Soap or Food? The Comical Hazards of Delicious Looking Body Care

There's something about the rich texture and creamy whipped tops of handmade cold process soap and the hand-packed decadence of bath bombs that just makes them seem downright edible sometimes. Even in the actual making of the product, there are certain steps that look deceivingly tasty. Like that photo above: It's a batch of coffee and dark chocolate soap that hasn't been poured and cured into its solid state yet, but tell me that your brain didn't jump to cake batter or chocolate pudding.

My husband has learned this firsthand, in the most woeful of ways. Quick chemistry lesson: soap is made by a process called saponification, in which oils and fats chemically react with lye to produce the new, finished substance. And lye burns. After soap has had time to cure, all of the lye used in the making process is completely gone and the soap is gentle and safe, but it takes some time for this to happen. Chemical burns are no joke, and can very easily result in a trip to the hospital, so I'm happy to preface this mini-story by saying that he was indeed fine and nobody went to the ER, but I definitely think we both learned a lesson. A couple of years ago I made another chocolate based soap that looked much like the one above, and although everyone in the house had been warned that I was soap-making and absolutely not baking, Tim hadn't arrived home from work yet to receive the warning. Immediately upon getting home and entering the kitchen, he licked the spoonful of "brownie batter" sitting on the kitchen table. Thankfully, he didn't swallow the raw soap, so the situation didn't escalate further, but I don't think the poor man could feel his own tongue into the next day.

On another occasion, a customer sent me a humor-filled social media message to update me that she had received her order, but that this time her husband had fallen victim. Apparently he had opened her package while she was still at work and contacted her to ask where she had bought the candy from, because it was just terrible. He'd said the chocolate was okay, but that those "ball things" were awful and he wouldn't even let their toddler try it. Her response: "Did you eat a @#%*ing bath bomb?!" Was it the colorful foil wrapping? The sugary texture of the pressed powders? Other women joined in the online conversation and one thing was decided for certain in that thread: Let that be a lesson to any man who thinks his wife specially ordered confections and decides to open and eat them without her.

 Beware the Ball Things.

I've heard many stories from other artisan soap makers involving scenarios in which they looked on in surprise, amusement, and horror as people have picked up and taken a literal bite out of their soap, so it must be at least a slightly common issue. But I'll never forget the time that someone actually willingly took a second bite. I was demonstrating my products for an event at a local health food store and had filled a tray with slices of sample-sized soaps for the taking. Despite the accompanying sign that read "Honey Almond Oatmeal SOAP", patron after patron casually stopped by and took a bite. The total actually grew so high that a couple of the store employees had made a small game out of keeping a running tally of soap-eaters and I considered stashing my samples entirely. It almost felt like a bad hidden camera joke. But the best had been saved for last, when at the end of the day one gentleman was making the final rounds at the various displays as things were starting to pack up and I had stepped away from my table. Like many before him, he picked up and took a bite out of a soap sample, but instead of spitting it out and uttering "That's disgusting!" like his fellow consumers, he seemed to pause for a moment. And then take another bite. He then followed this up by picking up a few more sample slices and dropping them in his goodie bag to go. I'll just say this: Never had I been so thankful that I use the gentle ingredients that I do and never has there been more irony in the statement "It's pure enough to eat... not that you'd ever want to."

Thus my job description has come to include scrawling signs that say DO NOT EAT THE SOAP. Perhaps it's just a hazard of the trade. Good handmade body care just has a tendency to look yummy. Even when you don't go out of your way to make your product look like cupcakes. Yeah. I am so sorry (but not sorry) about the time I made those.

Have you or someone else ever fallen taste-test-victim to a particularly decadent looking body care product? Tell us about it!

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  • Carrie

    I had made “bath cookies” for one market and had them displayed on a plate with a clear sign, “DO NOT EAT”. However, I forgot that the youngest children (who are on eye-level with the tabel, and thus, the “cookies”) can’t read! So while mom was shopping, I did have one child bite right into one. Bleck, what a mess for us all!

  • Keri

    I’ve been so tempted to taste the soaps before! But you’ve hit upon the reason I’ll never try to make my own soap: organic chemistry!

  • Roslyne

    Great post! As I said in my post yesterday, even with a sign clearly indicating “soap,” your guests are still tempted to taste! Just keeping us on our toes I guess!

  • Desiree

    I love this post – thank you for sharing the humor and stories. When making soap, I’ve often thought it smelled and looked good enough to eat, but the story of your husband licking the spoon is hilarious – I’m so happy he wasn’t hurt. The customer’s husband who ate the bath bomb is comical as well. Awesome post!

  • Danielle

    OMG! The funniest! I can’t believe your husband licked the raw soap! (I literally gasped so loud I woke my husband). We’ve never had anyone try to eat our soaps, but I can’t wait for the first person who does! :-) how funny!!

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