Meralis Alvarez ’22 researched how to make her own soap as the COVID-19 pandemic put new emphasis on the frequent washing of hands. (Photo by Danny Damiani)

2 Minutes With … is a series of short features to introduce us to the passions and interests of Lawrence students on and off campus. Find more 2 Minutes With … features here.

Story by Awa Badiane ’21

In this pandemic, frequently washing our hands is a key to stopping the spread of the virus. That means a high demand for soap, something that caught the eye of Meralis Alvarez ’22 early on.

She decided to make her own.  

“It’s really funny when I tell people I make soap,” Alvarez said. “Yes, I do make my own soap products because soap is important.”  

Alvarez started making soap in June while home in Chicago. She wanted to be more aware of what she was putting in, and on, her body, and more certain that the products she was using were sustainable and not harmful to the environment. 

“I noticed that a lot of soaps have a lot of fragrances and dyes in them and just a lot of very harmful chemicals and additives,” Alvarez said. “These are not only harmful for the skin longer term, but also for the environment. Living in the city of Chicago and seeing the effects of environmental racism and being from Puerto Rico and seeing the effects of environmental racism and climate change, it really just inspired me to think about intentional living in every facet.”  

Looking out for family and friends

Alvarez said she also was inspired to start making soap by the people in her life and understanding the price-gouging that happens in Black and Brown neighborhoods.

“I’m not the only one in my house that has sensitive skin; my mom has sensitive skin … and she’s becoming more and more excited about taking care of herself as she ages,” Alvarez said. “And my dad is diabetic, and he’s becoming more intentional about his life choices. … So, one of the reasons I started making soap was more for him than it was for me.” 

Alvarez said she had limited resources while growing up in Chicago and had to teach herself how to conduct research because she “didn’t have the same access to journals as other kids.”  She has carried those same research skills with her to college and was able to tap into them to teach herself how to make soap.  

“Taking biology classes, taking online apothecary classes, online naturalist courses that were given by scientists and holistic natural gurus,” Alvarez said. “And really just doing my own academic research; there were so many academic articles and medical journals that I would hoard through to figure out what works and what doesn’t. … It’s a process that took months of research. I started making [soap] in June, but I was looking into making my own beauty products in the beginning of quarantine. It took some time to research and then I did it.”

From hobby to business

After her holistic research into soaps and skin, Alvarez started to make soap for herself and her family. Now she’s eyeing an LLC to make it a business. She said she’s able to tailor her soaps to the wants and needs of her clients.

Back on the Lawrence campus for Fall Term, Alvarez has continued making soap for herself. She finds it a relaxing activity, a break from the stresses of her classes.  

“I was thinking of not doing it throughout the school year because I knew how busy I would be,” Alvarez said. “But then, I was like, I don’t like spending money on soap. So, I knew I had to make it for myself.”

Awa Badiane ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.