Natural Soap: Shelf Life, Color & Scent
We often receive emails asking the following questions:
- Do your natural 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 soaps?
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 our 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.
Sample bars of natural soap and shampoo 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 are years old. The scents were gone, but the lather was incredible!
The Long Answer
Just like fine wine, Chagrin Valley Handcrafted Natural 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 which is longer than most companies. This resting process assures a fine-quality product. You simply cannot rush a good thing.
What Factors Affect The Shelf-Life of Natural Soap or Shampoo Bars?
Handmade natural soaps usually get better with age but not all handmade soaps are formulated in the same way or with the same ingredients. There are 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? Some handmade soaps are made with fragrance oils.
- Are the soaps colored with clays and nature's botanicals or synthetic coloring agents? Some handmade soaps are colored with ingredients like micas. While on its own, mica is natural, in most cases the color that is added to mica is synthetically produced.
- How are the soaps formulated? What is the process and 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 of synthetic fragrance oils.
Essential oils are volatile liquids. The word "volatile" comes from the 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.
The problem is that the rate of evaporation of each essential oil is different. For example, 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!
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, juices, chocolate, and even tomatoes.
Unfortunately, natural colors will fade over time because most of them are light-sensitive. Picture some fresh vibrant rose petals after a few months.
I can make a batch of soap with the most vibrant natural colors and a mere 6 months later the colors can morph into a lightish tint.
The Natural Soap Recipe: Process & Ingredients
The way in which soap is formulated has an effect on shelf-life. Any soap is only as good as the ingredients used to make it.
Our natural soap and shampoo bars contain fresh, all-natural and organic ingredients. No synthetic detergents and no artificial preservatives.
We superfat all of our soap and shampoo bars, using a large percentage of extra moisturizing and conditioning butters and oils.
Superfat is the amount of free oil left over in a bar after the soapmaking process (saponification) 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.
How You Can Help Prolong Shelf-Life of Your Natural Soap
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 plastic wrappers cause humid conditions by preventing the evaporation of moisture.
- Our soaps are packaged in breathable, recyclable, sustainable packaging! Until ready to use, 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, wrapped in a piece of cloth or even an old clean sock and placed in your linen closet or dresser drawer to give a delightful fragrance to your linens and clothes while waiting to be used.
A good handmade soap, like a fine wine, gets better with age. But the nature of natural ingredients and the way in which the soaps are formulated will affect the Shelf Life, Color and Scent of an All Natural Soap over time.
We know that through our natural soap making process we may sacrifice those vibrant colors and robust scents. But our goal is to choose the finest ingredients to formulate soap and shampoo that will be kind to your skin and to our planet.
What About the Shelf-life of Other Products?
Natural products made without preservatives, artificial ingredients, and additives have a shorter shelf life than commercial products. Proper storage and handling will help preserve freshness.
Always use clean hands
To help prevent bacteria or mold from forming in your organic skin care product always use clean hands. You can also use a small spoon or cosmetic spatula. Just scoop out the desired amount and avoid contaminating the delicate balance of your botanical blends.
Always keep containers tightly sealed
Once a jar or bottle has been opened oxygen can begin to break down and degrade organic ingredients. To limit oxygen exposure, keep lids on and tight.
Keep products out direct sunlight
Natural plants compounds are sensitive sunlight. Exposure to sunlighht can cause natural ingredients to degrade, causing them to spoil faster. Store products away from sunlight.
Keep products at a cool and stable temperature
Prolonged heat or other temperature changes can affect natural plant ingredients. Store products in a cool place at a consistent temperature.
Do not store products in your bathroom
Okay, so I don’t even listen to my own advice here, but my sinks and shower are in different areas. Just know that since your shower produces a lot of humidity it can contribute to excess moisture or condensation which can lead to mold growth or spoilage.
Our products harness the power of plants, and just like freshly picked herbs or botanicals, each product type will have a different lifespan.
We hand blend all of our own products in small batches to ensure freshness, consistency, and perfection. So you can experience our skincare products at their peak of freshness, we recommend that you buy quantities you will be able to use within the PAO (period-after-opening) date shown on the product.
The PAO symbol identifies the useful lifetime of a skin care product after it has been opened for the first time. As you can see from the picture, the symbol is an open jar with a written number and the letter "M" for the word "months."
A product with a "6M" would mean that it is good for 6 months after opening.
This POA number represents our best suggestion. There are many factors that can affect the lifespan of a product. If a product is discolored, has an unpleasant smell or looks odd, the product should not be used and should be discarded.