Things I do and don’t do

The view from my front yard

The other day I was at the mall, checking out the competition. I know I shouldn’t, after all, my products are good in their own right regardless of what everyone else is doing. Still, I thought it worthwhile to make a list of things I don’t do:
1. There are no preservatives in any of my products. The closest I get is rosemary essential oil, it is full of antioxidants and so will help to keep the product fresher for longer. This also makes for very interesting effects on the skin, rosemary has for centuries been used in cosmetics for its anti-aging qualities. I, of course, would never make such a claim for my products, personally I quite like aging. This applies to what I consume as well. I once bought tomatoes that remained still fresh-looking in the fridge three weeks after I had bought them. I found this quite frightening.  Well, be that as it may, no preservatives in my products means that you won’t get any preservatives on your skin and absorbed by your body. It also ensures that you get your soap and oils fresh.  I keep short production lines and quick distribution, so you should get your products within a few weeks of them being made. Soap requires about six weeks to cure, so you will find each bar that leaves my kitchen is dated. You should use the soap within about six months of that date. I have never known an oil of mine to not be consumed within three months (that is how nice they are). So I cannot tell you how long they will last. On the whole I think that is a good thing.
2. I do not use alcohol in any of my products. Alcohol can be used to make a transparent soap and is quite fun in that way. But alcohol also has a drying effect on the skin, and in that sense it is not very helpful in the long run. Many people also tend to develop allergies against products with alcohol in. So why on earth anybody should want to put alcohol in a body butter is beyond me. I guess it helps to stabilize the mixture and create a steady consistency, it can be quite a challenge to create body butters that are soft in winter but still hard enough not to melt in summer. I would rather take on this challenge then muck around with stabilizers, emulsifiers and alcohol. In my products there will be nothing but the best of pure oils and organic fragrances.

The sugarbird did not want to stay

On a lighter note, I guess it is also my cultural background that makes me do this. Alcohol is for drinking, preferably in the form of a brandy and coke on a nice sunny afternoon watching the sugarbird drink nectar from the red hot pokers. Alternatively a nice port in front of the fire in winter is also a most excellent use of alcohol. It makes absolutely no sense to be wasting good booze by putting it on the skin. Ja nee…

3. My liquid soaps are really soaps and not detergents. This means that they are not made from petroleum by-products and will not dry out your skin. They are also fully biodegradable, and this is a function I have well and truly tested.  Traditional Khoesan waxberry soap is a dark soap, it makes your skin blacker and your hair curlier. This happens to be very useful when you need to protect yourself from the hot sun, but I have had absolutely no success in marketing it. Strange that!  So, slowly drowning in soap, and having given away all I could sucker my friends and family into taking,  I have fertilized my olive trees with the rest. It is raining in nicely now and I reckon there will be a bumper olive harvest next year.

On to a more positive note: what do I do that keeps my oils and soaps special?

4. I keep on innovating. For the past few months I have dreamt of soap at night and woken up in the morning eager to try new recipes. Seeing as it’s just past winter solstice and very cold this side, that is quite helpful in getting me up in the morning. For you, this means that from time to time I will post on this blog about a new recipe, or a specialty soap I will have made on request. I love any soap but it is really nice to play around sometimes and just have fun.

Specialty soaps – this one was for a birthday I had missed

5. I also bite the bullet and ensure that I blend the best possible combination of oils. It would be possible to make a cheaper soap using only the cheapest organic oil. I know of one manufacturer who tries to do that, and I sorely understand the temptation. We all dream of producing an organic soap that is price competitive with soap made from fossil fuels. It can’t be done.  As any soap-maker worth their salt will tell you, natural oils need to be blended in various proportions since each one brings different qualities to the soap: hardness, cleansing, conditioning, lather, and so on. Trying to use only the cheapest oil makes an awful soap that leaves your skin feeling like sawdust.  So I mix various oils based on the qualities they bring to the product rather than the price, and hope I find customers who understand their skin’s needs. Look at it from the bright side, at least my oils and soaps will not contribute to climate change. In the long run I reckon this will work out cheaper for all of us.

6. All the ingredients, with the exception of two for which I am seeking organic suppliers but which fortunately I use in very minor quantities (less than five percent), are organically certified. I will gladly provide copies of certificates on request.

7. Oh, and all the soaps and oils are made by hand. I spent a lot of time working out how to deliver on the claim “carbon neutral”, and one of the ways is to not use machinery for anything that can be done by people. After all, if you look at what our real, renewable energy asset here in South Africa is, it is people. With the unemployment rate so high, it would seem that we have more people than we know what to do with. So I don’t see the point in using coal-fired electricity when a person can do the job just as well. People contribute nicely to the biogas digester too, making for a lovely, full-service, ecological solution to the problem of energy.

Plants are the best solar collectors ever invented

I must confess to a lifelong obsession with crafts – things where beauty and use are combined. I suspect this is why I have an ongoing love affair with soap, it successfully combines the need to be useful with the desire for beauty. Like the best of art, making soap by hand is something I have to do just to show that it is possible. It broadens the horizons of the thinkable.

What this means for you is that most of the soap bars you buy will be cast in big molds and hand-cut when hard. I like to do this, it makes each soap different and adds to the hand-made, artisan feel of my soaps. So each one will be hand weighed and priced before it comes to you. It is a lovely equation: love your skin, get clean, create jobs and save the planet, all in one handy-sized bar. This is as good as it gets.

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5 thoughts on “Things I do and don’t do

  1. Gabeba says:

    Dear Yvette,
    This is the sweetest blog, and as someone who has used your lipbalm on my fussy, dry lips, I can’t wait to try out your soaps.

  2. snyeck says:

    Hi there! I look forward to reading more from this blog. Great work & vision!

  3. Natasha Gordon-Chipembere says:

    I am soooo excited.. A sample bag of Yvette’s pure goodness has arrived at my doorstep in sweltering, Brooklyn, New York. I have been anxiously awaiting the soaps, body butter and Buchu oil as I shower and shower to manage the overwhelming heat that has dominated urban life in Brooklyn. I long for the chilly days that define Yvette’s life right now in South Africa, and I chuckle as we both wish to exchange weather patterns. My academic brain melts away during the summer and this is when I cherish the time off to read and catch up on my own scholarly longings. And so, with baited breathe, I open the package of samples and am instantly transformed to a place of pure bliss. I am hooked!!!! Yvette sent me samples of her Liquid Buchu Soap, made with all certified organic ingredients that are carbon neutral and made by solar power and bio gas. I also got Buchu oil, Buchu body butter, a Buchu soap bar and a baby Buchu soap. bliss!!!!! The scent of the roses, vanilla, grapefruit radiate on my skin as I find excuse after excuse to shower now that I have Yvette’s magic. I have exema and already I can feel the difference on my sensitive skin, that has been exposed to so much sun + toxins + sweat + urban summer soup. I will be placing my orders monthly for my children, Jabulani and Aminata and my husband, Masauko to enjoy. I am also passing this secret magic onto a dear friend. Yvette, you are in business in Brooklyn!!!!!! Thank you so much. Love, Natasha

  4. Chris Williams says:

    I am so excited! I have been hoarding my samples for two years pulling them out for use only in emergencies. When can I order a full packet of all of the products. I am jealous. No goodie bags arrived in Manhattan ) :

    • khoelife says:

      Dear Chris,
      I am so glad you treasure my oils, although I must say, this is the first time I have heard of them lasting two years! I have no plans to travel to the US just now, but have no fear, a certain mutual friend is due to visit and will no doubt carry lots of soap and oil back to NY. Hugs, Yvette

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