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Handmade Artisan Soap Buying Guide 2023. Spot the Fakers, Meet the Makers.

Understanding the Difference Between Body Wash and Handmade Soap Bars

When it comes to personal hygiene, choosing the right product for your skin is essential. Two popular options are body wash and handmade soap bars. While both serve the purpose of cleansing, there are distinct differences between the two.

Body wash is a liquid cleanser that typically comes in a bottle or container. It is formulated with various ingredients such as surfactants, moisturizers, and synthetic fragrances. Body wash offers convenience and ease of use as it can be easily dispensed onto a loofah or sponge for application.

On the other hand, handmade soap bars are crafted in small batches by artisans using mostly natural ingredients. These soap bars are often made with nourishing oils, butters, and botanical extracts to cleanse and moisturize the skin. Handmade soap bars lend a more traditional and rustic experience in the shower or bath.

One key difference between body wash and handmade soap bars lies in their formulation. Body washes tend to contain synthetic additives that can create lather and provide specific scents. In contrast, handmade soap bars prioritize natural ingredients without compromising on cleansing properties.

Moreover, handmade soap bars are often free from harsh chemicals such as sulfates and parabens that can potentially irritate sensitive skin. The artisan nature of these soaps allows for customization with various beneficial additives like essential oils or exfoliating agents like lavender buds, sand, oatmeal or coffee grounds.

Ultimately, choosing between body wash and handmade soap bar depends on personal preference and individual skincare needs. If you value convenience and a wide range of fragrance options, body wash may be your go-to choice. However, if you prioritize natural ingredients and a unique bathing experience with added skincare benefits, then opting for a handmade small batch artisan soap bar could be more suitable for you.

The 6 Advantages of Handmade Soap Bars over Body Wash

Bar soap is exploding in popularity in 2023 for many reasons. We have been making soap throughout our tenure of owning a lavender farm (since 2019,) in addition, I was making them for personal use and gifts prior to that since 2015. I have personally watched the conversion from body wash to soap bars dramatically increase.

The general public is beginning to reject commercial soap bars (detergent) and body washes (detergent water) for natural alternatives.

Eco-Friendly Sustainable Soap Packaging

In today’s environmentally conscious world, the need for eco-friendly packaging solutions has become more important than ever. One area where significant progress is being made is in the packaging of soap bars. With the growing concern over plastic waste, many consumers are actively seeking alternatives to traditional body wash plastic bottles.

One promising solution is the use of cloth or paper wrapping for soap bars. This approach eliminates the need for plastic bottles altogether, reducing waste and minimizing environmental impact. By opting for materials that are biodegradable and easily recyclable, small batch soap makers can contribute to a zero-waste future.

Not only does eco-friendly packaging benefit the environment, but it also resonates with consumers who are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on sustainability values. By offering soap bars wrapped in cloth or paper, artisan soap makers can align themselves with these consumer preferences .

Furthermore, this shift towards sustainable packaging can also be seen as an opportunity for innovation and creativity. Small soap makers can experiment with different types of cloth or paper wraps, incorporating unique designs or even partnering with local artisans to create visually appealing and eco-friendly packaging options.

Transitioning from body wash plastic bottles for small batch soap bars packaged in cloth or paper wrapping is a step towards a greener future. By embracing zero-waste practices and offering environmentally friendly alternatives, brands can not only reduce their ecological footprint but also appeal to conscious consumers who prioritize sustainability in their purchasing decisions.

Vegan Non-Detergent Soap Options

When it comes to choosing artisan handcrafted soap, more and more people are opting for vegan options. Vegan soaps are not only cruelty-free but also environmentally friendly. They are made from vegetable oil-based ingredients, ensuring that no animal by-products such as tallow, lard, milk, honey, or beeswax are used in their production.

By choosing vegan soaps, you can enjoy the benefits of a clean and refreshing bathing experience without compromising your values. These soaps are crafted with plant-based ingredients that still produce big bubbly lather and leave your skin feeling soft.

With their wide range of scents and formulations available on the handmade soap market today, there is a vegan soap option suitable for everyone’s preferences.

Make the switch to vegan soaps and embrace a compassionate lifestyle while enjoying high-quality skincare products that align with your values. Experience the difference of plant-based ingredients and indulge in a guilt-free cleansing ritual that is both kind to animals and beneficial for your skin.

Stop Overpaying for “Detergent Water” in Your Shower

Did you know that a significant amount of the body wash we use on a daily basis is actually water? It may surprise you to learn that approximately 75-90% of body wash consists of water. This high water content serves as the base for various ingredients and helps create the desired liquid consistency to pump out of a bottle.

On the other hand, when it comes to soap bars, the water content is significantly lower. Typically, soap bars contain around 25-38% water at creation. However, it’s important to note that during the curing process of soap bars, a majority of this water evaporates. This evaporation contributes to the hardening and solidification of the soap bar.

Economic Value Over Convenience

The fact that body wash contains so much water means that soap bars are a better economic value vs body wash. If you want to save some money, you have to work a little harder to make rich, creamy bubbles out of a bar of soap over the convenience of a couple of pumps out of your body wash container.

Natural Ingredients, No Harsh Chemicals

One of the key advantages of using handmade soaps is that they are preservative-free. Commercial soaps often contain preservatives to extend their shelf life, but these additives can be harsh and irritating to the skin. Handmade soaps rely on natural ingredients and the saponification process to maintain their freshness and do not require any artificial preservatives.

By avoiding detergents commonly found in commercial soaps, handmade options ensure a more gentle experience for the skin. The absence of harsh chemicals allows the soap to gently cleanse without stripping away the skin’s natural oils, leaving it feeling soft.

In a world where consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about what they put on their bodies, handmade soaps offer an enticing solution. By embracing nature’s bounty and steering clear of synthetic additives, these artisan crafted bars provide a luxurious bathing experience while promoting healthier options to come in contact with your body’s largest organ: your skin.

Personally Knowing Your Soap Maker

When it comes to buying soap, most people don’t have the option of personally knowing their soap maker. Instead, they settle for the convenience of picking up a big plastic bottle at the store. However, there is something special about being able to connect with the person behind the soap and supporting a local small business.

Interviewing your soap maker can be an eye-opening experience. You get to learn about their passion for creating natural and sustainable products, as well as their dedication to craftsmanship. By getting to know them on a personal level, you gain insight into their values and commitment to quality.

One fun, money saving aspect that often arises in these conversations is imperfect soap sales. Unlike mass-produced soaps that are discarded for minor imperfections, many local soap makers offer these “imperfect” bars at discounted prices. Not only does this reduce waste, but it also allows customers to enjoy high-quality handmade soap at a more affordable price point.

Supporting local small businesses like your soap maker goes beyond just purchasing their artisan soap. It means investing in your community and contributing to its growth and sustainability. By choosing handcrafted soaps over mass-produced alternatives, you are making a conscious decision that benefits both yourself and those who pour their heart and soul into creating their unique offerings.

So next time you reach for that generic plastic bottle of soap at the store, consider seeking out to connect with your local soap maker instead. Take the opportunity to interview them, discover imperfect soap sales, and embrace the satisfaction of supporting a small business that truly cares about its craft.

5 Considerations When Meeting Your Maker & Choosing Small Artisan Handmade Soap Bars. Tips for Spotting the “Fakers.”

Finding & Meeting a True Small Batch Soap Maker in Person.

There is nothing more satisfying than meeting, speaking with and getting to know your soap maker. Small batch soap makers are so incredibly easy to find. You can find them at church bazaars, craft fairs, artisan markets, farmers markets or small local shops. There are so many of us that event organizers and market masters usually cap the amount of soap makers per event to avoid flooding their local market with “too much” soap. No matter the type of local event you choose, chances are there will be one or more soap makers.

True and experienced soap makers will be “one” and “bonded” with their artisan soap and will be able to answer all questions you have about their soap or techniques for making their soap.

Consider the fact that a large majority of us are not licensed and qualified skin care professionals. We are not allowed to make “claims” or give skin care advice or our soap just turned into a regulatory nightmare of a “drug.” We can, however, tell you about our soap bar qualities, oils, scents, colors, techniques we use and the magnificent lather, sensory or shower experience you will have with our soap.

If you haven’t noticed in my table of contents, I did not include years of soap making experience in the interview process. An artisan soap maker, with a strong chemistry background, basic understanding of comedogenic oils, fragrance bonding and clay composition may come out of the chute with a high quality bar, with zero experience.

Soap Ingredient Inquisition

Meeting your artisan soap maker is a great time to inquire about the ingredients in their soap and their soap making process.

Lye Water

Some soap makers use just plain distilled water to mix with their lye, other advanced makers will use creative ingredients like hydrosol (floral waters,) coffee, wine or beer.

We use hydrosol and wine to mix with our lye water as they provide natural scents. Wine soap also provides an extremely bubbly and creamy lather.

Oils & Butters

Find out what oils and butters are going into the soap maker’s artisan bars and why they chose those oils and butters for their creations.


Some soap makers may use synthetic fragrances to scent their soaps while others will use natural scent infusions such as botanical infused oils or essential oils.

We personally use hydrosols and botanical infused oils to scent our soaps. We do have one soap that we use a phthalate-free synthetic fragrance for, which is our “Oval Beach with Great Lakes Sand” soap.


Some soap makers do not use colorants, some use natural colorants such as mica or clays. Clays typically may provide additional benefits to the soap (do your research by type of clay used) however they will “speed up trace” in the soap making process and make our handmade “soap batter” difficult to pour into molds, so clays are often used in small amounts.

Some of our personal favorite clays to add to our soap are purple brazilian clay and moroccan red clay.


Some small soap artisans love to add dried botanicals such as lavender buds, oatmeal, coffee grounds or sand for skin exfoliation. Even though we have the ability to add lavender buds and other farm grown botanicals to our soap, we prefer not to. This is because the lavender buds turn brown during the process and we feel this is an aesthetic issue, it just looks gross, like bugs in soap.

Ask me how I know: dried botanical additives may also cause other problems such as early soap rancidity, accelerate mold or oil/butter “bloom” in soaps over time. In addition, botanicals washing down your pipes is not good for your plumbing or septic systems.

Examine Packaging

Unfortunately not all soap makers are truthful when it comes to their “handmade” process. Some may buy wholesale soap bars “white label” them and use deceiving words to call their soap “collaborative handmade” and others may buy melt and pour bases (which may contain detergents or synthetics like SLS.) One way to weed out the “artisan soap fakers” is to examine the packaging & look for imperfections.

Wholesale and melt and pour soap sellers will package their “handmade artisan soaps” in plastic. This is because their soaps are extremely high in glycerin and when glycerin meets air, the soap will sweat glycerin, which is a sticky substance. The sweating will soak paper and cloth packaging so it must be packaged in shrink wrap plastic to prevent the sweating sticky mess. True handmade soap makers can package their soap in paper or cloth because their soap has had time to cure on their drying racks and does not sweat like glycerin heavy (all soap contains glycerin, FYI,) wholesale or melt and pour bases.

We personally package our soaps in cloth organza bags. This allows our soaps to “breathe out any remaining water,” to give customers the opportunity to sniff the natural fragrance and makes our soap bars the perfect “instant” gift.

Look for Imperfections in the Soap

Even the best small batch soap makers will have small imperfections in their work. Look for soda ash (white spots or film,) , glycerin “rivers,” stearic/palmitic spots (colored flecks,) uneven coloring or bubbles caused by their high speed immersion blenders that most small batch soap makers use.

The below photo shows a batch of our sage soap plagued with the white film called “soda ash.” This is an extreme example of soda ash, which is purely aesthetic and safe to use.

Ask for Soap Qualities

Every good artisan soap maker will run their soap recipe through a soap calculator via percentage of the oils they use. The soap calculator then gives output on how much lye, water and oils are needed to create the recipe, by weight.

The soap calculator also provides the bar quality measured in hardness, cleansing, bubbly, creamy, conditioning and other quality factors. Many times we have to change the percentages of oils to make sure our recipes fall into the acceptable quality ranges. Then we must physically test our recipe to verify that the soap possesses those qualities. Sometimes those qualities do not meet our expectations. Unfortunately, we must go back to the soap calculator to tweak new percentages and test the recipe AGAIN (and over and over) until it achieves the perfection that we desire and expect for a market-ready soap bar.

This is something that a wholesale or melt and pour soap seller cannot provide. They may know what ingredients go in their soap, they do not know the percentage of those ingredients to provide soap bar quality.

The photo below shows the quality of our farm recipe base, per the soap calculator, for all of our soaps:

5 Disadvantages of Using Handmade Artisan Bar Soap

You Have to “Work” For Your Lather

Unlike a couple of pumps of your body wash in the palm of your hand, you have to work a little harder for your lather by flipping the soap between your hands to create your lather.

Soap Scum

When a true handmade soap hits hard water, it naturally creates soap scum. Keeping a spray bottle of vinegar in your shower and spraying your shower after use will help eliminate soap scum from settling into your shower surfaces.

Dry Skin

Coconut oil is irresistible for a soap maker to use in copious amounts. It naturally produces a very hard bar (which assists the soap maker in unmolding loaves & bars) AND it produces large, fluffy bubbles which is what soap bar customers expect & LOVE! Improper recipes containing high amounts of coconut oil may be extremely drying for all skin types. You will definitely want to ask your soap maker if more than 30% coconut oil is used in their recipe if you want to avoid dry skin.

Also an inability for a soap maker to understand soap calculators and basic chemistry will produce bars that may dry out skin. That is why it is important to ask about a soap maker’s bar quality.

Another theory on bar soap and dry skin could be the lye connection. Lye is “sodium hydroxide” and sodium may dry your skin. When sodium hydroxide is saponified with oils, the oils bond with the sodium, as evidenced in their INCI names. High lye concentrations in recipes may produce a drying bar as well.

You Have to Try Many Before Committing to a Soap Maker’s Work

True artisan handcrafted soap is not cheap. You have to try many before you find a soap that you say “WOW, I am going to commit to” or “stalk” this soap maker and be a regular customer!

Artisan soap makers will sell their soap ends or imperfect soaps at deep discounts. This is a GREAT way to find and fall in love with a soap maker’s recipe! I do not do loaf soaps often, so I rarely have the soap ends to sell. I do have a basket of “ugly” soaps that I sell at markets for $3. Not only do new buyers love this to try out my soap, regular customers appreciate the deep discount when they are purchasing for personal use (not gifts!)

Scent May Not Last the Entire Bar

This is an oil bonding/anchoring issue. An experienced artisan soap maker knows how to properly bond their oils and anchor their fragrances so you have scent until the very last sliver. This issue is typically found with inexperienced soap makers or melt and pour soap makers.

Making the Final Decision: Which Should You Choose?

Ultimately if you have skin issues such as acne, dry skin, oily skin, eczema, sensitive skin, ETC, you should speak with your trusted skin care professional to find the best skin care products for your skin type. Consulting with your educated and licensed Dermatologist, Allergist or Aesthetician will be able to give you the best guidance & recommendation of oils, clays and essential oils that should be used (or not used) on your skin.

Sometimes it is a little convoluted because they have commercial products to sell you, however, more and more skin care professionals are open to providing natural skin care options.

Embrace a Cleansing Routine that Suits Your Skin’s Needs with Confidence!

In a world filled with mass-produced products, there is something truly special about handmade soap bars. These small wonders are crafted with love, skill and care, using a delicate balance of oils that pamper the skin.

Unlike their commercial soap bar counterparts, which are often made with synthetic ingredients and are considered detergents, handmade soap bars offer a natural alternative. They are meticulously mixed by skilled artisans who understand the art of soap making.

The beauty of handmade soap lies in its simplicity. Each bar is unique, infused with fragrances and colors that awaken the senses. These bars not only cleanse but also leave you feeling rejuvenated.

When you choose a handmade soap bar, you support local artisans and contribute to sustainable practices. You can feel good knowing that your purchase is not only benefiting your own well-being but also the environment.

So why settle for generic commercial soap bars when you can indulge in the luxury of a handmade creation? Treat yourself to the goodness of nature and experience the difference that skillfully crafted soap can make in your daily routine.

The correct soap for your needs will be more than soap to you. I personally converted from body wash to soap bars when I began my personal soap making quest in 2015. One of our first soap customers said it well: “your soap is not just soap, it’s an experience!”

Lavender Farmer | Aromatherapist | Yoga Instructor at Twin Flame Lavender Farm | Vibe Aroma LLC

Renee started out as an avid real estate blogger in 2006. Opting for a less stressful life, Paul and Renee moved to Michigan in 2018 and started a lavender farm in 2019.

There are very few resources available to aspiring lavender farmers for growing lavender, lavender aromatherapy and lavender culinary infusion.

Renee hopes to change and shake up the world of lavender by sharing her knowledge and experience she has gained by being a lavender farmer and aromatherapist with lavender lovers all over the world.

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