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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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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Recipe and Giveaway: Dead Sea Mud Spa Bar Soap

The very first bar of handmade soap I fell in love with was a Dead Sea mud bar I used to buy at my local farmer’s market in Georgia before I moved. In fact, it was my love for this bar of soap that drove me to try making my own soap because I wanted to continue to use it, but I didn’t want to have to special order it from my new home in Massachusetts. I started studying the craft of soapmaking, and eventually I formulated several different Dead Sea mud soap recipes, but for some reason, I never tried making them.

At first, I studied the ingredient label on my remaining farmer’s market soaps and tried to replicate the recipe, even in my other bars of soap, but as I learned more about oils and butters over time, I developed my own Dead Sea mud spa soap recipe, and I decided the time was finally right to create my own version of this soap.

Dead Sea Mud Spa Bar

Why use Dead Sea mud in soap? Dead Sea mud is rich in minerals and salt that are good for your skin. Many expensive beauty treatments have Dead Sea mud among their ingredients. I purchased my Dead Sea mud from SoapGoods, but you can buy it many places.

I used a 33% water weight as a percentage of oils when I formulated my recipe in SoapCalc. You can use more, but be mindful of the fact that you have Dead Sea mud in your recipe, and make sure you don’t use too much. I used a 6% superfat for the lye.

  • 40% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 15% palm oil
  • 7% shea butter
  • 7% castor oil
  • 6% apricot kernel oil

I used a fragrance ratio of 50 grams per kilogram, or 5%. At this point, I should explain that I usually use grams instead of ounces because they are more precise. You can still use the same percentage if you are using ounces.

You can use between 1 and 2 tablespoons of Dead Sea mud per 500 grams of oils. My recipe is 1,100 grams of oils, and I used 3 tablespoons of Dead Sea mud.

You can use whichever fragrance or essential oil you like for this recipe. I used an essential oil blend of lavender and spearmint. I also put a pinch of tussah silk in my lye water (I usually do this with all my water-based soaps, but I find it too hard to dissolve the silk in milk-based soaps). I also topped my soaps with Himalayan pink salt. You could easily omit the salt.

Dead Sea Mud Spa Bar

Unfortunately, I didn’t take photographs of my process. Note: The reason I use percentages in recipes I post on this blog is that your mold may be smaller or larger than mine, and using percentages allows you to use SoapCalc to adjust the recipe for your own mold. I wish more soaping books also used percentages, but I have noticed that many soaping blogs do. If you want to figure out how much oil will fit in your mold, use this formula for a rectangular mold, check out this link for more information on how to do that.

And now seems like a good enough time for a giveaway, so if you’d like to win one of these bars of soap, enter the contest. Please remember that soap takes four weeks to cure, so the soap will not be shipped out until June 5, 2015. Good luck! Open only to residents of the United States (shipping costs are high; sorry!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Spotlight on Carrot Buttermilk Soap

Carrots are great for your skin. They contain beta-carotene, which is believed to relieve dry skin and reduce fine lines. Buttermilk is also great for dry skin and has alpha-hydroxy acid, thought to remove dead skin cells. Many beauty products on the market contain alpha-hydroxy acid.

I originally tried a carrot-based soap well over a year ago, and I wasn’t 100% happy with the results. It was a fine soap, and those who tried it even complimented me on it and said they loved it. It just didn’t look like it had carrots in it.

Carrot Silk

I made this soap based on a recipe I found at Soaping 101. To be honest, I think I combined the carrot soap recipe in the video with a facial soap recipe. I suspect it was another Soaping 101 recipe, but I am just not sure anymore where I found it. I do know I didn’t formulate the recipe, though I may have tweaked it. My recipe for this soap was as follows:

  • 35% olive oil
  • 30% palm oil
  • 15% coconut oil
  • 10% palm kernel oil
  • 5% sunflower oil
  • 5% castor oil

I used full water, which probably wasn’t necessary, and a superfat of 7% (I typically use 6%). I also added kaolin clay and powdered goat milk, and substituted 2 oz. of water for pureed carrots. I also used tussah silk, but I use tussah silk in a lot of my soaps. The recipe has a lot more palm oil and a lot less coconut oil than I typically use. I also used palm kernel oil, which I do not typically use and have actually discovered I don’t like much.

I was happy with how the soap looked in the mold.

Carrot Silk

However, I noticed that it heated up rather a lot, and it began to look a little bit like brains. If you haven’t experienced this phenomenon in soapmaking, check it out and scroll to Alien Brains. The resulting soap, as I said, was fine. And it was hard as a rock. I just didn’t think it looked like I wanted. I was put off using carrots for a while.

I really liked the look of some other carrot soaps I had seen. For instance, Rocky Top Soap Shop has a beautiful carrot soap, and Chagrin Valley has a very nice Carrot and Honey soap. Both soaps contain carrot juice rather than pureed carrots.

I decided to try Amanda’s advice and use carrot baby food. After trying baby food, I am convinced the trick to a good carrot soap is to use pureed carrot baby food or carrot juice to replace some or all of the water instead of making your own carrot puree. It may be that when I pureed my own carrots, I was not using enough carrots as compared to water, and though I have a blender, I had trouble making a very fine puree like you might find in baby food. You have to be careful with using fruit or vegetable purees in soap. Sometimes, they go brown (strawberries, peaches). Other purees seem to be fine (bananas).

I searched for an organic baby food that listed its ingredients as only carrots or only carrots and water, and I found one. I discovered when I used the carrot baby food, the resulting color was much closer to what I was looking for.

Carrot Buttermilk I completely scrapped my other recipe. I used two ounces of carrot baby food, removing two ounces of water from my recipe and reduced the total amount of liquid in the recipe from 38% (which SoapCalc figures as “full water”) to 33%. I superfatted at my usual 6%. As I said, I am not a fan of palm kernel oil, and I decided to simplify with fewer oils. I also used two teaspoons of powdered buttermilk, removing about a tablespoon of water from my recipe before adding the lye and using it to reconstitute the buttermilk. Buttermilk is just wonderful in soaps. I used two teaspoons of kaolin clay as well. I did not add the carrots to the lye water, as Amanda described, but rather to the oils. I blended the kaolin clay, reconstituted buttermilk, and carrots well with the oils before I added the lye water.

The recipe fit well in my 9-bar mold. I left the soap unscented as I intended it to be used on the face and/or sensitive skin. In my opinion, the new recipe, which I formulated myself, is much more face-friendly than the one I borrowed—there is an excellent case to be made for creating your own recipes instead of following others’ recipes right there. Nonetheless, here is what I used:

  • 40% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 5% apricot kernel oil
  • 5% castor oil

I had noticed that my old standby facial soap, Provence, which is a Marseilles-style soap made with olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil, was making my face feel a little tight after I finished using it. I decided to pull out a bar of my Carrot Buttermilk soap to see how I liked it. I didn’t just like it, I LOVED it. It had a smooth, creamy lather that I didn’t expect to see because of the amount of coconut oil and castor oil I used, which usually produces a lather that is bubbly. Carrot Buttermilk will bubble up quite a bit more if you lather it up for a little longer. It actually feels like a soap that has more olive oil in it than it does (though it has a significant amount, and more than the Carrot Silk soap had). I suspect the difference is the apricot kernel oil. My face absolutely does NOT feel tight after I wash with it, and I am now in love with this little bar of Carrot Buttermilk soap.

You can purchase Carrot Buttermilk from the shop, and it’s even on sale for a limited time.

Creative Commons License
Carrot Buttermilk Facial Soap by Dana Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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Luxury Goat Milk Soap: Recipe and Tutorial

Cee from Oil & Butter is my favorite soap blogger for many reasons. She is generous with her expertise and her ideas. Her soap looks incredible (and her photographs are beautiful). She is knowledgeable and friendly. She shared a recipe and tutorial for a Luxury Soap two years ago, and it looks so gorgeous that I have been dying to try it. In the spirit of Cee’s original post, I share my recipe, advice, and reflections.

Luxury SoapIngredients

Lye Solution

  • 291 g goat milk
  • 85 g coconut milk
  • 155 g lye

Oils

  • 56 g mango butter
  • 57 g shea butter
  • 225 g coconut oil
  • 200 g palm oil
  • 430 g olive oil
  • 57 g avocado oil
  • 57 g sweet almond oil
  • 56 g castor oil

Additives

  • 1.5 t honey mixed with 1.5 t distilled water
  • 68 g fragrance (I chose Brown Sugar and Fig from Nature’s Garden)
  • 2 t Diamond Dust Mica dispersed in the sweet almond oil
  • 1 T sodium lactate

Equipment

First, a quick note about grams as opposed to ounces. I use grams to measure the weight of my soap ingredients because grams are more precise than ounces, even if you are measuring tenths of an ounce. I always recommend that soapmakers use grams, and whenever I use a recipe someone else has posted, I convert it to grams using SoapCalc.

This recipe was adapted from Cee’s own Luxury Soap recipe. I removed the jojoba oil mainly because it’s terrifically expensive. I don’t have much of it right now, and I prefer to use it for leave-on products like lotions, like other soapmakers. It’s perfectly fine in soap, however, and I didn’t remove it because I thought it shouldn’t be used. Using it would certainly have added a bit of decadence to an already almost sinful soap, but I think the recipe is plenty luxurious without it, too. I didn’t have chamomile extract, so I didn’t use that either. Aside from removing the jojoba and chamomile extract, I tweaked the numbers of the other oils and swapped almond milk for coconut milk. Otherwise, the recipes are quite similar.

I began by preparing the oils. First, I measured out the butters.

Mango ButterMango butter is truly wonderful. It is similar to shea butter in some respects in that it has a significant amount of unsaponifiables, meaning that more of the conditioning and moisturizing qualities of the butter make it through the saponification process. It also contributes to a creamy lather.

Shea Butter I added the shea butter to the mango butter. I use shea butter and/or cocoa butter in almost all of my soaps because I love what it does for skin. It does speed up trace, so be careful.

Coconut OilIn with the coconut oil. It’s so hot here today that it’s completely melted already. Actually the mango butter was kind of soft as well. It’s usually a little harder (and almost brittle) than it was today. Coconut oil is great for bubbles—it contributes to fluffy lather and cleansing as well as bar hardness. I use coconut oil in almost all of my soaps.

Palm OilThe last hard oil is palm oil, which I use because it contributes to bar hardness, stable lather, and conditioning. I use it in a lot of my soaps.

What I like to do is put all my hard oils in the soap bowl together, then melt them in the microwave. It saves time as opposed to melting each separately and adding them together. I warmed these oils for about one minute (try 30-second bursts). At that point, the shea was almost melted, so I stirred it until it was completely melted.

Olive OilA quick word about olive oil: you can use any grade of olive oil in soap, but I always use pure golden olive oil. I don’t think it’s necessary to use extra virgin olive oil in soapmaking. In fact, it’s not different enough from pure golden olive oil to warrant its own category in SoapCalc, though olive oil pomace is. I personally don’t use pomace because pure golden olive oil is available at my local discount membership warehouse for a really good price (and no shipping). I use olive oil in every single soap I make. It’s highly conditioning and contributes to stable lather and bar hardness. I believe it to be the single best soaping oil there is.

Soft Oils

I prepared the soft oils—olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil—measuring them out one at a time, and then adding them all to the melted hard oils and butters.

Avocado oil contains vitamins A, D, and E, and contributes to the bar’s conditioning properties.

Castor oil is the best source of ricinoleic acid and make the lather much fluffier and more stable. I use castor oil in most of my soaps. Castor oil is also a natural humectant, which means it draws moisture to the skin. I usually only use 5%, except in shampoo bars.

Mica Added

I added my Diamond Dust Mica to the sweet almond oil, mixed it with a small hand mixer, and then added the sweet almond oil to the rest of the oils. Sweet almond oil is another of my favorite oils. It contributes to a stable lather and conditioning bar. It works well as a carrier oil for colorants, too. It’s also great in lotions.

I blended the oils so that the Diamond Dust Mica would disperse. Look at that pearly sheen!

Diamond Dust Mica

I believe this mica is probably similar to Bramble Berry’s Super Pearly White Mica. That lovely, pearl sheen will not completely make it through the soapmaking process, but if you use it in melt-and-pour soap, you should see a nice shimmer in your soap. I do still notice a little bit of shimmer in cold process soap as well, and it definitely adds something that just plain titanium dioxide lacks.

Goat Milk and Coconut Milk

After my oils were prepared, I prepared my milks and lye. Why didn’t I do that before preparing the oils? Well, if I were using water, I would have prepared the lye mixture first because it needs time to cool. However, if I am starting with frozen milk, there is no reason to start with the lye mixture because it doesn’t need to cool. In fact, I find that I can control my milk and lye much better if I prepare it after the oils. I have found that if you prepare the milk and lye before the oils, the fats in the goat milk begin to saponify, and while that’s not necessarily problematic for any reason, I just find I like it better if the milk is still liquid. I used a 6% lye discount in this soap, but you could alter it to your preferred superfat if you like. I find 6% to be my personal sweet spot.

Lye MixtureWorking with milk requires a bit more effort than working with water. I use a stainless steel pot because if I need to quickly cool it down the mixture, stainless steel is a better conductor (hot or cold) than plastic or glass. I also add the lye to the milk just a little at a time and stir until the lye is dissolved. Then I add more. It can take a little while. Once all the lye was added, and I was relatively sure the all of it had dissolved in the milk, I added the sodium lactate to the lye mixture and stirred well to dissolve it.

Lye MixtureI checked the temperature of the lye mixture, and it was about 82°F. Pretty good. I don’t like it to rise above 90°F. If it starts to become too warm, I put the pan in a cool water bath to bring the temperature down.

Another benefit of preparing the oils first and then the lye mixture is that the oils have a little bit more time to cool down as well. I didn’t take their temperature, but my guess is that they were 90-95°F by the time the lye was ready. They would likely have been about 100°F when I began preparing the lye mixture.

Once the lye mixture was ready, I added it to the oils and stirred a little bit. Anne-Marie Faiola of Bramble Berry likes to pour the lye mixture down the barrel of her stick blender to reduce splashing and bubbles. I did that this time, too.

Stick Blending SoapI stick blended until a very light trace, then I added the honey. Honey will accelerate trace, so make sure you add it at a light trace, or you may find you have gone too far with the stick blending. When I use honey in soap, I mix it with an equal amount of distilled water. In this case, I used 1.5 t of honey, so I mixed it with 1.5 t of water. Then I microwave the honey for a very short time—only 5-10 seconds. I stir until it dissolves in the water. I find that I have fewer issues with scorching, overheating, and caverns in soap if I dissolve the honey. I have also learned not to use more honey than I need. I wouldn’t go higher than a tablespoon in a batch of this size, and given I used a log mold instead of a slab mold, even that much might have caused temperature issues. Honey is a natural humectant and contributes to the lather in soap.

I added my fragrance, which was Nature’s Garden’s Brown Sugar and Fig. I wanted a scent that evoked the creaminess of the soap. I chose this fragrance also because I knew that it had a very small amount of vanillin in it, and reviews said that it didn’t discolor. I love the fragrance description:

This magical, complex fragrance oil by Nature’s Garden is composed of top notes of fresh figs, peaches, and passion fruit; followed by middle notes of coconut milk, vanilla orchid, jasmine, muguet, and freesia; well-balanced with base notes of vanilla beans, caramel, maple sugar, fig leaves, and musk.

To be honest, I don’t smell any fruit notes, with the possible exception of the fig. I mostly smell vanilla, sugar, and musk. It smells great, and I think it’s perfect in this soap. I had no issues with acceleration or ricing. I’ll have to wait and see as the soap cures to determine whether the claims that it doesn’t discolor are true.

I should think other good fragrance choices might be Nature’s Garden’s Baby Bee Buttermilk or Oatmeal, Milk, and Honey or Bramble Berry’s Wildflower Honey (which will discolor, but to a nice honey shade).

TraceI blended to a pretty thick trace, then poured the soap into my 10-inch silicone loaf mold, which was the perfect size for this recipe. Bramble Berry recommends using sodium lactate to make it easier to remove soap from this mold, and in any case, sodium lactate adds a nice silky feel to soap.

Soap In the MoldLike Cee, I spooned soap on the top after doing a little bit of sculpting, but I didn’t think my tops were as pretty as hers, so I experimented a bit with a skewer to create a slightly different design.

Swirled Soap TopsI spritzed it with 91% isopropyl alcohol, which might not have been strictly necessary since I didn’t choose to gel the soap, but it can’t hurt anyway. Isopropyl alcohol can help prevent soda ash on the tops of soap, but it’s not 100% effective.

A quick word about gelling milk soaps. You will hear some soapmakers insist that you can’t or shouldn’t gel milk soaps. I don’t see any problem with it. I gel most of my milk soaps. Even the ones with honey in them, too. I have only had a problem with overheating once, and it was because I used way too much honey. My advice is to do what you want. I chose not to gel this one because I didn’t want it to darken as much as I knew it would if I gelled it. You might not need to insulate, or perhaps just to insulate lightly, but your milk soaps will gel just fine if you are mindful of the other additives you use and keep an eye on the temperature.

Cut Luxury SoapThe cut soaps smell wonderful. I am going to let them have a nice long cure and give them to family and friends for Christmas.

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Hot Process Soap

I have very little experience with hot process soap, but I really wanted to give it a try. I think the rustic look of some hot process soaps is quite pretty. I had an idea for a soap, and I thought it might look better if it were hot process rather than cold process, so I decided to give it go.

First, my recipe:

  • 40% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 5% castor oil.

This is my “test” recipe, which also has the advantage of being a good basic recipe.

I made up the lye mixture with full water and set it aside. Then I added the oils to the crock pot.

Oils

I grew really impatient waiting for them to melt. They probably took about 15 minutes to melt on high heat.

Then I added my lye. I thought I was being really smart lining my crock pot. I forgot about the stick blender blades. Still, very little of the soap leaked into the crock pot itself. Next time, I just won’t bother. After all, with hot process, the soap is fully saponified, so the lye is not going to be a problem. I didn’t add my fragrance to the soap while it was in the crock pot, so there was no danger of fragrance leeching into my food later.

I blended to light trace. It took maybe a few seconds. You can barely see the soap trails on the top.

Trace

Next, I stirred it a bit before letting it sit to cook. At this point, I turned the crock pot to low. Notice you can see a bit of the separation you are supposed to look for.

Thicker trace

I let it cook for a bit, perhaps 10 minutes, and when I came to check on it, it was thickening up quite a bit. At this state, it was maybe the texture of thick pudding or mashed potatoes.

Thickening up

I actually checked on it quite often. I was nervous about leaving it alone. I should have paid better attention to timing here, but since I was checking it so frequently, I really looked more for “signs” instead of watching the clock. I started to notice it was gelling near the edges, like it was supposed to do.

Gelling

So, I stirred it up, and the gelled soap combined with the soap in the middle looked more like applesauce.

Applesauce

I cooked it a bit longer, looking for signs it was turning fluffy. Sure enough, I started to see the fluffy stage.

FluffyThen when it started to pull away from the edges, I did a zap test. It wasn’t quite done yet, so I let it cook a bit longer and did a second zap test. This time, no zap.

Fully cookedI scooped the soap out of the crock pot and put it into a bowl. This is where I think I could use some advice from more experienced hot process soapmakers. I wanted to let the soap cool a bit so it didn’t burn off the delicate orange essential oil I wanted to use (though, to be fair, it was 10x orange oil).

I think I let it cool too much. I read at TeachSoap that it’s a good idea to add a bit of sunflower oil (or, I suppose another carrier oil) to help cool the soap and make it more pliable as I mix the fragrance. Do any of you do this? Does it work? Because I tried to wait until my soap was right around the flashpoint for orange essential oil, and I think it was too cool. I had some trouble getting it into the mold, which I understand is just part of the nature of hot process soap, but I am wondering if the oil would have helped. Any advice is appreciated.

I added the orange essential oil, and it was very hard to mix. My soap is going to have a really cool mottled look because I couldn’t get the oil to mix as thoroughly as I had planned.

Essential oilAfter I mixed the oil, I plopped it in the mold, and tried to stop fiddling with it, but I wasn’t successful.

In the moldAs you can see, I put some dried orange slices in the tops of the bars. Pretty!

Here is another view of the soap in the mold.

In the mold

Eventually, I quit fussing with it and let it set up. I unmolded it and decided to let it harden a bit more before I cut it. You can tell I fussed with it too much because I got soap all over my oranges. Boo! I decided to clean them off after I cut the soap. The pictures are a little darker because the light wasn’t as good by the evening when I took them.

Unmolded

Here is another view of the soap loaf with the manhandled (womanhandled?) oranges in clear view.

Soap loaf

I am really digging the mottled look. It made me wonder if this is how Gossage’s soap got its famous “mottled” look. I know they experimented with adding colorants, but I couldn’t find out if their manufacturing process was hot process or not. I can’t find a picture of Gossage’s soap (just the packaging), so I’m not really sure what it looked like.

After the soap was cooled, I cut it as I normally do with my soap log cutter. Here are the results.

Finished Soap

I am thinking of calling it Sunrise. I am not sure if I will sell it or if I will just give these away. However, I am giving one bar away here. Just follow the instructions to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Formulating Soap Recipes for Different Skin Types

Baby Soap

Baby Soap

Babies have sensitive skin. I looked up the ingredients for a popular commercial soap used on babies, and this is what I found:

Water, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, PEG-150 Distearate, Tetrasodium EDTA, Sodium Chloride, Polyquaternium-10, Fragrance, Quaternium-15, Citric Acid, Sodium Hydroxide.

I was not really sure what some of of this stuff was, so I did a little Internet research.

  • Cocamidoproply Betaine is “is an organic compound derived from coconut oil and dimethylaminopropylamine.” (Wikipedia)
  • PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate is a surfactant, emulsifier, and fragrance ingredient.
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate is a detergent and surfactant.
  • PEG-150 Distearate is a surfactant, thickening agent, and emulsifier.
  • Tetrasodium EDTA is a “chelating agent, used to sequester and decrease the reactivity of metal ions that may be present in a product” (Environmental Working Group)
  • Polyquaternium-10 is a “Antistatic Agent; Film Former; Hair Fixative” (Environmental Working Group)
  • Quaternium-15 is an ammonium salt used as a preservative in cosmetics (Wikipedia)

I am not sure it can properly be called soap, which is fine, because the manufacturer doesn’t call it soap, either. But all I have to say is… wow. I used this on my children. The safety of the ingredients has been called into question by various watchdog groups, and I realize they sometimes have an agenda, but this list of ingredients actually scares me. I realize that sometimes soapmakers are unfairly critical of commercial soaps’ use of chemical names. Everything on earth is made of chemicals, and commercial soapmakers have different regulations by which they must abide. But there is little in this list I could recognize from my own soapmaking experience except water, sodium hydroxide, citric acid, and sodium chloride.

Another popular baby soap lists the following ingredients:

vegetable soap base, parfum (fragrance), butyris lac (buttermilk powder, babeurre en poudre), avena sativa (oat) kernel flour, CI 77891 (titanium dioxide), limonene

I don’t want to turn this post into an analysis of how bad commercial soaps are for you (because I’ve written that post before), but I want to know what’s in that vegetable soap base, too. The other ingredients I get (and use). Limonene is a fragrance ingredient. This soap is probably gentle, but it does have fragrance and titanium dioxide, which I would leave out of a soap formulated especially for babies. Still, there is nothing terribly alarming in the list of ingredients, and if you’re going to use a commercial soap, this one is probably better for baby than the previous one.

Babies have the most sensitive skin, and a great deal of thought should be given to formulating a soap recipe that is as gentle and mild as possible. My baby soap recipe is 75% olive oil, 20% coconut oil, and 5% castor oil. Olive oil is one of the most conditioning oils, and pure Castile soap is excellent for the skin. The coconut oil and castor oil boost the lather a bit without detracting from the soap’s mildness or conditioning qualities. Here is SoapCalc’s quality assessment:

SoapCalc Soap Quality AssessmentAs you can see, the conditioning quality is near the upper suggested limit, while the cleansing quality is near the suggested lower limit. This recipe is actually a tried-and-true baby soap recipe you have probably seen on other soapmaking websites.

But what about other skin types? How do you formulate a facial soap for mature or sensitive skin? Oily skin?

You really need to research oils and their properties. For my Carrot Silk Facial Soap, I left out scent and formulated the recipe for sensitive skin: olive oil, water, sustainable palm oil, coconut oil, sodium hydroxide, palm kernel oil, pureed carrots, castor oil, sunflower oil, goat milk, kaolin clay, tussah silk.

Here is SoapCalc’s assessment of Carrot Silk Facial Soap:

Carrot Silk Facial SoapAs you can see, the conditional quality and cleansing qualities are mid-range, which is perfect for most people who want a facial soap that will wash away the dirt and makeup without stripping the skin. The addition of carrots, goat milk, kaolin clay, and silk to the soap add qualities that SoapCalc cannot quantify.

My Lavender Chamomile Facial soap has the following ingredients: water, chamomile-infused olive oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, sodium hydroxide, apricot kernel oil, shea butter, castor oil, lavender essential oil, pink rose clay, buttermilk.

I chose chamomile, olive oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil, apricot kernel oil, and shea butter specifically for their conditioning properties.

Lavender Chamomile Facial SoapA glance at SoapCalc’s assessment reveals many quality numbers off the scale: cleansing is lower than recommended, iodine is higher, and INS is lower. Still, this recipe makes a very nice soap. The low cleansing number makes it especially good for dry, sensitive, or mature skin, as does the high conditioning number. Though this soap has fragrance, it is a lavender essential oil, and this blog post by Robert Tisserand does a good job of describing some of lavender’s benefits, even including research citations.

But what about oily skin? I admit I haven’t made this soap yet, but I did some research and formulated a recipe with the following ingredient list: coconut milk, coconut oil, neem oil, sunflower oil, sodium hydroxide, sustainable palm oil, rice bran oil, castor oil, bentonite clay, activated charcoal, tea tree essential oil, rosemary essential oil.

Coconut oil is more cleansing, and neem oil has antiseptic and anti-fungal properties that make it helpful in combating acne. Bentonite clay and activated charcoal are said to be good for oily skin, as are tea tree oil and rosemary oil. Here is SoapCalc’s assessment:

Oily Skin Facial SoapThe numbers all fall within the suggested range, but this soap is more cleansing than the other facial soaps, and the iodine is higher than suggested. It should clean the skin without overdrying, which many commercial acne preparations do (which causes the skin to compensate by producing more oil, which continues a vicious cycle).

The quality numbers are a good guide, but the key is doing research into the oils and additives you are using, and determining what benefits those ingredients will add to your soap. Soapmakers have to be careful not to make claims about their soap due to FDA regulations. “True” soap is not regulated by the FDA, and ingredients do not need to be listed on soap labels. According to the FDA:

If a cosmetic claim is made on the label of a “true” soap or cleanser, such as moisturizing or deodorizing, the product must meet all FDA requirements for a cosmetic, and the label must list all ingredients. If a drug claim is made on a cleanser or soap, such as antibacterial, antiperspirant, or anti acne, the product is a drug, and the label must list all active ingredients, as is required for all drug products.

I think some soapmakers wrongly interpret this to mean that they cannot make claims about the qualities of their soap. My understanding, based on this statement, is that you can claim your soap moisturizes if you list the ingredients. The following are requirements for a cosmetic label:

  • Identification of the product (which indicates its use)
  • Net weight
  • Name and address of manufacturer
  • Warnings and cautions (if any)
  • Ingredients in descending order of amount

Where you might run into trouble is labeling a soap as anti-acne, which means you must comply with FDA labeling requirements for drugs. See this article for information about such labels. My understanding, based on reading this article, is that if you comply with these very specific requirements for labeling, you can make claims, such as anti-acne, about your soap. I do not plan to make any such claims when I make my soap. But based on what I’ve read, I believe I’m in the clear to say it’s formulated for oily skin types.

If you’re looking to formulate your own recipes for various skin types, take a look at resources for oil properties. Two of my favorites are Summer Bee Meadow’s Properties of Soapmaking Oils and About.com’s Candle and Soap Soap Making site’s Qualities of Soap Making Oils article. Research various clays, essential oils, and other additives, such as botanicals, so that you can learn about their benefits for the skin. Do they work better on dry skin, or oily skin? What qualities do they have?

I have put a great deal of research into each of the ingredients I’ve included in these facial soaps, and based on the testing for Carrot Silk Facial Soap and Lavender Chamomile Facial Soap, it appears as though the research has resulted in soap that really does what I hoped they would do.

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Soap Challenge Club: Dandelion Zebra Swirl

This month’s Soap Challenge Club challenge soap is the Dandelion Zebra Swirl created by Vinvela Ebony and described on her blog Dandelion Seifee. Here is my contribution to the challenge:

Dandelion Zebra Swirl

The recipe I used to create the soap is a slow-moving recipe modified from one recommended by Amy Warden of Great Cake Soapworks:

  • 60% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 10% sunflower oil
  • 5% castor oil

The resulting soap should be extremely conditioning and great for sensitive skin. I used a Bramble Berry fragrance called Kumquat to scent the soap, and it smells absolutely divine—very fruity and fresh.

I left my soap base uncolored. The sunflower oil does contribute some sort of lightening effect to the soap base. I have noticed when I’ve used it before that the resulting soap has a lighter color than if I didn’t use it at all. However, because sunflower oil makes for a softer soap, it is best not to use too much in a recipe—perhaps no more than 20-25%. Sunflower oil also contributes to a nice, creamy lather.

Typically, I use kaolin clay in my soap, but I am not sure what effect clay might have on speeding up trace, and because I wanted a nice fluid soap for this technique, I left it out.

I mixed my oils and lye at a low temperature—below 90°F. I pulsed my stick blender a few times, mixing just until my oils and lye were emulsified. The colorants I used were neon pigments rather than oxides, as I just recently learned oxides can also speed up trace. I used two pigments from Brambleberry: Tangerine Wow and Fizzy Lemonade. The other two pigments were from TKB: Reformulated Neon Green and Reformulated Neon Blue.

As you can see, the colors are nice and bold, and though the soap base isn’t white, it’s a very pretty light natural shade.

Dandelion Zebra Swirl

Because of the high amount of soft oils, the soap is definitely softer than my typical soaps; however, I know from experience that high olive oil soaps can become quite hard with a longer cure time.

It’s such an interesting technique. I think I would do it again with some different colors.

Trying this technique gave me some ideas should I decide I want to try the Peacock Swirl again, too. I was able to maintain soap of the consistency I think might be required for the Peacock Swirl when I made this Dandelion Zebra Swirl soap. I think the trick might be to avoid oxides (if I can) for the Peacock Swirl, as it seemed to work great for this soap. Thanks to Amy Warden for teaching me something I didn’t know about oxides!

Here is a last look at the soap from a different angle. I am happy with the swirl on the top, too!

Dandelion Zebra Swirl

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Mrs. Darcy

I created the next soap in my Jane Austen series, Mrs. Darcy. It is gorgeous!

Mrs. DarcyThe recipe is similar to Sweet Jane:

  • 30% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 10% sweet almond oil
  • 5% cocoa butter
  • 5% castor oil

I used Nature’s Garden’s Plumeria fragrance and colored it with titanium dioxide and ultramarine violet. I used a goat milk base and added silk to the milk and lye mixture.

I had an unfortunate mishap while making the soap. My hard oils were melting in the microwave and tipped over, spilling all over the place. I mopped up the best I could, then started over with the hard oils again. By that time, the goat milk, while still under 70°, was beginning to saponify. It never turned any darker than a cream color (thank goodness), but it was thick. I mixed it with the oils anyway and discovered that some of my silk did not dissolve. Perhaps it doesn’t when you use milk? Not sure.

Mrs. DarcyThen the soap started to thicken up, and I wanted to do a hanger swirl. As you can see, it turned out just fine, but I was sweating!

Next time, I plan to do something a little different with the hanger swirl. This is pretty, but I was looking for a more striking effect.

So what did I do wrong, folks?

  1. I tried a new fragrance.
  2. I used new colorants.
  3. I tried a new technique.

You should probably not try to take on all of that newness in one batch. I have learned!

One thing I’m learning, too, is that less is often more. An in-the-pot swirl is easier than this hanger swirl, but the effect is much more striking. Next time, I will try Celine Blacow’s trick of taping two wooden skewers to the bottom of the hanger for a more striking hanger swirl.

I sculpted the tops a little more than usual, and they look pretty.

Mrs. DarcyI used an in-the-pot swirl for my next Jane Austen soap, called “Marianne’s Passion.” I had meant to make it a Lydia Bennet soap, but the more I worked with it, the more it whispered “Marianne” to me. It’s perfect for Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility. I’ll post pictures after I’ve cut it. It’s gorgeous!

I originally intended to limit my Jane Austen series to Pride and Prejudice in honor of its 200th anniversary this month, but the more I think about it, the more I want to expand the series to all of Jane Austen’s oeuvre. You knew I was a huge Jane Austen fan, right?

I would be remiss If I didn’t mention there are three new soaps in the Etsy store: Lilac Goat Milk, Sea Salt and Lotus Blossom Salt bars, and Grubby Girl (with shredded loofah!).

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Sweet Jane

I have been watching Celine Blacow’s instructional videos, and I can’t think of anyone else I’ve seen who is half as good at explaining how to swirl. She does many different swirling techniques, including the hanger swirl, which I’m dying to try—unfortunately, I don’t have any hangers. Well, that’s not true. I have a bunch of plastic ones I can’t bend. A co-worker said he’d donate a bunch to me. I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Here is Celine’s tutorial:

I ordered a few new colorants from Bramble Berry and did a successful in-the-pot swirl with three colors (Fizzy Lemonade, Ultramarine Violet Oxide, and Hydrated Chrome Green pigments) in a shampoo bar recipe with tea tree oil. Those bars are still very soft, but I’ll post a picture soon.

After trying it once, I decided to do another, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I realized I still had some Lemon Verbena fragrance oil from Bramble Berry, so I decided to do a coconut-milk based soap using the Fizzy Lemonade pigment and Lemon Verbena fragrance. I’m calling it Sweet Jane after Jane Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen’s classic novel celebrates its 200th anniversary on January 28, 2013! Anna Quindlen once describe Jane Bennet as “sugar to Elizabeth’s lemonade.” She always looks for the best in everyone. Here she is as portrayed by Rosamund Pike in the 2005 version of the film (she’s the blond).

The Bennet Sisters

From left to right: Lydia, Kitty, Lizzie, Jane, and Mary

Jane refrains from judgment. She’s quiet and serene. Lemon Verbena is a perfect complement to her sweetness of character. I imagine she smells exactly like Lemon Verbena. And the yellow not only complements the soap fragrance, but also alludes to Jane’s hair color, believed to be blonde. Jane wrote in a letter to her sister Cassandra:

Henry & I went to the Exhibition in Spring Gardens. It is not thought a good collection, but I was very well pleased—particularly (pray tell Fanny) with a small portrait of Mrs. Bingley, excessively like her. I went in hopes of seeing one of her Sister, but there was no Mrs. Darcy;—perhaps however, I may find her in the Great Exhibition which we shall go to, if we have time;—I have no chance of her in the collection of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s Paintings which is now shewing in Pall Mall, & which we are also to visit.—Mrs. Bingley’s is exactly herself, size, shaped face, features & sweetness; there never was a greater likeness. She is dressed in a white gown, with green ornaments, which convinces me of what I had always supposed, that green was a favourite colour with her. I dare say Mrs. D. will be in Yellow.

Martha Rainbolt argues in a 1988 English Language article entitled “The Likeness of Austen’s Jane Bennet: Huet-Villiers’ ‘Portrait of Mrs. Q” that this image may be the one Jane Austen saw:

Portrait of Mrs. QSeems logical to me based on the evidence I’ve seen. She’s a very sweet-faced lady.

Doesn’t she look like she’d wear Lemon Verbena?

I’m not sure what I’m going to get with this soap. My experience with the Fizzy Lemonade colorant is that it doesn’t look like it has changed color at all when you add it to the soap batter, but after it has saponified, it is a very pretty yellow. Right now, it just looks yellow. Who knows what will happen when I cut it? I’ll post the cutting pictures tomorrow.

For the interested, here is the recipe:

  • 30% olive oil
  • 25% coconut oil
  • 25% palm oil
  • 10% sweet almond oil
  • 5% cocoa butter
  • 5% castor oil

By the way, in case you were wondering, yes, I will be making a soap for each of the major characters in Pride and Prejudice this year.

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