Soap is suddenly a pretty essential item, now that we’re all constantly washing our hands during the Coronavirus pandemic! However, it’s important to ensure that you use products that are kind to your skin when you’re washing your hands so often. Introducing Hog & Tallow, Lily & Rabbit and Goap.
This week’s Meet the Maker meets these 3 artisan soap makers, who each produce products which are super kind to your skin, smell delicious, and get you clean too!
Find out more in our Q&A below:
Pedddle: What is the most unique thing about your business?
Hog & Tallow: Our soaps use tallow, so I think that we make something beautiful and sustainable from waste and by-produce. I think we also took a risk in championing tallow – we hope our passion for the product and enthusiasm to explain why we make our choices has led to an increasing customer base. We really believe in it! I have recently given up my job as a teacher to pursue this full time as the business has grown so quickly over the last year (scary!). We’re based in Somerset and source as much as we can locally.
Most soaps import oils and butters such as coconut oil and shea butter etc, which are lovely (or use terrible unsustainable palm oil), however they each have a large carbon footprint as they are imported. The tallow we use is from local farms and our own animals, so have not travelled very far at all and, more importantly, we often know the source and the farmer. We love travelling round to lovely local businesses to collect their waste and by-produce and often trade soap for their left over goodies! With a sustainable outlook, we have created a range of soaps which use ingredients that would otherwise have been thrown away. The only ingredient that isn’t local at the moment is the essential oils – but we’re working on that! It’s incredibly hard to source UK grown and processed essential oils.
We also wanted to produce an ‘eco product’ that was accessible. Many environmental products are incredibly expensive so you can see why people struggle to afford them. We keep our price as low as possible to make them a more affordable choice.
Lily & Rabbit: I want Lily & Rabbit to be a purveyor of fine soaps with an identifiable look that makes us stand out, and hopefully we are on the road to achieve this. Handmade soap, and especially goats milk soap, is not as uncommon in the handmade market as it was when I started looking at soap formulation 5 years ago, as a fun thing for my son and I to do. We started with it (goats milk soap is a firm favourite because of our own skin needs), but now I want to offer more for different customers. I want each of our bars to be little masterpieces of their own!
Goap: There are many small businesses in the country offering wonderful soaps, including goat’s milk soaps, and we think it is time for goat milk soaps to be mainstream. This is the case in other countries, for example every supermarket in Australia offers goat milk soaps. So many people benefit from it, and many more just love it. Goap IS goat milk soap. The name says it all, and we plan to take it to the next level!
The other aspect of Goap, which is not unique but is important to us, is the abhorrent jettisoning of plastics into the environment over the decades by our species. Supermarkets have been very culpable in foisting unwanted plastic packaging on customers. So much of this ends up in our seas. But the tide is now turning. For Goap, this is not a “soapbox” topic (forgive the pun), but it does matter to us and we do aim to help give folks a choice, so none of our packaging uses any single-use plastics.
Pedddle: What is your USP, what first inspired you to use unique products and what benefits do these have for the skin?
Hog & Tallow: Myself and Jess, co owner of H&T, used to have a small holding together to supply ourselves with sustainable home-reared meat and eggs. When it came to butchering, we always had plenty of fat spare which we didn’t want to go to waste. After making salamis and all things delicious, we researched what else we could make and soap came up!
Being quite crafty, we had a go one night (over a few proseccos!) at making a simple tallow soap and it was amazing! We started making soap for ourselves and, trying to be as sustainable and money conscious as possible, we wanted to use other ingredients/waste from our local surroundings.
We researched more into the use of tallow in skincare and found it is an amazing fat for skin. It’s huge in America. Tallow is already widely used across the beauty industry, from lipstick to big brand soap (look for ‘sodium tallowate’). The fatty acids in grass fed tallow are similar in molecular structure and composition to those found in the protective outer layer of our skin and are incredibly moisturising. Rich in vitamins A, D, E & K, it is naturally compatible with our skin.
It’s also a by-product of the meat industry and often goes to waste! We also needed a local oil for our recipe, so opted for West Country rapeseed oil as it is rich in Vitamin E – another skin loving ingredient. To maximise the benefits further, we forage our own botanicals to steep in the oil, such as comfrey and wild rosehips. Comfrey helps regenerate new skin cells and reduces inflammation, whilst rose hip oil is full of antioxidants and helps with inflammation and fine lines.
We also use local businesses by-produce such as beer and cider, which is great to make a soap naturally bubbly without chemicals and charcoal, which removes deeper impurities from skin, and its right from our village. We only use pure essential oils. No nasties, no palm oil and no plastic!
Lily & Rabbit: Our goats milk soaps are made with local raw goats milk and essential oils and are coloured with natural ingredients. I wanted our goats milk bars to be all-natural because I think that’s what sensitive skin types need! Our spa range in particular targets specific skin needs, such as oily or troublesome skin.
All of our bars are formulated with skin loving olive oil and a little castor oil. These oils, combined with goats milk in a bar of soap – you can’t know how wonderfully gentle, mild and conditioning they are until you’ve tried them! I think a lot of people have returned to goats milk based soap because of common skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis that are inflamed by commercial soap and hand washes.
Soap made with goats milk is packed with Vitamins A, C & E and is anti-inflammatory, so it’s a natural go-to bath product for sensitive skin. Olive oil compliments our bars with its conditioning properties and we add castor oil for that too, but also because it provides a lovely lather.
We have a few exfoliators in our arsenal too. Bee Naked is the most gentle with honey & oatmeal. Lemon & Poppy is a real ‘get ready for Summer’ bar to remove dead skin from the colder months – poppy seeds are a firm exfoliator. Sea Kelp is made with kelp and French green clay for exfoliation, and it really benefits oily, acne prone skin.
Goap: We use goat’s milk, which is a magical ingredient in soap. It allows the soap to be as chemically compatible with the skin as possible, including a well matched pH. But the main benefits of goat’s milk soap are its moisturising and replenishing qualities.
When using goat’s milk the manufacturing has to be “cold” processed to stop the milk burning, yielding a softer, opaque soap. As with all quality natural soaps, this yields moisturising glycerin as a by-product. Most soap manufacture involves the addition of water. Goap has a method which only uses goat’s milk and no water. The resulting soap also has full benefit of the glycerin’s and the milk’s moisturising properties.
But beyond this, goats milk is known to have nourishing and therapeutic properties for the skin, helping it replenish cells and revitalise without irritating it. You really do feel the difference.
The real spark came when we shared our experimental soaps with others. We have family members with sensitive skin, and they gave amazing feedback. My aunt used to buy soap from Australia as it was the only one she could find that her eczema didn’t react to. She used to wash her hair wearing Marigolds to protect her hands from the shampoo. She is now our most ardent advocate, using all Goap soaps and shampoos. And no gloves! And no plastic bottles!
Pedddle: What’s new for you this year?
Hog & Tallow: Our newest product is our ‘Soothing Body Balm’, which is a simple blend of filtered tallow, wild foraged rosehip infused West Country Rapeseed oil and lavender essential oil. It’s a great all-round moisturiser and it comes in a solid, buttery form or whipped for a softer, more luxurious texture. It also comes in our recycled beer bottle jars which we collect from local people, cut, sand and then fit with corks – I was so excited when I started making these!
Lily & Rabbit: Currently, Lily & Rabbit hand make goats milk soaps and have a regular & spa range that are all-natural. We need to promote these at present. But we are looking to expand on our offering to produce creative soaps, as well as soap for the vegan market. We are coming up with these – it’s just taking us a little more time at the moment.
Goap: With Father’s Day coming up, this is a good time to help the Dad in your life discover salt bars and good moisturising soaps (there are so many cracked hands thanks to artificial hand cleansers and anti-bac liquids). It’s also a good time to rediscover the joys of wet shaving – chin and head!
Take a look at our website for details, and use the discount code DAD15 for 15% off all individual products up to Father’s Day.
Pedddle: Where did you first become interested in the skills it takes to produce your products, and how did you learn them?
Hog & Tallow: We learnt by looking up techniques and recipes on the internet and then reading lots of soap making books! The most important part was just making batches and batches of soap until we became confident with the process and from our mistakes. Family presents got very predictable!
Lily & Rabbit: I travelled the world for work, and whichever country I moved to, I lugged this soap making book about with me, that I picked up in the States. But for years it was always “one day”. When I settled in Italy with my family and we were surrounded by our olive trees (we harvested our own oil), it seemed natural to use the olive oil in soap.
I still didn’t use that book though, I bought soap! I think I was scared of lye (I hate to admit that). When we moved to North Yorkshire, I lost that book in the process. So I became rather determined! I bought a soap maker’s bible, and hit YouTube for a good 6 months until I was confident enough to give it a go, and then start formulating my own! I’m not sure about anyone else but watching is the best way for me to learn (always has been), so thank heaven for the generosity of experienced soap makers sharing what they know!
Goap: Soap is bewildering. It is fascinating that in order to make a product that cleans your skin of fats and oils, you start with large quantities of fats and oils! Then you add caustic soda (with care!). You’d never think that something so gentle and pampering could come from that. Soap making is almost alchemy (yes, we make “nuggets of purest green” to quote Percy from Blackadder. They are soap bars called “Sublime Lime”).
The sheer diversity of soap types, recipe types and process types is fascinating in itself. But to be able to create a gorgeous bar of soap in your own kitchen is a wonder, and there are many books and other references to help you along the way (including many YouTube videos, some of which are quite dodgy though!). It is a wonderful hobby if you are interested.
Pedddle: What first made you consider selling your products at markets?
Hog & Tallow: We started giving the soaps to friends and family who loved them and we thought we’d try selling them at fairs with like minded people – and they were a success! I think, because we could explain our ethos face to face with customers, it had a very positive impact on the growth of our business. We also felt we had a very niche product as we couldn’t really find anyone else making tallow soap.
Lily & Rabbit: I really wanted to be able to provide a reasonably priced bath product that was gentle on the skin. I thought a hand made product with some ingredients that were locally sourced (as much as possible) would prove popular, and that handmade soap in particular was seeing a comeback.
This past year has also made me realise how many people seem to be turning to local markets for plastic-free alternatives, with ingredients (and sellers) they recognise. I didn’t think about this when I first considered markets as a place to sell at, but it has become a pleasant realisation. People are becoming very conscious of what they are using on their bodies, and handmade is suddenly very attractive again.
Goap: We wanted direct customer feedback. Markets provide a special opportunity to give your business a unique shopfront (as opposed to some shelf space in someone else’s!). Above all, you get to interact with people, talk about your product and gather feedback. Without the markets, we would never have created a website.
When we were told by our market customers that we were the reason they went to the market in order to get more Goap soap, then we knew we were on to something. What we didn’t anticipate was the sheer joy of markets. It is the people – visitors and traders alike – that create something unique and hugely enjoyable, and that is what we miss during lockdown.
Pedddle: In your opinion, why is it so important to shop small, independent and local?
Hog & Tallow: Relationships are so important! To the people who make and supply, to the love, passion and incredible skill you are supporting. When you buy local there is such a connection to people and the land. One sale, no matter how small, means an incredible amount to the seller and as a customer you are seen and appreciated – even through an online sale. I often write a name and address on a package and think about that person even though I don’t know them (that might sound weird!). It’s so much better for the environment and for all round happiness!
Lily & Rabbit: If we don’t support small, local businesses then we are favouring larger companies that don’t really have a stake in the little corner of the world we live in. Nor do they offer anything unique. Sure, I’ll buy loo roll from a large supermarket chain so there is a need for such businesses offering day to day items, but I do love to go to independent shops (online as well as bricks & mortar) and makers for unique purchases and services too.
I’m afraid that if I don’t take the time to do that, I will be left with no choice and will be living in this ordinary world where everyone shops the same and relies on chains. I love browsing markets, and when I visit a place, often what I will remember about it is how many independent shops they have.
When you shop small, you are supporting someone who has taken a risk doing something they love by running their own business. It takes courage to do that.
Goap: Diversity and quality. Supermarket culture means we have lost the opportunity to be discerning. We buy what we’re told to buy because it’s convenient and we’re in a hurry. So when you explore small, independent businesses you often rediscover a depth of quality and diversity that you’d forgotten about. It can be quite a revelation and certainly great fun. Recent events have provided the time for people to explore what’s around them a little more, and it has been a boost for many small businesses. Certainly, as we venture out more again, we expect local businesses to find a chance to flourish.