Lather up organically
HAVE YOU HEARD OF sodium laureth sulfate, chloroxylenol or even cocamidopropyl betaine?
If you haven’t, go to the bathroom, pick up one of your liquid soap bottles and take a look at the label. You could find one or all of these chemicals in your daily soap.
Most of the time, we have no clue what we put on our skin or hair and we could not even be bothered about how these chemicals affect us in the long run.
But imagine replacing those tongue-twisting chemical names with ingredients that you are familiar with like sweet orange, Bario rice milk or organic lemongrass leaf extract, does that make your soap product sound more assuring and promising?
Sigrid Hernelbracht is a 59-year-old lady from Germany who found her home in Sarawak a year-and-a-half ago when her son married a Sarawakian woman.
Back in Germany, she used to run a small organic farm and even had an organic shop. “I have always been an organic farmer so I create a lot of food and cosmetics out of the plants that I grow personally in my garden,” Hernelbcracht said.
Old habits die hard, so when she moved here to spend time with her grandson Hernelbracht started her own small organic garden in Taman Uni-Garden, Kota Samarahan. Soon, her hobby slowly turned into a small scale business selling her own brand of soap, Borneo Elephant Soap.
She uses the ingredients fresh from her garden to make her very own organic soaps.
“Only pure and natural ingredients are used without any chemical synthesizers,” Hernelbracht asserted.
She continued, “The main ingredients are virgin coconut oil, Malaysian cocoa butter and some specific other oils with precise purposes. Most of them are from the plants I grow in my garden organically, such as turmeric, papaya, moringa, gingers.”
According to Hernelbracht, combining and melting the ingredients are easier thanks to the high temperature here in Malaysia.
She uses a method called cold process to make her soaps which involves combining lye with essential oils and fragrance oils until it thickens.
Then the mixture is poured into molds and then the soap goes through the saponification process.
After that, the curing process begins when the water evaporates and the soap begins to harden.
Due to the levels of humidity here, however, Hernelbracht said some changes had to be made to her soap recipe.
Since the soap has to be stable and keep its form, she uses more oil to produce harder soap such as virgin coconut oil and palm oil instead of her usual olive oil.
Hernelbracht said that using olive oil here in our climate would take two weeks longer than usual in the curing process.
Despite the fuss and long process, she still prefers making organic soap and experimenting with different ingredients.
According to Herbelbracht, those who benefit the most from organic soaps are people with acne, eczema and dry skin because organic soaps are very moisturising and gentle on the skin.
She mentioned the benefits are not just limited to skin-cleansing but also protecting it with a moisturising lotion.
“The high content of essential oils leaves a protective film on your skin.”
Making full use of her garden packed with plants, Hernelbracht came up with some unconventional and innovative types of soap.
For instance, who would have thought one of our local breakfast must-haves – ‘Kopi O’ – could be made into soap?
Hernelbracht used Javanese coffee beans for her ‘Sabun Kopi O’, which came about from the idea that chefs or gardeners use coffee to eliminate smells from onions, garlic and fish. Coffee has also been widely lauded for increasing circulation cellulite areas.
Thrown in with some coconut milk, cocoa butter and raw Tualang beeswax to prevent skin from drying then there is Sabun Kopi O’, an anti-odour and anti-cellulite soap.
Now, she has created 14 different types of organic soaps.
Asking Hernelbracht to pick out which was her favourite soap was almost like enquiring a mother who her favourite child was.
“I don’t have any favourites,” she said, “I use them all.”
Yet Hernelbracht had no plans on turning Borneo Elephant Soap into a big business, “Because I want to make the soaps on my own, to guarantee the quality and it is fun.”
For further information or soap, contact Hernelbcracht at firstname.lastname@example.org or 012-8707022.