Making Soap for Myself
I consider myself a very fortunate person. Not wanting to brag or anything, but I have really great skin. With the exception of those ultra pimply teen years, I haven’t had to spent much time thinking about it. I rarely break out and hardly ever need to wash my face. This is not only do to my skin, but also because I hardly ever wear make up. I’ve tried, but I’ve rarely had the occasion, the motivation or the budget to invest into high end, expensive cosmetic products. And, while I may not consider myself a confident person, I have always had confidence in my appearance without it.
When I started making soap and skin care products, my inspirations came from all things scented. In fact, the reason I starting making soap was because of a soap I received as a gift. The smell of the soap was so intoxicating – mandarin and grapefruit – that I couldn’t even use the bar, because if I used it, it would eventually be gone and I wouldn’t be able to smell it anymore. So I left this precious bar in a drawer beside my bed, and whenever I needed a little lift-me-up, I would open the drawer and breathe deep! So my first attempts were bright and colourful and fragrant – everything I wanted my soap to be.
But when I started thinking about selling my soaps, I knew that would have to change. As I learned from and read about other soap makers, it struck me that so many of them started making their own soap because of a chronic skin issue. The commercial products that I had taken for granted my entire life made their struggles worse, not better. What helped them was getting rid for adding specific ingredients.
This would mean that, if I wanted to appeal to more people, I would need to expand beyond what I had tried before. The “All Natural” collection was born.
A More Inclusive Approach
The word “natural” has a lot of different meanings to different people in the skin care world. Sometimes there is a misperception that whatever is the opposite of “natural” must be “bad for you”. Synthetic ingredients for most people are not an issue. It is important to do your research about specific ingredients when formulating skin care products. We need to consider the purpose of it, what concentration is needed to fulfill that purpose and how effective it is at achieving that purpose. Some synthetic ingredients work better than their “natural” counterpart, if there is one at all In some cases, there may be certain ingredients that are problematic a specific concentration, so it is also essential to ensure that we are formulating within those concerns.
What I consider “natural” to be in the absence of an ingredient that may be troublesome to a specific individual. Every person’s skin may respond differently to different things. Wouldn’t it be great for every single person had access to skin care products designed for their specific areas of concern! Amazing!
But since making bespoke products for individual customers is not a viable option for me professionally, I set out on the challenge of reformulating my existing soap in new ways.
Calamine & Rose Clay Soap
I started with the fragrance. Or rather without it. Scented products, even those using “natural” essential oils, are known irritants for many people, so this was a very easy choice.
Next was the colour. There are many colourants from nature, from plants and roots, to salts and clays. For my first attempt, I wanted to go with something familiar. I include kaolin clay in all my soaps because I love how it contributed a luxurious, creaminess to the lather, so this was also a natural choice. Blending the white clay I had been using with rose kaolin clay, I made my first version, White & Rose Clay Handmade Soap (featured in this YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/m-SNEfUEx_8).
In the second version, I wanted to amp up the creaminess by swapping the water in the lye solution with coconut milk. Adding milk to the soap adds a bit of complexity to the process. When the sodium hydroxide (lye) is added to a liquid, the chemical reaction causes the solution to heat up. When using water, I mostly find this heat annoying, as I have to wait for it to cool down before adding it to the lye. But with a milk soap, this extra heat can result in the natural sugars in the milk scorch. I want this soap to be unscented, and that includes the pungent smell of burnt milk. The sugars in the soap can also cause the saponification reaction to heat up as well. Keeping cool is a priority.
I used two strategies to need things cool. First, I froze the coconut milk. This helps need the solution cool. The heat produced is still enough to melt the frozen milk, but not enough to scorch it.
Second, I put the soap in the refrigerator to saponify. Normally I will put my soaps in a warm oven. Keeping a balance between warm and too warm is important with cold process soap. If the soap is too cool, it will not go through gel phase, the point in the saponification reaction where the soap becomes harder and a bit translucent, making colours appear bolder. Too hot, and the reaction can result in cracks on top of the soap, heat tunnels in the center, and, worst of all, the soap to volcano out of the mold. Because the sugars in the milk are kind of like adding fuel to a fire, putting the soap in a cool or cold place to saponify can help prevent the reaction from overheating.
I wanted to keep the design of the natural soap more simplistic than my other soaps, to reflect minimal aesthetic, so I blend both the rose and white clay together to create a bar with a single colour. Finally, I was inspired by Ruth Ellen Soap’s calamine soaps and decided to lean into the pink of the clay with the pale blush of calamine powder. The rose clay is enough to overpower any colour added by the calamine, but I was hopeful that the soothing nature of it would contribute to the gentleness of the bar.
And thus, Calamine & Rose Clay Coconut Milk Soap is here. To see this soap being made, be sure to check out the featured YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/zqg6w0GBsPU