Good question eh! Sometimes I wonder that myself!
My customers who have been with me a long time will know the story of how Maldon Soap came about. However, it’s evolved a lot since so, for my new customers, I thought I’d share my story with you.
So here goes…
A bit of background
I’ve always had really sensitive skin and I’ve found it hard finding products that suited me and didn’t leave my face red and spotty.
In sourcing products I have always consciously tried to use skincare brands that were ethical and as ‘natural’ as possible. But truly ethical brands are few and far between.
Through extensive trial and much error I discovered that so called ethical brands use an awful lot of greenwash. Words like ‘natural’ and ‘handmade’ are purely marketing tools. These companies promote ‘active ingredients’ whilst glossing over any questionable ingredients. They tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to know.
Through my research I also discovered that the price of a skincare product doesn’t necessarily ensure its quality or effectiveness. Price 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.
I tried for years to find soaps and skincare products for myself that were as close to nature as possible. I wanted them to be additive free, palm free, sls free, cruelty free and suitable for sensitive skin. When I couldn’t find any I decided to go back to basics and make my own!
Now, this might sound a bit extreme to some, but I already had a background in the cosmetics industry, and had trained as an aromatherapist, so it wasn’t quite as baffling an option as it sounds!
The early days of Maldon Soap
After the initial excitement of making my first test batches of soap I made my first proper batch of cold process soap in January 2013. Picture the scene…
There I was in the middle of my kitchen with a B&Q orange bucket, wearing a mask, goggles and gloves expecting some kind of explosion or something out of the magic porridge pot. It was actually all quite underwhelming and went very smoothly! The first soap I ever made? 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 very ‘rustic’ but they worked a treat and my family and friends were delighted with the results.
The importance of ingredients:
I decided very early on that I only ever wanted to use the best quality ingredients that I could afford. I also wanted to use local produce whenever possible. This would keep the ‘soap miles’ down and would ensure that any money I spent on raw materials stayed in the local community. When local ingredients were not available I wanted them to be organic and ethically sourced.
Doing it right from the very start:
The months before I began making products were filled with ridiculous amounts of research and investigation. I learnt so much! The main thing I learned was that it’s actually quite easy and straightforward to make soaps and skincare products without using cheap artificial ingredients such as parabens, SLS, palm oil, propylene glycol, triethenolomine, mineral based additives or artificial fragrances, colours, glitter, fillers and stabilisers. It just costs more… a lot more!
I have never used palm oil of any kind either in oil form or in ingredient form and I will never use it. A lot of soap makers use RSPO but that’s not an option for me. The certification can be quite ambiguous and I’d rather not take any chances. I’ve managed up til now without it so there’s no reason to ever start using it.
I don’t use SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) because, not only is it a major skin irritant, it is exclusively palm oil based and there are no palm free versions.
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.
Once I’d had my products, formulas and ingredients safety assessed and tested, I begin selling them! I was managing the Maeldune Heritage Centre at the time which was a craft centre so was the perfect first outlet. I still selling it in there to this day!
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 organic, vegan soaps and beauty products from the best quality but most simple ingredients possible, thus ensuring 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 our skin or hair reaches our blood stream in around 20 minutes. Our bodies are subjected to so much air born rubbish in our daily lives. Our skin doesn’t deserve to be bombarded with yet more additives. 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 or my assistant Lauren. This ensures 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. 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, social media and the newsletter.
The majority of my lovely customers will agree that the products are worth waiting for.
My products are 100% vegan, organic and the ingredients are ethically sourced.
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. These all have a function beyond just their colour. I also use herb, spice and vegetable colours and miniscule amounts of cosmetic grade, fairly traded, natural mica powders. 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 (almond, 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. Therefore there were many weeks when I was unable to work in there due to the weather.
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. These were hard to maintain whilst also managing the Maeldune Heritage Centre on a part time basis. Something had to give! So in August 2015 I left the safety net of my part time salary and tried to make my living entirely from making and selling soap!
From Soap Shack to Soap Studio:
Well, if I hadn’t succeeded I wouldn’t be writing this! Things went ok. I was never going to make millions but I ticked over. As I said above I quickly outgrew the soap shack so, in July 2017, I moved 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!
However, it’s not a retail space, so I don’t get any passing trade or ‘customers’ as such. The studio is on private land so I’m not allowed visitors unless by prior arrangement. I have had the occasional shopping event and pamper evenings but I tend to keep it all online now.
So that’s it really. I hope you haven’t nodded off reading all that but I wanted to get everything written down in one place!
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Thank you for visiting my Maldon Soap website. I hope you like what you see.
Lots of love