How strong is too strong? How fancy is too fancy?

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gigisiguenza

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My cousin came by couple days ago to drop off mail, and was perusing my mountain of soaps. She was picking them up, oohing and aahing over the colors and scents, asking when she can try them etc, and she commented on how different they are than the ones she's run across in her travels (she's a flight attendant). She said since I started making soaps, she's been on the lookout for it everywhere she goes, because she never really noticed it much before and is now very curious about how many different styles and types there are.

In her travels she's run across soaps so overly scented they were obnoxious, and it turned her off because she said she couldn't imagine wanting to smell like perfumed soap all day. She's run across ones so fancy, she said she saw no point in buying them because they'd never get used, they'd just sit in a bowl and get dusty. And she's run across ones that looked so much like commercial soaps (e.g. dove) that she didn't trust they were really handmade, so saw no reason to pay over $6 a bar for what she suspected was actually commercially produced soap being touted as "handmade".

All this got me thinking about the perfect bar and how we each define it. I've seen all the soaps she mentioned and understood her perspective, and began looking at my own soaps, asking "would someone see that and think - perfect! - or would they look at it and think - too plain, too simple, not enough scent. As an artist, I create what I like looking at, so it makes sense that as a soaper, my soaps would reflect the kind of soaps I would by myself.

But I wonder how many people who sell soap make soaps they don't really like? I couldn't imagine doing it. I have to love what I'm creating and be striving towards a visual in my head that inspires me to create it. Don't get me wrong, I think that the soaps shaped like cake slices, cupcakes, airplanes, etc, are all very pretty, but I wouldn't buy them because they don't make me want to wash with them. I feel the same about the giant oversized bars, or the ones with elaborate toppings like balls, cookies, stars, glitter, etc. They are pretty and I love looking at them, but they don't make me want to wash with them.

The perfect soap for me is one that makes me want to lather it up...
... fits in my hand so I can wrap my fingers around it
... is thick enough to not feel flimsy but not so thick it feels cumbersome
... has soft edges that are comfortable in my hand and on my skin
... looks luxurious and creamy, like you could cut it like butter
... is softly scented, so when the hot water hits it, the smell blooms, but dissipates later
... smells of natural things, like foods, flowers, herbs, etc
... looks hand crafted while still being readily identifiable as soap
... leaves me feeling soft and conditioned, without feeling greasy
... and finally, appeals to my personal aesthetic in color combos and pour style

What's your idea of the perfect soap?
 

Misschief

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I think you pretty much nailed it, Gigi. Your list of ideals is excellent. And now, I need to rethink the mold I had made. I find the bars really big, especially for my fairly small hands.
 

gigisiguenza

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Writing this post has my brain cooking for sure because I realized I've been so busy learning techniques that I've detoured away from my original mission - to make soap I personally love.

I very much love and enjoy all the learning, the challenges, and exploring all the options out there, but I haven't made a simple soap since the beginning, and that's what I love best. Simple soap. I know I posted a little while back about going back to basics so I could find a recipe that works for my skin. Well I got distracted again by a technique challenge LOL, but I am still gonna do it, but I'm going to add "simple beauty" to the requirements too.

I want to see if I can make soaps that fit the ideal I listed, and that simple yet beautiful soaps. Those are usually the ones I see in my soap p*rn searches that make me sigh the most in appreciation. :)
 

lenarenee

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My idea...:think:....:think:....:think:.

Its hard to explain, but it has nothing to do with color, swirls, fo or eo.
I want a bar that feels and acts "crisp" and solid when dry - with a somewhat waxy feel (not oily or dusty), and weirdly enough...has a certain sound to it. I don't need lots of lather - but a healthy one that at least starts with big bubbles and end with a combination of all bubble types.
As for scent....I love the smell of a plain, freshly cured bar made with as few ingredients as possible. Right now, my fave has only 5% co, 5 castor, about 10% shea?, and the rest is grass fed tallow. The shea has really given a silky touch to the dry feeling of the bar, and it lathers shockingly well.
 

Neve

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I like to make them pretty but not overly elaborate. I like to match the colours and style to the scent, and I make my bars about the right size for my hand. I find the cupcake ones awkward to use and although they drew a bit of attention people didn't buy them so I gave most of them away as gifts. For my mini guest sized bars the ones that look like the big ones sell, and are my faves to use, while the fancy ones don't.

So I'm keeping it to my core style and I'm not going to go crazy with experimenting as what I like seems to be what others like too - a medium sized rectangular bar that smells nice but not too strong, and pretty but not so elaborate you wouldn't use it.

Pretty much what you said Gigi!
 

MissBee

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I don't make anything but unscented and uncolored soap these days. I'm too cheap to get unnecessary ingredients at the moment. I don't sell, nor do I have people that want CP soap as gifts. (My family thinks bar soap is unhygienic). So there's no incentives for me to get too crazy.

I do LOVE highly scented and over the top designed soap, though. Back when I used to only purchase CP soap I was all about Villainess, Dreaming Tree, Future Primitive, Haus of Gloi. My skin isn't picky with the formula of CP soap. I've never tried a soap maker's formula that my skin didn't like. All the CP soap I've ever tried felt nice. Really, the only thing setting these companies apart encouraging me to spend money on them was their scent/design. Preferably those that blend their own signature scents.

I can't use the Love Spell scent dupe, though. It gives me a headache. ;)
 

Misschief

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I think it depends, too, on who you're making soap for. I'm finding that two of my soaps have been especially popular but they're not my faves. They're very nice but I want something that pampers ME. The most popular right now? A coffee scrubby soap (I have an order for 5 bars for Christmas)with a combination of orange and spicy e.o's and a lavender goat's milk soap (which has more lavender e.o. in it than I, personally, like). My fave? Hmmm... I'm torn between an unscented coconut milk soap and my unscented tallow and borax soap. Both are so creamy and mild and skin loving.

I've been doing a lot of experimenting over the last few months and I'm just now settling in to a few that I think will be staples. To what end, I'm not sure yet. Sure, I'd like to sell some to cover my costs. Yes, people who I'm giving samples to are loving what I'm doing and want to buy. Primarily, though, I'm making it for me. I'm making soap because it relaxes me while doing something productive. It teaches me patience. I'm learning more chemistry than I ever thought I'd ever absorb (hello, Chem 11... which I failed... twice). My work is sometimes stressful, almost always busy; soaping helps me to relax and take my time to make something I like and others do, too.

Yeah, I'm rambling now. I should stop at two glasses of wine. ;) Someone tell me to go to bed.
 

Arimara

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If there's one thing I don't see myself touching is the process of coloring my soap. In part because I'm lazy, I really don't want to appeal to anyone but family and friends. I keep in mind that not everyone is tolerant to FO but I like them for my own pleasure. My perfect soap will be balanced for my tastes. I will also have to be able to use them from my daughter. SO far, I have three soaps I trust for her skin.
 

gigisiguenza

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It's so nice to hear I'm not the only one who really likes the simplicity of some bars. :)
 

Susie

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I am a KISS kind of gal. If it is too complicated, I won't buy it, much less be interested in making it. I have swirled a time or two, just for the fun of it. And made a cocoa line just to see if I could. But I like simple bars that give me pleasure in the using, rather than pleasure in just looking at it. Also, of all the soaps I have seen in farmer's markets and craft fairs, the booths that were the busiest were the ones with either plain soap, or simple two color swirls. The booths that had works of art called soap were not selling.
 

shunt2011

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I like a solid feeling bar that makes my skin feel clean but not stripped. I do like scented and pretty swirled soap but I also enjoy just a plain naked bar. I love thick creamy lather. I think that's one of the reasons I love salt bars so much.

I do sell and I can tell you that the pretty colors and scent draws people to my display but what sells is the scents themselves. However, I do have several regular customers that purchase the soaps by colors to match their bathrooms or their giftees bathrooms.

I've worked hard to develop my recipes and lots of trial and error for sure. But am extremely proud of the product(s) I put out.
 

navigator9

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I appreciate all of the artistic energy that goes into "fancy" soaps. As a soapmaker, I know the kind of effort it takes. But as a soap user, my tastes are quite different. I'm not a neon swirled, glitter dusted, cupcake shaped soap kind of girl. Actually, I'm not too fussy about how the soap looks at all. Sure, it's nice if it's pretty, but if the FO turned it brown, and it's just rectangular, that's OK with me.....as long as it's incredible soap that makes my skin feel soft and pampered. I do love a good fragrance, just enough. I prefer scented soap, but I could even live without that, for an incredible bar of handmade soap. :grin:
 

dixiedragon

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Your list is pretty much perfect, except for the scent part (for me). I don't mind scents that are perfumy. Some I like and some I don't. I don't care for food scents (except fruit). I don't want to wash my hands with something that smells like chocolate cake.
 

kumudini

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The perfect bar of soap for me is one which looks like it's well made, simple or swirly and no high tops and things projecting out but most importantly it fits in my small hands, has a nice scent, lathers decently and doesn't dry me out. And I'm happy to say, with the exception of 2 batches, all my others meet these criterion. Size choice differs from person to person, so if someone is selling, they should be able to make and offer different sizes. As a maker, I prefer soaps that don't take hours on end to create, I'm lazy and my hands move fairly slow. so I need to get things done in the shortest time possible. I really loved making 100% CO 20% LD batch :).
 

Arimara

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I finally made 100% coconut oil soap, same superfat. It's a week old... Luckily, I can really try out my other bars now.
 

Deedles

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What a coincidence you posted this today as all the same things ran through my mind last night. Yesterday I made my 2nd attempt at the challenge and really did not enjoy it at all. Maybe it was trying to achieve a specific look/design but it was very tense all around.

I agree with most everything you said. First I want good soap, ie; conditioning, good lather and a nice fragrance. I don't care for food fragrances at all, I much prefer clean 'natural' smells. I do like spice scented candles for the holidays but I quickly get tired of them.

When looking at all the soap p**n, I can appreciate the work that goes into them, especially now that I know what is involved. And love the colors and whimsy of the swirls but my soap is used in the bath/shower, not displayed for it's looks. I agree that the soaps in all the shapes with 'stuff' added to the tops are just not something I'd want to wash with. I find them too busy and not pretty at all...to ME. It's those simple soaps with the homemade organic look to them that are always my favorites. I do like to try to match the scent to the recipe and/or look of it.

My soaps aren't sold, I doubt I ever will sell, so I don't worry about whether someone will like the look. As long as the friends I gift it to like the properties of the soap, I'm happy.

Good, thought provoking topic!
 

BrewerGeorge

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The only reason I even swirl or colour any of my soaps is so that I can tell at a glance which bar I'm using.
It's kind of like this for me, too. With the added benefit of learning and mastering new things. For me personally, a successful hobby requires that I can progress in it. It needs to be fun. Trying the new swirls, colors, and decorations adds that level of challenge I'm looking for. (A nice plus to experimenting with decoration is that failures don't ruin the soap for use, too.)

For example, I made another batch of my personal bath bars last week which is just a solid bar, scented with BB's Wasabi and green from sea clay. While I wouldn't quite call it a chore, there was certainly no challenge to it and I was completely done and washed up in half an hour.

Conversely, I'm planning some Christmas gift soaps for my mother and aunts which are lavender scented, with a lavender mica swirl and made in flower silicone molds. (Which I actually need to make this weekend if they're to be ready for Christmas. Fallout 4 has put quite the crimp in my other leisure activities for the last few days :twisted:) I've already failed at this soap once by overcooking them, so it is quite the challenge.
 

dixiedragon

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I generally don't care for more than 4 colors. I've seen 13 color swirls and I'm impressed by the skill and technique, but the end result doesn't appeal to me.

I also don't like stuff on top of the bar. Herbs, etc, - they're dry and scratchy.
 
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