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Finding gifts for the soap maker

Looking for a gift for your soap maker bestie, partner, secret Santa? Finding gifts can be quite challenging for some people, and let’s be honest, no one wants to be that person who keeps getting it wrong, and boy, finding gifts for soap makers is really, really hard. So here are some suggestions that will help you find something that won’t end up on the ‘bad presents’ pile!

The prettiest gloves for making soap

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Who said soap makers need to look boring? Let them own their style with these pretty gloves and some Dame Edna onion goggles (seen at Spotlight). Gloves available from Farmers for only $19.99.

The little mica sieve

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Working with mica can get pretty messy, especially if you’re silly enough like me to try and blow on it. If your soap maker in your life is struggling to keep their kitchen and their face(!) clean, this little sieve will be their saving grace. Found at Stevens for $9.99.

The summer read

 

The hand cream

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Making soap is a caustic affair and really dries out your hands, despite the gloves. Finding the right hand cream that rehydrates and conditions without leaving your hands greasy hasn’t been easy, but I’m a huge advocate for this one. Not only because it works immediately leaving my hands soft and moisturised, but it also has a lovely subtle fragrance. $24 for 4oz or $40 for 8oz available here.

Wire hangers aka hanger swirl tools

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Wire hangers are not quite you had in mind for a Secret Santa or as a stocking filler? I promise you, you’ll hit the jackpot with these wire hangers, also known as hanger swirl tools by soap makers. You see, in New Zealand, we have struggled for years to get some decent swirling tools, and often had to get them shipped from the USA at outrageous shipping costs. But now The Warehouse is stocking them and for only three dollars it will get you ten of these cool tools. So what are you waiting for? Go get them!

The perfect protection

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Do they need a little protection from the caustic fumes and splashes? How about a whole lot of protection? Let them go full Breaking Bad mode with this professional top quality $289 protective mask. Add overalls, gloves and solid shoe wear, and they’ll be all set for soap making! Available from Mitre 10.

The not-soap recipe book

Has your kitchen been taken over by a soap maker? (gasp!) Are you sick of seeing, smelling and even tasting soap everywhere? Having to have takeaways for dinner every night? And are all the subtle and maybe not-so-subtle hints not working? How about steering them towards some baking. Not just any baking, mind you, pretzel baking! Pretzels are dipped in lye, which is what gives them their yummy distinctive flavour. So it’s win-win for all! They get to play with some more lye (yippee!), and you get to enjoy the taste of freshly baked pretzels with a German Weiss beer or a cider. Cue relaxing sigh.

Please note, In My Soap Pot and the author of this blog are not affiliated to any of the companies suggested or mentioned in this article or website, and no money is earned by clicking on the links or purchasing the items.

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Neon swirl soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1250 g of soap
Mould: standard loaf mould

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I recently discovered neon pigments, available from Pure Nature, and they’re perfect for this easy-peasy swirling method to create these stunning soaps. I loved the bright colours so much, that I repeated the same recipe with three different colour combinations. Yellow and green, pink and orange, and a trio of pink, blue and purple. I’ll let you decide which you like the best!

This recipe is an ideal introduction into swirling after you’ve done a few other soaps. The swirling method is really easy to do and pretty much fail-safe. You just need to make sure you’re using a fluid soap recipe, because one of the most common problems encountered with swirling or any technique that takes time, is that the soap starts to thicken and becomes impossible to pour. This recipe I’m using here is my go-to recipe whenever I need time.  It is an adaption of a pure Castile (olive oil) soap, to which I’ve added castor oil (for extra lather) and sodium lactate, a natural additive which helps speed up the hardening of the soap. The result is a lovely mild cleansing bar of soap with all the good qualities of olive oil, but without the long curing time.


Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

If you have never soap before, I strongly recommend you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first, and make several other easier soaps before continuing.

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ONE: First prepare your lye by weighing out the caustic soda and water. And then, carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and stir until the lye water is clear.

Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate, and set aside to cool down. I usually leave my lye solution to cool down in the sink. So in case I knock it over, it will spill into the drains, and the worst thing that will happen is that I have clean drains.

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TWO: In the meantime, weigh out the olive oil and castor oil in your soap pot, which can be a large stock pot, a pyrex jug, or even an empty 2L ice cream container. Set aside.

neon colours

THREE: While you are waiting, prepare the colours. Mix 1/2 -1 teaspoon of each colour that you will be using with 1-2 teaspoon of oil (for example olive oil) in a small beaker or container.

If you are using just two colours, use 1 teaspoon each, for three colours use 1/3 teaspoon each, and if you are using four colours use 1/2 teaspoon of each colour.

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FOUR: Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves, carefully add lye to the oils and then, using a stick blender, pulse and stir to thin trace. Make sure you keep the soap at a very fluid, thin consistency. If you’re worried about getting it too thick, you can also use a whisk and beat the oil/lye mixture until it has emulsified (does not separate). I often can’t be bothered getting my stick blender out and will just whisk the soap. (Yes, that works perfectly fine!)

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FIVE: Add the fragrance to the emulsified soap mixture and give it a quick stir.

I used different Candlescience fragrances for each of the colour combinations:

  • green and yellow: coconut lime
  • orange and hot pink: mango and tangerine
  • white, bright pink, blue and purple: sweet pea

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SIX: Separate the soap into roughly equal portions depending on the number of colours you are using and add the colours to each pot of soap. Using your stick blender or whisk, briefly mix each pot until the colour is evenly dispersed through the soap.

Note for the white/pink/blue/purple soap, I left one portion uncoloured.

SEVEN: To create the swirls, pour a line of one colour along the length of your mould. You can either pour to the line on the side or the centre, it’s up to you. If you pour it in the centre, you’ll have a roughly symmetrical soap, like the white/pink/blue/purple soap, and if you have the line more to one side, it will be more skewed, like the yellow/green soap below.

Next pour a line of another colour INTO the same line of soap that you just poured. So instead of pouring the soap next to each other, you keep pouring into the same line over and over again, and this pushes the colours to the side and creates the swirls that you see in the soaps.

You can be a bit more daring, and instead of one line, create two lines into which you pour the soap, just like I did with the orange/pink soap (further below). Or you can change halfway and start a new line on the other side. You can’t really do anything wrong. Even if you don’t hit the previous line of soap exactly, it doesn’t matter, you’ll still get your swirls.

Keep pouring, alternating the colours, into the same line until all the soap has been used up.

Leave the soap somewhere warm and dry, out of direct sunlight, to cure.

EIGHT: After 2-3 days, check if the soap has hardened and isn’t sticky and soft anymore. Don’t be tempted to unmould to soon, like I was with the orange/pink soap. The hardest part of creating swirl soaps is waiting for the soap to become hard enough to unmould. Once it is hard enough, carefully unmould, and cut it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

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Neon swirl soap

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 950 g olive oil
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 128 g caustic soda
  • 280 g water
  • 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon each of the neon colours you are using
  • 30 ml fragrance

Directions

  1. Measure out 280 g of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out 128 g of caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye solution is clear.
  2. Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate to the lye solution. Set aside to cool down.
  3. Weigh out the olive oil and castor oil in your soap pot. Set aside.
  4. Prepare your essential oil blend. Set aside.
  5. Mix 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of each colour with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil in a separate pot. The exact amounts depend on how many colours you are using. Set aside.
  6. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  7. Using a stick blender or whisk, stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  8. Add 30 ml of fragrance and give it another quick mix with the stick blender.
  9. Divide the soap into roughly equal portions and colour each portion with one of the colour/oil mixture. Briefly mix each pot a quick pulse with a stick blender or whisk until the colour is evenly dispersed through the soap.
  10. Pour a line of one colour along the length of the mould.
  11. Pour another colour of soap into the previous line of soap. Keep repeating the colours until all the soap has been used up.
  12. Place the soap in a warm, dry area to cure.
  13. After 2-3 days, check if the soap is firm enough to unmould. Remove from mould and cut into bars. The bars will need further curing for about 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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Solid shampoo bars

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 45 mins

Yields: 4 bars

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Learn how to make this gentle cleansing shampoo bar, which leaves your hair soft, silky and tangle-free. Suits all hair types, and this tutorial is a great introduction for those wanting to venture into making solid shampoo and conditioner bars. Also check out this hydrating solid conditioner bar!

All the ingredients are available from Pure Nature or your local soap making supplies shop.

Please note SCI (sodium cocoyl isethionate) powder is very irritating if breathed in or gets in your eyes. I know it sounds like a total contradiction, since it is a very mild, non-irritating cleansing surfactant. But we work with it as a very fine, light powder, which is easily airborne, and our lungs really, really don’t like it. So make sure you wear goggles and a breathing mask (dust mask) and have your windows open!

ONE: Start by preparing all your additives. First add 1 teaspoon of citric acid to 10 ml of hot water and then stir until the citric acid has dissolved. Then add the coco-caprylate, provitamin B5, the orange essential oil and the mica, if you decide to add colour. Stir everything together.

The citric acid helps to soften the water, especially in areas of hard water (see blog post about hard water here). It works by reacting with the mineral ions in the water, and basically rendering them inactive.

Coco-caprylate is one of my favourite little secret additives. It is a natural alternative to silicons derived from coconut. It is a lightweight emollient, which coats and seals in moisture, making your hair smooth, tangle free and shiny. But unlike silicons, it doesn’t build up in your hair, is easily washed out and is biodegradable.

Provitamin B5, also known as panthenol, keeps your hair hydrated. The provitamin B5 turns into pantothenic acid when absorbed into the hair shaft, where it binds water and thus retains moisture inside the hair.

And the essential oil I’m using in this shampoo bar is orange essential oil, which is not only a delicious fruity fragrance, but is also full of anti-oxidants and vitamin C, is known to increase the ability of absorbing vitamin C as well, and is an excellent moisturiser with calming, soothing qualities on both skin and mind. And also who doesn’t love orange?

TWO: This part can be skipped if your sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) comes in powder form. In any case for this part and the next part, you will need to wear goggles and dust mask to avoid breathing in the powder and to prevent it getting into you eyes.

If your SCI comes in pellet form, use a bullet or food processor to grind it into a fine powder. The finer the powder, the easier it will be to work with. SCI is very difficult to melt due to its high melting point, and by using powder instead of pellets, you can significantly reduce the melting time from hours (pellets) to minutes (powder)!

The benefits of sodium cocoyl isethionate (SCI) is that it is a very mild and gentle (anionic) surfactant which is naturally derived from coconut and also biodegradable unlike most anionic surfactants (except soap).

Be careful to let the powder settle before opening the bullet or food processor and to tip the powder in at once from a very low height. I usually go outside to do this and let the dust settle again before going back inside. Like I said, the powder makes you sneeze!

THREE: Once you have your SCI in powder form, weigh the correct amount and then add the coco-glucoside. The coco-glucoside is also natural and derived from coconut oil and fruit sugars. It is added as a non-ionic co-surfactant, which acts as an emulsifier, foaming agent and conditioner. Basically, it helps make a nice smooth fluid paste, makes sure you have a great lather when you use it, and it conditions your hair while you clean it.

Once you’ve combined the SCI and the coco-glucoside, it’s time to melt it. You can either use the microwave or directly on your stove. If you are using the stove, use the lowest setting and keep stirring gently. You can also use a double boiler, but that will take longer. I found if I use the lowest setting on my stove, it works just as well as a double boiler!

However, I’m using the microwave here. When you use the microwave, use it in burst of 30 seconds initially and then reduce the burst to 10 seconds. Stir briskly between the bursts and always keep an eye on it in the microwave because it can boil over! When it starts rising, stop, stir, and then put it back in for 10 seconds, until you have a paste similar to the photo below.

FOUR: In another pot, add your BTMS-25, cocoa butter and Dehyquart F75. These are all conditioning agents. Melt it until liquid in the microwave or stove top, and then add it to the SCI/coco-glucoside paste.

The BTMS-25 is naturally derived from rapeseed, coconut and/or palm oil. It is a conditioner pellet made from 25% behentrimonium methosulfate and 75% cetearyl alcohol. For those following the curly girl method, behentrimonium methosulfate is a very mild, non-stripping and non-irritating conditioning agent, and not a sulfate like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium coco sulfate (SCS) and other similar harsh surfactants.

Dehyquart 75 is another conditioning ingredient, which soften and moisturise hair. It is made of distearoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate and cetearyl alcohol, and comes in off-white waxy flakes or pellets. The active ingredient is the distearoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate, which is a quaternary ammonium salt like the BTMS, and like BMTS-25 is not he prohibited ingredients in the Curly Girl Method. The cetearyl alcohol is a combination of cetyl and stearyl alcohols, which help stabilise the emulsion, but also give the shampoo its silky and creamy appearance and helps soften and hydrate your hair.

If you don’t have Dehyquart 75, you can add another 10 g of BTMS-25 instead. 

Cocoa butter also has excellent conditioning properties, is incredibly nourishing for your hair and leaves it soft and shiny. There’s just the right amount of cocoa butter in this shampoo, so that it will condition your hair without leaving it feel greasy and heavy.

FIVE: Mix everything to a fluid paste like in the photo. It will take a little while to stir until everything has been thoroughly incorporated into the paste.

SIX: Then add the additives that you have pre-mixed in the beaker and stir everything until it is an even colour.

SEVEN: Pour the shampoo mixture into your moulds and let them cool down and set overnight before using. I prefer to let them dry out for about a week before I shut the lid or use them, just because I find that it helps make them long-lasting that way.

This has become my personal favourite shampoo bar at the moment, because I don’t need any conditioner with it. I’ve also mixed up the essential oil blend a few times, just because I don’t like using the same thing over and over again. Lavender and mint is a nice alternative, or just plain lemongrass, which is the one I’m currently using. Feel free to experiment a little!

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Solid shampoo bars

  • Difficulty: Intermediate
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 240 g SCI (sodium cocoyl isethionate)
  • 80 g coco-glucoside
  • 40 g BTMS-25
  • 20 g cocoa butter
  • 10 g dehyquart F75 or extra 10 g BTMS-25
  • 10 ml hot water
  • 1 teaspoon citric acid
  • 1 teaspoon coco-caprylate
  • 1/2 teaspoon provitamin B5
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange mica
  • 5 ml sweet orange essential oil
  • 4 clamshell moulds

Directions

  1. In a small beaker, add the citric acid to the hot water and stir until dissolved.
  2. Add the coco-caprylate, provitamin B5, essential oil and mica, and stir until it is a slurry. Set aside.
  3. If the SCI is in pellet form, grind it up into powder using a bullet or food processor. Make sure you are wearing goggles and a dust mask, and have your windows open. DO NOT BREATHE IN THE DUST!
  4. Carefully, still wearing goggles and mask, combine the SCI and coco-glucoside and either melt in the microwave or stove top, until melted to a fluid paste. Be careful in the microwave, as it can suddenly start boiling (foaming) over.
  5. In another small jug or pot, add the BTMS-25, cocoa butter and dehyquart, and melt it until liquid.
  6. Pour it to the SCI/coco-glucoside mixture and give it a very good stir.
  7. Add the contents from the beaker (see point 1 and 2) you’ve set aside and stir everything until it has blended to a smooth paste.
  8. Lastly, pour the shampoo mixture into the moulds. You’ll need to work fast, as the mixture starts to set and thicken quickly.
  9. Leave the bars to cool down completely before unmoulding. They can be used immediately, though it’s better to let them dry for about a week before use.

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Solid conditioner bars

Difficulty: Beginners
Time: 30 mins

Yields: 1 bar

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Conditioner bars are the solid versions of hair conditioners, using similar ingredients but without being diluted in water, which makes them so much more economical to use. One solid conditioner bar is equivalent to 2 or more bottles of liquid conditioners. As opposed to hair serum bars (more on that in a later blog post), conditioner bars are meant to be used on the ends of the hair, not on the scalp, and unlike shampoo bars, which clean your scalp and hair, conditioner bars condition, nourish, protect, boost shine, and restore vibrancy to your hair. Conditioner bars are made using non-ionic surfactants, oils, butters, and special ingredients, such as hydrolised proteins and panthenol, that are highly beneficial to the hair. This makes conditioner bars slightly more expensive to make than shampoo bars, but the benefits of all the goodness in your conditioner bar greatly outweigh the costs.

One solid conditioner bar is equivalent to 2 or more bottles of liquid conditioner!

The following recipe is for one 100 g solid conditioner bar, which will fit in a clamshell mould available from Pure Nature. If you would like to make more than one bar, just multiply the amounts appropriately. For example if you want to make 6 bars, multiply all the ingredients by 6.

Please note that the recipe uses hydrolysed silk protein, which is not vegan. Alternatively, you can use wheat or soy protein instead. All the ingredients used in this recipe are available from Pure Nature.

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ONE: Weigh out 60 grams of BTMS-25 into a heat proof bowl or jug. I will be using a microwave to melt the ingredients, but alternatively, you can use a small pot and your stove.

BTMS-25 is the name for one type of conditioner pellets, and is an abbreviation for the active ingredient, behentrimonium methosulfate. For those following the curly girl method, behentrimonium methosulfate is not a sulfate like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium coco sulfate (SCS) and other similar harsh surfactants. Instead, it is a very mild, non-stripping and non-irritating conditioning agent (a quaternary ammonium salt to be precise), derived from natural rapeseed oil.

The 25 in the name stands for the percentage of active ingredient in the product. So therefore, BTMS-25 contains approximately 25% of behentrimonium methosulfate and the remaining 75% is cetearyl alcohol. There is also a BTMS-50, however, this product also contains butylene glycol, a humectant moisturiser, but which is derived from petroleum, which is why I don’t use it in my tutorials. Instead, I will add glycerin later, which is also a humectant.

Cetearyl alcohol, or cetostearyl alcohol, is a combination of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. These are fatty alcohols and are nothing like their liquor namesake. Drinking alcohol, rubbing alcohol, or ethanol are all short-chain alcohols, which act as solvents and should never be used in your hair. Fatty alcohols, on the other hand, are long chain alcohols with a waxy appearance and are used as non-ionic co-surfactants in conditioners to stabilise the emulsion. They also give conditioners their typical creamy appearance (both in liquid and in bar form).

Unfortunately, most fatty alcohols are made from palm oil, and coconut oil derived fatty alcohols are just not yet widely available, at least not here in New Zealand.

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TWO: Next, add 10 grams of cetyl alcohol.

I’m adding extra cetyl alcohol, which will add additional silkiness to the conditioner, and rather than penetrating the hair shaft, it is deposited on the surface, making it feel softer and smoother to the touch.

Cetyl alcohol comes in waxy pellets, and is usually derived from coconut or palm oils by heating the oil with a strong base. The cetyl alcohol I use comes from Pure Nature, which is derived from RSPO certified palm oil. I would have preferred using coconut derived cetyl alcohol, but I have yet to find it here in New Zealand.

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THREE: And finally, add 10 grams of castor oil, which is an amazing hair care oil. It deeply moisturises and conditions, helps reduce split ends, and add shine and lustre to your hair.

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FOUR: Melt on high in the microwave for 30 seconds initially and then in 10 second bursts until completely melted. How long it takes to melt will depend on your microwave. My microwave will take 1 minute, but when I told my students in class to set it that long, it came out boiling!

If you don’t have microwave, or don’t want to use one, melt the ingredients on the stove using a small pot and on the lowest setting. It will take a lot longer, but just be patient, it will eventually melt!

 

FIVE: Once all the ingredients have melted, add the glycerin. This is the humectant I was talking about earlier. It will help keep your hair hydrated.

 

SIX: Let the mixture cool down a little, before adding the coco-caprylate, hydrolised silk protein, provitamin B5, and the essential oils. Then stir until everything has blended together to a smooth, opaque emulsion.

I’ve added coco-caprylate to the conditioner bar, because it is a natural alternative to silicon. Silicons coat, lubricate and seal in moisture, making hair smooth, tangle free and shiny. However, they are non-soluble, build up over time and make your hair heavy and dull with prolonged use. Coco-caprylate, or caprate, is derived form coconut, and has similar properties, with the added bonus that it doesn’t build up, is easily washed off and is biodegradable.

In this recipe, I’m using hydrolysed silk protein, which improves elasticity in hair and protects brittle hair from breakage. However, I’m aware that this is not a vegan product, and you really don’t want to know the process of harvesting silk. I have to admit, I’ve been using it before I realised what I was actually using here. So if you don’t want to use silk protein, the alternatives are vegetable proteins, such as soy or wheat. Hydrolysed just means that it has been broken down into smaller units, allowing the proteins to penetrate the hair shaft.

Provitamin B5, also known as panthenol, works by retaining moisture in hair. It is easily absorbed and turns to pantothenic acid, which binds water and thus enhances hydration.

The essential oils I’m using in the conditioner bar are rosemary, which is full of antioxidants to restore the hair’s vibrancy, and lavender to nourish and condition and add extra shine. The blend has also a soothing and calming effect on the mind, which can help with stress and anxiety, which can be triggers for hair loss.

 

SEVEN: Lastly, make sure the mixture is not too hot (the jug should be cool enough that you can touch the sides), to prevent the plastic mould from warping. Then pour the mixture into the mould and spritz the surface with isopropyl alcohol. to get rid of any bubbles.

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Leave the bar to solidify and cool down completely before unmoulding or closing the lid.

Unlike cold process soaps, you can use the solid conditioner bar immediately. After washing your hair, slide the conditioner bar down the length of the hair a few times and massage it into the hair, but only the ends of the hair and not into the scalp. Leave for a couple of minutes and then rinse thoroughly.

Solid conditioner bars

  • Difficulty: Beginners
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 60 grams BTMS-25
  • 10 grams cetyl-alcohol
  • 10 grams castor oil
  • 10 grams glycerin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coco-caprylate
  • 1/2 teaspoon hydrolysed silk protein
  • 1/2 teaspoon provitamin B5
  • 15 drops rosemary essential oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil
  • isopropyl alcohol

Directions

  1. Weigh out the BTMS-25, cetyl alcohol and castor oil into a heat proof bowl or jug.
  2. Heat in the microwave on high for 30 seconds or until completely melted. Alternatively, you can use a small pot and place it on the stove on the lowest setting until melted.
  3. Add the glycerin and let the mixture cool down a little.
  4. Then add the remaining ingredients, except for the isopropyl alcohol, and stir everything thoroughly until all the ingredients have blended together into a smooth emulsion.
  5. Pour into the mould, and spritz some isopropyl alcohol on the surface to get rid of the bubbles.
  6. Let the bar solidify and cool down completely before removing from the mould or closing the lid, if using a clamshell mould as I did.
  7. The conditioner bar can be used immediately.

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Soap dough (vegan, palm-free)

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 800 g soap

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There’s nothing special about soap dough, you can use any soap as soap dough. There is no secret ingredient or special technique. The trick is to NOT cure the soap, so that it stays soft. In other words, the soap doesn’t dry out and harden. However, not all soap recipes are the same, and a good soap dough is one that is soft, smooth, pliable, and not sticky. Sorcery soap has a book with 20 awesome soap dough recipes, including tallow recipes, vegan recipes, palm free recipes, and lots more. The recipe I’m giving you here is one that I use in my soap making classes, and I’ve tweaked it a little bit to make it even better.  It is vegan, and palm-free like all my recipes here!

In addition, I’ll show you a handy method to make several colours at once, without the hassle of lots of washing up to do! I’m lazy and hate washing up 😉

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For this batch, I’m using the new mica colours from Pure Nature.


If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first.

Before starting, please read the safety and precautions post, especially since this tutorial requires the handling of caustic soda!

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ONE: To prepare the lye, first measure out the water in a heat proof container or jug. Then, in a separate container (I use a little plastic cup for this), weigh out the caustic soda. Make sure you are wearing protective goggles and gloves, then, carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Set aside to cool.

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TWO: In a separate large Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Either heat in the microwave (if using a Pyrex jug) or on the stove (if using a pot), until the oil and butter have completely melted.

You’ll notice the recipe contains a high percentage of coconut oil and cocoa butter. This allows the soap to thicken to the right dough consistency, without having to cure it. I found that if I used too many liquid oils, the soap would be too soft to work with.

THREE: Weigh out the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter. Add the titanium dioxide and give the oils a good stir to disperse the titanium dioxide through the oils. Then, let the oils cool down to room temperature. This part is important. The oils need to be lower than 30 C or else you risk the soap gelling, and you want to avoid that.

The reason for adding the titanium dioxide is to make the base colour whiter, which will make the other colours brighter and more intense.

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FOUR: Now you have two options, you can either use cups or containers to mix your colours in, or what I like to do, is add the soap and the colours to zip lock bags and mix it in there. In either case, prepare your cups or your ziplock bags and have your mica colours ready (I’m adding them straight to the soap without mixing them with oil first). The recipe will make for 8 colours of about 100 g each, so you need 8 cups or 8 sandwich sized ziplock bags.

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FIVE: Make sure you are still wearing your goggles and gloves. Once the lye and the oils have cooled down to room temperature, carefully add the lye to the oils and then using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified (does not separate) and thickened to thin trace.

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SIX: Now add about 100 g of soap to each cup or ziplock bag. Don’t worry, the ziplock bags will stay put. It’s not as difficult to pour into them as it may seem. Also if you are planning on doubling the batch, make sure you use bigger ziplock bags. If you fill them too full, you risk them popping leaks when you squish them later.

SEVEN: Next add the colour to each cup or ziplock bag, and zip them up. I used 1/2 teaspoon of mica for each. It sounds a lot, but you’ll need that amount to make sure you have rich colours and not pastels. It isn’t enough colour to stain your wash cloth or hands, but could give the lather a slight tinge. However, soap dough is usually used to decorate other soaps, so the little bits of soap dough on your soap won’t have an impact on the overall soap.

Then using your hands, and sitting comfortably in front of your TV with your favourite sitcom, squish and squash the little bags to mix the colour into the soap. I did some yesterday, while waiting for my son at his trampolining course. And that did get me some curious looks and questions from the other parents! Btw great way to promote your business at the same time too!

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If you are using cups, mix the colour thoroughly into the soap and then either use plastic wrap to cover each cup airtight, or pour it into a ziplock bag. (See now you have to use ziplock bags anyway!)

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EIGHT: Leave the little bags or cups in a cool area overnight. Check the consistency the next day. It should be ready to use but will probably still be a little sticky. You can use cornflour to dust the dough to stop it sticking as you work with it, or you can leave it for about a week in your ziplock bag or an airtight container. By then the stickiness should be gone.

To work with your dough, remove as much as you need. Knead it to soften it up. Dust the tools and the surface you’re working on with cornflour to prevent the dough sticking to it. A trick I learned from a cake decorator is to add a little cornflour in a muslin bag or cloth and tie it up, and use that as a little dust stamp. To stick dough bits together, use a little water to wet the surface and that will make it stick again.

Once you’ve finished your masterpiece, you might want to spritz it with water or lightly brush it with a wetted soft paint brush, to give it shine and get rid of the powdery look.

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You can store the soap dough in your ziplock bags or an airtight container for several months or more. I’m still using some dough from last Christmas, which was more than eight months ago!

Once you added the soap dough decorations to your soap, the soap will start to harden and firm quickly.

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Soap dough

  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print
Before starting, make sure you wear protective goggles and gloves and work in a well-ventilated area, free from any distractions!

Ingredients

  • 240 g olive oil
  • 200 g coconut oil
  • 120 g cocoa butter
  • 40 g castor oil
  • 80 g caustic soda
  • 180 g water
  • 1/2 t titanium dioxide
  • 8 different mica colours

Directions

  1. Add 180 g of water to a heat proof jug or container. Weigh out the caustic soda and carefully add it to the water, avoiding any splashes. Gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved and the lye water is clear.
  2. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and cocoa butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter have melted.
  3. Add the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and cocoa butter.
  4. Add 1/2 teaspoon titanium dioxide to the oils and give it a good stir. Set aside to cool down.
  5. In the meantime, prepare your ziplock bags. You will need 8 and make sure they’re all open.
  6. Once the lye and the oils have cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective goggles and gloves, carefully add the lye to the oils.
  7. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified to a thin trace.
  8. Pour approximately 100 g of soap into each bag.
  9. Add 1/2 teaspoon of mica to each bag and zip the bag shut, removing as much of the air as possible.
  10. With your hands, gently squish and squash the bags until the colour is thoroughly mixed into the soap.
  11. Set the bags of soap in a cool area overnight to set. They can be used immediately, though it’s better to leave them for a week before using.
  12. Keep the dough stored in the ziplock bags or an airtight container to keep the soap soft and pliable. You can store the dough for at least several months.