A Palos Verdes Mom Gets Her Daughters on Board with a Soapmaking Business

Clean up nicely.

  • Category
  • Written by
    Diane E. Barber
  • Photographed by
    Shane O’Donnell

When the idea of a modern homesteading lifestyle piqued Kelly Delgado’s interest in 2012, her environmentally conscious quest for optimum self-sufficiency and her family’s wellness were top of mind. Kelly started researching how to make natural cleaning products for their home, which led to bath soap.

“Our skin is our largest organ, and everything we put on it is absorbed into our bodies,” she explains. “Most commercially made soaps have chemicals in them, half of which you cannot pronounce. Why would anyone want to put chemicals into their body?”

After watching numerous online video tutorials, Kelly was intrigued with the art of soapmaking, or soaping. She bought ingredients online and began experimenting with her own formulas. Her equestrian husband, Jerry, was her first test subject.

“The batch that I made for him was a simple recipe with brown mica for coloring and leather essential oil, which made it smell like a saddle,” she remembers. “It was very masculine and beautiful.”

“Most commercially made soaps have chemicals in them, half of which you cannot pronounce. Why would anyone want to put chemicals into their body?”

Encouraged by Jerry’s enthusiasm for her creation, she segued into a business: Kelly’s Handmade Soaps. She tried new recipes and started testing various soaps on family, friends and herself.

“I got feedback on how the soaps affected everyone,” Kelly shares. “Then I tailored them to different skin conditions, such as sensitive, dry and oily skin.”

Kelly’s key ingredients are food grade, and she does not use preservatives. “I believe that what you put in your body should be as natural as possible,” she explains.

The base of each of her soap mixtures is oil–olive, coconut and palm. She adds other skin-nurturing ingredients, such as almond, hemp and tea tree oils, rosemary and therapeutic-grade essential oils for fragrance and aromatherapy. The natural colorants are approved by the FDA for the cosmetics industry and include carrot powder, beet powder, spirulina and rose clay, among others. Walnut shells are added to some for exfoliating qualities.

Various decorative elements are applied in the finishing stages, including skin-safe glitters and botanicals, such as lavender sprigs and rose petals from the Delgados’ gardens. The gentlest soap she makes is baby soap, with 100% olive oil and no colorants or fragrances—unless a hint of lavender is desired to encourage sleep.

“The magic ingredient in the soaping process is sodium hydroxide (lye), which is very carefully blended with distilled water while wearing safety protection,” she says. “The saponification process causes the chemical reaction necessary to create soap batter. After it is all blended together, it is put in a mold and will become solid in about 24 hours, depending upon the ambient air temperature and ingredients. My favorite piece of equipment is a loaf mold, which is easy to use and yields 20 (4-ounce) bars.”

According to Kelly, the start-to-finish time for one batch of soap is one to two hours, depending on the design and the complexity of the recipe. Soaps are usually unmolded and cut four to five days after they solidify. The bars are then cured for six weeks to reach a neutral pH. After they have cured, they are shrink-wrapped or boxed before being gifted, donated for family school and church events, or sold as custom orders from her Facebook page.

The Delgados’ preteen twins, Isabel and Sara, have been making soap alongside their mom since they were 5 years old. Isabel has stayed the course with creative soaping, while Sara has ventured into experimenting with lip balms, bath bombs, lotions and clay face masks.

The kids’ favorite soap is Kitty Cat. The white portion is made with a snickerdoodle scent with vanilla stabilizer to keep it white, and the black cat face has a cream cheese with black pepper scent. Other ingredients include olive, coconut, palm and sweet almond oils with rice bran oil added to create a creamy lather.

As for Kelly’s favorite soap? “I like the brightly colored one that I named Unicorn Rainbow,” she says. “The scent is apple sage, and I add vitamin E, aloe, hemp oil and sweet almond oil to enhance the skin-nurturing qualities. I love rainbows, and bright colors make me happy.”

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