deposits. Some of these detergent products are actually marketed as "soap" but are not true soap according to the regulatory definition of the word.” Source

So, what’s up with all of this natural soap anyway? Soap’s just soap…., right? Wrong!

What’s special about artisan soaps?

A soap made by an artisan is actually soap

Artisan the word itself means a skilled craftsperson that creates products by hand. Their work is honored to a high degree of quality, distinctive in form, and often created in small batches. This means that soap created by an artisan has been crafted by skilled hands to be high in quality.

How does soap made by an artisan become high-quality?
High-quality artisan face and body soaps contains high content of glycerin. 

Glycerin is a byproduct of saponification during the soap making process. Glycerin is a wonderful product that is a humectant and draws water to your skin. Many commercial soap makers extract the glycerin and sell it to be used in more expensive cosmetics. It is more profitable than leaving it in the soap. Handmade soap by an artisan has the glycerin left in it.


This is how I've designed the soap at The Organic For You.

All The Organic For You soaps you can buy here are made with costly organic virgin, unrefined oils, and unrefined butters whenever possible because they are less refined preserving more of their inherent nutrients.

If commercial "soaps" add oils and butters to their bars, they are often ultra-refined. One ingredient is Unrefined Palm Oil

We do not use palm oil, since palm oil production is causing rainforest destruction and contributing to the extinction of Bengal tigers and orangutans. We have heard some artisans use "sustainable" palm oil - we disagree with the standards set by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil and hold the view that "sustainable" palm oil is a label bought, not earned.

Everything that goes into our soaps is sourced from suppliers that have a high standard for quality, fairness, and sustainability. From the ingredients to the packaging, we have been mindful about everything put into creating soaps that I can truly say lives up to the distinct quality you would expect of an artisan.

So what's the difference between a soap made by an artisan and "normal" soap mass made?
Overall attention to ingredients
Traditionally, the purpose of soap is to clean. Soap helps lift grease and dirt which cleans but can leave the skin feeling dry. On top of this, sometimes detergents and other additives are used in soap to increase this cleaning power and may have the inevitable effect of giving the soap a harsh feel.

The Organic For You soaps are Inspired by our love of Mother Earth using food grade ingredients like olive, coconut and castor oils, herbs from our garden and even the  Lye we use is food grade.
Lye is an alkaline substance (this means it is the opposite of an acid - both can burn if they are strong enough). Baking soda is an example of a mild alkaline substance, and lye is a very strong alkaline substance. Lye is also used to make food products such as bagels, beer, pretzels, even olives! Lye water used to be naturally manufactured at home by soap makers - boil fireplace ashes with water and you have lye water.

Soap is made using a chemical reaction. This chemical reaction is called saponification, which combines oil and lye to create soap and glycerin. If the process is carried out correctly, there is no lye left in the soap.

We then add acids like lemon juice to regulate the PH of the soap bar.
Acids are on the opposite end of the pH scale from alkaline substances. Examples of mild acids are lemon juice, orange juice and vinegar. A strong acid is battery acid, also known as sulphuric acid.
Lastly we superfat the soap by adding a variety of  butters like shea or cocoa,

The result of our painstakingly, meticulous soap-making process is a mild, rich, moisturizing soap bar that feels creamy in your hands, offers a magnificent long-lasting creamy lather, and leaves your skin clean, soft, silky, and radiantly healthy.

Handmade By an artisan  is more SUSTAINABLE and GREENER.

Unlike mass produced commercial items, Handmade products by artisans are created in small batches or are one of a kind items. They are usually made in small studios, not large production facilities, and they do not need to travel tens of thousands of miles to reach the consumer. All of this means Handmade products require less energy to be produced and have a lower carbon footprint.


No harm

You can be pretty certain that no humans were harmed, impoverished or subjected to sweat shop working conditions in the process. Not come from chemical factory and we artisans don’t use lab animals to test our products.

Artisans soap maker test their own soaps (and possibly some family members and friends when it’s deemed safe), and as a soap maker it is incredibly easy to tell whether or not a soap is safe to use.

How an Artisan Soap is Regulated?

A handmade soap does not need FDA approval. As long as the soap meets the definition of true soap, and is meant only for cleansing, If a soapmaker make claims that their soaps cure, treat, or prevent anything then these soaps are just soap and need to regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

“Soap products consisting primarily of an alkali salt of fatty acid and making no label claim other than cleansing of the human body are not considered cosmetics under the law.” Link

In summary:

We as artisan soap maker enough put the small-scale with 1-3 employers typically make soap in batches of 25-100 bars using food-grade ingredients that can be found in any grocery store. You could not ask for a safer soap! 

Artisan's skills which are not utilized in bars mass produced using continuous batches and machinery convenience, and most importantly, harsh detergents and dangerous chemicals.

Now, what exactly does this have to do with the comparison of artisan soap making versus mass-produced? Probably more than you’d think! Because soap making is a craft that has taken years to develop and perfect, certain skills associated with the creation of soap have been simultaneously developed as well. These skills require human hands, personal techniques and unique recipes developed over each soap maker's careers to translate into high-quality artisan soap, and they’re not quite replicable by the machines actually producing the bars you’ll find on your average store shelf.

Why Artisanal Soap Is So Expensive?

An artisan soap is going to cost slightly more than “regular” soap. But think about how long grocery store soap lasts for you—maybe three or four weeks, if you keep it dry? But generic store-branded soaps have few to none of the benefits of an artisan bar.

When comparing natural, handmade, and traditional artisan soaps with the mass-produced varieties so often lining store shelves, a simple and similar comparison to make would be that of a microwave dinner to a home cooked meal from scratch. While one may offer economic efficiency and convenience, the other provides you with a way to translate tradition, skill, and artistry into a form of body pampering and nourishment, which is precisely the artisan way!

Unique artisanal designs

When you purchase artisan products, you’re getting items that are truly one of a kind. “No bar turns out the same, because we make each individually with love.”  

You might opt to buy an artisan soap for the same reasons you’d go to a local family-run restaurant rather than a chain joint. The ingredients will be fresher, you’ll actually know who’s making your food (or soap), and the experience feels more authentic and unique.

Knowledge and Experience takes time!

The real test will be when you use a well made natural bar soap. Note I said well made, because not all soapmakers make soaps equal! If you get a soap from an artisan in the farmer market and it dries your skin out or makes it feel tight or itchy, it may not be real or it may not be properly made.

No one makes real soap “real quick” on a random day.

Experienced soapers can tweak their recipe constituents to achieve desired qualities (such as lather, creaminess, or cleansing power) of a bar rather than adding chemicals to do so. One can make a bar of soap that you could bend in half, or One could make one that would snap. On purpose. One can make one that is super bubbly, or make one that won’t bubble at all. All of this can be done by researching the oils and liquids and playing with amounts. It takes time, effort, and sacrifice. You have no idea how many hundreds of dollars an artisan have literally put down the drain. 
An artisan who produce soap typically take great pride in their work. Lots of  artisan soaps are like a bit of art. Not just a bar of soap. Even a plain rustic-looking handmade soap by an artisan is unique. You recognize and feel the goodness and the care that has gone into making it.


Buying Natural Soap is Supporting Small, Local Producers

When you support a local business, you’re also supporting your city and neighborhood because the revenue stays within the country and community. In addition to the sales tax you pay when you purchase an item, the local business also pays taxes to the city, county and state.

Mass-produced consumerism means that your wealth is sent away, to wherever the owners of the big companies live. By supporting a smaller producer, you are allowing cottage-type industries to flourish and generate wealth for the local community.

Shop Artisan Soaps Here

Even if you order soap online and it comes from a place a little farther away, you are still supporting that neighborhood-level industry and are doing good for regular people – like you!

Better for you, better for your community, and really satisfying to buy, display and use… handmade soaps by an artisan are great in so many ways!