April 01, 2019 3 min read
There are a lot of requests for simple, straightforward, ‘natural’ soaps. It’s hard to say what that means since, in terms of manufacturing, the word has no meaning. But in soap making, I think it refers to soaps without mica color and fragrance oils, that are colored and fragranced with pure plant products. There are some issues with ‘natural soap’, but it can be beautiful and pleasant to use, so long as you keep a few things in mind.
Natural soap can still contain allergens, or be toxic. Coconut is a common allergy. Any plant matter can cause allergic reactions. There are essential oils that are not appropriate for topical use at all, and nomenclature can be confusing. For example, I was looking to make an Aleppo soap. It is essentially an olive oil soap with ‘bay oil’, ‘bay laurel oil’ or ‘laurel berry oil’, depending on your source. One is illegal in Europe because it is considered toxic. There is a lot of confusion online about which is actually used in Aleppo soap, and there seem to be people using all three in soap, despite arguments that at least one is toxic. You must do your research, even with plant-based oils.
These soaps can be beautiful, but it is very hard to achieve very brilliant colors without micas or soap-safe dyes. There are clays and natural colorants that are exceptions to the rule, like activated charcoal and indigo, and others, but the range will be narrower. These colorants often have other beneficial properties that may add to the qualities of your soap, but the very bright swirls will likely be out of reach.
You can list ALL of your ingredients if you have used straightforward plant or animal products, making it easier to use for people with extreme or multiple allergies. The particular components of Nurture Soap’s fragrance oils are available on the purchase screens for each oil, along with the most common allergens present, but it is impractical to list every component of an oil on a label. Some people just don’t use any of them in an attempt to avoid the specific chemicals of which they are made. Fragrance oils are always tested for general safety, but people can develop allergies to anything, creating a huge market for these soaps. So I decided to give it a shot. I chose hot process because my first soaps ever were hot process, and I wanted to see if I could turn out something better than the first one.
So, here’s a great little hot process soap I put together because I have a lover of limes in my family. I used lime essential oil and dried basil for fragrance, and it turned out great. I melted the soaping oils it in my little soaping crock pot. I calculated out the lye water, blended, and put on the lid. Hot process takes a little while to cook fully, so I sat beside it with a book, and stirred periodically to keep it from puffing out of the pot.
I don’t care much for the scent of raw soap.
But I love the smell of this dried basil in the mortar and pestle.
Once it fully cooked, I took it out to cool a bit before adding the lime oil. Then the crushed basil, and stirred. A lot. It had already begun to set, and was a bit of a challenge to get into the mold.
If you’re not accustomed to hot process, you’ll want a practice batch. My hope was that since this had already saponified, I could let it cool and hold on to my lime oil a little better. I’ve read both that this absolutely works, and that it absolutely does not. I didn’t do a true experiment with a comparison to a cold process version, but I can say that this soap still smells sweetly of lime and less of basil, and it was made early in the new year. So it definitely helped the citrus hang around.
I could have unmolded this soap by evening, and maybe I should have. I gave it a full 24 hours and struggled to cut it with my sad little soap cutter. (I’m saving up for a nice one.) But it is a very hard, very pleasant, bubbly, soap to use. This oil blend works beautifully in hot process, if you prefer that, and the scent of lime still lingers beautifully around the soaping room. Give it a shot.
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|Erin is a writer living quietly in the Appalachians, making soap and writing health care articles and horror fiction. She's obsessed with fragrances and the moods they evoke, and uses her soap to inspire her fiction, and her fiction to inspire her soap. She's probably baking delicious cupcakes right now. Or soaping them!|