Creating swirly mica tops on your soaps looks a lot harder than it is, and the result is simply stunning! The surface of the soap is usually a just as important as the soap itself, and learning a technique that will create beautiful tops is very handy, especially since it leaves a lot of room for creativity. You can create wispy swirls, splatter effects, sparkly accents on your soap, and change the look each time by using a different colour. It is one of my favourite soap finishes.
A great advantage with this technique is that you can use micas that would usually morph in cold process. After the oil get absorbed into the soap, the mica is left on the surface of the soap. And because the micas remain on the surface, they are completely unaffected by the high pH environment of cold process soap making. A handy way of using up those unfortunate mica purchases!
How to do mica swirling
The rule of thumb is to combine 1 teaspoon of mica with 1 tablespoon of light weight oil, such as rice bran oil or sweet almond oil, and mix it to a smooth, fluid paste. It should be more fluid than paste. I use an electric mini-mixer for this, but you can also use a little whisk.
Don’t use too much oil, as it has to be re-absorbed into the soap. If you use too much oil, you risk not all of the oil being re-absorbed and leaving you with an oily surface!
Next, drizzle the mica-oil mixture over the surface of the soap in thin lines and drops. Make sure it’s very free-form and ‘untidy’, and the lines are criss-crossing all over, but try and avoid big blobs of oil. How much of the mica-oil mixture you use, is entirely up to you.
Then, using a chopstick or skewer, lightly swirl the surface of the soap. If you have a very fluid soap, like I have here, the swirls will remain flat on the surface of the soap. If you have a thick soap, you can swirl it into a three-dimensional, uneven surface.
You can swirl any way you like, in circles, straight up and down, in wavy lines, but if you’re still a bit unsure or new to this technique, try swirling it in an intertwining figure eight pattern (see image below), which will always give you a very pretty finish, regardless if you have thick or thin soap.
To finish off, spritz the surface lightly with 99% isopropyl alcohol. This will prevent any soap ash forming on the surface, and hiding those pretty swirls!
It will take about a day or so for the soap to absorb all the oil. A bonus effect is that re-absorption of the oils will leave behind little grooves on the surface, as you can see in the image below. Places where the oil was thickest will have the deepest grooves. So even if your soap was very fluid, you will have a bit of a 3d effect after all!
Seriously, how pretty is that?
You don’t have to use gold mica for the swirling, you are free to use any colours or combination of colours to get gorgeous results like that. Be daring and get creative!