Saturday, August 7, 2010

Can't We Get Along? (A Fragrance Oil Story)

Ever had a fragrance oil that had to earn your trust? Or, more specifically, earn it back?

Wonder Turtle friends, I have been given reasons to distrust certain things during my lifetime. I have learned to distrust mean people, sharp things, and angry ants. But never before had I a reason to distrust a fragrance oil.

Until a couple of months ago.

This fragrance oil - I don't want to say its name so I'll call it "Bob" - first came to me as a sample. I liked Bob so much, I bought some more.

Bob is a lovely fragrance. I love Bob. I do. Bob smells great.

But Bob betrayed me. Twice. And Bob had to earn my trust back.

Before I use a fragrance oil for the first time, I always go to the supplier's website to note any discoloration issues. I even write this information on the label with a Sharpie pen. When I checked Bob's status, the supplier indicated that there was slight discoloration, and two testers attested that there was absolutely no discoloration at all.

So, I'm thinking that there is little to no chance of discoloration. Right?


So I go off into my happy soaping kitchen, ready to do something wonderful with Bob.

This is what Bob looked like after unmolding:

Oooh ...pretty!

And this is what Bob looked like about three weeks later:

Eww ... gross!

Of course, discoloration is harmless and the soap is still perfectly fine to use. It's sometimes just ... well, ugly.

The thing about Bob was that he didn't show his true colors until about two weeks later. So, for the first week or so, he looked fine. And a week is just enough time to fall in love with Bob. But after that ...

I thought to myself, "I really should give Bob another chance. It's not his fault. Maybe it's something I did. Or maybe it's something I didn't do ..."

Because Bob turned my soap a putrid shade of brown, I figured there must be some vanilla in the fragrance oil that I didn't know about. Usually you know when a fragrance oil contains vanilla, but I was getting the feeling that Bob was the silent, mysterious type. So I made up another batch using vanilla color stabilizer, which prevents vanilla-containing fragrance oils from turning your soap brown.

I watched the soap for a couple of weeks and did not notice any significant change. If it wasn't vanilla causing the soap to change color, I would have seen evidence by then. The vanilla color stabilizer was working!

Wrong again. And this is where the second betrayal came in.

During the third and fourth week, the green portion began to darken, which I found both fascinating and puzzling. If vanilla was not the culprit, then why did the vanilla color stabilizer seem to slow the discoloration? And even more interesting was the observation that the orange portions of the soap fared much better than the green.

Hmmm ...

Soon, the bars with the vanilla color stabilizer looked just as bad as the discolored bars from the first batch.

I could not figure Bob out. Most people probably would have kicked Bob to the curb and screamed, "Get out of my life!" But I couldn't do that to Bob - I loved him.

I decided that I just needed to get to know Bob better, to explore his true nature. He just needed somebody to love him for who he is.

So I did a little experiment.

I took some clear melt-and-pour base and some white, and I fragranced them with Bob. No colorants; just soap and Bob. And then I watched and waited.

Immediately, I caught a glimpse of Bob's personality. As the days went by, his personality deepened. After two weeks, I felt that I understood Bob completely.

This is Bob after one day, freshly unmolded:

And here he is two weeks later:

As you can see, Bob discolors quite a lot. I believe some sort of citrus oil is making him behave this way.

I guess Green + Orange/pink = Eww, gross.

How did the testers not experience any discoloration with Bob? I don't have any idea. Either I am having a bizarre problem that nobody else is having (it happens more often than you'd think), or Bob managed to dupe us all. I don't believe I was intentionally misled. The vendor I bought Bob from is reputable and I still regularly and happily buy from them. Perhaps at the time the testers submitted their reviews, Bob had not shown himself yet. Maybe the testers were cold-process soapmakers and Bob behaves differently in CP soap than he does in melt-and-pour soap. I don't know.

The good news is that I think Bob and I can get along now. I just have to let him be himself and not try to force him to be something that he's not. What he is is bright pink or fiery orange-red, depending on where he is. He is bold, but beautiful. I rather like what he does to clear soap, and I think I will let him rock out with that.

All is forgiven.

And we will both live happily ever after.

Even though this story had a happy ending (eventually), it also contains a lesson: Always test your fragrance oils, especially if you are selling your soaps. Watch what they do to your soaps for at least a couple of weeks, even if you aren't expecting them to do anything weird. 'Tis far better for you to have a nasty surprise than your customer.