Have you ever thought of making soap by yourself? Learning alone can be difficult, but learning with Kathrin from For the Love of Body is a completely different story!
Why to make soap by your own?
First, you may wonder why to make one’s own soap instead of buying regular ones from the supermarket. Good question!
-Commercial soaps and shower creams (and cosmetics in general) contain many chemicals whose effects on human bodies and the environment are either dubious or clearly harmful. Since 2006 in Canada, cosmetic manufacturers have to disclose the list of their ingredients on the product. But there are still many grey zones. One of them is the “fragrance” or “perfume” issue: because they are considered as manufacturing “secrets”, brands don’t have to reveal their composition. But it’s a cocktail of chemicals that raise many interrogations.
-Another reason is simply quality. Commercial soaps usually get rid of the glycerin that is a perfect moisturizer since it comes from fat, and they sell it to other industrial purposes. As a result, they don’t leave the skin moisturized and we have to buy separate moisturizers. (it’s a commercial logic, not a logical logic). With your own soap, you can choose which oils to add depending on your skin’s needs and tailor a perfect soap for you.
-Soaps are wonderful gifts for family and friends. They are not only beautiful and smelling delicious, they are useful.
-It’s fun and entertaining to make soaps. The last time I made my own was with a bunch of friends at my place and we spent a super nice moment together.
-It’s zero waste! No plastic needed in the process.
For the Love of Body
I discovered For the Love of Body in Kensington market and immediately knew I had found a gold nugget in Toronto. Kathrin, its founder, is a holistic nutritionist, yoga teacher, and natural products-maker. She teaches soap-making, foraging, kombucha brewing, detox, natural home-care products. In a nutshell, the kind of things that keep me awake at night.
Here, I am going to tell about the first – and not last – workshop that I took with her in April.
Let’s get started
On this sunny Sunday, we were around 13 at Kathrin and Andrew’s workshop. I came with my friend Marie who is a also a zero-waste advocate and maker. We met at the Centre for Social Innovation in Spadina, a charming sort of coworking place for entrepreneurs and change-makers (update 09/10/16: I can’t help adding that I have joined CSI since then and that I am blessed to be part of it). The room was sunny, wooden-floored and with a big nice carpet.
Melt and pour soaps
We learnt how to make two different kind of soaps: melt-and pour soaps and traditional ones. The former are faster to make and don’t require the use of lye (caustic soda). You basically melt a base and then customize it with essential oils, natural fragrances, scrubbing elements and whatever you like.
While the base was melting in the double-boiler, Kathrin explained to us the benefits of essential oils and the difference between them. A topic so vast it could justify another workshop of its own, I thought. We then made two groups and each poured the basis in its mold and chose a fragrance and colour. Our group added Egyptian Geranium essential oil, white clay and dried rose petals… we religiously stirred the mixture, taking tours and chatting happily over our soap-to be.
For melt and pour soaps, there is no curing (drying) period, so after pouring the base in the molds and tracing, we were given our own little cube of pink soap!
Traditional cold process soap-making
After a short break, Kathrin and Andrew started the demo for traditional soaps, that involves lye. This process gives better-quality soaps that can be stored longer. Also, it allows to choose what kind of oils to use, and can be adapted depending on the skin’s needs. The process consists of first mixing water (1) and lye (2), the mixture reaching quickly a very high temperature. Andrew, all googles on, took care of it while I was discretely moving my chair back. While it was cooling down, we started melting hard oils together in another pot. I think we melted coconut oil and avocado butter. Olive oil, that makes the soap bar hard, was finally added by one of us. It. We then poured the lye into the oils and used an immersion blender to mix everything!
Finally, the mixture was transferred into a wooden mold, to form several long bars of soaps that will be cut into small bars two days after.
The last ingredient of the recipe is patience, as a curing period of around 4 weeks is necessary before being able to use your soaps!
I was super happy about the experience and I have already started collecting the ingredients to make mine. I warmly endorse Kathrin for her vast knowledge and enthusiasm! Check out her website for future workshops to come.