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Cache Valley ‘soapers’ enjoy healthy business

May 7th, 2010 Posted in Business

By Jen Stevenson

Each morning when you get in the shower, lather the soap and shampoo your hair, do you understand what kinds of chemicals are being put onto your body? Look at the label and try to pronounce all the listed ingredients. Have you ever considered what these chemicals might be doing to your body and how they are affecting you? From the moment we wake up to the time we go to bed at night we are constantly making out bodies subject to the chemicals found in commercial soaps and shampoos.

Caroline Craven, owner of the Itty Bitty Soap Company, calls this our “daily assault” on our skin.

“We saturate ourselves in chemicals from morning until night,” Craven said. “With our shampoo, soap, lotion, aftershave, deodorant, moisturizer, cosmetics and perfumes we are constantly attacking our bodies with dangerous chemicals.”

Craven’s company specializes in natural and vegan soaps to eliminate the use of these chemicals. The ingredients in Craven’s soaps are all natural and not synthetically altered.

When her first daughter was born she worried about putting chemicals on her skin even if they were products made especially for babies.

“I had read an article about how babies respond to the scent of their mothers and I knew that I didn’t want to confuse her in any way… I knew right away that chemical compounds were probably harsh to her sensitive little virgin nose,” Craven said.

This was the same reason Becky Yeager, another natural soap maker and owner of The Spirit Goat, got involved in making natural soap. Her daughter had problems with dry and sensitive skin as a baby and Yeager knew that natural soap would be a solution.

Yeager started searching on the Internet for more information and started experimenting with different recipes to find something that would work for her family. After a lot of work and research, she has produced an extensive line of goat milk soaps. Her company, The Sprit Goat, has been making and selling goat milk soaps for the past seven years.

Yeager explained that when commercial companies make soap they take out the glycerin and sell it as a byproduct.

“Glycerin is something that holds in moisture and keeps it near your skin,” she said. “The big soap companies take out the glycerin from their soap and other products and sell is separately as a byproduct. Natural soaps retain that glycerin and that’s one reason they are better for dry and sensitive skin.”

Although both women use different techniques and ingredients in making soap they both got started for similar reasons. Neither started making soap with the intent and purpose of building up a business from it but for the health and wellness of their own children and families.

“Your skin has natural oils that it needs; that’s why it produces them. Commercial soaps strip you of the things your skin needs and produces naturally. When you use natural soap you don’t lose those oils you need,” Craven said.

Soaps today should really be called detergents because they contain so many synthetic materials, Craven said. True soaps are made with natural products such as fat and lye.

Virtually all commercial soaps today contain a dangerous ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Craven said. It is particularly good at removing dirt and grease and suspending them in water so they don’t reattach to skin, fabrics, etc. SLS is also used in engine degreaser and garage floor cleaners. SLS cleanses by corrosion so you can expect that it would dry out skin. It strips the protective lipids from your skin’s surface and compromises your skin’s ability to regulate moisture, she said.

“It is a poisonous, caustic detergent, whose effects are irreversible,” Craven said. “Many beauty products containing SLS claim to help renew and regenerate the skin, making us look younger and more beautiful. This can be somewhat misleading, and in my opinion, utterly untrue.

“We are ruining our skin, we are aging our skin, we are giving ourselves wrinkles. Many people blame the sun for these effects and I’m sure that has an effect, but more than the sun it is the fact that we daily assault our skin,” Craven said.

In Yeager’s goat milk soap, she also includes shea butter which she says is a signature ingredient in her soaps.

“Shea butter is a great natural moisturizing ingredient that will keep your skin soft. I get my shea butter straight from a women’s co-op in Africa so it is pure and hasn’t been processed in any way,” Yeager said.

Both women use essential oils as opposed to artificial fragrances to give different scents to their soaps. By using essential oils they keep their soaps pure from chemicals and other harmful things found in synthetic fragrance.

“Phthalates are a family of chemical substances used in fragrance formulations,” Craven said. “Phthalates are used in the manufacture of plastics. They are used as softeners and lubricants. PVC is manufactured using phthalates. It is used in scents to help them evaporate more slowly and last longer. Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) is a common phthalate used in fragrances including perfumes, lotions, shampoos, conditioners and detergents. DBP is listed as a developmental toxin, endocrine toxin, immuno-toxin, kidney toxin, neurotoxin, reproductive toxin, skin or sense organ toxin.”

Yeager said, “Because essential oils come straight from a plant you can be confident they will not be harmful. Using essential oils is fun because each one serves a different purpose and will give each bar of soap a different characteristic.”

Both women agreed that using natural soap would be more beneficial in treating acne than any commercial soap. Harsh commercial soaps will strip your face of its natural oils and then your face will produce even more oil leaving your skin with pimples and blemishes, Yeager said.

“When I started using the natural soap on my face I think it took a few days for my face to adjust to a new system but in no more than two weeks I was seeing clearer skin,” Yeager said.

Natural products are also used for the coloring of the soaps. Different plants, clays, and charcoals can be used to color a bar of soap if it does not come out colored naturally. Craven said that most of the time whatever naturally happens is how she leaves her soaps.

The Spirit Goat soaps have many different colors twisted throughout one bar. Yeager said the colors and designs in her soap have become somewhat of her signature.

Using natural soap is also better for the environment. Some of those harsh chemicals found in commercial soaps can be damaging to the ecosystem, Craven said. Things such as the phthalates can never break down and once they go back down the drain they get back into the water system.

“I know that everything that goes down the drain when I use natural soap will not harm the environment,” Craven said.

“My advice is if you can’t read what is on the label then don’t buy it,” Craven said. “Even though it is not going in your mouth you are still consuming the things you put on your skin. Soaps and lotions will penetrate into your skin and get into your blood stream. With natural soap I can be confident that whatever bar I choose to use I know that it is better than anything I can buy at the grocery store.”

If you would like to learn more about essential oils or take a class on how to make your own lotion and soap for your family, you can take workshops from Kristen Bowen, another local natural soap maker. She offers classes on making soaps and lotions as well as how to utilize essential oils. You can contact her through her website to learn more.

Becky Yeager’s Spirit Goat, features over 70 different varieties of bar soap including the best-seller “Chef’s Special.” This bar includes the signature goat milk and shea butter as well as orange peel and ground coffee. It can be used around the kitchen to neutralize food odors on your hands while cooking. Yeager has two children ages 11 and 12 who help her with the business and already know how to make soap. She has been selling soap for seven years and has worked up a large clientele. She ships a lot of soap to the east coast and has even had costumers as far as Japan and the UK. You can buy from her website or go visit her kitchen inside the Browse Around Antique Shop, at 180 W. 1200 South, Logan.

The Itty Bitty Soap Company features about 15-20 different soaps made from ingredients such as olive, palm, and coconut oils. Caroline Craven just recently started selling her soaps. Her personal favorite is the “Spearmint Rosemary.” It was one of the first soaps she made and has loved it ever since. The spearmint provides a burst of freshness while the rosemary helps keep balance. You can browse all of Craven’s products as well as purchase them on her website.

If you are looking for a healthier option for your skin check out these three “soapers” from Cache Valley to find out more.


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