Interview with HathorsBath
March 22, 2010
This is the first in a series of interviews with small and independent makers of natural body care products. This interview is with HathorsBath of Wiltshire who create organic, handcrafted bath and body products from exotic ingredients like coconut, coffee butter and mango butter.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your products…
“The Rose is known as the Queen of Flowers and we feel we’ve done it justice in this lavish bath bomb; fragranced with a scent of old English roses and pressed into delicate heart shapes, these are sure to delight your senses.”
I run Hathor’s Bath, a small business making soaps and bath products, and I’m hoping to branch into a few more products over the next year or two. I originally worked a 9 to 5 job, but with a disabled child and my own disability, I soon found I had to turn my hand to working for myself. I took an interest in making my own cosmetics and toiletries and decided to turn it into a business. So far, this is turning out to be the best job I’ve ever had, and I love what I do.
“Inspired by the exotic climes of Thailand, this soap uses full-fat coconut milk as its main component, as well as lashings of nourishing mango butter, organic shea butter, and fragranced with a lemongrass-ylang-ylang fragrance.”
What is your ethos?
Like quite a few people out there, I have lost many friends to cancer, and I have some who are still fighting the disease. With the recent research on parabens and aluminium in anti-perspirants contributing to the increase in breast cancer, not to mention the rather nasty reputation of palm oil and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (which surprisingly is including in a lot of supposedly ‘natural’ products), I decided I would make products without any of these additives. Like the Ancient Egyptians, I believe “beauty out, beauty in”, and toxicity plays no part in that.
I also feel that high quality products shouldn’t have a massive price-tag, either in cost or in the environment. My oils and butters are ethically sourced and fair-trade; my shea butter is supplied from a small village in Ghana and they receive all the proceeds and profit from my purchases.
What makes you unique?
“This is a wonderful salt bar made with a green tea maceration, green clay and a beautiful, refreshing lemony green tea scent.”
No two soaps are alike; swirls and glitter and exotic fragrances and ingredients, I try to make my bars both visually appealing as well as good for your skin. Again, I think offering something for everyone helps with this; from my luxury Nefertum range, to the botanical Ebers, my Amun-Ra for Men with my bestselling shaving soap, my Hapi Bath milks and bombs, as well as the bargain bin for those who want to try some of my hand-formed soap balls or the batches that didn’t quite make the cut. I try to make my products available to everyone, no matter what the budget.
How did you choose your shop name?
I’m a dilettante student of mythology, and Hathor was one of the primary goddesses of the Egyptian pantheon, predating Auset, or Isis – though Isis and Hathor eventually became synonymous. Hathor is portrayed as a sacred cow with a solar disk between her horns, or alternatively as a woman shown looking straight ahead – unusual in Egyptian art – with cow’s horns and cow’s ears. Her milk was sacred, and her devotees used to bathe in milk as a beauty aid, and treasured beauty and harmony as their main form of worship. I love milk baths myself, and when I started developing my bath milks, it just seemed like a very fitting name!
How did you get into making body care products?
Originally, I started out because I couldn’t afford all the lovely stuff from the High Street shops! I would read the ingredients and think “Hey, I could make that!”. As I became more experienced, I was rather shocked at how many products were labelled “natural”, “organic” and “handmade” but truly were anything but! I decided I would put my own hand to making soaps, and then I received my certification for bath products so I was able to start making my bath milks.
I had a friend undergoing chemotherapy and another friend with really troublesome skin conditions, and I wanted to create soaps which would not irritate their skins. I developed my Two Earths soap and my Herb & Honey, both of which have a good following now! Again, I realised I could do all this without using preservatives or un-necessary additives – and so, I turned it into a business.
Are there any ingredients you love working with?
I am a great fan of babassu oil; similar to coconut but without coconut’s somewhat drying tendencies – I add this when I want lots of bubbles, a clear opaque colour and a nice hard bar (which allows me to add more skin-nourishing oils). Also works a treat in salt bars as you want the bar to be very hard to hold together.
Sweet almond oil is a given in all the bars I make due to its lovely qualities – not too heavy, it’s a great emollient without neutralising other oils or lending a overlaying smell as other oils can tend to do.
“This salt bar is a bit of a big deal – coffee butter is very difficult to find in the UK but thanks to some sweet talk to our supplier, we have managed to do so!”
I’m also a huge fan of the coffee butter I invested in – it is very VERY expensive, the most expensive ingredient I’ve ever purchased, but it has great qualities, said to reduce the appearance of cellulite on the skin, so it goes a treat with my salt bars. The fragrance is very coffee as well and comes through brilliantly even in soap.
Do you have a favourite essential oil or fragrance?
I have to say the Hathor’s signature blend is probably my favourite; it’s a blend of various fragrance oils including frangipani, ylang-ylang with hints of amber and musk. It is very exotic and a friend of mine from Malaysia loves it as she says it reminds her of home. I have a milk bath, bath bomb, and soap bar dedicated to this fragrance, and I’m hoping to do a bubble bar soon!
Describe your process…
It’s amazing just how much goes into making soap; a lot of people (other crafters included) think all you have to do is put some soap base in a pan, mould it, cut it and then sell it on Ebay and make a fortune. You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried; there are a lot of rules and regulations which must be followed if you’re going to be compliant with the EU Cosmetics directive, and I’ve done my homework, but it means that there’s a lot more involved that just making the batches. Thankfully the batch-making is the fun part!
I take inspiration from the seasons, spring, summer, fall and winter. I am also inspired sometimes by reading the Ebers, or the herbology book from Egypt. While some of the formulations aren’t feasible for modern use, some of the combinations make perfect sense and herbalists use them today. By being able to shift things round, I always have changing stock and I think this keeps me from getting “burnt out” on making just the usual.
My soaps are made by using the Hot Process or Cold Process method. Basically, this means I use oils, butters, and lye, mix them all together and either heat them steadily until “gel” (hot process) or pour them into the mould and either allow it to gel on its own or not (cold process). There are all sorts of different effects and end results depending on which process you use, so I think about this carefully before I come up with a formulation.
Every batch is monitored, pH tested and hand cut, trimmed and then allowed to “cure” for all the lye to saponify and for some of the water to evaporate. Hot process soaps take two weeks to cure, and cold process can take up to four, so I have to plan very carefully if I want to roll out a particular product for a holiday or season. My Christmas/Yuletide planning starts in September, for example!
Out of the products you make, which one is your favourite and why?
I’d have to say my salt bars are my favourite. Salt bars came about as I was asked why I didn’t make shower gel, so I explained my stance on parabens (all products that contain water require preservatives) and also my personal feeling that you’re not really getting value for money with shower gels, just convenience. I wanted to offer a shower-soap option which would do the job of a bit of soap and a pouffe without resorting to the use of preservatives. Salt bars are becoming the “new shower gel” at the moment as salt is a great exfoliator and skin moisturiser – put that combination together with a fragrant soap and it’s a match made in heaven! I have clients who won’t use anything else, so I make my Mt Fuji and Cafe Mocha salt bars regularly. I roll out a very amazing Berry-O Salt bar during the summer which is made entirely with essential oils for fragrance – the most amazing berry scent and I have no idea how my supplier did it, but I do know it was two years in the making!
Anything else you would like to add?
“This bath milk is just as it sounds; made with goats milk, honey, tussah silk and fragranced with a lotus/orange blossom blend for a delightful, exotic scent, this bath milk will give your skin a nourishing treat!”
I would encourage people to not buy into the “natural” or “handmade” label on an item, but to be active, informed consumers. I’ve had many people thank me for having all my weight measurements, ingredients list and full information on my soaps as they bought from other suppliers, even major High Street chains, and were disappointed – this is required under the Distance Selling Act but it’s rather shocking how few companies comply with this. A lot of claims are made due to good marketing (such as “Not tested on animals” – as of the EU Directive, no cosmetic anywhere in the EU can be tested on animals, so that’s not even a unique claim!). I use my own products, and I use them on my son – if I don’t like an ingredient, I don’t put it into my products, and I certainly won’t sell them to my customers. You get soap in my soap, and nothing else.