There are so many wonderful ingredients that nature provides for us. The world of all natural additives can be overwhelming and finding the bar that is right for you can feel daunting. To help you select the perfect bar, here is a breakdown of the natural additives that I use and how they benefit the soap.
First things first, I have gone all natural with my soap. That means all new fresh bars (crafted after 3/1/22) are free of synthetic fragrances, dyes or other artificial ingredients. As you'll see there is plenty of variation and even color that can be applied naturally to soap. These naturals are better for you and better for the planet.
Milk is a great place to dive in!
Milk bars are particularly lovely and offer a gently cleansing and rich lather. I have, upon request, used bovine milk. I find that powdered form makes a superior milk bar. The reason I add milk to soap is the lactic acid in it. That's what gives it skin smoothing and soothing properties. Those properties are marginally transferred to you during soap usage. For instance a milk soap isn't necessarily a way to hydrate dry skin, but if traditional soap is drying to your skin a milk soap is a better alternative. To get real benefit from milk and it's lactic acid you need to have it come into contact for longer periods of time. Even ancient people knew this. The Egyptians have soaked in milk baths for millenia. Oat milk is an ingredient that I use not for it's lactic acid but for it's rich antioxidants. Again, in soap, it creates a more gentle formulation, but soap isn't a method to apply a really beneficial ingredient in a way that will deeply nourish the skin. An oat milk enriched soap will be super gentle on the skin while still cleansing. To get the full benefit of oats, try an oat bath, oat enriched fizz or calming oat body butter. My full oatmeal line will be available 6/1.
Milks I Love:
Goat Milk Powder
Coconut Milk Powder
Oat Milk - Liquid
These additives are used for the beautiful colors! Cocoa powder does contains rich antioxidants that are great for the skin however soap doesn't come into contact with the skin for long enough to really enjoy the benefits cocoa has to offer. The best way to get the benefits cocoa has to offer is through body butter.
Natural Colors I Love:
Indigo - Blue & Green
Rose Petal Powder
Beet Root Powder
Clays are used first and foremost for their ability to bind to oils on the skin during cleansing. This properties is also what makes clays so perfect for face masks and mud packs! On top of their oil binding properties they are a natural and beautiful way to achieve colors without synthetics.
Here are my favorite clays:
Brazilian Purple Clay
Rose Kaolin Clay
Moroccan Red Clay
French Green Clay
Specialty Ingredients added for their soothing and moisturizing properties:
My favorite specialty ingredient is organic activated charcoal!
Activated Charcoal - Organic activated charcoal not only makes beautiful bars, but it is an ingredient that really enriches soap. Activated charcoal is like giving your soap a supercharging boost. The purpose of soap is to break the surface tension between your skin and dirt, grime and other surface lying substances. Activated charcoal actually binds itself to dirt, oil and bacteria on the skin and then that charcoal and all the ilk bound to it, is washed away with your soap lather and you cleanse. I have found activated charcoal soaps also offer odor neutralizing benefits. I am a mom to teenagers and regardless of gender, they can stink! Like, really stink. Activated charcoal soap helps my teens smell fresh and clean longer and that I can personally attest too. I will always recommend an activated charcoal bar to someone with oily prone/acne prone skin. If charcoal is too much for your particular skin type, then there is a happy medium in clay! Natural clay also binds to dirt and oil and offers a deeper cleanse then soap alone. However clay doesn't offer the same deep pore clearing cleanse as charcoal. I find for oily skin, a daily clay bar and twice weekly charcoal regimen is ideal. Finding your perfect routine may take some time. I am always available for consultation via email. firstname.lastname@example.org
These next set of additives offer all natural exfoliation. I am prone to thick patches of skin and love the grit of a Dark Sumatra Scrub Bar with coffee grinds. More sensitive skin might love a sugar or salt infused bar! Bars infused with salt or activated charcoal are particularly good for oil or acne prone skin. Salt helps to dry out the skin by pulling away oils. It's like soap with extra soap. Salt bars are not ideal for someone who is prone to dry skin. Someone prone to dry skin would find that a butter bar or milk bar suits them better.
I have ranked my exfoliates from the most gentle to roughest grit below:
Soft exfoliate for every day use:
Medium exfoliates for thicker skin patches, occasional use:
Pink Himalayan Salts
Atlantic Sea Salts
Rough Grit for a deep, intense scrub:
Organic Ground Coffee
Oils and Butters - Making soap is more complex than a lot of people realize. Creating soap is not necessarily a difficult process. Creating a high-quality soap is another matter. The quality of your soap depends almost entirely on the fats that you use and their ratios. Different fats have distinct properties when they are saponified.
Some oils make soft soap with no lather that won't hold up well. More than 15% castor oil and your bars will be a sticky soft mess. Some make ultra hard soaps with lots of lather that are too drying to the skin. More than 40% - 76 degree coconut oil and you'll have rock hard bars that strip the skin, even with water adjustments. Too much butter = not enough lather.
The calculations for a quality recipe balance hardness, lather, cleansing and moisturizing properties. This is why my classic artisan recipe uses 5 oils. Each oil contributes it's own properties to the soap. Perfecting those ratios took months of testing. Each new recipe is the product of hours of calculating and testing. The true test of a soapmaker is how well they understand their base oils/butters.
Check out the list of oils and butters that I use!
Essential Oils - My essential oils are therapeutic grade and provided from brands that I trust like Handcraft. Essential oils have a lot of misinformation around them. The information that I will give you about essential oils and products is 100% accurate. So let's clear up any confusion. Essential oils, even therapeutic grade oils, can't be absorbed to any benefit through soap. How soap works is contrary to how essential oils should be applied if you are looking for any benefit besides a great fragrance. When I add essential oils to my soap the purpose is only to make them smell absolutely amazing.
Other products like body butter, scrubs, body oils and fizz come into contact with the skin for longer periods of time. My own personal belief in essential oils is that their benefits are mostly aromatic. There is emerging science and I am excited to learn more about essential oils and other plant based materials that I am researching. So far what my personal experience has shown me is that aromatherapy is effective and highly underrated.
Being able to self-regulate is something that I am keenly aware of. I am a special needs parent and over the years of learning about how to help my child regulate I have also learned to pay attention to my own self-regulation. Aromatherapy has been a really great method to relax, invigorate and help regulate my mood. Big disclaimer here: I am not anti-science, anti-medication, therapy etc. Mental health in our country is a real issue and lavender oil won't solve it. However, with that being said, it's a great addition to your mental health maintenance routine.
Here is a list of therapeutic grade essential oils that I love and use.
Last but certainly not least are the flowers and herbs that I am growing. I use my own fresh grown flowers and herbs like marigolds and sage to top my bars. My first infusion of basil and olive oil is on the shelf awaiting the day it will be ready to be made into soap. Infusions are a great way to get fragrance without distillation! I am excited to enter this next phase of making with infusions and will keep you all posted on my progress.