Natural Soap: Shelf Life, Color & Scent
We often receive emails asking the following questions:
- Do your soaps have an expiration date or shelf life?
- Why is my soap a lighter color than the website picture?
- Why are the scents not as strong as other natural soaps I have tried?
I hope to answer these questions in this blog!
Does Natural Soap Have a Shelf Life?
The Short Answer
Yes And No!
Although handmade natural soaps usually get better with age, we recommend using our soaps within 12 months of purchase. Our scented soaps should be used within 3 months after removing them from the box.
Although the soaps will not be "spoiled" after that time, you may notice some changes as natural soap ages.
- some natural colors may fade over time
- the scents from pure natural essential oil scents will fade over time
The changes in color and scent happen even more quickly in our sample size bars. These bars have a much greater surface area to volume ratio which allows essential oils to evaporate from the surface more quickly. However, the scent may still be there when you lather up.
I have found some ancient bars hiding in my closet that years old. The scents were gone, but the lather was incredible!
The Long Answer
Just like fine wine, Chagrin Valley Handcrafted Soaps get better with age.
Left to cure for several months, moisture will evaporate out of your bar of natural soap and the soap will become slightly smaller, harder, longer-lasting, and even gentler on your skin. The harder (older) the soap, the longer it lasts and the more lather it produces.
We allow our soaps and shampoos to cure for 8 to 10 weeks. This resting process assures a fine quality product. You simply cannot rush a good thing.
What Factors Affect The Shelf-Life of Soap or Shampoo Bars?
As I said at the top of the page, handmade soaps usually get better with age. But there are some factors that are responsible for changes in the soap or may affect the shelf-life over time.
- Are the soaps scented with pure natural essential oils or fragrance oils?
- Are the soaps colored with nature's botanicals or synthetic coloring agents?
- How are the soaps formulated?
- What ingredients are used to make the soap?
Essential Oils: Why are the scents not as strong as other soaps I have tried?
- Our natural soaps are gently scented with essential oils. Our goal is not to overpower your senses, it is to provide a nice subtle aromatherapy experience as you bathe or shower.
- Furthermore, the scents of pure essential oils fade much faster than those from synthetic fragrance oils.
Essential oils are volatile liquids. The word "volatile" comes from Latin word "volare" which means "to fly." When exposed to air, many of the compounds that make up essential oils easily vaporize or evaporate into the air. Each essential oil evaporates at a different rate. Citrus oils can be especially short-lived in soap, with a noticeable decrease in scent in as little as six months.
The scent of a bar of natural soap in which the essential oil blend has faded is often revived when you use the bar and the outer layer is washed away!
Read our blog, "Why We Use Only Real Plant Essential Oils?"
Natural Colors: Why is my soap a lighter color than the website picture?
Our natural soap colors come from natural ingredients like spices, clays, botanicals, herbs, coffee, chocolate and even tomatoes.
Unfortunately, natural colors will fade over time because most of them are light sensitive. I can make a batch of soap with the most vibrant natural colors and a mere six months later the colors can morph into a lightish tint.
The Soap Recipe
The way in which soap is formulated has an effect on shelf-life. Chagrin Valley Handcrafted Soaps contain all-natural and organic fresh ingredients and no artificial preservatives.
Superfatting: Superfat is the amount of free oil left over after the soapmaking process is complete. The method we chose to superfat our soaps creates a bar with a high percentage of unincorporated oils.
These oils are not consumed in the soap making process and remain to nourish your skin. These unreacted oils result in a soap that is more emollient, more moisturizing, and gentler on your skin, but it decreases the shelf-life.
We do not use synthetic stabilizers or preservatives to prolong shelf life. These ingredients can be skin irritants and are usually found in commercial soaps to extend their shelf life for up to 10 years. We use natural antioxidants, such as rosemary oil extract, to help prolong the shelf life of our superfatted soaps.
Different oils impart different qualities to soap. Some add lathering qualities, some moisturizing, some hardness, and so on.
We use a larger percentage of extra moisturizing and conditioning oils in our soaps and shampoo bars than many other soapmakers.
As a result, you may notice our natural bar soaps may be softer than those of other soapmakers, especially our shampoo bars which contain a large percentage of castor oil. These "softer" oils may also decrease the shelf-life.
Commercial soaps are made with synthetic preservatives that can extend the soap’s shelf-life, yet harm your skin. Natural organic soaps are made with wholesome ingredients and essential oils.
- Natural soaps need to breathe. Exposure to air promotes the hardening of your soap and contributes to longer-lasting quality. Soap should be left unwrapped in their boxes or wrapped with breathable materials. Tight wrappers cause humid conditions by preventing the evaporation of moisture.
- Our soaps are packaged in breathable, recyclable, sustainable packaging! Keep your natural handmade soaps in a dry, cool place away from sunlight, excessive heat and humidity.
- Our scented soaps, like Lavender Rosemary, can be placed in a muslin bag or wrapped in a piece of cloth and put in your linen closet or dresser drawer to give a delightful fragrance to your linens and clothes while waiting to be used.