by Catharine Lo
photos by Linny Morris Cunningham
A bar of soap is only as good as what goes in it. That, in a nutshell, is the rallying cry of natural soap-makers across the globe. "There’s a group of us out there that makes soap with our hearts and souls," Jerry Driscoll, co-owner of Hawaiian Bath and Body, says with animated drama. Other companies sacrifice quality for economy, adding artificial ingredients that compromise the inherent function of soap—which is, well, to remove impurities.
Jerry and Deborah Driscoll
Jerry and his wife Debora began producing natural soaps in their North Shore home three years ago. Jerry once did construction and Debora was a cartographer, and when they met and fell in love at Sunset Beach ten years ago, they had no idea that their future was in soap. But when an organic chemist friend left Oahu, he also left a recipe, and today the Driscolls are running a thriving operation.
Their soap begins with a blending of coconut, soybean, palm and olive oils. "The quality really depends on the base," Debora says. "You can have all different fragrances, but that doesn’t make it good soap." In fact, many clean-smelling soaps on the market are actually detergents made with sodium lauryl sulfate, a chemical that’s great for cutting grease—but as Debora points out, "You don’t want it to strip your skin."
Hawaiian Bath and Body’s soap is cold-processed, not cooked, so that nutrients are retained. Essential oils are added as well as organic oatmeal, wheat germ, or blue cornmeal to add texture. For a Hawaii touch, there’s kukui nut and macadamia nut oil and locally grown produce; a citrus soap is made with ground tangerine peels picked from a neighborhood tree. Customers have marveled at the results of using the soap, from helping to heal eczema to soothing itchy skin. The humble brand even gained fame when it made a surprise appearance in Star Magazine as Mariah Carey’s soap of choice.
When the business outgrew the Driscolls’ home, they moved to the old cane repository at the Waialua Sugar Mill. Go for a tour or visit. The soaps can be found online or at local retailers, including Native Books/Na Mea Hawaii.
Hawaiian Bath and Body