Made over the border in Essex, the Maldon Soap Company makes all of its soaps, shampoos and cosmetic products by hand. Ingredients are sourced locally where possible and include the very famous local Maldon Salt alongside honey and home grown calendula (marigold) for their lip balms and lotions.
Pure aromatherapy quality essential oils are included as these have a long and proven history of beneficence for the hair and skin and for the same reason palm oil, parabens, SLS and extra foaming agents are avoided. Vegetable glycerine from palm free sources is used because of its importance as a humectant- its ability to attract water from the environment and from the lower layers of skin (dermis) which increases the amount of water in the surface layers of skin. Another aspect of glycerin’s benefit is that it is a skin-identical ingredient, meaning it is a substance found naturally in skin. In that respect it is one of the many substances in skin that help maintain the outer barrier and prevent dryness or scaling.
Of additional interest to us is the colour of a product and how it is obtained and reassuringly, the Maldon Soap Company uses naturally derived products such as beetroot, paprika and spirulina and minimally too- no lurid shades here to permanently stain your bathroom grouting, bath or skin.
First off the bat was their Pure Almond Soap, log cut and a beautiful buttermilk colour. Made by soaking organic almonds overnight to eliminate their skins, they are then blended with distilled water to make almond milk and then blended with sweet almond oil and scented with almond extract. That is all. Scented like a natural marzipan, this soap foams up exquisitely and cleaned our skin leaving it not tight and stretched (the poor mans Botox perhaps?) but supple and soft. We would be happy to use this on children too and as a kitchen hand cleanser because it is quite neutral in scent.
Husband comes home like Pigpen from Snoopy at times, trailing great gouts of dust that also become ingrained and that is why we were keen to road test the Coconut & Oat Soap on him. He is understandably not keen to sandblast himself with grit sharp exfoliants and scrubs having sensitive skin and being desirous of a bath and shower experience that is soothing after a long day. But something too gentle simply won’t get the grime off so he can then rewash with the more fouffy products.
Tan in colour with a proper natural scent of coconut as opposed to the Hawaiian Tropic razzle dazzle scent (which is not natural) the soap slab feels incredibly silky to the touch and works beautifully as a scrub for mildly grubby mitts and body BUT we wouldn’t recommend it as a heavy duty product. Best for scrubbing dry elbows and feet, gentle enough for grubby kids with a propensity for dry skin and it didn’t leave our skin feeling as taut as a well tuned violin like a lot of scrubs can.
My favourite blast from my hippy teenage past is the scent of patchouli and the memories it invokes of the local ‘head shop’ (known as the Purple Shop in Ipswich) with its luridly painted exterior and clouds of incense billowing out of the door which permanently scented every product we bought. This soap is glycerine clear, far removed from the headache inducing heavy orange yellow of the patchouli oil that stained the neckline of my gypsy blouses and with a light scent that captures patchouli in a very modern way. The scent lingered on my skin for hours afterwards- brilliant in hot weather when a lot of perfumes feel too heavy or use bergamot fixative which is reactive in the sun and stains the skin. Earthy, complex and oddly relaxing, this soap wouldn’t smell right on small children in our opinion. It is very grown up.
Translucently pale yellow, coloured with Turmeric and assertive, True Litsea Cubeba soap is fragranced with the uplifting citrussy scent of Litsea Cubeba (May Chang), a small pepper like tropical plant native to China, Indonesia and Taiwan. Used to relax and useful for meditation, this scent is used to uplift the senses and revive the spirits with a clean almost ‘fizzy’ fragrance- most definitely a morning soap. To us it smells as though pure lemon juice, lemongrass and elderflower have been distilled into solid form and is also so reminiscent of the spice blends used in the cooking of these regions. The soap foams well but not excessively, handy when you are in a morning hurry but I wouldn’t use it as a kitchen hand cleanser because it is not neutral enough- it will scent ingredients when you handle them.
One of my favourite cosmetic companies is Guerlain because of their violet scented products- lipsticks and Les Meteorites face pearls, so we were delighted to receive a little block of Parma Violet soap. Greyish in colour because it has not been artificially coloured a lurid shade of purple, this soap is very silky in the hand and subtly perfumed. It doesn’t hit you like a sledgehammer when you open it, something we did fear might be the case because so many cosmetic companies miss the point of violet scents-they are not the heavy hitters in a garden; rather they are shy, elusive in scent and want you to come in close.
Dry and powdery, violet scents disappear and reappear like magic because they are anosmic, stimulating scent receptors then temporarily shutting them off completely. Violet cannot be smelled for more than a few moments at a time, then, after a few breaths and a period of time, the scent magically reappears. Because the brain hasn’t registered it in the preceding few moments, it registers as a new scent stimuli. In Hungary, they call violets “árvácska” which translates to “little orphan”. this may or may not reference the fact that Parma Violet plants were originally sterile and therefore have no parents. They have to be propagated via other means.
Parma Violet soap again was not drying, left my hands and face feeling satiny and I’d most definitely use this soap before going to bed. It has that slightly soporific scent, alluring and we’ll say no more.
I don’t have feet, I have hooves. After a long old winter in clumpy boots and thick tights, I am an inch taller with the dry skin (sorry TMI) I have accumulated and after using the Footner foot sock, I needed something to keep my foot care on the right path, especially as I now have to wear punishing heels due to being an inch shorter after my hooves were treated. The Minty Scrubby Foot Scrub was a good place to start, not overpoweringly menthol in scent, trembling and slightly jelly like in the pot and flecked with little bits to scour away the debris of the day. Releasing an invigorating smell as I used it, the particles (salt? sand?) are tiny enough to work their way into small cracks and crevasses, helping to break down dry skin and smooth them down. I don’t like larger grained products because it is easy to scrub too hard and end up with sore, abraded toes and soles. This product feels precise and because of the texture, doesn’t run everywhere (expensively wasted down the plug hole usually), stays where it is supposed to and as long as your feet aren’t too bad, it’ll do a good job.
I soon ran out of the skin saving face balm because it is bloody brilliant and better than Elizabeth Ardens vile smelling ‘Eight Hour Face Cream’ which to me smells like something you’d use on an old horse. Slathering the skin saving balm on my elbows, knees, sunburned ears (oops), chafed bits, nose and even using it to soften the inside of a stiff pair of leather shoes (my tip of the day because after all leather is skin right?) this is my absolute recommendation for everyday keep-on-the-desk usefulness. Slightly sticky and very emollient so you will have to wash your hands after using it (don’t use it if you are wearing silk and viscose until it is absorbed), this works incredibly hard on problem areas and I’d suggest using it as a kind of Scud Missile balm- when you want to spot treat an isolated area as opposed to slathering it over your entire body. It doesn’t really have a scent per se, just a slightly medicinal smell so that must mean it is healing right?
Made from cold pressed avocado oil, orange flower water, shea butter, beeswax, avocado butter, citrus and vanilla fragrance, this hand and body cream couldn’t really be anything other than super moisturising could it? Contradictory in its thick luxurious texture yet easy to spread onto skin and settling in well with not too much lingering ‘slip’, my poor old lady looking hands really need some attention. Faintly herbaceous in scent, not Avocado-y as such but vegetal and gentle, it doesn’t leave you smelling of last nights guacamole, even when the sun heats your skin up. If you have more mature skin this is the cream we’d advise as mine positively sucked it up and within minutes, it had disappeared leaving something a little more imbued with youth than before. I cannot be certain but I have noticed that my skin springs back a little easier on the back of my hands and they don’t appear so crepey- I have always had old looking mitts: even at aged ten my palms were dry so I have grown up believing this to be irredeemably genetic. Maybe not.
The Glycerine & Lavender Handcream has been applied to a very peachy babies bum with mild nappy rash and also to other body parts and mum reports this cream has definite possibilities as a multi purpose one, not just for adult hands. Using the moisture attracting and sealing Glycerine and packed with calming, soothing and soporific Lavender, what better way to get anybody to relax (and sleep in the case of babies) than with this cream? Working well for burns, scalds, blisters and all manner of grazes, we’d use this as another all purpose cream too. It is thick,makes a good barrier cream and will grease mark clothing so needs to be applied before dressing or very carefully and we’d again caution its use after cooking because the lavender is very penetrating but in a good way. Being a fan of lavender in food- our favourite cheese is a ewe’s cheese spiked with lavender sprigs and our favourite macarons are lavender and honey, maybe cooking whilst wearing this is not such a bad idea after all?