What’s so special about olive oil soap?
Olive oil soap is a traditional soap found in open-air markets in the Mediterranean region. For generations people around the Mediterranean have valued olive oil for its ability to rejuvenate skin. Olives are rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, which help keep the skin flexible and moist. And since olive oil is absorbed easily by the skin, your body reaps the full benefits of olive oil when you use it. Made By Mieka Olive Oil Soaps are made with a traditional Mediterranean recipe. I make a base that is 95% olive oil and do not add any perfumes, dyes, or preservatives, so the soaps are rich, gentle, moisturizing, and great for sensitive skin.
I have sensitive skin/skin maladies. Can I use your soaps?
Yes indeed. It is always a good idea to try a new product with some caution, checking to make sure you are not sensitive to any of its ingredients, and testing on a small area first. However, I design my soaps so that they can be used even on the most sensitive skin. Since I do not use any artificial chemicals, the soaps are very mild. The ingredients I add are there to benefit the skin in some way. And while all of the above is true for every soap I make, there are two kinds that are designed for extra sensitive skin: honey & oats, which has raw honey (to encourage new skin cell growth), oats (a gentle exfoliant), and shea butter (natural moisturizer); and naked, which is the most pure olive oil soap with no added ingredients at all. As an extra safeguard, the ingredients of each soap are listed on the label, so you can make sure you are not sensitive to any ingredient in a particular soap.
Is olive oil soap oily?
No. People sometimes expect that a soap made of olive oil would feel oily. This is not the case. In fact, every soap you have ever used is made of an oil or fat base. The process of saponification (see below) removes the “oiliness” of the soap, and gives it that luxurious—and water soluble—feel.
What does “saponified olive oil” mean?
Saponification is the process in which an oil or fat is combined with a strong alkali and transformed into a soap. In our soaps, we put the olive oil in contact with sodium hydroxide, which changes its molecular structure from one that is slick and sticky, to a substance that is water soluble and easily wicks oils and dirt away from the skin… In other words: soap. And while the slickness of the olive oil is gone, the final product retains the rest of its original properties. This means that you reap the benefits of olive oil, which is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants, absorbed well, and leaves your skin feeling rejuvenated, flexible, and moist.
How do you decide which ingredients to include in your soap?
My single rule of thumb is: if it’s good for the body, put it in. If it ain’t, leave it out.
As simple as that? Yes! I choose soaps for me and my family that are healthful and lovely — and it is seems only fair that I should share the same quality of products with my customers (many of whom I see weekly in the market). Each soap is enhanced with natural ingredients to meet specific needs and complement your skin in various ways. There are soaps for dry, neutral, and oily skin, some are especially delightful for the feet (peppermint), face (skin deep), or for shaving (creamy clay); some are designed for those with eczema or psoriasis (honey & oats), extra sensitive skin (naked), or for babies (lavender); and some are great for winter (shea butter), or for relaxing after a long, tiring day (oats & lavender).
Can I use your soaps on my whole body?
Of course! The soaps are designed to be effective from head to toe. This means that they work hard to remove grime, but are still gentle enough for delicate skin.
Are your soaps soft?
Yes they are! Handmade soaps have moisturizing glycerin occurring naturally in them. Although solid, these soaps do tend to get soft if left sitting in or near water. Some people are reluctant to use soaps that “melt,” but here is why you should embrace “melty” soaps: the natural glycerin that makes handmade soap soft is also what helps keep your skin nice and soft (think: glycerin draws moisture to it)! Unlike commercial soaps that contain chemicals that increase durability or shelf life, Made By Mieka Olive Oil Soaps put your body’s needs first. Because they contain glycerin and are free of artificial chemicals, Made By Mieka Olive Oil Soaps will not only remove dirt, but will also gently replenish and moisturize your skin. Does this mean you will need to take care to keep your soap dry between uses? It does. But your reward is a luxurious moisturizing bathing experience that does not leave your skin feeling itchy or dry.
What is the best way to keep soaps from “melting”?
Soap “melts” as a consequence of being close to too much moisture (handmade soaps love moisture – which is why they are so good at keeping your skin feeling lovely). To prevent it from getting too soft, make sure your soap is kept away from water when not in use. The simplest wire dish (or shower caddy) usually works best, because the soap is not sitting in a puddle of water, so air can circulate around it.
Do your soaps have a strong smell?
On the contrary – they are very, very mild. All Made By Mieka Olive Oil Soaps are designed for sensitive skin, which means that I use essential oils (plant oils) rather than fragrances (chemicals designed to mimic plant essences). Some people love aromas that pop out and can be sniffed from down the hall. These are not my soaps: Made By Mieka Olive Oil Soaps have a lovely but subtle aroma that you can enjoy while in the shower or bath, but which will rinse away with the water. When you are done washing you are free to wear your favorite perfume without fear of clashing scents… or just enjoy the fresh clean scent that is the result of a refreshing wash!
Can I buy your soaps anywhere other than the website?
Beyond the internet, my soaps are available in several select stores in and around Central Virginia. You can find them in Richmond (Whole Foods), Charlottesville (Whole Foods, Rebecca’s, and Feast!), Staunton (Cranberry’s and Turtle Lane), and Harrisonburg (Friendly City Co-Op). My soaps are also featured on the lovely redbudgifts.com site (unveiling October 2011)… and you can find me at the Charlottesville City Market every Saturday from April to December.
Do you really make all your soaps by hand?
Absolutely. The process is handmade from start to finish: I start with a big pot of a deep green olive oil, into which I carefully blend the rest of the ingredients. My faithful stick blender and I have collaborated to produce scores of batches of olive oil soap. Over the years I have spent many late-night sessions wrapping soaps with friends and family members. Our philosophical debates at 3 am were intriguing, but I am thankful that as of 2011 our babysitter expanded her professional repertoire to become my official soap wrapper – so I am thrilled that is one part of the process in which I no longer participate. As the company continues to expand I hope to bring more people on board, but I commit to continuing to create high quality, all-natural olive oil soaps that build upon and celebrate this fine centuries-old Mediterranean tradition.