Common Scents: All About Lavender

Welcome to our new series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting.

In this edition of Common Scents, we will explore the rich and royalty filled history of (almost) everyone’s favorite essential oil: lavender! Lavender first entered documentation around 77 AD, when it was thought to be a sort of cure-all. Today, lavender has many applications in aromatherapy, soap and cosmetics. It has proven to be one of the most versatile essential oils, and was coveted by royalty and commoners alike.



            What’s in a name?

  As with most words, the word “lavender” is rooted in Latin. Lavender is derived from lavare, the Latin verb meaning “to wash”. Historically, lavender has been mistaken for a similar, related plant named spikenard, or spike lavender. The Greeks called it naardus or naarda, after the city of Naardus in Syria. No matter what name lavender has gone by throughout history, one thing stayed consistent; everyone loved it!

  History Smells Like Lavender.

 Egyptian royalty and high priests valued lavender for a myriad of reasons. One reason was embalming; if you wanted your vital organs to be well preserved and fragrant, the Egyptians had you covered! When the tomb of King Tut was opened and explored in 1923 by Howard Carter, he could still make out the faint smell of what was believed to be lavender after 3,000 years.

Greek physicians valued lavender for its healing properties. A Greek botanist named Dioscorides wrote about the soothing benefits of ingesting lavender in De Materia Medica, a comprehensive historical text used by many historical civilizations to treat illnesses and injuries. He claimed that ingesting lavender helped to relieve indigestion, headaches, and sore throats.


Around the 12th century, Hildegard of Bingen wrote about a practical use for lavender oil; she discovered that the oil was an effective treatment of both head lice and fleas, common issues in that time period. She also claimed that using lavender gave one knowledge and a “pure spirit”. She would recommend that her readers mix lavender with wine at a lukewarm temperature; she claimed that this concoction would help to alleviate liver and lung pain. In the 16th century, Queen Elizabeth used lavender to soothe her migraines and also favored the purple plant as a perfume. Henrietta Maria, the wife of King Charles I, adored lavender also and used it to scent her soaps, potpourris, and bath water. King Charles VI (France) sat on seat cushions stuffed with lavender.

The mid-16th century saw a rise in communicable diseases, such as cholera and the plague. The price of lavender was much higher during this time period as people believed that it could protect them against the Great Plague of 1665. Lavender could be found in most medicines and was touted as a “cure-all”; a promised remedy those suffering from the nightmarish plague desperately needed.

The Victorian era marked a return to lavender’s luxury roots. Women loved lavender and bought it in substantial amounts for varying uses from street vendors. These vendors bought their lavender supply almost exclusively from a town called Mitcham-the soothing lavender fields of which became popular with those affected by the plague, and had become the center of lavender oil production previously in the Elizabethan era. Victorian ladies and gentlemen used lavender to wash walls, clean their furniture and freshen their clothes. Lavender was also commonly used to repel insects, treat head lice (still very common in the Victorian era), and remained a staple in many medicine cabinets. Unfortunately, due to its gratuitous overuse as a perfume by specific female age groups, lavender lost most of its appeal and was widely considered an “old woman’s smell”.


Fast forward to modern times. Lavender was used as an antiseptic during World War I, when traditional antiseptics were in short supply. Many people still use lavender today for its proclaimed natural anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Mixing a few drops of lavender essential oil with water is said to help repel fleas and other unwanted insects when sprayed on carpets and furniture, and lavender is used frequently alongside oatmeal in soaps to help soothe irritation on the skin. Many people claim that lavender can be used to either soothe or cure the following ailments:

  • Insomnia
  • Digestive issues
  • Dementia symptoms
  • General pain
  • Immune Deficiency
  • MRSA
  • Infection of wounds
  • Venomous bites


It is important to note that these are observations and claims made by those who have used lavender; the FDA has not approved lavender in a medical capacity.            


Lavender, Soap and Cosmetics

 The lavender we use for soap and cosmetics can come in a few shapes and sizes. Lavender oil is usually used to scent soaps, while the dried buds can be used as a gentle exfoliant in the bar itself, or on top of the bar as a decoration. Today’s lavender oil comes in different variations, from blends of different types of lavender to pure French lavender oil. Lavender remains one of the most popular essential oils, and with the many types available, is easily accessible for most budgets.

Lavender has a rich and storied history that dates back to some of the earliest records known to mankind. Many historical physicians and botanists believed that lavender was the cure to everything, and could even provide spiritual benefits. Although some of these claims may or may not be true, it is imperative that you follow the FDA’s guidelines for labeling; this includes making claims that are not approved by the FDA. Our How-To Library contains a great podcast about labeling by expert Marie Gale; check it out by visiting

   Thank you for joining us for Common Scents! Be on the lookout for our next installment; Common Scents: Chamomile.




How to Speak Soap: A Beginner’s Guide to Common Handcrafter Terms

If you are just starting your soap or cosmetic making journey, you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we will provide the terms and definitions for common terms that you’ll come across while formulating and crafting your product. From legal terms to industry “slang”, this article will cover a wide variety of words you might encounter.   Let’s get started!




Acid: When an acid dissolves in water, the pH of the solution is less than 7. This solution is considered acidic.

Additives: Any ingredient added to soap that is not a part of the soap molecule itself. Therefore, lye, water, and saponified oils/fats/butters are not considered additives. Examples of additives are colorants, fragrance, herbs, alcohol, silicon dioxide, and excess oils/fats/butters that remain unsaponified.

Alkali: When an alkali dissolves in water, the pH of the solution is greater than 7. This solution is considered alkaline. Alkali is a synonym for base.

Base: When a base dissolves in water, the pH of the solution is greater than 7. This solution is considered basic. Base is a synonym for alkali.

Base Oils: Usually oils like olive oil, palm oil, or coconut oil. Along with the lye, these oils provide the backbone of the finished soap product.

Caustic: A caustic material is one that can cause chemical burns of the skin or eyes. For soapmakers, the most familiar caustic substances are sodium and potassium hydroxides.

 Cold Process: A soapmaking method where oil and lye are brought to their desired temperatures, mixed, and allowed to react without additional heating.


Essential Oil:  An undiluted volatile oil extracted from plant matter by distillation, expression or solvent extraction.

Fair Trade:  Trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries.

Fixed Oil:  An oil that can be heated without volatilizing, that is, without evaporating at atmospheric pressure. These are the common soapmaking oils, including coconut, palm and olive oils.

 Flash Point:  The flash point is the lowest temperature at which a liquid may ignite. The ignition source might be a spark, flame or hot surface.

 Fragrance Oil:  A blend of aroma chemicals, synthetic or natural, that may be diluted with a carrier such as propylene glycol, vegetable oil, or mineral oil.

Gel Phase:  Produced by increased heat during saponification; during gel phase, the soap batter will look like translucent jelly.

Gross Weight:  Total weight of the container and contents.

HDPE, PET, etc:  Plastics commonly used in cosmetic packaging; for more information on these ingredients, please see our previous blog post,  Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Packaging, Part II-Tips for Packaging Your Cosmetics (

Hot Process:  A soapmaking method that uses an outside heat source to complete saponification. Typically, those practicing the hot process method will use a crock pot, although it is possible to use this method in the oven.

Kosher: in order to be certified as Kosher, a product or ingredient must be produced in a way that is compliant with the standards of Jewish laws.

Lye: The commonly used name for sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and potassium hydroxide (KOH). Lye is dissolved in water and then combined with other ingredients such as oils or butters to make soap. Soap cannot be made without lye.

 Lye Calculator: A tool used to help calculate the amount of ingredients needed for a receipt; can also provide acceptable ranges for different chemicals or attributes..

Melt & Pour: Uses a soap base that is commercially produced and completely saponified; it is formulated to be re-melted and solidifies immediately upon pouring.


Micas: minerals that are mined from the Earth and processed into powders, then coated in iron or titanium dioxides that give them their color.

Mold:  Soap molds can come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and refer to the form used to shape your product.

MSDS:  An MSDS is a Material Safety Data Sheet. For each material used by the soapmaker, an MSDS should be available for reference by employees. The sheet contains information on the hazardous properties of the material, first aid measures, and other important information. The sheets are available from vendors who sell these materials.

 Natural Soap Colorants: Colorants made from plants and their roots.

 Natural:  Non-manmade products such as minerals or plants.

 Net or Net Contents:  The amount of product, not including packaging.

 Organic:  Used to describe an ingredient that has been produced without GMO’s, fertilizers, and other manmade chemicals or ingredients.

 pH:  The pH scale runs from 0-14, with acids at low pH, bases at high pH, and neutral water at 7.

 Pigments:  Typically manufactured in a lab (though some are still naturally derived), this colorant category includes oxides and ultramarines.

 Rebatch: Describes the process of shredding (or dicing) previously made soap and mixing it with a liquid, where the shredded soap will dissolve. Frequently used to add ingredients that could not withstand high temperatures or a caustic environment.

 Saponification:  The chemical reaction between oils or fats and lye to produce glycerine and soap.

 Soap (FDA definition): The bulk of nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product is labeled, sold, and represented only as soap.

 Superfatting: The practice of making soap with excess fat or oil (usually, between 5-10%).

Sustainable (Sustainability):  The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance.

Tare:  Weight of an empty vessel or container. The tare weight is subtracted from gross weight to get the net weight.

Trace:  Occurs when a soap becomes an emulsification (when the lye water and oils will no longer separate). You can confirm trace visually when you lift your stirring utensil from your soap batter; if it leaves trails on top of the batter, you have reached trace.

Unsaponifiable Matter:  The weight percent of an oil, fat or wax that does not react with alkali to form soap.

Learning to speak soap will help you to feel more comfortable as you’re navigating recipes and tutorials on your way to making your first batch. But, if there is something you don’t understand, don’t be afraid to ask! The handcrafted soap and cosmetic community is full of generous, knowledgeable individuals; some of which even teach hands on classes. If you’d like to see if there’s a class taking place near you, visit for more information on locations and some online options, too. You can also find more terms and definitions by reading our Glossary of Soap Related Terms, located in our How-To Library at



Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Packaging (Part 2)-Tips for Packaging Your Cosmetics

Welcome to the second part of our two-part series on Handcrafted Soap and Cosmetic Packaging! In this article, we will be discussing some of the different packaging opportunities available to those who make lotions, butters and scrubs.

Just like with soap, there are many different options when it comes to packaging your cosmetics. Tubes, jars, bottles; the options for customization are nearly limitless! Choosing your shape, size and color wisely is very important, but it is also important to consider factors like whether the material could be recycled, whether it is sustainably and responsibly sourced, and how you will fill the packages with your product. You must also take into consideration how the product will look with your label on it.

Cosmetic Packaging 3


Packaging Materials

              Whether you choose tubes, jars or bottles, you will likely have the decision between plastic or glass packaging. Today’s consumers are becoming more and more environmentally aware; for this reason, it’s important to know a few terms that can help you navigate the different materials at your disposal.

HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene)

             HDPE is one of the most common materials in cosmetic packaging. It is a very strong material, and is effectively moisture and chemical resistant. It is rated for exposure to temperatures ranging from -100ºF to 120ºF, making it more resistant to climate-related damages. HDPE is also easily recycled. Companies offer HDPE bottles in many different shapes and sizes, and with a variety of closures to really help you customize your final product.

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate Plastic)

             Much like HDPE, PET is lightweight and relatively durable. Temperature resistance for PET ranges from -40ºF to 120ºF, which lends resistance to climate damage. Unlike HDPE, which has a cloudy appearance, PET is clear like glass and comes in a wide variety of colors, from cobalt blue and amber to crystal clear. PET is also easy to recycle, making it an environmentally friendly packaging decision.

Glass Packaging

            Glass packaging can certainly make an impact on your customers. It is important to consider shipping when choosing glass packaging options; be sure to find a durable jar or bottle that will have a lower chance of breaking during shipment, or if a customer accidentally drops it in the shower or bathroom. Glass package is easy to recycle, and is also easy to refill if you offer discounted refills to your customers.


cosmetic packaging 2

Packaging Considerations-Custom vs. Stock

             So, you’ve chosen your packaging material-great! Now, you must decide whether you will order customized bottles, tubes or jars, or if you will order stock. What’s the difference?

Custom Packaging

            Custom packaging can really help your product to stand out. Silk screening and custom labeling will give you complete control over the entire look of your package-but is it worth it?

There are a few considerations when you are looking at custom packaging. Most companies will require a minimum for a custom order; this number can range anywhere from 20 to 10,000 pieces. If you decide to continue with custom packaging, request a sample if possible so that you can be sure your container is exactly the way you’d like it; after all, you may end up with thousands of them. As an addendum to this potential issue, any changes in your company name, logo or ingredients may mean a complete reorder if you must change the packaging.

Stock Packaging

           Stock packaging is an easy way to order, and usually does not require ordering in very large quantities. Stock containers also have a quicker turnaround and shipping time, and can be easier to replace with a different company should your supplier discontinue carrying them. You can still customize a stock container with your own label and logo to really make it yours!


Sustainable Packaging

           Let’s talk for a moment about the importance of sustainable packaging. Your customers are looking for a quality product that is also environmentally friendly. There   are a few ways you could accomplish this.

Recyclable Packaging

           As we discussed earlier, there are recyclable packaging options such as HDPE, PET, glass, etc. To encourage customers to recycle your products, educate them as they are checking out. Let them know that they can choose to recycle the package themselves, or they are welcome to bring it back to you to turn in when they return for a new product; offering an incentive like a discount on a new product will encourage them both to recycle, and to become repeat customers!

Cosmetic Packaging 1


New and Interesting Packaging Options

             Some packaging companies have started to offer PLA plastic (Polymerized Lactic Acid) containers in place of traditional plastic packaging. PLA is biodegradable and compostable and is made from corn or sugarcane. PLA containers are durable and offer a great alternative to less sustainable methods. The minimum order quantity for these containers is usually a bit higher than normal; for example, SKS Bottle & Packaging requires a minimum order of 50,000 pieces.

PEFC certified wood packaging is also growing in popularity. PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) oversees and promotes sustainable forest solutions. There are some packaging companies that offer wooden jar and bottle tops, or containers made for fragrances and perfumes. This packaging option is pricier than typical packaging solutions, however.

Other Considerations

             Before choosing your packaging, consider the following:

  • How will you fill the container?
  • Will this packaging fit your shipping needs?
  • Is the packaging easy to display?
  • Is the package large enough to hold a compliant label?
  • Do you know how to sterilize your containers?

Filling Containers

              When purchasing your containers, be sure to consider how you will fill them. Bottles and jars may be a bit easier to fill; if you prefer tubes, there are a few different ways you can go about filling them. If you are filling them by hand, some cosmetic makers find that a large syringe is an easy way to fill multiple tubes in quick succession. Others use recycled squeeze bottles such as large ketchup bottles. Whichever option you choose, make sure you have a plan for filling them; your package may be eye catching, but if it takes more time to fill it then a more standardized container, you are potentially wasting money.


               As discussed earlier in the glass section, be sure that you choose packaging that will hold up during shipping; if you are concerned about its durability, be sure to research a cushion for your products so that they arrive to your customer safe and sound.

Displaying and Storing Your Product

               Tubes are easy to use; not as easy to display. Be sure to consider how you want to display your product if you are selling at a market or fair. Are you looking for a product that can stand on it’s own, or that is easily stackable? Thinking about how you will be storing and displaying your product in advance can save you a lot of frustration in the future!

Sterilizing Your Containers

               Be sure to check with your supplier to make sure your containers have already been sterilized prior to shipping. While containers may arrive clean, many will still need to go through a sterilization process before being suitable for cosmetic use. Taking this extra step will help you to ensure safety for your customers, and your business.

Deciding on a package for your product can seem overwhelming, but as long as you have a plan going into the ordering process, you will cut down the time it takes to look for the perfect container. Know your goal, whether it is to have sustainable packaging or a fully customized container, be sure to visit several suppliers and be ready to ask questions to make sure you are getting exactly what you want. And, as always, make sure to include a compliant, easy to read label so that your customer knows exactly what they are purchasing.

What is the most important quality you look for when searching for containers? We want to know! Comment below, or on our Facebook post for this article and tell us (or show us!) how you package your time.