Review: Pure Soapmaking by Anne-Marie Faiola

Anne-Marie Faiola is one of my favorite soapmakers, and I just loved her book Soap Crafting. I think Anne-Marie does a great job creating easy recipes and experiments that beginners can try and also inventing advanced recipes and techniques for more experienced soapmakers.

In her latest book, Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps, Anne-Marie shares her techniques for natural (or nearly natural) soaps using essential oils and natural pigments.

Once again, Anne-Marie’s book is not only chock full of recipes but also great advice and excellent photography. Anne-Marie describes how to make herbal infusions and what hues you can expect from a long list of natural colorants (including pictures). Also included is helpful information about essential oils and using liquids besides water. In all, it has a great deal to offer both beginners and experts alike. Kudos to Anne-Marie also for explaining the clean-up process, which many books leave out. I also like that Anne-Marie describes how to create a soap tent for insulating soap so it goes through gel phase. I myself save soft drink fridge pack boxes, which are just the right size for sliding a soap mold into, and then I cover the boxes with a towel.

I do have a question for Anne-Marie, and as she sometimes reads and comments on this blog, I’m hoping she will chime in. She mentions on p. 39 that “‘light’ olive oil… doesn’t often work in soap at all.” I was curious about this comment because I usually purchase what might be called pure olive oil rather than extra virgin or virgin, and it is golden yellow in color. Is that not the same thing as light olive oil? If so, I use it in every batch of soap I make, and it works great. If it’s different, I’m curious as to what, exactly, light olive oil is.

I was drawn to Anne-Marie’s Gardener Scrub Soap made with coffee grounds, which appears on pp. 122-125. I played a bit with recipe and omitted the canola oil and used a recipe with olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, avocado butter, and castor oil. I increased the amount of coconut oil to add more cleansing properties to my soap as well. Please note: if you tweak soap recipes from a book or website, always remember to run your new recipe through a lye calculator. I didn’t have any basil essential oil, so I made a blend of rosemary, lemongrass, and peppermint essential oils. I also didn’t have some of the colorants Anne-Marie used and substituted instead puréed carrots, yellow Brazilian clay, and chromium oxide. I had been dying to try out the multi-pour tool I recently purchased, and the Gardener’s Scrub Soap was perfect for the experiment. Anne-Marie suggests using sodium lactate to harden soaps made in silicone molds, so I took that advice as well.

Gardener's Scrub Soap

Gardener’s Scrub Soap

For the curious, the soap with the carrots is the lighter yellow while the soap with the yellow Brazilian clay is the more orange shade. There is no colorant in the soap with coffee grounds, and the green portion is colored with chromium oxide, so all of the colorants are natural or “nature identical.” I did gel this soap to make the colors pop, and I had to place it on a heating pad to force gel. Often, simply covering it is enough. It also had a fair amount of ash on the tops because 1) I don’t have any isopropyl rubbing alcohol right now, and spraying the tops reduces ash, and 2) I have found that soaps made with essential oils are more prone to ash anyway. I steamed it right off, though, as you can see.

One of the reasons I started making soap in the first place was that I was drawn to natural soap sold at the farmer’s market I visited on the weekends when I lived in Georgia. My first soaps were all natural soaps made with no fragrance or with essential oils. As I began to experiment, I enjoyed using synthetic fragrances and colorants as well, but I find I am often drawn back to natural soaps again. Customers seem to be drawn to them as well. I enjoyed experimenting with one of the recipes in the book, and I was pleased with how the soaps turned out.

Caveat: the term “natural” is not regulated by the FDA, and Anne-Marie’s book does have some recipes that include items such as chromium oxide, which are “[t]echnically manmade” but which “have the same chemical composition as mined ones” and are therefore considered “natural” or “nature identical” (46-47). Depending on your point of view, these pigments might not be natural enough.

I would recommend this book to soapmakers at all levels of experience and particularly to those looking for inventive ways to make more natural soaps. I’m excited to try some of the other ideas in Anne-Marie’s book.

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Trying Bubble Bars

I have been wanting to branch out a bit and try some other products for a while. I have made lotion with great success, and if you’re looking to try lotion yourself, I can’t recommend Anne L. Watson’s book Smart Lotionmaking highly enough. Her recipes have all worked well for me, and I am especially in love with her Almond & Cocoa Butter lotion.

I had been wanting to try making bubble bars for a while, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it. The recipe can take a lot of experimentation, and I wasn’t excited about wasting a lot of ingredients trying to get it right. I have watched Anne-Marie Faiola’s tutorial on making bubble bars, and hers seemed to have come out all right. If you are looking for a recipe to start, you might try hers. Here is a video tutorial.

However, after watching this tutorial by Katie White of Royalty Soaps, I was convinced to try the recipe she used in the video.

The recipe is copyrighted, but you can purchase it from Nicole Gallagher of Two Wild Hares on Etsy.

The first time I tried to make the bubble bars, I used too much glycerin, I think. One thing I will say about the instructions provided by Nicole is that they are very thorough. While it’s impossible to account for every variable someone might experience, one suggestion Nicole makes is to adjust the wet ingredients if you are finding your bubble bar dough is too wet (I’m being a bit cagey here out of respect for Nicole’s work, but if you purchase her recipe, you’ll see what I mean). I also couldn’t stop myself from fiddling overmuch with the bubble bars while they dried, the end result of which was that it took a long time for by first batch of bubble bars to harden, and they were lumpy and not very pretty. However, I tried them in the tub, and each time I’ve tested, they’ve produced lots of bubbles that last for a pretty good while.

I used less of one of the wet ingredients in my second batch, and I have told myself to leave them alone. I snapped a picture of them. The light is not too good because it was 10:00 P. M. when I took it, but I think this second batch turned out really pretty.

Pikake Flower Bubble Bars

I scented them with a sample of Pikake Flower fragrance and colored them with Nurture micas.

In my testing, I found I could use half a bubble bar to get a pretty good amount of bubbles. And much cheaper (and with a few nicer ingredients) than the bubble bars made by a certain large artisan cosmetics company.

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Big Sale!

During the month of September, spring and summer soaps will be on clearance so we can make room for fall and winter soaps, including our Christmas favorites. It is the perfect way to capture that last little bit of summer as the leaves are turning.

But that’s not all! You can use the coupon code HAPPYBIRTHDAY all during the month of September to save 10% on your purchases, even on clearance items!

The first nine orders received starting on September 1 will receive a free bar of Maine Blueberry soap (approximately 3.5 ounces and a $4.00 value). Remaining orders will receive one free soap ball while supplies last.

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Using Infused Oils in Soap

Calendula-Infused Olive OilUsing herb and flower infusions in soap can add a little something extra special to your soap. I love using both chamomile and calendula (marigold) infusions in my soap. Both impart a pretty butter yellow to the finished soap. There is a slight scent in the oils, too, but I find that scent doesn’t usually survive the saponification process, and I have used fragrances and essential oils successfully in soaps with infused oils.

There are a couple of techniques you can use for infusing oils. You can put the flowers or herbs in a jar, pour your oil over them, and let them infuse for several weeks, but I like the slow cooker method, mainly because it’s quicker, and I’m impatient.

I purchased these handy “tea bags” from Bramble Berry (who is not sponsoring me; I just like the product). While you can pour the oils directly over the botanicals, I have found it is pretty messy, and you have to strain the oil later. The tea bags allow the botanicals to infuse the oil without making a mess. I try to use about ½ to 1 ounce of botanicals (which is a lot more than you’d think—they are light). I put the botanicals in the tea bags and seal them closed with an iron. Then I put them in a jar, I pour olive oil over the filled tea bags. I put a few inches of water in my slow cooker, turn it on low, and gently lay my jar in the water. I let the oil infuse in the heat of the slow cooker for about five hours, turning the jar over every once in a while (be careful; it’s very hot). The jars can be hard to open afterward, but I have a nice infused olive oil to use in my soap when I’m done.

Aloe & Calendula Soap

This soap is made with calendula-infused olive oil and decorated with calendula petals.

If you want to try out infused oils in your own soap, check out this recipe for a one-pound batch.

Calendula Soap
Print Recipe
Infuse dried calendula flowers in olive oil for this conditioning soap. This soap is superfatted at 6%.
Servings
1 pound
Cook Time
1 hour
Servings
1 pound
Cook Time
1 hour
Calendula Soap
Print Recipe
Infuse dried calendula flowers in olive oil for this conditioning soap. This soap is superfatted at 6%.
Servings
1 pound
Cook Time
1 hour
Servings
1 pound
Cook Time
1 hour
Ingredients
Servings: pound
Instructions
  1. Put the calendula petals in the tea bags and iron edges to close.
  2. Place the calendula bags into a large jar.
  3. Put the jar on a scale and tare the scale. Add a bit more olive oil than you need. This recipe calls for 170 grams, but some of the oil will be soaked up by the calendula petals and the bags; it will be hard to get every last drop out again.
  4. Screw the lid tightly on the jar and place it in a slow cooker on low. Let the oil infuse from 2-5 hours.
  5. Set the infused oil aside to cool. It will be too hot to soap with right after the infusion.
  6. When your infused oil is cool, prepare your water and lye. Measure out 162 g distilled water and set aside. Measure out 59 g lye in a separate container and set aside. Carefully add the lye to the water and stir until it is dissolved. Set the lye solution aside to cool.
  7. Measure out your hard oils (106 g coconut, 106 g palm, and 22 g shea butter) and melt them down.
  8. Add 170 g infused olive oil and 21 g castor oil to the melted hard oils.
  9. Once your lye water has cooled (I usually combine my oils and lye water at about 100ºF), add the lye water to the oils and blend to a light trace.
  10. Add your fragrance (optional) and either whisk in or stick blend carefully.
  11. You can add calendula petals to your top for extra decoration. Calendula petals keep their color in cold process soap, so you can even add it to the soap itself.
Recipe Notes

Whether or not the soothing qualities of calendula survive the saponification process is up for debate, but the infusion does impart a nice, light color to the soap. Why not try it and see if it works for you?

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Shop Changes

Assorted SoapsAfter working with a shop through this site for nearly year, I have decided that I will be using Etsy exclusively to sell my products. Etsy seems to work better and is easier for my customers, and I know it works better and is easier for me. Working with my own shopfront has been an interesting learning experience. Everything I have learned has only affirmed for me that I will better serve my customers on Etsy.

You should see the changes taking effect here on the site shortly. I will still be blogging here and making YouTube videos when I can. I’m not really going anywhere. I’m just streamlining a bit and making things a bit easier all the way around. Thanks to those of you who joined me in my experiment. See you in the Etsy store, I hope.

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Spotlight on Ingredients: Kaolin Clay

Kaolin ClayI use kaolin clay in most of my soaps. Kaolin clay is a natural and gentle clay that is kind to sensitive skin but also adds slip and silkiness to soap and helps the soap’s fragrance “stick.” Some fragrances, especially citruses, don’t fare well in the harsh environment of the chemical process involved in soapmaking. Kaolin clay gives the fragrance something to “cling” to and helps the soap better retain the scent. Kaolin clay is such a fine powder that it adds the mildest exfoliation to the soap, and it’s one of the clays that works well with all skin types. Dry kaolin feels like a smooth, fine powder and is often used in cosmetics and face masks. Kaolin cleanses and detoxifies, so it really does add a little something special to soap.

I use a bit more than a teaspoon of kaolin per pound of oils in most of my recipes that don’t include other clays. For instance, in my Marseilles-style soap, which I call Provence, I use French green clay, and adding kaolin in addition would make the soap crumbly and chalky. Because the kaolin clay in my soaps is used throughout the bar and not as a colorant for a swirl, I simply add it directly to my oils before I add my lye water, and I stick blend it well to make sure the clay is dispersed and no clumps remain; however, I should add that I have not noticed that kaolin clumps a lot, unlike some other clays. You can use up to a tablespoon of clay per pound of oils, but my own experiments with clay in those amounts produced a chalky soap. Your own experiments may yield different results. My own experience is that soap with clays, including kaolin clay, feels smoother and silkier without any detrimental effects on the amount of lather.

Bonus: a picture I took just today of my Johnny Appleseed Soap, which like my other soaps, has a little over a teaspoon of kaolin per pound of oils.

Johnny Appleseed Soap

Maya of Infusions and Silvia of Soap Jam have also blogged about using kaolin in their soaps.

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Spotlight on Ingredients: Heavy Cream

Cream Drop

Cream Drop by Kyle May

Do you ever read over recipes or watch soaping videos and wonder why soapmakers use the ingredients they use? After all, the only essentials for a good bar of handmade soap are oils, water, and lye. However, certain additives do impart some nice qualities to your soap, and in a series of posts, I wanted to share some of the “extra” ingredients I use in soap and why I use them.

Heavy cream has a lot of fat in it—36% fat or more. Goat milk typically has 4-5% fat. Cream is very rich and smooth. While the benefits of milks—especially goat milk—are widely known, not as many soapers use cream, possibly because of the expense. I wouldn’t try substituting all of the water in a recipe with cream, and not only because of the cost, but also because of the high fat content. The cream will likely congeal fairly quickly, even if you freeze it first, because the lye will react to the fat in the cream. If you have made milk soaps, you may have noticed that if you set the milk and lye mixture aside for a few moments, it does start to thicken as the lye reacts to the fats in the milk. Another reason you might not want to use cream as a total water replacement is that the high fat content might really throw off your superfat percentage.

So how do I use cream in soap? I usually add about 4-5% of the amount of oils to a batch of soap. So, for example, if I make a batch of soap that is 500 grams (I always measure in grams; it’s more precise than ounces and easier to convert), then I would add about 22 grams of cream to the batch. I admit this is approximate because I usually add a round number of grams of cream to my soap. For example, my typical batch is about 2.5 pounds of oils, or 1120 grams, and I usually add about 50 grams of cream to a batch that size. I would recommend using heavy cream at a rate of about 3-5%. You really don’t need to use a lot. When I use cream in my soap, I remove the same amount of water from the recipe. For example, in my batch with 50 grams of cream, I remove 50 grams of distilled water from the recipe. If you use full water and cream, you might find your soap takes a little longer to harden. I have not experimented with using full water and cream.

Before I add the cream to the oils, I warm it up a bit so that it is the same temperature as the oils (more or less). Then, I add my cream directly to my oils and stick blend it before adding the lye. I have noticed that it will not emulsify completely with the oils. Typically there are tiny white flecks of cream floating on the top of my oils. I usually give the oils one more quick stick blend before adding the lye water, but it probably isn’t necessary because once the lye water is added, it will all blend.

I first noticed the benefits of using cream in soap by accident. I made a batch of Creamy Coconut soap with coconut milk and cream.

Creamy Coconut

I mainly added the cream because I felt it would be in keeping with the name of the soap to have both real coconut milk and real cream in it. When I used it in the shower, I noticed how smooth the bars felt. If you can believe it, I didn’t immediately realize this smoothness was because of the cream. I thought it might have been the coconut milk.

I started noticing that other soapmakers used cream in their soaps, and when I ordered soaps from these soapmakers, I noticed how smooth their bars were. At first, I wasn’t sure why their soaps were so much smoother than mine either because there are so many variables—oil recipes, other additives, and the like. But eventually I realized it was the cream in the soap that added smoothness. I have used cream in almost all of the soaps I have made since that discovery (I typically do not use it in milk soaps, with the exception of Creamy Coconut).

In addition to smoothness, cream adds some of the same benefits as other milks in soap—extra conditioning being the main benefit imparted by heavy cream. I mainly enjoy the feel of soap with cream in it. It is definitely smoother than soap made just with water. It feels silky on the skin. I typically do not have to use much lotion at all because of the conditioning oils and butters in my soap, but I have noticed even less of a need to use lotion in those soaps made with cream.

Adding just a little bit of cream can add some great qualities to your soap. With my recipe of just 50 grams, I am adding 18 grams of fat, so my superfat percentage will not be drastically different from my calculation.

As usual, David Fisher has experimented with cream and shared his results. You can see what will happen if you add lye to cream in his tutorial. I personally have not found it necessary to freeze the cream I use in my own recipes. In addition, I have never noticed any discoloration as can happen when you use goat milk in place of water. I actually haven’t tried using just a small amount of liquid goat milk and adding it directly to the oils as I do with heavy cream, so you might find that solution works just as well for you.

Creamy Soap
Print Recipe
Make your own version of my creamy soap.
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Creamy Soap
Print Recipe
Make your own version of my creamy soap.
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Servings Prep Time
1.4 pounds soap 1 hour
Ingredients
Servings: pounds soap
Instructions
  1. Dissolve the lye in the distilled water and set aside to cool.
  2. Melt coconut oil and palm oil.
  3. Add olive oil and castor oil to melted hard oils.
  4. Add heavy cream to oils and blend.
  5. Combine lye water with blended oils when both reach about 100ºF. The temperature doesn't need to be exact, but it should be close.
  6. Blend with stick blender until you reach trace.
  7. Add fragrance or essential oil and stir well until thoroughly combined.
  8. Pour into a mold, cover mold with plastic wrap, and drape with towel. One pound of oils will make approximately 1.4 pounds of soap.
  9. Let soap go through gel phase and saponify for about one day before unmolding.
Recipe Notes

Note: you can substitute coconut milk, like I did, for the water simply by using 151 grams of frozen coconut milk and slowly adding the lye to the milk until the lye is dissolved. You can also use colorants. I have not had issues with this soap overheating or acting strangely in gel phase, but keep and eye on it, and remove some insulation if it appears to be getting too hot. Also, you can opt not to gel this soap and instead put it in the freezer overnight. The cream might make the soap heat up in the refrigerator, so it might need the additional chill of the freezer to prevent gel phase if you choose not to gel.

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We’ve Reopened!

New England Handmade Artisan Soaps had a short hiatus this summer, but we’re back with restocks of favorites soaps and a brand new soap.

Heavenly Honeysuckle

Heavenly Honeysuckle is back for the summer! Don’t miss it; once they’re sold out, they won’t be back until next year. Heavenly Honeysuckle’s olive oil, shea butter, and rich cream will condition your skin and the scent will transport you to a field of wild honeysuckle.

Lemon Lavender Buttermilk

Lemon Lavender Buttermilk is back! It was a favorite last time we had it in stock and sold out quickly. Buttermilk is rich in alpha-hydroxy acid, and the scent of lemon and lavender is so clean and fresh.

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey

Oatmeal, Milk & Honey is back with a new look! Made with olive oil, shea butter, raw local honey, and colloidal oatmeal, this soap is a real treat for your skin, and as a bonus, it smells like delicious oatmeal cookies!

Lilac & Lavender Soap

Lilac & Lavender is brand new! The fresh scent of lilac with a hint of lavender in a bar with conditioning olive oil, shea butter, and pure cream will be a delight for the senses. Lilac & Lavender is sold out. Please check for it again soon.

Check out these and more great handmade artisan soaps in the shop.

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Destashing Fragrance Oils

Fragrances

If you make soap or other scented bath and beauty products, today might be your lucky day. I have some fragrances that I am not likely to use, but you might find them useful to have. I am listing the fragrances below with an approximate weight. I am sorry, but I can only ship in the US because of the cost of postage. If leave a comment on this post or you email me at [email protected], along with the fragrances you want and your zip code, I can give you a shipping estimate. After you confirm you would like the fragrance, I will send you an invoice via PayPal. You do not have to have a PayPal account in order to pay, as PayPal works with both credit and debit cards, too. Prices are discounted from the full price you would pay from the seller. Please note that depending on what you buy and where you are located, shipping might be more than the cost of the fragrance.

Note: If you make any requests this week, I will need to wait until July 3 to fulfill them.

Bramble Berry Fragrances

  • Sun-Ripened Raspberry, 1.5 oz + 4 oz (one unopened bottle)—$1.50 for the 1.5 oz, $4.00 for the 4 oz, or $5.00 for all of it
  • Chipotle Caramel, 0.15 oz (enough to make lotion or bath bombs)—shipping only
  • Passionfruit Rose, 1.9 oz—$1.90
  • Cranberry Fig, .35 oz—shipping only
  • Energy, 2.15 oz—$2.15
  • Crisp Apple Rose, 1.6 oz—$1.60

Nature’s Garden Fragrances

  • Madagascar Spice, 3.7 oz—$3.70
  • Lick Me All Over, 1.9 oz—$1.90
  • Twilight in the Woods, 2 oz—$2.00
  • Cotton Candy, 2.4 oz—$2.40
  • Sandalwood, 3.8 oz—$3.80
  • Gingersnap Cookies, 2.7 oz—$2.70
  • Sea Salt and Lotus Blossoms, 5.6 oz—$5.60
  • Sweet Pea, 6.2 oz—$6.20
  • Fresh Cut Roses, 6.8 oz—$6.80
  • Honeysuckle, 16 oz—$11.00
  • Spearmint, 10.3 oz (note: this is the fragrance, not the essential oil)—$8.00
  • Seaside, 12.5 oz—$9.00
  • Amazingly Grace, 16 oz—$11.00

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Heavenly Honeysuckle

Nothing smells more like summer coming on than the scent of honeysuckle. I lived in Georgia for a long time, and it grows simply everywhere. I did find a patch of it here in Worcester even. I smelled it when I was out walking, and there is no mistaking that scent. In fact, when I participated in the S.O.A.P. Panel, it was the only scent I could identify among the test scents because I know it so well. I purchased the fragrance as soon as Bramble Berry started selling it. My batch of Heavenly Honeysuckle soap sold well last year, and I hope people like it with some changes I made to the colors.

I love the way wet soap looks, don’t you?

By the way, I used Nurture’s micas in this soap: Amaranth Pink, Yellow Vibrance, and Pink Vibrance. I am really in love with Nurture’s micas. No one is paying me to say that, either.

I’m not sure what will happen when I cut this one. Last time, I had some titanium dioxide crackle, which sometimes happens with heat like this fragrance generates. It’s a floral, and if you’ve soaped florals before, you may know they can misbehave. Sometimes I think titanium dioxide crackle looks cool. We’ll see what happens when I cut it.

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