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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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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.

 

 

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Sunrise ombre soap

Difficulty: Intermediate
Time: 1 hr
Yields: 500 g soap

I often doodle my ideas and designs in my notebook, before I start working on the recipe. Sometimes, the inspirations for my soaps come from the name of a fragrance, like last week’s Love Spell Soap, but I also get my ideas from certain places, moods and emotions, or particular ingredients. This week I was inspired by the colours (yellow and orange), and I wanted to create something to use in the morning shower that would remind me of those sunny mornings, when it’s easy to get up in the morning. The result is a simple layering with gradience colours. Here’s the sketch I drew in my notebook and the notes I wrote alongside. Even if I don’t end up making the soap, these sketches often end up as further inspiration for future soaps.

The scent I used to accompany the design is sweet orange essential oil from Pure Nature, not just because of the colour but because I feel the fruity, fresh fragrance of oranges fits my idea of a wake-up-and-shower soap. The mica is called Orange Saffron, also 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!

In addition to your usual equipment, you will also need 3 small containers for colour preparation and 3 extra jugs (250-500 ml).

ONE: First, prepare your lye. Weigh out the caustic soda in a small container. Measure the water in a small pyrex or other heat proof glass jug. Then carefully add the caustic soda to the water and gently stir until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Stir one teaspoon of sodium lactate to make the soap harder. Set aside to cool.

While you are waiting for the lye to cool down, ….

… it’s time to prepare the colours…

TWO: You will need three small containers. To each add 10 ml of light weight oil, such as rice bran oil. In the first container, add 1/4 teaspoon of orange saffron mica. To the second, add 1/8 teaspoon of orange saffron mica. And to the third, add 1/16 teaspoon of orange saffron mica. Mix the mica with the oil, using a little whisk or electric mini-mixer, until you have a smooth mica/oil mixture.

… and to prepare the oils.

THREE: Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in microwave on high for one minute or until melted. Weigh out and add the other oils to the now melted coconut oil and give it a good stir to blend all the oils together.

Check if the lye has cooled down to room temperature, and if it has, it is time to add it to the oils.

FOUR: Make sure you are still in protective gear (goggles and gloves), carefully pour the lye to the oils, avoiding any splashes. Gently whisk until you have the lye and oils have emulsified and are at light trace. Don’t let it get thick, because then you won’t be able to work with it.

FIVE: Add 20 ml of sweet orange essential oil and give it another good stir.

SIX: Into each of the three extra jugs you have set aside, pour 125 ml of soap. You should now have four jugs of soap: 3 jugs with 125 ml of soap (these will be coloured), and the large jug with the remainder of the soap (which will be left uncoloured)

SEVEN: Add one of the containers of mica/oil mixture to each of the jugs and stir them well, to disperse the colour evenly throughout the soap. This is an important step, as any uncoloured streaks will show up in your soap.

EIGHT:  Starting with the darkest colour, pour the soap into the mold. It should be still fairly fluid. Tap the mold gently on the bench a free times to get rid of any air bubbles and to create an even surface.

NINE: Next, add the medium colour, and carefully pour it over the dark layer, trying not to disturb it. Ideally, your soap will still be fluid. Because I have to take pictures at the same time, my soap thickened by the time I got to do the layers. I tried smoothing the surface with a spatula as much as possible. If you have to do this, try to avoid touching the sides of the mold, so you can keep the sides clean.

TEN: Add the lightest colour over the other layers carefully, as not to disturb the surface underneath. Smooth with the spatula if necessary.

ELEVEN: Lastly, pour or scoop the white (uncoloured) soap over the layers.

TWELVE: Using your fork, texture the soap top, by carefully scraping upwards and into the centre on both sides. Sprinkle bronze coloured mica, and gently mix it into the centre peak, before pulling the fork down each side again to spread the mica into the grooves. Make sure you place the fork into the same grooves as before.

Clockwise from top left: Using a fork and adding mica to texture the soap surface.

THIRTEEN: Leave the soap to cure for several days before removing it from the mold and cutting it up into bars. Cure for another 6-8 weeks.

Sunrise 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

  • 150 g olive oil
  • 130 g rice bran oil
  • 100 g coconut oil
  • 20 g castor oil
  • 55 g caustic soda
  • 110 ml water
  • 1 teaspoons sodium lactate
  • 20 ml sweet orange fragrance oil
  • orange saffron mica

Directions

  1. Prepare your lye: carefully add the caustic soda to the water and stir gently until all the caustic soda has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
  2. While you wait for the lye to cool, prepare the colour. Add 10 ml of rice bran oil to three small containers. To the first, add 1/4 of orange saffron mica. To the second, add 1/8 teaspoon, and to the third, add 1/16 teaspoon of orange saffron mica.
  3. Weigh out the coconut oil in a pyrex jug and heat in the microwave on high for 1-2 minutes or until melted. Weigh out and add the other oils, and give it a good stir to blend all the oils together.
  4. When the lye has cooled down to room temperature, carefully add it to the oils and using only a whisk, stir briskly until emulsified to a very thin trace.
  5. Add 20 ml of sweet orange essential oil to the soap and stir well.
  6. Into three small separate jugs, pour off 125 ml of soap each. You will now have 3 jugs with 125 ml of soap, and the larger jug with the remainder of the soap, which will be left uncoloured.
  7. Add one of the mica/oil containers to each of the jugs, and mix them thoroughly to disperse the colour evenly throughout the soap. You should have a light, medium, and dark colour.
  8. Pour the dark colour into the soap mold, and tap gently on the bench to remove air bubbles and to even out the surface of the soap.
  9. Carefully pour the medium colour over the dark layer, without disturbing the surface. If necessary, smooth the surface with a spatula.
  10. Pour the light colour over the other layers and smooth the surface.
  11. Lastly, pour or scoop the white (uncoloured) soap on top of the other layers.
  12. Texture the soap surface with a fork, scraping both sides upwards and towards the centre. Mix a little bronze mica to the centre peak, and placing the fork into the same grooves, carefully pull downwards to spread the colour.
  13. Leave the soap to cure in the mold for several days, before removing and cutting into bars. Cure for a further 6-8 weeks.

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Sunny yellows and orange

I love sunny mornings and how it makes everything happier and brighter. Sunshine just seems to lift everyone’s spirits and moods. And although it’s been unbelievably cold this week, the sunny weather makes me care a lot less about the cold. I just wrap myself up in a warm jacket and woolly hat, and off I go walking the dog. I even look forward to it, despite the freezing temperature.

To reflect the happy, sunny weather we have at the moment, this week will be all about the yellows and orange colours. I have some great tutorials coming up later this week, but today, I’ll show you how the yellow and orange micas from Pure Nature behave in cold process soap.

Pure Nature has 2 yellow micas, Yellow Glitter and Magic Yellow, and one orange mica, Orange Saffron. All three produce beautiful, bright colours, but they do exhibit some strange behaviour during the process.

Let’s start with what the colours look like after a week of curing:

As you can see, the colours are nice and bright, and are true to what they are supposed to be. The yellows are what I think true yellows, there is no brown or orange hue  in them. The difference between them is slight, but the Magic Yellow is a warmer, richer yellow than the pastel-like Yellow Glitter.

The Yellow Glitter also took a little detour, before becoming this shade of yellow. For the first two days, I was convinced it was going to end up orange. Yes, that’s how long before it finally started turning back to nice yellow!

 

The orange on the other hand, behaved itself and remained orange throughout the process. No funny surprises here.

So for this week, enjoy the sunshine, and don’t forget to check back for some yellow and orange tutorials!