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.

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Milk Soaps

Milk soaps are so much fun to make, and there are so many choices. How do you know which kind of milk to use or even how to use it? It depends on what qualities you’re looking for in your soap.

Coconut MilkCoconut Milk

Coconut milk is possibly my favorite milk to use in soap, and it is also one of the easiest. Some of the qualities I have noticed are a tendency to increase fluffy lather with big bubbles and to lighten the color of the soap. Most milk soaps will be a bit darker than water-based soaps, but coconut milk soaps look lighter than water-based soaps to me. Coconut milk soaps feel creamier than water-based soaps as well. I use coconut milk just like I use other milks: I freeze the milk and add the lye a little bit at a time. The handiest method might be to measure it out in ice cube trays, freeze it, and then just use the amount you need. I think that coconut milk behaves a little better than other milks. It doesn’t tend to discolor, like goat milk will, and it is a lovely creamy white right up until you add it to the oils. I have noticed that like other milks, the lye will begin to saponify the fats in the coconut milk, so I tend to give it a stir every few minutes until I’m ready to add it to my oils just so that it stays smooth. However, I haven’t had any problems when I’ve added thicker, partly-saponified coconut milk to my oils. I use coconut milk in several of my soaps. I recently used it in a Creamy Coconut soap (along with real cream) that turned out very nice.

Creamy Coconut

Goat Milk

Goat milk is the soap maker’s standby, and it’s fabulous in soap. It comes in three kinds: fresh, condensed, and powdered. I have used all three, and I prefer using it fresh or powdered. My experiments with condensed milk did not go as well. I think it discolors more than fresh goat milk, too. If you do use it, make sure you remember that you need to add equal parts water. Most soap makers who use it will reduce the amount of water for a recipe by half and mix that with their lye, making up the other half of their liquids with condensed goat milk.

Fresh goat milk works best when it’s frozen, just as I described with coconut milk. Add the lye to the frozen milk a little bit at a time, stirring well until the lye is dissolved each time. If you keep the temperatures low, making use of ice water baths when necessary, goat milk will discolor less, but it will still discolor. I happen to think naked goat milk is rather pretty.

Lilac Goat Milk Goat milk produces a creamy, moisturizing bar of soap. It can be used raw or pasteurized. I haven’t noticed if it affects the lather much, but it does feel nice on your skin.

I also used powdered goat milk in some of my soaps. I add the powdered milk directly to my oils and stick blend it in to combine it until it is well incorporated, and I can’t see any clumps. I have never had any problems using powdered milk in this way, though I have heard some soap makers actually mix up the goat milk powder with water and then freeze it, just as with fresh goat milk. Some soap makers also add the milk powder at trace. Powdered goat milk still adds creaminess to the soap, but it’s much easier to use than fresh goat milk.

Cow Milk

I have used cow milk in my Chocolate Milk bars. It works fine, and I liked it, but I do feel that goat milk adds a certain extra something that cow milk doesn’t. I recommend using whole milk when using cow milk. It should also be frozen and mixed slowly with the lye. I noticed that while goat milk tends to turn an orangey shade when it is getting too hot, cow milk turns more yellow.

Almond Milk

I recently made my own almond milk and used it in a new Sweet Almond and Honey soap, and I loved it. The soap has a fluffy, bubbly lather and smooth feel. There are too many variables to say for certain the almond milk made all the difference—I also used more sweet almond oil than I typically do, and the soap has honey it in, which likely contributed to the wonderful lather.

Sweet Almond and HoneyI used almond milk in the same way as I did every other milk: I froze it and added the lye slowly to the frozen almond milk. I noticed this milk, like coconut milk, stayed whiter, but it did not saponify with the lye that I could tell, and it could be that it has less fat. It was nice to work with, and I’d do it again.

Yogurt

Yogurt is wonderful in soap. I use full fat plain yogurt and mix it with an equal amount of water to thin it. Then I freeze it and use it like I would any other milk in soap. It truly adds a luxurious feel to the soap. It feels smooth and creamy. I think some soap makers add yogurt to their oils either before adding the lye or at trace, but I haven’t tried that yet, though I have used yogurt powder in my oils, and it’s very nice—similar to goat milk powder.

Buttermilk

I like using buttermilk powder in soap more than fresh buttermilk, but that’s just because it’s a little easier. Buttermilk has alpha hydroxy acids that are very good for facial soaps. I use it in my Lavender Chamomile facial soap.

2013-06-08 11.53.56This is a very nice facial soap for a lot of reasons, including the oil combination, the chamomile-infused olive oil, and the French pink clay and lavender essential oil, but the buttermilk contributes very nice qualities to it.

Cream

Cream is amazing in soap. I have not tried substituting all my water for cream, but I have tried adding cream to my oils before adding the lye, and it results in a very nice, luxurious feel.

Coffee and CreamIn my Coffee and Cream soap, I mixed cream with the white part you see marbled through the soap, in addition to the coffee you see in the brown part. It was a little bit of juggling, but the bar is so amazing! It smells and feels incredible.

If you want to learn more about making soap with a variety of milks, I highly recommend Anne L. Watson’s book Milk Soapmaking.

Coconut milk photo: John Revo Puno

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Cucumber Yogurt Soap

I’ve been wanting to make a cucumber yogurt bar for a long time. Heidi Corley Barto has a recipe for a soap using a cucumber purée in her book The Natural Soap Chef, and after reading about the testers’ reaction to Anne L. Watson’s Yogurt Parfait soap in Milk Soapmaking, I decided I should try to combine the two. A quick Google search told me I was not the first person to have this idea. After all, it makes sense. Don’t spas give cucumber/yogurt facials, after all? If those two ingredients weren’t wonderful for your face, then the spas wouldn’t be charging the big bucks for facial treatments.

Cucumber Yogurt SoapRecipe

  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 225 g palm oil
  • 120 g shea butter
  • 275 g olive oil
  • 200 g avocado oil
  • 55 g castor oil

155 g lye
186 g cucumber-water purée
187 g plain whole milk yogurt

The Process

First I peeled two small cucumbers and shaved off the seeds with my peeler as well. Barto suggested using English cucumbers because they have fewer seeds, but I either couldn’t find them, or my store didn’t have them, so I just opted for some small pickling cucumbers. I imagine you could just use one big cucumber, but since it was the first time I made this soap, I wanted to go with smaller cucumbers in case one was enough. After I peeled and deseeded the cucumbers, however, I decided two was probably more like it. I added distilled water to the cucumbers and puréed them in my blender. Barto also suggested not peeling the cucumbers so that the peel added pigment, but I wasn’t too sure about that, so I peeled them.

I mixed half cucumber-water purée with half yogurt and froze the mixture in an ice cube tray. When I was ready to make the soap, I mixed the lye with the frozen cucumber-yogurt cubes and melted my shea butter, coconut oil, and palm oil in a large bowl. Then I added olive oil, avocado oil, and castor oil to the melted hard oils. Once the cucumber-yogurt and lye mixture was 90°, I added it to the oils and stick blended it to a light trace. Then I added a tiny bit of green pigment that didn’t really wind up coming through in the soap, and a very nice cucumber melon fragrance oil from Nature’s Garden, a new favorite vendor that has reasonable prices and a wide variety of products.

Cucumber Yogurt SoapCreative Commons License

Cucumber Yogurt Soap by Dana Huff is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
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Facial Mask Image via eHow

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