OUT AND ABOUT: Smethers finds success with soap
BEMIDJI — Dry skin is something most Minnesotans experience, especially during the winter months. But for Cheryl Smethers, 45, she was experiencing it for most of the year.
After trying several different soap products intended to moisturize her skin without success, she decided to try to tackle the problem on her own.
“I thought, ‘Why couldn’t I come up with something myself,?’” she said. “So I started to do research, got a few books, got online and really found out that you can make it (soap) yourself.”
She has been making her own soap for about the past year under her company name, Horseshoe Soap.
Smethers said her first order of business was research, looking into various ingredients that can be added into a batch of soap that would benefit the skin in different ways. Potential ingredients included essential oils with antibacterial or anti-inflammatory properties, clays that are known for removing impurities in the skin or ingredients resulting in a soap that will lather or not.
The chemical process for making soap involves saponification — “thats a fancy term to basically say that you take oil and lye and you combine them together create a natural glycerin,” Smethers explained.
Smethers is becoming more creative with the ingredients, even using beer in her soap. “Beer is actually very good for your skin, its got hops in it, which is really good for skin,” she explained. She has used several different types of beer, “the last one I did was a Guinness stout.” The change in the recipe to add beer is rather simple, she said. “You have a liquid, oftentimes its water, so I replace the water with beer,” she said.
Recently, she also started using beeswax from a local beekeeper, but it has been a harder product to work with. “It makes a wonderful bar, but for example, if I want to swirl a bunch of different colors in there, it will get from a water consistency to like a pudding consistency fast,” she said. The majority of ingredients Smethers uses are natural, there are no additives, no preservatives and no chemicals.
“I have to order a lot of them online and I did a lot of research to find reputable suppliers because, again, you want to stay 100 percent natural,” she said. Smethers will use a synthetic fragrance oil in order to achieve a specific scent.
Once she has mixed all the ingredients, the next step is to pour the mixture into a mold.
“You give it a day or two to harden, you slice it while its soft and then it takes 30 days to cure,” she said. Smethers continues to make her soap on an as-needed basis.
“I’m surprised, I make it and its gone,” she said. “I think I’ll have a batch for a long time, but it’s gone within a couple of weeks.” Most of her customers now are family and friends, but she often gives away several bars as gifts.
When she needs advice about a problem or information on certain ingredients, there is an online community she turns to.
“I’m part of a big Facebook group, there is a lot of ‘soapers’ out there — we all help each other,” she said.
About 'Out and About'
Out and About is a Pioneer feature where we profile everyday people doing everyday things in and around Bemidji. We run the stories on Tuesdays. If you know someone you think should be profiled, please email Maggi Stivers at email@example.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.