Can You Please Everybody?

“I want to make a soap that will be all right for everybody,” a soapmaker recently said to me. She went on to say, “I want a soap that nobody is allergic to and one that nobody will object to any of the ingredients.”

Sounds good on the surface, doesn’t it? No skin reactions and no wrinkled noses at the ingredient list–a dream come true–and yet, impossible. This could be applied to bath and body products, cosmetics and candles, as well.

Think about all the substances you have heard of individuals having a reaction to: shea butter, coconut oil, cinnamon, chamomile, goats milk, eucalyptus, essential oils, fragrance oils, even glycerin are just the beginning. Indeed, it seems as if every week I learn of another ingredient somebody’s customer is allergic or sensitive to.

That does not even begin to address the ethical, moral and religious objections to the likes of tallow, lard, coconut oil, castor oil, palm oil, essential oils, fragrance oils and goats milk, among other ingredients.

And THAT does not begin to address the natural vs.synthetic camps of formulating cosmetics and product lines, the definitions of which vary wildly. Is soap natural because it includes sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide? Are plant-derived ingredients natural enough?

Are paraffin candles unhealthy? How about soy?

If it all sounds confusing and impossible to sort out, much less carry out, it is. What is an artisan to do?

The answer lies in you. Your products do not have to work for everyone.

If you are a hobbyist, you have the responsibility of learning as much as you can about what you are doing and deciding the best course of action based on your research. If you sell your product, it behooves you to know your customer base so you can  give them what they are looking for. It is well worth the effort.

For instance, one soap seller said her unscented, uncolored soaps sold better than her fragranced soaps. She might actually increase her sales by cutting out fragranced items completely so shoppers sensitive to fragrance will feel more comfortable purchasing from her. Certainly, this businesswoman will have a unique and memorable niche and scent-sensitive customers will seek her out.

How have you solved this dilemma for yourself or your customers?

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On another note, if you haven’t heard, the Saponifier is rebranding itself. Knowing that few understand the term, “saponify,” and acknowledging that the magazine is about much more than simply soapmaking, Kathy Tarbox, Editor-in-Chief, has made the decision to rename the magazine. As of January, 2016, the magazine’s name will be Making Soap, Cosmetics & Candles. Watch for it!

Until next time, may all your days be filled with bubbles and wax.

Beth Byrne, for Making Soap, Cosmetics and Candles