One of my hobbies back home in America is making soap, and I will admit that I am a bit of a snob about it. Being a holistic health coach, I understand that the skin is a natural sponge for the body – anything that touches our skin is absorbed through the pores directly into the bloodstream. Thus, why I hesitate to use anything on my skin that is not natural and healthy. Many people aren’t aware of this fact, but this is why using natural skin care products is so important.
I was therefore thrilled one night to come across a fellow soap maker at the outdoor market in Ao Nang. Karin Hualthanom has been making and selling soap for 12 years, and he clearly shares my passion for high quality, natural soap. He invited us to come visit his factory in Nong Thale to see his operation first hand, which we were excited to do.
Khun Karin comes from a computer background, but got into soap making after he and his brother began making soap together in Bangkok. A few years after his start, he and his wife moved to Krabi to be closer to family and his brother decided to pursue a career in farming. Khun Karin decided to continue experimenting with various soap recipes. He enjoyed making soap and was committed to making a go of the business.
Like me, Khun Karin appreciates natural, cold processed soap. In the process of making mass-produced soaps the glycerin and moisturizers – natural by-products of the soap-making process – are removed and then sold separately by the cosmetic industry. Then, cheaper chemicals are added to keep this mass produced soap harder, lathering longer or to offer anti-bacterial properties. Coconut oil is highly anti-bacterial and every bit as good for keeping the body clean as chemical anti-bacterial agents are. The cosmetic industry tells us to use only manufactured cleansers to wash the face, and then to use a toner and moisturizer afterwards to rebalance and rehydrate the skin. When you wash with naturally cold-processed soap, the skin is naturally moisturized and hydrated, making the need for other skin care products less necessary (and therefore less costly).
Soap making is a chemical process whereby an extreme alkaline product (lye) is combined with various oils. Mixing these products together causes a chemical reaction called “saponification.” In this process, the lye acts as a catalyst that eventually disappears from the soap all together. Once Khun Karin saw the power of this beautiful soap and the need for such a product here in Krabi, he spent two years on countless experiments to develop the optimal recipe. This means that the feel of the soap on the skin, the lathering and fragrance all blended perfectly to produce the perfect product.
Khun Karin uses only Certificate Of Analysis (COA) products, to make sure he knows exactly what goes into the soap, and he strictly follows FDA standards in Thailand. Being able to make soap that is approved by the FDA for meeting high standards as well as having a completely natural product is very important to his company. Integrity at all levels is one of the reasons this company is so outstanding.
When I first read the ingredient list, I knew this was a beautiful product – other soaps have chemical additives to make them lather or last longer, but simple, natural ingredients are all you need for the best soap: palm, coconut, soy and palm kernel oils in delicately balanced proportions with distilled water, various fragrances, colors and herbal ingredients. This is all you will find in these outstanding soaps. There are different varieties such as Mango, Coconut, Tumeric, Aloe Vera, Green Tea, Charcoal and many others including a honey soap that uses locally sourced honey. These soaps are so gentle and safe that they can be used on infants as well.
Making soap takes a lot more than just mixing up liquids. One must cut the large slabs into small bars. With the help of specially made soap boxes or molds and big tray cutters that he has designed himself, Khun Karin can make 3,000 bars of soap a month. With some improvements however, he says that it wouldn’t be hard to get to 30,000 bars per month in his facility, which, given market trends now, he plans to achieve in a year or so. More of his sales are coming from further away, and his business is growing. To support this growth, Khun Karin is interested in finding partners to help with distributing his soap on a more retail level. Since business is growing, he realizes that he needs more people to work on the various aspects of it.
As in any business, there is always something in the process that will slow you down. For Khun Karin, wrapping the soap into a presentable product has proven to be the most time consuming aspect of the job. Currently, all the soaps are hand-wrapped, but automating this will make a big difference. Khun Karin has plans to purchase a wrapping machine that will help increase production and further his dreams of getting his soap to more people. With Khun Karin’s background, determination and creative mind, this hurdle will be overcome in a short time frame.
Khun Karin has been creatively pursuing new markets for improving sales, and he has found some resorts are interested in this. Local resorts see that their patrons appreciate using healthier bathroom products, and this locally sourced soap is a lovely attraction in the rooms. Khun Karin can develop custom wrapping and even imprinting. For customers like me, when I see an establishment that shows care with these details, I am very grateful.
Khun Karin’s healthy product can not only make your body feel good after contact, but people are reacting well to his concept. Khun Karin is helping us all by teaching us the importance of what we place on our skin – starting with the simple soap that we use to stay clean.
Maybe guess it’s not so simple after all!
To contact Khun Karin about his products go to his web site at
or visit Ao Nang Walking Street and find him at his booth every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings.
By Linsey Hurley and Sal Alonzo