Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bitch Post #7: Handmade Soap Is Too Expensive And Other Misconceptions

Well that can pretty much be said about anything that's handmade: It's too expensive. I can get that for much less. But what are you comparing it too? Wal-Mart or Nordstrom? Hell, Goodwill can look too expensive compared to Wal-Mart, but the point I'm making is that just because it has the "handmade" tag attached to it does not automatically mean it should be inexpensive! In fact, anything that's made from scratch with human hands made with the utmost precision, and dare I say-love, should cost more than the factory-made, mass-produced version. Handmade artists have to eat just like the factory worker does.

Getting back to the handmade soap is too expensive: I was compelled to write this post following a heated discussion in the Artfire forums this week. The basis of the "discussion" was "handmade soap is too expensive when I can buy a multi-pack of soap for the price of one bar that soapmakers are selling here." I maintained my cool as I wanted to see how this would play out. Needless to say, the lady who started the thread got ripped along with anyone who co-signed with her. I love my fellow soapmakers because they came in and set 'em straight, boy! I have to really shout out Pegasus Soaps and Soapsmith who were very polite but firm in their defense of why handmade soap costs what it does. I especially love what Pegasus said about the ingredients to make soap aren't cheap-and they aren't! Olive oil is very expensive. Shea butter is twice as expensive. For a good soapmaker, it's about quality-not quantity. I could sell you a bunch of handmade soap made with primarily lard or soybean oil which are relatively inexpensive compared to olive oil and shea butter, but one: I only make vegan soaps, and two: I care about what I put into my product. Like Soapsmith stressed, we soapmakers don't make a lot of money doing this. We do it for love of soapmaking. To make a profit, you'd have to sell a lot of soap-like having wholesale clients or maybe sell only melt and pour like a lot of successful Etsy sellers do. Melt and pour soap is inexpensive relative to buying raw ingredients to make soap. And let's not forget those soap disasters when a batch doesn't come out right-and I mean, completely tanked, unusable soap.

To wrap this all up, handmade soap is the best soap for your skin bar none (pun intended). It's made with oils and butters that moisturize and nourish. It makes it's only natural glycerin-which by the way those commercial detergent bars remove so that the "soap" stays hard and lasts longer. They're unique and they are affordable in that for every detergent bar you buy, you'll need twice as much moisturizer or lotion to combat the dryness your skin will suffer. But, if it comes down to having train fare or buying a bar of handmade soap, by all means, buy that fare card and the dollar "soap"! I know times are hard....

I'd love to read your take on the matter. Oh, by the way, a very nice lady from that same forum purchased some soap from me to send anonymously to one of the nay-sayers. Hopefully, we'll make a convert out of her!


The Little Black Box said...


tammy franks said...

OKAY I totally agree with this whole post and I know Pagasus lol he is right!!! but I only do melt and pour and to buy really good bases from really good sellers that cost alot as well.I got 30 pounds of base once and it cost me 100 dollars just for the base not counting the scents and the other things I add to mine, I always add vitamin e extra and slippery elm bark powder! (that's my thing).I have not bought store soap in 2 years and I have not had a break out on my skin in 2 years. YOU just do not get the high Quailty in store bought soaps!!!!Thanks for this post good job !!!

Jadewicks said...

*shakes head in agreement*

Totally love that someone bought a soap to send to one of the cheapy soap buyers! :) Just awesome.

Pattie said...

I know what you mean, my sisters tell me no one will ever pay even 20 dollars for your bags you should sell them for 10, and I'm like,"it cost me more in materials let alone time!"

And the REAL soap is soo much better, because all those other soap leave me soo dry by days end my skin looks like that of an elephant (no joke)

And yes when something is unusable lol

Laura said...

You are preaching to the choir! let me just say I have never made a bar of soap in my life so I am not on the "team". BUT I would rather go without soap then use a bar of store bought. I use very little lotion and handmade soap washes my hair better then any expensive shampoo I have ever used. So I believe handmade is saving me money and is kinder to my skin.
Feel sorry for the fools.

Arnita said...

Love the post! I have only been making soap since November but since then I haven't bought soap in the stores. Not even Walmart! I had this same talk the other day with a family member. I told him to go to Dollar Tree and get some soap!

I have converted a few family members and friends. By the time I am done, I will have some more singing the same song!

Keep on bitchin' & posting on your end. I'll keep on talking on my end. Even if just one person listens, your job is done!

BrigaBauble said...

I am completely addicted to handmade--whether soap or candles or body scrub or jewelry or scarves, etc. I once stumbled upon a blog post (through my Google Analytics) that listed my site as a great choice for a handmade rosary. The responses were all bitching about the prices! I only charge $55-$60 for a 5-decade rosary made from sterling silver (including the crucifix and the medal, chain and pins) and semi-precious gemstones.

I make little to nothing in profit as each piece takes up to 5 hours to make. I totally understand where you're coming from Patrice.

It's about quality and care.

milk and cookeez said...

Ignorance Patrice, Ignorance.
Sure i can buy Ivory for 3 for 99 cents, but you know what-then I have to spend $4.00 on lotion to soothe my dry skin. I then need to spend $6 on another lotion because that lotion "stopped" working and started drying me out-it never ends.
Until-you use a handmade vegetable (maybe animal, im not sure)soap with true moisturizers.
Alcohol in products will dry you out-detergents will definately dry you out-natural is the way to go-and in the end It is cheaper!
My 2 cents :)

My name is Michelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
My name is Michelle said...

Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it. I don't normally get involved in forum discussions much but I just had to say what I needed to say. I hear so many reasons why people won't buy handmade soaps mainly because of the cost. So I had to set the record straight not only for myself but for other soap makers out there that think that soap makers are making a killing off of their soaps by charging what we charge. It is whats in the soaps that matters and it matters a who lot to me because I have to use it as well. Thanks for letting everyone know about the forum discussion. You beat me to it LOL. hugs

~Pegasus Handmade Soaps

Meta Soul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Meta Soul said...

Oh god! thanks so much for posting this. Girl, you think its bad as a soap maker..You can imagine the drama a jewelry maker has to go through. especially for me as a vendor.I get so annoyed with that!

Yes, handmade costs..geesh as an indie artist representing yourself and not a corporation, you have to be the purchaser, producer, supplier, marketer, advertisement, distributor, and accountant.. so if you are one man/woman store why should a person expect it to be cheap. oh but you can pay the bigs bucks for the BODY SHOP or for Jewelry in the local mall..uh huh..ok, i see.

if you have to pay the cost to be the boss, then yeah it will cost to pay the costs of the fruits of your labors that you pay for to be the boss. yup I said it;P

thanks for bitchin. My voice has gone hoarse long time ago LOL! Just DON'T EVER do what I did and underprice just to get a sale. I am losing my business because of that.

it is refreshing to see someone else speak their mind about how frustrating this "conception" is for indie business holders.

jinx1764 said...

You are so right! Anything handmade is going to be a bit pricier but unless we all keep buying from China, (gag), as a country we need to start reeducating ourselves about what quality is really worth. Just making jewelry I've come to really appreciate what things cost as an artist/seller.
BTW, I bribed Laura to rig the drawing, ;o), The finders keepers nests are sooooooooooooooo cute!

Dana Seilhan said...

This is an old post and I'm coming in really really late but I love your blog so much I've been going back through old entries! LOL!

I have to say this though. What's WITH the "vegan-friendly" label on just about EVERYTHING bath-and-body sold at Etsy? I can understand doing it as a niche, but it is almost the default. You know, not all of us feel that that lifestyle is necessary--obviously, since most of us have not adopted it. So it feels a little like being bullied that people seem to expect this now. It really bugs me. I don't make soap yet, but would like to at some point, and the mean and vindictive part of me wants to label them with something like, "WARNING: Use of this soap may be hazardous to your PETA membership." I'm that annoyed by the whole phenomenon. I like the vegan soaps, don't get me wrong, but for the scents and the oil quality, not because they're the second coming of Christ.

I mean when you consider that growing plant crops requires that forests be cleared and animals killed (insects are animals too by the way)--there's nothing more eco-friendly about avoiding animal products. My favorite example of this is the way "pleather" is held to be more eco-friendly than leather. Tell that to the people living in Cancer Alley down in Louisiana who have to be downwind from the vinyl factories. Greenpeace has reported on it--obviously missing the irony, since they also push veganism.

Anyway... I'm curious about making soaps with lard and tallow, just because no one else is doing it. I was interested to learn that beef and pork fat both contain some of the same fats you find in olive oil and other so-called "healthy" fats and oils. People already use goat's milk in soaps so I don't see the big difference. I guess it would make a great niche for somebody if I never get around to it. But I certainly don't see those ingredients as "low-quality." If people are not going to eat them, you might as well do something with them, and I think people who hand-make soaps will make a better tallow soap (for instance) than the big factory-based soapmakers do.

Just my opinion... that and a couple bucks will get you a coffee at Waffle House, I guess.

Patrice @ The Soap Seduction said...


It's so funny that you posted this comment because I too have this hang-up about "vegan-friendly" soaps. Not that I'm on the vegan bandwagon, per se because I actually list some of my soaps as "vegan" to appeal to that niche, but, for me personally, I only use vegetable oils because I've not yet learned to make soaps using goat's milk (which I hear is FABULOUS!), lard, and tallow.

I truly believe it's the soap maker's right to use whatever he or she wants to in their soaps, but I don't agree with the "IF YOU USE ANIMAL FATS IN YOUR SOAPS, YOU'LL BURN IN HELL" philosophy. Hell, I eat meat and wear leather, and I don't think that makes me a bad person because of it.

You've certainly given us some food for thought. I am a soap maker, and I enjoy learning new tips and techniques all the time-using both vegan and non-vegan components. I certainly respect a vegan's right to not use animal-based products, but I don't think those of us who do should be persecuted for our choices.

Cherry & Jon Conley said...

I love it! I actually had a customer at my stand at the farm market trying to tell me that my soap wasn't any better than what they could buy at WalMart...really?? So, I politely handed her a bar of my soap and asked her to go home and try it out. If she liked it, she would be back.. if not, she could continue to buy at the box store and leave me alone with my polite and informed customers. She was back the next week to buy several bars. Been one of the best customers I've had to date. :)

thesoapsister said...

Amen!! (Not to mention the price of essential oils -talk about expensive!) You are spot on!