I’ve Got a Golden Ticket (To Apple Valley Natural Soap): how we make our natural soap

Chocolate factory…or Natural Soap factory?

If at first glance you mistook the photo above for a thick block of delicious chocolate fudge, don’t worry, I did too. Believe it or not, that’s actually the Salted Chocolate Sink Bar…so even if you can’t sink your teeth into it, you can still give your hands a good lather. The Salted Chocolate isn’t the only AVNS soap bar that looks good enough to eat, in fact, just browsing the AVNS website makes me feel like a kid in a candy store, and let me tell you, meeting Marianne for the first time felt a little like shaking hands with Willy Wonka himself.

I love chocolate, so it’s no surprise that I adore Rohld Dahl’s classic tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve always envied Charlie Bucket, the young hero who visits the mysterious and alluring chocolate factory and is swept into a whimsical adventure as he becomes privy to the secrets and inner workings of the fantastic factory.

While Charlie’s journey allows readers to peer into the fantastic world of Wonka’s factory, today I’ll be giving you the inside scoop on the process behind making our scrumptious soap!

Soap needs to be clean in order to clean!

You can have a giant factory with a bazillion hallways and rooms and a giant chocolate-churning fountain…or just a simple kitchen, but no matter where you set up, both Wonka and Marianne will agree that an important step in the creative process is cleanliness. When Augustus Gloop falls into Wonka’s chocolate river, Wonka is more distraught by the thought of contamination than he is about Gloop’s safety. The spaces where AVNS soap is made undergo scrutinous sterilization to ensure that the purity of each product remains intact.

Combining and balancing ingredients

The next step in soap making is to create a recipe. Great soap calls for a great recipe. The base ingredients lye and water are combined. The oils and butters are also combined as they gently melt at the correct temperature. Any delicate, heat-sensitive oils are added secondarily. When both the lye and oils are at the correct temperature, they are blended together until light trace (soap talk for the absence of oil streaks in the mixture). Finally, any essential oils and herbs are added and the soap is poured into molds.

As any chocolatier or “soaplatier” will tell you, attaining the correct balance of ingredients is essential. After Augustus Gloop gets sucked up the chocolate pipe and carried away to the fudge room, Mrs. Gloop panics at the thought of her son being turned into fudge. However, Mr. Wonka (knowing that Gloop would unbalance his recipe) reassures her he will not allow this to happen, “’Because the taste would be terrible..Just imagine it! Augustus-flavoured chocolate-coated Gloop! No one would buy it” (Dahl).

Can you imagine? Salted Chocolate Gloop Sink Bar? No, thank you.

The setting and curing process

One of my favorite parts in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is when Violet Beauregarde steals a stick of gum from Wonka’s Great Gum Machine and starts chewing. Wonka tries to warn the greedy girl that his recipe is premature, but Violet does not heed his warning and before she knows it, she begins to swell like a blueberry while consequently turning a violent shade of violet. Using our soap will never turn you into a blueberry because like Willy Wonka, we know that timing is everything. After the soap is poured into molds it sets for 12-36 hours and then cures for another 2-6 months.

What matters most

Willy Wonka prides himself on the inventive and exotic origins of his candy creations, but what is most important to him — and what Charlie learns during his visit — is that at the end of the day, what really matters most is the chocolate.

AVNS has an impressive selection of unique soaps, all different and all hand made…but when stripped down to the core, there is a greater mission at hand. All of AVNS soaps are biodegradable, meaning that every ingredient used in an AVNS bar of soap can be broken down by microorganisms. This natural form of decomposition is eco-friendly, making our soaps like the Organic Coconut BarsOrganic Castile Soap Bars and the seasonal Camping Bar great (and packable) for your camping expeditions!

Although the Salted Chocolate Sink Bar is inedible, it does have a little Wonka-esque trick up its sleeve: it doesn’t contain added scent. The minimal ingredient list allows the natural scent of delicious organic cocoa butter to smell for itself! This isn’t the only unscented soap bar, many of our natural and organic soaps use minimal ingredients to cater to both the environment and sensitive skin. Our Calendula Castile Bar is only composed of saponified organic extra virgin olive oil and organic calendula petals, that’s a peace-sign amount of ingredients!

By using minimal, natural ingredients to make our soap, AVNS aims to promote peace: both inner and with the earth. I’d pick that kind of peace over a piece of chocolate any day.

P.S. Although our soap looks good enough to eat (and is Gloop-free) please do not nibble!


The Natural Benefits of Mint You Never Knew About

Mint is everywhere

Buying toothpaste is probably one of the most mundane errands in existence. You can stand in the dairy section of a store and spend half an hour picking out which flavor of ice cream you want, but visit the toothpaste shelf, or even the entire dental hygiene aisle and you’ll be overwhelmed by one flavor: mint. Considering this minty domination, it’s no surprise I’ve always taken mint for granted…until I started college.

How mint saved me from spiders

I lived in a triple room on an all-girl floor my Freshman year of college and we had a communal bathroom with shower stalls (they were the size of telephone booths, I kid you not). One day halfway through first semester I was on my way to shower when I noticed a funny bit of grey fluff on my comforter at the base of my bottom-bunk. As my hand fluttered down to flick it off, eight thick legs unfolded from around the fluff and the fluff itself began to scuttle. My hand shot back and I kicked up my legs as I gave a loud, surprised shriek as I realized that the grey fluff was actually a big, grey spider. Not one of those wimpy, spindly things, but an armored tank of a spider who had claimed my bed as its own and was willing to go into battle if I refused to surrender. Even now I feel slightly chilled thinking about it.

Once I knew my bed was not spider resistant, my small, cozy room became a scary, spidery place. In my imagination, spiders lurked everywhere. In my pockets, under my bed, and in my shoes. I was living in terror, so I did what any smart, terrified girl would do…I called my parents.

For the rest of the week I dreamed of all the heavy duty traps and snares my mom would bring me to defeat the spiders. I pictured mini spider cages with steel bars so strong no amount of extra legs could bend them and web weakener serum that would discourage the spiders from building webs anywhere near me. I was a little disappointed when my mom showed up armed with only two sticky traps and a little bottle of…what?…peppermint essential oil?

“Peppermint repels spiders,” my mom said.

Huh, sure it does

Despite being skeptical, I took my mom’s advice and for the rest of the year I crawled under my bed once a week and dispensed a few drops of peppermint oil along the baseboard of the wall. My roommates thought I was crazy, but I never saw another spider in my room.

Now, as to whether the spiders fled in response to the peppermint oil or just sensed a hostile vibe in the room and decided to skedaddle will forever be a question that keeps me up at night, but rest assured that there are some things I do know about mint.

What is Peppermint?

While we all know and love peppermint for its instant aroma of winter cheer, what you maybe didn’t know is that peppermint is a hybrid of spearmint and water-mint…that makes it like the golden-doodle of plants, right? Containing organic, Fair Trade peppermint essential oil from India and spearmint essential oil from Indonesia, both the Juniper Mint Castile Soap and the Matcha Mint Soap provide a big scrubba-dub-dub of rejuvenation. Did I mention that the Matcha Mint Bar also includes a refreshing measurement of matcha magic?…a matcha made in heaven!

How mint works to benefit skin

The rejuvenating quality of mint comes from the compound menthol. According to U.S National Library of Medicine, menthol triggers a specific receptor in our skin and the reaction is a cool-sensation. This creates a soothing feeling, which is especially great if you’re looking for the perfect exfoliation!

Toothpaste may be boring, but AVNS makes mint fun. You can choose from an amazing selection of minty combinations (including Rosemary Mint and Grapefruit Mint) and if you use a body or shampoo bar containing peppermint –like the Peppermint Tea Tree Shampoo Bar — who knows? You might even repel spiders! Only one way to find out!


Product Ingredients. How do we choose what we use? What are the benefits?

Have you ever wondered how we choose the ingredients for our products? It’s kept you up at night hasn’t it!?! Well, in this blog we’re going to start by listing our ingredients, specifically the carrier/base oils, as well as our butters, and their benefits.

When formulating the recipe for a new soap or other product, we look at all the benefits of the individual ingredients as well as our end goal. What are we trying to do with this particular recipe? Heal, nourish, rejuvenate, revitalize, all of the above? Then we move ahead with bringing it all together, the carrier oils and butters, the essential oils and herbal extracts, they all help us reach that goal. It can be a lengthy process, but it’s so worth it in the end when a product is completed that meets an important criteria, a natural product that is needed. Many times we are not even aware of the need until the product has been released. Helping customers, making them happy, bringing joy. It blesses us when this happens.

Apricot Kernel Oil is rich in fatty acids along with vitamins A, C, E & K. Because of these properties, it is great for nourishing and strengthening hair follicles from the roots, plus increasing skin hydration and reducing dryness. This oil leaves hair soft and shiny, while stimulating hair growth.

Almond Oil (Sweet) not only softens rough or dry skin, but it also creates a protective layer on the skin. It also helps reduce inflammation and is a remedy for skin/scalp issues such as dandruff, acne, psoriasis, and eczema.

Argan oil, is rich in vitamin E, carotenes, antioxidants and essential fatty acids. It helps repair skin imperfections and restore texture, elasticity and tone. Argan oil is great moisturizer, and because of it’s high levels of Vitamin E and antioxidants, it is also used to fight both dandruff and dry scalp. This oil is often referred to as “liquid gold”.

Avocado Oil contains sterolins, which are natural steroids. These natural steroids may be effective in boosting collagen production and in treating age spots. Also, with its high level of vitamin E, avocado oil may reduce itching and inflammation, while softening rough and cracked skin. It helps rejuvenate and moisturize the scalp, deep condition hair, leaving it looking lustrous and full of life. Also, because it’s a rich source of proteins, amino acids and vitamins, avocado oil helps promote the growth of healthier hair.

Babassu oil can reduce the symptoms of a variety of scalp irritations, due to the anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also filled with antioxidants which help to restore lost elasticity and strength to hair and moisturizes the scalp. If is the perfect oil for treating damaged and brittle hair.

Castor Oil is one of the best things you can do for promoting hair growth and controlling hair loss. It can give you thicker and even longer hair as it contains ricinoleic acid and omega-6 essential fatty acids that improve blood circulation to the scalp, encouraging hair growth. Castor oil also has natural antibacterial, antifungal properties which makes it a great addition to any soap!

Cocoa Butter (Unrefined) gives hair increased manageability and moisture. It can help prevent hair loss due to breakage or an inherently fine texture. and can also help alleviate scalp itching and irritation. Cocoa Butter works to soothe dry, sensitive skin while reducing and preventing the appearance of scars and unwanted marks. It is believed to have photo-protective properties that protect against harmful UV radiation. Used in hair, Cocoa Butter moisturizes strands to make them more manageable. While repairing damage, it replenishes naturally-occurring oils, adds volume and shine, boosts strength and resilience, increases thickness, and reduces frizz. Medicinally, Cocoa Butter works as an anti-inflammatory moisturizer that offers relief to skin afflicted with swelling, irritation, and redness.

Coconut oil contains 2 chemicals that are known to have a broad spectrum of anti-microbial activity against virus, bacterial, and fungal infections, they are lauric acid and capric acid. Coconut oil also contains high levels of Vitamin K and E which are powerful antioxidants to help prevent skin damage. It is wonderful for dry, itchy and sensitive skin, can stimulate hair growth by getting deep into its follicles, promote scalp health by fighting against such problems as insect bites, lice and dandruff. It also moisturizes dry hair, adds luster, shine and softness to hair while preventing breakage and split ends.

Flaxseed oil is composed mainly of omega-3 fatty acids, a nutrient that is known for providing a multitude of health benefits. The Lignans in flax are healing, and decrease inflammation which will also promote healing of skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, and acne, which aids with scalp health, and hair growth. Omega-3 fatty acids are also known for increasing the speed at which skin wounds heal.

Grapeseed oil contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. The linoleum acid and Vitamin E help build tissue and promote hair and skin growth. If your hair is brittle or weak, treating it with grape seed oil can help to restore its strength and shine. This oil is full of emollients and nutrients that can help nurture the growth of healthy skin cells, treating dandruff and other dermatological conditions caused by a dry, flaky scalp. 

Jojoba oil, so similar to human sebum, can help balance oil production. It’s easily absorbed, won’t clog pores, and leaves the skin feeling soft and supple. Jojoba is particularly good for dry, damaged hair, hair with split ends and is prone to tangling and damage. 

Mango butter protects skin from sun damage and is very versatile with range of wonderful qualities. It has the ability to hydrate skin for long period of times, lightening of age and sun damage spots, tightening skin and healing eczema, rashes, irritations and generally, brining back a healthy tone to skin.

Olive Oil is high in oleic acid, a good skin cell regenerator and attracts external moisture to the skin. The fatty acids that olive oil is made up of will also coat the shaft of your hair, helping to keep it healthy and protected.

Palm Oil contains the hard to find toctrienols, which are members of the vitamin E family. Vitamin E is a strong antioxidant that helps the skin to fight free radicals that damage the skin and cause fine lines and wrinkles. Palm oil contains lipids and saturated fats that feed the hair shaft, eliminating dryness. It helps remove oil and dirt from hair and skin and contains a refatting agent that helps restore natural oils to hair and skin.

Palm Butter has great antioxidant power. Along with a high content vitamin E, there is a large amount of Tocotrienols which do an even better job of preventing oxidization. Palm butter is a wonderful healing moisturizer for the skin.

Neem Oil has a host of benefits, it’s natural ingredients make neem oil a potent antifungal, antipyretic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Neem oils beneficial fatty acids moisturize and nourish the scalp and hair, leaving it with a healthy shine. It restores moisture and repairs damaged hair. It moisturizes the scalp, kills harmful microbes, and reduces itching and flakes naturally. When used on a regular basis, neem oil regulates the oil secretion in the scalp for a healthier scalp and strong hair. Healthy hair grows stronger and thicker. It also strengthens the hair roots and revitalizes damaged hair.

Sesame Seed Oil is infused with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and healing properties which help in curing several skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema. This oil contains the powerful antioxidant, vitamin E, which helps in preventing free radical damage. The essential fatty acids found in Sesame Seed Oil make this oil a great moisturizer while it heals.

Shea Butter strengthens your skin by stimulating the production of collagen, it helps make your skin more supple, more alive, nourished and radiant. Shea butter also soothes dry, itchy and irritated scalps without clogging pores, so hair can grow without any hinderances.

Sunflower oil is packed with high levels of Vitamin E and helps reduce bacteria which contributes to dry scalp. It also  acts as a natural moisturizer and reduces the occurrence of thinning hair. How, not only because it helps lock in moisture to the hair shaft, but it also contains Oleic Acid, another name for Omega 9 acid, known to be one of the essential acids that are needed for stop breakage and stimulate healthy hair growth.

Walnut Oil is high in both vitamins and minerals. It works wonders on the skin and is highly recommended for people who want a flawless and ageless skin. It also promotes hair growth because not only is it known to be a remedy to treat fungal infections as well as skin issues such as Psoriasis and Eczema, it’s also high in potassium, and potassium is essential because it helps the regeneration of cells and hence accelerates hair growth. 

Wheat Germ is excellent for hair because it is a ceramide oil. Ceramide oils work by creating a sort of protective barrier around the hair shaft. In turn it holds in moisture and protein all while also protecting the hair from heat damage and UV rays. In doing so, helps to “repair” or prevent further damage to the cuticle layers of your hair.

All of our products have the ingredients listed on the website, so if in doubt about a which product to try, use this as a handy reference to see which ones will fit your needs the best!


Certified Organic Ingredients and Sustainability – What does this mean?

A large percentage of AVNS products use ingredients labeled as “Organic” and “Sustainable”, so what does this really means to us?  

Organic. This is a term thrown around a lot in today’s world, so how do we really know that something labeled as organic is really free from pesticides, hormones, chemicals or anything artificial?

Organic in it’s generic meaning is defined as something grown at a natural pace. The dictionary says organic is “relating to or derived from living matter”. So based on these definitions, anything grown, could be defined as organic in it’s generic term. But today, this is what we tend to view as “natural”, not necessarily organic.

When you see the term “organic” on a label, check to see if either the product, or the ingredients used are “certified organic”, then you know that the product, food or ingredient was produced with a set of farming and production practices defined and regulated, in great detail, by the USDA. Items grown from the earth must be certified by regulatory agencies that perform soil tests. Additionally, soil must have at least 3 years of no pesticide treatment before it can be certified to begin with. “Certified organic” guarantees no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals.

However, there are companies and farms that choose not to become certified, but still hold to, and many times exceed the regulations given by the USDA. I personally know some small local farms that do just this. I have gotten to know the farmers and am familiar with their practices, and know I’m getting fantastic products from them. Even though they are not certified.

At AVNS, even though we are not a certified organic company, we do use certified organic ingredients. Sometimes we choose to use a natural ingredient instead of one that is certified organic, but we try to weigh the cost/benefit ratio for our customers. We want to make the best possible products for a reasonable price.  On average, our products are made with about 80-90% certified organic ingredients. So you can rest assured that the products you receive are not only beneficial to your body, but are also competitively priced.

Sustainablility. Another word that can mean different things to different people. We use Certified Organic Sustainable Palm Oil in many of our soaps, and palm oil has come under a lot of scrutiny in the recent past. So how do we “vote” with our money? We purchase products and ingredients from companies that have verified their source of sustainable palm oil. AVNS supplier of organic palm oil is both certified by the Rainforest Alliance and the RSPO. This means for AVNS customers that they (and you from your purchase), are supporting the fight against deforestation and supporting the building of economic opportunities and better working conditions for rural people. Here’s a couple of links which will explain more about what this means in detail:

https://www.rainforest-alliance.org/articles/rainf…

https://rspo.org/about

As AVNS continues to grow and serve, we have at the heart of our mission to honor God, and then serve our customers with the best possible products that will nourish, heal and restore. All natural goodness from the top of our heads to the tip of our toes.

Until next time,

Marianne 🙂