Common Scents: Patchouli

Welcome back to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a collection of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils, and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. This week, we’ll talk about patchouli! 

Scent is an incredible sense. A certain smell can make you remember a person or place, or can be associated with a whole group of people; kind of like the smell of patchouli! Patchouli has long been considered a “hippie” smell and is definitely the kind of aroma you either love or hate.

Patchouli or pogostermon cablin is a perennial herb that originated in Southeast Asia. Patchouli prefers tropical jungles, but will also grow in elevations up to 6,000 feet. It is a squat, bushy herb that can grow to around 2-3 feet in height, and can be found growing wild in Java and Sumatra.

Patchouli is harvested 2-3 times per year for the production of essential oil. The leaves are hand picked and the herb is fermented before the oil is extracted. Because patchouli is so easy to grow and is harvested so frequently, the price of patchouli tends to stay reasonable with a very low adulteration rate.


Patchouli has been used in traditional medicine for centuries in Asia. Countries like Malaysia, Japan and China trusted patchouli to treat ailments like eczema, dermatitis, acne, dandruff, oily scalp and other skin conditions.

Patchouli was first exported from India during the 19th century and was used in cloth to repel moths and other destructive insects. Because patchouli was so frequently used for this purpose, dishonest merchants seeking to reap the profits of oriental fabric without providing the same quality would scent their fabric with patchouli, too; this was the only way to trick customers into believing it was official!

Patchouli in Soap and Cosmetics 

Patchouli is very popular in fragrance blending, and is considered to be a base note. It is also classified as fixative, which means that it slows down the speed of evaporation for other volatile oils it is mixed with and can prolong the amount of time the aroma is released. Patchouli mixes well with vetiver, rosemary, sandalwood, lemongrass, citrus type oils, rose, frankincense and bergamot, making it a very versatile oil with a spicy aroma. This warmth lends well to incense, and patchouli is very popular as a scent for many different kinds.

Use in Aromatherapy and Medicine 

As mentioned above, patchouli has been used in traditional Asian cultures medicinally for centuries. Today, patchouli is thought to aid in the prevention of fevers, as an immune system booster, and also as a remedy for insect and snake bites. In aromatherapy, patchouli is used to restore mental and physical balance, and is thought to bring prosperity and abundance to whomever uses it.

Please note: the HSCG makes no medical claims and does not give medical advice. The FDA has not approved patchouli for use medicinally; this information is provided strictly for educational and entertainment purposes. 

Final Thoughts 

Patchouli has a very distinct smell that your customers will either snap up or pass up; blended with other warm, comforting scents, patchouli makes a great addition to any bath line!

Do you make any products with patchouli? Drop us a comment here on our blog, or on the Facebook post for this article!

Do you love fragrance blending? Check out our article titled Fantastic Fragrances and How to Blend Them, available on Cut to the Trace now!

Getting Creative With Molds: 5 Do’s and Don’ts

When Handcrafters first start out, one of the most difficult expenses can be the cost of a good mold. Any seasoned soapmaker can tell you that a good mold is worth its weight in gold; but if you are just starting out and aren’t quite sure if you even like the process yet, we have a few guidelines you can follow to transform things around you into a usable mold instead.

This popular loaf mold has a removable silicone liner for easy cleaning and unmolding.

Do: Make Sure Your Mold is Heat Safe 

Don’t use anything that you couldn’t put in the microwave; using a plastic mold that is thin and easily melted will cause a very unpleasant outcome for your soap. Although you won’t be applying heat to the mold itself, your soap will go through a heated chemical reaction while inside (or in the case of hot process, will be very hot when it is molded). Make sure you are using something that can withstand these high temperatures.

Don’t Use Any Metal Except Stainless Steel 

This is very important! If you are making hot or cold process soap, do not use aluminum, tin, or any other metal except for stainless steel. Sodium hydroxide reacts with these metals and contact with them will release dangerous hydrogen gas. Avoid this by sticking to silicone, sturdy plastic, glass or stainless steel.

Do Line Non-Flexible or Non-Silicone Molds

Do you have a glass loaf pan that you think would work great for soapmaking? Awesome! You can absolutely use a glass loaf pan or something similar, but you will thank yourself later if you take the extra step to line it first. You can use something as common as freezer paper to line your mold, and when you are ready to unmold, you’ll be able to just pop the soap right out! This is much easier than the alternative; rigid walled molds are very difficult to get your soap out of if you have not lined them.

Don’t Confuse Flexible with Flimsy 

Soap batter is heavy and very hot while it is in the mold. If you use a mold with flimsy walls, you may return to your workspace to find that the soap has broken free of its prison and has made quite a mess! To avoid this, choose a mold that is flexible, but have a separate way to keep the walls from collapsing outward. You can do this by setting the mold in a fitted wooden or cardboard box, or placing heavy objects on either side of the mold.

Play with different creative molds to find a unique shape for your product!

Final Thoughts 

There are many things that you can use for a mold; shoe boxes, Pringles cans, yogurt containers, milk cartons, you name it! Make sure that no matter what you use, you are able to properly sterilize it and it will be easy to unmold so that your finished product looks great from start to finish.

Do you have a creative mold that you love to use? We want to see! Comment on the Facebook Post for this blog article with a picture of your favorite unconventional mold.

6 Reasons Why You Should Use Handcrafted Soap

Natural and sustainable living is becoming very popular these days. Everyone is becoming more mindful of what they consume, and how they consume it; why should body care be any different?

Handcrafted soap has been in existence since the early days of humanity. For thousands of years, humans have craved the pleasant feeling of a well made soap, and we have been perfecting the art of crafting it ever since.

There are many options for soap on the market, and although it may seem easier and more cost effective to just buy a bar of big-brand soap, let us change your mind with these six reasons why you should make the switch.

#1: You Can Pronounce the Ingredients

 Handmade soap is made by a jack of all trades; your neighborhood Handcrafter is a chemist, a perfumer, an artist, a botanist, and an entrepreneur. Handcrafters seek out the most natural and skin-loving ingredients to put in their bars, and it shows in the craftsmanship you purchase with each one. Typical soaps will contain common materials like olive, palm and coconut oils, as well as sodium hydroxide, water, fragrance and exfoliants such as lavender buds, coffee, or sea salt.

Don’t let the inclusion of sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) dissuade you; although the soapmaker must use lye in order to make the soap, it is not present in the final product, and you can be sure your Handcrafter has tested it to be on the safe side!

#2: Everyone Can Use It.

 Handcrafted soap is a very inclusive category of body care. Are you allergic to most fragrances? That’s alright, there are many Handcrafters who make unscented bars just for you! Do you have allergies to a specific oil or additive? No problem. A bar can most likely be made for you. Are you Vegan, and want to avoid using products that contain animal materials? Perfect! Many Handcrafters either make a Vegan product on purpose, or have a product in their line that is Vegan-friendly. If you have a soapmaker in your area, it is highly likely that they will be willing to work with you to accommodate your needs; after all, they are passionate about providing a superior shower experience for everyone.

#3: That Smell.

 Sure, mass produced soap smells good. But have you ever smelled handcrafted soap? It’s incredible! Warm and rich, bouncy and floral, deep and mysterious; Handcrafters are masters at crafting an olfactory experience that compliments the effects of their bars.

#4: Handcrafters Help the Environment

 Handmade soaps are less likely to contain a harmful or aggressive ingredient that could cause damage to the environment when it is washed down your drain. Due to the saponification process, the sodium hydroxide used in the initial formulation is not present and will not do damage to you or anything it contacts once you wash it away.

Handcrafters are also more likely to use responsibly sourced products and materials. Natural, organic and fair trade are frequently used words in this industry, and Handcrafters are vigilant when it comes to the origin of their products. Know that your soap has been made with care and most importantly, consideration.

 #5:  Variety is the Spice of Soap

 Handcrafters are artists. They create swirling patterns, intricate designs and pleasing visuals, all with soap! Natural and synthetic colorants are a creative soaper’s best friend, and make a stunning final product (without dying your skin purple, pink and teal, of course). But, as any Handcrafter will tell you; even though the soap is gorgeous, don’t be afraid to use it!

#6: You Are Supporting Your Community

Handcrafters are your neighbors, your friends, your family. They are the backbone of your community, and their entrepreneurial spirit combined with the same passion of their fellow small business owners is so important to a thriving local economy. When you purchase anything, including a bar of soap, from a local small business you are encouraging a the dream of business freedom and community pride. Think of it as a personal investment in a strong, vibrant community!

Bonus Reason: Handcrafters

 Handcrafters spend their time formulating, attending educational events like the HSCG’s Annual Conference, and crafting products specifically intended to make you feel as wonderful as you look. What big brand bar of soap could possibly do that?

Are you ready to make the switch? Check out our Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Directory to find your new favorite product: