More Pure Soapmaking

I truly have been enjoying inspiration from Anne-Marie Faiola’s Pure Soapmaking: How to Create Nourishing, Natural Skin Care Soaps, which I reviewed recently on this blog.

I have also enjoyed watching other soapmakers experiment with Anne-Marie’s ideas and recipes from the book. I spent a few minutes today watching soapers try Anne-Marie’s recipe for an Aloe Vera Hanger Swirl soap as shown on pp. 177-181 in the book. I admit to being drawn to that soap as well.

First up, I watched the wonderful Holly of Missouri River Soap try out the recipe with her own tweaks—she uses different oils— and a slightly different technique.

Next, I watched the incomparable Zahida Map of Handmade in Florida give the recipe her own flair.

Both of these women are talented soapmakers whom I admire a great deal. Watching these videos made me anxious to give this soap a go.

Like Holly, I used my own soap recipe. Holly is absolutely right in that as you become a more experienced soapmaker, you come to formulate your own recipe that you like. You know how it will behave under normal conditions, and you know how it will feel to use, what the lather will be like, and what its various properties will be. I experimented quite a lot with a variety of recipes, but I have gradually settled on one recipe that is my mainstay for almost all of my soaps now.

I used the same colors as Anne-Marie in her book: chromium oxide, hydrated chromium green oxide, and titanium dioxide. I didn’t have any aloe vera leaf or gel or any cedarwood essential oil. Anne-Marie (and Holly and Zahida) used the lavender and cedarwood essential oil combination, which I’m sure smells divine. In fact, I’m kind of wondering if it smells like Bramble Berry’s Lavender & Cedar fragrance oil. I bought some Green Irish Tweed fragrance by BeScented from a friend recently, and I had been wanting to try it. This technique of Anne-Marie’s looked like a good opportunity.

Aside from using my own oil recipe, changing up the fragrance, and deleting the aloe vera leaf/gel, I basically followed Anne-Marie’s advice, with the exception of not spooning the soap into the mold. Like Holly, I opted to pour at thinner trace so that I could get more swirls. I used aloe vera liquid at perhaps just a bit more than the amount Anne-Marie did.

Emerald IsleI divided the soap, but not into precise thirds. I have a 3.5-4-pound mold, and I poured about 1.5 cups of soap into two measuring cups for each of the greens and colored the rest of the soap white. I find that I like the way my soaps look better if they have more white rather than equal numbers of each color. The Green Irish Tweed fragrance doesn’t accelerate, and even though it looks a like it’s a bit dark in the bottle, it doesn’t seem to discolor.

I poured a layer of white soap and then swirled in each of the greens, very similar to the way Holly did in her video. I repeated until most of the soap was gone. I kept some to do a swirly top. I used my new hanger swirl tool (man, did that make this easier!) to add the hanger swirl.

Based on suggestions from Twitter and Instagram friends of New England Handmade Artisan Soaps, I’ve decided to call this soap Emerald Isle. Isn’t it beautiful? And it smells absolutely divine. I haven’t ever smelled Green Irish Tweed by Creed, but it reminds me a bit of Irish Spring. I am definitely sending some along to my daughter, who loves fresh unisex scents like this one.

Emerald IsleI’m really happy with how it turned out. I am using a new brand of titanium dioxide, and I noticed some fine dots near the tops of the bars. I’m not sure if it’s something like glycerine rivers. You can probably see the dots in the image above. It’s funny, but I might have been really disappointed about those white dots in the past, but over time I have come to accept that sometimes titanium dioxide does funny things, and you just have to roll with it. I’m not sure why the titanium dioxide would only be temperamental at the top of the soaps because my experience with glycerine rivers is that they are usually threaded throughout the soap and are less prominent, if anything, at the tops. In any case, the greens really popped after gelling.

Recently, I also tried Anne-Marie’s recipe for Oatmeal Soap for Babies on pp. 78-81. I used her exact recipe, though sized for six bars in my round silicone mold. I also opted to swirl with purple Brazilian clay, so I didn’t add bentonite clay to the whole batch—just the uncolored half. I added lavender essential oil to the soap. Aside from these adjustments, my soap was made with the same recipe as Anne-Marie’s.

I should mention that I don’t really make a clay slurry, either with oils or water, when I use clays in my soap. I just add the clay right to my oils before I add the lye water. I have never had any issues with clay when I have added it in this way, but I have had issues when I have added clay as a slurry. Go figure.

Babies could likely still use this soap, even with the lavender essential oil added, but I plan to suggest it for people with sensitive skin who want to use a gentle, natural soap.

Lavender ChamomileYou can see the specks of oatmeal in the soap. The purple Brazilian clay really is a muted lavender shade that is perfect for this soap. I found this cute video of Katie from Royalty Soaps making this soap exactly as described in the book:

I have to recommend Anne-Marie’s book again. I think beginners will find a great deal of information in it, and so will advanced soapers.

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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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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: 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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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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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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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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Matching Colors with Fragrances

I decided to use the last of my S.O.A.P. Panel freebies, Mandarin Oasis. I didn’t test this fragrance on the S.O.A.P. Panel—it was not one of my eight fragrances, but it was one of the fragrances tested by the second panel last year. Testers received two ounces of each of the fragrances that were ultimately selected for sale.

Bramble Berry describes the fragrance as follows:

This fragrance smells great for both kids and adults! Similar to Energy, one of our top selling fragrance oils, Mandarin Oasis has a sweet orange top note but with a sophisticated undertone. Mid-notes of papaya, ginger and thyme really hold this fragrance together giving it a sweet and sultry aroma. Crisp notes of cotton, teakwood, and neroli make this fragrance extremely versatile for projects ranging from personal perfume, laundry soap, or sugar scrubs. Take your senses on a mini-vacation!

I don’t smell the similarity to Energy myself, but I do smell the sweet notes in the fragrance. I’m not sure I pick out a mandarin orange scent. It doesn’t smell spicy to me at all. I think I do detect the neroli. My nose is not the most sophisticated in terms of making distinctions among all the layers in a fragrance. However, Mandarin Oasis does smell absolutely gorgeous. It’s very feminine.

I’ve written before about using the color wheel to create soap designs. But I don’t use the color wheel alone when thinking about which colors to use. I also think about what colors match the fragrance. When I think mandarin, the first color that comes to mind is orange. I toyed with the idea of an orange, black, and white color scheme for this fragrance, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t think it fit this particular fragrance. I think quite a lot about colors that match the fragrances I use. The image Bramble Berry attaches to this fragrance is black palm trees at sunset. It’s pretty, but it doesn’t quite evoke the fragrance for me either. It seems a little too dark. However, it did give me an idea. What about using sunset colors?

Sunset

Photo credit: Luis Medina

The beautiful oranges, pinks, purples and yellows could work well with this fragrance, and pops of white could help bring the whole look together.

The first thing I did was make an orange embed to represent the setting sun. I neglected to take a photo of it.

I put together my colorants: Rustic Escentuals’s Clementine Pop Mica, Nurture’s Purple Vibrance, Yellow Vibrance, and Pink Vibrance, and titanium dioxide.

Colorants

I mixed the colorants up and decided to use squeeze bottles to make a layered design. I would not do this again. The soap set up a little bit fast, perhaps because of the floral notes in this fragrance or perhaps because of my recipe, but it was very difficult to squeeze by the end.

Mixed Colorants

I attempted to create a video of the process, but it wound up being too long and difficult to capture. I took a picture of the top before I put the soap to bed, but the lighting was not too good by that time (it was after 10:00 PM).

Top of Mandarin Oasis

The next day, I cut the soap. Given how it set up, I was happy with how it turned out.

Mandarin Oasis

It doesn’t look precisely like a sunset. It reminds me more of an impressionist painting of a sunset. Perhaps you can see the glycerine rivers in the titanium dioxide. I think sometimes this look suits better than a solid white, and in this case, I’m happy they happened. They look a little bit more like wispy clouds than they might otherwise have done.

If I were to do this soap again, same colors and all, I might try to use a spoon to create the same effect, as the squeeze bottles proved difficult to use, especially by the end. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of using squeeze bottles in soap designs because they are terribly difficult to clean. I thought they might be faster than using a spoon, but I’m not so sure. I took about two hours to make this soap from start to clean-up. It wouldn’t look exactly the same if I had used a spoon.

On a less complicated note, when a wholesale customer of mine asked for Green Tea & Cucumber, it seemed like a no-brainer to create a soap with a subtle green hue, much the same shade as cucumber flesh. How to get that hue, however? Chromium green oxide might have been a good choice, but it tends toward a moss hue. I wasn’t sure I wanted to use a mica either, as they tend to be more vibrant, and I needed something subtle. Hydrated chromium green oxide is not quite as dark as chromium green oxide, and it has a teal note to it that I thought might work well. The trick is to use just a scant amount. I think I may have used less than 1/8 teaspoon to color this whole batch.

Green Tea & Cucumber

The pureed cucumber in this recipe may also have contributed to the green shade, but it’s mostly the hydrated chromium green oxide because cucumber alone (unless you include the peel) will not result in even this much color. The leaves on top are Chinese green tea leaves—the green tea was a gift from one of my Chinese students. I didn’t think she’d mind if I sacrificed a little bit of the tea for soap. This one hasn’t gelled yet, so I’m not sure what the final color will be, but I don’t think it will stray much from this light, cool green. If anything, it might pick up some yellowish undertones, similar to the color of green tea. It’s exactly the shade of green I wanted, and it complements the fresh green scent of of the Green Tea & Cucumber fragrance oil I used:

This fragrance smells just like freshly steeped green tea with a hint of cucumber. It isn’t your typical sweet cucumber fragrance. The earthy green tea is the most upfront aroma in this fragrance oil giving cosmetic products a fresh and clean scent.

The beautiful thing about soap is that you can use whatever fragrances and scents you want, and you can match colors with fragrances, or you can use whatever colors you want with fragrances.

What do you do? Do you try to match colors with scents? If you have tips, feel free to share in the comments.

 

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Experimenting with Australian Washed Blue Clay

I have admired the way soaps made with Cambrian blue clay look for some time. Once when placing an order with one of my vendors, I decided on a whim to purchase some Australian washed blue clay, thinking it was the same thing as Cambrian blue.

As it turns out, it’s not. After doing some research, I discovered that Australian washed blue clay is actually a kind of bentonite clay. I have used bentonite clay before in shaving soaps because it adds slip, but I hadn’t tried it in a regular soap before. I know that it’s considered to be good for acne, but I decided it was probably fine since I have used a bentonite-clay based shaving soap on my legs and suffered no dryness as a result.

Australian Washed Blue Clay

I’m not sure if everyone sells Cambrian blue clay wet, but Bramble Berry does. Obviously, my Australian washed blue clay is dry. I thought it looked sort of green, but it’s hard to tell with clay until you get it wet, and even then, it doesn’t always look the same as it will in soap.

I decided I would experiment with it anyway because even if it turned out green, that would work just fine with my planned batch. I had decided to use the Lavender & Cedar fragrance oil that Bramble Berry sent me as a thank you for participating in the S.O.A.P. Panel last year. I haven’t seen too many people talking about this fragrance in soaping circles (or perhaps I’m not looking in the right places, which is entirely probable). Bramble Berry does warn that the fragrance loses some of its camphor notes in cold process, which suits me fine. I also thought that it would work well with either a green or a blue soap, so it would be perfect for my experiment with Australian washed blue clay.

I use kaolin clay in most of my soaps because it adds silkiness and creaminess and also helps anchor fragrances so they stick better. French green clay is a staple of my Provence soap. I have used pink rose clay (a form of kaolin) to color some soaps as well, and I have used rhassoul clay in my Guinness Beer soaps. I almost always just add my clay directly to my oils and stick blend before adding my lye. I have had the fewest number of problems with mixing when I have followed this method for using clay.

Another method includes adding clay to the lye water (which you would also only do if you were coloring the soap with the clay only). I have never tried adding it to my lye water.

A third method involves making a slurry with clay and water or clay and oils. I have sometimes had clumps in my clay when I have used this last method, especially if I make a slurry and then add it to a bit of the soap, and then add the colored soap to the rest of the batch and blended as David Fisher describes here. I have had the best luck with this method if I just treat the clay like any other colorant and add the oil or water and clay slurry directly to the soap and blend. If you are doing a swirl or using other colors, it’s the method to try.

Since my Lavender & Cedar soap was going to be one color, I decided to add the clay to the oils and blend. It definitely looked green, but the final test would be adding the lye water and blending. Sometimes the color of the soap lightens once the lye is blended well with the oils.Blending the SoapIn the early blending stages, it looked a lot like French green clay to me. Once I was done blending, sure enough, it was still green.

Blended Soap

It’s pretty, but it’s sure not blue. I poured the soap into the mold.

Blue Clay Soap in the Mold

I decided to sculpt the tops a bit and add some pretty safflower petals.

Blue Clay Soap in the Mold

Here is a close-up:

Close-Up of Blue Clay Soap

In the close-up, you can see the soap has tiny flecks in it. Neither bentonite or French green clay does that (at least in my experience), and I really like the look of it. It’s not quite the same shade as French green clay, but it’s not far off. The safflower petals set it off nicely, but they would also have looked nice with a blue soap.

I would just have to wait for the unmolding and cutting to see what the soap would ultimately look like. So what happened in the end?

Lavender & Cedar Soap

A lovely shade of green. Definitely nothing remotely close to a blue. For the record, I gelled these soaps, too, so if it were likely to morph or change color at all, it would have done so.

Lavender & Cedar Soap

The real shame here is that you can’t smell them, looking at them on your computer screen. Oh my, do they smell good. A nice scent of cedar underlaid with the floral lavender and some other more complex woodsy notes I can’t quite pick out. Ultimately, I think the color is perfect for the fragrance.

Lavender & Cedar Soap

It doesn’t quite look like French green clay, either. The flecks in the soap are quite pretty, and the color does look nice with the safflower petals. The soaps have a nice, silky feel.

Even though the results of my experiment were not what I had anticipated (a blue soap along the shades of a Cambrian blue clay), I’m still quite happy with them. I love the fragrance, and really hope my customers enjoy the soaps.

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