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Lemon juice soap

One of the soap groups on Facebook that I belong to does monthly soap challenges and this month they challenged people to make a soap using lemon juice. I thought that was such a fun idea, and something I’d never done either, that I wanted to give it a try myself and show you the process and results, so you can have a go at it yourself.

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One of the problems with using acids, like lemon juice, is that it will neutralise some of the lye in your recipe. The acid in lemons is citric acid, but the amount of citric acid varies between types of lemons as well as between the individual fruits themselves. So unless you’re a chemist with the right equipment, you can’t really know how much of the lye will be neutralised. If it’s too much, you’ll end up with a soft gloopy mixture because of the excess oils that didn’t get saponified (turned to soap). To make sure that doesn’t happen, you need to reduce your superfat or lye discount to a minimum. I reduced my superfat to 2%, and if I replace all the water in the lye solution with lemon juice I will get a soap with a superfat somewhere between 5% and 8%. Here’s the recipe I used:

Lemon juice soap recipe

  • 375 g olive oil
  • 25 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 100 g lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • 15 ml lemon essential oil
  • annatto seed colourant

I pressed out three lemons to get 100 g of juice and placed it in the fridge to cool. Lemons not only contain citric acid, but also sugar, and I wanted to prevent the sugars from burning in the lye.

Once the lemon juice was cold, I carefully stirred in the caustic soda one teaspoon at a time, and check out the cool colour display I got! First it turned a bright yellow before going orange. To be on the safe side, I placed the jug in the sink with cold water to keep the lye from going too hot, and luckily it didn’t get any darker than that orange.

I continued normally using the cold process method: oils in one pot, and once the lye had cooled down, adding the lye to the oils and stirring. Because I knew from other soapers that the lemon fragrance from the juice would not come through in the soap, I added lemon essential oil to the soap,

I also decided to have a little fun with colour using annatto seed colourant, which I added to about 1/4 of the soap mixture. I then poured the colours into a bowl, alternating between the yellow and uncoloured soap, like you do in the ‘in-the-pot-swirl’ method. I gave the soap in the pot an extra swirl with my spatula and then poured it into the mold.

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I had no idea what the lemon juice would do to the colour of the soap and to the soap itself. I didn’t insulate it and despite it being in a cavity mold, the soap did go through a gelling phase. So a word of caution: don’t insulate and keep the soap cool! And despite the soap looking rather dark here in the mold and the next day when I unmolded them, they did turn a lovely white and yellow marble effect after a couple of days. And testing it after nearly a week already felt that it was going to be really pleasant mild soap!

For more information and ideas, check out this blog post about adding fresh ingredients to soap!

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Cucumber mint soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 1200 g soap

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I was given a cucumber mint fragrance sample from Candlescience (available from Pure Nature) and I totally fell in love with the fresh green scent! The fragrance is very subtle and pleasant, and not overpowering at all, infused with citrus and floral notes and a light minty finish. I knew immediately that it would go beautiful in a soap or body lotion. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of summer and the weather is getting muggy and heavy, that I’m drawn to fresh and light fragrances at the moment, but I strongly suspect that this might end up being one of my favourite shower soaps all year round!

For those of you who are wanting a pure natural soap, you can replace the fragrance with peppermint essential oil or one of Pure Nature’s  specially formulated essential oil blends.

The recipe uses fresh cucumber, which consists mostly of water, so we’ll be using it to partly substitute the water in the lye. Cucumber is great for your skin for it’s cooling and soothing properties, due to the ascorbic (vitamin C) and caffeic acids, which help reduce inflammation and swelling. Combined with the antioxidants and silica and the high water content in cucumber, makes it a wonderful additive to skin products. In soap, cucumber adds a freshness and a soothing, cooling quality to your soap. And by adding pureed, unstrained cucumber, the fibre not only adds a very gentle exfoliating effect, but your skin will also get the full benefits of the minerals and vitamins it contains.

This soap uses water substituting, which is an advanced technique. If you have never made cold-process soap before, I strongly suggest you check out the basic cold process soap tutorial first and do a few ‘normal’ batches before moving on to these kind of soaps.

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

To prepare the cucumber, use a stick blender or a blender, blitz until the cucumber is a smooth pureed semi-liquid.

The water substitution we are using in this recipe is 1:1, which means we are using 100 ml less water to make the lye solution, which will make up for the water contained in the 100 ml pureed cucumber. A water discount of 100 ml (40%) results in a very strong lye solution, which will cause the soap to accelerate quickly, so you will need to work very fast. Make sure you have everything prepared and ready before you start making your soap!

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ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature. Again, because of the strong lye solution we are using and the expected acceleration of the soap, it is important to make sure you soap at low temperatures.

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TWO: Weigh out the coconut oil and melt in the microwave.

Side note: I’m using an empty 2L ice cream container as my soap pot because hubby ‘stole’ all my Pyrex jugs for his alcohol distillation! I was not impressed!

THREE: Add your liquid oils (olive oil, rice bran oil, castor oil) and give it a quick stir to blend them together. Set aside until cooled down to room temperature.

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FOUR: If you haven’t already, prepare your cucumber as outlined above. Measure out 100 ml. Set aside your fragrance, so you’ll have everything ready when putting the soap together.

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FROM THIS POINT ON YOU WILL HAVE TO WORK VERY QUICKLY!

FIVE: Once both your oils and lye have cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils, and using ONLY a whisk, mix together until emulsified (light trace).  You’ll notice the oil/lye mixture starting to thicken immediately. WORK QUICKLY!

MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING PROTECTIVE GOGGLES AND GLOVES!

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SIX: Add the cucumber puree, and give it a quick stir with your whisk.

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SEVEN: Add the fragrance or essential oils and using your stick blender now, mix until the cucumber and fragrance has been thoroughly incorporated into the soap. Your soap will thicken very fast now.

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EIGTH: Pour or scoop the soap into your mold and even out the surface with a spatula. You can see from the image above that my soap thickened very quickly and I had to scoop it into the mold. Let the soap harden in your mold for a few days before removing, and then leave it to cure for another 1-2 days before cutting it into bars. The bars of soap will need a further 6-8 weeks of curing before they are ready to use.

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Cucumber mint soap

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

Ingredients

  • 600 g olive oil
  • 250 g coconut oil
  • 100 g rice bran oil
  • 50 g castor oil
  • 135 g caustic soda
  • 150 g water
  • 100 ml fresh cucumber puree
  • 30 ml cucumber mint fragrance from Candlescience
    or 20 ml peppermint essential oil

Directions

  1. Prepare you lye. Set aside to cool down.
  2. Prepare your oils and let cool down.
  3. While you are waiting for the oils and lye to cool down, prepare your cucumber puree. Blitz about 1/4 cucumber with peel on with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth. Measure out 100 ml of the pureed cucumber and set aside.
  4. Measure out your fragrance or essential oil and set aside.
  5. Once the lye and oils have cooled down to room temperature, pour the lye into the oil and using only a whisk, mix until emulsified (light trace). WORK QUICKLY!
  6. Add 100 ml of pureed cucumber and give it a quick stir.
  7. Add the fragrance or essential oil.
  8. Working very quickly, use a stick blender to mix all the ingredients thoroughly into the soap.
  9. Scoop or pour the soap into the soap mold. Even out the surface with a spatula.
  10. Let the soap cure in the mold for a few days before removing and then leave the loaf to harden for another couple of days before cutting into bars.
  11. The bars will need a further 6-8 weeks of curing before ready to use.

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Pumpkin Spice Soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 500 g soap or 4 bars of soap to fit the small square soap mold
To use the larger loaf mold, which gives you 10 bars, multiply the recipe by 2.5

Pumpkin Spice is one of my favourite soaps to make, because the colours associated with pumpkin and spice (orange and brown), means I don’t have to worry about vanillin discolouring, and I can create a beautifully swirled soap with a delicious I-want-to-eat fragrance. The discolouration from the vanillin in the fragrance, only enhances the colour. In addition, I love the idea of adding fresh produce into my soaps, and pumpkin adds both colour and a bit of texture to the soap. The only downside is that by adding fresh puree, you risk getting glycerine rivers in your soap (see the example below), and to avoid this you have to calculate a water discount into your recipe. I usually do a simple 1:1 ratio – 1 tablespoon of puree equals 15 ml less water in my lye.

The recipe has an advanced level due to the various techniques and potential problems involved, and if you are unfamiliar with any of them, or have never made soap before, I suggest to look at the basic tutorial here, and make a few beginner and intermediate level soaps first.

For this tutorial I used a blend of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove essential oils and Creme Brûlée fragrance, which are all available from Pure Nature. The scent from this blend is a delicious, yummy vanilla with spicy overtones – and I think the soaps need to have a ‘Beware! Do not Eat!’ label on them!

BEFORE YOU START, MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING PROTECTIVE GOGGLES AND GLOVES AND HAVE READ THE SAFETY INSTRUCTIONS HERE!

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ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and set aside to cool. I’ve added sodium lactate to mine to ensure a harder bar.

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TWO: Weigh out and melt your coconut oil and cocoa butter.

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THREE: Weigh out and add your liquid oils and set aside.

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FOUR: To prepare your pumpkin, peel and cut into cubes and cook in microwave until soft. With a stick blender, blitz until you have a smooth consistency.

 

Measure out your fragrance and essential oils blend. Also prepare your cocoa powder, by adding 1 teaspoon of powder to 1 teaspoon of lightweight oil.

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Lastly, prepare your mica oils. Add 1/4 teaspoon of mica to 1/2 teaspoon of lightweight oil. Do this for both mica colours. I’m using Coffee mica and Lustre Brown mica from Pure Nature.

Set everything aside until you need them.

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FIVE: When the lye and oils have cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils and using a whisk, stir briefly until emulsified. MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING PROTECTIVE GOGGLES AND GLOVES!

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SIX: Add the pumpkin puree and either using your stick blender or the whisk, stir until the pumpkin has been well incorporated into the soap mixture.

SEVEN: Add your fragrance blend. The essential oils will accelerate trace, so you will have to work quickly from this point on.

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EIGHT: Separate approximately 1/3 of the soap mixture into a separate bowl and colour this with the cocoa/oil mixture. Add no more than 1 teaspoon per 500 ml of soap mixture.

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NINE: In the pot swirl. Pour the now brown coloured soap back into the other pot with the uncoloured soap. With your spatula, swirl the soap around a few times, but don’t over-stir! You don’t want the colours blended too much.

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TEN: Pour or scoop the soap into the mold and tap it a few times on the bench to release any air bubbles trapped in the soap mixture.

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ELEVEN: Drizzle the mica oils on the surface of the soap, and, using a chopstick, swirl the surface of the soap (only the top 0.5-1 cm layer of the soap).

TWELVE: Leave the soap to cure overnight before unmolding, and then let it sit for another day or two before cutting it into bars. The bars will need to cure for about 6-8 weeks before they are ready to use. Note, the colours will darken over time due to the vanillin content of the Creme Brûlée fragrance.

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Pumpkin Spice Soap

  • 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

  • 150 g olive oil
  • 130 g coconut oil
  • 100 g sunflower oil
  • 30 g cocoa butter
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 60 g caustic soda
  • 100 ml water
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • 12 ml Creme Brûlée fragrance
  • 3 ml ginger fragrance
  • 3 ml cinnamon fragrance
  • 1 ml nutmeg fragrance
  • 1 ml clove fragrance
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon prepared pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon lustre brown mica
  • 1/4 teaspoon coffee mica
  • lightweight oil

Directions

  1. Prepare your lye as usual and add the sodium lactate. Set aside to cool.
  2. Weigh out and melt your coconut oil and cocoa butter.
  3. Weigh out and add the liquid oils and set aside to cool.
  4. Preparation:
    1. Pumpkin puree: peel and cut into cubes, and cook in microwave until soft. Using a stick blender, blitz until smooth consistency. Set aside.
    2. Fragrance: measure out the fragrance and essential oils. Set aside.
    3. Cocoa powder: mix 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder and 1 teaspoon of oil. Set aside.
    4. Mica oils: mix 1/4 teaspoon of mica with 1/2 teaspoon of lightweight oil. Do this for both mica colours. Set aside.
  5. When both lye and oils have cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils and stir until emulsified using either a whisk or a stick blender.
  6. Add 1 tablespoon of pumpkin puree and blend until puree has been fully incorporated into the soap mixture.
  7. Add the fragrance blend and stir to mix the fragrance through the soap. Be aware that the fragrance blend may cause acceleration.
  8. Separate 1/3 of the soap into a separate bowl and colour this with the cocoa/oil mixture until you have reached the desired colour.
  9. Pour the brown coloured soap back into the pot with the uncoloured soap and with a spatula, swirl the soap a few times (in the pot swirl).
  10. Pour or scoop the soap into the soap mold and tap the mold a few times on the bench to release any air bubbles trapped within the soap.
  11. Mica painting: drizzle the mica oils over the surface of the soap, and swirl the top 0.5-1 cm of the soap with a chopstick or other utensil.
  12. Leave the soap in the mold overnight before removing, and let it harden for another few days before cutting the soap into bars. Leave the bars to cure for a further 6-8 weeks.

 

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Creamy avocado soap

Difficulty: Advanced
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 500 g soap or 4 bars of soap to fit the small square soap mold
To use the larger loaf mold, which gives you 10 bars, multiply the recipe by 2.5

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Avocado oil, like the fruit itself (yes, avocado is a fruit!), contains many healthy vitamins and minerals for your skin. It is especially rich in vitamin A, D and E and potassium, and the oil penetrates deeply, keeping your skin nourished and moisturised. Adding avocado to your soap, either as an oil or freshly pureed, will add creaminess to your soap and increase the conditioning properties, resulting in a rich, silky, creamy bar, which is great for all skin types, especially sensitive skins. Added lemongrass and peppermint essential oils make for a gentle, yet effective cleanser, and gives the soap a refreshing pick-me-up fragrance!

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This soap uses advanced techniques like water discounting, so I suggest to do a few ‘normal’ batches first if you haven’t made soap before, and then move on to these kind of soaps.

To prepare the avocado, choose one that is ripe but not over-ripe and doesn’t have brown spots. Using a stick blender, blitz until the avocado is a smooth puree. You might have to add a bit of water to achieve a smooth consistency.

The water discount we are using in this recipe is 1:1, which means we are using 1 tablespoon (15 ml) less water to make up for the extra water added in 1 tablespoon of avocado. In addition, I added another 10% water discount to ensure no glycerin rivers will form in the soap.

All ingredients are available from Pure Nature.

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ONE: Prepare your lye as usual and leave to cool down to room temperature. I added 1 teaspoon of sodium lactate to my lye, to make the soap harder.

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TWO: Weigh out your solid oils (coconut oil and shea butter) and melt in the microwave.

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THREE: Add your liquid oils (avocado oil, olive oil, castor oil) and give it a quick stir to blend them together. Set aside.

FOUR: If you haven’t already, prepare your avocado puree as outlined above. Prepare your colour and your essential oil blend, so you’ll have everything ready when putting the soap together.

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FIVE: Once both your oils and lye have cooled down to room temperature, add the lye to the oils, and using a whisk or stick blender, mix until emulsified (light trace). MAKE SURE YOU ARE WEARING PROTECTIVE GOGGLES AND GLOVES!

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SIX: Add the essential oils. I used a blend of lemongrass essential oil and peppermint  essential oil. Lemongrass is a great skin cleanser, and peppermint has a calming and cooling effect on the skin. The blend is a great pick-me-up for both skin and mind!

SEVEN: Add the avocado puree, and using your stick blender, mix until the avocado has been well incorporated into the soap. Try not to get it to thick trace, like I did (taking pictures and making soap at the same time doesn’t help!)

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EIGTH: Separate about 1/3 of the soap into a separate container, and add the colour you have prepared earlier. I used 1/4 teaspoon of Chromium Green Oxide in 1 teaspoon of rice bran oil, but any type of lightweight oil will do. Mix well until the soap is evenly coloured.

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NINE: To put the soap together, first pour (or in my case, scoop) the uncoloured soap into the mold. Tap the mold on the bench a few times to get rid of any air bubbles trapped within the soap.

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TEN: Pour or scoop the green soap over the top.

ELEVEN: Using a hanger tool, a plastic covered flexible wire bent to fit the length of the mold, move it up and down along the length of your soap, to mix up the layers a bit.

TWELVE: Leave the soap to cure in your mold for a few days, before removing, and then let it sit for another 1-2 days before cutting it into bars. Curing time for the bars is another 8-10 weeks.

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Creamy avocado soap

  • 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

  • 140 g olive oil
  • 80 g avocado oil
  • 120 g coconut oil
  • 30 g shea butter
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 57 g caustic soda
  • 90 g water
  • 1 teaspoon sodium lactate
  • 1 tablespoon fresh avocado puree
  • 1/4 teaspoon chromium green oxide
  • 15 ml lemongrass essential oil
  • 5 ml peppermint essential oil

Directions

  1. Prepare you lye and add 1 teaspoon of sodium lactate. Leave to cool down.
  2. Prepare your oils and leave to cool down to a warm room temperature (26-28 deg C)
  3. While you are waiting for the oils and lye to cool down, prepare your avocado puree. Scoop out the avocado and blitz with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth. You may have to add a little water to achieve this.
  4. When lye and oils have cooled down, pour the lye into the oil and using a stick blender, blitz until thin trace.
  5. Add the essential oils and mix into the soap.
  6. Add one tablespoon of avocado puree and blitz using the stick blender until the puree is well mixed through the soap – avoid getting to thick trace!
  7. Separate 1/3 of the mixture and colour this with 1/4 teaspoon green chromium oxide diluted in 1 teaspoon of light weight oil, such as rice bran oil.
  8. Pour the uncoloured soap into the soap mold, and then pour the green coloured soap over the top.
  9. Using a hanger swirl tool, move it down and up several times along the length to mix the layers into each other a little.
  10. Leave the soap to cure a few days before unmolding. Let it stand for another few days before cutting into bars. The soap bars will need to cure for a further 8-10 weeks until ready for use.

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Adding fresh ingredients to soap

Fresh ingredients, such as strawberries, avocados, cucumber etc., are a great additive to soap as they contain many skin-beneficial anti-oxidants, vitamins and minerals, plus they are a natural way to add colour and texture to your soap. In addition, fresh produce also adds appeal from a marketing standpoint. Using natural and organic ingredients entices customers who are eco-conscious to buy your soap.

In cold process and hot process soap making, fresh ingredients can be added because the high pH environment of the saponification process will preserve the fresh ingredient and prevent bacteria and mould from growing. However, anything fresh added to your soap must be in liquid form or pureed to a smooth paste, as large chunks or lumps of fresh ingredient are too large to be preserved during the process and will form a breeding ground for moulds and bacteria. For the same reason, methods that don’t involve a saponification process, such as using melt and pour soap bases or rebatching, are also unsuitable for adding fresh ingredients.

Adding fresh ingredients to your soap, can also affect the colour of the soap over time, and some soaps can discolour to a brown or beige after an extended period. The brownish colour is not mould, but simply due to oxidation of the fresh ingredient contained within the soap. Oxidation within soaps can affect colour but can also lead to rancidity of oils, and soaps containing fresh ingredients have a shortened lifespan compared to ‘normal’ soaps, depending on the type and amount of ingredient added. I usually suggest to use such soaps within a year of making to be on the safe side.

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Feijoa pulp makes for a great addition to soap

When you add a fresh ingredient to your soap, you are also adding additional sugar, fat and water in varying amounts, depending on the ingredient. For example, adding strawberries would add sugar and water to your recipe, whereas cucumber would add mostly water, and avocado would add fat and little water, but nearly no sugar. Because these additions change the formulation of the soap, adding fresh ingredients is considered an advanced technique. If you are a beginner, I suggest to make a few batches first to see how ‘normal’ soap behaves, before you start altering and tweaking recipes. Remember soap making is a science. If you alter the recipe, you will alter the chemical reaction between the lye and the oils. Each additional ingredient will have an impact on this chemical reaction and you need to consider how the ingredient will alter the saponification process and the properties of the soap, and how this will impact the design or soap technique you are planning on using. Adding sugar to the soap will speed up trace and increase temperature during the saponification process. This will make it likely unsuitable for delicate colour work. Adding a fat-containing ingredient, such as avocado, increases the fat content of the formula, which will affect the super-fatting ratio of your soap. This can have an impact if you are already using a high SFR, leaving too much oils unsaponified, which can lead to DOS (dreaded orange spots) and rancidity of the oils. On the other hand, if you have an ingredient that contains a lot of water, such as cucumber, it will increase the overall water content of the formula. Too much water in your soap can make your soap soft and lead to longer curing times, but the extra liquid can also create glycerine rivers in your soap, a mostly aesthetic issue, which doesn’t affect the soap itself, but makes the soap less ‘pretty’. In general, always calculate the extra ingredients into your formula and add a water discount in your lye water. I use a water discount of one to one. So if I add a tablespoon of fresh ingredient, I will use 15 ml less water in my soap recipe. And lastly, use fresh ingredients that your prepare (=puree) yourself. Store-bought pureed products often contain extra (unwanted) additives, such as thickeners, sugar and preservatives.

How to add fresh ingredients to your soap

First, consider the properties of the ingredient and how it will affect the soap and process, and tweak the recipe accordingly. Calculate your water discount and then prepare your fresh ingredient.

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Avocado puree with olive oil

All fresh ingredients must be blended to a smooth puree. You can use a Magic Bullet, blender or food processor to blitz it. If you are using a ‘hard’ ingredient, like carrot or pumpkin, I like to cook it in the microwave first, until softened. Sometimes a little extra water or oil is needed to achieve a smooth texture, so don’t forget to calculate the extra water into your formula. You can also juice your ingredient, and use the juice instead, but don’t exchange it or add it to your lye water, especially if your ingredient contains sugar, since this will heat the lye water to a temperature which will literally burn the sugar.

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Once you have your puree or juice, you add it to your soap mixture at thin trace. I usually start with 1 tablespoon of puree in 500 g of soap mixture and will go up to 2 tablespoons but no more. Too much fresh ingredient can disrupt to chemical process and prevent proper saponification, but it can also increase the likelihood of mould and bacteria growing.  Then using a stick blender, keep pulsing until the puree has been mixed in thoroughly. Remember, that the fresh ingredient will likely increase trace and cause your soap to thicken, so you will need to work quickly after adding. Finish the soap according to your recipe and design, and leave the soap to cure as usual. Because of the fresh ingredient, the soap may need a few extra days before it is ready to be unmolded and cut into bars. And lastly, experiment! There are so many fresh and undiscovered ingredients to use in soaps. Make a test batch, the small square soap molds from Pure Nature are ideal for this, and see what happens! Before you know it, you’ll have discovered the next trend in soap making!