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Experiment: Pulut Tai Tai Soap

soap bar placed on the edge of a water jar

(Warning: LOTS of pictures ahead!)

Last week on the 8th of May (just a day before Malaysia’s 14th General Elections, woohoo!) I finally took the leap to scratch that itch of an idea that has been playing around in my head for the longest time (read: YEARS), which was,

What would happen if I took traditional food recipes and stuck their ingredients into soap bars?

It seemed like a very natural thing to do – given that the food we eat offer a cornucopia of health benefits, even when applied topically to the skin (think: brown sugar scrubs, egg white masks etc).

Of course I wouldn’t touch anything that involved meats… so naturally I started looking at desserts. Specifically, the traditional Malaysian ones, and those which I personally have a fondness for. :”)

The simple rule I gave myself for this little game was to ensure that EVERY ingredient for the food item, was to be used in the soap. I would be referring to food recipe websites a lot!

So for the first experiment, I went with the iconic pulut tai tai, (recipe here) which is a glutinous rice block coloured with butterfly pea / bunga telang (Clitoria terneata) flower infusion, and topped with kaya (a coconut jam, recipe here). This is what the actual dessert looks like.

Blue Glutinous Rice Cakes (Pulut Tai Tai)

(Photo credit to Michelle Chan, on Flickr)

It took me yonks to finally pluck up the courage to plan for, and make this soap. Predominantly because:

  1. I had no idea whether the blue from the butterfly pea flowers would carry through into the soap,
  2. I generally don’t like doing hot process soap because I hate the cleanup,
  3. I don’t like cleaning up in general, and because of the complexity of the soap design, I expected the mess to be massive (thankfully, I was wrong about this though!).

But in the end, I talked myself and planned for an uninterrupted day in the studio to “play”. 🙂

For my soap base, I chose to stick to just coconut oil (because coconut plays such a distinct role in this recipe), and used coconut milk for the lye solution. Here’s the rest of my shopping for the ingredients:

shopping basket containing food items

YES, there is actual gula melaka (palm sugar) in this soap. AND there are eggs in it too! There is no significant smell to in the resulting soap that hints at the eggs’ presence – but it seems like a great way to introduce protein into a skincare formulation in a relatively safe way. If you’re worried about bacterial contamination, don’t fret – the raw soap’s high pH levels, and the sustained heat it is subject to while cooking, is sufficient to kill off any bacteria in the eggs. Just wash your hands with soap while handling the eggs, as normal.

First up was weighing out all our materials. Here’s our pandan (screwpine) leaf tea, which I made using leaves from my home garden:

And this is bunga telang tea, also from our garden (I had my daughter pick 25 flowers and simmer them in 300ml water. From the earlier soap photos, it is obvious that this isn’t anywhere concentrated enough to be used in the soap as a serious colourant). Isn’t the blue just gorgeous?

This is what bunga telang flowers look like:

And this is something I enjoy seeing, every single time I make soap – rosemary oleoresin lazily sinking to the bottom of a carrier oil mixture (in this case, virgin coconut oil).

Then came making the lye solution – I used coconut milk to replace the water portion. It became a thick slurry immediately. I hadn’t refrigerated the coconut milk, so it turned from pure white into a light caramel colour, as expected. It also gave off a mild scent of ammonia (similar to what happens when using goat’s milk in a lye mixture):

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Since this was a hot process (HP) soap which I was going to heat in a slow cooker, I didn’t wait for the lye solution to cool to 40ºC as what we normally do with cold process (CP) soap. After blending the coconut milk lye solution with the coconut oil, I added in the glutinous rice flour, sea salt, followed by more coconut oil and the eggs, which I had blended together:

Now, I wish I had an extra pair of hands because I wanted take a video to show you just how light and surprisingly mobile the whole soap mixture became after the eggs and coconut oil mixture was added to it. The mixture would even slide off cleanly from my spatulas. But eventually it returned to taking on a much more viscous consistency.

After about 30 minutes of cooking at high heat, the soap mixture was at 85ºC at had changed to a familiar, olive green colour:

Doesn’t it look like kaya? 🙂 At this point it was also smelling a little sweet, and reminiscent of food. I tested the pH level, and it had already come down to around 10.

At this point, the general idea was to separate the raw soap into 3 portions:

  • a “white”, or uncoloured portion (supposedly to resemble the uncoloured glutinous rice),
  • a blue portion (the blue coloured rice), and
  • a brown-green portion (the kaya “topping”).

I separated the “white” and “blue” portions, and coloured the latter by adding the bunga telang tea:

Then I added the pandan tea to the uncoloured portion. Here’s what they look like, side by side:

To say that I was disappointed with the colouring result, is an understatement. I *almost* wanted to give up, but I pushed on anyway. I added more bunga telang tea to the mixture, and worked it in well (my hand was so tired from gripping the spatula!).

Now came the layering in the mold. First up was to randomly drop dollops of the “white” and “blue” soap in the mold, and pack it in:

It was still quite warm, and easy to manipulate. While that was hardening up, I worked with the last remaining soap portion – the kaya topping. In went the crushed gula melaka to the soap that was still being kept warm in the slow cooker:

In about 15 minutes, the room smelled absolutely delicious and the sugar looked like it had melted completely into the soap. I began spooning it onto the “rice” portion:

I smoothed it over as best as I could and covered it with a sheet of waxed paper. Now all I had to do was to wait for it to harden up enough to cut.

While waiting, there was one other question that remained to be answered:

Can you make a blue bunga telang lye solution?

The answer is a resounding NO, because this is the resulting colour when sodium hydroxide (NaOH) flakes are added to bunga telang tea:

It’s a fantastic shade of orange! But when added to coconut oil to turn into soap, the resulting soap bars are still a plain white. Interesting trivia, and I’m glad I finally got round to removing all doubt about the matter. 🙂

Coming back to the pulut tai tai soap – as it turned out, I could cut them within 2 hours of moulding, for two reasons:

  1. Being such a coconut oil-heavy recipe, I expected the soap to set up quite quickly, and it did. It had already been pushed past the gel phase and saponification was complete, as testified by the pH level of 10 it was at. I didn’t want to risk allowing it to harden up so much that it would be difficult to cut.
  2. I was also impatient. XD

So after I had cleaned up all the equipment and work tops, and the soap showed a surface temperature of around 36ºC, I greedily unwrapped the soap:

At this point, I sent a disheartened message to my hubby, saying that I as disappointed with how to blue colouring turned out (or not, rather). And then, I pushed the block through our wire cutters – this is what I saw:

OMG THERE WAS BLUE! Pale, but still unmistakable blue! So with much excitement and anticipation, I cut the rest of the bars.

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The soap bars  have a pleasant caramel scent, with a hint of coconut and pandan. Colour-wise, they are unexciting but I have come to appreciate that those stoic shades of grey and olive green. I definitely want to continue experimenting with this blue colourant.

I’ve already been using a bar regularly in the shower, and it is remarkably moisturizing. Works well on the hair too. At this size, each bar weighs around 150g after drying for a week (it was 10g heavier right after cutting).

They aren’t for sale at the moment – but we will be giving some away together with purchases, and to willing guinea pigs (preferably those with extremely dry skin).

So there you have it – our pulut tai tai soap bars. What do you think of this little experiment? 🙂 Would love to hear from you!

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How To Get The Best Currency Exchange Rates When Transacting With PayPal

Okay, this isn’t related to soap at all–but I hope it will be useful for those of you out there who purchase things online and have to pay using foreign currency.

I learned something new today: when paying for a bill in a foreign currency using Paypal, you can choose between using

  1. Paypal’s currency conversion rate, or
  2. your credit card issuer’s rate.

I called up my bank, and they told me that their credit card follows Visa’s International Exchange Rates, plus a 1% transaction fee. After a quick run on Visa’s site, I found that it was better to select my credit card’s currency conversion rate over Paypal’s. Bear in mind though, that the final rate may differ slightly, because the actual transaction date may be later than the day you got the indicative rate for.

I also discovered that I saved paying an extra 9% of the invoice by opting to transact in my supplier’s home country currency, instead of their USD-based invoice. This was also after comparing rates. (I don’t know if there are instances where the reverse happens, but I would imagine that it could.)

This took me a couple of hours to do (because I was working at home, and my kids are on a short school break), but it saved me several hundred ringgit.

Lesson learned: it’s worthwhile spending time making comparisons – at least for big ticket purchases.

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Goat’s Milk and Patchouli Now Available As Ugly Ducklings

Once in a while, we make a slip up in our production, which results in botched batches. For the ones which are perfectly fine in terms of efficacy and quality, but are wrongly sized, cut, or packaged, we offer them for sale as Ugly Ducklings, at special prices.

For the first time ever, our flagship Goat’s Milk and Patchouli bars will be sold as Ugly Ducklings. We entered the wrong batch size in our spreadsheet, and resulted in bars that are about 10% smaller (and 10% cuter…? :p).

So we have decided to do the following:

  1. Price this batch of soap at RM20 (naked – usual price is RM23 per bar) and RM21 (wrapped);
  2. Send a special 15% savings coupon to everyone who has backordered and paid for this particular batch of GMP, to make up for the smaller soap bars they will be receiving.

We’re really sorry for this slip up, but we hope this will help to make up for our mistake. As always, thanks for your continued support (even when we stumble along the way).

Read more about our Goat’s Milk and Patchouli soap here. The special Ugly Ducklings price is applicable only while stocks from this particular batch are available.

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New Distributor – Foh Peng

We know that our shop has quite sporadic opening hours, so to help us attend to those of you who can’t make it to our place when we are open, we have asked the kind owners of Syarikat Perniagaan dan Ubat Foh Peng if we could place some of our soap bars in their store. They’ve agreed, so now you can get hold of some of our more popular offerings from our neighbour just downstairs from us! 🙂

They are located between Public Bank and Semenyih Memorial Hills’ office. Our staircase is off to the right. You can’t miss their signboard.

Personally, it is a little surreal for me that now we can see our soap on their shelves. I grew up around this area, you see, so I have memories of this shop since I was a teenager.

Lots of people go to Foh Peng to stock up on baby supplies (milk powder, diapers, wet wipes etc) as well as household dry goods. And of course, chinese herbs. They’ve got quite a well-stocked apothecary, and are able to recommend you all kinds of herbal preparations to address common ailments. They have a particular combination of herbs that you boil to make a pretty tasty drink to combat coughs, and it’s pretty effective – it’s worked on my kids, consistently.

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Now Undergoing Final Testing – Smoothing Hair Serum for Dry, Coarse Hair

my hair before and after using hair serum

It’s been a rather long time since we last launched a new product. This one is something I have been keeping an eye on for quite a few months now, because I find that I benefit from using it too.

I grew up with frizzy, dry hair which my mother had tried fruitlessly to tame, or straighten through use of all kinds of salon products or treatments. It was only after I switched away from using commercial shampoos about 4 years back, that my hair finally changed its texture to become more relaxed and soft – I could finally embrace my curls, instead of fighting against them.

Unfortunately, I realise now that I ruined my hair again when I decided to colour it about two and a half years back. I loved my sea green highlights, but it came at a price–after two rounds of bleaching, 5 hours in the salon, and subsequent giving up on my Mane Event shampoo bar in favour of commercial shampoos that claimed to be colour-protecting, my hair texture has now changed completely. 🙁 Gone are the soft locks that I could leave loose around my shoulders. These days I have to tie back my hair, and sometimes hide the crazy mass of frizz behind me by pulling it into a bun.

I’m quite sure that eventually my hair will grow out of this phase, and hopefully regain its softer feel. In the meantime, I’ve been managing to look half decent by blending a hair serum for myself. It’s been about 12-13 months since I first started making and using it, and now I think I’m quite sure I’d like to release it as an actual product for Kinder Soaps (after I get more feedback from other testers).

Here are some before and after shots that I finally made the effort to take (Note: I applied just 3-4 drops per section of hair, and about 20 drops in total for this particular session):

Observe that in the photo on the left, my frizzy hair is so coarse that you can see right through it to the wall behind me. After applying the serum, my hair seemed to be able to relax into its neighbouring strands, which calmed down the “lion’s mane” look I usually have. It’s glossier now too.

This section is the worst of my frizzy hair. In this photo it doesn’t look remarkably different after using the serum, but it certainly feels a lot softer than it was before.

Okay, now this shows quite a noticeable change in my hair texture. I love how my curls look after using the serum – and transformation happened in under a minute, if not instantly.

In case you’re wondering why my hair was in such a bad state in these photos (which I took today!), it’s because Life got in the way – I got caught up with everything else and neglected to make the serum for a few months now. I’ve only been using virgin coconut oil on and off to moisturize the ends of my hair, but as you can see, it doesn’t really work well for me.

Anyway, there are so many things I like about this blend:

  1. It’s all-natural. Just plant oils. No silicone, no preservatives, no fragrances.
  2. It smells beautifully of flowers, but it’s not overly feminine. I used my favourite essential oils to scent it – and it turns out that they’re also very helpful for nourishing the scalp. They’re currently not in any of our products, so our regulars might be happy to know that there will be something new to smell as well…! :p
  3. It works perfectly as a light-weight moisturizer for the face and body too. I purposely made it such that it could accompany me on my holidays, whether with family or solo (I always travel as light as possible), and is a real workhorse to keep everyone’s skin and hair happy.

Right now it’s mainly the scent of the blend that I need to tweak a little more to get it right.

Do you think you’ll find this helpful to you, or someone you know? Please share this post with them – I’d love to know what you all think of any current hair products you are using, and what your experiences have been like.

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Thank You For The 2017 That Has Been

Phew, what a year it has been…! I personally felt like it was one where Kinder Soaps was forced to “grow up” – or maybe it was me who experienced it. 🙂 There were many ups and downs, the biggest and most tumultuous being the dreaded GMP audit in April, and having the shop raided in October because our products’ notification numbers with the NPRA had expired, and I had forgotten to renew them (that’s a whole different story for another day, but suffice to say that it’s all been sorted out now, thank goodness).

I wish I had more to share about exciting new products for the coming year, or that we have been successfully expanding our distribution to bump up our sales – but in reality the whole of 2017 felt like we were in survival mode most of the time. Whatever you’ve heard about entrepreneurship being a lonely journey for a founder, it’s all true. Being one who is also acutely aware that time spent with family and my children is of paramount importance also prevented me from spending more time on developing the business. So we trundled on with attacking the daily grind without looking into growing aggressively.

And yet we’re still here. And there have been so many moments where I stood back and felt amazed at this reality. Knowing exactly how I work (chaotically, and in bursts of effort), I can confidently say that this is because of everyone who comes into contact with the company. Not me.

Firstly, we have been blessed with an amazing team of staff at Kinder Soaps who have done a terrific job of keeping the studio running smoothly, the paperwork tidy and customers happy through the year. They work with care, and because of this, I barely have to check in on them and yet work still gets done. It’s easy to take this for granted, and I hope that I can do them justice by doing whatever I can to make sure they always have work to keep them busy, and to provide them a safe space for them to call their second home.

Secondly, our customers. Despite our many (embarrassing) disrupted supply situations, despatch hiccups and idiosyncratic shop hours, you have stuck by us through these years, and even recommended your friends and family to try our wares. We must be doing something right… :”) But even so, we are always looking to do better, bit by bit. Our purpose of being is to serve you, and if you have any suggestions for us on how we can improve our products or services, please get in touch with us any way you feel most comfortable with, whether by phone, email, or coming over to chat with us at the shop. I cannot promise that we will act on every one of them, but we’ll certainly try to take on the ones that make the most sense.

Thirdly, our vendors. We demanded a lot from you in this past year – and you delivered. Thank you for building a mutual trust between us, and we even became friends. I personally discovered how incredibly useful it was to have Gogetters at the ready to help us with handling tricky despatches (who else would want to handle and deliver 25kg cartons, sometimes containing caustic sodium hydroxide, at a tip of the hat?), and even braving unfamiliar government offices to take care of paperwork submission? If you haven’t heard of, you really need to check them out. The time (and heartache!) they saved me was invaluable. Thank you all for your support, and we look forward to a more prosperous 2018 for all of us.

Finally, my family and friends. You encouraged, chided, lectured, and most importantly, loved me for the broken, imperfect person I am. I cannot thank you enough for this. I feel like I haven’t been a very good connection in the past year, and I’d like to fix that. :”)

So this is my piece to round off the year (and so that I can finally check off this to-do item that has been sitting in my journal for months…! :p). We look forward to continue serving you in the year, and many more, to come. 🙂


Much love,
Michelle and the Kinder Soaps family

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Pausing Our Referral Programme

Hey everyone,

To those of you who have been participating actively in our Referral Programme, thank you.

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to run it as effectively as we’d like, so we will be putting it on hold until we can figure out how to make it work better for you.

As a company that pours all its heart and resources into crafting great products by hand, we don’t have a large advertising budget to work with. We rely heavily on good people such as yourselves to tell your friends and family about our products, and hopefully they will become our customers too. We know that lots of you already do this, which is why we thought setting up a referral programme was a good idea.

Unfortunately, the numbers show that we are consistently losing money from running this campaign, rather than boosting our sales. 🙁 So even though some of you have been faithfully sharing your referral codes with your networks, getting the word out about Kinder Soaps (thank you so much!) and enjoying the rewards in the process, we will need to put this programme on hold – hopefully only temporarily.

We will pause the Referral Programme officially on Monday, 9th of October 2017.

We are sorry to have to do this, but like I said, we may get this up and running again in the future. In the meantime, you can still share your referral code with your networks, and if they make a qualified purchase before the 9th of October, you’ll still be able to claim your reward.

Thanks again for your continued support for us in general – we’re truly grateful that we have such a terrific bunch of customers, some of whom we have had the privilege to consider as friends. 🙂

If there is anything at all we can do to help you with regards to caring for your skin in an environmentally conscious way, call us at 03-77320955 during our shop opening hours, or drop as an email at anytime. We’d be most happy to chat with you.

Have a lovely week ahead!

Warm regards,

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Thank You For Helping Us Minimise Plastic Usage!

Hello everyone! I’ve decided to take a bit of a breather from the work grind to write instead.

Most of you are probably aware of our efforts to reduce our reliance on plastic, especially when it comes to packaging our soap. In 2014 we began selling our soap in beeswax cotton wraps, which are made in-house and entirely by hand. Then to push the envelope further with regards to minimizing packaging, we started offering the option of buying our soap without any form of wrapping.

And from what we have observed, it really is possible to do away with packaging entirely–I am so happy to see this! You all are truly helping to reduce our environmental impact.

So much of our modern-day city life is saturated with messages that imply that you need more of something or other in order to be happier / more successful in life. I disagree. We can be happier with less stuff, to make more room for other more fulfilling pursuits. (For more practical ideas or discussions about what minimalism really is, I encourage you to visit this inspiring website.)

So in terms of the products that you buy, you have shown us that you care more for the product itself, and that you are quite happy to do away with superfluous packaging.

We have also chatted with numerous customers who shared that they have simplified their skincare routines to basic cleansing with soap, and moisturization if necessary. You make your own simple yet nourishing and effective scrubs out of foodstuff that you already have in your kitchen (yay!) – which means purchasing less cosmetic products in their own packaging. Your skin doesn’t need much more than that, unless you have a medical condition that requires special treatment.

Using less also means you are channeling fewer things to landfills.

So, to those of you who have been purchasing our soap bars, wrapped or otherwise, thank you for helping us do our bit to reduce our environmental impact in the course of meeting your skincare needs.

Operationally speaking, we’re taking little steps forward to encourage recycling, reusing and reducing waste material. Our ingredients arrive in plastic jerry cans, bags, and bottles made of plastic, glass and aluminium–we try our best to recycle all of these. I’ve made our cleaning kakak responsible for the collection of all our recyclable plastic bottles and containers, so that she can sell them for additional income (she seems quite happy with this arrangement). Glass bottles are a little trickier because of their weight and fragility, but I think CRC would be willing to come over to collect them to be sold to recycling centres too (although I’ve heard that glass doesn’t command as good a price as paper or plastic).

Paper scraps from our soap mold liners are used to wrap our free soap samples (so we can ditch the plastic zip lock bags). This was Christine’s idea.

We have also begun stamping our soap bars with their names, along with their “best used by” dates, so they are easy to identify even in the absence of any form packaging.

I’m sure there will be more we can do. Lots of inspiration came from the practices of other eco-conscious people around us – like yourselves!

Do share with us what you do to reduce your use of packaging for cosmetics, or for any other area in your daily life, for that matter. It’s always interesting to hear your stories. 🙂

And again, because we can’t say this enough–THANK YOU for doing your bit for our environment. You inspire us to follow suit.

Have a terrific week ahead!

Much love,

p/s: Have a peek at our range of soap bars here – those of you with skin concerns may benefit the most from what we have to offer.

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Our Soap Sampler Pack Has Been Changed

We have decided to offer two 50g bars of soap for our Sampler Pack, instead of the three 33g slices. We noticed that most new customers were usually comparing 2 types of soap–and on top of that, having slightly larger soap slices gives them the opportunity to have a slightly longer trial period for each piece.

The price has been changed to RM24 per 2-pc pack as well.

Hope this helps! Pop over to the Soap Sampler Pack page to give our soap bars a whirl.


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Soap Bars Now Bear Their Names!

Today we received an extra special parcel – one that will help you identify your soap bars right away, even without a shred of packaging on them. 🙂

We will now be stamping our soap bars with their names! Here’s a bar of Teselli as an example, which also has a best-by date on the narrower edge (something that we have been doing for a while now).

Thank you for supporting us in our efforts to be kinder not just to our skin, but to our environment as well. #zerowaste #packagingfreecosmetics