Ra Soaps - Marrying art and science
Art is the dynamic instrument we use to bring our ideas and imagination to life, while science is the door which we open to understand the laws of nature. These are two separate worlds, however, when fused, they can produce immaculate sensations that we adore. Many persons including Sylvia Lowe - founder of Ra Soaps, has first-hand experience of the joys of marrying both worlds.
Ra [pronounced raw] Soaps began five years ago, in the resort town of Ocho Rios, St Ann, manufacturing homemade soaps from solely natural elements. Lowe's decision to use natural ingredients was born out of a mother's tender love.
"When I had my first son, I wanted something natural to bathe him with. I did not want it to contain preservatives, dyes or any harmful chemicals. Commercial soaps sold in stores are often made with chemical detergents, hardeners and synthetic lathering agents," Lowe explained.
Her quest for the perfect soap was futile, which pushed her to make her own. Formerly just a hobby, soap making is now one of Lowe's love and a process she describes as uniquely beautiful.
More than washing
For Lowe, a bar of soap is more than a substance used for washing. It's a creative experience that allows her to express her personal style and preferences into each batch that she makes.
The soaps are available in a wide variety, as the company uses elements you would not imagine could have been incorporated into soaps. Some of the soaps are made from charcoal, turmeric, cucumber, tomato, carrot, Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee, hemp milk, coconut milk, rice milk, goats milk, spirulina, sea clay, Moroccan clay, bentonite clay, kaolin clay and honey.
Ra soaps also use oils, namely coconut oil, sunflower oil, essential oils and occasionally olive oil to add a little extra to each bar.
The thrilling soap-making process entails using tools that are already in your possession - bowls or measuring cups, a pitcher, a spoon or spatula, a stick blender and a digital scale are everyday utensils you can easily find in your kitchen. Now, you will only need a soap mould, gloves, goggles, soap cutter, oils and other ingredients of your choice to transform your kitchen into a small science laboratory churning and baking soaps.
Although it's exciting, it's also an intricate process. While some ingredients may vary depending on the type of soap you're making, three essential elements cannot be substituted - oils, liquid and lye. Some persons, however, quiver at the idea of using lye on their skin - after all, it is one of the strongest chemical compounds in nature that dissolves fat.
"I often get the question, 'Isn't homemade soap made with lye? I don't want to put lye on my skin'. I completely agree, because I certainly don't want to put lye on my skin either. When calculated correctly, there is no lye leftover in handmade soap. Once the lye and oils emulsify and combine, the saponification (when lye and oils are turned into soap) process begins. This process turns the lye and oil into soap. In the final bar, no lye actually comes in contact with your skin because there is no lye in the bar - it's now soap," Lowe confidently explains.
With the different soap making processes such as hot press, cold press, rebatching, and melt and pour, Lowe describes the cold press method as the best.
"The cold press method creates a creamy lather. I have the ability to select oils for different soaps, and it allows me to add herbs, clays and natural products that benefit the skin. But, it's has its disadvantages. Using different fragrance oils can react with the high pH value of a cold-process soap in some negative ways. It also causes acceleration, ricing or seizing," Lowe said.
But, at the end,you will want to indulge your skin with the unique handcrafted soaps.