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Snow soap

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

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Snow is a pure white soap with a special blend of pine, litsea cubeba and spearmint essential oils, which captures the fresh, crisp fragrance of a snow blanketed pine forest. The recipe uses only natural ingredients, is palm-free and vegan. The perfect soap gift for the environmentally and health conscious friend!

The mold I used for this tutorial is the silicon loaf mold with the wooden support box. The essential oils and other soap ingredients are all available 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 Pyrex jug. Next, 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, weigh out the coconut oil. Heat in the microwave on high for 1 minute, and then stir until the coconut oil has completely melted.

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THREE: Weigh out the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil, and give the oils another 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).

FIVE: Mix 2 teaspoons of titanium dioxide with the same amount of water, and add it to the soap. Stir it in well.

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SIX: Add the essential oils and keep stick blending the soap mixture until it has thickened to a medium trace.

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SEVEN: Using a star shaped cookie cutter, imprint star shapes onto the surface of the soap. Just push it in lightly and lift it out again. Because of the medium consistency, the imprint will leave slight star shaped ridges in the soap.

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EIGHT: Give the surface of the soap a spray with 99% isopropyl alcohol, this will avoid soap ash from forming on the surface. Leave the soap to harden in the mold for a couple of days.

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NINE: 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 8 weeks to cure before they are ready for use.

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Snow 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

  • 650g olive oil
  • 300g coconut oil
  • 50g castor oil
  • 141g caustic soda
  • 2 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 2 teaspoons titanium dioxide
  • 20 ml pine essential oil
  • 15 ml litsea cubeba essential oil
  • 5 ml spearmint essential oil

Directions

  1. Measure out 280 ml of water into a heat proof Pyrex jug. Weigh out 141 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 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, weigh out the coconut oil. Heat in microwave for 1 minute on high, and then stir until the coconut oil has fully melted.
  4. Add the olive oil and castor oil to the now-liquid coconut oil and give it another  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. Mix 2 teaspoons of titanium dioxide with 2 teaspoons of water, and stir it into the emulsion.
  8. Add the essential oils and keep stick blending until the soap mixture has thickened to a medium trace.
  9. Pour the soap into the mold and with a star shaped cookie cutter, imprint stars onto the surface of the soap. Give the surface a quick spray with isopropyl alcohol.
  10. Leave to harden in the mold for a couple of days.
  11. 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 8 weeks until ready for use.

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Testing Fragrances Part 2

In part 1, I discussed vanillin discolouration, but it is quite possible to have a fragrance with 0% vanillin that will still discolour your soap. Fragrances are comprised of many different components, some contain 100 or more ingredients to make up a unique scent. Any of these can affect the colour as well as other aspects of soap, which is why not all fragrances are suitable for soap making. Fragrances that are considered safe to use in soap making must be skin-safe, suitable for cosmetic use and have undergone strict testing to comply with international standards. Only source your fragrances from responsible distributors, such as Pure Nature, who can provide safety data and certification from their suppliers.

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Even if the fragrance doesn’t contain vanillin, they can still cause discolouration, as the different shades of white of these soaps show.

To create a fragrance, different essential oils, resins, as well as natural and synthetic aroma chemicals are mixed together to a unique blend. Unfortunately, in most countries, fragrances do not need to list their exact constituents, because it falls under ‘trade secret’, so we usually don’t know what exactly is in them. Certain components will change the colour of your soap, just like vanillin, but because we don’t know the exact make up of the fragrances, it is difficult to pinpoint which component causes discolouration or even to predict what a fragrance will do to the soap.

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The top soap was an early test for one of my tutorials and instead of remaining white, turned a rather bright yellow during the curing time. The fragrance contained no vanillin, yet still caused significant discolouration.

The most common discolouration from a non-vanillin component is off-white, ivory or a creamy colour, although there are other possible colours as well. Oakmoss and amber, from Candlescience, for example, can cause your soap to turn a shade of mauve.

Then, there are some fragrances or components of fragrances, which have a natural tint to them and can also discolour your soap. For example, orange essential oils range from yellow to bright orange in colour, which may cause soap to turn yellow. In general, my rule of thumb is if the fragrance is not clear, that’s a warning sign! But that doesn’t mean that all tinted fragrances discolour, just like not all clear fragrances won’t discolour. And to complicate matters further, your soap recipe, the oils you use, your soaping method and the temperature can all have an influence as well. This is why you often get conflicting reports of fragrance discolouration. The only fail-proof method is to test a fragrance using the exact recipe and method yourself, to be absolutely sure of no discolouration. However, in most cases, slight changes don’t matter that much, and for the extreme discolourations that vanillin causes, looking up the vanillin content, or reading the fragrance reviews are often a good help. Or you can go for one of the water white fragrances.

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Although not a water white fragrance, the discolouration is only subtle and doesn’t distract from the overall design.

Water white fragrances are fragrances that are clear liquids, have 0% vanillin content and cause no discolouration.  There is no standard that labels these fragrances as such, and the only way to know which fragrances are water white fragrances is usually from testing or from test results that other soapers have done for you.

Here are four Candlescience Skin-Safe fragrances that can be considered water white fragrances:

And lastly, another option is to add titanium dioxide to your soap. Titanium dioxide acts as a whitener in your soap, although it will only work on light discolourations. It won’t magically turn your brown soap into the pure white! The good thing is that you only need a tiny amount to counter the discolouration, I use a maximum of half a teaspoon in one kilo of soap. Don’t use too much or you’ll end up with the unsightly glycerin rivers. Incidentally, titanium dioxide added to micas can make the colours pop, stand out more!

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Using clays in soap

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Natural clays have been used for millennia in skin care for their cleansing and purifying properties. They have become popular in soap making, because they are considered a natural alternative to colouring soap, and they come in a variety of colours, most commonly green, yellow and varying shades of red. The different colours depend on the mineral composition of the clay, which is determined by the source rock from which they clay was formed through the processes of weathering and erosion. Note clays are basically dirt! The main types of clays that are used in cosmetics are illite clays (i.e. French clays), montmorillonite clays (Bentonite and Fuller’s Earth) and kaolin clay.

What makes clays unique is their cation-exchange capacity (CEC) – the ability to adsorb and exchange cations (positively charged ions). Montmorillonite clays have the highest CEC rate, and kaolin clay the lowest, with the illite clays somewhere in between.

In skin care, this means that clay can remove positively charged toxins and pollutants from your skin.

Montmorillonite clays possess the highest cation-exchange capacities. They are formed from weathering and erosion of volcanic ashes, producing hydrated (sodium calcium aluminum magnesium) silicates, which contain many valuable trace minerals. Montmorillonite clay is the principal ingredient of bentonite and Fuller’s earth. These clays are the only ones to have expanding (swelling) capacity – meaning they absorb water, unlike other clays, which are just diluted with water. This is a particular useful property in shaving soaps, because it adds slip and glide to the soap.

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The difference between swelling and non-swelling clays: On the left is yellow french clay, a non-swelling illite clay. Adding water to non-swelling clays only dilutes and the clay particles become suspended in the water. Montmorillonite clays, on the other hand, like the bentonite clay on the right, absorb the water and the clays expand (swell). Both bowls contain the same amount of water and clay.

Kaolinite clay, on the other hand, is a non-swelling clay with the lowest cation-exchange capacity, and is the most gentle on the skin. These aluminium silicates are the main component of kaolin clay, which gets its name from the Chinese word, “Gaoling”, meaning ‘high ridge’. Kaolinite clays are formed by weathering or hydrothermal alteration of aluminosilicate minerals, common in feldspar rocks.

The CEC rate of the illite clays lie somewhere between kaolinite and montmorillonite clays, depending on their mineral composition. Similar to kaolinite clays, they are also formed by decomposition of feldspar rocks, but under high pH (alkaline) environments. These non-swelling, mica silicates are the most common of clays and are widely distributed in marine shales and sediments. Varying mineral compositions, which may include calcium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, silicium, manganese, phosporous, copper, and/or selenium, give rise to the many various colours and properties of the different illite clays.

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A common misconception is that clays soak up or absorb oils and fats, and are thus beneficial for oily skin. Unfortunately, most clays don’t have the ability to draw excess oil from your skin, with the exception of calcium bentonite.  They do, however, gently exfoliate the top layer of your skin, and remove dead cells, dirt and some of the excess oil with it. In addition to the exfoliation, they also draw water from your skin, which is why clays are not recommended for particular dry and sensitive skin.

The many benefits of using clay in soap:

  • exfoliates and smoothes
  • removes toxins and pollutants
  • stimulates and brightens
  • adds slip (for shaving)
  • contains valuable minerals
  • natural colourant

Using clays in cold process soap

Because of their various properties, clays are a popular additive in soap making. It is a great option if you are looking for a natural colourant. The rule of thumb is to use about 1 teaspoon of clay to 500g of soap, you can add more, but be aware that adding clay can speed up trace. You can add the clay either directly to the lye water, which will intensify the colour, or add it to the soap at trace. However, clays absorb liquid, so it’s important to wet the clay before adding it to the soap mixture. I like to dilute 1 teaspoon of clay in 1 tablespoon of water and mix it into a slurry. Wetting the clay also helps disperse the clay more evenly throughout the soap, reducing spotting.

Using clays in melt and pour soap
Clays are also great to add to melt and pour soap bases. The usage rate in melt and pour soap bases is around 1 teaspoon per 500g soap. I would be careful of adding too much, because it will make the soap very thick and difficult to work with.  To avoid clumping and disperse the clay evenly in the soap, I like to dilute 1 teaspoon of clay in 1-2 teaspoons of  99% isopropyl alcohol. Using alcohol also has the benefit of reducing bubbles in your soap. Don’t worry about the alcohol, the heat of the melted soap will evaporate the alcohol leaving only the clay behind.


Types of clay

Bentonite clay (also Sodium bentonite)

Bentonite clay is a sodium bentonite, which is created from volcanic ash. It has a unique property of absorbing water (it can swell up to 14 times its weight!), which will add slip to the soap, particular useful in shaving soaps, as it allows the razor to glide smoothly over the skin. Bentonite clay has a grey to cream colour.

Best used in shaving soaps

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Shaving soap

Fuller’s earth

Fuller’s earth is another bentonite clay, but instead of sodium it contains calcium, which makes it the only clay to absorb oil, and is often used in combination to clear oil spills. Bentonite clays also have the highest CEC rate, meaning it has the highest rate of removing toxins, impurities and pollutants from your skin, which makes it ideal for oily and acne-prone skin. Colours range from brown or green to grey and cream.

Use in soaps for oily and acne-prone skins, but never on dry and sensitive skins!

Ghassoul/rhassoul clay

Also known as rhassoul clay or Moroccan red clay, this ancient volcanic clay is mined from the lacustrine (lake) sedimentary rocks of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and has been used since the 8th century by Moroccan women in hair and skin care. The name ghassoul comes from the Arabic word “ghassala”, meaning “to wash”. Like the other montmorillonite clays, ghassoul clay absorbs water, but because of its very fine texture, it feels smooth and lubricating and has a very high absorption rate, which makes it extremely effective at detoxifying and purifying the skin and a gentle exfoliant, clearing clogged pores, removing dead cells and stimulating circulation. And with its high silica content, ghassoul clay is considered one of the most luxurious cosmetic clays and is used in top spas around the world.

Soaps containing ghassoul clay leave the skin looking radiant and rejuvenated.

French Green Clay

French green clay, also known as marine clay, is an illite clay formed from sea sediments, which receives its green colour from decomposed seaweed and algae, and is considered a bio-mineral rich in minerals and phyto-nutrients.

French green clay is an excellent additive to soaps, but be aware that the green colour turns grey-green in soap.

French Yellow Clay

Yellow illite clay is also similar to green illite in its cosmetic uses and properties, and but differs from the green by a higher content of iron oxides. It is similar in its cosmetic uses and properties to the green clay.

In soaps it is mainly used as a natural colourant.

French Red Clay

French red clay receives its colour from its high concentration of iron oxides, which increases its strength of removing toxins, pollutants and other impurities from the skin. It is also an excellent exfoliant, removing dead cells, unclogging pores and smoothing the skin, leaving it looking rejuvenated and radiant.

An excellent additive to shower soaps, particular for use on upper arms, back of thighs and stomach. Also used as a natural colourant.

French white clay

White clay has similar properties as the other illite clays, but is not as mineral-rich.

Use in soaps when you want the exfoliating and detoxifying benefits, but without adding colour to the soap.

French Pink Clay

French pink clay or rose clay is often a blend of red illite and white kaolin clays, and its colours range from a light pink to a rich rose or even orange shade. The colour is determined by the amount of iron oxides in the red illite clay. Because of the added kaolin clay, it is considered the mildest of all illite clays. Pink clay is a very mild detoxifier and a gentle exfoliant and is especially suitable for sensitive, mature, and dehydrated skins.

In soaps, it is used as a natural colourant but also as a mild exfoliant.

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Kaolin Clay
Kaolin clay, named after the hill in China where it was originally mined, is the most gentlest and mildest of all clays. It comes in a variety of colours, depending on its mineral composition, including red, yellow and green, but the most common colour is white. Unlike the illite and montmorillonite clays, kaolin clay has a very low CEC rate, and is not a very efficient detoxifier. However, its fine texture makes it very beneficial to fragile and sensitive skins as a gentle and mild exfoliant without irritating the skin.
Kaolin clay adds creaminess in soaps and makes for a gentle and mild soap.