5 Booming Artisanal Soap Brands
Handcrafted suds are making a rebound on the Main Line.
Ellen April soap.
As of late, soap making has become a trendy, artisanal practice, one that the Main Line has responded to with fervor—enough to inspire five local artisans to begin a cottage industry to meet the demand. These soaps are different than the store-bought generic variety in that they are all-natural and environmentally friendly.
“People are starting to realize the downside of chemicals in their soap, and what it does to their skin and they're moving towards natural products,” artisan Samantha Toner of DustBunnysBubbles says.
Chester County-based soap maker Ellen Watson of Ellen April explains that these handmade products have a base of oils, butters and a natural glycerin that large cosmetics companies often avoid. “Especially now, consumers are more interested in health and they are more educated,” she notes. “People read ingredients, and at least some of my buyers come to me because they want to avoid the ingredients in commercial soap.”
Those not particularly conscious of their bath soap ingredients are attracted to handmade soaps because they are often beautifully colored and scented and, according to Watson, they stay for the “optimum experience with the skin.”
To get a better understand—and hopefully a better bath—we spoke to five local craftswomen about their trending trade.
Watson only sells Ellen April soap two places: The West Chester Growers Market and on her website. “I just wanted to sell my soap myself and stay small. I do everything myself; it’s entirely my business,” she says, noting how pleased she is that more people are enjoying the experience of using handmade soap. For soft skin, snag a Danish Spa Salt Bar or swirled Lavender Lime to replace bulk consumer cleansers. “The differences are vast and the enjoyment of bathing is so much better.”
Nether Providence Soap Company.
Nether Providence’s vegan soaps are an ideal soothing product for sensitive skin types, with varieties ranging from unscented to Black Raspberry & Vanilla. The company also makes laundry soaps and bath truffles for a lavish way to extend natural products throughout the home. Find them at the Media Farmers Market.
Castle Rock Soap Company.
Describing its soaps as “bursting with natural oils and butters” on its website, Castle Rock Soap Company uses the traditional cold processing technique to yield luxurious lathers. Based in Media, products are available online—its brick-and-mortar businesses are exclusively in Colorado. Try the company’s “Peak to Peak” for a fun strawberry and huckleberry scent or its “Just” bar for a cleansing combination of olive, coconut and palm oils.
Established this year, GreenBank Soap Company is a member of the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetics Guild and makes soap with USDA certified organic ingredients. Some of the more unique varieties include charcoal, coffee espresso and French green clay soap.
Based in West Chester, this year old company embraces essential oils and ingredients that won’t irritate anyone with sensitive skin. “My soaps are natural and cruelty free, but each one has something beneficial about it instead of just cleansing,” Toner says. She uses avocados, carrots and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as witch hazel and tea tree oil to ensure that anyone can feel comfortable using them, regardless of skin condition.