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Saturday, August 22, 2015

Review & Recommendation: Paintbox Soapworks

I ordered from Paintbox Soapworks last year, but only got around to reviewing them now because I'm awesome at procrastinating and I wanted to wait until the summer scents are back out again ('s mostly because of the procrastination bit). 

Not pictured White Cotton Sheets Luxury Glycerin Soap & 2 solid scents since they rolled around in my luggage and I couldn't find them at that moment.
My package got shipped in 7 days, so TAT-wise, it's not that bad for an indie company. Hayley, the owner, also replies within a day to any messages I send. She's also really open about her ingredients and production process, so I really feel safe using her products.

When I messaged her about the use of bases, she's very open about it:

Screenshot taken on 22 Aug, 2015
Hayley actually kept her promise and went into greater depth with her answer, so I end up with an unexpected and awesome interview on Paintbox Soapworks' production process & ingredients! She gave me permission to post the entire thing on my blog so here you go:

OK, Francesca, we're home for the night, dinner's cooking, & I'm happy to clarify further if you'd like :) 
I touched on glycerin soap vs. hot process on my blog a few years ago: 
Glycerin soaps from a base are awesome for several reasons: I can have soaps ready to ship in under 24 hours, which is a particular boon in the middle of the holiday rush; glycerin base takes color & fragrance with very few surprises - no seizing, ricing, or other shenanigans that plague hot & cold process soaping; and, most importantly IMO, as the fragrance isn't exposed to active lye, scents stay very true, without losing top notes or morphing unexpectedly.  
I get my base from both a distributing supplier & the manufacturer, depending on the volume I'm ordering. I am dedicated to using only "real" glycerin soap - stuff that is actually saponified oils, not the cheaper detergent-based bases available. 
My lotions & Goat Milk Cream are also bases that I order direct from the manufacturer. I work out of my home, & can't maintain the lab-sterile level of cleanliness necessary to, IMO, safely produce hydrous lotions from scratch. I know lots of soapers do it, but it's just not something I'm comfortable with - hydrous formulas will grow bacteria & mold like it's their job, given the opportunity. I prefer to leave that part of the process to professionals with the right facilities to produce it safely. The company that supplies my bases is the only manufacturer that I've found using paraben-free preservatives & not using mineral oils/propylene glycol in their formulas. They're west coast based, as are my glycerin base suppliers, so shipping costs me a bloody mint, but it's the only way to get the components that meet my needs. 
Fragrance oils are the backbone of my scent arsenal, & I buy a staggering variety from about half a dozen suppliers. Blending them is an exercise in matching the concept I have in my head with the components available; single-note FOs are irritatingly hard to find in affordable quantities, so I have to piece a blend together with existing blends from my suppliers. Sometimes I only have to add an extra note or two to an existing FO to make it what I want; sometimes I have to Frankenstein a dozen FOs in varying quantities to capture something really elusive or complex. A really good nose might be able to pick out familiar notes (some of my components are dupes of popular brand name scents), but there's always something more in the blend than a single FO (with the exception of Gingermilk & a few long-discontinued scents from when I first opened & had no clue).
My scrubs are a little harder to quantify, as I do use a pre-made cream soap base as an ingredient; there's a lot more to my scrubs than just adding sugar & scent, so I tend to think of these as from-scratch, while some purists might disagree. I look at it like making barbeque sauce at home - if your ingredient list includes ketchup, Worcester sauce & prepared mustard... is it from scratch? Yes? But no? But yes? I say yes. Some others might not, & I'm OK with that. 
The rest? Comes from jugs of oils, bags of wax flakes & sugar, tubs of butters, & my poor abused kitchen. 
Cripes, this really should have just been a blog post - sorry for chewing your ear off! I hope this clears up any confusion that might be circulating - know that I'm happy to answer any further questions anyone might have <3 
Have a great night!

I'd say they're amazing customer service-wise and I'm definitely a huge supporter of Paintbox Soapworks now!

Anyway, on to reviews!


Bath Streusel Review

This is like a milky bubble bath and definitely fun to bathe in it! I really don't know how to rave more about this since bubble baths are pretty straight forward. It's something I plan on getting more of since the scent I got was so divine....


"Coconut milk, cardamom, coffee beans, musk"

This ends up smelling like a rich, dark chocolate chip cookie. I love it, it smells sooo delicious! Imagine bathing in chocolate chip cookies...but without the crumbs getting stuck in your butt crack. Sounds awesome, right?


Sorbetto Scrub Review

I think after leaving it for a few months, the scrubs ended up settling in a weird way. So the top layer, I get mostly an oily scrub. Not a bad kind of oily though –it's like Haunt's scrub where there's a thin layer of oil that washes off easily, yet leaves your skin so soft that you don't need a moisturizer. As I get to the middle layer, it becomes more of a gently frothy scrub. Now it's similar to Cocoa Pink's scrub, where it's like liquid soap that bubbles quite a bit, with a dry scrub. I know the description said nothing about bubbling, but it does bubble:

Turns out my camera was out of focus the whole time, and stupidly, I used up my last batch of scrub. Wanted to create a gif file, but it became way too blurry that way.
The sugar granules are medium-sized and I found that they scrub as hard as Cocoa Pink's soapy scrub, slightly more than Haus of Gloi's soapy scrub, and slightly less than Alchemic Muse's soapy scrub. I like it and I'm thinking of getting the pack of 10 mini sizes when I'm in LA at the end of the year.

The scent's strong and lingers on your skin after the shower, so that's a bonus for me. Speaking of scents, here are the scent reviews:

Candy Floss

"Sugarspun blackberries folded into lush marshmallow cream & buttery vanilla taffy"

There's that typical searing Aquolina's Pink Sugar sort of sugar scent, but this one's rounded to have an almost creamy sort of scent. It ends up smelling like a creamier version of Aquolina's Pink Sugar.

Gooseberry Beach

"Balmy salt water, sea kelp & spirulina algae, crisp bamboo & a trace of coolness from wet, dark sand"

This smells like that blue ocean note, with that clean, green bamboo note you can find in L'Occitane's bamboo scents. There's also a fresh, grassy sort of scent in this. The scent makes reminds me of really calming, fresh spa sort of scents and I love it. Unfortunately, as I wash it off, I get a kind of waxy smell that I'm not a fan off. I'm definitely open to trying this scent in other forms though, since I find that the same scent performs differently in different forms.


Solid Scents Review

The texture's hard and waxy (I thought I accidentally got a wax tart at first), so you have to dig in a bit. The throw's not bad and goes up to faux whispering distance for about 2h before fading. I find that the scent doesn't morph too much as I wear it and tend to be pretty straightforward. These scent reviews are done blind until the TL;DRs are written.

Candy Floss

"Sugarspun blackberries folded into lush marshmallow cream & buttery vanilla taffy"

This smells exactly like the scrub version, only it's slightly sharper. Overall, it's a still a flossy, creamy pink cotton candy, or a creamier version of Aquolina's Pink Sugar.

TL;DR: Creamy, pink cotton candy.

Pink Sand

"A sunset-beach blend of creamy rice flower & luscious fig awash in crisp white tea & sparkling surf"

It's a lotiony, pink floral that kind of reminds me of pink floral scented dryer sheets. It's nice enough, and I can see this as a popular Bath & Bodyworks scent, but just not interesting enough for me since my nose have gotten too jaded by trying out too many weird scents. As time goes on, the scent starts getting searing on me and it gives me a bit of a headache.

TL;DR: Pink floral scented dryer sheets.


Body Lotion Review

This is a really lightweight lotion and has that "water-based" sort of feel to it so it doesn't feel oily at all. It gets absorbed almost immediately after you put it on, so it's a great lotion to use when you're in a hurry. It's personally not moisturizing enough for me since my skin gets pretty dried out from staying in an air-conditioned office all day, but I like keeping it around for the moments when I want to moisturize fast.

Btw, the packaging is not airplane-friendly since it's prone to popping and leaking. I placed it in my handbag while flying, and it exploded all over the place. If you're flying with it, tape the cap down and you're good!

Little Paper Umbrellas

"Luscious, ripe mango blended smooth with creamy lychee, lime, melon, red tea & a squirt of scarlet grenadine"

At first sniff, it smells like Black Violet's Red Lotus or Brambleberry's Lychee Red Tea, which smells like lychee and a cool, almost floral tea, but this is definitely an improved version that has more complexity. There's a creamy mango chewy candy thrown in and while you can't individually pick out the other fruits, they blend in beautifully with the scent.

It smells like some kind of tropical fruit punch you're told to throw together in a hurry for a party, and the results became magical and you can't replicate it.  It smells really great, with a bit of a chewy candy sort of creaminess.


Luxury Glycerin Soap Review

I love the scent strength of this, since you can definitely smell the scent lingering on your skin even after you wash the soap off. Little Paper Umbrellas' scent is exceptionally strong, since I put it in a drawer and now my drawer smells like it. Like almost all the indie bar soaps I've tried, this leaves that tacky, dry feeling afterwards.

Little Paper Umbrellas

"Luscious, ripe mango blended smooth with creamy lychee, lime, melon, red tea & a squirt of scarlet grenadine"

This pretty much smells like the body lotion version, only the lychee bit is the most prominent and some of the creaminess got lost. It's still a great scent though!

White Cotton Sheets (discontinued)

"Breezy white florals, dry musk, hawthorn & a touch of ozone."

This just smells like dryer sheets. Nice enough, but kinda boring for me. 


  1. I've been purchasing Paintbox's soaps for a while and they are great. Excellent customer service too.