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Lemon Myrtle Soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or approximately 10 bars

Recently I was debating the benefits manuka essential oil vs tea tree essential oil, when one of my Australian soap friends mentioned Lemon Myrtle. I’d heard of lemon myrtle before, but I’d never used it in any of my products. Discussing the properties of lemon myrtle soap, I soon came to realise that lemon myrtle is totally underrated. We always think of tea tree oil as being The Wonder-Oil, but lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), also native to Australia, is just as powerful if not more so. And it has the added bonus that, unlike tea tree, it smells delicious! (Can you tell I’m not a huge fan of the tea tree scent?)

So let’s begin with the fragrance. Lemon myrtle is said to smell more lemon-y than lemon itself, and I’d say that statement is pretty accurate. Lemon myrtle oil contains more citral compound, which is what gives lemon its lemon scent, than lemon oil. In fact, lemon myrtle has over 90% pure citral compound compared to 10% found in lemons. In soap, the fragrance of lemon myrtle essential oil is also stronger and longer lasting than lemon essential oil, which, like all citrus oils, are very volatile and fleeting, and don’t hold well in soap. Lemon myrtle is definitely more expensive than lemon, if you are going for fragrance only, but there is a lot more to lemon myrtle than just a pleasant aroma.

Like tea tree and manuka, it is considered to have anti-viral, antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic properties, but is also anti-inflammatory, soothing and calming, reduces redness and itchiness, and has an uplifting and refreshing effect on the mind. Like the popular tea tree/lavender combination, it can be used to treat problem skins, cuts and grazes, insect bites and stings, rashes, inflammations and infections. In soap, which is a wash off product, it adds an antimicrobial and antiseptic aspect to the cleansing properties of the soap, which makes it ideal for hand soaps, which need that bit of extra disinfection from dirt, grime and germs.

The soap we are making here is a natural, yet effective hand soap, to which I’ve added lemon peel powder to give it a bit of extra scrub. Both the lemon myrtle essential oil and lemon peel powder I am using in this soap are available from Pure Nature.

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

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

ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature. I’ve added 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate, which is a natural additive, to my lye solution to make the soap harder and easier to unmould.

TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter in a microwaveable jug or bowl, and heat in the microwave until the oils have melted.

THREE: Add the liquid oils to the melted coconut oil and shea butter.

FOUR: Add the lemon myrtle essential oil to the oils, and give everything a good stir.

FIVE: Once your lye solution has cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils.

Use your stick blender to mix the lye/oil blend until it has emulsified, and is still fluid. For those working with trace, you’ll want a thin trace.

SIX: Separate 1/3 of the soap into a separate jug or bowl.

SEVEN: To the remaining 2/3 of the soap, add 1 tablespoon of lemon peel powder. Lemon peel powder is a gentle exfoliant, unlike pumice, so if you want more exfoliation, you can add a heaped tablespoon of lemon peel powder.

Mix with the stick blender until medium trace – thin enough to pour, but thick enough to be able to support layers.

EIGHT: Give the smaller portion of soap in the jug, a quick burst with the stick blender to thicken up the soap to the same consistency of the lemon peel powder soap. Then add 1 heaped teaspoon of poppy seeds, and then stir it through with a spatula or spoon.

NINE: To assemble the soap, first pour about half of the lemon peel powder soap into the mould, and gently tap the mould on the bench to even out the layer. Next, pour all of the poppy seed soap over the first layer. To prevent the soap from breaking through and disturbing the previous layer, pour the soap over the flat part of the spatula to spread out the stream of pour. Lastly, pour the remainder of the lemon peel powder soap over the poppy seed layer.

TEN: Use a spoon to texture one side of the soap, and sprinkle some poppy seeds over the other half.

ELEVEN: Let the soap cure for a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it harden for another few days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Lemon Myrtle 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

  • 400 g olive oil
  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 100 g shea butter
  • 200 g sunflower oil
  • 50 castor oil
  • 138 g caustic soda
  • 280 g water
  • 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate
  • 30 ml lemon myrtle essential oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon peel powder
  • 1 tsp poppy seeds

Directions

  1. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (not the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate to the lye solution and set aside to cool down.
  3. Weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter and melt in the microwave or on the stove top until completely melted.
  4. Add the olive, sunflower and castor oils to the now liquid coconut oil and shea butter.
  5. Then, add 30 ml of lemon myrtle essential oil to the oils and give everything a good stir.
  6. Check if the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective gear, carefully pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified (thin trace).
  7. Separate about 1/3 of the soap into a jug.
  8. To the remaining 2/3 of the soap, add 1 tablespoon of lemon peel powder and mix with the stick blender until medium trace.
  9. Give the soap portion in the jug a quick mix with the stick blender until it has the same consistency (medium trace) as the lemon peel powder soap.
  10. Then add 1 heaped teaspoon of poppy seeds to the soap and mix it through with a spoon or spatula.
  11. To assemble: first pour half of the lemon peel powder soap into the mould, then pour all of the poppy seed soap over the first layer, and lastly, pour the remaining lemon peel powder soap over the poppy seed layer.
  12. Use a spoon to texture one half of the soap surface, and sprinkle poppy seeds over the other half.
  13. Leave the soap to cure a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it stand for another few days before cutting into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

 

 

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Manuka soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars of soap to fit a large loaf mold

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Manuka honey has been on an upward trend the past few years and not without reason. The medicinal properties of honey have been recorded since ancient times, and manuka honey has one of the highest anti-microbial activity, inhibiting growth of over 60 species of bacteria (Mandal & Mandal, 2011). It is used to assist in wound healing, in skin care, prevent and heal infections and stimulate growth of new skin cells. The importance of natural remedies, such as honey, has increased in importance “as resistant pathogens develop and spread, the effectiveness of the antibiotics is diminished”. The quoted paper ‘Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity‘ is a good read and accessible to the public.

Honey soaps, especially soaps containing Manuka honey and essential oil, are particular effective cleansers in that they contain anti-microbial properties yet remain mild and gentle on the skin. However, honey soaps are tricky to make, because the additional sugar can cause the soap to overheat and burn. The higher temperature are difficult to work with, but if you follow a few tricks it is possible to create a beautiful bar of soap with all the benefits that honey will add to it.

TOP SOAPING TIPS WITH HONEY:

 

  1. soap at cool temperatures
  2. do not insulate your soap
  3. do not discount your water
  4. place the soap in the fridge for the first 2 hours after pouring

The Manuka soap that we are making uses Manuka honey, Manuka essential oils and beeswax from Manuka honey, to maximise the benefits of Manuka in the soap. I used the Manuka essential oil from Pure Nature, but alternatively you can use a tea tree oil for a cheaper alternative. The Manuka honey I bought from my local supermarket, and I didn’t go for the most expensive one! The Manuka beeswax I still had left over from a friend, and you can use any beeswax as a substitute, although I would recommend to go for an unbleached and undeodorised beeswax.

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

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

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ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature.

TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and beeswax, and heat in the microwave or stove top until the oil and wax have melted.

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THREE: Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil to the now liquid coconut oil and beeswax, and give it a quick stir.

FOUR: MAKE SURE YOUR LYE HAS COOLED DOWN TO ROOM TEMPERATURE OR LOWER. Add two tablespoons of Manuka honey to the lye and stir, stir, stir until the honey has completely dissolved. This will take a while, but don’t be tempted to use warm lye because the honey will heat up the lye and you can end up burning the lye if the lye is still warm. Just be patient and keep stirring. You’ll notice the lye turning a reddish colour. That’s fine and how it should be. Let it cool down again.

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FIVE: Check the temperature of your oils. They should be no warmer than 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit). Add the Manuka essential oil to the oils and give the oils a good stir.

SIX: Add the lye to the oils, and use your whisk or stick blender to mix the lye/oil blend until it has emulsified to a medium trace. Pour the soap into the mould.

For the swirly surface, I used a chopstick in a looping figure 8 pattern along the length of the soap.

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SEVEN: PLACE THE SOAP IN THE FRIDGE FOR THE FIRST TWO HOURS! This is important. The sugars will heat up the soap during the chemical reaction, and placing it in a cold environment will both prevent the soap from heating up too much and will help keep the colour of the soap a nice cream colour rather than the usual caramel-brown colour of honey soaps.

After two hours (approximately), take the soap out and place it somewhere cool to cure. I put mine in the laundry, which is the coolest room in our house. Don’t insulate or cover your soap!

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EIGHT: Let the soap cure for a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it harden for another few days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Note: honey is a humectant, meaning it will draw moisture to the product and honey soaps are prone to DOS (dreaded orange spot), which are harmless but don’t look pretty. Make sure to store the soaps in a dry area to prevent DOS and moisture forming on the soap.

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Manuka

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

Ingredients

  • 400 g olive oil
  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 270 g sunflower oil
  • 30 g beeswax
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 135 g caustic soda
  • 270 g water
  • 2 tablespoons Manuka honey
  • 30 ml Manuka essential oil

Directions

  1. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (not the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Weigh out the coconut oil and beeswax and heat in the microwave or on the stove top until completely melted.
  3. Add the olive oil, sunflower oil and castor oil and give it a quick stir.
  4. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, add 2 tablespoons of Manuka honey and stir until dissolved.
  5. Check the temperature of the oils. They should be no warmer than 32 C (90 F).
  6. Add the Manuka essential oil to the oils and give everything a good stir.
  7. Carefully pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified to a medium trace.
  8. Pour the soap into the soap mould and place it in the fridge for 2 hours.
  9. Remove from fridge, and place it in a cool spot to cure.
  10. Leave the soap to cure a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it stand for another few days before cutting into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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Beauty (shower) bar

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars of soap to fit a large loaf mold

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As I often explain in my classes, don’t put in expensive oils in your soaps, because soap is a cleansing product, which is to be rinsed off and you’d be literally flushing your money down the drain! Think of it, a bar of soap will last how many showers? Fifty? Hundred? And each time you only use the tiniest sliver of your bar of soap, which after lathering your skin, you will rinse off again, because you don’t want any soap left on your skin. Soap is not a leave-on product, it’s a rinse-off product. So keep all the expensive oils and ingredients for your moisturisers and balms, and for your soaps, concentrate on cleansing properties, which not only includes lathering qualities and hardness of a bar of soap, but also mildness, exfoliation, antiseptic, circulation boosting or astringent properties, just to mention a few.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make a good soap! The special blend of essential oils I created for this Beauty (shower) Bar are known for their skin-loving properties and yet are still affordable. The soap also contains 70% olive oil, which is known to make good quality, long lasting bars of gentle cleaning bars of soap. However, a soap made of pure olive oil has a very long curing time and doesn’t really lather well, so I’ve added coconut oil to give it hardness and a nice fluffy lather. The benefit of adding shea butter to the soap is that it contains emollient and moisturising polyphenols that can’t be converted into soap, making it a great additive to soap. Cocoa butter shares similar skin-loving properties as shea butter, adding conditioning and nourishing qualities to the soap. And for mildness, I’ve increased the superfat of this soap to 8%. The only problem with this is that it also increases the risk of DOS (dreaded orange spots), so make sure you follow the instructions carefully and store your soap correctly (dry place, away from humidity!).

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

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

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PREPARATION: Measure out the following essential oil blend:

  • 15 ml rose geranium essential oil
  • 12 ml lemongrass essential oil
  • 5 ml bergamot essential oil
  • 5 ml sweet orange essential oil
  • 3 ml spearmint essential oil

Rose geranium is an all-round skin oil, which, in my opinion, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Applied to the skin, it helps balance the sebum production of the skin, making it beneficial to both dry and oily skins, and its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and cell regenerative properties have proven it valuable for a range of skin problems. I’ve added lemongrass because I love the fresh, lemon-y scent of lemongrass, but also for its tonic and astringent properties, which leaves your skin radiant and glowing. Both lemongrass and bergamot act as deodorisers, and, in addition, bergamot supports the sebum balancing property of rose geranium. Sweet orange is a great essential oil against stress, and not just mental stress. It helps combat stressed skin, boosts circulation, yet also calms the skin at the same time. And lastly spearmint, similar to peppermint, is a wonderful for sensitive and irritated skins. If you don’t have spearmint, you can easily substitute for peppermint, although personally I prefer the fragrance of spearmint in this blend. If you are looking for essential oils, Pure Nature has high quality essential oils at reasonable prices.

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ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature. Because this soap contains 70% olive oil, I added 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate, which is a natural additive, to my lye solution to make the soap harder and reduce curing time.

TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil, shea butter, and cocoa butter, and heat in the microwave until the oils have melted.

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THREE: Add the olive oil to the now liquid coconut oil and butters, and give it a good stir.

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FOUR: Once your lye solution has cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils. If your oils are still very warm, let it cool down a little. It’s ok if it’s a little warmer than usual, but it shouldn’t be more than 30-32 degrees Celsius.

Use your stick blender to mix the lye/oil blend until it has emulsified.

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FIVE: Add the essential oil blend and keep mixing with the stick blender until the soap has thickened to a medium trace. Pour the soap into the mould.

Use a spoon to add texture to the top of your soap and sprinkle a few rose petals over the surface.

SIX: Let the soap cure for a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it harden for another few days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Because of the high superfat content of the soap and the addition of essential oils, this soap is more at risk of DOS (dreaded orange spot) than usual. To avoid these pesky DOS, make sure you cure and store the soap in a dry place with good air circulation, away from humidity.

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Beauty (shower) bar

  • 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

  • 700 g olive oil
  • 200 g coconut oil
  • 50 g cocoa butter
  • 50 g shea butter
  • 132 g caustic soda
  • 260 g water
  • 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate
  • 15 ml rose geranium essential oil
  • 12 ml lemongrass essential oil
  • 5 ml bergamot essential oil
  • 5 ml sweet orange essential oil
  • 3 ml spearmint essential oil

Directions

  1. Prepare the essential oil blend and set aside.
  2. Measure out the caustic soda and the water. Then add the caustic soda to the water  (not the other way round!) and stir until the caustic soda has completely dissolved.
  3. Add 2 teaspoons of sodium lactate to the lye solution and set aside to cool down.
  4. Weigh out the coconut oil and butters and melt in the microwave or on the stove top until completely melted. Add the olive oil and give the oils a quick stir.
  5. Once the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and making sure you are still wearing protective gear, carefully pour the lye to the oils and, using a stick blender, mix until emulsified.
  6. Add the essential oils and keep mixing with the stick blender until medium trace.
  7. Pour the soap into the soap mould and sprinkle some rose petals over the top.
  8. Leave the soap to cure a couple of days before unmoulding, and then let it stand for another few days before cutting into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 6-8 weeks until ready for use.

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Lavender and ylang ylang soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap or 10 bars

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Aromatherapy is usually not associated with soaps, but rather with massage oils and diffusers, to maximise the olfactory effects of the essential oils on both the body and the mind. However, when we use soap in the shower, the steam also enhances the fragrance and envelopes our senses in the fragrance of the soap. The olfactory system, or sense of smell, is a complex, largely passive system, but which can have a powerful effect on the mind. Smells induce memories and feelings in us, and can even change our moods and perception, and bodily responses. For example, think of chocolate and the smell of chocolate. Most likely it will bring up thoughts of eating chocolate. You might feel warm and fuzzy. Maybe you can even smell and taste it in your mind and you might even start to salivate in your mouth. Now think of smelling something disgusting. I’ll leave it up to you what you want to think of. The most common reaction would probably be nausea and you might unconsciously even wrinkle your nose in disgust. These two examples show how powerful the sense of smell can be, and we were only thinking of the smells. Now imagine if we were actually smelling them!

So it makes sense that the fragrance of the soap and shampoo you use in your morning shower will have an effect on your mood and on how you start off your day. Remember this the next time you shower!

With this in mind, I  wanted to create a soap, which focuses on the properties rather than just the fragrance of the essential oils. For this soap, I chose a simple blend of lavender and ylang ylang essential oils. Ylang ylang, which has a delicate floral scent, is said to lift the spirit and induce feelings of joy and happiness. In aromatherapy, it is often used to treat depression and anxiety. Lavender compliments the uplifting effect of ylang ylang by adding calmness and serenity to the blend. The result of the combination is a stunningly beautiful and comforting fragrance.

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 Pyrex 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. Carefully, add the caustic soda to the water (NEVER THE OTHER WAY ROUND!), and avoiding any splashes, stir until the lye water is clear. Add two teaspoons of sodium lactate, which will help harden the soap and set aside to cool.

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

I love using shea butter in my shower soaps because it helps to condition and balance the skin. It’s a great additive for any skin type, especially sensitive and ageing skin.

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THREE: Weigh out the olive oil, rice bran oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and shea butter, and give it a quick stir.

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

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FIVE: Add your essential oils and give it a quick whisk.

SIX: Keep mixing with your stick blender or whisk until the soap has thickened to a medium trace. Then pour it in your soap mold and sprinkle some lavender flowers and rose petals over the surface.

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SEVEN: Let the soap sit in the mold for several days. After 2 or 3 days, check if the soap has hardened and isn’t sticky and soft anymore. Carefully unmold, and leave to dry out for another couple of days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

Lavender and ylang ylang 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

  • 550g olive oil
  • 250g coconut oil
  • 100g rice bran oil
  • 50g shea butter
  • 50g castor oil
  • 137g caustic soda
  • 270 ml water
  • 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 20 ml lavender essential oil
  • 20 ml ylang ylang essential oil

Directions

  1. Measure out 270 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. 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. Add 2 teaspoon of sodium lactate to the lye water. Set the lye aside to cool down.
  3. In a large heat proof Pyrex jug or pot, weigh out the coconut oil and shea butter. Heat in microwave (if Pyrex jug) or stove (if pot) until all the oil and butter has melted.
  4. Add the olive oil, rice bran oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and shea butter, and give it all a quick stir.
  5. 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.
  6. Using a stick blender, pulse and stir until the oil/lye mixture has emulsified.
  7. Add the essential oils and keep stick blending until the soap mixture has thickened to a medium trace.
  8. Pour the soap into the mold and sprinkle some lavender flowers and rose petals over the surface. Leave to harden for several days.
  9. After 2-3 days, check if the soap is firm enough to unmold. Remove from mold and leave to dry for another couple of days, before cutting into bars. The bars will need further curing for about 6-8 weeks until ready for use.