The Women's Journal

What, Exactly, Am I Smelling?

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By Julia Dunning, Soaper!

What should a soap smell like? Have you smelled virgin organic cherry kernel oil? What about virgin organic cocoa butter? Yes! Yum! How about slippery elm? Raw wildflower honey? Cucumbers? Petals from wild beach roses?

If you pick up a bar of soap and it has a strong scent, YOU DON’T WANT IT. 

My hands smell 4 hours later!

Nope, nahhhh, not a goal! “Natural fragrance” can be ANYTHING in nature. And yes . . . that includes bugs 🪰 and animal scent glands 🦫.          

“All natural” means nothing in product labeling and marketing. Don’t fall for it. What about essential oils? Standard called-for amounts in soap are insane, because the scent has to survive 4 weeks of the soap curing in open air. This causes most companies to buy cheap, bulk, unregulated essential oils.

I use, and trust, the therapeutic, healing essential oils from only two brands, both of which have third party purity testing. The ones I use the most, that have an amazing aroma that survives the curing process are: 

  • helichrysum
  • roman chamomile
  • blue tansy
  • rose geranium
  • clary sage
  • lavender

I also have a “no essential oils” category on my website, for those who prefer no ADDED scent.

In my soaps I also use the healing & fabulous smelling benefits of:

  • rose hips
  • many flowers
  • lots of herbs
  • copal resin
  • various fruits
  • beeswax
  • bee pollen
  • propolis
  • concentrated brewed flowers and herbs
  • infusions from all these!
  • and . . . the extra special oils and butters the soaps are made from

SO what IS “fragrance oil”?

Fragrance oils are synthetic. They’re created with a mix of aromatic chemicals. Over 50 different materials can make up one fragrance oil. Aaaand the ingredients will still just be listed as “fragrance oil.”

What about palm, coconut and olive oils? 

These are fine, and they have their place, but they are the cheapest vegetarian oils you can buy. Many soap makers fancy-up these inexpensive oils, cut these thin bars and slap a BIG price tag on their soaps. Hmmmm.

Why buy Maine Botanical Soap versus grab a bar at the grocery store? 

Read the ingredients, you’ll get it! 

Quick quiz – 

What is sodium tallowate? 

Hint: it is typically the first ingredient in the average soap.

ANSWER: Soap made from tallow – which is the rendered fat from slaughtered cows, sheep, goats and pigs. Yummy!!! I feel so clean!!!

homemade soap

made on peaks island, maine

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