As more and more people get savvy to the need to reduce chemical additives, preservatives, and inflammatory ingredients in their foods, some are starting to look into the ingredient lists of their skin and haircare as well.

Sellwood Soap Company founder Rachael Gruen was no stranger to the idea that the ingredients in our soaps and lotions matter. As a professional chemist and young mom, Gruen had a hard time finding soaps on the market that she could use on her family's sensitive skin. Regular soaps were packed with irritating ingredients that exacerbated eczema, acne, and winter dryness. Fed up with the limited (and expensive) options available comercially, she put her science background to work, launching Sellwood Soap Company out of her basement in 2011.

Since then, the fledgling company has earned loyal fans across the country. Here are 5 reasons to try the line for yourself: 

1. There's something for everyone, from fragrance-free baby soap to pet shampoo, peppermint shaving cream to moisturizers for gardener's hands, even anti-aging facial oils and laundry soap!

2. The soaps, oils, and balms are made by hand in a soap studio in Sellwood with all-natural ingredients like coconut oil, rosehip seed oil (perfect for acne-prone skin), goats milk, oatmeal, olive oil, beeswax, and hops grown by a neighbor down the street. The products are free of harmful chemicals, detergents, and petroleum-based ingredients. Have a specific allergy? Gruen is happy to make custom soaps to suit your needs.

3. There's some serious science to back it up. Gruen's soap studio looks more like a lab (complete with molecular modeling kit) than a craft room, and for good reason: she spent years as a professional chemist, and brings a real dedication to safety, pH testing, and education to her craft.

4. Sellwood Soap specializes in bar soaps and balms to minimize packaging and eliminate the need for preservatives.

5. The soapmaker shares the wealth: Gruen isn't interested in keeping the age-old soap process to herself! She teaches affordable soap-making classes at Portland Homestead Supply covering topics like hot and cold processed bar soaps, healing balms and lotions, fizzy bath bombs, and liquid soap using vegetable and seed oils. For a full schedule of classes, head to the Sellwood Soap Company website. Can't make it to a class? Order a DIY soap-making kit, complete with everything you need to make seven bars of all-natural soap at home. For tips, check out the video above.

Sellwood Soap Company products can currently be found online, at Portland Homestead Supply Co., Food Front Cooperative Grocery, Market of Choice, and several other local stores.

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