Throughout March I’ll be talking about the ingredients that I use in my soap, starting with
the one I use in the highest percentage: olive oil.
Both cold and hot process soaps can be made with a wide variety of butters and oils,
including those you find in your kitchen, like lard or sunflower oil. And just like in the
kitchen, one of the best things about soap making is being able to choose what to add to
your recipes. Soap can be highly customised, based on personal preference, and there are
infinite combinations of oils, fragrances, colourants, botanicals, and techniques you can use
to make beautiful, skin-friendly bars of soap.
Oils make up the bulk of your recipe and understanding what these individual ingredients
contribute to the final qualities of the soap is important. They define how moisturizing the
bar will be; how well it will lather; how long lasting it is and what techniques you can use
when creating unusual designs.
For example, a soap made with castor oil will have a bubbly and stable lather (hello
shampoo bars!) but one made using a high percentage of olive oil will have a dense,
Olive oil is generally the most popular soap making oil: it is affordable and easy to find, and
it makes lovely soap. Soaps made with olive oil are moisturising and mild; the bars are hard
and a good white colour. However, the soap may take a long time to harden enough for use
and soaps made with a very high percentage of olive oil can feel slimy. While you can,
technically, use any oil to make soap, single oils don’t tend to make good soap; olive oil and
tallow (beef fat, or lard, pig fat) are two of the exceptions.
100% olive oil, or Castile, soap (said to have originated in the Castile region of Spain) has a
long history and is one of the first types of soap ever made. It is extremely gentle and
nourishing, is good to use on sensitive or dry skin and is often used on babies.
I have dry skin and the conditioning value of the soap I make is a high priority, but I also
want my soap to be affordable to buy, so olive oil is an important ingredient for me.
However, it isn’t very cleansing and because you must wait so long for 100% olive oil bars to
be ready, I add coconut oil to my recipe, which firms the bar up and adds to the lather. I’ll
talk more about the benefits of using coconut oil in next week’s blog.
I love the variety that ingredients bring to soap making, and that soaps can be tailored
exactly to your needs by only adding nourishing, gentle things and not taking anything away.
I love that I can see and control exactly what is going into the products I’m using on my
body. And I love helping other people to do the same.