Charcoal Neem Soap

Before I discovered the world of fun fragrant soaps, I was preoccupied with searching for oils and additives with therapeutic values.  Along the way, I read about neem which sounded like some kind of wonder oil, except for its smell that many find off putting. I was really curious about it so i placed an order last July, which finally arrived at my Philippine doorstep two weeks ago.

Neem oil is said to be good for the hair and skin, and may alleviate conditions such as dandruff, acne, psoriasis, eczema, and fungal infections. It is also used as a pesticide to deter ticks and fleas, and to repel insects and pests. (Click here and here to read more about neem’s benefits) We’ve been getting a lot of black ants from the plants and trees outside, so we smeared some neem oil around our windows and doors ways. So far it seems to be working.

I was a little bit apprehensive though about soaping with neem because seriously,  it stinks like fermenting onions!  But after reading Moj Sapun‘s neem soap which Gordana fondly calls “Happy Pampkin“, I got the push I needed.

I used 10% neem oil along with coconut, olive, avocado, pili and castor oils for their supporting skin benefits. I also used activated charcoal for its detoxifying properties, and essential oils of tea tree, peppermint and lavender for their healing qualities and to mask the strong odor. For a harder bar of soap, I added 3% salt and 3% sodium lactate.

neem 2

neem 1

When I removed the cover of my log mold, I was horrified to see crystal droplets on the soap surface.  My immediate thought was “lye heavy!”  I wanted to take pictures but I was too anxious to check the inside for lye pockets and other telltale signs of too much lye.  I touched the crystals and I felt no sting.  I brushed it away with a pastry brush and it turned into dust.  When I cut into the soap, to my pleasant surprise, the texture was perfectly smooth and creamy! The edges were a bit brittle/crumbly, but it may have been the salt and sodium lactate combination or too much of either one? My guess is that it was salt condensation that I saw on the surface, but does anyone have a similar experience or know exactly what it was? I tried the zap test for the first time ever this morning, and I all I got was a soapy anise-like taste!

As for the smell, the tea tree was plenty strong but there was also a distinct putrid egg smell when I unmolded it.  However, after a day, the odor had mellowed down, leaving the tea tree and peppermint to shine (I could not pick up the lavender scent).  I would say it smells medicinal but nothing offensive.


23 thoughts on “Charcoal Neem Soap

  1. Marika

    What an interesting experiment with neem oil. I have still not tired it, so I have no idea what it smells like. But I know that soap with egg smell terrible when you cut it. Your soap is beautiful and I have always loved soap with activated charcoal. I have never tried both salt and sodium lactate in the same soap so can´t help you with the crystals. But it could have been too much sodium.

    1. soapjam Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Marika! I am also thinking it could have been too much sodium so I will reduce the sodium lactate to 1.5% next time.

    1. soapjam Post author

      Pili is indigenous to the Philippines but it is not easy to find. It is a highly nutritious oil that holds a lot of promise for the cosmetic/beauty industry. I stumbled upon it while net surfing. 🙂

  2. DivaSoap

    You definitely soap as if you were an experienced soaper. I love those swirls and the top!
    Never heard of pili oil before, I’d say it’s some local grown treasure.For me, anything that promise anti aging effects is a treasure! Very rich and luxury soap, I bet it will be amazing!

  3. Gordana

    Combining all those ingredients you really formulated and made high quality soap! I especially like that you used activated charcoal – you inspired me to try it in combination with neem oil in my future soap “projects”. Above all of this I really like appearance of this soap: rich creaminess with perfect swirls! You did a grate job Silvia!

    1. soapjam Post author

      I was going to make a plain neem soap but I was in the mood for something with design. I hope you get to work on your “project” soon. 🙂

  4. Monica

    Beautiful soap Siliva and I love how you managed to get all those beneficial items into one soap. Some medicinal smells are kinda comforting if it’s something you grew up with, so there’s probably people who’d like the smell.

    I hadn’t heard of pili oil before either, is this something native to the Phillipines?

    1. soapjam Post author

      I agree, some medicinal smells are comforting. Some people don’t like the smell of tea tree but I actually like it.
      Pili is native to the Philippines, and its oil (it could come from either the fruit pulp or the nut kernel) comes from the same tree as the Manila Elemi (obtained from the gum of the tree bark) – a commonly used essential oil in the perfume industry. If you look at the tag cloud of my blog on the right hand side, you will see “Pili” there. If you’re interested, click on it to take you to older posts in which I had written about it. 🙂

  5. sugarlychee

    This soap is very beautiful! I agree with you that neem oil smells like fermenting onions~ people in India use this ingredient very often, especially in the shampoo, body wash, and even face wash. When I was in New Delhi this April, I bought a tube of face wash from a famous organic brand there called “himalaya”. This face wash is made with neem as the main ingredient.

    1. soapjam Post author

      Thank you and welcome to my blog, sugarlychee! How wonderful that you’ve had the chance to visit India! I would like to visit it one day, but to be honest, I feel a bit intimidated by the place.
      Did you feel any difference after using the neem face wash?

      1. sugarlychee

        Hmmm…the neem face wash is very good to use during summer time, but it is a bit dry to use during fall & winter time. My friend bought a bottle of neem hair shampoo during our trip in India and she said she loves it. Her hair does look more glossy now.

        Anyway, I’ve been to India for more than 6 times now~ and I am all okay coming back to North America. Didn’t get sick at all. As long as you stay safe and eat safe, then you’ll be alright 🙂 people there are very nice and very helpful when you need help.

  6. Amy @10th Ave.

    I always get excited about colors and fun fragrances, but the natural additives are what really intrigue me. I keep hearing about neem oil and all its benefits but I haven’t yet tried it. Thanks for the reminder!

  7. Cindy

    I made Neem soap once, but not near as pretty as yours! Could the little crystals be that it didn’t gel all the way to the outside? I’ve never had the egg smell, so real curious about that. The essential oil blend you chose would cover up the nasty neem smell for sure!

    1. soapjam Post author

      It looks to have gelled all the way through. The rotten egg smell is no longer there. It smelled that way only on the first day. Now it’s back to the onion smell but it’s just in the background. The tea tree smells the most prominent.

  8. Pingback: Job’s Tears and Calendula Soaps | SoapJam

  9. gaurimaini

    I love neem and am wanting to incorporate it in a mask… have been using it for some time now in my shampoo bars…recently made a big batch with beer and shea butter…. peppermint EO is my fav too …
    I love the clean look of your soaps Silvia… would love to make some soap together some day!!


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