My Decision to make Handmade Soap
(Lavender Soap made with lavender grown on our property)
When I began researching how to make soap it was out of necessity. I had been purchasing a goat’s milk soap from an independently owned health food store for my daughter. My daughter had a stroke before she was born and as a result, she is missing 80% of her right brain, so we had many health issues to deal with. She is also a beautiful redhead with extremely sensitive skin. It didn’t matter which commercial soap I used, her skin was as red as her hair and irritated – similar to the reaction to Mrs. Jones soap!
Perfumes were also a huge problem for my daughter. It is not uncommon for children that have severe brain damage to have an over-reactive sensory system. I can only explain it as standing in front of a speaker at a rock concert 24 / 7. The brain’s sensory system is on overload it can’t filter out and dial down what’s going on around them. If you stop and think about it, our world is pretty noisy. For Katie as a baby, sound, smell and textures was magnified a billion times over.
Its an understatement that the early days for Katie were painful – everything bothered her. For example, my husband loved Irish Spring Soap, but when he came near her she would become overwhelmed and started to scream and cry. We went through a period of time when I dumped every commercially made product including the toothpaste and toilet paper and we went O-Natural! Thankfully, Katie is much better thanks to years of therapy.
The Decision to Make My Own Soap
(Pine Soap – pine needles are harvested from our own pine trees and now that I’m becoming a herbalist, I’m adding my own pine infused olive oil to this soap!)
When Wholefoods moved to town our small independent health food store went out of business and that ended my source for handcrafted goat’s milk soap. The good news is soap making had become popular and with YouTube at my fingertips, I decided it was time to take control of our soap supply and learn how to make soap.
When I started my research I had a basic list of requirements:
- The soap had to be moisturizing, have a great lather but be a firm enough that didn’t melt into a pile of goo in the shower.
- Ingredients had to be mild enough for daughter’s sensitive skin.
- Oils for the soap had to be found in the grocery store and had to come from the plant world.
- Scents need to be from the plant world (correction/clarification from original posting: I do use fragrance oils if essential oils are not available, too expensive, or I happen to like the scent!).
I knew I wanted my soap to have at least 2 oils that were great for skin, olive oil, and coconut oil. After weeks of research, my first generation master soap recipe was born and it was a Mediterranean inspired blend using 4 oils and raw goats’ milk.
- Olive oil – has been used for centuries as a great skin conditioner and moisturizer.
- Coconut oil – has been used for centuries as a great skin conditioner and moisturizer.
- Canola Oil – creates a stable lather and a great skin conditioner.
- Safflower Oil – creates a wonderful lather and is a great skin conditioner.
- Herbs, flowers, vegetables, and goats milk had to be either grown by me or acquired by a local farmer that shared my socially responsible beliefs.
During my research, I learned there is a minefield related to certain common ingredients in soap making. The biggest one is palm oil, and the atrocities associated with the destruction of rainforests to meet the worlds demand the oil.
I admit, my soaps are not for everyone, but I can honestly say I try to be socially conscious and intentional on where my ingredients are sourced. It is important to my daughter’s well being and to me. I want to create a product that is safe; with no chemicals or preservatives.
Brenda Sullivan, Market Gardener & Herbalist
My husband and I own 1.3 acres in South Glastonbury Connecticut and our farm is called Thompson Street Farm LLC. We grow small produce, medicinal flowers and herbs in 22 raised beds. In addition, we have a greenhouse for the herbs that require a warmer climate and protection from our cold winters.
We've been growing herbs for over 20 years, but I wanted a deeper understanding of the health benefits of herbs. I feel fortunate that I found the Herbal Academy, located in Boston MA, and has over 350+ academic hours of herbal study with a focus on anatomy/physiology and botany.