A Discussion of Ingredients

by Veronica on December 7, 2018

in Life

Black Raspberry Vanilla Goat Milk Soap

I run a soap making business. This means I spend a lot of time talking about, thinking about, and researching ingredients.

What they do, what properties they add to a soap, how they perform during saponification (the chemical reaction which turns oils into soap), how they’re going to blend seamlessly into the final product, or whether they’re going to stand out on purpose.

Then after all of this, I get to sell the ideas, the final products, to you, the consumer.

Most of what I do to make my business run, is marketing. Telling customers why they should buy my soap, why it’s good, why the ingredients I have chosen are the best ones for the purpose of the final product.

And I have to do all of this without making health claims I don’t have the money to back up with studies and TGA testing.

(Lots of larger companies skip this step – they can afford to pay the fines if the TGA finds out they’ve been making health claims, and selling the products fast is better marketing strategy than running effective studies to prove the claims they’re making. Smaller companies don’t have the luxury of this, and the TGA will have Serious Problems with us if we’re caught in contempt of their rules.)

I love ingredients. Love them to bits. I love how adding milk changes the chemical structure of my end result – not much, but enough I can tell. I love how different herbs and infusions change the smell, change the feel, change the lather in a bar of soap.

I love how honey and sugars add bubbles. I love the creaminess of a good beer soap, because beer is mostly sugars. I love how eggs contribute to strong stable lather and how it feels on your skin.

I love it all.

Cardamom Sandalwood Buttermilk Soap

Marketing falls into two camps:

You Have A Problem And I Have A Product To Fix This


You Want To Feel Good And Let Me Show You How I Can Help

Even though the first camp is the most common, there’s more money in the second camp – people will pay to feel good. It’s why scents often end up mattering more than ingredients, and why the soap lather feeling silky and amazing counts for more than the actual  ingredients I chose to make it that way.

Shampoo companies know this, and it’s why brands like Herbal Essences sell better to a certain demographic than brands like Head and Shoulders. They both have a place on our shelves, but they’re very different products, and marketed very differently.

This said, it’s really REALLY hard to sell a soap online without talking about ingredients, because we don’t have the ability for customers to smell the actual soap.

I have an amazing soap right now – it’s Patchouli and Orange. It’s gorgeous. It smells divine (provided you like patchouli and orange essential oils). It’s also the creamiest soap, made with eggs from our hens, chamomile powder, activated charcoal, marshmallow powder, AND goat milk.

Awesome, right?

You’d think so, but the moment customers read about it having eggs in it, they carefully put it back down, looking a little grossed out, and move on. Or, they smell the soap, and without reading ingredients, decide they absolutely have to own a bar.

Patchouli and Orange Soap, with Goat Milk

Now, part of my job means making sure the soaps feel as amazing as they look and smell – and this is why we have repeat customers. It doesn’t matter if a customer doesn’t know, or understand my ingredient choices, as long as I do.

They buy a soap at a market because they love the smell and want to feel good, and then the soap feels amazing, and so they come back to me and buy again.

But sometimes, getting people over the first ingredients hurdle – that sucks. They see “sodium hydroxide” (the necessary catalyst for making soap – all soapmaking uses it, whether it’s listed or not, and none remains in the final product anyway) and their nose crinkles, they put the bar down, and they walk away.

Ingredients can make or break a sale.

I love my ingredients. It’s really hard not to rave about why I chose tallow over olive oil in a particular soap (turns out, tallow is a much nicer oil for sensitive skin and eczema prone family members like mine), or why I used goat milk, buttermilk, coconut milk. They’re all slightly different, but they all have PURPOSE, and there is a reason for all of them.

Sure, sometimes the reason is “I wanted the soap to have a grey swirl, and activated charcoal is great for this, other benefits aside”, and other times it’s “I pureed a bunch of figs, because the sugars have AMAZING LATHER once the chemistry is done, and also tiny little fig seeds are excellent at exfoliating gently”.

Or there is dead sea mud (gently exfoliating, lovely and creamy, good for vegan soaps) and beer (amazing creamy lather, no beer scent in the final product I promise), or goat milk (has the best PR team out there, and also yes, it’s a gorgeous ingredient for lovely creamy bubbly soap).

We have a lovely salve. I infuse olive oil with herbs (lavender, chamomile, calendula) and when mixed with beeswax and cocoa butter, it makes an excellent skin saving barrier cream. We use it on everything here – scratches, cuts, dry skin. But I can’t make any claims about it during sales, because TGA laws. I can tell people how I use it. I can skirt around the edges of the law by talking about what the herbs are “thought to be” good for “historically”.

But I can’t tell you it will increase healing time, or help with infection, or work as a good substitute for bandaids when your smallest child has scraped their knee again, and there’s no blood but they keep crying anyway. (Okay I can tell you that last one)

I can just make a bloody good salve I love, hope people buy it, and tell their friends.

Small businesses, it turns out, have a lot more rules to follow than larger businesses who have the money to pay fines or fight battles in court.

Ingredients are a tricksy multilayered thing, and I spend a lot of time contemplating them.

I love each and every one of mine to bits. Even if I cannot always pronounce the INCI name of a bunch of them. (Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter) anyone?)

Vegan Lemon Myrtle Soap, with Oat Milk

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Eternal Optimism doesn’t work on Mother Nature

by Veronica on April 9, 2017

in Life

I am eternally optimistic. Stupidly so, sometimes. Things will get better, it will be okay, we’ll get through it.

This is of course why I was busy packing the car with all of the market set up last night, despite knowing that rain was forecast for today. A lot of rain. Because maybe it would be okay. It might not happen. It might be gorgeous weather. This is Tasmania, you can’t count on anything.

Of course, I was wrong, and when it was pouring at 5am I lay in bed wondering what the best course of action was, right up until Evelyn woke up having an asthma attack and I had to get out of bed to make sure she could breathe.

After fixing her, and spending a lot of time looking at every single weather report I could get my hands on, while talking to Mum, I decided to stay home.

That wasn’t the end of it though. Because the angst. So much angst. I hate cancelling, and I hate letting markets down. Especially Autumn Fest which is one of my very favourite events to attend ever.

However the idea of setting up a marquee in a thunderstorm and then standing alone in the pouring rain all day, in a marquee filled with soap, unable to leave – well. That was the kicker for me.

So no market today.

Of course this means you benefit, darling readers, because I am having a 20% off wet weather sale. If you use the coupon code WETWEATHER at checkout, you’ll get 20% off, and you won’t even have to come and stand in the rain with me.

Shop Now.


It’s absolutely bucketing down outside now, and I know I made the right decision, snuggled up writing this in a warm hoodie and yoga pants, with a cup of hot tea, rather than scarves and boots with a thermos of rapidly cooling hot chocolate.

Tasmania in Autumn. Fun times.


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Almost the end of the busy season.

by Veronica on April 6, 2017

in Life

We’re at the tail end of the crazy busy season, and while I’m not dying, I’m feeling a bit under the weather. I’ve managed a few weekends off over the Summer season, but my body is telling me it wasn’t enough time, wasn’t enough resting.

It doesn’t help that Evelyn’s (very successful) entry into Kindergarten has seen her bring home a whole new slew of viruses, with sore throats and coughing, and something which seems to involve a headache which panadol can’t shake and oh my god, how many more painkillers can one woman take? (Answer: A lot. A LOT MORE.)

Which is to say, things are good, and successful, and crazy busy.

If you’re on Facebook you’ll know that we applied for some extra money on our mortgage and were successful, so hopefully we can start building an extension as soon as the busy season eases off. An extension which will involve, amongst other things, a studio and small shop front. I cannot wait to have my own space, and to be able to offer retail sales at least a few days a week, from home. Markets are lovely, but they are a lot of work and there aren’t many of them through the winter, so the year feels uneven, with craziness, followed by a period of sloth-like lack of routine. Neither of these are situations in which I thrive, if I’m being honest.

Sadly, it means my small garden I have been babying along for the last five years (through toddlers and puppies and dogs and chaos) will have to be torn out, but if it means I get a studio and a sun room and a bedroom which has a real door and isn’t directly across the hallway from my tween daughter, I’m okay with that. We’re holding out a little longer until the blueberries and the small elder tree hibernate for winter so I can attempt a transplant, but we’ll see. At least that’s what I am telling myself.

So that’s a thing which will be happening.

Kids are good, everything is good really. The business trucks along nicely, and I’m hoping I have enough stock to see me through two more major markets before I have to start making soap again. Don’t get me wrong, I love making soap, but my joints do not love me at all right now, and heavy lifting is a bit beyond my reach. I’m relying on previously made stock and hoping to cut down on some of the increasingly large range, to make it easier for myself. Well, mostly to make it easier to find room for something. 100 different soaps in stock is a bit ridiculous, really.

I’m desperately waiting on hand cream tins to arrive – tracking says they’ve been handed off to a courier, but I needed them three days ago. I have enough tins to fill a wholesale order due out, and then I might have to use plastic for Autumn Fest stock. (Autumn Fest is on in New Norfolk this weekend, 9th April, if you’re local, it’s a lot of fun. I will be there.)

I’ve missed writing, and found myself awake at 3am last night, waiting for panadol to kick in and writing blog posts in my head, so no promises, but this space is mine and I paid for the damn hosting, so I may as well use it. At least a little. Sleepless Nights is never going to be about children again, but there’s space for my writing to be about work and markets and soap and EDS and why that damn giraffe hasn’t had her baby yet.

We’ll see how it goes.

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It’s not a lifestyle choice you bastards.

by Veronica on October 19, 2016

in Life, Soapbox

Shutting the fuck up is gluten free. Why don't you add that to your diet you cunt.

Back at the beginning of the year, I had some new health problems pop up.

I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, so feeling dreadful a lot of the time isn’t abnormal, but this was New and Different, and actually pretty shit.

Between March and May, I had a whole round of blood tests done to check my health out. Why was I more than exhausted all of the time? Why was my hair falling out in handfuls? Why were my joints hurting beyond what was normal? Why did I feel so generally fucking awful without a new and good reason?

We couldn’t tell. I was anaemic, and iron supplements weren’t fixing it. My thyroid levels were elevated, and then they weren’t. My hair continued to fall out, and I was barely making it through my days.

As a last ditch effort, my doctor told me to give up gluten. “It probably isn’t coeliacs, but quit gluten for 6 weeks and see how you feel. If you get better, don’t eat any more gluten.”

It was our last option, but there it was. Quit gluten and see how you feel. He didn’t want to do any more tests because what else could we test for? (Coeliac markers maybe, but he didn’t want to.)

So I quit gluten.

That was back in May. I’ve eaten gluten properly once since then, and I spent the night head down in the toilet afterwards.

Gluten doesn’t agree with me. It makes me dreadfully sick. I get really spacey and my brain stops working well. I develop a rotten headache and reflux. I get nausea, and then all of my joints hurt and I get really angry. It lasts three days before I start feeling better after I get glutened.

It’s miserable is what I’m saying.

And yet here I am, justifying why I don’t eat gluten.

This is not a choice I made, but it is what it is. Other people don’t see it like that though. Go into a cafe and ask to not be made sick, and you’re some sort of evil orthorexic clean eating demanding bitch who wants to make their life hard. “Gluten Free Foodie Wankers” are the butt of all the jokes, as the tellers sit there in their bodies which work well, digesting whatever they feed themselves.

Of course they’re all very quick to point out that “We don’t mean people who actually have coeliacs, you know. Just everyone else? Right? Because they’re just being arseholes about it.”

Recent studies have shown Non-Coeliac Gluten Intolerance is a real thing, suffered by real people, with real symptoms, and I’m fucking pissed off, because everyone still acts like I’m making their life hard when I ask them to not put fucking breadcrumbs on my plate accidentally.

Being gluten free is not fun, or easy. Unless you live in the mecca of upmarket cafes, finding something to eat when you’re ou,t which isn’t another lettuce salad with no dressing, is a pain in the arse. You miss out on cake at parties. Actually, you miss out on everything at parties, because you can’t trust that your gluten free salad hasn’t had a contaminated spoon in it.

It’s HARD and it’s frustrating, and I fucking hate it. It’s not a choice I got to make. I can’t eat mostly gluten free but then have a cupcake on the weekend as a naughty treat. It takes work and planning to be gluten free.

I mostly don’t mind this, because I really like not feeling any shittier than I already do with the EDS. But I am so so so fucking sick of being asked to produce my credentials every time I mention I can’t eat gluten, or having people roll their eyes at me when I ask if their hot chocolate is gluten free (it usually isn’t) when I just want a hot drink at a coffee shop.

I know it makes more work, and I know it’s a hassle – trust me, I KNOW.

But for fuck’s sake, don’t make it harder for me.

People behave like they’re the food police, like they get to have a say what other people put in their mouths. And you know what? It’s bullshit.

Stop it. Stop questioning people over their dietary choices, or needs.

Stop making us feel like shit for needing to avoid certain foods.

And for fuck’s sake, can companies please stop cross contaminating all of the chocolate with wheat. It’s making it REALLY hard to not be a grumpy git when I can’t even eat plain chocolate.



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Multiples of three

by Veronica on November 15, 2015

in Life

We’re heading into the craziest part of the year. Markets every weekend, soap orders here there and everywhere, wholesale accounts popping up (insert quiet cheering).

Annnnd my doctor rang me the other day. Apparently my thyroid levels are fine, but my iron is “quite low” and “please start an iron supplement immediately”.

Huh. That might explain some things here, you know. Like, everything.

It’s 8pm and it’s still light outside. Summer is coming and it’s lovely – long gorgeous days, lots of light – it also makes bedtime challenging, with children who don’t want to fall asleep when it’s daylight outside (despite hanging all the extra sheets up over their curtains).

Add that to exhaustion and insomnia in equal measure, and well. It was a recipe for getting sick, really. Which I did, quite spectacularly last week, with antibiotics required.

I cancelled my Friday night market, and while I know it was the right thing to do – I’ve pretty much spent all weekend recovering and collapsing in various measures – I still feel guilty. Even though I was sick, and Nathan was sick, and Mum (my driver and co-marketer) was sick – I still feel guilty, because I said I’d be there and at the last minute, I couldn’t be. I’d really hoped my antibiotics would work fast enough, but that’s the way it goes.

Exhaustion. Illness. Anaemia.

On the upside, I’ve stopped coughing my lungs up, I can buy iron supplements tomorrow, and I’m hoping this week will be full of Netflix and packaging, rather than running around in circles.

I also turned 27 last week, which was nice. Happy Birthday to me, I’m a multiple of three… etc.

2015-11-11 15.48.20

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