Lovin' Soap Project & Soap Collaborative Magazine

A few years ago I stumbled across a fantastic soapmaking tutorial that was presented in a high quality format, with lots of photos to explain each step.  It showed how to make a flower pattern on soap – and the instructions looked so easy, I wasn’t afraid to give it a try.  The quality of writing and photography was just head and shoulders above anything else I’d ever seen before to teach about soapmaking.  The name of the writer of this tutorial kept popping up, here and there, as she started churning out more and more innovative techniques and well-written tutorials.  Soon, a publication of hers emerged, something I had never heard of before: an “eZine” or electronic magazine.

About a year later, I signed up for a seminar for soapmakers and was thrilled to learn that the author of these spectacular tutorials would be speaking at the seminar: the eZine queen, Amanda Gail.  At that seminar she did a demo of her now-legendary Peacock Swirl, and along with all the other seminar attendants, I was in awe of the technique and the person who created it.

By now I was an avid follower of Amanda’s blog and eZines.  I read about her first trip to Haiti, where she traveled to teach soapmaking to a group of women in Port-au-Prince. These women and their families were still living in tents after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti and left over a million Haitians homeless.  Out of this trip, Lovin’ Soap Project was birthed.  More trips to Haiti would follow, as more instruction would be needed to teach the women how to turn their new soapmaking skills into profitable businesses that would provide food and shelter for their families.

Lovin’ Soap Project was incorporated and filed for non-profit status in 2013 – and also gained a new team member, Benjamin Aaron, who joined Amanda in her soap-teaching adventures to remote places.  As a successful soapmaker and entrepreneur, Benjamin’s focus is teaching the business side to their students.

Amanda and Benjamin with their students in Uganda, holding certificates from completing classes from Lovin' Soap Project.

Amanda and Benjamin with their students in Uganda, holding certificates from completing classes from Lovin' Soap Project.

In 2014, non-profit status was approved, and the Soap Collaborative was born – a new version of the earlier eZines, with a variety of writers, offering all sorts of information in the form of articles about entrepreneurship, practical business advice, industry news, social media, and more tutorials.  The “how-to’s” were not just for soap, but a wide variety of products, including candles, scrubs, lotions, lip balms, and so forth.  But the most exciting part of the Soap Collaborative is that the revenue generated from it would go towards providing supplies and funds for more trips.  More trips meant that Amanda and Benjamin could go to teach women in other places around the globe, having now traveled to Uganda, Senegal, Tibet, and India, to empowering women through the economic opportunity of a soapmaking micro-business.

When Amanda asked for volunteers to write for the Soap Collaborative, I jumped on the opportunity to help.  Soon I was writing articles and tutorials on a monthly basis, and I was having a lot of fun with it.  Writing was an early passion of mine, starting with a journalism class in high school, where I learned so much about publishing.  The journalism staff didn’t just write articles, but we learned how to proofread using the proper proofreading symbols, did the page layout and paste-up (this was before the digital era), and sent each issue to our own print shop. 

I must confess that I still have a proofreader’s eye and can spot typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors even when I’m not trying.  This led to my offer to Amanda to proofread the Soap Collaborative for her, which she was more than eager to accept.  And then around the end of 2015, I got an email from Amanda.  With all her new and ongoing responsibilities, she was looking for someone to take over the job of editor of the Soap Collaborative, and would I be interested?  After several emails and conversations, I accepted, and started with the issue that was published in March, 2016.

Being the editor of the Soap Collaborative has been a joyous task – it’s work that brings a tremendous amount of satisfaction.  Each issue has an update on what the Lovin’ Soap Project has been doing, and it’s always my favorite article.  Seeing the photos of the classes and the local environment makes it all very real and tangible; reading about the successes (and struggles) tells me that our work is important.  Each writer, each article, each subscription all come together to stretch our hands across oceans and continents, teaching the art of soapmaking and micro-business ownership, to those who need it most.

Want to learn more about Lovin’ Soap Project?  Do you want to become a subscriber or learn more about the Soap Collaborative magazine?  Check it out here.  We'd love for you to join us!

Make It Miniseries: Coffee Sugar Scrub

If you’ve never used sugar scrub before, your skin is in for a real treat!  I think it should really be called Skin Polish, because that’s what it does: it exfoliates dead skin cells and leaves your skin silky smooth and soft with emollient oils.  And if you use it instead of shaving cream or soap, you’ll find that it also gives your razor a perfect glide, which helps prevent razor burn and gives a nice close shave.

Unlike salt scrubs, sugar scrub won’t sting the skin if you have any tiny cuts or abrasions – or if you happen to nick yourself while shaving.  Also, plain granulated sugar naturally contains glycolic acid, which is also a mild exfoliant.  It’s quick and simple to make, and you probably have most of the ingredients in your kitchen right now – if you made some coffee oil (I posted a tutorial on August 1) you only need to add sugar to it for a fantastic scrub.

Start with about ½ to 1 cup of oil, then stir in an equal amount of sugar.  You can use white granulated sugar, coarse demerara sugar, brown sugar, or a combination of any of these.  I found that demerara sugar was too abrasive; a smaller grain provided plenty of scrubbing action for my fairly sensitive skin.  My favorite blend is about half white sugar and half brown sugar.  The warm molasses scent of the brown sugar blends nicely with the coffee scented oil.

Add more sugar if you prefer a less oily scrub.  Store your sugar scrub in a jar with a lid, making sure that no water is introduced inside it.  Water in the sugar scrub will provide an environment for bacteria and mold to grow, so use a clean, dry spoon or scoop to take out a portion of it to use.  Apply to damp skin and massage in, until all or most of the sugar has dissolved; rinse thoroughly.  Be careful getting out of the tub or shower because the oils on your skin and tub can be slippery!

And seriously, please try this when you shave your legs: one of my daughters swears by it.  She used to get razor burn almost every time she shaved, no matter how often she changed blades – nothing really helped until she started shaving with sugar scrub.

Make It Miniseries: Coffee Body Butter

Picking up where we left off at yesterday’s blog post, which is how to make your own coffee oil, today’s post is about how to use that coffee oil to make body butter.  Years ago, the recipes I found to make whipped body butter were tedious and had many steps.  Since then, I’ve learned that making body butter doesn’t have to be such a drawn-out affair of melting, freezing, and whipping, over and over again.  Instead, I’m going to show you a much easier way.

The amounts used for this technique are flexible, so if you’re the sort of person who dreads to get out the scales, this will be a lot of fun for you.  There are only two ingredients: coffee oil and a soft butter such as shea butter or mango seed butter.  You can use cocoa butter with a slight modification to the recipe and you’ll need an electric mixer – a hand mixer works just fine.

Start with a small amount of shea or mango butter, about three to six ounces.  Make sure you use a bowl that’s big enough to accommodate the increased volume, as the butter will have air incorporated into it, making it expand.

Coffee Body Butter Recipe

Ingredients:

3 to 6 oz. shea or mango butter (may substitute part or all for cocoa butter)

1 to 2 oz. coffee butter

Instructions:

Step 1 – Sanitize your bowl, mixing spoon, and mixer beaters by washing them in the hottest setting of your dishwater, or let them sit for at least 10 minutes in a 20% bleach and water solution; place everything on a clean paper towel and allow to air dry.

Step 2 – If your room is fairly cool or cold, or if you’re using cocoa butter, you will probably need to soften the butter a bit by heating in the microwave at 20% or 30% power.  You don’t want it to melt, just soften up a little.

Step 3 – Drizzle a little coffee oil on the solid butter, and begin whipping the solid butter with the mixer; it should only take 2 - 3 minutes to begin to lose its chunky shape and get smoother.

 

Step 4 – Keep adding a little bit of coffee oil at a time and whipping it for about 30 to 60 seconds, until it gets light and fluffy.  Scoop into clean and dry containers.

 

Try not to beat the body butter too much – if it gets more than double its size it’s likely to collapse or deflate and it won’t look very attractive.  Store your Coffee Body Butter in a cool place to keep it from melting. 

Tomorrow’s blog post will be Coffee Sugar Scrub – which happens to be one of the best things you can use for shaving your legs, I promise.

Make It Miniseries: Coffee Oil

The rich, warm, intoxicating aroma of coffee – before the first sip, your nose has already told you how delicious it will be.  Coffee scented bath and body products?  Yes, please!  Since I strongly prefer to use natural scent, I choose to use only essential oils, resins, absolutes, and aromatic waxes in the products that I make.  Some of them can be pretty costly; coffee essential oil and coffee butter can be pricey.  But if you have some patience, coffee oil is really easy to make.  It can be used as the oil portion of sugar scrubs, or even the Sugar Scrub Cubes I posted about a couple of days ago.  You can also use it to make a luxurious whipped body butter – and if you use unrefined cocoa butter, your whipped butter will be mocha scented.  Coffee and chocolate: now there’s a match made in heaven!

I used a French coffee press to make my coffee oil, but you can also use a regular Mason type jar or a crock pot with good results.  A strongly scented coffee oil can be made by infusing roasted and ground coffee in olive oil, sunflower oil, or grapeseed oil.  I usually make infusions with olive oil because it has a long shelf life and it’s a relatively lightweight oil.  The quality of coffee beans is very important: buy the best quality you can find, and if you don’t have a coffee mill, get them coarsely grinded and start the infusion within 24 hours – the sooner the better.  Using a ratio of one part coffee grounds to four parts oil, I’ve infused as little as 16 ounces of olive oil in a French press coffee maker, which yields about 13-14 ounces of coffee oil.  Of course, you can make larger batches in a crock pot, but this is a great way to start out and yields enough coffee oil to make smallish trial batches of scrubs, butters, and balms. 

Here are the steps for making coffee oil:

  1. Sanitize the French press (or Mason jar or crock pot) and all utensils (a large spoon, 2 glass jars to pour the oil back and forth when straining, and another jar for storing the finished oil, and jar lids) using a solution of 20% bleach; set aside on clean paper towels to dry.  Make sure everything is completely dry before you begin – water mixed with oil can allow mold to grow, even a very small amount of water can cause mold/microbial growth.

  2. Weigh 4 oz. fresh coffee grounds, place in the bottom of the French press.

  3. Weigh 12 oz. olive oil and warm slightly in the microwave with a low heat; pour over the coffee grounds and stir with a spoon until there are no more clumps.

4.  Carefully place the top of the French press over the top, with the plunger piece pulled all the way up.

5.  Set aside for 2-3 weeks, stirring once a day, for a cold infusion.  For a hot infusion, place French press with coffee and oil on a heating pad wrapped in hand towels; leave on heating pad for 6-8 hours. Some heating pads have an auto shutoff function like mine does.  Intermittent heat will still work, just check it every now and then and turn it back on if it shuts itself off. If using a crock pot, heat on “warm” setting for 6 hours, then turn it off and let it sit until it’s cooled.

6.  Strain: press the plunger on the French press to separate the oil from the coffee grounds, or strain with several layers of cheesecloth into a sanitized jar.  (Mason jars are great for this.)

7.  Using clean disposable gloves, carefully transfer the coffee grounds into a metal strainer (sieve) or several coffee filters; gently press or squeeze the coffee grounds above the container of the oil to extract the last bits of oil.  This is the most concentrated part of the infusion, so don’t throw out the coffee grounds until you get as much oil out as possible.

8.  Strain the oil, using a double layer of clean cheesecloth.

At this point you will have a very nice quality coffee oil that can be used at 20-40% of the total oils in sugar/salt scrubs, whipped body butters, and lip balms.    Tomorrow, let’s talk about how to make some whipped body butter and coffee sugar scrub. Mmmm….

At this point you will have a very nice quality coffee oil that can be used at 20-40% of the total oils in sugar/salt scrubs, whipped body butters, and lip balms.

Tomorrow, let’s talk about how to make some whipped body butter and coffee sugar scrub. Mmmm….