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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