February 08, 2016
From his kitchen in a small town in Newcastle, Chris Lafferty crafts natural skincare items. Focusing on traditional processes and natural ingredients, Washed Out Soap is made using an ancient method known as cold-process. Producing in small batches Chris makes varying vegan friendly soaps for different skin types.
Chris kindly took the time to share the ancient method of ‘cold process’ which he uses to make his soap in his Newcastle based soap kitchen.
The first step in the process involves weighing ingredients and components. The cold process method of soap making is ancient, but one of the factors that must always be considered is the specificity of the recipe at hand. In order for the process to work, the ratio of oils to lye must be balanced perfectly. For our coffee soap, the Barista Bar, includes coconut oil, cocoa butter, olive oil, lye, and of course, ground coffee. The coffee is brewed first to make up the espresso base which will be blended with the soap mix itself later.
Once the ingredients are weighed and confirmed, the oils are heated and blended. This is the only step of the process in which external heat is used. The oils are heated over a stove. Once blended and in a fully liquid form, the oils are set aside to cool whilst the lye solution is prepared. In this case, it is mixed with the espresso base. Once the lye hits the liquid base, it super-heats briefly, then begins to cool.
Confirming that the oils and the lye solution are within a certain temperature range, the oils are added to the lye. This is the very essence of the process; the oils acidity will neutralise the lye, and the resultant solution is what becomes soap as we know it. From this point, it is a matter of blending and mixing the solution until it reaches what is known as trace. This is the point when it begins to thicken into what we call soap batter. It is at this stage that I add the ground coffee. The solution has thickened to a point where the coffee will suspend throughout the mix rather than simply sinking.
The soap batter has thickened to the point where we can pour the mixture slowly into a lined mold. The whole thing is covered, insulated, and left for 24 hours to set. The chemical processing between the various ingredients will continue over this period, as the mixture cools down, then re-heats itself, which pushes the soap through a stage known as 'gel phase', which affects the hardness, colour and texture of the finished item.
8 - 24 hours has passed, and we are ready to cut our loaf. Each batch of our soap yields 12 bars; a small order for the work at hand, but working with small batches ensures we can have the utmost level of control over the quality of the finished product. The bars will now cure for 4/5 weeks, effusing surplus moisture, and hardening into a firm, long-lasting bar. Once cured, our bars are stamped and packaged by hand before being sent out.
Having bought 15 bars, two jars of body butter and multiple mini soap samples from Chris before Christmas, I can report that his soap went down very well as family gifts. Our favourite? That is a decision torn between the New Found Bar or the Barista Bar.
New Found Bar
A collaborative endeavour between Chris and Welsh lifestyle store, ‘New-Found’. The bar is an invigorating blend of peppermint and pine essential oils, enriched with kaolin clay and fine grade activated charcoal. The collaboration was envisioned for activity related use whilst camping and hiking.
The image seen below shows the raw charcoal and clay ingredients used in the soap.
The Barista Bar
With a brewed espresso base, coffee is a very versatile tonic for the skin. It can reduce inflammation, improve elasticity, promote healthy blood flow to the surface levels and can aid in smoothing and toning. As well as the strong coffee base, Chris packs in a generous load of real brewed grounds, which reportedly provides very effective natural exfoliation. Seen below is a measure of raw coffee grind, ready for brewing before being mixed into the cold process.
Extensive to the natural ingredients and ethical approach to cold processing his soap, Chris modestly packages his products in understated brown paper packaging. Furthering his ecological positioning, Chris chose to standardise his packaging to reduce overall waste simplifying the packaging process. This packaging practicality enabled Chris to hand label his soap bars whilst maintaining brand consistency adding the personal tone you would expect from his products.
Amongst five soap variations, Chris produces soap sampling packs as well as two types body butters. His varying soaps cater for particular skin types, each listing their ingredients, natural notees, scents and skin benefits.
For many, soap and skin care is a personal and ritualistic activity as per your skins’ characteristics. Whilst there are many to choose from it’s nice to know that Chris’s soap bars are being made using traditional techniques and natural ingredients right here in the UK. For more information, head over to the Washed Out Soap website to see the entire skin care collection.
Thanks to Chris for his soaps, service and his story.
Washed Out Soap Co Website
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