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.

Soap Challenge Club: Butterfly Swirl

Butterfly Swirl Entry

I haven’t participated in the Soap Challenge Club in a long time. I really wanted a chance to try out the Butterfly Swirl, perfected (maybe invented?) by Zahida of Handmade in Florida. I don’t have a deep mold like Zahida, but the beauty of the Butterfly Swirl is that you can get pretty decent results even with a regular mold like mine.

When I participated in the S.O.A.P. Panel last year, I tested a fragrance called Mahogany. I said at the time that it reminded me of a sexy man. You can read my thoughts about that fragrance here and here. I loved the way it smelled. I have been wanting to make a soap with a color palette similar to this:

COLOURlovers.com-Mahogany_Soap

I knew I wanted to use Nurture mica. I have the Vibrance mica set and the Pastels mica set. I previously used the 24 Karat Gold mica from Rustic Escentuals in my Inspiration Soap Challenge. Even in cold process soap, it retains a lot of its sparkle. I hadn’t tried Bramble Berry’s Copper Sparkle mica, but after a quick check to see that it was safe for use in cold process, I decided to try it. I ordered it some time ago as part of a sample pack. I have used Bramble Berry’s Cappuccino mica in several soaps in the past. I love the rich brown shade. My palette hasn’t captured the exact tones of the micas, but it’s close.

I recall hearing Celine say in one of her videos that one color that really pulls a soap together is white. I think she’s right about that. Even if it’s just a little bit of white, it really seems to bring out the design. So, in addition to the four mica colors, I also used a little bit of titanium dioxide to produce a cream color in my soap.

I decided to call the soap “Sexy Man Soap” after my first reaction to smelling the fragrance. Here is a video of the making of the soap:

I really enjoyed the entire process of making this soap. The colors are a lot of fun to work with, and the fragrance is delicious. I’m going to have to order more of it.

The more I work with micas, the more I fall in love with them. I used mainly oxides and ultramarines in the past, but micas have such beautiful hues, and even if their sparkle doesn’t always come through in cold process soap, they’re still lovely to work with.

This technique is interesting because it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing will result in a butterfly shape in the soap. I knew that working with a flatter mold like mine would give me less room to get the shape I wanted, and I was quite pleasantly surprised when I cut the soap and found several bars did indeed have a butterfly shape.

Butterfly Swirl

This first set has a lighter top, but I can make out the shape of wings.

Butterfly Swirl

This second set has a nice shape, and more of the gold and brown show through. The blue is the outline of the wings.

Butterfly Swirl

I thought this third set of soaps made the best butterfly. The brown accents look like the edges of wings, and the blue where the soaps join looks like a butterfly body. The splatter tops look like the tops of butterfly wings. It is this last picture that I will enter for the challenge contest. Don’t you just love that Blue Vibrance mica?

I’m happy with how these came out. I made them for my husband Steve, and he’s claiming three, but he says I can sell the rest of them in the shop. Look for them in time for Valentine’s Day, in case you want to get some for your own sexy man.

You know what? It felt pretty good to make a video again after a long hiatus, too.

Making Melt and Pour Base

Update, July 3, 2014: We have had a few hot and humid days lately, and I can confirm this soap sweats. A lot. However, you might try Cee’s suggestion of reducing the glycerin to see if it results in less sweat. If MP sweat is not a concern, read on…

Ever since I read about the process of making melt and pour base on Cee’s blog, I have wanted to try it, but I knew I really needed to set aside the time because it was likely to be quite a process. I was right. If you try this, make sure you try it on a weekend or day off, when you can devote the time you will need. Mine definitely didn’t turn out like Cee’s, but it was still quite usable and worked very well when I melted it down to make MP soap.

The first thing I did was put my palm oil, coconut oil, castor oil, and stearic acid into the crock pot.Oils in the Crock PotI let the oils melt.

Melted OilsI like how you can see my ceiling fan in the oils. Ha!

I added the lye water and stirred a bit. Here the soap is at a thick trace.

Thick TraceI let it cook for a bit. Here it is at “mashed potatoes” stage.

Mashed Potatoes StageA little while longer, and it was starting to gel.

Beginning to GelI stirred it well and cooked it to the applesauce stage. Once it started to get fluffy, I tested it for zap.

Applesauce StageAfter there was no zap, I poured in the glycerin and stirred.
Glycerin AddedThen I let it cook and melt. Finally, this was about as clear as my batch ever got. Cee’s was very clear. Not sure if I did something wrong.

Almost ClearEach time I would go stir, I saw a skin of hard soap on the top. I never could seem to get it to completely melt into a clear liquid. I am wondering if the temp was too low. Perhaps next time, I should try turning the crock pot up on high and see if that helps.
Soap SkinFinally, I stuck it in the microwave and poured it into the mold, hoping for the best.

Microwaved SoapBut it got these sort of scummy looking bubbles on the top. And I could still see some unmelted chunks of soap. Oh well, I poured it into the mold and let it set up.

I unmolded just a few hours later. It was already perfectly hard and came out of the mold quite easily.

Bottom of MP Soap BaseThe bottom was translucent (but not transparent). It looks a lot like a more opaque version of a regular MP soap base to me.

Top of MP BaseThe top had this sort of scummy white layer. I don’t know if it would hurt to use it, but I cut a slice and trimmed that top part off. Then I made these cute little heart-shaped soaps using some rose pearl mica, Pink Sugar fragrance, and Vanilla Stabilizer.

MP HeartsSo, I can report that the no-alcohol technique seems to work just fine!

Cee cautions on her blog that this recipe has a lot of glycerin, and it might sweat if used as embeds, but you can decrease the glycerin and perhaps get good results.

Here is a video I made of the process.

Thanks Cee (and Zacil) who shared this technique on Cee’s wonderful blog.

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

Titanium Dioxide Crackle

If you use titanium dioxide and gel your soaps, you might occasionally run into an issue called titanium dioxide crackle, also known as glycerine rivers. Here is what it looks like:

Winter Sleigh Ride

If you look closely at the swirls, you can see spots that look more clear and there is a sort of crackle effect in the soap.

Candy Cane

You can see it here in this Candy Cane Soap as well, especially in the soap on the left.

Anne-Marie Faiola says in Soap Crafting: Step-by-Step Techniques for Making 31 Unique Cold-Process Soaps that these clear streaks are “caused by a combination of heat and color additives” (235). I have noticed these glycerine rivers even in soaps that I have not colored. They are a little easier to see in person, but if you look very closely at this Vermont Maple Syrup Soap, you can barely see them:

Vermont Maple Syrup

Usually the culprit is titanium dioxide. I never realized this before, but all oxides can actually accelerate trace. In this video Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks describes the effect oxides can have on accelerating trace:

Amy was using some fragrances that were spicy in addition to oxide colorants. Spicy fragrances can cause the soap to heat up quite a bit, as in this Pumpkin Cheesecake Soap. My intention was to do a drop swirl, but I did a sort of combination of a drop—more of a “plop”—and a spoon swirl. Here is the resulting soap:

Pumpkin Cheesecake

You can see I do have some of the glycerine rivers, especially in the part of the white that mingled with the bottom color, which was the only scented portion of the soap. My theory is that part of the soap was much hotter than the soap on the top.

The only problem with glycerine rivers is a cosmetic one. The soap is perfectly usable. In fact, sometimes it looks really interesting and adds a sort of antique effect to the soap.

I haven’t always been successful at preventing it, but these two soaps were both gelled, and I was able to prevent titanium dioxide crackle by monitoring the temperature of the soap and removing towels when it was getting too hot.

Maine Blueberry

Winter Wonderland

I wanted to gel both of these soaps so that the blue would really pop. Colors are often more vibrant when the soap is gelled.

In the summer, I don’t seem to need to cover my soaps much to ensure gel. I just put the soap mold into a large box, and that seems to be insulation enough. As the weather becomes cooler, I need to work a little harder to ensure gel, which means putting at least one towel over my soap mold inside its box. I usually fold a bath towel in half and drape it over the box containing the mold. I use the box so that my tops are not ruined, by the way.

I check the soap’s temperature every once in a while, and if it looks like it’s too hot, I remove the towel or at least unfold it. I didn’t monitor either of the two soaps at the top of this post (Winter Sleigh Ride and Candy Cane), hence the crackle. I imagine that the soap was a little too warm in its bed because the fragrances I used are well-behaved.

There have been plenty of times I thought for sure my soap would have titanium dioxide crackle, and it didn’t. I honestly can’t seem to predict very well when it will happen, but generally speaking, keeping a really close eye on the temperature seems to help. Unfortunately, you don’t always know when the soap is getting too hot. It’s not always easy to tell. In my opinion, partial gel looks worse than titanium dioxide crackle, so I tend to err on the side of letting the soap fully gel rather than expose it to the cooler outside air and risk partial gel.

Once piece of advice Anne-Marie has in her book is to lower soaping temperatures to avoid glycerine rivers; however, in the case of both of the above soaps, I did lower temperatures and wound up with crackle anyway. In the case of the Winter Sleigh Ride and Candy Cane soaps, I like the resulting look. I think it works especially well in Winter Sleigh Ride.

The best way I have found to avoid glycerine rivers altogether is not to gel my soap. I have to put mine in the freezer for at least a couple of hours before moving it to the refrigerator, where I leave it for a day or two (sometimes even longer). When I take out the soap, I have to leave it in the mold at least another day, sometimes more, and sometimes it isn’t ready to cut for at least week after it’s been made. I like being able to cut the soap the next day, especially because I only have two log molds. However, if I really want to avoid the glycerine rivers, I will prevent gel.

Have you had problems with glycerine rivers? How did you solve them?

Soap Challenge Club: Holly Swirl

Lavender Romance Soap with a Holly swirl. Ingredients: water, olive oil, coconut oil, sustainable palm oil, sodium hydroxide, avocado oil, fragrance, shea butter, cocoa butter, castor oil, kaolin clay, colorant, activated charcoal, yogurt, buttermilk, goat milk, silk.

Lavender Romance Soap

This month’s challenge in the Soap Challenge Club hosted by Amy Warden of Great Cakes Soapworks was to create a soap with a Holly swirl. The Holly swirl is named for its inventor, Holly Bailey, of Missouri River Soap Company. She makes excellent soap and generously shares her techniques on her YouTube channel. You can read her blog here or follow her on Facebook here. The technique is a swirl within a swirl—an in-the-pot swirl of two or more colors coupled with a drop swirl with an additional color. Here is the video Holly made when she tried the swirl for the first time:

Holly mentions in the video that vertical soaps really make this design shine, and it’s true, but I don’t have an appropriate mold for vertical soaps, so I improvised with my standard mold.

Lavender Romance Soap

I used a fragrance that discolors, but I didn’t want it to wreak havoc on my swirls, so I only added it to the black part, colored with activated charcoal. The activated charcoal was a little gray when I first cut the soap, but as the fragrance has darkened, so has the black in my soap. I think it has a sexy look that goes together well with its sexy scent, which is a blend of rustic amber with bold Parisian lavender and a mysterious black myrrh, sweet vanilla tonka bean, and a splash of Egyptian musk rounded out with raw clary sage. I received it as a free sample from Bramble Berry in one of my earliest orders with the company, and I immediately used it to make solid perfume. It smells gorgeous! It’s quite possibly one of my personal favorite fragrances, and I just can’t wait to try this soap!

Lavender Romance Soap

I used ultramarine violet oxide and titanium dioxide to color the swirls, and they turned out well. The fragrance has not migrated very much to the swirled parts of the soap, so they have remained vibrant. The slight discoloration that did occur in some places only adds to the sexy, smoky appeal of the soap (in my opinion, at least).

As you can see, the tops have a mica swirl done with purple and white micas. I did not gel this soap because I didn’t want to risk glycerin rivers in the titanium dioxide. Also, when I work with a new fragrance, I find that not gelling is sometimes smarter because the soap is less likely to do crazy things in the mold.

This soap also taught me to love using activated charcoal in my soap. It is so much fun to see how it looks in the soap batter and the finished soap. It can go gray if you do not use enough, so you need to experiment to determine how much you might need to use.

The Holly swirl technique is fun, and I would definitely recommend trying it, even if you are relatively new to swirling. It was not as complicated as the mantra swirl or the peacock swirl, and I liked the results a lot better, too.

Using Evernote as a Soaping Journal

Do you keep a soaping journal? If you don’t, you should.

  • You can keep track of your recipes so if you really like one, you can replicate it.
  • You can make note of any issues that arise with a recipe or additives, such as a fragrance that accelerates.
  • You can keep track of supplies, cure dates, and soap stock.

My day job is technology integration specialist at a private school, and I have found ways to use technology even in cold process soap making. I have been using software called Evernote to manage my soaping recipes for some time now. Here is a tutorial I made for using Evernote with SoapCalc to manage your recipes.

I have found Evernote indispensable as a tool for soap making. If you check it out, please let me know what you think.

Lavender Chamomile Facial Soap

I recently made a new facial soap designed to be kind to dry, mature, and/or sensitive skin. Volunteers tried the soap, and based on their feedback, I plan to add it to my regular line.

Lavender Chamomile Facial SoapI have decided to call this soap Lavender Chamomile Facial Soap. You will likely not smell the chamomile flowers in the final soap, but you will feel the benefits. I infuse the olive oil in the soap with chamomile, which imparts soothing properties to the olive oil. The soap also has lavender essential oil, a 100% natural fragrance that is used in aromatherapy for its calming qualities. French pink clay cleanses and clarifies the skin, removes dead skin cells, and creates and overall refreshed appearance. Buttermilk also helps clarify the skin and helps remove dead skin cells. Lavender Chamomile Facial Soap contains rich shea butter, chamomile-infused olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, and castor oil. In addition to all these goodies, this soap is made with coconut milk, which is cleansing, but not drying or irritating. The fatty acids in coconut milk help to eliminate dirt, impurities, dead skin, and other blemish-causing materials, but they also increase hydration and replenish moisture in your skin.

In other words, this soap is chock full of goodies for dry, mature, and/or sensitive skin!

Here is what the beta testers had to say about this soap:

  • “I’ve used the soap twice a day for over a week. It lathers well for a facial bar. When I rinse my face then dry it my skin is tight for about a minute, then it feels so soft.”
  • “As far as I’m concerned you have a winner. I love it and would buy it!!!!”
  • “Oh I love this soap! Its very creamy and smells very good! It does not leave my face dry. I do not need moisturizer after. I love it!”
  • “I’ve been using your facial soap for around two weeks now and truly love it! After washing my face, my skin barely feels tight at all! It smells great and leaves my skin feeling so soft and smooth.”
  • “I enjoyed the way it made my skin feel clean without drying it.”
  • “When washing it feels so smooth, then when my face is dry there is some tightness, but I put a small amount of moisturizing cream on, and it is perfect.”

Two testers have also reported that some mild skin irritations have cleared up since trying the soap. I cannot guarantee you will have the same results. Any soap will probably make your skin feel tight initially, but the testers seemed to say over and over that this feeling is much more temporary with Lavender Chamomile Facial Soap and that they are loving the way their skin feels.

If you do use this soap, I recommend that you still use a bit of moisturizer if your skin is very dry. Try using the soap without moisturizer for a few days to see whether or not the soap alone is conditioning enough for your skin.

UPDATE: You can pre-order this soap from the Etsy store.

Here are the making and unmolding videos of the making of this soap. I will be making a new batch this weekend, so you can look for this new facial soap in my store soon. Let me know if you would like to reserve a bar.

Soap Challenge 2013: Week Two—Elemental Swirl

The challenge for week two of Great Cakes Soapworks‘ 2013 Soap Challenge was to create a soap with an elemental swirl. I had never done this type of swirl before, and I think the general idea is to create a soap with contrasting elements, such as reds, oranges, and yellows to represent fire, and blues and greens to represent water. I didn’t exactly follow the “rules” because I had an idea for a soap I’ve been thinking about for some time, but for which I didn’t have a design idea: Hobbit’s Garden. I had already picked out scents of apples, oak, and English ivy, as well as a rainy/earthy scent, so I decided I would divide my scents as I was not doing as many colors as some of the other challenge participants.

Hobbit's GardenAs you can see, the bottom layer has a green, white, and black swirl, and I scented that layer with apples and oak and English ivy. The thin gold mica line in the middle represents the One Ring. My inspiration for the colors is the cover of the first edition of The Hobbit as drawn by J.R.R. Tolkien. The top layer was interesting because I was originally shooting for the bluer cover of The Hobbit.

Hobbit CoverBut the soap knew what it was doing and decided I needed to be a purist and go with darker blue of the original first edition:

Hobbit CoverIn fact, the blue came out exactly the slate blue of the cover above, as you can see.

I am so, so happy with this soap, and I can’t say I would have thought to try to make it like this if I had not been participating in the challenge, so thank you, thank you Amy Warden!

 

Soap Challenge 2013: Week One—Tiger Stripe Swirl

I am excited to be participating in Great Cakes Soapworks‘ 2013 Soap Challenge. Each week offers soapers the opportunity to try a different challenge. The challenge for the first week was to create a soap with a tiger stripe swirl. Of the various challenges planned, this particular technique is the only one I’ve tried. I think it is nice to get my feet wet with the familiar.

Spearmint Stripe

I made spearmint-scented soap I am calling Spearmint Stripe. The soap may have been a bit too thin to do a true tiger stripe swirl. Some of the layers broke through a bit, and others seemed a bit wider than I was looking for. However, I am happy with the way it looks, which is exactly like it smells. My inspiration for the colors was the green and white  spearmint candies similar in appearance to peppermints. The colors came out exactly as I wanted, and the soaps smell delicious.

The soap is chock full of goodies for your skin: olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, and castor oil and a kiss of buttermilk and kaolin clay with a whisper of pure silk.

I just love the way it smells. The spearmint fragrance blends well with other fragrances, but it smells delicious on its own, too. I have noticed, as I said in one of the videos, that this fragrance seems to fade, but it pops back in wet soap, so when you shower with it, you may notice the spearmint scent more than in the dry bar. I am not sure why that is, but as smelling it in the shower is the whole point, I am happy.