I find myself mesmerized by the rows and rows of natural soaps at Rebecca's Natural Food store. I probably spend at least five minutes in front of that section every time I go in there. I don't always buy something, but I like to look at the variety and smell them. Some have oatmeal chunks, others are covered in wool.
A few months ago I came across a video that, frankly, was a little scary. Most of the cosmetic, beauty, and personal care products we use on a daily basis are full of toxins it turns out. So on to my adventure to explore the wonderful world of natural soap.
I wasn't the only one. Val LaClaire Goulart also felt the need to transition away from conventional soaps. After having kids she decided that she didn't want to use the harmful products to bathe her children.
She attended a workshop at the Botanical Gardens in Norfolk and then started making her own soap. She makes her own laundry detergent and even diaper rash cream because "even Johnson & Johnson; they all have chemicals in them," she says.
Her husband inspired her to start Flutterby Soap Company after he bet her she couldn't make any money making her own soaps. He was wrong, and it has really taken off! She now also makes lotions, lotion bars, deodorant, lip balm, beard balm, and a whole assortment of other natural products.
The issue with most soaps these days is that they're stripped of the glycerin and other "good stuff," and what you're left with is basically a "detergent bar." Many of the major soap brands contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate, which is a skin irritant. Others contain diethyl phthalate, which is linked to fertility issues.
A soapy silver lining
Luckily for me, and many others, there are better options. Just perusing the soap aisle in Rebecca's over the past few months it seems like more and more natural brands are popping up. However, not all "natural" is equal. Giant corporations, like Proctor & Gamble, produce soaps and shampoos with this label, and it means nothing. They're still filled with toxins, and there is no government oversight for the choices most consumers see on shelves.
Due to this trickery, the Small Act of shopping local is incredibly important. More than likely if you're purchasing soap or some other cosmetic product from a small local business you're going to be getting a good quality, safe product.
"I want to keep it small. That way I know what's in it. I take care of my customers. You lose quality when you mass produce," says Val.
Vegan and natural
Val's soap is diethyl phthalate, sulfate, and paraben free. She uses only real natural ingredients like Shea butter, coffee grounds, coconut oil, mango butter, and essential oils. Most of her products are vegan, other than "a handful of products that contain bee's wax or bee pollen." She uses bee pollen in one of her face creams because it has been shown to promote healthy cell regeneration.
She comes up with all her own recipes. She uses a simple cold process starting with water and sodium hydroxide. Wait, what? She uses chemicals too? Not all chemicals are created equal. Sodium hydroxide is "completely safe after it has been combined with other constituents to create an effective, safe, and diverse cleaning agent known as soap."
Often times her kids will help her make the soap and other products, and her older daughter helps out at markets. "It's really fun, and I love that it brings my family together," she says.
Virginia is for soap lovers
Based out of Virginia Beach, VA, Flutterby has been around for six years. Originally she operated as a popup shop, popping up at craft shows and markets. Last year she attended 147 craft shows. She just opened up a storefront at the Virginia Beach Farmer's Market where she'll be open year round and will have a greater variety of products. She also sells an assortment of her products online.
Soap choice is a Small Act
If you can't opt in for making your own soap, at least try the Small Act of choosing your beauty products consciously. Support local business and help further someone's dream. A great resource for making sense of confusing labels is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database
This article was produced as a Small Act feature by Small Acts Count