Maria, Owner: Skessusapur
Shop address: skessusapur.is
Follow Skessusapur on Instagram
I: Small introduction about you and your company?
R: My name is Maria and I live in Kopavogur, Iceland, with my two-year-old son and his father. Before moving to Iceland two years ago from Russia, I worked as an IT consultant and team leader for PwC, an international consulting firm. Icelandic nature and my new role as a mother inspired me to make soap from purely natural ingredients without any additives, ensuring that they would be healthy for my sensitive skin and suitable for my baby's skin as well.
I: Have you been making soaps for a long time?
R: The first time I tried to make soap was one and a half years ago and this process captured me. I started reading books about soap making to understand better the chemical reaction. I started out using the so-called cold process method that is generally used by most soap makers. Later, I found out that there is another approach - the "hot process" - that allows the ingredients to be added after all the lye has been used up. That means that the active properties of additional natural ingredients are preserved much better, i.e. the various herbs, mosses and plant extracts that I add to my soaps, as well as the skin-healing capabilities of the natural oils themselves, instead of being partly destroyed by reaction with the lye, which is a risk in the course of the more common cold process. When I realized that most soap on the market is not made in this more delicate way, that gave a new boost to my interest in soap making. Since then I never looked back, making soap basically full-time and developing many new recipes for soaps!
I: Where do you find materials for your soaps?
R: I am fascinated by Iceland and Icelandic nature, so quite naturally I tend to use Icelandic ingredients a lot. Among the many interesting ingredients specific to Iceland, I use sheep tallow (tólg) a lot. It has properties that resemble human skin fat, which is preserved in the process, leaving the skin soft and moist, so soaps containing tólg have been very popular among people with dry and delicate skin, e.g. during the COVID hand-washing frenzy. Perhaps the boldest experiment was using cod liver oil (lýsi) to make a soap I called the "Fisherman's Wife". I am not sure if anyone had done that before, but the soap turned out to have some nice properties, e.g. a good hardness, moisturizing and a rich lather. However, the perfume is probably an acquired taste, at least the soap turned out to be more popular among real Icelanders than in the expatriate community.
I: Is this something you have been interested in for a long time?
R: I have known how to make soap for a while (see above), but the time I got really interested was when I discovered the possibilities of the hot process and started feeling I could perhaps contribute something of my own and make better soap than many others do.
I: Do you make many different types of soaps for different skin types for example?
R: My soaps contain only all-natural ingredients, which means that there is no risk of irritation originating in chemical additives. For example, the husband of my son's aunt had to switch to my soaps exclusively, because he was getting rashes and itches from washing with soap from the supermarket. When he started using my soap the irritation disappeared immediately. I don't have the laboratory infrastructure of a major drug company, so what I tend to rely on is feedback from the circle of users of my products. So, depending on your type of skin or particular skin problem, I can often tell you which soap type an established user in a similar situation prefers to use. Also, in addition to skessusapur.is, I have a Facebook Page, where we encourage clients to share their experiences so others can benefit. In addition to various soaps, I also make soaps for vegan skin types that contain no animal products.
I: How did you learn to make soaps?
R: We've been making soap for our own use for a while with simple ingredients and based on established recipes. When I got more interested in this, my education as an engineer was useful for the scientific part. I then collected all the information I could from various specialist literature and other sources and started my own experiments, learning by doing. The possibilities are endless and I still learn something new every day.
I: Are your soaps good for the environment?
R: My soaps are far more sustainable than most kinds of industrial soap for various reasons. One, it contains no SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate), which is a notorious pollutant, often present in factory-made soaps and other beauty product. Two, it uses a minimum of wrapping, in particular only paper and recycled materials. Many of my clients also use my soaps also as shampoo, and by comparison, their regular use saves a lot of plastic bottles. Third, many cosmetics companies are big donors to the campaign funds of Donald Trump and other enemies of nature. We, by contrast, save both money and the planet by not donating to anybody :-)
I: Do you know what ingredients are good for different purposes, if so can you tell me a little bit about that?
R: Yes, for example, we use a different blend of natural oils for making shampoo bars than for making hand and body soap bars, depending on the amount of moisture or fat we want the soap to leave behind. We also use herbs that proven healing properties in cosmetics over a long time, such as Aloe Vera. Another example is mud from the Dead Sea where I spent a few years. I found that the mud had a great effect on my skin and it is also proven to help against acne, so I brought a few pounds with me on the plane. Running out soon, so you better buy fast!
I: Have you thought about making creams, shampoos and other skin products as well?
R: Yes, I'm actually launching a shampoo bar as we speak and I also do a bit of research currently into bath bombs. Skin cream project is still a little bit steep for a one-girl outfit, but who knows what will happen in a few months time. As for the shampoo, men already use my soap bars as shampoo, but I want to make a more specialized product adapted to women. After all, I have long hair myself, so I know what I'm talking about. For the shampoo, I reduce the super-fat compared to soap to make sure that it leaves no fat behind in the hair. At the same time, absolutely no lye must be left in the soap, as this would be detrimental to the hair. So it's a little bit different game than body soap. I liked the test run of my pilot shampoo a lot myself, but I am really excited to find out what will be the reaction of clients. I already have a name for it: "Flétta", meaning in Icelandic in addition to "braid", also the "lichen" on Icelandic rocks.
I: Do you deliver your soap out of Iceland?
R: Yes and there have been positive reactions from Berlin, Amsterdam and Barcelona from my friends who ordered soaps, but the clients in Moscow, New York and Erevan in Armenia are still waiting for their orders because of COVID. Luckily soap only gets better with time :-)
What comes into your mind when you hear these words? Few words only.
Icelandic language: is not more difficult than the Russian language
One product to take back home from Skessusapur: Hreindýramosi sapur - soap with icelandic moss
One thing you miss from HOME: not expensive and wide selection of high quality tea
Puffins: happy for them that they slappa af (relaxed) without tourists during covid lockdown
Favorite coffee shop in Iceland: Dalur, best playground for kids where mom can drink coffee
Favorite dinner place in Iceland: my home
Best place to buy kids toys in Iceland: bland.is
Favorite food: Icelandic lamb
Your favorite saying in Icelandic: I invented it by myself “Varstu að reykja sokkana þína?”
Iceland’s future: auðvitað bright!