Is melt and pour 'real soap' & how is it different to cold process soap?
What is the difference between melt and pour soap and cold process soap making and is melt and pour 'real soap'
This is a really valid question and one which crops up time and time again. There are very much 2 different types of soaper in the world of soap making. The cold process 'make from scratchers' and the melt and pourers.
So what is the difference?
Well Melt & Pour soap is exactly what it says on the box. You do not need to formulate your recipe, mess around with caustic soda or worry about many of the issues that can (and do) arise with traditional soap making. You quite literally melt your pre made soap base and customise it to your preferences with colours, fragrances and designs. The soap base itself does differ from a traditional cold process soap, it has to or you would not be able to melt it down. But contrary to what you may think it is still soap, it is still made with lye (also known as sodium hydroxide or caustic soda) but someone else has done that bit for you hence it is perfect for children. Additionally the soap base tends to be extremely high in glycerin (vegetable based) up to 50%, which is what gives this type of soap its characteristic texture. Incidentally, glycerin is a humectant which means it attracts moisure which is a good thing when using it on your skin although it does mean M & P soap has a tendancy to 'sweat' as it can attract moisture from the environment particularly in humid conditions.
It is often quite a distinctive looking soap, transparent or opaque it has a shinier appearance in many cases. The image below is not one of mine but from the slightly translucent sheen I am quite certain it will be melt and pour.
Is M & P cheating? No not at all in my eyes. Made from scratch soap is not for everyone, is does require a degree of technical knowledge and an understanding of some of the science. M & P still allows you to be creative and make beautiful soaps and there are some true 'artists' in the M & P soap world. Added to which there are a multitude of bases to choose from now - the options are vast. Many people get the bug with this method and then move on to cold process
How is cold process soap making different from melt and pour?
Well, here you are quite literally starting with all the raw materials, natural butters and oils and the lye (sodium hydroxide) and enabling the chemical reaction which turns all those in to soap. If you would like to know more about that process you may find this blog interesting.
Whilst is does take a little longer to get the hang of once you have nailed the process this traditional method of soap making really does open up all sorts of doors for you. You can formulate recipes to suit your skin type, the purpose the soap is intended for, the appearance and so on. The soap making world is huge and forever evolving and is not something that is easy to become bored of.
Which method do I prefer?
I will always be a cold (and hot ) process, make from scratch kind of person, partly because I like being able to control exactly what goes in to my soaps and also because I prefer the texture and feel of it. I also enjoy the whole process, although it has to be said, not the cleaning up.
But, and it is a big but, I often get asked about soap making for children and also for adults who may have learning difficulties, or dementia for example, and who would love to get involve in the creative aspects of soapmaking but would not be able to manage the full 'make from scratch' process. This is where melt and pour really comes in to its own, they can still engage in preparing, making and creating their soaps with all the benefits that brings, a sense of achievement, mindfulness, handmade, crafty and so on with none of the complications. Or there are many people who would like to do something crafty, nice smelling and calorie free but without any of the hassle or technical details or needing a full blown lesson.
This is exactly why I have recently introduced my first Melt and Pour Zoom class. And also a Melt & Pour Soap Making Kit, I love being able to help others make soap and this allows it to be accessible to so many more people from ages 6 to 106.
2021 will see me expanding on these courses and kits so do check back often if it is something which interests you.