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A Wine for Every Body

A vineyard is a beautiful sight to behold in the spring with its freshly manicured grape vines giving birth to new limbs with clusters of buds and the promise of ripe fruit. During the fall harvest season, the now pampered globes are collected and relocated to the winery where the fruit is processed into red, white or sparkling (i.e., champagne) wine. While a particular wine is determined by its grape or other fruit component, nearly all wines provide a liquid opportunity to share in the health supporting profile of this splendid fruit.

Wine is a historically diverse beverage, used in an infinite variety of recipes with dishes like beef and seafood, as well as in flavorful punches. Even mead, or honey wine, is an enthusiastic addition to the wine marketplace enjoying renewed appreciation for its versatility and distinct flavor. Wine’s multi-faceted talent does not end in the kitchen, however. Wine also makes a wonderful, healthy base for soap by bringing the antioxidant-rich profile and nutritional value in grapes and other fruits to the soap making pot and hence, to skin care. The fermentation process used to make wine allows we soap makers access to fruit and berries and hence, to a broader range of skin-loving nutrients not otherwise available due to its perishable nature. Even preservatives can not significantly increase fruit’s shelf life as a soap ingredient, an addition which ultimately compromises the basic tenure of “natural soap.” While honey can be added directly to the soap pot, mead allows for a larger serving and provides the distinct fragrance and color of honey.  In its melomel form, i.e., combined with fruit, mead blends the anti-bacterial and skin-healing attributes of honey with a fruit’s nutrient profile for an extraordinary skin-loving ritual via a simple bar of natural soap.

Grapes contain the anti-oxidant quercetin, flavonoids, minerals and vitamins. The beautiful color of red wine is derived from the grapes’ flavonoid content. Red grape skin and seeds also contain resveratrol, a chemical receiving a lot of press lately for its health-promoting properties. Resveratrol is thought to provide red wine with anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. When added to soap, these qualities may become directly available to the skin via the cleansing routine. Because of its unique astringent quality, essential fatty acids and vitamin (including vitamin E) profile, I also blend a liberal helping of grapeseed oil into nearly all my Winery soap formulas. The beautiful green tint found in grapeseed oil comes from its chlorophyll content; chlorophyll’s importance to plants is considered equal in importance to human blood. In addition to providing a deodorizing factor, chlorophyll is studied for its potential anti-cancer effects. Grapeseed oil contains abundant anti-oxidants and with its ability to support and nourish the epithelium/skin cells, makes a wonderful skin care ingredient. This characteristic also encourages damaged tissue to regenerate restoring the skin’s moisture-retention capacity.

Along with nutrients, wine adds a superb lather-boosting element to soap due to fruit’s natural sugar content — some soap makers add a bit of refined sugar to a batch just to increase lather. By using fruit wines, however, this boosting mechanism is achieved via a natural sugar complex. With its rich, multi-layered bouquet, wine adds a distinct aroma note to a soap blend as well. Since grape wines tend to have complex fragrances, wine provides a distinct aroma landscape not otherwise available in a natural form.

Not only do fruit wines such as strawberry or raspberry provide their health-promoting nutrient profiles to soap, they lend the distinct fragrance of these extremely popular fruits to the soap bar.   In addition to being attributed with aphrodisiac qualities, strawberries contain anti-oxidants along with several vitamins including C and K. Being highly perishable in its raw state, the nutritional profile of strawberries becomes directly available to the skin through strawberry wine soap. Our “True Love” soap is made with 100% strawberry wine and has a mild strawberry fragrance. Swirled with dark chocolate, packed with anti-oxidants, this dense-lathering bar soap is a healthy treat for both the senses and skin alike.

Raspberries, too, are packed with vitamins and contain ellagic acid, a compound found to have anti-carcinogenic activity on skin cancer cells as well as other cancers. When fermented into wine, the highly perishable nature of raspberries is transformed allowing our skin the opportunity to directly benefit from its nutrient content. There is a wide variety of fruit wines available on the market, including elderberry, cranberry and blackberry, each of which may offer distinct skin care benefits through soap making.  Even mead, or honey wine, adds a distinct, fabulous element to bar soap. Along with its amino acid content, the skin care and healing attributes of honey are well documented and with its particular sugar profile, mead soap has a lush lather, intriguing fragrance and unusual look.

No wine soap would be possible without first removing its alcohol content. Not only does alcohol inhibit the chemical reaction necessary to the soap making process, it also dries the skin. While nearly any wine can be mixed into soap, I prefer working with 100% fruit wine rather than flavored wines, and mead in nearly any form or combination of ingredients. By adding a de-sparkling step to the soap making process, elegant champagne becomes another goldmine in my quest for an assortment of distinct, nutrient-rich, all-natural handcrafted soap blends. Associated with romance, elegance and celebrations, champagne makes a remarkable soap with its fabulous nutrient profile and rich lather, an elegant touch to an otherwise ordinary routine. Our “Mimosa” champagne soap, with orange essential oil and Vitamin C-rich rosehip swirls, is modeled after the famous brunch beverage and a distinct bathing experience.

Wine and champagne soap is a wonderful, luxurious cleansing and moisturizing experience. When incorporated into soap, these time-tested beverages add their health supporting qualities to everyone’s skin care regimen. Special occasions and special harvests become memorialized events when fine spirits in soap are added. And when coupled with that special person, a simple bathing routine can become a romantic interlude, too. In addition, wine soap gives a whole new meaning to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bar) on an invitation. When attending such an event, along with its liquid form, be sure to include a lovely wine soap for the host.


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A Wash in Beer

Ah, beer. Who hasn’t heard of this bubbly brew or watched the Superbowl specifically to be entertained by the brewery industry’s commercials. While appealing to a broad spectrum of people, beer is a versatile beverage with a broad range of uses. It makes a tasty marinade, a moist and light bread and, fantastic soap! Yes, soap. Once the alcohol and its drying effects are removed, beer makes a near perfect skin care addition to soap. Since beer is primarily hops, many of this herb’s properties and benefits become a skin cleansing asset when added to soap. The diverse array of beers from micro breweries and distinct contributions from craft breweries add a new dimension to soap crafting options with beer.

Belgian lambic ales bring the richness and nutritional value of fruit to the beer market and when used in soap, these ales transfer these attributes to skin care. Oats, barley and wheat are mineral-rich grains that contribute an array of health promoting benefits to everything they touch, including soap. By adding lambic ales and whole grain beers to soaps, we bypass an otherwise risky bacterial potential and avoid the need for preservatives. Because of the fermentation process used in making beer coupled with the preservative and antibacterial benefits of hops, beer grants our skin the opportunity to directly benefit from these botanical ingredients when it would otherwise be problematic to the soap making process or require preservatives. If an ingredient requires a synthetic preservative to maintain purity, the reason for using “natural soap” is defeated.

In addition to adding flavor to beer, hops makes a relaxing tea. Traditional uses for hops include anti-stress or sedative blends along with sleeping formulas. Beer soap brings some of hops’ relaxing effects to the bathing experience making beer soap a great cleansing choice after a strenuous workout, whether in the gym or the yard. Hops have a slightly sweet fragrance and soaps made with beer initially display a sweet under note because of this. Over time, this fragrance tends to diminish and aroma notes contributed by other ingredients tend to be more dominant. For example, with their fruit additions, lambic ales add a beautiful, rich fruit scent to soaps made with these luscious beers. Fruit beers broaden the soap coloring palette as well so that a framboise or raspberry lambic ale grants a garnet tone to soap. Raspberries are packed with vitamins and minerals and contain ellagic acid, a compound found to have anti-carcinogenic activity on skin cancer cells as well as other cancers. Black currant or cassis lambic ale lends a rich note to bar soap acting as both a distinct coloring agent and fragrance additive. As a healthy skin addition, black currants are packed with anti-oxidants along with Vitamin E and Vitamin C among other nutrients. A robust brown color, oatmeal stout combines the skin soothing benefits of oats with hops’ anti-inflammatory, skin-softening attributes for a gentle, skin-loving wash.

I remember as a teen it was all the rage to wash your hair in beer. Personally, I didn’t much care for the idea since I disliked the smell of Coors, the only beer I was familiar with at the time. When I began exploring beer soap, however, I decided a beer shampoo bar was definitely in order. Once an appropriate ale was selected, it was time to formulate the soap recipe. For its moisturizing and small, tight bubble attributes, an abundance of castor oil figures prominently along with jojoba & wheat germ oils for their hair & skin care attributes. Since hair is made of protein, silk fibers are a nutrient additive and lend a helping hand to lather. Finally the bar is enriched with kukui nut oil, rich in essential fatty acids and noted for its hair care benefits. The resulting beer-based shampoo is a great scalp conditioning, dense-lathering bar soap that works equally well whenever a thick lather is desired, such as with shaving. Skin also benefits from this soap with its silky lather and skin-loving ingredients.

None of these skin care applications are possible without first removing the alcohol content from the beer. Not only does alcohol inhibit the chemical reaction necessary to the soap making process, it also dries the skin. This necessary extra step makes beer soap more labor intensive. While most soap makers simply substitute beer for the water portion of a soap formula and add lye to the beer, I found this method to be risky for the very reasons I wanted beer as an ingredient — the nutrients, fragrance and color. After a bit of research, I developed my own modified technique for making beer soap. Since the soap from my test batch made with a framboise lambic ale carried a noticeable fruit note and retained tones distinct to its beer base, the technique was deemed successful. This technique is now employed in all my beer soap making.

While nearly any beer can be mixed into soap, I prefer working with beers that have either ingredients beneficial to skin care or strong, unique fragrances I don’t otherwise have access to in a natural form — I never use synthetic fragrance oils in my soap. Rich colors and strong scented beers assure these treasured elements have a high probability of withstanding the soap making process. Beer soap is a wonderful cleansing and moisturizing experience…and a beer lover’s dream come true. What an inconspicuous, unique way to add health supporting characteristics to your skin care regimen — or celebrate a special occasion with someone’s favorite beer in a bar soap.