Monday, April 1, 2013

In Search of the Perfect Soap

This post has been several months in the making. I have been trying different soaps, from different makers, over the past year or so, in search of my favorite. Since Andrea plans to try her hand at soap making in the near future, I hope to be able to combine elements of my favorite soaps into one recipe that is perfect for me.

Initially my plan was to wait until I had tried the last of these soaps to do this post. When that time came, however, I realized that the Kentucky Green Living Fair was drawing near, and I hoped that 2 Acres Shy would be on hand, as I wanted to try another of their soaps. Unfortunately, however, they weren't there, so I've decided to go ahead and do the post based on the soaps I have tried up to this point.

The soap that started my search was a bar of Tennessee Mountain Honey Soap from Strange Hollow Farm of Del Rio, TN. I picked this soap up at Carver's Orchard in Cosby, TN during one of our trips to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This soap was the first I had ever tried that contained honey, and I found that I really liked it. It had a nice texture, and I liked the way it foamed up. Unfortunately I only bought one bar, so had to resort to "normal" soap once I finished it.

Next I decided to see if the Good Foods Market sold any honey based soaps. I found that they did carry an Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap which was produced by Bluegrass Country Soap. I didn't like this soap quite as well as the soap from Strange Hollow Farm, but I did like the addition of the oatmeal, so began looking for other soaps with this combination.

My next soap find came at the Lexington Farmers Market where I picked up a bar of Abigail Keam's Oatmeal Body Scrub. This bar of soap was my favorite, by far. It contained whole pieces of oatmeal, rather than ground oatmeal, which made it great for exfoliation. By this point I was sold on the combination of honey and oatmeal.

By the time I finished the Oatmeal Body Scrub, my parents had taken a trip to the Smoky's and brought me a few bars of Tennessee Mountain Honey Soap as a birthday gift. With no new soaps to try, I next used one of these, and was surprisingly disappointed. It wasn't that the soap was inferior to the first bar I used, but after using soaps that incorporated oatmeal into the bar I realized that, for my purposes, the combination was a big improvement over honey alone.

When we next visited the Good Foods Market I decided to try another oatmeal based soap. While I prefer buying local products, I did decide to try the Hugo Naturals Shea Butter & Oatmeal soap. I liked the soap well enough, and can see that Shea butter might be a good alternative or addition to honey. The Shea butter seemed to soften the oatmeal, however, which lessened the exfoliation effect.

The last soap I tried was the Skin Magic bar from 2 Acres Shy, of Crab Orchard, KY. I had contacted them to ask for suggestions, and they recommended the Skin Magic bar as it is an exfoliation bar made with oatmeal. At first I liked the exfoliation of this soap, even though the pieces of oatmeal were much smaller than in some of the other soaps I had tried. I believe, however, that the exfoliation had more to do with the crinkle or wave cut of the soap, than the oatmeal, as the effect was lessened as the bar became worn.

I am currently back to using my Tennessee Mountain Honey Soap, as I still have a couple of bars left that my parents bought for me. Even though it lacks the exfoliation ability of the soaps that contain oatmeal, I like it well enough, certainly more than a "normal" soap.

This weekend at the Kentucky Green Living Fair I did discover a new local soap maker that I want to try. Rock Bottom Stables & Soap Company is based in London and makes their soap from goat milk from their own herd of goats. I hope to drop by their retail location soon and see if they have anything that I think I would like to try.

Based on what I have seen so far, I know that when we make our own soap I want to incorporate both honey and oatmeal. I may also consider experimenting with Shea butter. I love the scent of Cocoa butter, though, so might try using that instead. If I don't use Cocoa butter I'll probably at least try a bit of cocoa powder for both the scent and coloring.

I'm looking forward to trying some homemade soap, but until then I have at least found several good alternatives. Once the Lexington Farmers Market opens I'll probably try to buy some more of the Oatmeal Body Scrub from Abigail Keam. Until then I can always pick something up at Good Foods to get me through.

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