Welcome to The Maldon Soap Company
My name’s Sue McKenna and I’m the owner and creator of the gorgeous beast that is The Maldon Soap Company. Allow me to tell you all about it…
A bit of background
I’ve always had really sensitive skin and found it hard finding products that suited my skin and didn’t leave my face with a red rash or spotty – or both!
I’ve always been conscious of the environment and have always tried to use skincare brands that were ethical and ‘natural’.
However, through extensive trial and much error I discovered that many ‘ethical’ brands use an awful lot of greenwash. They use words like ‘natural’ and ‘handmade’ as marketing tools, glossing over any questionable product ingredients by promoting their ‘active ingredients’. They tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to know.
These multi national, profit driven companies paint a picture of being ethical, handmade and natural but sadly their products are not very good for us or great for the planet.
Through my research I also discovered that the price of a skincare product doesn’t necessarily ensure its quality or effectiveness.
Price usually has more to do with branding and perceived value. ie. if something is really expensive it must be good for you. This I have found is simply not true.
After trying for years to find soaps and skincare products for myself that were as close to nature, additive free, palm free, sls free, cruelty free and suitable for sensitive skin, I decided to go back to basics and start making my own!
That might sound a bit extreme but I am an aromatherapist, with a background in the beauty industry, so it isn’t quite as crazy as it may have first sounded!
The early days of Maldon Soap
After the initial excitement of making my first skincare products – just for myself and my family – I made my first batch of cold process soap in January 2013. There I was in the middle of the kitchen with my B&Q orange bucket, wearing my mask, goggles and gloves. The first soap? Lemongrass and Lime – and I still use the same recipe today although now the oils I make it with are organic!
The soaps I made initially were a little ‘rustic’ looking but they worked a treat and my family and friends were delighted with the results.
The importance of ingredients:
I then decided that I only ever wanted to use the best quality ingredients that I could afford to use and that I wanted to use local products whenever possible to keep the ‘soap miles’ down and to ensure that any money I spent on raw materials stayed in the local community as much as possible. When local ingredients were not available I wanted them to be sourced organically and ethically.
Doing it right from the very start:
After doing lots of research and learning loads I discovered that it’s actually quite straightforward making soaps and skincare products without using cheap artificial ingredients such as parabens, SLS, palm oil, mineral based additives or artificial fillers and stabilisers. It just costs more!
I have never used palm oil of any kind and will never use it. I’ve managed up til now without it so there’s no reason to ever start using it. A lot of soap makers use RSPO but that’s not an option for me as the certification can be ambiguous and I’d rather not take any chances.
I don’t use SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) because, not only is it a major skin irritant, it is always palm oil based.
The cocoa and shea butters I use have always been organic, fairly traded and ethically sourced.
And, of course, everything ingredient I use is cruelty free and none of my products are tested on animals.
So, back in 2013, once I’d had my products, formulas and ingredients safety assessed and tested, I begin selling them in the Maeldune Heritage Centre which I was managing at the time. A couple of other outlets soon followed and the website followed the following year. I’m still selling in the Heritage Centre 7 years later!
Maldon Soaps ethos:
In the same way that a good chef chooses the best quality ingredients to make simple dishes that taste incredible I like to concentrate on making the purest soaps and beauty products from the best quality but most simple ingredients possible, ensuring that they are the most beneficial products for your skin. Just don’t eat them!
Our skin is the largest organ of our bodies. Everything that goes on your skin or hair reaches your blood stream in around 20 minutes. Our bodies are subjected to enough air born rubbish in our daily lives so doesn’t our skin deserve to not be bombarded with more additives? Surely it makes sense to limit what we rub on it or sit in voluntarily. Nature works, so we should let it!
About Maldon Soaps products:
All my products are made in small batches, by me personally, to ensure that you get fresh, top quality products every time. For this reason products may, very occasionally, be out of stock on the website, but do keep checking back because it is updated every day as and when they are back in stock.
I am a one woman band micro business and, although I can do anything I can’t do everything! Sometimes I need to take a break or a holiday. When this happens I’ll give as much warning as I can on the website and on social media and in the monthly newsletter (which you’re very welcome to subscribe to – find out how by reading on…)
The majority of my lovely customers will agree that the products are worth waiting for.
All my products are 100% vegan, the vast majority are now organic and I’m working towards all products being 100% organic by August 2021.
The list of local ingredients I use are:
- Maldon sea salt
- Organic carrots from Sarah Greens Organics in Tillingham near Maldon.
- Cold pressed Rapeseed oil from Colchester
- Organic, Gluten free Oats from Cambridge
- Calendula and Lavender from my own and local gardens.
I used to use local honey and beeswax but, since I only use vegan ingredients now, I have stopped using them.
What about colour and fragrance?
When colouring my products I mainly use natural colours from clays and oils which usually have a function beyond just the colour. I also use herb, spice and vegetable colours. I use miniscule amounts of cosmetic grade colours in a few of my artisan soaps. I prefer to keep the colour of my products subtle and understated, to let the natural ingredients speak for themselves as it were. I would never want the appearance of a product to detract from its quality and functionality.
No glitter or garish colours!
I always focus on the ingredients in each product and what they can do for your skin and wellbeing, rather than how pretty it turns your bathwater or how brightly coloured and sparkly the product is.
If you’re looking for garish colours, quirky shapes and glitter in your products you’ve come to the wrong place!
As I’ve mentioned before what goes on your skin very soon ends up in your bloodstream, and in the sea. So it makes sense, to me at least, not to sit in a bath full of brightly coloured, glitter filled water. The only reason someone would want to sit in that is because the company have convinced you that it is beneficial to your skin!
The majority of my products are suitable for sensitive skin. I suffer from eczema and sensitive skin so I’ve designed all the products for my own use! Some are more nurturing than others and there are sections on the website for you to browse so you can find something suitable for yourselr.
I use pure essential oils to fragrance most of the products and some products are unfragranced, or have a fragrance free option so these are suitable for very sensitive skin.
I do use a couple of cosmetic grade fragrance oils (rose, apple, raspberry & coconut) in my body products but these are in very small quantaties.
What do I use to package Maldon Soap?
All the products are handmade from scratch, hand potted and labelled and wrapped by hand. I now have a part time helper who does some wrapping when I’m really snowed under.
My cold process soaps are wrapped in Himalayan lokta paper which is a sustainable, tree free paper which supports a paper making tradition going back generations. Its gorgeous paper, fully compostable and gives my soap a unique and very sophisticated look. I know it’s what’s inside that counts but people also buy with their eyes and, thanks to this gorgeous paper, my soaps now look very eye catching and truly reflect the quality organic ingredients they contain. Pure luxury!
My other soaps, solid products and bath bombs are wrapped in natural compostable cellophane. This cellophane is made in the UK from wood pulp which is a by product of the UK furniture industry. It protects the products from damage and ensures that it reaches you in the same condition that it left the studio.
What do I package the skincare in?
All my full size skincare products are now packaged and sold in either glass jars with aluminium lids or aluminium tins. My use of plastic for packaging is now at a minimum thankfully and I have eliminated single use plastic for all products. Trial sizes of all facial skincare are available so you can try them before committing to full size products.
From cottage industry to Soap Shack:
I initially made the products at home in my little bungalow out in the sticks, the ultimate cottage industry. However, this soon became impractical as the business began to grow quite quickly.
In 2014 I managed to open my own little shop (the soap shack) at White Elm Garden Centre. It doubled as a my workshop and allowed me to move the making side from my home but it wasn’t very practical. It could reach 40 degrees in summer and 1 degree in winter so there were many weeks when I was unable to work in there due to the weather.
Also, due to my expanding range, I quickly outgrew it. At one point whilst there I had 9 outlets across Essex as well as the website which was hard to maintain whilst managing the Maeldune Heritage Centre on a part time basis plus working in the shop 4 days a week and topping up the outlets and making the stock too. Something had to give so in August 2015 I left the safety of my part time salary as manager of the Heritage Centre to try to make my living entirely from making and selling soap!
From Soap Shack to Soap Studio:
I couldn’t carry on any longer in such a small space so, in July 2017, I moved from the soap shack to the soap studio, a gorgeous, brand new studio tucked away deep in the Essex counryside. My soap studio is massive, bright, airy, insulated and built for purpose. You could fit the soap shack inside my studio three times and I love it!
Although it is not a retail space, so I don’t get passing trade every day, the amount of space I now have enables me to hold occasional shopping evenings and events which are really great!
Phew, that’s all about me and the studio! I hope you haven’t nodded off reading all that but I wanted to get everything written down in one place!
If you’d like to keep up to date with events and goings on in the studio plus be the first to hear about new products plus hints and tips please sign up to my VIP mailing list. you’ll get an informative monthly newsletter plus VIP only special offers, competitions and prizes. You can sign up by clicking the link here or at the top of the website.
Thank you for visiting my Maldon Soap website. I hope you like what you see.
Lots of love