Newport Seafoam Trading Company is housed in a beautiful storefront in the historic Lower Thames Street area of downtown Newport. The cozy shop is filled with natural light and a gorgeous array of all-natural products for the body and home.
Shop owner and head mixtress Boiana was inspired to try her grandmother’s recipe for a moisturizing soap made with all-natural ingredients. The soap was such a success that she opened her own store and has since expanded her product offerings to include candles, face washes, rooms sprays and more.
My good friend Kendalyn is in the beginning stages of launching her own bath and body care line (more on that later!) and invited me to take a soap making class with her. It was a perfect, creative activity to do on a cold winter day, especially when you make a bright citrusy-scented soap like I did (grapefruit margarita). It was really hard to choose what to make though, the shop carries over 40 different types of soap!
The class was full and even included a few gentlemen. Boiana explained that making soap is a pretty basic process, but because it involves the very reactive and corrosive chemical lye, you must be extremely careful and use the proper protective measures and equipment.
Bar soap can be made via a hot or cold process. I think the advantage to hot-process soap is that it needs less time to cure before you can use the final product. But the cold-process is a bit easier for first-time soap makers. The soap we made was made vegan because we did not use animal fat (lard or tallow) as the hardening agent. See this post for a very interesting overview of the options.
The basic process is described below, but please know this is only a general explanation. If you want to try it at home, I recommend reading this post and this post and make sure you are taking the proper safety precautions!
Boiana added lye to water (over the kitchen sink with a hood that was vented to the outside), then mixed the lye solution with melted oils. You can use a combination of oils such as shea, olive, etc. The oils you choose will depend on what type of soap you are making (for the body or face for example) and how sudsy or moisturizing you want the bar to be. We then used a stick blender to mix the oils and lye solution until it reached a certain thickness.
Then came the fun part! We could each mix in fun extras to give our soap certain properties. For example, you can add salt for exfoliation, essential oils for scent and additional functions (like tea tree oil for antibacterial properties), or crushed minerals for color. We have to let the bars cure for a few weeks so the water will evaporate and the soap will harden and last longer when it’s wet.
I added sea salt to my soap for exfoliation, and Kendalyn made a wonderful calming bar with frankincense essential oil and lavender buds for scent and exfoliation.
Before taking this class, I never appreciated how a bar of soap could be such a beautiful expression of both creativity and function. The Newport Seafoam Trading Company has so many inventive scents and combinations. I can’t wait to go back and make more!