Remakes

There was a time when I hardly repeated anything I made, but after more than a year of soaping, I find myself remaking soaps that I like and what’s popular. I am slowly narrowing down what I would like to form as my core products.  I am a scent addict and I have fragrances and essential oils that I have not even used, and I still continue to purchase new ones (it’s really hard to stop!).  Because of this serious addiction, naturally I will always be making something new – it’s part of the thrill of soap making!  And let’s not get started on the colours. I came in a bit late on that but am sure catching up!  Don’t you just love the jewel-coloured micas? :)

Here are some of my recent remakes vis-à-vis their old versions.

1.  Tea Tree and Spearmint with Activated Charcoal

Tea Tree Spearmint

Old

Tea Tree & Spearmint

New: the batter got thick so I was not able to do a fluid drop swirl like the old version

2. Fir and Eucalyptus with Activated Charcoal:

Fir and Eucalyptus

Old

Fir and Eucalyptus

New: ITP swirl; I used the wrong stamp for this!

3. Berries and Violets

Berries and Violets

Old

Berries and Violets

New: a different shade of green and violet

4. Bora Bora

Bora Bora (old)

Old

Bora Bora

New: very similar to the first version; the blue is a bit lighter.

5. Flamenco

Flamenco 2

Old

Flamenco

New: the batter was thinner than the old version so the coloured swirls went down farther.

Making My Own Dried Botanicals

I had high hopes for the beautiful avocado green colour that moringa-infused oil lends to soaps, but alas, it lasts for about 7-8 weeks only before it starts to fade. Nonetheless, I am still excited about moringa especially for my healing balm. I have given it to many people and they all find it effective in alleviating itch from insect bites and various allergies and skin conditions such as eczema and dermatitis.  One even did a side by side test on her infant’s skin irritation. She claims that the healing balm worked faster and better than the cream prescribed by her paediatrician.

Moringa Oil

Virgin coconut oil infused with moringa powder for at least one month. Previously I used olive oil.

I bought a bag of powdered moringa from a fair last January.  I couldn’t find the contact details of the supplier so I decided to make my own. The first time I tried to dry moringa leaves, I placed it in a net and hung it to dry. I forgot about it and the next time I looked at it, weeks later, all the leaves had turned yellow and brown, leaving me no choice but to throw them away.  I did some research and learned that it should be air dried for 3 days only and toasted very briefly on a hot pan.

Left: commercial moringa powder; right: homemade

Left: purchased moringa powder; right: homemade

I had a lot of moringa last week and determined to get it right this time. I was not able to take photos of the leaves being hung to dry because less than 24 hours later, the small leaves started coming off.  I finished drying the leaves – removed from the stems – on a tray. After 3 days, the leaves felt dry but it was only after toasting them briefly that they became “crunchy” and crumbled easily. I ground up the leaves using my small Krups coffee/spice grinder and sifted the powder twice. It’s still not as soft and fine as the one I bought from the fair.  There is a also a marked difference in the colour. The photo above was taken one week after I made the moringa powder. It was a deep green then, but now it has darkened to a fatigue green.

Eucalyptus Leaves

Air-dried eucalyptus leaves.

In this post in which I had an avocado moringa soap scented with eucalyptus, Monica asked me if I was planning to use the actual leaves in some of my future soaps. That got me curious.  All I had to do was grab some leaves from the trees across my house. I don’t know what type of eucalyptus trees they are, but for sure they are not eucalyptus deglupta, also known as rainbow eucalyptus for their attractive multi-coloured trunk and believed to be native to the Philippines. The ones across my house have a white trunk.

I air-dried the eucalyptus leaves for 5 days before cutting them up into small pieces and briefly toasting them in a wok like I did the moringa leaves. I love the way the house smelled of eucalyptus when I was grinding up the leaves, and I also love the vibrant green colour that reminds me of green apple.

The net yield is very low. Most of it are too tough and fibrous  to be made into a powder with a coffee grinder.

The net yield is very low. Most of it are too tough and fibrous to be made into a powder with a coffee grinder.

I thought I had a lot, but all those leaves in the above photo yielded only 17 grams after sifting 3 times.  Unlike moringa leaves that are soft, eucalyptus leaves are hard and fibrous. Most of it were too coarse and had to be discarded.  I still have to plan how I’m going to use it in soap.  I am sure the colour will fade away, like most plant-based colorants, so I will be using it as an exfoliant. For simple pleasure’s sake, I hope the colour will stay even just for a few short months.

 

 

 

The Fairest of Them All

If you look at the photos of the soaps I’ve made since I started blogging last May 2013, you may notice that I never had one that was a perfect white. Even the ones with titanium dioxide (TD) were off-white, partly because of the fragrance or essential oils used and partly because of the carrier oils.  Achieving a white-white soap was not important to me, so I always used less TD than the recommended 1 tsp per cup of soap.

Early last month I made soap with 95% olive oil and 5% virgin coconut oil that I named Fil-Castile. It didn’t contain any TD but it turned out a gorgeous white which came as a complete surprise.  The only problem I had with it were the pockmarks.  I tapped the stick blender to “burp” the oils but somehow I still got a lot of trapped air bubbles.

First batch of Fil-Castile Soap with plenty of air bubbles.

First batch of Fil-Castile Soap made last May. Notice the pockmarks from the trapped air bubbles.

Because of the high amount of olive oil, the Fil-Castile soap batter takes more than an hour to reach trace. When I made another batch a week ago, I did not immediately pour the batter into the mold after stick blending it into an emulsion. I left it in the mixing bowl while I made other soaps, hand stirring it every now and then. After about an hour or so, the batter finally reached light trace – similar in consistency to light creme anglais. I slowly stirred it for another couple of minutes before pouring into the mold.

The result is soap as smooth and fine as porcelain. It still has a few air bubbles, but hardly noticeable.

F-Castile 3

F-Castile 2

F-Castile 1

New batch of Fil-Castile Soap: perfectly smooth.

I get it now why it’s important for some soap makers to achieve a white-white soap.  It is beautiful in its simplicity and purity.  Just to see what kind of white I could get using TD at full dosage, I made a batch using a normally off-white formula containing olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.  I chose a clean-smelling yet feminine FO that is colorless and non-discoloring. It has notes of ozone, watery greens and white florals: smells soooo good! I am calling it Aqua, and for Christmas, I am thinking of adding some peppermint and/or eucalyptus and naming it Snow.

Aqua 3

Aqua 2

Aqua 1

Aqua: perfectly white using 1 tsp TD for every cup of soap batter

Fil-Castile is almost as white as Aqua, but the TD in Aqua makes it brighter. Here they are side by side:

Aqua 4

Top: Aqua; Bottom: Fil-Castile

I wish you all a happy week. :)

 

 

SoapJam’s First Bazaar

We joined our first bazaar last Saturday and we couldn’t have been more thrilled!  I found out about it through my best friend just a few days before, and even though it was at very short notice, the opportunity was simply too good to pass up.

The bazaar was organized for the members of Entrepreneurs Organization or EO Philippines.

image

It was held in one of the smaller ballrooms of  Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort and Spa. I was thankful that we were not outdoors as it would have been too hot.

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It was an intimate mix of vendors selling artisan jewelry and accessories, hand-embroidered clothes, resort wear, cosmetics, food, home accents, etc. I enjoyed meeting the other vendors as much as I did with the customers. It was fun and interesting to see customers’ reactions as they smelled the soaps. They seemed to get a kick out of the Tsokolate soap made with our native chocolate called tableya. It looks and smells like real chocolate!  The best-seller was Black Currant & Mandarin.  Eyes lit up and lips curved into a smile when they smelled it. 

image

That’s me sitting on the right and Dyna on the left.

I had the help of Dyna, my wonderful office assistant (it was a Saturday so we closed the office for the day :D ), who proved to be excellent at selling. One of the wisest things we did was to bring cello bags, ribbons and gift tags for customers who wanted to create their own gift sets.  Packing soaps in sets, replenishing the display, and entertaining customers kept us busy. During lull times, we chatted with the other vendors and shopped!  :D

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New calling cards. The contact details are at the back.

The bazaar pushed me to have calling cards made. It was such a rush job, but Warren of Drawing Board Creative was able to layout and print a simple but elegant design for me.  I was also forced to come up with a tag line for the calling cards.  The message I wanted to convey about the brand has been in my head for months but finding the few right words proved to be a challenge. So, finally, my tag line is: a treat for the skin, an adventure for the senses.  I think it captures my idea, but I am still open to tweaking it.  What do you think?

 

Classic Soaps & Tapeless Plastic Packaging

As a soapmaker, part of the fun and challenge is coming up with creative designs and scent blends, but sometimes we just want something familiar and comforting, like these timeless favourites:

1. Lavender – soothing lavender with a small amount of litsea cubeba, rice powder and kaolin clay to help anchor the scent. The top is covered with soda ash, but I actually like the contrast.

Classic -Lavender

Lavender

2. Peppermint oatmeal – finally, a pure peppermint soap! At 3% of oil weight, it is perfectly minty.

Classic - Peppermint Oatmeal

Peppermint Oatmeal

3. Honey Orange – a delicious classic pairing of honey, orange 5-fold, and blood orange.

Classic - Orange Honey

Honey Orange

4. Fir and Eucalyptus with Activated Charcoal –  I have not walked through a forest of fir trees, but I imagine this is what it smells like. I adore the fresh, outdoorsy scent. It is a proprietary blend of 6 different essential oils.

Classic - Fir and Eucalyptus

Fir and Eucalyptus

Recently I’ve switched from using paper to plastic for wrapping my soaps. I still have not found the perfect packaging, but for now, the plastic pouch I’ve devised suits my needs.  I wanted packaging that would show the soap designs I’ve laboured on, protect the soap from dirt and dust, help retain the scent, allow customers to smell the soap, and that didn’t take too much time and effort.  This isn’t as efficient as tapeless paper wrapping, but it checks my other prerequisites, and it’s still tapeless!

Plastic Packaging 1

Plastic Packaging 2

It looks like plastic I just folded over and secured with a paper string, but I actually cut the plastic to make it into the shape of an envelope.  I cut and removed the sides of the top half of the plastic at a slight angle.  I then folded one of the flaps and cut it out, leaving behind one to close the “envelope”.  The design leaves a gap on the sides, which allows the soap to breathe and let people smell the soap.

Plastic Packaging 3

Plastic Packaging 4

Fil-Castile Soap Embeds

As I mentioned in my last post, I only had 8 bars left of the Fil-Castile soap because this was where the other 7 went:

1.  Peppermint Avocado – I am one happy girl when avocado is in season. I love eating it, soaping with it, and slathering it on my face with honey and yogurt for a moisturizing and skin-refining face mask.  Avocado was the first fruit that I incorporated into my soap and it remains to be one of my favorites. To see my first avocado soap, please click here.

For this soap, I used about 10% (of oils) fresh avocado mixed with some water to make into a smooth purée. When using fruit or vegetable purées, I always let it go through a fine mesh strainer to ensure smoothness. For color contrast, I utilized the moringa sludge left behind from the oil infusion for my moringa facial soap, and for scent, I added peppermint and eucalyptus essential oils.

I took this photo a day after unmolding the soap:

Avocado Moringa 3

The actual soap was greener than what the photo above shows. Three days later, I took the photos below.  The bottom part with the moringa had become a bit lighter, but due to the lighting, it appears lighter than it actually is. I suspect the green will fade out or morph into a light yellow brown color. It is worth noting that after 2 months, the moringa facial soap with infused oil is still green although lighter.  

Avocado Moringa 1

Avocado Moringa 2

Avocado soap with peppermint, eucalyptus and moringa

Across my house, there are 3 eucalyptus trees. I decided to use some of the leaves as props. I never noticed before that some of the newly sprouted leaves were purplish red.

Eucalyptus Leaves

Eucalyptus leaves at various growth stages

Here in the Philippines, moringa grows everywhere. Once picked, the leaves tend to curl up and look wilted so it’s a good idea to dip the stems in water.

Eucalyptus leaf side by side moringa leaves

Eucalyptus leaf side by side moringa leaves

2. Orange Patchouli with Red Clay – I have read other people rave about orange and patchouli together. I now know what they’re talking about. The combo is a deep, complex and haunting scent. It’s divine! I have to admit though that it took me a while to appreciate patchouli. It does smell like dirt, but it blooms when mixed with other scents. I am crossing my fingers that the scent will hold!

For 1250 grams of oils, I used only 1/4 tsp Australian red clay to get a pale terra cotta-like color.  That stuff is potent! The actual color is a little bit darker than the photos. Red Clay Soap 3

Red Clay Soap 4Red Clay Soap 2

Red Clay Soap 5

Orange Patchouli Soap with Red Clay

 

 

Fil-Castile Soap: The Best of Two Worlds

The first soap I ever made was an olive oil soap with a  touch of castor oil. I messed it up because I failed to reach proper emulsion. I read too many warnings about soap turning solid or “seizing” that I didn’t dare turn on the stick blender long enough. Now that I know that olive oil takes forever to reach trace, I can simply laugh about that experience.  It has been one year and one month since that first soap.  I am making it again, this time with local virgin coconut oil, and calling it Fil-Castile. Hmmm…I feel that a new classic is born. :) The name is a representation of the best of both worlds and the long history that they share. 

Fil Castile 3

Fil-Castile Soap: made with olive oil and virgin coconut oil

Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan – in the service of the king of Spain - came to our shores in 1521 and introduced the Catholic faith. It was also here where he met his death in the famous Battle of Mactan. Other Spanish explorers came after him, and by 1565, the Philippines (named after King Philip II) had become a colony of Spain, and stayed on to be for the next 333 years or until 1898 when the Americans came.  Spanish influence is thus inextricably woven into the fiber of Philippine society and culture.

The Crusaders have been credited for introducing soap to Western Europe when they brought back with them Aleppo soap  in the 11th century.  It wasn’t until the following century that soap production using locally available olive oil gained momentum throughout Italy and Spain. Of all the soap-producing regions, it was the Kingdom of Castilla (now a part of modern Spain) that became famous, hence the term Castile for soaps made with 100% olive oil. It is a mild and gentle soap that produces a low, fine, and creamy lather. It has a tendency to feel slimy, but it is wonderfully soothing for sensitive and dry skin.  It is a natural humectant and skin regenerator due to olive oil’s high oleic acid and vitamin E content.

Coconut trees abound in the Philippines and it is called the Tree of Life for good reason. Every part of the tree is usable in the form of food, fuel or shelter.  According to Coconutoil.com, these are benefits of coconut oil:

Coconut-Oil-Health-Benefits

The most common form of coconut oil is extracted from sun-dried mature coconut meat, called copra. This oil is refined, bleached, and deodorized (RBD) and is yellowish in color.  On the other hand, virgin coconut oil is cold-pressed from fresh mature coconut meat and  expeller-processed to separate the water from the oil, keeping intact all the nutritional benefits. It is completely clear and colorless when liquid. Taken internally or used as a topical application, virgin coconut oil is without a doubt far more superior than the RBD kind.  But does it really make a difference after saponification?  It would be interesting to hear it from a scientific point of view.

For my Fil-Castile soap, I used 95% olive oil and 5% virgin coconut oil, and left it unscented. To make a hard bar of soap, I used a 40% lye concentration, and added a little sodium lactate and salt. I also included a small amount of sugar to help it bubble up better.

Fil Castile 2

I blended the oils and lye solution intermittently for several minutes yet it remained very thin. I poured it anyway into the mold. I wanted to try Auntie Clara’s inverted stamp technique, so while I waited for the soap batter to thicken to the right consistency, I made a masterbatch lye solution.  Batter was still too thin.  I proceeded to make 2 other batches of soap, and by then, the batter was still not thick enough to hold shape! It was only after about 75 minutes before the batter was ready, but even then, it was still on the soft side and as you can see, the marks are not very pronounced. I didn’t have wires and pliers, so I used acrylic dividers to make the lattice design.

Fil Castile 4

Inverted stamp technique

Even with the water discount, salt and sodium lactate, I expected the soap to be soft during cutting, but after 11-12 hours, I was surprised that it was perfectly hard already.  The sound that the string cutter makes as it is pulled and subsequently released by the soap as it cuts through it gives me an idea how hard the soap is.  The higher the pitch, the harder the soap is and the  closer the string is to breaking. :)

What surprised me the most were the pock marks. Are they air bubbles? I was careful with the way I stick blended the soap batter. I was very disappointed with the appearance so I started chopping off the bars into small cubes to be made into embeds, until I realized I was just being too fussy.  There is nothing wrong with the soap:  it is very fine and smooth to the touch, and a lovely bone white.  Despite being unscented, it smells pure and clean to me.  Luckily I was able to save 8 bars from being chopped up, but I am also loving the soaps made with the embeds – post to follow very soon!

Fil Castile 1

Cut surface has pock marks, but otherwise the texture is very smooth to the touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marseille Facial and Baby Soaps

After several requests, I finally made some facial and baby soaps and decided to do a simple Marseille formula which is traditionally made with 72% olive oil. My worry was that it would be on the soft side so I combined a few tricks to make a hard bar of soap: discounted water, sodium lactate, yogurt (for some) and salt. I also placed them in a warm oven – no more than 50˚C – to ensure a full gel. I tried a higher temperature and the soaps would end up with a wrinkly surface or would have a lot of small holes.

1. Baby Powder and Unscented Goat’s Milk – the darker one is lightly scented with baby powder F.O. at 2.5% of oil weight. My normal usage rate is 4% or more for F.O.s, and 5% for E.O.s unless the scent is exceptionally strong. The baby powder-scented soap is with yogurt, while the unscented one is with Meyenberg goat’s milk powder – reconstituted with 240 grams distilled water for every 28 grams of powder.

Facial Soap 1

Top: lightly scented Baby Powder yogurt soap, Bottom: unscented goat’s milk soap

2. Moringa Soap – I steeped 15 grams moringa powder with 300 grams olive oil for a month before using it. The infused oil turned a dark green and produced a beautiful avocado color in soap. I took the photos when the soap was about 2 weeks old. Now that it is a month old, it’s still green but a shade lighter. I have been using a bar for a few days already and I like the way it feels on my skin. It produces rich, fine, and creamy lather. The rest of the soaps in this post are Marseille soaps except for this moringa soap. It contains olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil, avocado oil, macadamia oil, and essential oils of rosemary, tea tree and peppermint. I also added 2.5% sugar for extra bubbles.  Maya of Infusions blog also wrote about moringa soap here.

Facial Soap Moringa

Moringa Soap with yogurt, rosemary and tea tree oil

Facial and Baby Soaps

3. Dead Sea Mud – a Marseille soap with Dead Sea Mud at a little over 4% of oil weight. I added the mud to the soap batter, but next time I would like to mix it first with the oils for a smoother, less speckled appearance. Designed for oily skin, tea tree and cajeput essential oils were added. It’s interesting to note that this soap and the moringa soap, both with tea tree oil, are completely ash-free. Is it coincidence or has anyone noticed this about tea tree oil?

Facia Soap Dead Sea Mud 3

Facial Soap Dead Sea Mud

Marseille Soap with yogurt, Dead Sea mud, and Tea Tree oil

4. Unscented French Pink Clay – this clay is said to be the mildest and suitable for sensitive skin.  I mixed into a paste 2 tsp or 6 grams of pink clay with double the amount of water into 480 grams of oils. I am really happy with the resulting salmon color. 
Facial Soap Pink Clay

Facial Soap Trio

Facial Soap Pink Clay 2

Unscented Marseille Soap with yogurt and French pink clay

Thank you for reading! I hope all of you are having a good, productive week. Happy soaping! :)