I LOVE comments, so please, if you have an opinion or would like to ask a question, do so. But do check back as I shall answer any questions in the comments of the relevant post - that way, everyone can benefit from everybody's knowledge and advice.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Skincare Oils and their Benefits in Homemade Beauty Recipes

This list of commonly used skincare oils is not exhaustive. New and exotic oils are constantly being found and made available to those making their own homemade beauty recipes.
Many of these oils have amazing anti-wrinkle or anti aging properties, other's contain therapeutic ingredients that do wonders for particular problem skin. With a little basic knowledge of which oils to use you can make lots of different products from baby creams to a simple balm or a sophisticated moisturiser.  You should check with your suppliers regularly for new products and ask them for lots of information, they should be, after all, the experts.

You will see from the list of skincare oils below that it isn't just the exotic varieties that contain the beneficial properties. Even the humble sunflower or olive oil that we take for granted has a great deal to offer the DIY cosmetic formulator.
The breakdown of the skincare oils is as follows: name of oil followed by the most suitable skin type and then the oils specific properties.

Avocado All skin types (problem)Healing, anti-bacterial and anti aging, softening. Very deep penetrating oil. Excellent base for ointments for treating lacerations, dermatitis, acne.Sea Buckthorn Fruit All skin types (damaged) Unique anti aging, skin softening, nourishing. Helps protect against sun damage. Excellent anti oxidant, soothes irritation and improves barrier protection of the skin. Dilute because it is strongly coloured.
Sea Buckthorn Seed All skin types (aging) Tissue regeneration and healing, analgesic and anti inflammatory, moisture regulator and anti oxidant. Dilute becuseit is strongly coloured.
Macadamia Mature, Dry & Sensitive skin Unique properties very similar to sebum of human skin making it easily absorbed. Soothing and emollient.
Rosehip SeedVery dry or very oily, damaged. Very effective in skin treatments, useful for treating scars, blemishes, burns, aging and sun damage. Dilute.
Wheatgerm Dry, Mature. Acne. Very rich source of natural vitamin E, reduces skin dryness and improves overall complexion.
Argan Damaged skin. Soothing and moisturising. Anti wrinkle. Protects weather damaged skin (sun, wind and cold), Soothes dry excema, chicken pox, psoriasis and acne. Useful for prevention of stretch marks and healing of scar tissue.
Jojoba (this is not officially a skincare oil as jojoba is in fact a liquid wax)All skin types. Moisturising and hydrating without greasiness. Long history of use in hair and skin care.
Hemp Normal to dry (and problem) Emollient, skin softening, promotes healing, anti inflammatory, can relieve itchy scalp, shines hair.
Sesame All skin types Penetrates skin easily, nourishing and detoxifying deep tissue layers. Moisturises and promotes healthy skin.
Black Cumin All skin types (problem) Detoxifying, healing, anti inflammatory, useful for treating allergic reactions and inflamed acne. Dilute.
Hazelnut Mature or Aging Rich in vitamins, minerals and proteins, easily absorbed, tones and tightens, imparts firmness and elasticity, encourages cell regeneration. Dilute.
Evening Primrose Dry or aging. Problem skin. Delicate and readily absorbed into the superficial layers of the skin. Useful treatment for premature aging, dry scaly skin conditions, excema, dandruff, psoriasis. Dilute.Walnut All skin types (dry) Excellent emollient, easily absorbed, useful for dry or irritated skin conditions. Dilute.
Sunflower All skin types High in Vitamin E. Moisturising, light and easily absorbed. Good carrier oil.
Olive All skin types Softens skin and attracts external moisture. Good barrier oil.
Apricot Kernal All skin types (delicate) Fast absorbing, skin softening properties, emollient, useful for delicate facial skin.
St John’s Wort (Macerate) All skin types (acne) Anti bacterial, anti viral, useful for burns, stings, minor skin irritations. Dilute.
Calendula (Macerate) All skin types (damaged). Soothing inflammation, healing damaged tissue, useful for nappy rash or cradle cap, inflamed acne, dehydrated, delicate and aging skin. Burns, slow healing wounds, herpes. excema.
Carrot (Macerate) All skin types (mature) Anti wrinkle, rejuvenating. Healing. Moisturising.
Yarrow (Macerate) All skin types (oily) Astringent, useful in the treatment of excema, pimples, oily skin conditions, varicose veins.
Rose Petal (Macerate) All skin types (delicate) Moisturising, healing and soothing, useful for delicate skin, thread veins, ideal all over emollient.
Shea Butter All skin types (dry) Protective and emollient, restores skins natural elasticity, useful for extreme dryness, scar tissue, dermatitis, excema. Softens, soothes improves quality.
Cocoa Butter All Skin types (dry) Anti oxidant, useful for dermatitis and dry skin conditions and for prevention of stretch marks. Moisturising and easily absorbed.

 In my next post I shall talk about using some of these oils to make a facial serum, including some recipes, so do check back.


Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cleansing Milk

My introduction to cleansing milk was When I was about 18 years old. With only a bare pass in O’Level French, I landed a job in France and my new sophisticated French girl friends were aghast that I used soap on my face! Soap was a big "NON NON" for 'le visage'. There were many other "Non Non’s" concerning just about everything to do with my lack of a skincare routine.  Paris was an eye opener I can tell you, and the most important topic of conversation to my new French friends was that I did not make the best of myself, and I was also fat – that being a greater sin than ugliness, but I digress.
I was sent off to visit a beauty parlour that wanted volunteers for their trainees to practice on, I didn’t have to pay. But I did have to put up with the discussion by the teacher and a room full of fledgeling beauticians that my nose was 'encrusted with blackheads'  and how British girls didn’t know the first thing about caring for their skin.  After making me feel awful, the very friendly trainee beauticians actually helped me a great deal - not only did I get free cleansing treatments, but advice and lessons on skincare too. Cleansing milk was to become part of my daily routine.  Of course it was my fault entirely that the best cleansing milk to be had in Paris brought me out in a rash, and when looking at the bewildering list of ingredients, almost impossible to know which one could be the culprit!
It took several purchases to find one that my skin could tolerate, not the most expensive but certainly the most obscure. On returning to Britain, I looked down my nose at the smooth pink bar of soap on the hand basin and reached for my 'oh-so-chic' bottle of 'laits corps' only to find it was empty and a replacement impossible to find… Substitutes were sought among the bottles at the local chemist and I settled on one that promised to be gentle… and it was… for about a week when I once again developed an unsightly rash. I was allergic to just about everything Boots had to offer and became convinced that I was simply ‘odd’ and went back to water with the occasional smear of soap.

The connection I did not make at the time was that ‘cleansing milk’ isn’t just a name. The composition of milk varies depending upon which animal the milk comes from, goat milk being considerably higher in fat than that of cows and already a favourite for sufferers of excema who may have found that even drinking it can help their condition. It's this fat that makes it perfect and very gentle for cleansing.
My point is, you can simply take the milk from the fridge and wash your face in it. And it is often the best solution for people with sensitive skin or a problem such as blackheads or pimples. Use a bit of cotton wool and simply pour on the milk and then wipe (always upwards remember) on your face. It doesn't remove makeup, but it will remove daily grime and it is certainly one of the most simple homemade beauty recipes. Just add a few drops of a well chosen essential oil bottle it - label it - keep it in the fridge and use daily. Of course you should discard it the moment it shows any signs of going off.

Recipe for A Fresh Cleansing Milk

Ingredients250ml milk. (choose whole (or Jersey) milk if you have dry skin; semi skimmed if your skin is inclined to be oily.
½ cucumber
1ml Essential Oil of your choice.
Use a blender or liquidiser to reduce the cucumber (including the skin) to mush. Add the milk and heat in a pan until just boiling. Allow to cool. Strain through muslin into a jug and allow to cool before mixing in the essential oils. Apply with cotton wool in an upward sweeping motion on your face. This mixture does not contain a preservative and so will only keep in the fridge for around 4 to 5 days. Discard the moment it shows signs of going off.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Water-Based Cleansers for Sensitive Skin

Water on it's own is limited in it's ability to clean the skin. Therefore water-based cleansers must have something else in them to help remove the daily build up of grease and grime. You could of course make it into a cream cleanser with the addition of plant oils and emulsifier but to keep it very simple for very sensitive skins, one of the best additives is glycerine. There are one or two people allergic to glycerine so it isn't a sure fire choice for everyone but it's worth trying it to see.
Be sure to ask for vegetable glycerine. It is impossible to tell chemically whether the glycerine you are using is from a vegetable or animal source so you need to trust your supplier. Simply picking some up in the chemists shop is not a guarantee of an all-vegetable product.
Another option is to add a little vinegar or lemon juice to water... but you have to be very careful, too much and the whole thing becomes like an astringent toner and will be too harsh for most sensitive skintypes. 

Water-Based Cleansers with Glycerine

Ingredients100ml Rose Flower Water - If you use rose water from the cake baking section of the supermarket it will contain a preservative… this ensures that your preparation will last for a long time, there is also no reason to think that it will be detrimental to your skin, but you may prefer to buy a rose hydrosol from a specialist supplier, which will be more pure.
10ml Vegetable Glycerine
1 or 2 drops of Rose Otto essential oil (Rose otto is a very expensive oil but to substitute with a cheaper oil is defeating the object – my advice is to choose an organic Rose Otto and buy the smallest amount possible (usually 3ml) and use it very sparingly, sometimes only one drop is enough.
If you really feel that rose is out of the question, purchase a lavender hydrosol and use a good quality organic lavender essential oil. Or you could choose a suitable blend of essential oils (eventually I will put some suggested blends onto the blog... in the meantime scour the internet or the charity shop for books on essential oil blending - there are a lot out there.

Combine the flower water and vegetable glycerin. Shake well. Add the essential oil if using and shake well again. Decant into a small bottle and place in a dark cupboard for a week. Shake once or twice every day. Filter the mixture through a coffee filter paper and then decant into a clean bottle. The mixture is then ready for use. If you have made your own Rose water, then halve the amounts above and keep in the fridge for two days – shaking every day. Finally strain through the coffee filter paper and decant into a clean bottle and return the mixture to the fridge.
Use the mixture by pouring a small amount onto cotton wool and cleanse the face with an upward sweeping motion.

Vinegar & Water-Based Cleansers

Ingredients100ml White wine or Apple Vinegar
1 handful of fresh Rose Petals
100ml Rose Hydrosol or plain distilled water.
2 drops Rosewood Essential Oil
Steep the fresh rose petals in the vinegar for two or three days. Make sure that they are well covered in the vinegar. Strain and then add the rose hydrosol or plain distilled water. Mix well. Add the Rosewood essential oil and then shake the bottle well. Allow to rest for 24 hours before using for the first time. Use by applying the solution to cotton wool and cleanse the face in an upward motion.

Herbal Teas as water-based cleansers

Herbal teas can be wonderful for sensitive skin. Faces inclined to become puffy or red at the drop of a hat often respond well to washing in a herbal tea. When making herbal water-based cleansers it is important to choose your herb or flower very carefully and to understand which herbs or flowers are going to be most useful for your condition. The usual method is to boil some spring water and infuse the fresh herbs taking it off the boil and letting it steep until cool. Strain the mixture and use it straight away as a natural face wash. Or add some essential oils and bottle it, keeping it in the fridge for only a few days.
This will not keep much beyond three or four days in the fridge. If you are using a particularly woody herb (stems and barks) then you may need to boil the herb for a while rather than letting it steep. Follow the same advice given for extracting the medicinal qualitites of the herb for taking internaly.
If you would like further information about herbs and their uses other than skincare take a look at The Herbal How-To Guide. This site is run by a friend of mine whose friendly approach to the subject makes us all feel like experts!

Monday, 25 October 2010

Non-Soap Cleansers

A truly natural non-soap cleanser is not a far-fetched idea. In this world of mass-produced facial cleansers and makeup removers, containing all sorts of strange sounding chemicals, it might seem like soap is your only option. NO! It certainly isn't.
For example, did you know that you can remove your make up by using any vegetable oil from your kitchen cupboard? Well it's true - a little olive or sunflower oil on a damp cotton wool pad will remove even waterproof mascara. And it doesn't have to be olive or sunflower, it could be any kind of oil at all, even lard. Using lard may be taking things a little too far. But this website is not about buying masses of expensive ingredients (although you can if you want to, and I have recipes for those too!) or spending a fortune just to make natural skincare products. It's really just to open up the possibilities to you, another example...

Why do you think Cleopatra bathed in asses milk? Well we don't actually know if she did, but she is attributed with having done so, and if she did... well done her! Asses milk is high in fat content and very gentle and soothing - especially if you have sensitive skin prone to flare ups.Why would you buy a preparatory cleansing milk when you can purchase fresh goat milk (which comes without synthetic preservatives I might add) which will do exactly the same job? I bet you never thought about it like that did you? Yes there are considerations like how long will it keep before going rancid, but if you use milk on a daily basis in the kitchen there is no reason why you couldn't use some of it every day for your complexion.

Choosing what sort of non-soap facial cleanser you want to use will depend upon your skintype.

The choices you have are as follows:
All oil cleansers: from the simplest olive oil to a more sophisticated blend - removes makeup as well as daily grime.
Water-based cleansers: plain water with just one or two simple additions for cleansing the most delicate of complexions.
Milk-based cleansers: gentle and effective and cold from the fridge! If it worked for Cleopatra maybe it will work for you.
Cream-based cleansers: products to rival anything you can buy at the chemist. You could try a victorian cold cream as a cleanser. Great for removing theatrical make up and/or really stubborn dirt especially if you have very dry skin.

Starting with oil-based cleansers I have given you a couple of recipes to get you started.  Other recipes coming, keep checking back!

Rose Petal Oil for Dry or Mature Skin
75ml Sunflower Oil25ml Macedamia Oil
Three drops Rose Otto essential oil
Three handfuls of fresh rose petals dried. In preference choose an old-fashioned scented variety.
Macerate (instructions on macerating oils at the bottom of the post) the rose petals in the two oils for two to three weeks, after which, strain and use as is or add the essential oil. Leave the mixture for 24 hours to allow the essential oil to settle in prior to using it as a makeup remover for the first time.
To vary
The same recipe can be made substituting the expensive rose essential oil with lavender and replacing the rose petals with dried lavender buds.

Yarrow for Oily Skin Prone to Acne
100mls Olive oil (you can choose whichever grade of olive oil you wish, if olive oil is too reminiscent of kitchen and cooking for your taste, then choose almond oil.
Two drops tea tree essential oilThree drops lavender essential oil
A good handful of fresh Yarrow stalks complete with flowers and leaves. you should choose a mixture of both leaves and flowers because of the different chemical makeup of each - the balance is important.
Dry the yarrow and macerate in the oil (for more informaiton on how to macerate oils see the bottom of this post). Once the oil has been strained you can use it, as is, or add the essential oil. Leave the mixture for 24 hours to allow the essential oil to settle in before using it as a makeup remover for the first time.
To vary
Add the peeled rind of a large unwaxed lemon (make sure that you do not include any of the pith or white underside of the peel as this contains different chemical qualities) to the oil along with the yarrow and macerate together for two to three weeks.


Macerates make superb skincare oils. And it is possible to tailor them specifically for yourself. Maceration is the process of transfering the therapeutic parts of plants and flowers into the oil. You must use dried herbs or flowers and it is very important to identify which herb or flower you are using correctly. Not all plants have beneficial qualities. Very clear easy to follow directions for drying your herbs can be found at The Herbal How To Guide as well as any help identifying which herbs to use.
Once you have your dried herb, you then bruise it substantially in order to break the tough outer skin. The herb can then be covered with a suitable skincare oil. Plain olive or sunflower is most common but it is entirely up to you which oil you use. Cover the bruised herb with your chosen oil and then allow it to steep for two or three weeks in a sunny place, giving it a gentle swirl every day. If you do not have reliable sunshine, then simply place it in a warm place - airing cupboard or close to the Aga will do.
After two to three weeks the oil is then ready to be strained. First through a fine mesh sieve and finally through coffee filter paper or muslin, to remove any last traces of plant material. The oil can then be used to make your chosen skincare product.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Practical Soap Course

Learning to make soap is not that difficult. There are numerous books and other blogs with tutorials but some people learn better with a practical hands on demonstration. The pouring of the sodium hydroxide into the water always makes students think twice about tackling it on their own the first time. And it is true, you cannot be complacent about safety. If you are one of those who would prefer to have someone more experienced watch over you the first time you make soap then this could be the answer.

This is a low-budget option for those people who feel able to learn the theory from course notes or a book. The practical soap course will teach you how to be safe while making soap and provide you with free recipes to get you started. You will watch a demonstration of soap making and then have the opportunity to make a small batch of soap yourself under the supervision of an internationally acclaimed soap maker. The course assumes that if you wish to tailor recipes you will have to do some research on your own. The course runs on a week day from 9am to 1pm (ish) and costs £40 per student. No lunch, although tea/coffee and juice will be provided during the morning. Maximum of 4 students per session - booking is essential.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Mud Masks

Using a Mud Mask for regular Deep Cleansing

Using a mud mask is a very old-fashioned beauty remedy... but one that works. The use of clay (which becomes mud when wet) to heal the skin is known as Pelotherapy from the Greek word Pelos meaning Mud or Clay. All sorts of different types of mud from various locations around the world is suitable for deep cleansing of the pores. Some of the most famous are Dead sea mud, Argiletz clay from France, Rhassoul mud from the Atlas mountains in Morocco.

All of these are rich in mineral salts in varying quantities and work on the same principle of drawing toxins out through the pores of the body. There are minor differences between them, in particular the Rhassoul mud is less 'drawing' than the others, and my personal favourite, though it is possible to purchase Argiletz clay in different colours and textures for different skin types.

The principle is this. You Clean your face with your usual cleanser and leaving your skin slightly damp you apply the mud mask and then relax for ten to fifteen minutes. After which time you rinse it off. Apply a little toner or tepid water, pat the skin dry and then apply your usual moisturiser or night cream if you are preparing for bed. A regular deep cleanse in this fashion - say once a fortnight to start with, Will help to keep blackheads and pimples under control as well as removing the natural top layer of dead skin cells - revealing the fresh young skin beneath.

The Basic Mud Mask goes like this...

Take 20g of your favourite type of clay and mix with warm (previously boiled) water to a paste like consistency. Spread mud over the face avoiding the sensitive areas around eyes and mouth. Relax while the mask dries. Once dry, rinse with clean warm water, dab with a toner then pat dry and follow with moisturiser.

Variations on a Theme.

Mash a little ripe fruit or vegetable into the mud mask. It may feel a little strange to be scouring the fruit bowl or vegetable basket for your weekly pamper session, but get used to the idea, the kitchen is really just an annex to your cosmetic cupboard. I shall be posting more about using fruit as a natural skin peel soon. For now the best bet is to look for a ripe banana!

Why not add some oats to your clay mixture? Oats are excellent skin softeners and work really well on more mature skins. Simply grind them up a little and pop the powder in.

You could try adding a herbal tea or a flower hydrosol (or flower water) to your clay mixture rather than plain water. Or you could add a few drops of an essential oil blend for your particular skintype. (A good book on Aromatherapy may help you here). If you are using essential oils in a small quantity of face mask then keep it to two or three drops maximum... depending upon the types of essential oils you use. If you experience any kind of irritation remove the face mask immediately.

Honey is excellent for the complexion and will help control a number of skin problems. Simply add a small amount to your mixture.

Cream or Yoghurt is good in a face mask too. Cream if you have very dry or mature skin and yoghurt for normal to oily skins. If you do choose yoghurt make it a 'live' one. You know the ones with the friendly bacteria in!

Vegetable oil added to the clay can help reduce the drawing effect... especially helpful if you have very sensitive and delicate skin. Simply go back to the kitchen cupboard and use sunflower, olive or rapeseed... whichever you normally cook with. They work just as well and have their own skincare benefits.

Rhassoul mud comes from the Atlas mountains of Morocco. It is my all time favourite clay for face and body masks (yes you can smear your whole body, not just your face... the benefits are the same.) If you have very sensitive skin then I would suggest Rhassoul over the other clays (though you can cut down on the length of time you keep the mask on your face if you are very sensitive), rhassoul is good not only for sufferers of acne but also those who have eczema or very dry skin.

A mud mask will cleanse very deep into the pores and you may find that the following day you have developed the odd spot or two, this is because you have encouraged deep down dirt to surface. It's perfectly normal and natural and provided that you keep scrupulously clean it will clear up in a day or two.

It may be better to choose your deep cleansing days with this in mind.


Acne need not be a blight on your life - learn how to cope with it using the help of Mother Nature.

Acne can plague even the most beautiful of complexions during certain times of life. Adolescence being the most common. There is no absolute cure for acne or the accompanying blackheads. However I do believe that science has advanced quite a bit with some pretty powerful drugs - but surely only to be contemplated for the most extreme cases.
For many people these few teenage years are simply to be endured and time eventually cures all. For those going through adolescense the best advice that can be given for coping with this difficult period is healthy eating and absolute cleanliness. Keeping a cheerful outlook and not drawing attention to your faults is also to be encouraged.
Before you sigh and then click the back button in disappointment - I was blighted in my teenage years with the most dreadful spots and boils, on my face especially, so I do understand that ‘keeping a cheerful outlook’ is not necessarily helpful advice. And I seem to remember that healthy eating was the most difficult regime to follow, chocolate and cake can fill a void in our lives that we simply don't understand.
It's only now that I am in my 50th decade that I truly understand the connection between appearance and eating well. Plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and lots of water to drink is a very good start. Followed by regular exercise and sweating to cleanse the pores and rid the body of toxins.

But what about when acne doesn't go away after your teenage years are long behind you? This is now attributed to a hormone imbalance - which I assume could be controlled by using, once again, strong medication. Which is not something we all want. I cannot assure you of success by following any of the advice here... but since it is all natural then you have little to risk by giving it a go.Keep yourself spotlessly clean and try not to touch your face so much. You will be suprised how much we paw our faces with dirty fingers! Acne is usually accompanied by very oily skin. To keep this in balance you may wish to use a natural face wash especially if you add sebum regulating essential oils to it. This on it's own could make a lot of difference but better still to use several approaches to ensure the maximum benefit and prospect of hitting on the one that works for you. By the way I have been asked why I won't include pictures of people with acne on this page? Well the answer is simple... it is not for me to diagnose your acne. If you think you have it, check with your doctor or healthcare professional.

Use a natural face wash during the day to remove excess oil. A small amount of cotton wool and the face wash in a little plastic container will suffice (and not take up too much room in your handbag) I suggest the following as a very basic but wonderfully effective face wash.

Hamamelis virginiana - Witch Hazel
Do not be tempted by the witch hazel sold in the chemists shop... these are usually laced with alcohol and are extremely drying to the skin. The real witch hazel is amazing stuff, and not so harsh. It reduces swellings, itching, rashes and scaling of the skin. It is very good for soothing excema and psoriasis and will heal cracked or blistered skin. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Is wonderful on teenage acne but is also very good for mature and dry skins and is considered one of the most useful waters in the fight against signs of aging.

Get Rid of Those Blackheads!

Regular deep cleansing is required in order to free the skin of blackheads. Open pores are prone to accumulate dirt and grime all the time, so frequent deep cleansing may be necessary, whether this is by using a face mask or a gentle natural skin peel or a regular facial sauna. Stubborn black heads can be removed in the following manner. Take a small amount of vegetable oil (any type will do) and massage gently over the blackhead. After a few minutes of this, take a couple of pieces of tissue paper and covering your fingers, gently squeeze on either side of the blackhead. If it does not come out straight away, do not worry. And do not force it you will only scar your skin. Simply repeat the massage with vegetable oil and then try again. If it does not come out on this occasion, allow your skin to calm down for at least 24 hours before trying once again. Repeated attempts will eventually yield success. In between times the rule about strict cleanliness is paramount or you will simply encourage more blackheads to form.

Take a look at my post on Mud Masks for the last word on natural deep cleansing and for a simple recipe that can be tailored to your own requirements.

Why some people get bad acne

...and others do not is surely down to inheritance and the genes that we carry. I understand how debilitating the condition is and would not wish anyone to feel guilty at resorting to the chemical options offered by modern science.There is a temptation while the skin has a propensity to over produce oils, to use harsh products that will totally denude the complexion of all its natural oil. If you do this, the result is that of encouraging the skin to over produce even more in an effort to make up the difference. It's a catch-22 situation.
Although natural remedies can be slow and painstaking and you may be past your teenage years before you see much improvement if you can cope with it in this way it has got to be preferable to using harsh drugs and skin damaging creams. And remember what looks like a Vesuvius erupting on your face to you, will dwindle to insignificance in the eyes of all you meet if you maintain a cheerful disposition.

Problem Skin

Problem skin could be counted as one of the most debilitating afflictions that normally healthy human beings can suffer from. Any in-balance of the skin is likely to leave your complexion open to attack. And when problem skin occurs, it is usually on public view, so much so, that the sufferer may also develop psychological issues such as underconfidence, phobias, low self esteem etc.
Our skin is host to a myriad of flora and fauna that, under normal, healthy conditions help to maintain the balance of our complexion. A well balanced skin glows with health and feels supple and smooth with only the very rare occurrence of blemishes such as pimples. Because our skin is a reflection of our inner health (both mental and physical) it can change its appearance on a daily basis.
Therefore the first step in achieving a healthy complexion is to regulate your general health. Eat good food, plenty of fresh vegetables and drink lots of water, cut down on alcohol intake and stop smoking. Recreational drugs need to be consigned to the trash! Daily exercise is also recommended. Compliment this with a regular skin care routine that is 'tweaked' often enough to cope with stresses and strains of everyday life, and within a short period of time - even a couple of weeks - you will begin to see a marked improvement in your appearance.No, I am not saying that this alone will cure problem skin as serious as exzema or psoriasis. Of course not. These skin diseases are more complex than that. But if you begin with your over-all health and progress to trying the natural remedies suggested here then you are certainly giving yourself the best possible chance to improve the condition. It is important to remember that natural remedies work slowly, usually in a gentle way, but v-e-r-y sl-o-w-ly. If you have a really severe outbreak of exzema for example, of course you should go to your doctor, sometimes it is necessary to use the 'filthy-vile-chemical-concoction' in order to get the situation under control before you can revert to a natural routine.
But many hydrocortisone applications will cause the skin to thin over time and you could end up with a worse condition than the one you were trying to control. So it is important to discuss ALL options both natural and synthetic with your health professional so that you know exactly what your choices are.
Please note, I cannot diagnose skin conditions for you, do not contact me requesting advice or personal consultation - this isn't going to happen. The remedies suggested here have worked very well for 'some' sufferers with problem skin and are offered as possible natural solutions. It is up to you to evaluate the advice and decide if you wish to try it, if you have any concerns at all - discuss these with your health care professional
A word about stress Many skin ailments are exacerbated by the state of your mental health. Stress and anxiety have a very marked and quick effect on the appearance of the skin. I have known cases of chronic problem skin clear up because the person went through a course of therapy with a trained psychotherapist. Confidence building exercises are also very useful in the fight against skin disease, as is possessing a cheerful and positive disposition - do not laugh at the power of the mind!A word about using Organic Products- As much as I love to choose organic products, there is, to date, no real scientific proof that organic is better for you than a product made with non-organic ingredients. Of course I prefer organic ingredients and I believe that they are better for you - but to-date, science does not agree with me. I did promise not to perpetuate urban myths and half truths on this site - that does mean that sometimes you will read stuff that you disagree with.
But that's ok too!
Having said that... I personally believe that if you have a skin problem you should choose the most pure of natural ingredients to use in your skincare routine and you should 'attack' the problem on all fronts.
The first and the most 'popular' problem skin condition is ACNE.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Using Pigment Colours and Colouring Techniques

Clays: Cosmetic clays are wonderful soap additives and come in various colours and including them in the soap mix will add a small amount of texture as well. It is recommended not to use more than 1 – 2 tablepoons of clay per kilogram of oils, however you need to be guided by your own tastes.

Oxides: Oxides are very common soap additives that you can purchase from specialist soap ingredient suppliers. Although oxides are more stable than plant dyes, they do still have a tendancy to fade in strong sunlight. The end colour result is also affected by the colours of the ingredients in your soap. For example if you are using a very green coloured olive oil this may inhibit a true blue oxide from producing a very blue soap.

Amount to use: Once again this depends upon the depth of colour you are looking for in the final product. Anything between ¼ tsp up to 2 teaspoons per kg of oil would be a good starting point.

A note about synthetic pigments These soap additives are definitely NOT natural, but they are very stable and provided you can measure exact amounts will always produce the same colour in the same formula. Since only very, very small amounts are required this can be difficult to measure when making small batches. These soap additives have no real place in with the other natural options listed above, but since they are very popular with soap makers and the nature of soap is to wash off - there is little chance of any component of a synthetic coloured soap additive being absorbed by the skin. The synthetic colours or lakes as they are often called are mixed with oil – never used in water soluble products and always used very sparingly. Lakes are Inorganic pigments, and do not usually bleed or leach colour.

There are 4 types of Lakes: Calcium Salt, Barium Salt, Aluminum Salt and a Sodium Salt. The colour from the dye is placed onto one of these as an insoluble base to hold the colour onto. Which Salt is used is determined by the colour they want to achieve, as the Salts impact on the result. Some lakes are also Rosinated. Rosin is derived from tree sap and gives a blue tone to reds.

Amount of coloured soap additive to use: 1/8 teaspoon per kg of oils. (for measuring tiny amounts use the end of a spoon handle).

Colouring Techniques

Solid Coloured SoapOnce you have chosen your colour and have prepared it accordingly you only need to add it to your batch of soap and mix well to obtain a uniform solid coloured soap. You may wish to add it at a light trace in order to give yourself plenty of time to mix it in properly before the soap starts to set up.

A two coloured or layered soap can be achieved by splitting your formula in half and making one half of the batch up to an hour before the other. Make the first half of your formula in one colour and pour the soap. Insulate as normal for at least one hour. Prepare the other half of the formula and colour it a different shade. Pour this half of the formula onto the top of the insulating soap and then recover and leave for the full insulating period. So long as you pour the next layer of soap on top within the hour the two separate batches will stick together. If you leave it longer there is a good chance that they will separate.

SwirlingThere are several ways to swirl. The key to success however is in judging the level of trace so that the coloured soap suspends within the main batch. Using synthetic fragrances in a swirled soap adds an extra dimension of difficulty since they often accelorate the rate of trace. It is definitely advisable to begin swirling only those soaps that contain essential oils.

Swirling Technique a:When your soap has reached a light trace pour about a quarter of it into a separate container. Mix the essential oils and any other additives required with the remaining soap and then pour into the mould. Now add the colour to the quarter of soap you have left out and mix well. Pour this soap onto the soap in the mould in straight lines forming a grid pattern (a bit like naughts and crosses game) vary the height at which you pour the soap so that it falls right through to the bottom of the mould in places. Now take a knife or spatula and holding it upright trace lines through the soap running in the opposite direction to the grid pattern already made with the contrast colour. Cover the soap and insulate as normal.

Swirling Technique b: When your soap has reached a light trace pour about a quarter of it into a separate container to which you add the colour. Add the fragrance to the main soap pot. Return the coloured soap to the main soap pot and then swirl once with whisk or spatula. Pour the soap into the mould, cover and insulate as normal.

Swirling Technique c: When your soap has reached a light trace pour about a quarter of it into a separate container to which you add the colour. Add the fragrance to the main soap pot, stir and then pour into the mould. Stir the colour into the soap in the separate container and then pour this into a nozzled plastic ketchup container. Use this to swirl the coloured soap into the main batch. With this method you can get some very specific and delicate lines of colour throughout the soap. Finally cover and insulate as normal.

Natural Colourings for Soap

Finding natural soap additives can be as simple as rifling through your kitchen cupboard. They are usually cheap and easy to find. And because they are natural, there is always the possibility of an unusual outcome!

Even though some of these additives have a strong smell in the raw... once they have been through the rigorous soap making process there is usually no trace of the scent!

Different natural ingredients can produce varying colours by infusing specific plants, flowers or barks in the soap making ingredients. But I warn you, the colours are never startling or really bright. The best that you can expect from natural soap additives is earthy, sludgy, natural looking colours.

Don't necessarily stick to the traditional method of adding the natural colourant at trace. Try infusing the plant in the lye to see what kind of colour you get, or infuse in the base oil at the start. The result may only be subtley different, but equally it could be very different.

This soap has been coloured with carrot juice.


Alkanet Root (Alkanna tinctoria)Colour: varies from red through lavender to blue. Alkalinity affects the shade obtained. Alkanet comes as a dried root which should be infused - it is often called natures litmus paper since it turns shades of dark blue in an alkaline environment and shades of red or pink in an acid environment. Because of the natural alkalinity of soap it is very unlikely that you would ever get pink soap from it.

Annatto Seed (Bixa orellana)Colour: varies from Orange to YellowAnnatto comes as dry beads which should be infused in warm oil or lye.

Carrot Juice colour: varies according to how much juice is used... from yellow to orange. Replace some or all of the water content of the recipe for freshly juiced carrots.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum, Cinnamomum cassia)Colour: warm brown tones.This is the spice we all know from the kitchen. It can be used whole and infused in the oils (I have never tried it in lye) or the powdered variety mixed with a small amount of soap and added to the whole pot at trace.

Cocoa Powder (Theobroma cacao)Colour: warm brown tones.Again this is the stuff we make chocolate drinks from. It is best mixed with a small amount of soap and added to the pot at trace. Like the cinnamon, the effect is often a bit speckly.

Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis)Colour: Berries produce a caramel colour, flowers a soft yellow.Infuse the dry flowers or berries in the lye solution, there seems to be very little extraction of colour by infusing in oil - but this may be because I didn't leave it long enough.

Madder Root (Rubia tinctorum)Colour: pinky red.Madder can be infused in both lye or oil. The main reason many people reject madder is because it contains a substance known as anthraquinones. In small quantities these are used in the treatment of some cancers, however in large quantities they can cause cancer. In reality, you are unlikely to ever use enough of this soap additive for it to have any adverse effect upon your body (especially since soap is a wash-off product).

Paprika (Capsicum annum)Colour: Speckled pink.Yep... this is paprika pepper from the kitchen. Don't use too much as it could produce 'heat' on the skin (outside chance). It should be infused in a little oil and added to the soap at trace.

Rose Hips (Rosa canina, Rosa arvensis, Rosa rubiginosa)Colour: Pink to tan.Rose hips are usually bought ready powdered but if you are planning on preparing your own, dry well first, then ground to a fine powder. Add this to a little soap and return to the main batch at trace.

SpirulinaColour: blue-greenMethod: Add at trace.Add the spirulina to the lye solution or to the soap at trace. It is possible to use too much and give your soap a distinctly 'seaside' smell to it. This does fade over time.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)Colour: Peach to OrangeAdd to a little of the soap at trace and return to the main batch.

Amounts of soap additive to use:

This is purely a matter of preference, after all, how much colour you wish to see in the final bar of soap? – bear in mind that natural colours will eventually fade out totally and large quantities of spices added at trace could be irritating to the skin.

I would start with approximately 30grams of plant material per kg of oils or 20grams of spices per kg of oils. Keep careful notes and increase or decrease as desired for future batches.

Producing Colour from Plant Material

Firstly you can't add fresh plant material to the soap mixture. Even hot process soap - which in theory has already cooked out the sodium hydroxide - will turn fresh plants or flowers, petals etc. into a horrid black mush after a very short time. You must always dry any plant thoroughly before considering adding it to the soap. Many plants or flowers when dried will add a decorative touch to the soap but the ones we are talking about here will add colour too.

In order to extract the colour from the plant you need to infuse it. This involves placing a quantity (?how much... how long is a piece of string?) of the plant into warm oil or warm lye solution. This should then be left for a while (?how long... again, how long is a piece of string?) until the colour has leached into the oil or lye. This oil or lye can now be used in the soap recipe.

I am sorry that I can't give you exact times or quantities, but the finished effect is down to you and your experiments - this is what makes soap making so fascinating, and so individual.

soap coloured using powder pigments - watch out for my post on these coming next!

Aromatherapy Soap?

I have certainly used this term myself when selling natural soap which included essential oils. I was however always quick to point out that there was no proof that essential oils in soap will have any therapeutic value at all. Why?

Well firstly, soap is a wash off product. We are basically waterproof anyway and the whole function of the soap is that it will latch onto the dirt and oil on our bodies and whip it away down the drain.

Secondly, the soap making process is very harsh. We are using Sodium Hydroxide and quite high temperatures - over which we may not have any control... especially if your soap gels in the mould. If the essential oil does not burn off during the initial soap making process (and this is why we use such large quantities in soap making - sometimes up to 3% of the base oils), the final smell is not always quite what you expected. It has been altered by the process. If it is going to have any therapy value it will be in the smell - but I can't be sure that it is what an aromatherapist would expect.

So for soap making I always choose cheaper essential oils. This does not mean that my soap is a lesser product. It's a question of raw ingredients fit for purpose rather than of quality. Similarly if I am making a night cream for my mother-in-law I will always use an organic essential oil from a reputable supplier.

And this brings me to the essential oils suppliers. It is very easy for us to be fobbed off by poor quality oils sold at premium prices and not to know the difference. How would we know the difference? I have known aromatherapists rave about a particular oil until they smelled the same oil from another supplier... and even then... plants are natural things... what they do one year, they don't the next.

Each batch of oil will be subtly different from the last. And the difference between lavender from different suppliers can be astounding! You need to find an essential oil supplier whom you trust and be guided by his/her advice as to purchasing the correct product... i.e. tell them that you are making soap, or that you are wanting to use it in a massage bar and they will be better placed to advise you which grade of oil to buy. Hint If you are unsure, order a very small quantity, the smallest you can and then be guided by your nose, if you like it... ask for a bigger quantity from the same batch.


This is very important.YOU must be the judge. Your nose must be the one to say if it is good or not. Don't worry if you think you have a poor sense of smell. The more you use your nose to smell different things the better it gets at smelling. Do not be tempted to use more than the recommended amount in your product. And be aware that some oils have side effects (e.g. making your skin more susceptible to sunburn) and these should be taken into consideration. But most of all... do lots of sniffing and have fun.

Bishop's Balm Soap

This is one of my soap making recipes inspired by the medieval monks who used comfrey in their healing poultices. It is not likely that they would have used it in soap, or sunflower oil and they certainly would not know about coconut oil but the beeswax in this recipe helps keep the bar nice and hard and the sunflower adds a lightness to the lather. When I first made this soap back in 2003 I scented it with two parts Bergamot to one part Lavender - you can, of course, choose whichever scent combinations you desire - or leave it unscented, as you wish.


Coconut oil = 300grams

Palm oil = 250grams

Sunflower = 350grams

Beeswax = 50grams

Green Comfrey Oil = 25grams

Water = 300grams

Sodium Hydroxide = 134grams

Don't forget the basic safety instructions.

Follow instructions for making the basic beginners soap with the following additions: Melt the bees wax with the base oils and then let the oils cool to about 45 degrees celcius or at least until the mixture becomes a bit thick and soupy. The bees wax in this soap helps speed up the rate of trace, however the sunflower oil takes longer than olive to come to trace so you may find the two cancel each other out and the mixture will behave itself - however be prepared to work fast just in case!

The Comfrey oil should be added to the soap at trace, just before pouring into the mould. There is a concern in soap making recipes about using too high a percentage of sunflower oil, since sunflower oil is prone to early rancidity - I never had any problems with this particular recipe but then I can't say for sure since it was always used well before the two years from manufacture date.

If you would like to add essential oils to this recipe then do feel free to experiment with blends or single oils that you think would be appropriate. On average I would add 2% of the total of the base oils in the soap making recipe as fragrance or essential oil. Be guided by your nose though, if the essential oil you choose is very strong then you may wish to add less. For this recipe that means 19grams - although not entirely accurate I would use a 20ml bottle of essential oil or blend to a total of 20ml in a small measuring container.

To Vary

Continuing the trend for medieval inspired soap (I have a whole load of these, our village used to have an abbey, sadly one of the abbeys and monasteries abolished by Henry VIII, which celebrated it's millenium in 2005 - for this event I created a number of medieval-styled soaps)

Take the same recipe and blend with the soap mixture a heaped tablespoon of green or yellow clay. Don't hang about before getting this into the mould though... it gets thick quite quickly! A sprinkling of ground olive stones, or powdered strawberry seeds will give this soap a gritty dirt-busting texture - but remember less is more in this instance... only a teaspoonful or less is required for this quantity of soap.

This Oxford Gargoyle soap comes from a specially commissioned silicone mould. It's a one-off which cost quite a bit at the time but makes wonderful gifts.

Suggested Essential Oil Blends for Soap

strong or Masculine Blends

Ginger = 3 parts

Frankincense = 8 parts

Bergamot = 8 parts

Juniper = 2 parts

Geranium = 3 parts

Cypress = 2 parts

Juniper = 4 parts

Mandarin = 2 parts

Juniper = 3 parts

Delicate non-flowery Blends

Sandalwood = 2 parts

Rosewood = 3 parts

Peppermint = 2 parts

Lavender = 3 parts

Cedarwood = 2 parts

Lavender = 3 parts

Geranium = 4 parts

Patchouli = 1 part

Feminine Scents

Ylang Ylang = 2 parts

Geranium = 3 parts

Shampoo Bar Blends

Rosemary = 6 parts

Lavender = 4 parts

Lavender = 6 parts

Geranium = 4 parts

Tea Tree = 2 parts

Rosemary = 4 parts

Lavender = 4 parts

In general the citrus oils do not hold well in natural soap - you can try anchoring the light citrus smell by the inclusion of a more base note oil - however this then changes the citrus smell somewhat. If you want a true citrus smelling soap you will need to look at using a fragrance oil. See my post on Fragrance Oils vs Essential Oils. Sometimes you can get the volatile top note citrus smell to linger for longer by anchoring it to a deeper note such as the following: (Mind you they no longer smell like true citrus scents)

Orange = 4 parts

Lavender = 4 parts

Geranium = 2 parts

Lemon = 4 parts

Cedarwood = 2 parts

Cypress = 4 parts

The type of base oils and the method you use for soap making will have an effect upon the final scent of your soap. This is all part of the fun of making soap.

All Olive-Oil Soap (Castile)

This is one of the most simple soap making recipes, but not always the most simple to make, however don't let that put you off. It is worth having a go since this is a very gentle soap that I recommend using on your face.

The Castile soap making recipe is considered one of the most inoffensive soaps and is often recommended for use by people with sensitive skin conditions or problems such as acne, psoriasis and excema. To make it very special you could use an extra virgin olive oil, however, be aware that extra virgin olive oil can take quite a while to trace.


Olive oil = 950grams

Water = 300grams

Sodium Hydroxide = 122grams

Don't forget the basic safety instructions.

Full soapmaking instructions can be found here. Stuck as to what fragrance to use? Would you like some suggested blends of essential oils to use? Check out the Essential Oil posts for some ideas to get you started.

"I haven't the time to read through all that!"

OK... in brief...the amount of fragrance you use will vary depending upon which essential oil or fragrance you choose, but on average I would add 2% of the total of the base oils as fragrance or essential oil.

For this recipe that means 19grams - although not entirely accurate I would use a 20ml bottle of essential oil or blend to a total of 20ml in a small measuring container. Be guided by your nose though, if the essential oil you choose is very strong then you may wish to add less.

If you would like to adjust the amount of superfat in the soap then please go to the post on formulating and tailoring your own recipes and read about the benefits of this and exactly how to do it. It is not advised to simply adjust the sodium hydroxide arbitrarily.

Happy soap making!

Formulating Soap Recipes from Scratch

Many instructions for formulating soap recipes make such a meal of it you can feel overwhelmed and reduced to tears... (ask me how I know!!) If you really want to get technical or feel like studying for a chemistry degree then perhaps this isn't the right page for you. This is the easy to understand version of formulating soap recipes.

With just three basic rules you can formulate soap recipes for your particular skincare needs. I have even included a link to a very good online SAP value chart that does all the calculations for you. So although it is good to understand the rules for saponification and to be able to do the calculations yourself, it is not absolutely necessary in order to formulate soap recipes. A very basic SAP value chart is included at the bottom of the right hand column of the blog...

Firstly, when formulating soap recipes you cannot substitute oils in a recipe without re-calculating how much sodium hydroxide to use. The reason for this is that each oil has it's own SAP value. SAP stands for saponification, and the 'value' is a number that indicates how much sodium hydroxide is required to turn that particular oil into soap. The SAP values have already been determined by chemists and they are fixed, however, because the oils and fats we are using are natural there will be variations between, for example, olive oils coming from different parts of the world or produced in different seasons (grown in different soil etc.... The SAP values therefore are only approximate, but since the variations between oils from different origins is quite small, we have a way of managing - more on this later.

Secondly, when formulating soap recipes the type of oil you use in your recipe will determine the qualities inherent in the finished soap. For example: coconut oil generally gives you a very hard bar with big bubbles whereas sunflower oil gives a much softer bar with light medium sized bubbles. The qualities are determined by the fatty acids or triglycerides in the oils and fats. The greater your knowledge of these, the easier it will be for you to manipulate your recipes. But don't be put off - you can still make tailored soap with only a very rough understanding of the fatty acids in oil.

Thirdly, when formulating soap recipes please work in grams. It is so much easier to do the calculations and since accuracy is really important to the successful outcome of your recipe,there is less likelihood of you making a mistake.

OK, so you understand that in order to formulate soap recipes you need to calculate how much sodium hydroxide to use so that you can turn your chosen oil into soap.

But surely that means the amount is fixed.. why would you want to vary the amount? If you totally saponify a batch of oil to turn it into soap (that is, if you use the full amount of sodium hydroxide required to turn ALL of the oil into soap), you will get a very 'cleansing' bar.

If you deducted a small percentage of sodium hydroxide from the recipe you will get a bar of soap that contains a small percentage of 'free oil'. This bar will still cleanse but because of the free oil it would be more suitable for drier skins, which might find a totally saponified bar of soap just a little bit too harsh. But of course if you are a teenager with acne, the totally saponified bar of soap may be just the ticket - bear in mind that even though it is totally saponified it is still a much more gentle choice for washing than a mass-produced-commercially made bar of soap.

HOW MUCH SHOULD I REDUCE THE SODIUM HYDROXIDE BY? It is generally accepted among hobby soap makers that when formulating soap recipes you should always reduce by 5% in order to allow for those little variations that nature has thrown up, but you can reduce by more if you wish.

I have personally reduced the sodium hydroxide by 15% and still had a decent bar of soap that lathered well. I would not suggest that you reduce the sodium hydroxide by more than this. Unless of course you are experimenting - in which case do keep careful notes and let me know the outcome! The benefits of having such a large reduction of sodium hydroxide (it is usually called a sodium hydorxide discount) would be in the large amount of free-oil in the bar of soap making it very suitable for someone with chronic dry skin. The only downside would be that large amounts of free-oil reduce the shelf life of the soap.

The shelf life of a totally saponified bar of soap is pretty much infinite (of course fragrance may disappear as it gets older and colours will fade) but the moment you have some unsaponified oil left in the bar the clock starts ticking. Some recipes suggest you add Grapefruit Seed Extract to the soap in order to prolong the shelf life. In my experience it made no difference whatsoever and since it is expensive I do not include it in my recipes. Of course you can try it if you wish. Go by the suppliers recommendations for quantity to use.

What does a soap past it's shelf life look like? You will spot it straight away. The smell is usually of rancid fat or oil and it has a tendency to go yellow. It may still lather but it isn't exactly pleasant to use.

The calculations for formulating soap recipes are done like this...

Lets imagine that you are using a recipe that includes 100g of olive oil and 50g of castor oil and 100g of coconut oil.

You calculate each oil separately like this.

The amount of oil in the recipe multiplied by it's sap value.thus the olive oil calculation looks like this:

100(g) x 0.134 =13.4

This means that to totally saponify 100g of olive oil you would use 13.4g of Sodium Hydroxide.

Next you would calculate the castor oil:

50(g) x 0.128 = 6.25

This means that to totally saponify 50g of castor oil you would use 12.8 g of sodium hydroxide.

Next you would calculate the coconut oil:

100(g) x 0.190 = 19

Then you add all three answers together:

13.4 + 6.25 + 19 = 38.65grams of Sodium Hydroxide will totally saponify this particular combination of oils.

Do you remember we said that hobby soapmakers always reduce the sodium hydroxide by at least 5%? Well now is the time to do that.

Since most kitchen scales do not weigh down below 1gram I always round the total down to the next whole gram, therefore 38.65 becomes 38grams. Now we do the reduction by 5% = 36.1g of sodium hydroxide required. Of course I will again round it down to 36g. If you wish to increase the percentage then you can.

This process of reducing the sodium hydroxide and leaving a small percentage of free oil in the soap is called 'superfatting'.

When formulating soap recipes there is another way to superfat. The first, outlined above is all about reducing the sodium hydroxide (a caustic soda discount). The second way is to leave the sodium hydroxide at its full amount (i.e. the amount required to totally saponify the oils) and add a small percentage of extra oil or fat to the recipe. The reason why you might choose this method of superfatting is if you wish to use a small amount of a particular oil (perhaps a more expensive or more luxurious oil) in your soap. In this way you can incorporate particular qualities from a more unstable or more expensive vegetable oil without having to use large quantities of it which might upset the recipe or break the bank!

To see what kind of qualities each oil will bring to your soap you need to study the properties of the base oils.

Willy Wonka's Chocolate Soap

This is my favourite luxury soap! It is made using Venezualan Black chocolate from Mr Willy Wonka himself (those of you in the UK may have seen the Channel Four tv programme about this incredible man setting up his chocolate factory in Devon and taking on the big boys). since Mr Willy Harcourt-Cooze puts chocolate in just about everything, I thought I would put it in soap (but not too much since the chocolate is divine (and a bit expensive) and its a bit of a waste!... but certainly less calories!) Oh and its also gorgeous on your skin!


Virgin (the best you can buy!) Coconut oil = 420grams

Virgin (fair trade/sustainable source) Palm oil = 290grams

Extra Virgin Olive oil = 240grams

Venezualan Black Chocolate = 20grams

Water = 250 grams

Sodium Hydroxide = 140grams

Don't forget the basic safety instructions.

You add the chocolate to the solid oils and melt them together. Otherwise follow the basic soap making instructions which you will find here.

Essential oils or fragrance is totally wasted in soap making recipes with raw ingredients as beautiful as these, please don't be tempted to add it. The smell of the fragrance would be distorted by the smell of the chocolate and other raw ingredients anyway. This amazing quality chocolate deserves only the best ingredients, hence I used Virgin coconut and Palm. The finished bar gave brown lather for a little while but that soon stopped and it was just wonderful creamy white bubbles - I suspect that it was so rich it simply needed a couple of extra weeks curing. You can buy Venezuelan Black here. It's a fun website too! If you are tempted to substitute the chocolate with another brand, make sure it's of a similar quality and cacao content or you won't get the same wonderful results!

Hot Process Soap Making

Photographs and process courtesy of Elizabeth at Gracefruit. Where you can find more recipes and loads of great ingredients too.


Firstly because the sodium hydroxide or lye is 'cooked' during the hot process soap making, it neutralises itself much quicker than when making cold process soap. This means, in theory anyway, you can use the soap sooner... (I do find it best to leave the soap to cure for the same amount of time but it isn't strictly necessary...just my way of doing it).

Secondly... any volatile or delicate ingredients that you may add, such as essential oils or superfat oils - are added after saponification, so they are not so much affected by the sodium hydroxide.

The method requires the use of a crock pot for ease... and peace of mind... but you can do this in a double boiler too... and I know some people do it in the oven.

Just like cold process soap you melt your oils and you add the lye. Unlike cold process soap you don't have to wait for the lye to cool down... as soon as it is disolved you pop it in and give it a stir with the stick blender.

You stir it until it reaches a good thick trace don't know what that is? You need to read about making cold process soap first.

As soon as you have reached a good thick trace put the lid on the crock pot and set it to low. Then you leave it for about 30 minutes. During this time the edges of the soap (or where the pot is hottest) will begin to gel.

Keeping checking back every ten minutes or so and you will see that more and more of the soap is gelling. Until..

all the soap in the crock pot has gelled. At this point you need to remove the crock pot from the source of heat and stir to make sure that all the soap has gelled. Then you can take a small amount of the hot soap (ouch!!) out and rub it between your fingers it should feel waxy as it cools.

Now comes the bit I never do (well I did it once and didn't like it!)

The Zap Test.

This involves touching the cool soap to your tongue and if it Zaps you... i.e. if it feels like you touched your tongue with a battery then there is uncooked lye in the soap and you need to pop it back on to the heat to cook a little more.

If the soap feels fine on your tongue then its time to add fragrance and colour and anything else you fancy!

Here you can see that Elizabeth is adding some jojoba oil. Because the soap has already saponified this oil will remain as 'free oil' in the bar - which has to be nice on your skin...

Then she has removed some of the soap and coloured it green. She then adds it back into the pot and gives it a swirl.

The lightly swirled soap gets put into a mould and left to cool overnight just the same as you would with a cold process soap.

In the morning you can unmould your soap and put it somewhere to cure. As I said... curing time is cut down by this method of soapmaking but I like my bars nice and hard so I do tend to leave them the full four weeks anyway. Doesn't it look great? I wonder what it smells like?


You may notice that the texture is not as fine as that of cold process soap (although Elizabeth has done an excellent job). Sometimes I think I used to overcook mine and it was very much like mashed potato. I should think practice is needed to get a really good finished look like these. Isn't that half the fun of it though?

Also... of course it is not as eco-friendly as cold process soap. If your electricity or gas bill is of concern (as is the future of the planet) then you may decide that this method is not for you.