Author Archives: Jim Baker

Choices; why do we choose the way we do?

There is no doubt that the choices we make in life are a fundamental part of who we are and what we want to be, as well as how we want to be perceived by those around us. But are all our choices made by us alone, and if not, are we aware of how deep other influences go?

Changes we make to our surroundings take place over the short, medium and long term. We may buy things for our home for a relatively small amount of money that potentially make quite big changes. A small lamp for example, can change the mood of a room, or a deep pile rug can create a cosier feel in front of the sofa. Other choices are bolder and need greater consideration and, often, input from those around us. A £3000 work of art to hang on the wall makes a bold statement about us and can change a room far more dramatically than a rug ever could. These choices are personal, perhaps influenced by those close to us and our own upbringing and environment.

We make consumer choices by where we decide to shop. Is it Asda for you, or would you only ever contemplate Waitrose, or M&S? These choices will have quite an impact on the products we eventually walk out of the store with – and the amount we spend! We might make those choices through quality, preference of certain standards, or maybe we need to do the weekly shop within a strict budget.

Subliminal Suggestions

Then there are the choices we are not aware of; perhaps, there is a level of subliminal suggestion from covert sources. Did your last smartphone purchase really come from a consumer choice that you alone made? How much was your choice affected by your peer group or TV advertising? Be honest now! And what of branding? How much do we need to associate with the suggested level of luxury in a product and how much of that choice is made for us, not by us?

There is another, some may say, sinister level to this; a subconscious change in what we choose. We perhaps don’t even notice the slow adjustment in our choices, yet our new choices, our new buying habits, somehow just seem to fit right in with how large companies want us to behave. This gradual transition goes by largely unnoticed. So much so that we don’t believe we have been influenced at all, or if that is even possible?

This is where I think Soap is a great example. Back in the 1980s, we had the first few products of liquid soap. At that time, these products could still be called ‘soap’ as they contained ingredients that were formed using a process called saponification, i.e. the chemical creation of soap salts.

Liquid soap was a very popular product. Sales grew quickly. Back then we had no concerns about the plastic container, it was, after all, easier and more convenient to use. Of course, the manufacturers were keen for us to make the change. Making soap in this way was quicker, cheaper and simpler. Soap bars need to dry, cure and then be separately wrapped. How much faster and less expensive it was to make a soap that just slides into the plastic pot before a machine pops a lid on. The manufacturers also wanted to remove certain elements that were naturally created during the soap making process, to sell on as commodities of their own. Glycerine for example; its removal from soap caused little change in the product’s consistency for us, the consumer, but made a nice by-product for the manufacturer to sell on. Glycerine offers a protective effect against irritating substances, has a therapeutic value and can aid a bruised or swollen skin.

In came the chemists

Some ingredients, like oils and butters used in the making soap were (and still are) quite expensive and mainly produced outside of the EU. So, even when buying by the tonne, price was harder to control. Chemists were able to create artificial substances that behaved like soap. They looked like soap, foamed up like soap, but, sadly, were not soap.

Once chemists had discovered these artificial substitutes, price was easier to control and the consumer was given an even cheaper product than before. The situation seemed to be ‘win/win’, so consumers became regular buyers. But the label of ‘Soap’ had gone. It was now ‘Hand Wash’ and nobody noticed.

Once they had got their teeth in, further developments were made. Ingredients began to be made from mineral oils (such as paraffin oil) and petroleum based alcohols, which, in my opinion, was a disastrous choice. Some elements of liquid and gel washing products were just a few steps away from anti-freeze, and some contained very little of anything that could be called natural.

All of this was happening without any real information being given to the consumer, they had already made a choice, and the manufacturers were happy to keep the sales rolling in. The cost of production was dropping and their profits became more and more secure, but, at the same time, some of these synthetic ingredients were being banned from use due to toxicity levels. Consumers were largely unaware of this, so their choices, remained unchanged.

The right choice?

Liquid gels and hand wash still out sell bar soap by around 8 to 1. Consumers still believe that these liquids have superiority over solid soap. It saves time, after all. And it’s less messy. Corporates have sold us this idea. They have hijacked our choices with a drive for higher levels of profit. We began with a choice of something good but this choice has been exploited. So, is it still the right choice?

Our Way – Naturally

At the Hertfordshire Soap Company we make soap using methods that date back centuries, using ancient techniques that now have all the control of a modern, clean and highly controlled environment. Soap made this way has an extremely low carbon footprint. It contains only natural plant material and chemicals that are naturally occurring on our planet. The quantities and purity of ingredients are strictly controlled under EU cosmetic regulations which ensure the finished item is nothing but the best that can be achieved.

There are no chemical preservatives. No wasteful packaging, no artificial colourings and the ingredients are all responsibly sourced, often organic and completely biodegradable.

Real soap is a more effective cleanser than its imitation counterpart. It can nourish and condition the skin, and it does this in a wholly natural way. It helps restore the skin Ph far quicker and it lasts longer, so is therefore cheaper overall and far better for the environment. Those that have decided to change to real soap, notice a distinct difference in the way it reacts on their skin. They are surprised how pleasant it is to use, and they all have come back for more, enjoying the variety of over 12 different soaps we have currently on offer.

Our soap isn’t ‘claggy’ or slow to dry out in the dish. It holds up very well in the shower or bath and is just as effective at sanitation as any liquid or gel alternative.

The average 40 year old will have washed with a detergent of some kind over 43,800 times, should we be concerned about the chemical residue each wash leaves behind?

So, what will your next choice be? To continue buying the liquids and gels?

If you are still undecided, don’t take my word for it, do a quick internet search of the ingredients on the products label or your recently-bought gel or liquid. Then make a better informed choice.

Or, perhaps, consider trying a bar of good old-fashioned ‘modern’ soap. Made properly, that way it should be, and see if you notice the difference.

We are starting a soap revolution in Hertfordshire, come and join us and make a better choice for you and your family’s skin and the environment.

Solid soap bars v liquid gels and hand wash

The average person will wash their hands at least 2-3 times a day. That means a 40 year old will have used soap 43,800 times. With that in mind how concerned should we be about the ingredients?

The cosmetic industry has moved on more in the last 40 years than it ever did in the previous 400, but have those changes always been for the good?

With the new era of greater sustainability and our desire for transparency from corporations, can we be sure that all that glitters is truly soap?

I ask the question about using solid soap as opposed to liquid washes in the hope to turn your attention to what’s really going on.

First of all let’s compare like for like, i.e., traditionally-made soap in either liquid or solid form. To be sure your comparison is accurate we actually have to avoid the vast majority of liquid washing products. These products are made with modern chemicals that replicate cleansing and foaming qualities we all expect in any soap. Why? Well, it’s cheaper for one thing. There are, of course, traditional and properly made soaps out there but would you know what to look for?

A traditional soap is made from blending two main ingredients, oils and a lye solution which is made from Potassium hydroxide, for liquid soap and Sodium hydroxide, for solid. Although these are harsh caustic chemicals, soap making is alchemy and using them in a correctly blended recipe, means that none of the harshness survives. The resulting new substance that is formed is actually a salt, but we call it soap. Therefore, soaps made this way will mean your label will have the internationally recognised (INCI) names for the oils which have been used e.g. Sodium Cocoate (Soap from Coconut oil) Sodium Olivate (Soap from Olive oil) and, if you’re unlucky, they may have used Sodium Palmate (Soap from Palm oil)

However, a liquid that has none of these types of ingredients can’t be called soap. These will be a combination of various chemicals and liquids that form foam and bubbles and have detergent qualities that act like soap on the skin. They may contain things like, Sodium C14-16 olefin sulfonate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Cocamidopropyl betaine and Laureth-3, all of these need to be made in the lab, and some are petroleum based. They all have toxic qualities and some come with quite severe health warnings. Why are we using this? Why are we putting this on our skin? Why are we flushing this down the drain to further contaminate the waterways?

Yes, companies are trying hard to remove these harsh chemicals as more and more of us become aware of their origins. And what are they turning to instead? Plants!

Then there is the term ‘Fragrance’. Companies are allowed to hide over 50 chemicals under this term as they have argued their right to brand protection and the courts agreed that they should be allowed to keep these components secret. But don’t worry, they are safe, aren’t they?

This is why soap manufacturers like myself are springing up all over the place and are trying to create a pure and clean product that is actually good for your skin. Using plant based materials means that these natural ingredients combine to make your skin clean and soft. I think the acid test here is, the fact that it is okay to eat these main ingredients, means they are far less likely to harm our skin if we clean with them. In fact, the Romans used just pure olive oil, massaged into the skin, which is then gently wiped away to leave the skin clean and conditioned, a practise still used by people today.

Liquid soap for the small manufacturer is a slow, labour intensive process that means the costs go up. It’s really hard, therefore, to compete with the giants who are making vast quantities from awful ingredients at really low prices. A tub of liquid wash can be as low as £1 in some discount outlets, but what is the real price? The awful ingredients and the massive manufacture process, the daily rinsing of toxins into the environment, let alone the unknown effects on our health long term. Then, there are the packaging issues and the resulting waste.

Soap has been made the way we make it for over 2000 years. Its safety, effectiveness and purity are tried and tested by the ancient Greeks, the Romans and throughout the Middle East. Some soaps that are still produced today are the oldest traded commodities on earth.

Natural, pure soap is an amazing product, it doesn’t need to change, use it for 4-6 weeks and you’ll see your skin condition improve, in that time you will save money, benefit from healthier looking skin and reduce your carbon footprint.

So, perhaps there can be no comparison. Real soap is just in a league of its own. Liquid washes that can’t even be called soap (because it isn’t anything like it) may be liquid and they may even help to clean your hands, but the quality is a world apart. If your are the kind of person that turns over the food packet to check the ingredients, but ignore the one on the back of the soap dispenser, isn’t it time you made the change?

Why not Google a few of the ingredients for yourself and find out what’s in your wash, and join us in the soap revolution!

To Palm or not to Palm, that is the soapers question.

Hello, and welcome to the first post in a new blog by Jim Baker from the Hertfordshire Soap Company.

Controversy surrounds the use of Palm Oil in all products and there are many places on the web, where you can read about the pro’s and cons of Palm Oil. I thought it best to clarify our position and why we have decided to never use Palm oil.

Although responsibly sourced Palm oil does offer a cheap and stable oil for use in soaps, it’s quality, however, just doesn’t please me.

When I bought some Palm oil many months ago, I made a small test batch of soap using it on its own, to see what results I could achieve. Sure enough its a firm bar, dries quickly, stays firm when it has been soaked, generally, an all round good performer. But where it fell down was how it felt as I used it, the way my skin behaved once dry and the resulting condition of it. My skin tightened and felt a little rough, it was clean, but stripped of all the natural oils a good humectant should help to preserve.

Being quite a fussy chap, I want to make soap that has all the great qualities of lasting well, good cleansing capability and durability in a damp and busy bathroom, but I also wanted it to treat my skin at the same time as cleaning it. It took some weeks to come up with the balance of five oils that we have used in our first range of soaps and I was guided by the need to balance its quality as a soap bar and its ability to leave the skin with a great feeling of being clean, soft and, dare I say it, just great! It has all the qualities I was looking for and none of the normal poor results a bar made from Palm oil may give.

Now I’m left wondering why palm oil is used at all, in fact there are some soaps that use nothing but Palm! No wonder so many people have turned away from this beautiful, natural product that can be so much better for you. It’s economical, environmentally friendly and, in my opinion, so much better for your skin than many modern alternative liquid gels and washes.

Aside from the ethics there is also the cost. Palm oil can be significantly cheaper than pretty much all other oils used in soap. It offers the soap manufacturer a much better profit margin, but this is quite clearly at the expense of the quality. Some will try to bolster this drop in quality by adding other more conditioning oils that help, but unless Palm oil is reduced to less than 5% in a formulation, is there any point in adding anything else? You may as well just use 100% quality ingredients and omit the Palm oil, as we do.

So, while the ethics debate goes on, and while Palm oil continues to play a major role right across the range of beauty products and the food industry, here at the Hertfordshire Soap Company we have removed this oil as an option in search of a healthier, nicer, fairly-traded and often organic solution that make a fantastic soap your skin will love.

If you think your skin deserves the healthy benefits of a natural handmade soap, come and have a look at our range, you’re sure to find one you like and with gift ideas and new products coming online all the time, there may even be something there you’d like to give as a gift.

Thanks for reading our first post in our new blog. We welcome any thoughts or comments you may like to make.