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Just airing some soapy thoughts after a multi-bar very scientific shower study

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JoyfulSudz

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This morning I grabbed a handful of soap samples and end slices and used them in my shower. All were made with a variety of different FOs and EOs and 2 or 3 recipes. I loved the way all the soaps felt on my skin, but what I noticed most is that the scents are all very mild or even nil. All pleasant, but very subtle. And I’m okay with that, but…

I’ve spent most of my soaping focus on developing recipes I really like – moisturizing, good lather, nice hand-feel, long-lasting, reasonable cost – and have settled on a couple of favorites. I also love experimenting with color and design techniques, and have made some pretty good-looking soaps, if I do say so myself.

My friends have been very supportive and great customers for my soaps, but they all ask only one thing: “what does it smell like?” I explain that soap is a wash-off product and not a perfume, but fragrance seems to be all that matters.
It’s frustrating to me having so much focus on what I consider one of soap’s less important qualities. But hey, at least I’m super-clean this morning!
 

CatahoulaBubble

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Did you use the recommended usage rate or lower? I've not had an issue with the fragrances in my soap except for citrus scents. The citrus ones tend to fade quite quickly unless you use a stabilizer and even then they will still fade quite a bit.
 

JoyfulSudz

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Did you use the recommended usage rate or lower? I've not had an issue with the fragrances in my soap except for citrus scents. The citrus ones tend to fade quite quickly unless you use a stabilizer and even then they will still fade quite a bit.
Yes, I always use the full recommended usage. I do make quite a few citrus-scented soaps which may be part of the fading problem.
Even so, I wish more people would ask or be excited about the skin-nourishing ingredients instead of just the fragrance :)
 

dibbles

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I don't think most people think about the ingredients that much. I didn't before I started making soap.
I wouldn't use something if I didn't like the smell (still won't for that matter). There is also the TMI soapmakers tend to share about the process, the oils, saponification - they may just not want to go down that road. If you haven't already noticed, look for eyes glazing over while sharing this kind of information with people who don't make soap. I've learned to give a short and sweet answer - if they want to know more, they will ask. Usually they don't ask. 😂
 

KimW

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I can understand the "how does it smell" question. I can always smell the scent of a scented bar on my skin long after I've washed my hands. Hubby uses a prepackaged foaming soap for his work area and I can always smell it after he washes his hands. Smells like that mish-mash cologne boys wear in high school. Blech!
 

glendam

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Yes, I always use the full recommended usage. I do make quite a few citrus-scented soaps which may be part of the fading problem.
Even so, I wish more people would ask or be excited about the skin-nourishing ingredients instead of just the fragrance :)
Citrus do seem to fade often. However, not sure whose suggested rate you are using. If the manufacturer or a lye calculator one. The suggested rate from soapcalc is lower than normal rates. Perhaps by 50% if I remember correctly
 

CatahoulaBubble

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Even my unscented soap has a scent to it. I use honey and oatmeal in that soap. My latest batch got a little hot so it smells like caramel honey and oatmeal. Quite a few of my customers that have a fragrance allergy like my soap because they can get a soap that smells good without the headache. But everyone who buys my soap, even the ones that like the properties of my soap, always smell the fragrance before they buy it. My soap can be the best soap on the planet
but if people don't like the scent they will never buy it.
 

lenarenee

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I think most people aren't plagued by the common skin problems that drive some of us to handmade soap; eczema, sensitivities, allergies, etc. They've been happy with store bought soap but walk by a stall of handmade at a fair - and since they can't shower there - the main attraction is the sight and smell. After they buy - they might notice a difference with handmade soap - but....not always.
 

earlene

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My friends have been very supportive and great customers for my soaps, but they all ask only one thing: “what does it smell like?” I explain that soap is a wash-off product and not a perfume, but fragrance seems to be all that matters.
It’s frustrating to me having so much focus on what I consider one of soap’s less important qualities.
LyfulSudz, even if it is a wash-off product, while in use, the fragrance enhances the experience, be it in the bath, the shower or simply at sink-side. So fragrance does matter, especially to those of us who enjoy fragrance. But it matters as well when it's a fragrance we don't like. So, I certainly care about how my soap smells.

But honestly, there are some fragrances in soap that DO linger on the skin. For example, in my experience Dragon's Blood lingers a fairly long time. If you ever see me intermittently smelling my hands, it's either because I washed my hands with a DB-scented soap, or chopped some garlic recently.

And another thing I can share about scented soap: There are two scented soaps (one a bar soap and one a shampoo), that ALWAYS trigger one of my most cherished childhood memories of my baby brother and camping trips with my family while he was still alive. They always bring up memories of those trips and the particular spot where we camped, the river in which we swam and the large rock where the river water pooled and we named that spot after my brother.

So scent is extremely important in soap, as well as anything else because it is so linked to memory, at least for me.
 

JoyfulSudz

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Thank you all for sharing so many good thoughts and perspectives about fragrance. I need to remember that as the soapmaker I view the process from the inside, ie, focused on the ingredients and the process of making it. Everyone else views it from the outside, ie, how it looks and smells.

I also think my nose has gotten desensitized from being subjected to the strong fragrances OOB and from living in a house with a hundred bars curing in the next room, so a single bar in the shower certainly seems mild in comparison. I do notice that my friends seem to notice more scent than I do, and later on they tell me how much they like the soap for its other qualities.

I appreciate the reminder to better recognize and appreciate the "outside" perspective on soaping!
 

JoyfulSudz

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@glendam "However, not sure whose suggested rate you are using. If the manufacturer or a lye calculator one. The suggested rate from soapcalc is lower than normal rates. Perhaps by 50% if I remember correctly"

I use the recommended amounts from the manufacturer, usually 6% for most FOs.
 

AliOop

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Since the max rate for the EU is 3%, I've always assumed that's why SoapCalc's default is 3%.
 

DeeAnna

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I also think if there is any "nourishing" provided by soap, it's a subtle effect that escapes most people. That includes me and I'm a soap maker. For that reason, I've always been skeptical about this idea.

Most people have a less nuanced reaction to soap. They base their opinion of the soap on whether it lathers nicely or not much at all and whether the soap leaves their skin feeling smooth or dries it out or whether it smells good or not. Basic, obvious stuff.
 

Zany_in_CO

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Fragrance sells! That's the bottom line. As a consumer, I expect any handmade soap I buy to be good, so the only choice between one bar and another is the fragrance. Now that you have perfected 2-3 recipes to your liking, it's time to focus on what scents you, your friends & family are drawn to.

Currently, I have a couple of foamers scented at the right amount of fragrance for that scent and it is a joy to use them. That's the way it should be, to my mind at least. One scent is BB's Energy with a titch of oakmoss (10%) to anchor it that's an "in your face" kinda scent. The other is WSP's Relaxation EO/FO Blend, a "sophisticated blend of blue lavender and palmrosa" which is quite nice.

My theory, after using only essential oils at first, and then switching to FOs because of their lasting power, I now believe a combo of the two gives you the best of both worlds. So far, I'm like the ones I've tried.
 

lucycat

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Besides the obvious that fragrance sells I think most people who purchase your soap initially will make an opinion of your soap and whether it fits them. If it is too drying, they don't like the lather or decide they don't like your ingredients they will just move on to another soapmaker and you may never be aware of it. You are left with customers who have already decided they like your soap. What's important from this point is the fun part of fragrance and color.
 

JoyfulSudz

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Those are some really good points and they got me to realize something: I like it that I have been able to experiment with different basic recipes to develop something I like. I have control over this part.

With fragrance, not so much. I'm new enough to all this that I'm always trying a variety of FOs and EOs and combos, some I like, some I don't. The sellers' descriptions of FOs make them all sound exquisite, but some are certainly better than others in reality. Even reading others' reviews, it takes a lot of experimentation to really get to know what's good -- which gets expensive considering the cost of both the oils and the fragrances. It's more trial and error to find the good ones, while developing basic recipes has a larger component of quantifiable chemistry that I can tweak to get what I want. It's frustrating when I make a batch of "good soap" but the fragrance didn't come through as I'd hoped.

I so very much appreciate this board and all the thoughtful responses I've gotten to my soapy thoughts!
 

Zany_in_CO

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It's more trial and error to find the good ones,
This is true, for the most part. However, most suppliers list their "Best Sellers" and that's a good starting point. Also, you can also start a thread for advice on any fragrance from any supplier. There are several threads like that. There's also threads in the "Recommendations" Forum that may be helpful where members note their favorites from a specific supplier.
 
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TheGecko

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I'm a knitter...when I am shopping for yarn, I first see with my eyes and then feel with my skin. I don't care if the yarn is hand-pick by virgins by the light of the second blue moon...if I don't like the color AND the way it feels, it's no sale.

I have received soap from other soap makers...FIRST thing I do is smell it, then I admire the color. Lastly, I'll check the ingredients...out of curiosity.

Our sense of smell is probably our most powerful sense.
 
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