Does Handmade Matter?

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May 29, 2013 by thesoapalchemist

Does handmade matter?

This morning I needed to order more lip balm tubes, and I thought I might be able to find them for less. Googling around, I found a few new suppliers, one of which also manufactures lip balm. They call it “All Natural” in spite of it being colored with FD&C colors which are synthetic, and flavored with artificial flavors. They sell it in bulk quantities at ridiculously low prices; only 19 cents per tube, filled and capped. For comparison, my tubes cost almost 35 cents each, and that doesn’t count the balm inside.

So that got me thinking…  how many “handmade” lip balm sellers out there are really “handmaking” their lip balm? How many “handmade” products are simply bought prepackaged and ready to label from companies like that? How many craft fair and farmer’s market vendors are selling actual handmade-by-them, (and truly “natural,” for that matter) products?

This led to more thinking. A few months ago, I discovered that even “cold process” “lye soap,” (the sort I make from scratch), is now being made in HUGE blocks and shredded up, to be sold to people who want to “make” so-called “real” soap (opaque bars), rather than “making” melt and pour soap (the clear stuff that leaves hands sticky). But when a soap maker uses either of these melt products, are they truly “making soap?” They melt it down and add fragrance. They’ve fragranced someone else’s recipe and call it “making soap.”

Does it matter? Do you care that when you purchase something made from scratch, you’re getting that particular soap maker’s recipe, rather than a mass-produced-block-of-shredded-up-standard-formula soap? I think it matters. I know there’s a difference. But, people who haven’t yet tried my product and are staring at two soap booths at a fair don’t. They haven’t experienced my soap. I can’t even tell you how many times I hear, “oh- just another soap person,” and see them walk on by.

Maybe “handmade” and “from scratch” doesn’t matter. Does anyone really care about those things? Or, are we so price driven that we’ll buy the stuff that isn’t handmade, and isn’t original, but is marketed as though it is, and not even bat an eyelash? Are we so enamored with the word “handmade” that we’ve forgotten what it even means?

I’m disillusioned, to say the least.

There are companies all over the internet selling ready to label soap and lip balm products. Just slap your own label on it (or, they’ll do it for you) and call it yours. Sell it as “handmade” because afterall, someone had to make it. The vast majority of the public probably doesn’t care. Do you?

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4 thoughts on “Does Handmade Matter?

  1. Ken says:

    “You know you, can’t please everyone; so you’ve got to, please yourself…” You make a very special product, keep mixing, keep blogging.

  2. Hi, do you make frankinsense or myrr soaps? I’ve been told they both would help with my fibromylgia. And, will you ever be making anything soap wise for pets?

    • Hi Teresa! Thanks for the question. 🙂 At Christmastime, I have made soaps with frankincense and myrrh. However, the FDA does not allow soap makers (or anyone, for that matter) to claim that their product will help with anything, other than cleaning. Depending on the claim that is made, the FDA could decide that what the person is selling, is really a “drug” and would therefore need to undergo testing to prove the claim. I would also be hesitant to believe that any condition (aside from dryness or dirtiness!) can be helped or cured by using natural soap. Making soap involves not only high heat (about 180 degrees) but also a lye solution which turns the oils into glycerin and soap. Heat “denatures” (changes) the structure of things– for example, when you bake a cake it goes from runny batter to a fluffy, spongy treat. Lye is a caustic (“corrosive”) agent, and is pretty destructive to the healing components of essential oils. If you are interested in using essential oils medicinally, you should use ones that haven’t been subjected to high heat or chemicals like lye. You could contact a holistic medicine specialist for more information. As much as I would love to suggest my soaps to help your condition, it wouldn’t be honest to tell you that they would be effective medicinally. They clean really gently and they leave skin soft, all without the use of chemical surfactants or synthetics. But, that’s about all they do.

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