Guest post by Amber Beltran of A Squirrel & A Scholar Soap Co.
REFORMULATION & IMITATION
It’s funny how life and art can coincide with each other sometimes. When one truly stops and thinks about it, there are so many little “life lessons” to be learned and metaphors to be made. Sometimes those lessons and metaphors can be applied to what you’re doing at this very moment... Even in the most mundane of acts. Oscar Wilde once said, “Life imitates art far more than art imitates life.” While that might mean something a little different to everyone in the philosophical sense of the phrase, I personally feel it’s true for soap making too!
I started this week’s soap project as sort of a “last hurrah” type of theme; an introduction to something new while saying goodbye to the old. Little did I know that at the very same time, I’d find myself doing that very same thing in my personal life too! I’ll explain... A little while ago, I procured quite a bit of cocoa butter at a smokin’ deal! Now, normally I’m the type of person who prefers to save those pricier butters for leave-on products. You’ll find no judgement here, but I personally feel that anyone can formulate outstanding soap recipes with less costly butters/fats. For me, it’s a win-win: You don’t have to break the bank to create truly fabulous handmade soaps, and if you sell your soaps, you can pass the savings on to your customers, while not compromising on quality! Some of the pricier butters can better benefit the skin in leave-on products anyway, but again, absolutely NO JUDGEMENT as to which oils and/or butters you prefer using in your cold process soap recipes. Each unique recipe is what makes handmade soap so great!
Having so much cocoa butter on-hand though, I decided I’d incorporate it into my own soap recipes, and I really enjoyed the opportunity to do so! But alas, my cocoa butter supply is now nearly depleted, and soon I’ll return to my old “tried and true” recipe- with a twist (And yes! That’ll be featured in a future blog post!). In the spirit of change, I decided my cocoa butter and I would go out with a “bang”! What better way to do just that than to make a batch of soap with one of the newly reformulated fragrance oils Nurture Soap now offers? With many wonderful fragrance oils now reformulated, saying goodbye to the old means saying hello to something new and improved! Come along with me as we take the newly reformulated “Poison Apple” fragrance oil for a test drive and see just how differently it performs in cold process soap! In my personal life, I also said goodbye to the old and welcomed in a new adventure, but we’ll get to that later. For now, let’s make some soap!
A DASHING DESIGN!
With all this “old” and “new” chit chat, I feel like I’m talking more about a wedding than actual soap making! Instead of something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue though, it’ll be red... Definitely red! With aromatic notes of crisp, juicy apples, uplifting bergamot and fragrantly seductive neroli, Nurture Soap’s reformulated “Poison Apple” fragrance oil smells positively enchanting, and is a dead-ringer for a certain company’s “So White” scent! The very first sniff of this fragrance oil from the bottle had my eyes involuntarily rolling to the back of my head- it's THAT good! The scent itself brought images of mystery and playful intrigue to mind, so I quickly went about making some melt & pour embeds, which would adorn the top of this sudsy project!
I’ve been dying to get Nurture Soap’s “Candy Apple Red” mica incorporated into a batch of soap, and with this this luscious fragrance oil, it just felt meant to be! Going by Carrie Thornsbury’s soap testing notes, “Poison Apple” fragrance oil discolors to orange in cold process, so this mica’s deep, flirtatious tone of red seemed a great choice. Even if the soap did turn out a tad “orangey”, it would still look beautiful! To go with the mysterious and coquettish theme of the scent, I decided to make tempting apple embeds in “Candy Apple Red” mica; alluring gemstone embeds in “Shimmer Gold” mica; and mesmerizing “crystal ball” embeds in “Red Enigma” mica, using Nurture Soaps Small 9-Ball Silicone Mold.
In reading old reviews and test notes, it seemed that prior to its reformulation, “Poison Apple” fragrance oil was a bit of a challenge to work with in cold process soap. This project would be the first time I ever used this fragrance oil in any application, and even though it was reformulated to behave better, I still felt a bit cautious. I decided a simple design for this batch would be best. I’d color the majority of the batch in “Candy Apple Red” mica and do a drop swirl with accent colors of “Winter White” and “Shimmer Gold” micas. Because I wasn’t sure how much the fragrance oil would discolor, I decided I’d leave my accent colors unscented, and only add the fragrance oil to the soap portion colored in “Candy Apple Red” mica. I happily went about getting the micas dispersed in a bit of batch oils. Even though this color scheme would be simple, it still looked rich, vibrant and alluring!
POISONOUS APPLES & PERFECT POURS!
The moment of truth had arrived! My batch oils and lye solution had cooled down to around room temperature, and it was time to get to soap making, which meant it was also time to see if this poisonous beauty of a fragrance oil would behave like an angel in my soap recipe. Again, I played it cautious and only blended my soap batter to a very light trace. Whenever you’re feeling unsure about how a fragrance oil will perform, it’s always best to start at a thin trace, as you can always blend your batter to a thicker trace, if needed, but once your batter thickens up on its own, there’s usually no going back. Splitting off two smaller accent portions of soap, I proceeded by coloring my soap portions in their respective colors. “Candy Apple Red” mica looked downright fabulous when incorporated into the soap, and next to “Shimmer Gold” mica, it looked deviously rich- exactly the look I was going for!
I nervously incorporated “Poison Apple” fragrance oil into my beautiful red portion of soap batter, held my breath and... NOTHING HAPPENED! I think a part of me was expecting this fragrance oil to do something mischievous, but it behaved like an absolute dream! Absolutely no acceleration, no ricing, no separation, and with the deep, crimson hue of “Candy Apple Red” mica, no noticeable color change either! I had so much extra time to pour my drop swirl design, I was even able to stop in between pouring to take pictures of all those gorgeously fluid swirls!
In retrospect, I probably should have blended my soap portions to a slightly thicker trace before pouring them, as they might’ve been a tad too fluid, but I didn’t want to risk it. The next time I make a batch of soap with this deliciously magical fragrance oil though, I’ll know not to fear it... No caution need be taken when it comes to making soap with this fantastic fragrance! It remained so fluid and workable, by the time I was finished pouring, I couldn’t pass up the chance to make some fun swirls on top, despite the fact I’d be covering that part with soap frosting later!
ADDING MAGIC TO THE MYSTERY
There really is something intriguing and magical about “Poison Apple” fragrance oil. It definitely gives off those “forbidden fruit” vibes, and makes me think that this is precisely what an apple would smell like if it were imbued with an entrancing evil curse, and given to some unsuspecting princess by a malicious witch disguised as an old beggar-woman. I mean, how could the princess not know it’s a trap? Since when did little, old beggar-women (Who are literally wearing rags!) just randomly start passing out perfectly-pristine, red, shiny apples to young ladies, who are obviously much better off? Oh yeah, that princess totally knows it’s a set-up, but she takes the bait anyway because it’s so tempting, it’s worth the risk!
That’s exactly how I feel about “Poison Apple” fragrance oil... It’s apple, but not just apple, which makes it positively captivating, enticing and indefinable. A scent as sorcerous as this deserves an extra magical touch! Blending up a batch of soap frosting, colored in “Winter White” mica, I lovingly piped the top of the soap loaf, then gave it a generous dusting of “Gold Dust” Enviroglitter.
“Gold Dust” Enviroglitter is enough to make anything look magical all on its own (Especially when your AC kicks on right as you’re dusting it on top of your soap and covers your kitchen in a soft blanket of golden, sparkling daydreams! My husband just LOVES that!), but the theme of this soap design simply wouldn’t be complete without those apple, gemstone and crystal ball embeds! After carefully placing each enchanted embed atop the soap frosting, it was time to get the batch lightly insulated for the night. I know my fellow soap makers can relate, but there’s nothing quite like that feeling you get when you finish making a batch of soap and everything went right!
DON’T HESITATE TO REFORMULATE! (AND A SPECIAL “THANK YOU”)
Reformulations happen when someone believes in something, but knows it can be better; that it can go from good to great! Whether it’s a favorite soap recipe that, with a few changes, becomes even awesome-er (TOTALLY a real word!), a fragrance oil which smells AMAZING, but behaves like a little bugger in cold process, or even something you’ve been wanting to “reformulate” in your personal life. The trick is to not be afraid to take what’s good, and by a leap of faith, make it better. It can be scary sometimes to go from what you know, and are comfortable with, and make a change... Even if that change is for the best.
As I was getting creative with an incredible reformulated fragrance oil, I was also beginning to reformulate myself, and old thought processes. You see, for the longest time, my long-term goals were the same. I wanted to purchase my own internet domain; I wanted a website where I could share my soapy passion with anyone who wanted it; and I wanted to make my little soap business a legitimate company. All of these things seemed extremely hard and unobtainable to me, so my long-term goals remained exactly that: long-term. My paralyzing fear of failure, and my overwhelming feelings of self-doubt thwarted my attempts of moving forward, so I stayed in my comfort-zone, where I was safe from failure and self-doubt. Then something amazing happened...
I met an INCREDIBLE woman who was an absolute role model to me in every way! She didn’t seem scared of anything! When she put her mind to something, she pursued it, and she did so without hesitation; without second-guessing herself. She made change and growth happen, because she wasn’t afraid to put change and growth into action! Her heart, will and spirit were unwavering. She was so strong, and had walked through fires which had only made her stronger. Fear was afraid of HER! Through it all though, her heart was made of solid gold, and she was filled with purpose, pride and passion for what she did! She was the type of woman I always wanted to be myself. That woman’s name is Carrie Thornsbury, and she is the owner and CEO of THIS outstanding company!
As I’ve had the immense honor of getting to know Carrie, and to be able to call her a dear friend, I found someone with whom I could confide in; someone I could vent to about my paralyzing fear of failure. Turns out, she wasn’t just someone who could sympathize, she could empathize! She knew exactly how I felt... They were feelings she overcame herself! Well, that sealed the deal for me! I was done with allowing my long-term goals to remain long-term. I mustered every ounce of courage and inspiration Carrie instilled in me and went for it!
My humble soap business is now an official LLC., and I created my very own website, with my very own domain! I’m still scared out of my mind, and I’m definitely NOT “tech-savvy” (Building my own website has been a challenge and work in progress, but I’m determined to keep learning as I go!), but the feelings of excitement and self-accomplishment I’ve felt have completely overridden any feelings of fear and self-doubt. Besides, if I fail, at least I’ll be able to say I went for it... I went outside my “safety zone” and gave it my best shot! For giving the hugest self-doubter an inspirational “kick” in the proverbial pants, and for motivating me to reformulate my internal dialogue from the “I can’t” to the “I can”, I want to sincerely thank Carrie Thornsbury, who has been a selfless mentor and teacher to SO MANY crafters!
And so, my phenomenal, fellow soap artists, it seems that life really does imitate art sometimes! As you go about your own amazing soap making journeys, I truly, truly hope you don’t interpret these words as my attempt at a “humble brag”, but rather, for the true intention behind them. That intention being that whatever it is you wish to achieve; you can attain anything you set your heart and mind to! I know that sounds so cliché, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s SO TRUE! When you let fear and doubt hold you back (Like I did for an embarrassing amount of time!), you end up staying right where you are, daydreaming of what might be someday. When you reformulate your thoughts into actions, taking that first step forward, and then continuing to take just one more step in front of the previous one, your “someday” become “right now”! You’ve got this!
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water OR Aloe Juice @ 33.33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Liquid: Lye)
- 40% Olive Oil
- 30% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 10% Cocoa Butter (Deodorized)
- 10% Shea Butter
- 6% “Poison Apple” Fragrance Oil
- 3% Sodium Lactate (*Optional, Added to Cooled Lye Solution)
- 1% – 3% Hydrolyzed Oat Protein (*Optional, Added to Cooled Lye Solution)
- 1/2TBS/PPO White Kaolin Clay (*Optional, Mixed into Fragrance Oil)
- Mica Colorants @ 1-2TSP/PPO: “Candy Apple Red”, “Shimmer Gold” & “Winter White”
- Lye @ 5% Superfat
- Distilled Water @ 33.33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Water: Lye)
- 40% Olive Oil
- 30% Coconut Oil
- 10% Castor Oil
- 10% Cocoa Butter (Deodorized)
- 10% Shea Butter
- “Winter White” Mica @ 2TSP/PPO
- “Gold Dust” Enviroglitter (Dusted on Top)
- Melt & Pour 7/8” Ball Embeds in “Red Enigma” Mica
- Melt & Pour Apple Embeds in “Candy Apple Red” Mica
- Melt & Pour Gemstone Embeds in “Shimmer Gold Mica”
- ATECO #868 Piping Tip