FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Frequently Asked Questions:
- Who are you?
- What is Ministerstwo? What’s your philosophy?
- Who, apart from you, the Bieluń sisters, works in Ministerstwo?
- Why is it worthwhile to use natural cosmetics?
- Do you have chemical / cosmetic education?
- Where did the passion for soap came from?
- How did you learn to make soap, it’s not a popular craft after all?
- How does the soap-making process look like?
- Are the soaps you make made of glycerin?
- What types of raw materials are contained in your soaps?
- How long can you store a soap before using it?
- How long does one 100 gbar of soap last?
- Are your products 100% natural?
- Can I be sure that your products are not animal tested?
- Can your cosmetics cause allergies?
- Do you have vegetarian and vegan options?
- All of your bath bombs contain whole milk. Are you planning on adding a fizzy vegan option?
- Do your soaps only look and smell nice or do they also have some special qualities?
- Do your soaps produce nice foam? Usually natural soaps don't foam very well.
- Does a black soap produce black foam? Does it make a bathtub and soap dish dirty?
- Do your cosmetics have all the necessary certificates and microbiological tests?
- Does your soap workshop have a positive opinion of Polish OSHA and does this Institution control it regularly?
- How do you know that the raw ingredients you buy are safe and of good quality?
- Can you wash face with your soap?
- Are your soaps good for washing hair?
- What about the kids? Can I wash my children with your soap?
- How should I store soaps before using them and what kind of conditions do they require while they are being used?
- How do the bath bombs work and is one bomb enough for an entire bathtub of water?
- How do you package your products, what kind of materials do you use and do you secure well the products you are sending? ?
- Is your approach eco-friendly in your business and soap workshop?
- Who is responsible for the look of your business? Who created its id and brand?
1. Who are you?↑
We are Ania and Urszula Bieluń. We are daughters of Wiesław and Anna, we were born not that long ago in Kamień Pomorski, in the north-west coast of the country. Ania was born in 1986 as a first child of our parents. The family awaited Urszula for another 8 years and welcomed her in 1994. What we have in common is home, similar worldview and zodiac sign. What we don’t have in common is everything else (haha!) apart from occasional fights, we get along rather well, solving serious problems together and sharing small joys of the business we co-own.
2. What is the ministerstwo? What’s your philosophy?↑
Ministerstwo is a small family-owned cosmetics producer where we conscientiously make small-batch natural soaps and cosmetics. All our products took their shape after many years of studies and searching for the right recipes. We only use high-quality cosmetic raw ingredients and we select them uncompromisingly. We don’t skimp on anything when it comes to making our products. We are an alternative to the cosmetics whose price is made up of the costs of colorful packaging, the mark-up of three middlemen, marketing costs, commercials with celebrities and a good spot on a shelf in stores, and contain a questionable content worth 2% of the retail price. We are an alternative to products filled with water and preservatives. We focus on the quality of our products and their effectiveness. We work hard to make our customers feel safe. We are trying to offer what we have been always looking for on the market: a reliably prepared product and an honest advice when in need. We are also doing our best to keep our prices at an affordable level so that all customers, regardless of their budget, are able to find something for themselves.
3. Who, apart from you, the Bieluń sisters, works in Ministerstwo?↑
These days 18 people work arm-in-arm at Ministerstwo. Among us are people responsible for customer service, packaging and transport. Thanks to them you always receive fresh products of the highest quality. Our whole great team also includes web designers, sales associates at our brick and mortar locations, translators, accountants, a compliance team, photographers, and sanitation specialists who we thank for making Ministerstwo what it is today.
4. Why is it worthwhile to use natural cosmetics?↑
It is always worthwhile to use natural cosmetics because the skin is your largest organ. It breathes, protects us, facilitates the excretion of toxins but it also absorbs whatever we put on it. If we care about healthy eating, we should also pay attention to what we put on our skin. Chemical substances permeating through the epidermis accumulate in the liver, kidneys, and lymph nodes, stay there for years, causing diseases of affluence and in the meantime causing skin irritation and allergies. The law that requires putting the list of ingredients on the label in the international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients (INCI) makes it difficult for the customer to discern the actual ingredients contained in it. Lots of cosmetic producers take advantage of this, offering their customers products of exceptionally low quality at an inflated price. In practice they are mixes of water, paraffin and chemical additives which give the cosmetic a stable, pleasant consistency and scent. Such cosmetics clog pores and make it difficult for the skin to breathe. In the long run they also dry the skin out. A well-prepared natural cosmetic is delicate and takes care of your skin wonderfully, without drying or damaging it.
5. Do you have education in chemistry/ cosmetics?↑
No. Ania got her degree from the University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Warsaw, majoring in clinical social psychology. She did not finish writing her master’s thesis and the fault for this lay in her love for journalism (which she started doing professionally during her second year of studies). She worked for a few national publications, including agora, writing press articles and items for online publication. In addition, she wrote for television broadcasts as well. Along the way she met Borys Roswadowski and became a photographer. In the same time period, Ula went the traditional educational route, while dancing professionally. After finishing her matura she applied to join the Architecture Department of the West Pomeranian Technical University and started her dream studies there. All of our life plans changed on September 3, 2013 when Ania got a telephone call from a friend who informed her that the local government was searching for a candidate to take on business funds from the European Union. We only needed fifteen minutes to talk it over, think about it and throw everything to side in the service of soap. that’s how our great adventure began.
6. Where did the passion for soap came from?↑
It was motivated by need, so pretty traditional. many years ago we started searching for natural skin products. At that time ecology and the so-called return to nature became fashionable in poland and eco-friendly stores began opening up. We were intrigued and we wanted to have such cosmetics in our own bathrooms. It soon turned out, however, that they were out of our reach – they were mostly sold on the german market but at that time we were just students with a student budget, so the fancy stuff from abroad was inaccessible to us. We were trying out the soaps sold by weight in the big malls – they were tempting as they were advertised as ‘handmade’. At some point, however, we realized that they were only hand-poured to the molds. Prepared from ready-made ingredients they are filled with chemicals in practically the same manner as those soap bars sold in the supermarkets. We started to wonder if we could make our own cosmetics at home – and Ania started rummaging through the Internet in search of an answer. The polish Internet did not yield many answers while the english-language one showed us countless beautiful photos, forums and websites with recipes. This was the moment when Ania fell head over heels with soap. Soon after she convinced Ula to do the same and that’s why we’re now continuing our journey, totally obsessed with soap.
7. How did you learn to make soap? (it’s not a popular craft after all)↑
At the beginning we learned from the Internet. We were recreating the ready-made recipes, repeating the same dull activities over, and over again. Ania was spending every free moment on trying things out, visiting wholesalers in search of the right oils and accessories. Soon, we started buying books from the USA. Amazon and Ebay allowed us to get the first soap textbooks. Books and trial by error – those were the two paths we would traverse most often, on our way to acquire some soap wisdom. Thus, Ania’s Warsaw apartment quickly started getting filled with soap literature and raw ingredients, friends were forced to sit on oil barrels, the shelves were sagging under the weight of heavy pans, molds and blenders. We burnt a few kitchen table-tops, shattered some tiles in our parents’ bathroom, we spilled some alkali lye on paneling and destroyed many, many clothes. A few times we tried to liberate ourselves from this passion – completely in vain. It would always come back to us! Finally we decided to take some costly classes in London. Ania was the first to go and attend soap bootcamp. She went alone and she was very much afraid whether she will manage, whether she will keep up with the group and understand everything. She came back euphoric – she learned a lot and met people who were just like her. The next soap trip turned out to be to Manchester – and this time around we went together. We loaned a dizzying amount of money from our parents, nearly seven thousand zloty, and we set out to conquer the soap world. We were paying off our debt throughout the whole following year, giving up all the money we saved but the trip was worth every penny. Ever since then, we go to the UK regularly, bringing back millions of ideas and suitcases filled with new energy. At the same time we continue to learn on our own, we make many mistakes and experiment a lot. We write down all the steps of our trials, to later rule out risk factors. Every day we are striving for perfection, succeeding from time to time but more often, getting things wrong and correcting them.
8. What does the soap-making process look like?↑
Soap making is similar to cooking. From the point of view of chemistry, the process involves consolidating strong alkali with a weak acid. In our case the alkaline substance is lye made from mixing water with sodium hydroxide. Once we made lye by pouring water over wood ashes. Today we use sodium hydroxide because it’s safer and it’s easier to control its amount and potency. The second element of the puzzle are natural oils and vegetable butters – weak fatty acids. The process of saponification starts by joining exact measures of these two substances in an appropriate temperature and proper conditions. The whole process lasts about two months. We pour the soap into wooden forms, waiting for it to coagulate. We then cut it in bars and put it away to the drying-room so it can mellow and dry out.
9. Are the soaps you make made of glycerin?↑
Yes! The soaps we make are made of glycerin. Moreover, they are genuinely glycerin soaps because glycerin that is contained in them is a 100% vegetable product created as a side effect of the process of saponification of oils and butters. In a commercial soap production, this natural glycerin is being drawn off in the process of its creation in order to be used in more expensive cosmetics – body lotions or creams – while soap is being pumped with its synthetic equivalent. It has an influence on the quality of soap and its mildness. Our bars are gentle, harnessing what’s best in nature.
10. What types of raw ingredients are contained in your soaps?↑
The oil base of our soaps is made up of vegetable butters and oils. There are, among others, olive oil, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, unrefined shea butter and cocoa oil. We also use palm oil, making sure we use oil that is certified by RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) which means that the oil is acquired from plantations with high standards in respect to their workers and environment (more on rspo here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/roundtable_on_sustainable_palm_oil ). Additionally, in our soaps we use red palm oil, laurel essential oil, hempseed oil and other fantastic oils and butters. We also use dried herbs (calendula, lavender, chamomile), macerates, that is, herbal oil extracts, natural clays (cambrian clay, red montmorillonite, and white illite clay). If we are looking for a more pronounced color, we reach for the mineral pigments. We look after the quality of essential oils and we benefit from many. We are in the process of creating recipes with silk, tomato, milk, poppy seed and many others.
11. How long can you store a soap before using it?↑
Soap as a product in itself does not have a shelf life. Properly stored, it can be used even 50 years after it is produced. Our soaps, however, have a year and a half expiration date, and there are two reasons for that: we make the soaps in such a way that a tiny percentage of the oils and butters stay in their primary form which makes them susceptible to oxidation. Essential oils and natural dyes (red palm oil, cocoa, carrot pulp) are the second culprit. We want your soap to retain its color and scent throughout the whole period of its storage, that’s why we are so cautious in assigning their expiry date.
12. How long does one 100 g bar soap last? ↑
This is a very difficult question! It all depends on how often and how many people use it. When the bar of soap sits on the soap dish in the apartment of someone who is single and moreover he or she stores it properly (which in this case means not soaking it in water for a long time), the bar of soap lasts for longer than a month. Our soaps are very efficient.
13. Are your products 100% natural?↑
We sell mostly natural products but not all of them are 100% natural. When we prepare our soaps and cosmetics we only use natural raw ingredients and we don’t skimp on them. We select the best oils and vegetable butters, clays, and activated charcoal. In our products we use macerates and essential oils, but absolutely no animal fats, artificial colors, sls compounds, glycols, artificial preservatives, paraffin, stabilizers, thickeners nor emulsifiers. The only synthetic additives we sometimes use in our products are safe, certified cosmetic aromas. It is our compromise between a wholly natural care product and taking advantage of new innovative technologies. Because we love the aromas of chocolate, coffee or cucumber, and these scents cannot be found in their natural form that is stable in soap, from time to time we allow ourselves to go a bit crazy. We also sell products that are 100% natural and these include but are not limited to oils and butters, rosemary, charcoal, or carrot soaps.
14. Can I be sure that your products are not animal-tested? ↑
Absolutely! According to the EU laws and our own conscience, no animals were harmed in making our products. All our products, however, are tested on Urszula. If Urszula remains unharmed – everybody will. And since up to now she hasn’t really been injured, she is in one piece and happy, so you can be sure that the products we make are delicate and safe.
15. Can your cosmetics cause allergies?↑
Yes. Every cosmetic (with exception of those especially designed in labs to be hypoallergenic) can turn out to cause allergies. We prepare all our cosmetics according to the strict European norms and IFRA standards. The IFRA code of practice establishes guidelines concerning the use of essential oils and aromas, thus the risk for allergies is very low. However, since both essential oils and aromas can contain allergens, we include that information on our labels (this is also in accordance with the law). Therefore we cordially ask you to read the descriptions and labels of our products very carefully. Limonene, linalool and geraniol are among the names of the allergens which appear in some of our products. We are in the process of creating hypoallergenic formulas and with the goal to eliminate all allergens.
16. Do you have vegetarian and vegan options?↑
All our products are made from vegetarian ingredients only. You won’t find animal fats in the content of our soaps. When it comes to the majority of our soaps and butters, they are also vegan. Some of our products are made of ingredients of animal or insect origin such us honey, bee’s wax, whole milk, silk and lanoline. In order to check which products we currently sell are vegan, we cordially invite you to use the "vegan" word in search available on our website.
17. All of your bath bombs contain whole milk. Are you planning to add a fizzy vegan option?↑
Yes! A few formulas for vegan bath bombs are coming up. Please be patient :)
18. Do your soaps only look and smell nice or do they also have some special qualities?↑
We are doing our best to make sure our soaps both look pretty and have a pleasant scent, however, we take into account various considerations while designing them. In our online store each product comes with a detailed description of the ingredients contained within, as well as their effects. So that, for instance, we have anti-bacterial purifying coals, which delicately peel off the dead skin. We have carrot soaps – a multivitamin bomb which lights up your skin, oh and there is energizing rosemary and a super-delicate batch made from 10% unrefined shea butter. We are in the midst of preparing some shaving soaps. Creating a constantly improvement assortment of soaps is the primary goal of our business.
19. Do your soaps produce nice foam? Usually natural soaps don’t foam too well. ↑
It took us a few years to come up with a final version of the formula for the most basic oil base. During the process of designing the soap formulas, we have a thousand possibilities to choose from – we could make the soap super foamy but produce a very rigid bar that would eventually dehydrate your skin. We could also choose to make a bar of soap that is great at nourishing your skin but that is too soft and so it easily becomes rancid. The ideal formula for a bar of soap is one that is fairly rigid, but doesn’t fall apart, a soap that produces a nice foam, but is also delicate. Our soaps produce a nice foam and they don’t melt on the soap dish. They are very pleasant to use, last a long time and are very efficient.
20. Does a black soap produce black foam? Does it make the bathtub and soap dish dirty? ↑
Let us briefly inform you, that although it contains a lot of coal, the black soap produces slightly gray bubbles and does not leave lasting traces on tiles. However, we like to tell our clients that yes, indeed, it does make stains! And so you have to use another soap to get clean… and that it was our marketing department that came up with this idea… haha, an honest laugh has always a price.
21. Do your cosmetics have all the necessary certificates and microbiological tests? ↑
Of course. Our products have all the necessary documents and fulfill all the strict norms imposed on the cosmetic producers by the EU. Every formula was checked and approved with respect to its safety by the so-called safety assessor. The soaps have also undergone microbiological testing carried out by the State Sanitation Inspector’s bureau in Koszalin. All these documents are the required for registering as a cosmetics producer in the EU database CPNP.
22. Does your soap workshop have a positive rating from the State Sanitation Inspector and does this institution control it regularly? ↑
Our workshop has full GMP documentation (best production practices) which is an EU norm constituting a model to follow during the process of production. Our workshop has anti-slip and washable floors, tiles, washable work surfaces and appropriate sinks. Our workshop passed the sanitation inspection and is regularly inspected by that institution. We can even praise our high rating that the inspectors give us. In addition our packing station is tidily managed, products are stored on shelves, oils and butters are preserved in refrigerators. We do everything that we can to ensure that our products are stored and produced according to the highest standards.
23. how do you know that the raw ingredients you buy are safe and have good quality? ↑
All the raw ingredients we buy have full documentation and certificates – the so-called SDS (Safety Data Sheet). These documents confirm their provenance and ensure contact with the manufacturer. The oils and butters we use are products of cosmetic quality – therefore they fulfill the strict norms determined by European law.
24. Can you wash face with your soaps? ↑
This is a hard question. Our soaps are dedicated for hand and body care. the soaps are exceptionally delicate. The majority of our soap formulas are superfatted at only a few percent. That means that a few percent of the oils and butters remain in an unchanged state, caring for skin as it cleans. The face is a particularly sensitive area of skin. Our clients tell us that they use our soaps to clean their faces, in particular the coal soap seems to serve well. Used once every few days, the coal spa cleans and is antibacterial. In order to see is our soaps can be used on the face, you just need to try it out, avoiding the eyes and lips. If the skin doesn’t dry our or shrink then everything is working like it should. :)
25. Are your soaps good for washing hair?↑
Now, the question is whether soap in general is good for washing hair? Sure, you can easily wash your hair with soap, but you need to remember that soap is alkaline. It opens hair cuticles and cleans out impurities. Unfortunately, it doesn’t entirely close the cuticles. It is not a problem for the care of short hair or dreads (actually, it’s a pretty good thing for dreads). If, however, you have long hair, open cuticles make your hair feel stiff and brittle. It is therefore important to use a rinse every once in a while after washing. Such a rinse can be prepared with one tablespoon of white or apple cider vinegar mixed with one cup of lukewarm water. This rinse closes the cuticles making your hair softer.
26. What about the kids? Can I wash my children with your soap?↑
Of course! We invite you to take a look at our super delicate soaps. These formulas contain 10% unrefined shea butter and 6% unsaponified oils and butters – they are really very safe. From our experience it turns out that in the first weeks and even months of a child’s life, other than washing their bottoms, it’s not really necessary to wash a child with soap. It’s much better to simply rinse a child with warm water and a few drops of, for example, argan oil and tablespoon of mothers milk. Infants need, above all else, to have their skin cared for, not necessarily washed. Older kids (if they don’t have any skin allergies) can be washed with all of our soaps. Kids seem to like our carrot soap in particular. They’re not very big and they easily fit in a child’s hand, they foam up well and smell great.
27. How should I store soaps before using them and what kinds of conditions do they require while being used?↑
The soaps not-yet-in-use should be kept in an airy and dark place, for instance, in your bedroom, on a shelf. Those ones that make it to the bathroom are the most comfy on soap dishes with holes. They last longer if we don’t keep them in containers filled with water, so it would be good to, after each use, to put it in the least damp place. We know from experience though, that even in the shower they do a pretty good job :)
28. How do the bath bombs work and is one bomb enough for an entire bathtub of water? ↑
It would be ideal if you could take a quick shower before your bath, as should always be done. Then put the bath bomb in a bathtub filled with warm water and wait until it gets fizzy and dissolves, releasing all the oils, butters, whole milk and other additions contained in it. During your bath all the ingredients will take care of your skin, making it look and feel wonderful. After your bath, rinse your body with warm water and be cautious when leaving your bathtub, keep in mind that it can be slippery – you just took a bath in oils and milk, after all. You may need to wipe or wash your bathtub, but do not leave it slippery if other people are using it. Some of our clients crumble the bath bombs to use less of it and to make it last for two pleasurable baths.
29. How do you package your products, what kind of materials do you use and do you secure well the products you are sending?↑
We pack our products with the utmost respect for the environment. Soaps are wrapped in paper, biodegradable boxes. The oils and butters, on the other hand, are packed in glass pharmaceutical bottles and glass jars. The bottles are certified by European Pharmacopoeia. They are fired 200°c, right after they cool down they are packed in sealed cases and therefore they don’t need to be sterilized again before our product is put in them. In order to make sure that the products you order arrive safely in their new homes, we pack them in solid cardboard boxes and secure the empty spaces with recycled packing peanuts. The small bottles and jars are thoroughly wrapped in corrugated fiberboard that protects them from any possible damage. The top of each box is adorned with our stamp and closed with the help of a sticker on which appears the name of the person who took care of your order. tThis package is then wrapped in gray paper and sealed with a tape. once it’s packed, it is taken to the post office or courier.
30. Is your approach eco-friendly in your business and soap workshop?↑
We are very committed to working with minimal impact on the environment. Our mom keeps an eye on this and she inflicts severe penalties on anyone who dares to be insubordinate in that respect ;). First of all, we segregate rubbish. We have separate containers for cardboard and foils, we keep glass, metal and aluminum waste separately. After a whole day of work all we have left is a small bag of general waste. All the other stuff goes to recycling and used cardboard boxes serve us as packing material for bigger packages, moving soaps around for fairs or it simply gets recycled. a thermostat, installed in our workshop, regulates the heat in an energy-efficient way and we turn off all the heaters for the night. We use a simple detergent to wash the majority of the surfaces, we often use citric acid, and we use chemicals only to deal with heavier, greasy stains. We are saving money for a small washing appliance that would use water more efficiently and use less detergent in order to wash the floor in the entire workshop.
31. Who is responsible for the look of your business? Who created its id and brand?↑
Łukasz Hendzel from parishendzelstudio.com is the author of our minimalist identification. Thanks to him it was possible to clothe all our ideas in color and shape. He clothed our products in an aesthetic we dreamed about, thus showing in a clear and transparent way who we are and what we want to offer you. We are very grateful for that.