Tag Archives: Charcoal

For Him: Regatta and Beau Brummel

Last week, I made 2 soaps for men. The first one is a combination of gingered bergamot and tangerine f.o.s.  It smells fresh and clean, and with the blue and green colours, it reminds me of the sea. Italy perhaps? Positano? Amalfi? Capri? I looked up all the names of famous Italian beaches but didn’t find a perfect match. Sniff sniff again….it definitely smells sporty. And that’s when I had a light bulb moment. Regatta!  Yes, the sailing event sounds just perfect!

regatta 1 regatta 2regatta 3

The second soap I made is scented with Beau Brummel and Black Tea. Careless me, I forgot to put fragrance in the upper black part of the soap! Just recently also, I made a batch of honey patchouli soap with a “honeycomb” top.  I was supposed to put honey in the soap but I only remembered after pouring the soap into the mold!  Argh! I really want to kick myself sometimes. Have you experienced forgetting to put an ingredient in your soap?

Beau Brummel 1 Beau Brummel 2

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.


Discovering the Celine Swirl

Last week, as I was going through Jenny’s I’d Lather Be Soaping blog roll, I clicked on Summerfield Soaps and found this stunning creation.  Apparently, the technique used was invented by Celine Blacow, a very talented soaper from Dublin, Ireland, who’s also known as the swirl queen! I’ve stumbled upon her blog before (check out her dazzling soaps!) but had never watched any of her Youtube videos until the one in Summerfield’s post.

I have not done a whole lot of swirling, and the few times I did, most of them fell flat because either the batter was too thin or too thick.  An exception would probably be my entry to last month’s Soap Challenge Club featuring the Holly Swirl.  I tried the technique 3 times, and got lucky with my second try.

It seems like the Celine Swirl has been around for some time, but since I just started making soap a little bit shy of 5 months, it is totally new to me.  After doing some research on the Celine Swirl, I also learned that Celine started the popular hanger swirl.  Again, I’ve come across mentions of it but never really paid attention to it. At the same time I was learning about the Celine Swirl, I also finally saw a video of the hanger swirl.  The results are so cool!  But that’s for another time, and today it’s all about the Celine Swirl.

The first one I made was with my favourite ingredients, charcoal and yogurt, and scented with neroli f.o.  I really love how this turned out!

yogurt charcoal

yogurt charcoal 1

Buoyed by the success of my first Celine Swirl, I made a second one with the same yogurt soap base.  This time I made it with ground rosemary and green chrome oxide, and scented it with lavender and eucalyptus.

Rosemary eucalyptus 1rosemary eucalyptusI don’t see any recent activity over at Celine’s blog, Soaperstar, but I would like to shout out a big thank you, wherever you are, for generously sharing your swirling technique.  I think I will be stuck here for a while since I am simply having too much fun with it!


Charcoal and Safflower Petal Yogurt Soaps

As you can see, I’m all about yogurt these days. I just love the way it feels in soap, it’s great at moisturising and refining the skin, and because of the lactic acid that turns into sodium lactate when mixed with lye, the resulting soap is hard and does not melt easily in the shower. What’s not to like about this amazing ingredient?

1. Yogurt and Safflower – I saw little bags of these dried safflower petals in the spice section while grocery shopping and thought it would look pretty in soap.  (Since I started making soap, going to the grocery has never been the same!)  Safflower petals are primarily used as a natural colorant in food, sometimes called the poor man’s saffron.

I steeped the petals in a small amount of hot water to draw out the colour. The liquid turned orange, but obviously I didn’t use enough petals – I can barely see them – and the color didn’t stand a chance in the high ph environment. I still like the way it came out very natural looking. Fragrances used were lemongrass for the safflower portion and grapefruit for the top.

Safflower Yogurt 1

Safflower yogurt 2

2. Yogurt and Charcoal – What could be better than pairing 2 of my favorite soap ingredients? This would be great for oily and pimple-prone skins.  Charcoal draws out toxins while the AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) and zinc in yogurt act as a natural skin exfoliant and pimple treatment, respectively.  But you don’t need to have oily skin to use this soap. It is very moisturizing and hydrating because of the whole milk yogurt. I scented this with Soapy Clean – a moderate trace accelerator.  Smells really fresh and clean!

yogurt charcoal

yogurt charcoal 4

yogurt charcoal 2



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Charcoal Soap for Men

I think it’s easy to guess that charcoal is one of my favorite additives.  Aside from its beneficial properties, there’s just something mysterious, attractive and unique about the color black in soaps.  It’s also something I always have at home.  It is one of the best remedies for an upset stomach.  I have also used it as a facial mask (mixed with yogurt), mouthwash, poultice, and to remove the onion smell from a container.

I had problems before with putting too much or too little charcoal.  This time I used 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp charcoal (6 grams) for 900 grams of oils (olive, coconut, lard, rice bran, castor) and it looks like I found the perfect ratio.  The color is a deep black but it does not bleed into the suds.

Charcoal 1

I can’t stop smelling these! I have been disappointed with some of the fragrances I got, but this one is a gorgeous manly vanilla.  This is my favorite scent so far.  It accelerated trace just a bit.  It was soaped between 95-105˚F.

It had light soda ash when it was unmolded, but with the high humidity brought on by the rains, the ash disappeared!  It has just been 4 days, so it remains to be seen if it stays ash-free.

Swirly Charcoal Bentonite Soap

This one soaped perfectly! No acceleration and discoloration, and first time my swirl was successful! I just wish I had used more than 1.5 tsp charcoal for approximately 600 grams of soap mixture to achieve a true black. Nonetheless I am happy with the way this turned out, including the black tea fragrance. It reminds me of lemon iced tea, in a good way.

Base oils (900 grams): olive oil, coconut oil, lard, rice bran oil and castor oil; additives: charcoal and bentonite. Mixing temperatures: lye 102˚F, oils 90˚F.

Charcoal and bentonite clay.

Raw materials – charcoal and bentonite clay.

charcoal bentonite 4

Top is covered with soda ash.

charcoal bentonite 6

Making Soap Beyond the Books

This is my second batch of soaps, made about a month ago.  By that time, I had a better understanding of soapmaking.  I made these formulations with less water (33% lye concentration) and a lye discount of no more than 5%.  Actually, it bothers me that I can’t be very accurate with the lye discount because the SAP values available on the internet are simply averages.  For now, I will have to live with this and pray that my lye discount is not very far from the actual one.

1.  Honey Cocoa Butter (Unscented) – I made this with olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, cocoa butter, castor oil, and honey. I mixed the honey into the oils, but I think I should have thinned it out with a little warm water before adding it to the oils.  With 10% cocoa butter, I expected this soap to be harder than the rest from this batch, but it’s the opposite. I suspect it’s because I did not insulate this due to the honey. I will give it 2 more weeks (or a 6-week cure) before using. It has a nice chocolate smell.

honey cocoa butter

2.  Charcoal and Oatmeal – I wanted to make a swirl pattern, but ended up with this instead.  I could not wait and started using a bar after just two and a half weeks of cure.  It has held up remarkably well.  I can imagine some might find this soap too rough or scrubby, but I like it.  I added the oatmeal and charcoal at trace, alongside the lavender and peppermint respectively.  The color of the charcoal bleeds into the suds (I used 1 Tbsp or 4 grams charcoal for 500 grams soap mixture), something I did not encounter with a previous charcoal soap. I think 1 to 2 tsp charcoal p.p.o. should work fine.  This is made with olive, coconut, palm and castor oils.Oatmeal charcoal

3. “Ambitious” soap – With my limited soapmaking skills, I only intended to use 2 colors, but at the last minute, I became ambitious and gunned for 3 (titanium dioxide, charcoal, and annatto seed powder). When I added in the essential oils (peppermint and lavender) and the colors, the soap mixtures became very thick.  I panicked and quickly plopped the mixtures alternately into the mold. It is not the prettiest sight, but the soap itself is quite decent.  I used it after 3 weeks of cure.  It is a hard bar of soap with good lather, but the scent is like a distant memory.  It is made with rice bran oil, coconut oil, palm oil and cocoa butter.

"ambitious" soap

4.  Green Velvet – I am at a loss what to name this soap, but for now, let’s just call it green velvet because I like the sound of it. The photo does not pick up the green tinge, but it’s there. The green is from the pili pulp oil. Pili is a fruit that comes from the same tree as Manila elimi.  The pili kernel is usually prepared as a candied nut and is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. It has a very high fat content with its own delicious unique taste. Yum!  Oil can be pressed from the nut and from the pulp of the fruit. These oils are kinda scarce.  I had to order mine from a producer in Sorsogon, a province where pili is indigenous.  I wanted to get the pili kernel oil but I almost fell off my chair when i heard the price.  I settled for the pili pulp oil, more affordable, but still not cheap!  For this soap, I used the following: olive oil, coconut oil, rice bran oil, pili oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, kaolin clay and lavender.  I had to mix at a higher temperature so that the beeswax (melted over a pot of boiling water, not the microwave) would stay liquid.  This traced very fast and became quite thick.  I started using this the other day and I simply love it!  It is a relatively low-lathering soap but it has a silky/velvety feel to it.

Green Velvet