We are frequently asked about our choice to include Essential Oils in our handcrafted soaps as opposed to synthetic fragrances. For us it is simple, the purity of the plant essence is everything.
It seems obvious but it’s true, natural is better and this is something that has been honed and known for thousands of years. In the art of soapmaking, essential oils were used in the earliest record of soapmaking dating back to 2800 B.C. This process, saponification, involves the mixing and Acid with an Alkali. This is in the form of fatty acids, or oils and a caustic solution derived from ashes and used in the earliest days of soapmaking. This combination of basic elements is stirred to allow them to break down to their base forms and reattach into a soap molecule. As the soap molecule is formed, the batch will start to thicken.
In this stage, scents are introduced. Synthetic fragrances, a recent development in the ancient timeline of soap making, are too strong and too discordant to the perfected balance. While synthetic fragrances have been optimized in a lab to have durable properties, they fail in the context of soap that requires the scent to give into the push and pull of the saponification process. Synthetics can cause soap to seize, which is basically a curdling of the blend. When this happens during the soapmaking process, a batch can be ruined. It is as if the unnatural nature of the synthetic substance is a shock to the soap.
Essential oils are obtained through steam distillation or cold pressing of plant material to yield the most potent plant essence. Each oil is unique with countless beneficial properties and attributes that can uniquely affect the soap. Essential Oils are introduced when the raw ingredients start to bind together in the new chemical formation and added in precise amounts to achieve a superior bar soap. They are so in harmony with the soap that they are instantly absorbed and bound into the new soap molecule.
That is not to say that they are one homogenous group, rather each essential oil is as unique as fingerprints. The experienced soap maker knows their essential oils. The soap artisan knows that Lemongrass is always in such a hurry. Once added to saponifying oils, the soap maker needs to hustle to get any design work into the mixture. Lavender on the other hand is slow and easy. It knows its worth and its not in a hurry. It takes its time and allows for the blending and marbling that the artist desires.
Each essential oil in my cabinet is a dear friend, with unique traits and habits. We meet each day as I enter their world and craft each of their distinctive potentials into substance. Given the superiority and purity of essential oils, the choice is obvious, anything less is simply not an option.