When you take something back from a holiday destination or important place, there is always something more special about it.
Shivon Soap was created around that idea, and with natural ingredients from Donegal and beyond, we really are getting some of the county’s natural goodness for our skin.
Donegal Woman caught up with Siobhan Harkin, who founded Shivon Soap with her husband Kevin. For the past two years, they have been handmaking soap bars from their Soap Shack in Inishowen.
The main ingredient in some of their soaps is seaweed, hand-harvested from Donegal’s beaches.
In the traditional way, Siobhan and Kevin take their baskets down to the beach at Inch Island to pick the seaweed themselves. They then dry it out and add it to their soaps.
Does rubbing pieces of Donegal onto our skin really benefit it?
“Seaweed is just one of the additives we use. We like the idea of seaweed because of the actual goodness in the oil,” Siobhan said. “Our soaps also contain coconut oil, olive oil and pure essential oils.”
“It’s the glycerin content that makes these natural soaps stand out from the big brands,” Siobhan said. Glycerin soaps are said to be some of the most moisturising for our skin.
Through talking to people who use the soaps, Siobhan said she often learns how it has helped skin problems like eczema, acne and dryness.
The entire process of making soap bars takes up to six weeks. Siobhan and Kevin use the cold-processing method, which is commonly used around the world, Siobhan tells us.
As the artisan movement takes hold, Siobhan has been inspired by seeing what other people are doing in other countries.
“A lot of people are going back to their roots and making things. I like to see the care and the time they take to do it, and I love people who go to the trouble of making something handmade,” Siobhan said.
“People genuinely want to get something from Ireland.”
“Ingredients such as Guinness, Irish oats, honey and seeds bring natural Irish nourishment to our bodies and resonate well with people interested in Irish produce.
“We use olive oil, coconut oil combined with natural additives e.g hand-harvested Irish seaweed for its high nutrient content and benefits to skin.
“Each bar is lightly scented with variety of therapeutic essential oils, chosen for their aromatherapy benefits and subtle fragrances,” she said.
Through their online store, Siobhan and Kevin have been shipping soaps out to America, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Their son Keith Harkin is a successful singer based in Los Angeles. While touring the USA, Canada and Australia both solo and with Celtic Thunder, he has been gathering up fans for Shivon Soap back home.
Siobhan’s daughter Rebecca is also a musician making her name in Donegal/Derry and the USA. She has performed in venues in Ireland and America, and between both stars the Shivon Soap name has been travelling all over the world.
“It’s amazing, America is so big, and if we get a handful of customers in each state, that will keep us going,” Siobhan said.
“We are a small business and we do it in a very small way,” she said. “But we are always developing and learning as we go along.”
Siobhan had worked in offices for 30 years before deciding to pursue her creative interests. Now, through craft fairs and interacting and advising customers online she is enjoying meeting people from all over the world.
The growing American interest and positive reviews mean that repeat customers are keeping the Harkins busy.
They have also launched a lip balm and Shivon solid perfume – so there’s another way we can treat ourselves and have a wee piece of home.
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