There was time when “Mango Tango” mica and I weren’t on speaking terms, but it was a TOTAL misunderstanding! I’ll explain… You see, at the very beginning of my soapmaking journey, I used only natural botanicals, vegetable purees and clays to add color to my soaps. It’s not that I had anything against micas, I just never looked into where to buy them. In early 2017, that all changed though! A very dear friend, and fellow crafter, sent me a wonderful package of crafty gifts in the mail, and included with these gifts was a very generous amount of micas! It was enough to get any soap maker started on their merry mica way, and on a personal level, it was enough to get me hopelessly addicted!
Listed on the labels of these little jars of colorful bliss was the name of a company. That was all it took for me to become a bona fide Nurture Soap fanatic for life! I think the very first set of micas I bought was Nurture’s Choose 10 Micas Sample Set, followed by the Rainbow Mica Set. In either case, I was introduced to an incredibly lovely orange mica called “Mango Tango”. The very first time I incorporated this color into a batch of soap, I was in awe of how beautiful and vibrant it was!
As time went on, I became increasingly hooked on “CPOP” soapmaking (Cold Process, Oven Process), and that’s when “Mango Tango” and I had our “falling out”. I remember it well… I was making a batch of soap and had the perfect vision in mind for it. It would be a white bar, and would feature bright accent colors of magenta and orange. “Mango Tango” mica had always given me such vibrant results in my previous soap batches, it never crossed my mind that it wouldn’t be anything but fabulous in this batch as well. However, the next day when I unmolded and cut my batch, I was royally bummed. Instead of the bold magenta/orange color combo I’d planned for, I ended up with magenta and light peach.
I felt perplexed! “Mango Tango” had never failed me before, and I couldn’t figure out how this could’ve happened! I chalked it up to the idea that maybe “Mango Tango” mica just wasn’t reliable, and I became hesitant to use it again. Thus, the beginning of our broken love affair began, and we began seeing other micas. It wasn’t until months later, when I was working on a soap project, that it just so happened I needed a specific shade of orange, and “Mango Tango” mica was that shade!
I went into that project feeling cautious, and decided to double my normal usage rate, from 1tsp per pound of oils to 2tsps per pound of oils. The results blew me away! “Mango Tango” mica was so vibrant and pigmented in this soap batch, I began feeling as if I had jumped to conclusions too quickly about its unreliability. I sat back and thought… I’d always been told that CPOP put the “POP” in mica colors, and in most cases, it truly did, but when “Mango Tango” had gotten too hot, it went the opposite way on me. I decided an experiment was in order!
I made two small test batches, both colored with “Mango Tango” mica at a usage rate of 1tsp per pound of oils. One batch was left lightly insulated, with just a cardboard box covering it, and the other batch was placed in the oven at 170°F for one hour, then left to cool in the ambient heat. The next day, my suspicions were confirmed. It wasn’t that “Mango Tango” mica was unreliable at all; it just didn’t like excessive heat! The batch that I had forced gel by placing in the oven was a lovely peach tone, and the batch left out to insulate under a cardboard box was a beautiful shade of orange! I owed “Mango Tango” an apology!
I realized I had misunderstood this stunning mica, and began to think that maybe mica colors had their own individual “personalities” too! If I could understand each color’s “personality” better, I’d be able to get the best color results possible in my soap batches. I learned that many orange, coral, yellow and white micas liked being used at higher usage rates. If I wanted to achieve super-pigmented results with them, increasing their usage rates to 1.5tsps to 2tsps per pound of oils yielded more vibrant results. I also learned that oranges and corals, in particular, preferred to not get too hot during saponification, and generally remained bolder and truer when my soap batches were only lightly insulated, or left uninsulated altogether.
Reading experiences from fellow crafters, I realized I wasn’t the only one who had witnessed this mysterious case of the morphing orange mica, but it made me sad to see some positively stunning shades of orange micas receive poor mention over the very same simple misunderstanding I once had myself. I felt like it was time to give orange and coral micas everywhere their due justice; to show others just how magnificent these colors could truly be in cold process soap! “Orange Justice” is what I’d call it; it had a ring to it! Hmmm... Why did this have a ring to it? Oh yeah! It’s totally the name of a dance from a popular video game my oldest son is always going on and on about. BUMMER! I’d have to change the title of this blog post, but the intention remains the same! Come along with me, and let’s give some fabulous orange and corals micas their due justice!
The soapy project for this week’s blog is actually quite simple, and was loads of fun to make! So much so, I ended up making two batches of soap, but you’ll see why later! I decided I was going to take every single orange and coral mica that I own from Nurture Soap and incorporate them into one single batch of cold process soap! Micas that had even a pinch of “peachiness” to them would be included too. I started pulling colors out of my mica stash, and ended up with 10 micas in total: “Orange Vibrance”, “Orange Marmalade”, “Eye of The Tiger” (This one’s a mica blend, so it was totally in!), “Electric Orange”, “Mango Tango”, “Summer Crush”, “Wanderlust”, “Coral Reef”, “Cantaloupe” and “Winter White”. I know, I know, “Winter White” mica definitely isn’t orange, but I thought it would add an accent of pretty contrast to the soaps, so I couldn’t not include it!
Of course, this batch just had to include some soap frosting too, so my very first step was to get some decorative melt & pour embeds made. Oops! Where are my manners? We haven’t even talked about the fragrance oil yet! Ya’ll, there’s TWO of them this time, but I don’t want to ruin the surprise just yet, so we’ll just gush about one of them- for now! For this project of orangey-coral awesomeness, I chose a fragrance with an equal level of awesomeness: Nurture Soap’s “Sunshine on My Mind” fragrance oil! I LOVE this fragrance, and would describe it as “orange on happy pills”, even though there’s much more than just oranges and prescription medications going on in this aromatic blend!
With notes of freshly peeled oranges, orange zest, tangerine, mandarin, bergamot and a whisper of gardenia (Which lends an ever so scrumptious clean, slightly aldehydic, vibe to the blend as a whole!), this fragrance is fantastically fresh, clean, invigorating, juicy and potent! It’s positively fabulous, smells amazing in cold process soap, lasts forever in application, and is great for both experienced and new soap makers alike! It doesn’t cause any mischief in cold process, and is a fragrance I could easily make a 10-color batch with, no problems!
With “Sunshine on My Mind” fragrance oil as my inspiration, I used Nurture Soap’s Low Sweat Soap Base and their Small 9 Ball Silicone Mold to make little spheres, colored with “Coral Reef” mica (Oh my goodness! This mica makes for the BEST pink grapefruit-type color in melt & pour soap base!), as well as “Mango Tango” and “Orange Marmalade” micas to create happy, little citrus wedges (Channeling my inner Bob Ross here!).
While I waited for my lye solutions and batch oils to cool down to around room temperature, I got busy dispersing each of my 10 mica colors in a little bit of carrier oil. I wanted to pour the colors in a specific order within my batch, so marking each mica in the order I wanted to pour them really helped to stay organized! I’m actually one of those oddballs who washes and reuses the little plastic cups I use to disperse my micas in (They’re surprisingly durable, and it helps me cut down on waste and cost!), so if you ever see a cup in a future blog post picture that has completely unrelated markings on it in Sharpie marker, that’s why!
Lye solution cooled to room temperature? Check! Batch Oils no hotter than 80°F? Check! Mica colors dispersed and ready to rock? Check! It was time to get to soapmaking! Now, keep in mind, “Sunshine on My Mind” fragrance oil is a very soap maker-friendly fragrance oil, but I was also working with 10 colors, so I needed to allow myself some extra time too. I blended my soap batter to just past emulsion, to a very light trace, then split it into 10 eyeballed-equal portions. To allow myself even more time (Since I do like to take my time when I can!), I incorporated my mica colorants first,into each portion of soap, then stirred the fragrance oil in by hand last. Each mica color was used at a rate of 2tsps per pound of oils, to achieve optimum color results within my finished soap... Except for “Eye of The Tiger” mica, which is insanely vibrant, and needs no more than 1tsp per pound of oils to do the job! The sheer amount of orange, coral and peachy-pink shades sitting on my countertop felt slightly overwhelming, but looked so darn pretty too!
I began pouring my batch, each designated portion at a time, and because it’s no secret I'm a total sucker for swirls, I decided to pour this batch in my most favorite down-the-center tiger swirl design, followed by a hanger swirl. I brought my hanger tool down from the top, completed four large loops before hitting the bottom of my mold, then brought the tool up, on the side closest to me, to complete the swirl. Everything went smoothly, and it was only until nearing the end of pour that I noticed my soap batter beginning to get thicker. Such is often the case when working with a lot of colors though. It definitely took some time getting all those soap portions poured, but I knew it was going to be worth it! I was already completely in love with how bright, lively and vibrant all those glorious colors looked in my soap batter!
To finish up the main batch of this project, I grabbed a bamboo skewer, and for the sheer fun of it, added some fun “swirlies” to the top of my soap loaf. This would, of course, be covered by my soap frosting, but if you’d like to make this soapy creation at home, and would prefer to omit the piped-top, you can certainly stop right here! Piped-top or not, you’re still going to end up with a wonderful batch of handmade soap, because you made it, and you’re a soapmaking rockstar- believe it!
My next step was to get my batch of soap frosting whipped up and piped onto the top of my soap loaf. At the very last minute however, I switched up my original plan. The original plan was for an all-white top, using an ATECO #172 piping tip (That I had actually purchased from Nurture Soap!), but at the very last second, I decided I wanted to incorporate orange into this portion of the project too. Like the three bears from the tale of Goldilocks, I split my batch of soap frosting into 3 portions: One large portion, colored in “Winter White” mica; one small portion, colored in “Mango Tango” mica; and one medium portion, colored in a combination of the two. The plan was to pour the darkest orange portion into my piping bag first, followed by the lighter orange portion, then the white portion of soap frosting to top it off.
All was going smoothly, as I began to get the top of my soap loaf frosted... Until that rare, but so annoying, phenomenon happened that every “high-top” soap maker has experienced at least once in their soapy lifetime... I’m talking about that strange phenomenon of the de-accelerating soap frosting! Things will be going along beautifully, with your soap frosting at the perfect consistency, then suddenly- BAM! Your soap frosting reverts back to a fluid consistency, for no apparent rhyme or reason. It’s not a common occurrence at all, but when it does happen, it’s so aggravating!
For me, it was only the middle, light-orange portion of soap frosting that reverted back to a fluid consistency, which was actually quite surprising, considering that was the portion that had set up to the perfect pipeable consistency a little sooner than the other two portions had. One minuet I was making perfect dollops of soap frosting, the next, I had thin, “loosey-goosey” soap batter spilling out the top of my piping tip- UGH! Thankfully, I caught this strange and rare occurrence while working on the ends of my loaf, which would be trimmed off anyway, but I don’t even have an explanation for it, other than wondering if false trace can happen even when your soap batter has already reached a thick consistency.
I can’t even blame the fragrance oil, because I didn’t add any to my soap frosting this time! “Sunshine on My Mind” fragrance oil is so wonderfully fragrant, what I’d incorporated into my main batch was delightfully potent enough. If this annoying and unexplainable phenomenon ever happens in your own soap frosting batches though, worry not! Just discontinue piping the top of your soap batch, calmly set the piping bag down (Because at this point, you might be tempted to chuck it across the room!), then just give it some time to set back up again in the piping bag before continuing on. For me, it took about eight to ten minutes for this portion of my soap frosting to think about what it had done, and then apologize to the rest of the class, but eventually I was able to finish up my piped-top, and it turned out looking like a delicious creamsicle!
To finish this batch of outstanding oranges and captivating corals, it was time to add my final embellishments! First was a misting of Nurture Soap’s “Heart’s Desire” Enviroglitter, using a handy-dandy Glitter Spray Pump (I LOVE these babies!). That was the moment when I’m almost certain my heart skipped a beat! As soon as I began dusting this exceptionally gorgeous Enviroglitter onto my soap, it went from looking like a yummy, summertime treat to having the most sensational coral-orange “ombre” effect! This glitter is positively breathtaking!
Once I recovered from being entranced by “Heart’s Desire” Enviroglitter (and wiping away the drool!), I finished up by placing my melt & pour embeds on top. They looked adorable, and tied the whole look together! It was time to call it another soapy day and get this batch lightly insulated.
So, remember just now when I said “lightly insulated”? Well, this is where I had somewhat of an “oops, I lost my mind” moment! This is how it went down: I had every intention of placing a simple cardboard box over my soap, and this was more for the purpose of shielding the batch from the mayhem that is my kitchen... Family members see an overturned cardboard box, and automatically know not to touch it! That’s not quite what happened though!
Right as I was placing said cardboard box over said batch of soap, my phone rang. I picked it up, proceeded to have a lovely conversation with a friend, and my brain immediately switched over to autopilot. Without even thinking, I absentmindedly did what I always do- I grabbed my trusty insulating blanket and insulated the batch. Now, normally, that wouldn’t have been a huge problem. It’s okay to insulate your batches of soap that feature lots of orange and/or coral colors. You’ll just want to check your batch every so often to ensure it’s not getting too hot. These shades don’t mind getting a little warm during saponification, it’s when the batch gets hot that you run the risk of losing vibrancy in these colors. Well, just my luck, this batch got HOT!
It was hours later when what I'd done actually hit me! I ran over to my batch of soap, snuck a hand under the insulating blanket to check the temperature, and knew it was already too late. As I removed the blanket and cardboard box to try to get the batch cooled down (In retrospect, I probably should have tossed it in the fridge. Well, not “tossed”, but you know what I mean!), I held on to a kindling of hope that maybe I’d caught it in time, and everything would be alright.
The next morning, I unmolded the batch (It was still a little warm-ish to the touch), and as I made that very first cut, my hope turned into the realization that I had known all along. I’d allowed this batch to get way too hot. I freaked out... How was I supposed to show other soap makers how vibrant and bold these colors were in application if they weren’t as vibrant and bold as they could be? Now, don’t get me wrong, the colors themselves were lovely, and the soaps came out looking very pretty to me, I just knew these incredible colors had even more potential. Because of the increased usage rates, not a single mica had morphed in color, they just weren’t as vivid, bold and pigmented as I knew they could be... Except for “Eye of The Tiger” mica. That one’s just insanely pigmented, and there’s nothing that can break its stride! If micas were athletes, “Eye of The Tiger” mica would be Michael Phelps!
I sat there, just staring at each bar of soap for a good while, deep in thought. What was I going to do? The soaps themselves weren’t bad looking by any means, and they smelled divine, but this just wasn’t what I had in mind for this project. It suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks! “This is actually perfect!”, I thought, “I’m going to make lemonade from lemons!”. Instead of pouting over unmet expectations, and playing the “should have” game with myself (Oh if only I hadn’t done this or that!), I was going to use this to my advantage! With this batch of soap, I could really show my fellow soap makers (With a visual!) the difference between orange and coral micas that get too hot during saponification, and those which remain nice and cool! I happily made a second batch of soap with a renewed feeling of purpose!
So, this is that part of the blog where I get to gush about that second fragrance oil I mentioned earlier! With this second batch of soap, everything about the main portion of the batch remained the same (same recipe, same soapmaking temperatures, same mica colors, same color-order of pour, same design), except for the fragrance oil. Sadly, I was fresh out of “Sunshine on My Mind” fragrance oil, so I needed to use another fragrance which would also have those wonderful aromatic qualities of citrusy awesomeness, as well as behave as awesomely in cold process soap as “Sunshine on My Mind” does.
I think it took me a whole four seconds to determine which fragrance oil I was going to use for this batch: Nurture Soap’s “Awaken” fragrance oil! This marvelous, mouthwatering masterpiece of scent is just as its name implies! With fresh, revitalizing notes of lemongrass, lemon verbena and bergamot, on a base of subtle rosewood, this scent is positively energizing and enlivening! What’s more, this fragrance oil is quite possibly the most well-behaved fragrance oil on the face of the planet; and as an added bonus, I've never had any issues with it becoming overly warm or hot during saponification.
Excited to have gotten to work with not one, but two fabulous fragrance oils for this blog post, I happily got to work making my second batch of soap! I did switch up the design of the frosted top for this batch though, opting to use “Winter White” mica to keep the soap frosting all white this time, and coloring my melt & pour citrus-wedge embeds with “Lemon Drop” and “Lime Appeal” micas (Such apt names!). I kept “Coral Reef” mica as the color for my citrusy spheres, and couldn’t say “no” to another dusting of “Heart’s Desire” Enviroglitter to the top of this batch either!
This time, I was careful to not get distracted, and simply placed a cardboard box over the completed batch, sans insulating-blanket. I periodically came back to check the warmth of the batch, and at no time did it get overly warm during saponification. The next morning, when I unmolded and cut the batch into bars, I audibly said to myself, “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!”. This second batch had done those orange and coral micas true justice!
Comparing the two soap batches side-by-side, I was able to make several observations! First observation: If “Sunshine on My Mind” fragrance oil was “orange on happy pills”, “Eye of The Tiger” mica is orange on steroids! It really didn’t matter much at all whether the batch got hot or stayed cool, this mica blend isn’t bothered by anything! Second observation: My peachy-pinks (“Summer Crush” and “Cantaloupe” micas) weren’t really affected either way, and came out looking beautiful in both batches. In fact, to my observing eyes, these two micas actually appear to be a tad more vibrant in the batch that got hot, but still look lovely in both batches! Third observation: In both batches, all of my orange micas remained orange. Not a single one morphed to a peachy tone, and I truly believe that the increased usage rate of 2tsps per pound of oils had a lot to do with that. It is apparent however, that the vibrancy and intensity of each orange mica is definitely increased in the batch that stayed cool. Fourth, and final, observation: The colors most affected by the differences in temperature were the coral shades, “Wanderlust” and “Coral Reef” micas. I mean, there’s just no comparison there! The difference in “Wanderlust” mica is astounding, and to be honest, I had a bit of a difficult time identifying where “Coral Reef” mica actually was in the batch that got too hot. In the batch that stayed cool, I could easily see it!
So, there you have it, my fellow, amazing amigas and amigos of soapmaking! If you’re desiring to achieve the boldest, brightest, most vibrant shades of oranges and corals in your soapy creations, keeping those batch temperatures cooler during saponification will help, as well as increasing usage rates to 1.5tsps to 2tsps per pound of oils. I truly hope that in some small way, you’ve found the ramblings of my mind helpful, and that you’ll be able to use the information here to have the best experiences and results possible when it comes to making those gorgeous soap batches of yours; and incorporating Nurture Soap’s sensational orange and coral micas into them!
This week’s soapy project was an unexpected surprise for me- in many ways! I definitely wasn’t expecting to make two batches of soap, and when things didn’t turn out the way I’d planned, I panicked! My first reaction was that I had messed up, and without being able to demonstrate the whole point of the blog’s topic, it would be a total bust. The best unexpected surprise though, was that with my little “oops”, I was actually able to take those lemons, and make me a tall glass of lemonade with them! I was able to demonstrate the topic even better than how I’d originally intended! That, right there, is one of the many ways in which soapmaking is so worthwhile! This craft truly does keep you on your toes... Right when you think you’ve got it, you’re thrown a curveball that gets you thinking all over again! Whether you’ve been making soap for a month, a year, or even 10+ years for that matter, those unexpected, surprise “oopses” happen to us all. It’s what you do with those “oopses”, or how you embrace them, that makes all the difference! The next time you find yourself with an unexpected batch of “oops”, remember one thing: Sometimes the biggest “oopses” result in the most beautiful batches of soap; or at the very least, the best opportunities for learning and growth! Oops or no oops, YOUR soaps are uniquely fabulous because they were handmade by YOU! That trumps ANY commercial bar of soap you’ll find on a grocery store shelf ANYWHERE!
RECIPE USED FOR THIS PROJECT:
Lye @ 5% Superfat
Aloe Juice @ 33.33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Liquid: Lye)
40% Olive Oil
30% Coconut Oil
10% Castor Oil
10% Cocoa Butter (Deodorized)
10% Shea Butter
"Sunshine on My Mind" Fragrance Oil OR"Awaken" Fragrance Oil @ 6% Usage Rate
Sodium Lactate @ 3% Usage Rate
Kaolin Clay, Added Directly to Fragrance Oil @ 1/2TBS/PPO
Mica Colorants @ 2tsp/PPO: "Winter White", "Orange Vibrance", "Orange Marmalade", "Summer Crush", "Eye of The Tiger" (*1tsp/PPO), "Wanderlust", "Electric Orange", "Coral Reef", "Mango Tango" & "Cantaloupe" *Poured in This Order
SOAP FROSTING RECIPE USED FOR THIS PROJECT:
Lye @ 5% Superfat
Distilled Water @ 33.33% Lye Concentration (2:1/Water: Lye)
40% Olive Oil
30% Coconut Oil
10% Castor Oil
10% Cocoa Butter (Deodorized)
10% Shea Butter
Mica Colorants @ 2tsp/PPO: "Winter White" OR"Winter White", "Mango Tango" & "Winter White" + "Mango Tango"
"Heart's Desire" Enviroglitter (*Dusted on Top)
Melt & Pour Embeds: Citrus Wedges in "Mango Tango" Mica & "Orange Marmalade" Mica OR"Lemon Drop" Mica & "Lime Appeal" Mica, 7/8" Balls in "Coral Reef" Mica
SENSATIONAL PRODUCTS FROM NURTURE SOAP USED IN THIS PROJECT:
2.5lb Basic Soap Mold
Low Sweat Soap Base (Clear)
Glitter Spray Pump
Small 9 Ball Mold
Sunshine on My Mind Fragrance Oil
Awaken Fragrance Oil
Heart's Desire Enviroglitter
Winter White Mica
Orange Marmalade Mica
Eye of The Tiger Mica Blend
Coral Reef Mica
Electric Orange Mica
Summer Crush Mica
Orange Vibrance Mica
Mango Tango Mica
Lime Appeal Mica
Lemon Drop Mica