My 2 Cents on Soap Scents

Spices on the left, EOs on the right

Some thoughts on scents: As some of you know I tried a lot of scents from new suppliers this week which amounted to a couple of pleasant and familiar smells and an olfactory assault. It also gave me some food for thought. Fragrance is such a subjective thing! Here we are trying to determine whether our EOs are “authentic” and whose is better and it begins to remind me of the “Stones or Beatles?” wars of my youth. There is no factual answer. Speaking strictly about aroma (not the “alleged” properties of EOs which we cannot “sell” regardless of whether they work or not) we are in a position where the “quality” is quite literally all in our minds (via our noses).

I was trying to replace some of my standard oils that ED was out of. One of the things I realized is that for this particular project the “quality” of the oils is not nearly as important as the sameness, practically speaking. Please hear me carefully. I’m not allowing for bad quality. What I am saying is that for my business purposes, different smells are going to hurt me more than the quality of ED’s oils will (whatever the quality is) because that is what my soap smells like, what my customers buy, and what they expect to buy again.

I try hard to look at my own biases. I realize today that I do not have any idea what the highest quality of Frankincense smells like (and we could fight… and have fought… for days or years over who has that quality). What I consider to be “good frankincense” comes from my experience with incense and with a couple of brands of Frankincense EO which must have been pretty similar because they set my standard. Connie​ said that she got oil that reminded her of Pepsodent toothpaste. I could not put my finger on that smell until I made a batch of peppermint and tea tree soap this week with the new products and ALL I could smell was pepsodent. (Mind you, this is not even the same scent she said it about… but there it was). I liked my old Mint Tree soap (not my favorite of scents for myself but I have users who use only that). I HATE the new soap and I have no idea what my dedicated customers will think. The new oils may be better or worse but what I realized most of all is that I hate “different” and I like “same”.

It also made me realize how fickle soap is and I don’t understand how people can use new fragrances (especially FOs) in soap and sell the new batches without long term testing. One of the FOs I used this week completely changed the texture of the soap. (Enough for my customers to notice? Probably not – if they like the scent – but to me it’s completely different.) And the colors are different too.

Some of you who sell a wider variety to an ever changing market (say at craft shows) and who often have new offerings will probably not have so much of an issue with this but my business is based on very simple soaps, with very few ingredients that are well known and have been used for a long time (for the most part). I have quite a few customers who only use one particular bar of my soap so inconsistency is not good for my business.

I offer all of this just as food for thought for people for whom it might be useful. What I have decided will be a good idea for me, when the current dust settles, is to have my scents come from probably 3 reputable suppliers so that only 1/3 of my products are dependent on any one particular company. Fortunately for me I already had a couple I will just need to stretch a little farther.

One last thing, I am not so used to working with FOs as EOs and I must have really lucked out when I decided to order from Wellington. I only use about 4 FOs which I buy in 16 ounce bottles and pay on average $25 – 27 with shipping but when I saw the same ones for half the price at one of the other highly regarded suppliers I decided to try them. While some EOs accelerate some soaps to some degree it does not even seem comparable to the havoc that FOs cause and these cheaper ones were even more finicky. So, my suggestion is that you find scents you really like, from companies who are likely to be around for a good long time (not an unknown from Etsy, Ebay or Amazon) and will be able to provide it for you. Keep within your costing budget but don’t go for cheap just because it’s cheap. In the EO market it’s not always true that “you get what you pay for” in that bulk and true wholesale suppliers can really drop the cost compared to an MLM market model or the small bottles sold in the “craft market”. So find what works for you and stick with it in the range that works for your market.

Happy Soaping