Soap review: Uncle Penn's Old Fashioned Lye Soap

Recently there's been some drama about in the local handmade community. To some its all because of soap.

This review is my way of saying "NO. Its not about soap and never has been." This is just my opinion.

Item to be reviewed: Uncle Penn's Circle W Oldfashioned Lye Soap (info here too: Uncle Penn's Circle W Soap and Isla Tortuga woodworking cataloug. 

*note all links and quotes from the seller are directly copied off the website and/or facebook pages and no editing has been done.*

I purchased this bar at the Washington County Artisans & Farmer's Winter Market on December 17th. The person who sold it to me was female. I asked what kinds were available and she rattled off a list without ever making eye contact with me. I told her to surprise me. This is the bar that was chosen for me.

Price: $4.00

Customer service: Nearly none. No eye contact was made, I was not greeted other than a cursory "Hello." I paid my $4 and left the table. She was more than happy to take my money but didn't explain anything to me but spent a good 10 minutes explaining why their soap was superior to any other being sold at the same market, to the customer who was ahead of me in line. That customer was buying soap for a 5 year old girl with problem skin.

Item name (Scent - per the website): Anne-Marie Lavender & Honey. "Uncle Penns sweetheart (my grandmother) was "Anne-Marie", this ones for her. Lavendar Meets honey and wine w/sunflower, coconut oil, lard and beeswax. Great for those who want that light old timey sweetheart scent. Five ounce bars 4.00 each locally 8.00 shipped. Bulk deals available."

What it actually smells like: This is the hard part. When I first got it, and sniffed it, I'll be honest I didn't smell anything but I'd just come in out of the cold and my nose was still adjusting to being inside. I sniffed it again later and smelled wet hay and something I can only describe as that aroma you get from standing inside the sheep barn at the state fair in the heat of summer. I hadn't unwrapped the soap, I'd just sniffed the cut end. I later peeled away the wrapping to get a better sniff and sort of wished I hadn't. The open exposed ends were mild compared to the wash of aromas I got after opening the label. Grease was the first and only thing I smelled. You know that smell of a greasy spoon diner that serves donuts but is lax in cleaning their grease trap regularly. That's the smell that awaited me when I opened the wrapping.

Packaging & Wrapping: The soap is a very large bar that is somewhat soft on the ends and is wrapped loosely in a purple construction paper sleeve with black printing on it. There are no ingredients listed on the outside of the label. This makes me less inclined to purchase in the future simply because as a customer if I can't see the ingredients and am prone to allergies to ingredients I'm not going to buy something I can't see what's in it until I buy it and get it home.
The sleeve also contains the logo and a catch phrase (again in all CAPS) "UNCLE PENN SAYS, TO STAY CLEAN YA GOTTA WASH ASS."

Ingredients: Again to reiterate this label was stuck to the inside of the outer wrapping sleeve. It is not visible before purchase. "Anne-Marie - Lavender, honey and wine w/sunflower. coconut oil, lard & beeswax. 3% superfat lye (sodium hydroxide) 100% natural, homemade and no animal testing." There's a film of soap and residue from the bar on the inside portion of the outer purple wrapping sleeve. 

Testing: I had 3 bars of soap I wanted to test at the same time so I do admit to wearing gloves at the time of the test to prevent the filth that was on my fingers from rubbing off or getting washed off as I was testing a stronger bar from another seller (that will be reviewed in another post).

I cut off a small slice from each of the 3 bars that I was testing today. The knife I used is a CUTCO paring knife that just came back from being sharpened by the manufacturer, and the knife was cleaned off and dried thoroughly between cutting each bar. The slice I made of this bar crumbled under the pressure from the blade. The soap inside the core of the bar is very soft and very sticky. A good sized chunk adhered to the knife itself as you can see from this photo.

I tested this soap on the back of my wrist/arm. I used moderately warm water and the slice shown above to make a lather. The soap took a good bit of rubbing to produce a thick lather. The lather is sticky and stringy, not smooth & creamy like some other soaps I've used. There are chunks of corn and other materials in this slice that are coming off on my arm and are scratching my skin. There is no corn listed anywhere on the ingredient label. For those with sensitivities or allergies to certain ingredients this is a bad thing. Finding other ingredients not listed on the label that's also not visible at the time of purchase is also not a positive for this soap.

The soap was irritating, rough, and the expected scent of lavender & honey was nowhere to be found before, during or after use. The soap was extremely drying to my skin and caused redness at the site of use. I rinsed well and followed up the wash with a soothing Calendula soap from another seller that I know is soothing to my skin.

VERY LARGE bar for the $4, but not worth it at $8 if you're not local, that's $4 shipping per bar, which is expensive.

  • bar is soft in the middle - not cured long enough
  • scent is nothing like you expect from natural ingredients
  • packaging is poorly done
  • ingredients aren't visible at time of purhcase
  • seller never looked me in the eye while taking my money - yes this is a big deal with point of sale purchases for me.
  • bar is drying, and caused itching and redness at the site of use
  • contained ingredients not listed on the label
  • seller uses internet to advertise product but blocks any posts that are contrary or do not show the product in a 100% positive light. Seller also only accepts cash for all transactions both local and mail order. Buyer is not covered from bad product, non-receipt of product through the mail etc.

Overall result:
Don't waste your money. There are plenty of other well established soap companies out there that know their product, are more professional in both product and service than this company The sites and the labels indicate that this soap is good for those who don't care about the English language, or care that things are professionally labeled. Simple is fine but not when it assumes the buyers are simpletons who don't know any better. The sites for the seller explain that they don't take anything but cash or money orders. You the buyer aren't protected in any way if you send in cash through the mail and do not receive your product. The post office frowns on sending well concealed cash. The seller could say they never got your payment and you'd never see your product. The seller refuses to sell online but proudly uses the internet to advertise their product. I simply cannot stand behind a product that makes me smell worse after using it than I did before I washed with it. I had posted a question to their facebook fan page regarding one of the claims they make on their website regarding essential oils.

Further info: I had posted a question to their facebook fan page regarding one of the claims they make on their website regarding essential oils. My question was deleted and my personal page has been blocked from commenting further on the fan page.

Due to the nature of the beast I know I will be called out in regards to posting this review and will be called biased, and hateful. It was not my intent. I paid cash to purchase the item in question and did an honest review of the product as a whole. I did not take into account who made it other than in regards to the end paragraph regarding the buyer being protected from bad product or negligent sellers. Simply put buyer beware.

I have plenty of bar left and will be cutting the bar into at least 6 more pieces to send to others at my expense who have agreed to test the soap and let the world know their opinions of it, believe me or don't its your decision.

--the frawg


Melissa E. said...

Honestly, if a company can't take questions from customers or stomach not-so-great criticism, they shouldn't really be in business.

Anonymous said...

Very well written and informative. This seller is obviously trying to make a quick buck but will likely have a future lawsuit on their hands when they injure some poor unsuspecting customer. I really hate these types of sellers because they make the rest of us honest, hardworking, handmade B&B companies look bad. Thanks for sharing this!

Mariah said...

As a person with skin allergies, that's a really scary product for a seller to put out - I could get if it was a one time thing and they owned up to it, apologized and fixed the problem but trying to ignore it or discredit you just makes them look bad. A responsible b&b artisan would not put their customers at risk. I would never buy a product that did not have visible ingredient labels and if I found something in there that wasn't listed(especially such a common allergen as corn!) I'd be livid. This is a great, honest review.

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