Tag Archive for: handcrafted

All About Preservatives

imageI think every handcrafted bath & body person out there probably starts their journey down the lotion making path by creating a beautiful, whipped body butter. Some people stop there, while others start thinking about how they could tweak this product to be less greasy, more moisturizing, silkier, drier….and so on, and so on… If that’s what you’re thinking about, then eventually you are going to run up against the reality that emulsified lotions, body butters, etc. contain water, the breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and fungus, and your journey into the wonderful world of preservatives has begun.

Before we start talking about preservatives, let’s look at what isn’t a preservative:

Grapefruit seed extract (GSE), rosemary oil extract (ROE), tocopherol (Vitamin E) are not preservatives, they are anti-oxidants, which can help prolong the shelf life of your carrier oils by slowing rancidity. They have no effect on mold, fungus, or bacteria.

Honey has no measurable preservative effect on anything other than itself. Although amphoras of honey have been found in edible condition after hundreds of years, as soon as the container is opened and moisture introduced, it begins to deteriorate.

Glycerin is a sugar alcohol which can act as a preservative, but must be used at greater than 50% to be effective. Ethyl alcohol is another option, but again it must be used at a rate that would be unpleasant in most products, greater than 20%.

Okay, moving on to synthetic preservatives, there are a multitude available. The ideal preservative is a broad spectrum one that protects against gram positive bacteria, gram negative bacteria, mold, and fungus. There are many excellent options to choose from that will protect your product for up to 3 years, including the powerful parabens, which will stop anything in its tracks, but have been the subject of much negative publicity over the past few years.

On the other end of the scale are the natural preservatives, such as fermented radish root, benzoin, and potassium sorbate. Most of the natural preservatives are effective against one or more of the bacteria/mold/fungus trio, but the challenge for cosmetic chemists is to find one that is effective against all three. 

Outlining all of the options for preservatives would turn this post into an encyclopedia, and the subject has been covered in detail by far more experienced people than me, so instead of giving snippets of information, I’m going to point you to the best practical, readable resources I’ve found.

Point of Interest is fantastic blog written by Canada’s own, Susan Barclay-Nicholls. Whether you’re just beginning your journey into handcrafted lotion, shampoo etc., or you have years of work under your belt, pour yourself a cup of coffee and get comfortable. Susan’s blog is full of valuable information on not just preservatives, but absolutely everything from raw ingredients to processes and preservatives and more.

The most comprehensive and approachable study of preservatives that I’ve found is Reviews of 27 Preservatives found on the Making Skincare website. This study also isolates Ecocert approved preservatives. 

Both of these sources are also very responsive to questions…

Although you will encounter very strong opinions on preservatives, the final decision is yours and you need to make the one that feels right to you, for yourself and your customers, whether they are paying ones or family and friends. 



Win a Voyageur Gift Certificate!

voyageursmVoyageur Soap & Candle Co has generously offered a $100 gift certificate to one lucky winner, to be picked once the HBBG has reached 100 active members!

Not a member? Join now and not only get a chance at winning, but save on your membership as we are still offering a free 30 day free trial, and a discount on your first year. Come check us out and see what we have to offer: Vendor Discounts, a Professional Business Directory so customers can find you, and lots more to come.

Winner will be picked at random from active members on or after May 15. Must be an active member to win. Every Casual Crafter member receives one entry, every Professional Business member receives two entries.

Located in beautiful British Columbia, Voyageur Soap & Candle Co.  is a one-stop shop for all of your soap and lotionmaking raw materials, accessories and packaging.


Soap Calculators

10_03_000659aThe Handcrafted Bath & Body Guild welcomes both Professional Business Members and Casual Crafters, so our posts are going to cover a range of topics. We will cover some basic tips, techniques, and concepts, as well as some more challenging ideas. We will also be bringing you news from the cosmetic world, Health Canada, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and much more. If there is something you would like us to talk about, email us and we will be happy to oblige.

To start us off, we’re going to venture into the world of soap making, and take a look at lye calculators. It doesn’t matter how you find your way to the wonderful world of soap making, eventually you are going to find yourself staring at a lye calculator, saying “huh?”

So what exactly does a lye calculator do? 

In order to make a beautiful bar of handmade soap that does not leave your skin feeling like you’ve gone a couple of rounds with an electric sander, you need to make sure that you have no excess lye left in your soap when the saponification process has finished. If you’re shaking your head, and wishing for a quick lesson on saponification, zip over here for a crash course.

Okay, so the reason that lye calculators are so important, is that they will do all the math required to tell you exactly how much sodium hydroxide (lye) you will need to change all of your lovely oils into soap, without leaving any free lye left to irritate the skin. These days the Internet is full of sites offering up hundreds of recipes for hot or cold processed soap. Unfortunately, not all of them are well written. Before you try any recipe that you haven’t created  yourself using a soap calculator, take a minute to run it through one of these:

Soapcalc found at www.soapcalc.net/calc/soapcalcwp.asp

In addition to the calculator, this site offers information on what different qualities our oils can give to a bar of soap, along with a sortable list of oils to help you find ones that contain those elements, a list of basic equipment needed, and FAQs for beginners. It also has a built in fragrance calculator.

Brambleberry Lye Calculator found at www.brambleberry.com/Pages/Lye-Calculator.aspx

Brambleberry has separate Lye and Fragrance Calculators, which is handy for people who are making something other than soap. Although this is a more stripped down Lye Calculator, it is fully functional, and connected to a wealth of information on soapmaking from The Soap Queen which is Brambleberry’s  ‘teaching’ arm, and a must visit for any beginning soaper.

If you’re all about your tablet or phone, there are a couple of Apps available that I have not tried personally, but I’m told they work well. They are Soap and Saponify, both of which are available for iOS or Android from your App store.

So that’s a quick summary….if you have another calculator that you swear by, leave me a comment and I’ll check it out.


Welcome yellowbee!

imageThe Handcrafted Bath & Body Guild is very happy to welcome yellowbee as a Vendor Member! Guild Members get a 5% discount on purchases. Not a member yet? Subscribe now.

yellowbee is a young and energetic company, based in Calgary. They are putting together a choice lineup of packaging solutions, many of which have not been available in Canada until now.



Check out their EcoFriendly clamshells, available in April









Black or White Plastic Tubs in 3 sizes. 





Or maybe a Soap Stamp?                                      image

Visit their website at http://www.yellowbee.ca 

Welcome Baraka!

logoThe Handcrafted Bath & Body Guild is very happy to welcome Baraka Supplies as a Vendor Member.

Baraka Supplies imports Shea Butter directly from Ghana. It is Certified Organic and Fair Trade, and every purchase directly benefits women, children and families in northern Ghana. Visit their website at http://www.barakasupplies.com for more information.

Handcrafted Bath & Body Guild Members receive a 10% discount off every order from Baraka Supplies. Visit our website to become a Member today, and check out our other Member Benefits while you’re there, like a free listing in our Business Directory!

Who We Are




– a medieval association of craftsmen or merchants, often having considerable power.
– an association of people for mutual aid or the pursuit of a common goal.

As we launch our new Guild, we face the challenge of defining who we are, and what is our purpose or vision. So this first blog post will attempt to outline some of our thoughts on this subject.

Who We Are

Support & Education

The handcrafted soap and toiletries industry has exploded over the past few years, and shows no sign of slowing down. Most of us started making our own products because we were looking for more natural alternatives to commercial products, either because of a desire to make healthier choices, or because of troublesome skin conditions or allergies. When this “natural is better” movement began, we were all stumbling around in the dark, because sources of accurate information were hard to come by. With the advent of the Internet, information has exploded, but ironically, accuracy is even harder to come by.

As soon as companies realized that a whole new audience was available to them, at a fraction of the cost of traditional print and television advertising, the avalanche of misinformation began. The approach? Tell them whatever is required to make them open their wallets. Unfortunately this misinformation gets spread so widely across the Internet, from blog to blog, that finding accurate information in Google search results is next to impossible. Examples? Try doing a search for natural sunscreens and insect repellents, or essential oils, and see what you find.

Another contributor to the wealth of misinformation on the Internet is the DIY movement. We all started as DIYers, and we are very supportive of anyone who wants to jump in and try it for themselves. Unfortunately many of the DIY recipes on the Internet are disasters waiting to happen. No, grating up a bar of soap and mixing it with water or aloe or hydrosols does not make liquid soap….it makes a runny, slimy impersonation of liquid soap. Melting grated lipstick with Vaseline is not going to give you the quality handcrafted lip gloss or balm that you’re looking for. Grapefruit seed extract is not a natural preservative. The misinformation is endless, and everyday it gets spread further and further.

So, one of the aims of our Guild is to encourage our members to share accurate information about the amazing ingredients and techniques that we use everyday, so that experienced crafters can continue to grow, and newcomers can benefit from the experience of those who have learned the hard way.

Our longer range plans include member conferences and core technique courses/certificates, which will be added on as our membership grows.

So how do we share this information? For our Members, we have a password protected site that will soon contain a variety of proprietary tools and resources, such as a searchable INCI Database in English and French, an interactive map of all suppliers in North America, with direct links to their websites, Fragrance Calculator worksheet to help you figure out exactly how much fragrance to add to your product, and…and….well you get the picture. Something you’d like to see added? Let us know.

Professional Members will be featured in our Business Directory, allowing customers to locate you by Province or City.

We also have a Members Only Forum, where you can start or join discussions on any subject pertaining to the handcrafted bath & body experience. We’ll get you started by setting up some Boards, but feel free to suggest any new ones that you’d like to see.

Wait, what about Discounts?

Who doesn’t love a good discount? Even if you join the Guild just for the vendor discounts, you’ll cover the cost of your membership in the amount you save buying supplies from our Vendor Members over the course of the year. However, when you see the list of our Vendor Members, you aren’t just seeing potential discounts, you’re seeing Vendors that are used by our Members on a daily basis. We have made a commitment to continually search for solutions to our Members problems, so if you’re having trouble sourcing an ingredient or packaging solution, ask the Membership or ask us….we’ll get on it! Have a favourite vendor that isn’t currently a Member? Send them an email and ask them to join, or send us an email suggesting that we add them, or both.

We are only a week old, so our Vendor Member list is short, but we are actively communicating with many Vendors, some old faces and some you may not be familiar with, so check back often for additions.

Who We Aren’t….

We aren’t the Bath & Body police 🙂

The Guild is here to help and support you;  to brainstorm and share ideas with people facing the same challenges as you are. Hopefully you’ll find solutions here, but we will never tell you how to run your business, or what you should think and feel about any issue.

We aren’t all “natural”…..for a couple of reasons:

a) in Canada, there is no legal definition of “natural” as it pertains to cosmetics, and

b) not everyone has the same goal in mind when they handcraft bath & body products. Some want to eliminate all synthetically produced ingredients from their products, while others are okay with adding safe synthetics, they just want to be able to make an amazing product that they can afford.

So, that’s us in a nutshell. Sorry this was a little bit long, we promise to keep them shorter in the future. If you’re interested in becoming a member, drop into our website and take advantage of our 30 day free trial membership. If you’re not quite ready to join us, come visit us in our Facebook group, Soapz and Stuffs, for lively, informative discussions on all things handcrafted bath & body…we’d love to see you there!