Thursday, April 29, 2010

Catching Up

The shelves are a little bare.

A gift basket company has been ordering some of my products. But....they only want purple. I do make a lot of soaps with purple. I make 10 pound batches and that makes about 50 bars of soap. I am cutting down on the scents I carry, weeding out the slow sellers and not restocking them when they sell out.

So when they ordered 200 bars of soap I was scrambling to find purple colored ones. I have since made some purple bars just for them. Now I am restocking all the others I ran out of. I have been making 15-20 pounds of soap a day. It has been fun. I love making soap.

But I am taking the weekend off for this. I love it too.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

What Is A Fragrance Oil?

A fragrance oil is an aroma compound (a chemical compound that has a smell or odor) that, unlike the essential oil that comes from a plant, is a synthetic blend. Like the essential oils it must be volatile so it can be smelled through the olfactory system in the upper part of the nose. It also needs to be a high enough concentration to interact with the olfactory receptors.

Chemical synthesis is using chemical reactions to get a product. Using physical and chemical procedures one set of chemical substances is transformed to another. This helps insure the product will be able to be reproduced in other labs and the end product will be reliable. The process begins by selecting compounds know as reagents or reactants. They are "substances or compounds that are added to a system in order to bring about a chemical reaction or are added to see if a reaction occurs". The difference between the two is specifically a reactant is a "substance that is consumed in the course of a chemical reaction". Compounds are mixed in a reaction vessel such as a round-bottom flask. This link shows a list of the most well known reactions and reagents in organic chemistry.

Some examples of Aroma Compounds are Esters, Terpenes, Cyclic Terpenes and Aromatics.
Esters include Methyl Butyrate (fruity, apple and pineapple), Ethyl Acetatea (sweet, solvent, also found naturally in wine), and Isoamyl Acetate (fruity, banana and pear). The Esters do not have many of their scents, except wine, occur in nature.
Terpenes include Myrcene (woody, complex, found in Verbena and bay in nature), Geraniol (a rose, flowery scent found in geraniums and lemon), and Citronellol (lemon scent that is found in lemongrass in nature).
Cyclic Terpenes include Limonene (orange fragrance), Terpineol (lilac), and Thujone (minty).
Aromatics include Benzaldehyde (almond), Vanillin (vanilla), and Thymol (thyme).
There is also the Amines, but with fishy, fecal scents I would not use them for fragrance in soap.
A list of aroma compounds can be found here.

Aroma compounds are found in food, wine, spices, and flavorants to improve their appeal. Scents that are not found in nature can be provided by synthesized odorants. Essential Oils that are very expensive, such as Rose, or are an endangered plant, such as Sandalwood, can be substituted with a Fragrance Oil. While plant scents vary by the locations and times they are harvested, synthetics are more consistent.

I first made soap using Essential Oils only. Until I started learning a bit about scent and fragrance and blending my selection was limited to the oils I could afford to buy. I was introduced to Fragrance Oils on a soap forum and soon became a "scent-a-holic". I soon had 60 different scents lining the shelves and more soap than I knew what to do with. Some of the fragrance oils smell so good in soap I would walk by some curing soap and take a deep whiff!

This is Cucumber Melon Soap. You can buy it here

My first supplier of Fragrance Oils was Cybilla. Ummm, her Cucumber Melon and Dragons Blood went straight to your head. Her line was bought out by Anne-Marie, the owner of Brambleberry Soap Making Supplies. I buy a lot of my Fragrance Oils here. They smell terrific, behave well in soap making, and the prices are in my budget.

This is Sunkissed Currant Soap. You can buy it here

Another supplier I use is Oregon Trail Soap Supplies Suz is the owner with her husband Rick. I had the pleasure of meeting her one year while in Oregon. It was incredible being around the supplies in the LARGE sizes.

The third supplier I use is Southern Garden Scents They used to be Tony's Fragrance oils.

All three of these suppliers are wonderful to work with. They ship quickly, everything is packaged in wrapping to insure nothing breaks or leaks. They all test their Fragrance Oils to give the customer the best information on how it will behave in different types of soap. They all are in the "know" about which fragrances are popular and all add new scents continually. That is where I get into trouble. They all just smell so good, it is hard to decide which scents to use.

Monday, April 19, 2010

First Impressions Can Be Deceiving

I took a little road trip to Arizona in April 2009. Now the road from Gardnerville, Nevada heading south can be a little, should we say, ugly? But if you look hard you can find the beauty in everything. This is from the road on Hwy 395. Not very pretty, is it. Raise the camera a bit and it starts to look a little more promising. Then you look up a little more and you get this view. Quite a difference. Although I love rock formations, not everyone can see the beauty in a pile of rocks. We go from this to this, just by widening the picture. This is a desert plant. Not too pretty. This looks downright dangerous. All those thorns are hiding this. This is how this plant's flower ends. This is how it starts. This is the in between. This little guy is this littler guy's big brother I guess you can see the resemblance. We all judge things by our first impressions. We just have to remember to have an open mind so we can see the beauty in life when it stares us right in the face.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Essential Oils Are Fabulous In Soap

If you are not making unscented soap or using herbs for your scent you really only have two options (well not really just two, but we will talk about those later) to use to scent your soap. You can use Essential Oils or Fragrance Oils. Today we will talk about Essential Oils.

Essential Oil Here are several definitions of essential oils you will find on the world wide web.
•An essential oil is a concentrated, hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants.
•Aromatic liquids extracted from flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, or trees. The oils maintain the odors and tastes, and thus the essence, of the plant they are extracted from.
•Aromatic volatile oils extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, and other parts of plants. Therapeutic use generally includes dilution of the highly concentrated oil.
•Oily or non-oily, volatile aromatic substance constituting the chemical principle of the plant, extracted by distillation or expression.
•An essential oil is the volatile material derived by a physical process (distillation or expression) from odious plant material of a single botanical form and species.

Essential oils do not have anything in common with each other, other than than they lend their plant material to give a scent. There are no common chemical properties, but many of the explanations use the same wording. So lets explain the explanation.

Essential Oils
A distinctive scent, or essence, of a plant makes an oil "essential". So Essential Oils are "the oils of a plant".

Hydrophobic Liquid
The chemical definition of hydrophobicity is the repelling from a mass of water of a molecule. The molecules are non-polar and tend to cluster together. Examples include fats, and greasy substances.

Volatiles are chemical elements and compounds with low boiling points, that change. In this case volatility is the tendency of a substance to vaporize.

This is a chemical compound that has a smell or odor and known as a fragrance or flavor. The compound has an odor when it is volatile so it can be transported to the olfactory system and it needs to be high in concentration so it reacts with the olfactory receptors.

This means an Essential Oil is a liquid that comes from heating plant material and changing or vaporizing the chemical compounds of the plant. This is most commonly done by steam in a distiller. As the heated water, or steam, passes through the plant it vaporizes the compounds and flows through a coil. The vapors then condense back to a liquid where it is collected. It most often is clear and not oily at all. Before the discovery of distillation, plant material was pressed to get the oils. Most citrus essential oils are still cold pressed and because the oil comes from the peel, there is a lot of it, it is easy to grow and harvest, the cost is less. Flowers contain the least amount of volatile compounds so cannot be cold pressed. They are too delicate to be steamed so a solvent is used to extract the oils. It takes a lot of flower blossoms to make a floral essential oil so they are typically the most expensive of oils. One ounce of Rose Essential Oil can cost $700. I use 6-8 ounces of scent in every batch of soap! That would be one expensive bar of soap.

You can purchase Essential Oils many places. My favorite suppliers are the following. They have great quality oils, purchase from fair trade countries, have the best customer service, and have the information you need to make informed decisions.


Essential Wholesale

New Directions Aromatics

Essential Oil University

Many sites aid you in blending techniques. Here are a few of my favorites. You can also purchase oils from these suppliers.

Bo Jensen

Natures Gift

Rainbow Meadow

Sydney Essential Oil Co

And one last fun site!


Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Nose Knows

Even though the nose has been around a long time, little was known about HOW we sense scents, even with a nose as big as Jimmy Durantes. That is until 1991, when Richard Axel of Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Linda Buck at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center took the theory that different odors are attributed to different shapes and sizes of odor molecules that stimulate the olfactory organ and added the cloning of olfactory receptor proteins and pairing of odor molecules to specific receptor proteins. They discovered about 1,000 genes that encode for olfactory receptors inside the human nose. They found that each receptor is tuned for only a small number of odors. Odor receptor nerve cells function like a key-lock system. If the airborne molecules of a certain chemical can fit into the lock, the nerve cell will respond. They went on to become the 2004 Nobel Prize winners. Research is still being done to uncover the secrets of olfactory perception.

How do we smell?

Olfaction, or the sense of smell, is the detection and perception of chemical molecules floating in the air. When you take a breath air is sucked up into your nostrils over bony ridges called turbinates. They add more surface area. The molecules that enter the nose dissolve in mucous cells within a membrane called the olfactory epithelium (a tissue composed of cells that line the cavities and surfaces of structures throughout the body). It is a stamp size sheet of olfactory receptor neurons. In humans this is located up the nose from the nostrils on the roof of the nasal cavity. The cells have small hairs called cilia on one side and an axon on the other side. Humans have about 40 million olfactory receptors while a German Shepherd dog has about 2 billion olfactory receptors. The activity produced in these hair cells is transmitted to the mitral cells in the olfactory bulb, which sits underneath the front of your brain. From there the signals go to the brain areas that are part of the limbic system. When you smell something that reminds you of something it is because the limbic system is involved with emotional behavior and memory.

When your nose is stuffed up or you have a cold the molecules that carry smell cannot reach the olfactory receptors and your sense of smell decreases. Humans can recognize 10,000 different odors. No two people sense anything the same. Several factors, including genes, skin type, and diet are related to how smells smell. Even the weather can alter an odor. When we're hungry, our smell sense grows stronger. Women have better sniffers than men. Our sense of smell is at its worst in the mornings but improves as the day goes on.

And you thought smelling was something simple.

For more technical information go to

For a simpler explanation go to

Saturday, April 3, 2010

All In A Days Work

Since being laid off last October I have been been taking my soap more serious. I am actively looking for work but Nevada is now at 15% unemployment with the county I live in very near that number. Unemployment is fast running out and the Republicans just voted down the government extension. If I can not find a job I would love to be able to make soap full time. I have been visiting shops with samples, posting in the bath and body product forums, and telling everyone I know (and some I don't know) that I am taking the leap into wholesale selling. I have been contacted by several businesses who are interested in my products so I spent today making up samples to send out. I made lotion sticks which are beeswax, cocoa and shea butter, almond, grapeseed, apricot seed, and jojoba oils. They are waterless so there is no need for a preservative. It doesn't get any better than this for adding oils back into your skin. The sticks come in a large 3 oz. deodorant tube so the balm can just glide on and rubbed in. It works great on the heels of your feet, elbows, cuticles and any other body part aching for moisture.

You can buy them here.

My daughter sprained her ankle on Thursday. Iced for a couple of days, warm compresses after that and a little boo boo balm made with Arnica Flowers. I am infusing the oil now and will make a balm this afternoon with a little menthol and lavender essential oil.

Arnica montana is also known as leopard's bane, wolf's bane, mountain tobacco and mountain arnica. It can be grown in herb gardens and has long been used medicinally. Arnica should not be taken internally but when used in a balm it was found to have some anti-inflammatory effects similar to NSAIDs(ibuprofen). It contains the toxin helenalin. Helenalin is a sesquiterpene lactone (a class of chemical found in many plants that can cause allergic reactions and toxicity if overdosed but in moderate amounts the chemical can work with vernolic acid and other compounds in plants to reduce inflammation and improve the cellular structure of smooth muscle of blood vessels). Arnica is used for strains, sprains, and bruises by professional athletes and has been demonstrated to act as an anti-inflammatory and assist normal healing processes by facilitating transport ( by widening the blood vessels) of blood and fluid accumulations through a dilating action of subcutaneous (the layer of tissue that lies immediately below the dermis) of skin blood capillaries. (from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I also have a friend whose dear husband works on my daughter's car. We owe him oatmeal cookies so I made a double batch. Some for him, some for us, and some to freeze. I put these in plastic baggies and all you have to do to make a cookie or two is pop them in the oven.

We don't have too many left!