More Tips & Tricks from the Soap Artisans

Cold Spoon Method: Simple and Effective When making a new salve or cream for the first time and not sure how thick it will be try this method. Place a spoon in the freezer then begin blending and melting down the beeswax and oils in your recipe. Once the spoon is cold enough dip it into the melted down oils and remove it. The mixture will be solid and you can now test to see if it is the consistency you desire. Incredibly simple technique and works brilliantly!
powderColoring Soap Naturally There are tons of spices, herbs, botanicals, and oils to use for coloring your cold process soap naturally. When incorporating a powdered substance like a ground spice or oxide, be sure to mix with a small amount of oil, vegetable glycerin, or water first. This ensures you will be able to evenly distribute the color throughout the soap and prevents clumping. Be sure to take the small amount of oil or glycerin from your overall recipe or deduct the water from the lye/water mixture. This way, you can be sure to have the proper amount of sodium hydroxide to cure the bar properly.


Ashy Soaps? What’s that white stuff on top of my soap? That’s what we call ash-a result of the sodium hydroxide reaction in the soap. It doesn’t hurt to leave it on there, but if you prefer the way your soap looks without it, you can always “clean” your soap. Some people rub a little bit of oil on top to remove the ash while others use a cheese cutter or knife to cut or scrape off the white areas. All of these methods work great, but if you’d like to cut down on ash altogether, try laying a piece of plastic wrap over your soaps after pouring them into the molds. The areas where the plastic is touching will likely not produce ash.

Tips & Tricks from the Soap Artisans


How to keep your oils fresh longer:  Purchase your oils in quantities you can use, cheaper by the dozen isn’t worth it if your oils go rancid before you can use them. They have a short shelf life and keeping them cool and in closed amber bottles will increase their life span. Decanting your oils into smaller bottles when there is more head space than oil remaining in the bottle helps, too. Never use rancid oils in products, soaps or on your skin, these contain free radicals that are unhealthy to you. We are purchasers and more often hoarders of products; my advice is to use it or lose it, no reason to keep it on the shelf like gamma’s china.


Hand-mixing or Stick blender?  The smaller your batch of soap, the hotter the oils, and the faster you mix them, the quicker the consistency will change from liquid oils to thickly traced soap. When making small batches at home, it is best to alternate between stirring by hand with a spoon or spatula, and using a stick blender or immersion blender. If you stir by hand alone you might find yourself mixing all day before you see a trace. On the other hand, blending the whole thing too quickly with a stick blender will prevent you from being able to add all your ingredients and get the soap out of the pot and into the mold. Gentle pulses of the stick blender after you add each ingredient, combined with hand stirring throughout, will usually give you the time you need to control the process and get all your ingredients thoroughly combined.


No Lye, No Soap: We are occasionally asked by curious consumers if our soaps contain lye. It is sometimes confusing for users of bar soaps because often sodium hydroxide or “lye” isn’t included on the label. So here’s what’s up. All bar soaps, including ours, are made with lye. A lye and water solution is required to create a chemical reaction in order to “saponify” (which means turn into soap) the oils and turn our vegetable/plant oils into soap. But as our bars cure (or harden) the water and lye evaporate and neutralize the pH of the bar. There is no longer lye in the finished bar, making it safe to use, and is often the reason why you won’t find sodium hydroxide listed on many bar soap labels. Even a melt and pour soap base is made using lye. Sodium Hydroxide is in many things, cured foods as well. To make liquid soap, potassium hydroxide is used instead of sodium. As we often say: No Lye, No Soap. Soap made with lye is not harmful and has been made in this traditional way for centuries.


The Tree of Life


Shea butter is derived from the nut within the fruit of a wild grown tree in the savannah regions of East and West Africa. It’s a tree with many names, sometimes known as the Shea tree, the Mangifolia Tree, or our favorite, the Karité tree, which means the “Tree of Life”. The tree produces fruit once a year and lives for 300 years. Shea Butter has been used traditionally for cooking, healing, and personal care within tribes that produce it long before its introduction to the global cosmetic and food industry.

The production of shea butter is intensive! First the fruits are harvested, the nuts extracted, boiled, dried, sorted, crushed, roasted, cooled, and milled. The pulp is mixed with cold water, kneaded, separated, boiled, purified, solidified and packaged. The result is a pale yellow butter with a slightly nutty scent.

After it is shipped to our door we use this precious butter as part of our soap base for all of our soaps, an ingredient in our Shea Balms, Body Butters, and Lip Balms. Its healing, moisturizing, and hypo-allergenic properties make it an essential part of our recipes to soothe dry or sensitive skin.

While we love shea butter and its beneficial properties for the skin, the soap and cosmetic industries only use a fraction of shea butter produced. Interestingly, it is the chocolate industry that uses the most shea butter!

There are so many reasons to use shea butter every day. It soothes dry and itchy skin, rashes, cracking, sunburn, and peeling. It softens rough skin like on your heels and elbows! It relieves muscle tension and aches through massage. Shea butter heals skin damage from cold, frost bite, wind, stretch marks, and wrinkles. It is also perfect for treating skin conditions like eczema, dermatitis, small wounds and burns.

Not all shea butters are created equal! Be aware of refined and processed shea butters. Some are deodorized and/or bleached and sold at markets where they can be adulterated with lesser quality additives.


Top 10 Best Carrier Oils for Skincare


Is it their high quality, nutrient rich silky-smoothness, or superior ability to moisturize dry skin that makes us love these carrier oils more? We’re not sure, but we couldn’t live without them!

Carrier oils are an important part of any budding aromatherapist’s pantry. Because of the powerful and potent nature of essential oils, they must be diluted in one or a combination of these carriers before applying to skin.

Here’s a Top 10 list of our favorite carrier oils in alphabetical order. 

1. Sweet Almond Oil:  This oil is a favorite for aromatherapists because it is suitable for all skin types. It provides great lubrication when used as a massage oil. Its light scent makes it perfect for blending into a scented body oil. Be careful it doesn’t stain your sheets when using in massage!
2. Apricot Kernel Oil: Perfect light oil for face care including moisturizing oils and serums. Can be used as a light massage oil as it is easily absorbed. Good for all skin types, especially sensitive or dry, dehydrating, or maturing skin. High in oleic and linoleic fatty acids for skin nourishment. 
3. Avocado Oil: This oil is packed with vitamins and nutrients for skin repair and healing from the outside in! It is a thicker oil, so use it in a blend of carrier oils to create a nutrient-rich body oil. 
4. Fractionated Coconut Oil: This is a light, clear, and odorless oil, making it is a great carrier for essential oils. It’s also the perfect massage oil as it provides good lubrication and nice slip against skin.
5. Hempseed Oil: Put this oil on and step into the sun! This oil has many powers, from being a natural sun block, anti-inflammatory, and even contains high amounts of Vitamin E and antioxidants.  Perfect as a light moisturizer that won’t clog your pores.  And it wouldn’t hurt to add this oil to your diet, it’s known to make skin glow, nails stronger, and hair shinier! 
6. Jojoba: Jojoba is a rich and luxurious liquid wax that is great as part of a body oil blend. It has a lightly nutty scent and is high in Vitamin E. It’s composition is similar to the skin’s natural oil, sebum. It is relatively expensive, but ideal for skin conditions and absorbs readily into skin.
7. Macadamia Oil: Macadamia is a luxurious oil that is great for especially sensitive skin. It is great for massage and moisturizing dry skin. Simply wonderful for babies!
8. Olive Oil: Olive is a good oil for skin care, especially dry skin.  It makes an excellent conditioner for hair and nails. A good oil for making soaps, salves, and herbal infusions. And easy enough to get from your local store!
9. Sesame Seed Oil:  This oil is nearly clear, with a golden hue, and is packed with Vitamin A and E. It is great in salves, lotions, and body oils for normal to dry skin types. Wonderful for aging skin like mine.
10. Sunflower OilAdd this oil to your bath or apply to wet skin after a shower.  This oil will help keep your skin soft and youthful.  It has a soft nutty smell and is light in color.  It also makes a great addition to your scrubs and massage oil blends! 

To prolong the shelf-life of your carrier oils, open several Vitamin E capsules into the oil. This acts as a natural preservative and boosts the benefits of your oils. Also keeping your oil cool or refrigerated will aid in the lifespan.

What are your favorite carrier oils and why? Comment below!

Global Oils: Far-Reaching and Universal


What’s amazing about oil is that it’s everywhere … and I’m not talking petroleum! You’ve been hearing us talk about different types of oils such as olive and essential oils, but I want to take a moment to focus on oils in general.  Let’s just start with an understanding of the magnificent usage and production of the oils derived from fruits, trees, and plants.

What do you think about this fact: People consume nearly 150 tons of oil per year. Soybean is the most produced oil in the world, followed by palm oil and many other oils that millions of people use in their daily diets and healthcare needs. Because of the multiple concerns related to soy and GMOs, we don’t use soy in our products at Abbey Brown.

Many oils are sustainable and the production methods are honorable to the people and regions that are producing the oils.  It should be a priority for producers to provide sufficient quality and quantities for the locals that traditionally utilize them. As consumers we should make conscious choices regarding the oils we are purchasing whether in foods, bath, or healthcare products. Ask yourself: What are the ingredients and where did they come from? Were they sourced with care and in a sustainable manner?

A serious concern arises when crops are compromised or adulterated, making unsustainable oil. The concern is directly related to biodiversity, soil degradation, land rights, the local people and the ecosystem; it is troubling. Above all, be a diligent consumer. Read labels, look for certifications, and always ask questions.

COMING SOON: Knowing your oils – Ingredient spotlights on many oils that we use everyday from coconut to shea butter and more.

Would you like to hear more about topics like these? Leave a comment and let us know!