June 25, 2013 by thesoapalchemist
The lines are quickly blurring between truly “handmade” soap and “handformed” soap. It used to be that there were “Melt and Pour” soapers; those who used premade bases, melted them down, added color and scent and made cool designs, and “Cold Process” soapers; those who started from scratch, either creating their own recipes or using already tested ones, creating the traditional soap bars known as “lye soap” or “old fashioned soap.” ALL soap is made with lye, by the way, even the premade stuff. Read here for more on that.
However, the two soaps couldn’t be more different.
On the one hand, you have a beautiful Melt & Pour soap. It’s an artistically beautiful bar that took a lot of skill to create. Yet, the lather is disappointing, and you’re left with an odd stickiness when you rinse your hands. Better not to use this as an all over body soap! I view Melt & Pour as more of an artistic creation than a fabulous utilitarian creation. I’d personally rather use Dove than Melt & Pour.
On the other hand, you have a beautiful bar of Cold Process Soap. It’s opaque, and firm. A dangerous chemical was required for its creation– lye!– and many people would rather skip soap making than have to handle it. However, Cold Process makes a wonderful bar of soap, naturally rich in glycerin. And the lather? Awesome beyond awesome. The afterfeel? Clean. Cold Process bars can be beautiful, but if formulated properly, they’re always great soap.
Recently, though, there’s another player on the field. Soap suppliers have found a new market by creating mass quantities of unscented, cold process soap, shredding it, and selling it as “Rebatch.” People who don’t want to mess with lye love this stuff! The soap is already made. The lye is gone. All they need to do is heat it, add scent and color and squish it into molds. The resulting bars are “crumbly” looking, “rustic,” “primitive,” (and because of that cobble-y-ness, they absorb water faster and don’t last as long as traditional Cold Process Soaps).
My real problem with Rebatch is that it’s still just mass produced soap. Rebatchers are excited by it because they can market it as “Cold Process Soap!” And– they especially love that because of that, it doesn’t have all the funky ingredients that traditional Melt & Pour has. In fact, the ingredient lists of a cold-process soap vs. a rebatch soap look virtually identical. It’s getting difficult to tell which soaps are premade, rabatched or made from scratch. The difference lies in the longevity of the product, the aesthetics of the product, the artisanal skill needed to make it, and the cost of the raw materials (a block of rebatch is less than the raw materials for cold process due to mass production, yet rebatchers charge comparable prices!).
But are rebatchers really soap “makers?” The soap is already made! I would offer that they are, instead, soap “formers.” Craft festivals that jury their vendors generally only accept handmade crafts and specifically exclude items made from “kits.” What’s the difference between rebatched premade soap, and a kit? Rebatch is simply mass produced soap. Utilitarian blandness.
So, how can you determine what sort of soap you’re looking at? Is it premade, rebatch or Made from Scratch Cold Process soap? Take a peek at this flow chart. To view the “Ingredients that are a good tip off that the soap was from a premade base,” take a peek here.
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