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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
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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

  • 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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Natural nappy balm (vegan)

Difficulty: Beginner
Time: 30 minutes
Yields: 100 ml

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As all parents know, babies often get red and irritated skin around the nappy area. This is usually caused by either a reaction to urea or by yeast, due to the moist environment. As a mother myself, and wanting to use only natural and safe ingredients on my child, I formulated this nappy balm containing calendula, chamomile and manuka, which acts as both a barrier cream to prevent, and a healing balm to help soothe and calm irritated skin and rashes. I’ve been using this balm for nearly 15 years now, first as a nappy balm, and now I still make it as a soothing skin balm for sensitised or irritated skin.

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Candelilla wax (left) and carnauba wax (right).

Because most balms use bees wax, and are thus not suitable for vegans, I have decided to make this a vegan-friendly nappy balm. There just aren’t enough such balms out there! The waxes I’m using to substitute for the bees wax are candelilla and carnauba, two plant based waxes. Candelilla wax is derived from the leaves of the Candelilla shrub native to Northern Mexico, and the carnauba wax comes from the leaves of a palm native to Brazil. The combination of the two makes for a smooth and gentle balm, with just the right firmness.

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ONE: Weigh out the candelilla wax, carnauba wax, olive oil and castor oil into a small pot. Place it on the lowest setting on the stove, and wait until the wax has completely melted. This will take about 10 minutes or so. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat up! Because, candelilla wax can be a bit grainy, I keep the stove setting on low so that the temperature is raised slowly and gradually, and due to the carnauba wax having a higher melting point, the candelilla wax will be kept above its melting point for a while to ensure a smooth end product. It is a bit like tempering chocolate, for those who cook and bake!

Olive oil is added to the balm, because it’s packed with antioxidants and has a balanced fatty acid composition, which will help restore and nourish the skin, especially since babies bottoms are usually wrapped up in a nappy and the skin doesn’t get to breathe. The combination of oils, butter and waxes is what will create the barrier between the delicate baby skin and the wetness of the nappy.

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TWO: Once the waxes have completely melted, take the pot off the stove and turn off the stove. The pot will stay warm long enough to keep the mixture liquid and prevent it from cooling down too quickly. Weigh out and stir in the shea butter until it too has completely melted. I’ve added shea butter, because it is a moisturising and conditioning butter with skin-soothing and calming properties due to the presence of several fatty acids and plant sterols.

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THREE: Lastly, add the calendula infused sunflower oil and give it another stir. Calendula, or pot marigold, is well-known for its skin healing properties. The calendula  flowers have been infused in sunflower oil, which is another beneficial skin oil with vitamin E and essential fatty acids.

FOUR: Make sure the oil/wax mixture is completely liquid and clear. If it has become cloudy and no amount of stirring is making it clear again, place it back on the stove again and stir. The cloudiness means it has cooled down to the point where the oil/wax mixture is solidifying. Keep stirring the mixture until is clear. You want the mixture to heat up just enough to become liquid, but not get too hot again.

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Add 5 drops each of chamomile and manuka essential oils. Because this is a balm for babies’ skin, I’m using a very low concentration, only 10 drops (0.5 ml) of essential oils to 100 ml of balm. Chamomile has both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties and is considered to be a hypoallergenic, meaning it can calm and reduce skin irritants. Manuka is well known in New Zealand as a powerful skin healer for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, antiviral and antiseptic properties. Together, they will help prevent and reduce nappy rashes and infections.

Alternatively, if you don’t have manuka essential oil, you can also use tea tree essential oil, which has similar properties.

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FIVE: Give the mixture a good final stir before carefully pouring it into the pot. Let the balm set and cool down completely before placing the lid on, to prevent any condensation (= breeding ground for bacteria and fungi) forming on the lid. I usually leave it to set overnight.

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Natural nappy balm (vegan)

  • Difficulty: beginners
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Ingredients

  • 30 g olive oil
  • 10 g shea butter
  • 5 g castor oil
  • 15 g calendula infused oil
  • 2 ml wheatgerm oil
  • 5 g candelilla wax
  • 7 g carnauba wax
  • 5 drops chamomile essential oil
  • 5 drops manuka essential oil (alternatively tea tree essential oil)
  • 100 ml pot

Directions

  1. Weigh out the candelilla wax, carnauba wax, olive oil, castor oil in a small pot, and heat it on the lowest setting on the stove.
  2. Once the waxes have completely melted, and the oil/wax mixture is clear, take the pot off the stove and stir in the shea butter until it too has melted.
  3. Add the castor oil and calendula infused sunflower oil, and stir everything until the liquid is clear again.
  4. Add the essential oils and give it another good stir.
  5. Carefully pour the liquid balm into the pot and let it set and cool down completely before putting the lid on.