Tag Archives: Cold Process

Shikon and Bamboo Charcoal Soap

Sitting in a dark corner of my pantry, I had shikon roots macerating in olive oil since November. It was huddled together with my collection of various infusions: calendula, mugwort, chamomile, stinging nettle, guava leaf, papaya leaf, moringa, and turmeric.  A few of them have been there for over a year.  Not forgotten, mind you. 🙂  The shikon infusion, with its deep rose-burgundy hue, got me the most curious.

Shikon is Japanese for Lithospermum erythrorhizon, also known as red-root or purple gromwell.  It belongs to the same borage or Boraginaceae family as the alkanet – a popular natural blue/purple colorant for soaps.   But more than its pretty colour, shikon is known for its medicinal properties. According to Plants for a Future:

 “It is used internally in the treatment of irritant skin conditions, measles, chicken pox, boils, carbuncles, hepatitis and skin cancer. Externally it is used to treat nappy rash, burns, cuts, wounds, abscesses, eczema and haemorrhoids. The plant is an ingredient of commercial skin care creams.”

Whether any of its skin healing properties is retained after saponification is arguable.  Nonetheless, I wanted to create a luxurious soap with the shikon and bamboo charcoal powder from Maya. If you have been following my blog, you would know that Maya had generously given me a bunch of soaping ingredients to experiment with.  (One of them was  Japanese Indigo.)

It was my first time to soap with shikon and it was fascinating to see the colour change in every step of the process.  The infusion had 60 grams shikon root and 450 grams olive oil, which, after straining, formed part of a batch with a total oil weight of 1500 grams.  It consists of olive oil, coconut oil, macadamia oil, shea butter, fresh yogurt, goat’s milk, and and an essential oil blend of lavender, rosemary, cajeput and patchouli.

Shikon Color Changes

1. The colour of shikon-infused oil is a rich rose-burgundy. 2. Infused oil mixed with the other oils, yogurt and goat’s milk – before the lye was added. 3. As soon as the lye was mixed with the oils, the colour changed to a very dark purple. The white specks are from the milk, before it was properly mixed. 4. From purple, the soap batter turned into a very dark blue, nearly black.

Shikon Soap wet & dry

In the mold, the blue-black soap batter had morphed into blue and stayed that way even after it had dried. The black portion is coloured with bamboo charcoal.

Seeing how dark blue the soap batter was, I had serious doubts that it would turn to purple or that it would lighten up.  In fact, I was having second thoughts whether to continue with my plans of making bamboo charcoal swirls.

When I cut the soap, it was still blue and the inside was a muddy gray.  I was honestly disappointed with the colour.  But after a few minutes, I noticed that the outer edges were starting to turn purple. Half a day later, the colour had stabilised into a deep, dark purple-grey.

I have just started using a bar and I love the way it feels rich and creamy, with pretty good bubbles.  It is quite hard considering that it contains more than 50% olive oil.  There’s no salt but I added sodium lactate. The scent is soothing and fresh, and while it makes the bathroom smell wonderful, it does not linger on the skin.

Shikon 1

Shikon 2

The actual colour is a much darker and duller greyish purple than what the photos depict.

Inspired by Gordana’s body butter, I also whipped up a batch for myself, colouring it a baby pink from what I could squeeze out after straining the shikon infusion.  This recipe contains 70 g. raw shea butter, 10 g. guava leaf-infused coconut oil, 10 g. calendula-infused coconut oil, 10 g. shikon-infused olive oil, and a few drops of cajeput. The consistency is that of a rich buttercream!  l like using it on my legs and feet, just before going to bed.

Shikon Body Butter

Naturally pink body butter with shikon infusion.

If you are interested to see the different shades of purple one can achieve with shikon, here are some links:






Japanese Indigo Soap

Last October, I had the pleasure of meeting Maya of Infusions (you can read about it here). She gave me some precious gifts and soaping ingredients, and one of them was Japanese indigo powder.

Indigo 4

Japanese Indigo: raw powder and in soap

I love the colour of indigo and have always been curious to try it in soap, but had never been in possession of it until I met Maya. Now that things have quieted down after the holiday rush, I have the time to experiment with new formulae and ingredients.

Other than Maya’s post on soaping with Japanese indigo, I could not find much material on the subject. She had explained to me how to use it, but just to make sure I’m using it correctly, I emailed her. I don’t want to miss anything, so I thought I’d share her exact instructions:

As for the indigo, I have used it after making water infusion and as powder, added directly to the soap batter and also to the lye.

I used 1/2 teaspoonful of indigo powder for 12 ml hot water, infused for a couple of hours. I used about 2/3 (8 ml) of the infusion but what looked to me like a medium color may be considered dark by others. I think it is best to see the color of your batter and decide when to stop adding indigo-infused water as the color of the soap does not change much after the soap hardens. You can enhance the color by letting the soap gel.

The second method, adding dry powder directly to the soap gives you a speckled look. I do not remember how much I used but you can decide the amount of powder on the go.

Two things to keep in mind:
1. The color morphs to a very dark bluish gray if the powder is added directly to lye. It is best to add the indigo (in whatever form) at medium trace, after the saponification has advanced and the NaOH molecules have bonded with the oil molecules and cannot react with the indigo.
2. If you use EV olive oil, you will get a deep greenish blue due to the color of the olive oil.

Generally speaking, the indigo color is relatively stable in CP soap but it still fades a little with time. You need to keep it in a dark place to help the retention of color.

I decided to go with the first method, i.e. make a water infusion, and to add colour as needed after reaching trace. I ended up using all of my preparation, including the sediment that collected at the bottom of the glass. As you can see, the resulting colour is a bluish grey.  Indigo 1

I used olive oil, coconut oil, almond oil and cocoa butter with 2 milks:  yogurt and goat’s milk. For the essential oil blend, I used cypress, petitgrain, lemon 5-fold, orange 5-fold, cajeput, and basil.   It was only after mixing the EOs that I realised how yellow it was and that it would certainly have an effect on the colour. I thus used more of the EO in the uncoloured portion containing kaolin clay.  Predictably, it turned yellow.

It is not very obvious in the photos, but the indigo-coloured portion bleeds into the uncoloured part. The next time I make this, I will make it a solid colour. But because of the EOs, it will probably turn a greenish blue – which I don’t mind, because seriously, it smells fantastic!

Indigo 2

Indigo 3


Thank you, Maya, for letting me have this opportunity to soap with Japanese indigo. 🙂

Coming up next is another Japanese ingredient from Maya. Thank you for reading and have a wonderful week ahead! 🙂



Black Vetiver

Looking at my empty racks, I jumped right back to soaping on January 2.  But this time, it was at a leisurely pace. When I don’t soap for a couple of weeks, I feel rusty and my hands and arms seem heavier!  And it’s the same with blogging for me. Consider this my New Year blogging warm-up. 🙂

Here is Black Vetiver, a dupe of Jo Malone’s Black Vetyver Cafe, described as “a bitter coffee bean steeped in earthy notes of vetiver and temple incense.”  I have not smelled the original, but I mighty love the way this one came out in soap. I don’t smell coffee, but I detect woods, vanilla, and incense – making for a complex, sensual and mysterious scent.

I made 3 batches late last year, all using the hanger swirl technique, each with its own unique look. I had a hard time parting with them, but since my stock was running low, I eventually just kept 2 bars for myself.  I will definitely be making a new batch soon.

Black Vetiver 1


Black Vetiver 3


Black Vetiver 4

Black Vetiver



Soaps of Summer

Today is one of those rare days when the streets are empty and the city is quiet.  Most establishments are closed for the next two days in observance of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and a lot of people are either at the beach or out of town.  My husband and I are just staying home.  We love the peace and quiet.  It’s also a good time for me to make soap and take photos!

Here in the Philippines, we only have 2 seasons: wet and dry. March to early June is considered our summer, usually the driest and hottest months. But these days the weather is so unpredictable. It’s hot, yet it rains  intermittently, with storm warnings.

While many of you in the temperate regions are happy to step out of the cold of winter and make soaps to welcome the blooms of spring, I’ve jumped seasons and went straight to summer.

Presenting my summer soap collection:

1. Sea Bubbles – a fresh and airy scent with a hint of floral and fruity notes.  This is my first time to use ball embeds and to have this kind of height and dimension, and top surface design.  I would have preferred a better arrangement for the balls, but it was hard to control where they moved as I was pouring the soap batter. I only had a few balls so this is a tiny batch of 6 bars.  I am having a hard time parting with them.

Sea Bubbles - a fresh and airy scent with a touch of floral and fruity notes.

Sea Bubbles

2. Summer Breeze – light, breezy, fresh scent with apple and melon notes. Both men and women love this fresh and fruity fragrance.


Summer Breeze

Summer Breeze

3.  Sea Sparkle – I think the embeds almost look sparkly against the blue, or I’d like to think so. This is a feminine scent with lilac, lavender and a hint of musk.

Sea Sparkle

Sea Sparkle

4. Berries and Violets – juicy smell of berries, apples, and oranges with a touch of violet.

Berries and Violets

Berries and Violets

Of all the soaps I’ve ever made, I love the colors of this collection the best. But it wasn’t without failure.  The ball embeds in Sea Bubbles? The yellow was from a batch that slightly overheated and had a wrinkly surface, and the pink was from a batch that traced too fast. The embeds in Sea Sparkle was from a batch that somewhat riced and had colors that looked anaemic. Just like the weather, soap making is not always predictable. 🙂

Soaps of Summer: The Collection

Soaps of Summer: The Collection






Color Riot

Last month, while I was going through Time magazine, I came across an article about the release of the 2 former members of the Russian punk protest group, Pussy Riot.  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, who both spent 21 months in prison for charges of hooliganism, have been in the media spotlight for a while, but I never really followed their story.  However, at that moment I was reading the news, I had a sudden hit of inspiration.  It was so clear in my head – I was going to make soap called Color Riot, and it was going to be just that: an explosion of colors.

It was my first time to have the name of the soap come first before the fragrance and the design. I usually decide on the fragrance first, then the look.  The name comes much much later because I usually have a hard time coming up with one.  What about you?  What kind of conceptualisation process do you go through?

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to be a bit restrained with my use of colors.  Aside from titanium dioxide, I normally use just one or two other colors, and more often than not, they’re on the sedate side. It has only been the last few months that I started to achieve better color saturation and contrast.  (Click here , here, and here to see my earlier color-challenged soaps.)  Color Riot is thus quite a departure from my usual look.  It is bold and loud.  So not me.  But I love it!

Color Riot

Color Riot

I really liked the ease and outcome of the drop swirl technique in Desert Dune, so I decided to do the same for Color Riot. For the first time ever, I used 5 colors: white (titanium dioxide), periwinkle blue, raging raspberry, neon yellow, and neon green.  It is scented with Mango Pomegranate – a fun, tart, and fruity smell.
Color Riot 1

Color Riot 2

Bleeding Pink

I made Color Riot last Jan. 26.  I looked at it almost everyday and didn’t notice any bleeding of colors until I steamed it the other day.  It had very light soda ash, mostly just on the two end pieces.  I normally would leave it as is, but because of its name, I wanted the colors to really pop.  Has anyone experienced this after steaming?

Aside from Color Riot, I made one other neon-colored soap last year.  When I saw the colors in the cut soap, I hated it!  I thought it was gaudy.  After a while, I thought it was fun and learned to like it.  Fragrance used was patchouli raspberry, which I renamed Happy Hippie.  I later found out that Lush had a product with the same name.  I will have to think of another name should I do a remake.  The colors used in this soap are similar to those in Color Riot, but I don’t remember now if the colors bled.  If it did, I didn’t notice.
Happy Hippie

A Galloping Happy New Year of the Horse!

Based on the Gregorian Calendar, we are well into the New Year of 2014.  But based on the Chinese Calendar, New Year is still on January 31. My family does not exactly celebrate Chinese New Year, although it gives us an excuse to have a Chinese meal together, but am taking advantage of this calendar difference to bring out the soaps from 2013 that I was not able to blog about.

I like using this blog to document the soaps I’ve made, because knowing me, I won’t be able to remember many things.  Moreover, it’s interesting to be able to look back and see any progress I’ve made, and the colour/design/scent phases I went through.

Here are most of the soaps that I had taken photos of, but that missed last year’s blog train. Some of them look similar and have common scent components, like the Lavenders and Green Teas.  The second version of the Kumquat & Lavender is supposed to be orange and purple, but the orange came out yellow instead. All of them smell great except for the 2 prettiest, in my opinion. Midsummer Night smells fresh and green out of the bottle, but in cured soap it reminds me of dirty laundry soaking in soapy water. I love the look of the Sandalwood Musk, even as it eventually darkened to a light tan, but I think it smells like an old lady.

Kumquat and Lavender, version 1

Kumquat and Lavender, version 1

Kumquat and Lavender, version 2

Kumquat and Lavender, version 2

Lavender and Lemon

Lavender and Lemon

Lavender Green Tea

Lavender Green Tea

Sweet Pea and Green Tea

Sweet Pea and Green Tea

Lavender Mist

Lavender Mist

Midsummer Night

Midsummer Night



Almond Joy

Almond Joy

Peach Sunset

Peach Sunset



Sandalwood Musk

Sandalwood Musk

Happy Lunar New Year to all of you! Thank you so much for taking time to read my blog and leave comments. You’ve all been so helpful, inspiring and encouraging, making my soapy journey so much more fun and meaningful.  May the Year of the Horse bring all of us galloping love, happiness and success! 🙂

Lye Master Batch: How to Make and Its Application

I will be out of town the next couple of weeks.  It will be a reluctant break from my soapmaking mania, but I am excited to be in Honolulu for the Hawaii Food and Wine Festival and to be visiting my sister in California after. Yipee!!!

Before I take off, here’s a tutorial on lye master batching.

LYE MASTER BATCHING, 1:1 ratio or 50% concentration

1.  You will need:

  • 2 liters distilled water
  • 2 kilos sodium hydroxide/NaOH/caustic soda (pearls or flakes)
  • 1 chemical-resistant plastic container* that can hold 1 gallon or minimum 3 kilos
  • 1 large bowl or basin that can hold the plastic container
  • 1 digital weighing scale
  • 1 pair gloves
  • 1 pair safety goggles
  • 1 long chemical-resistant stirring spoon

*To learn more about what’s safe to use, you may want to check out this forum thread. Avoid metal containers as you run the risk of turning your lye solution gray, and always have a container with a bigger capacity than what’s going into it.

lye masterbatching check list

2.  Although you can mix the solution in the kitchen with the exhaust turned-on, I prefer to do it outside for better ventilation as the fumes are very biting and strong.  Just for added precaution so that the lye solution does not overheat, I always place the mixing container in a bowl filled with cold tap water (think nuclear reactor). With safety gear in place, it’s time to pour the NaOH into the container with distilled water.lye masterbatching 1

3. Cover your nose (I just hold my breath) and stir until the NaOH has been completely dissolved.Lye Masterbatching 2

4. Cover the container loosely to prevent debris from going in and to prevent rapid evaporation. If I make the lye solution before going to work, I transfer it to a bathroom that no one uses.  By the the time I come home, it would have cooled down already. Alternately, this can be done at night and left to cool down overnight.

Lye Masterbatching 3

Right after mixing, the solution gets very very hot, near boiling.  Look at the water bubbles forming from the heat:

Lye Masterbatching 4

5. When the solution has completely cooled down, give it a good stir. I also like to strain it before it goes into the jug. Make sure to clearly and properly mark your container and store in a place where no one will accidentally bump into it or mistake it for something else.  (I store it under the kitchen sink)

lye master batchThe net weight of the solution is 4 kilos or 8.8 pounds, but since the solution is very dense, its volume is approximately a little over half a gallon.

lye masterbatch 1


To avoid confusion, I will be using the term lye pre-mix to mean master-batched lye solution and NaOH to mean DRY lye or caustic soda.

Let’s take an example and assume these were the numbers shown after running your recipe through a lye calculator:

                  Water 265 grams          NaOH 130 grams

→ Multiply the called for NaOH by 2:

                 130 g. NaOH x 2 = 260 g. lye pre-mix

→Subtract NaOH weight from water amount (lye calculator amounts):

                 265 g. water – 130 g. NaOH = 135 g. additional liquid

(Explanation: Remember our lye pre-mix is half water, half NaOH. Thus, to determine how much pre-mix to use, we have to double the NaOH quantity called for in the recipe.  Correspondingly, we have to deduct the water in the pre-mix from the total liquid required to know how much more to add.)

In a nutshell:

A recipe that calls for 130 grams NaOH and 265 grams water would need:

                 260 g. lye pre-mix + 135 g. water

To double check that your conversion is correct, the sum of the numbers of the original recipe should be the same as for the pre-mix:

Original recipe:            265 g. water + 130 g. NaOH = 395 g.

Recipe with pre-mix:   135 g. water + 260 g. lye pre-mix = 395 g.

Note: Mixing the lye pre-mix with additional water or any form of liquid will cause the whole thing to heat up again!  Unless you actually prefer to have it hot to melt hard oils or for whatever reason, I suggest mixing your water/milk/juice directly into the oils, then adding in the lye pre-mix after.

I hope my tutorial was clear and didn’t make you more confused 🙂 .  For additional information, there are several forum threads out there, just google “lye master batching.” I would also highly recommend reading Kevin M. Dunn’s Scientific Soapmaking.  From his book, I learned it was possible to have a 50% lye concentration, and even though it does not talk about master batching, it helped me to understand lye and water percentages/discounts and just about all the nerdy stuff behind soap making. (Ok, there was a lot of hard core chemistry and equations that I skipped. I only read portions that interested me 🙂 )

I don’t master batch my oils because I like playing with different recipes, but I can’t imagine going back to weighing and mixing lye every time I have to make soap.  I just love the ease and convenience, and in my opinion, it’s really no more dangerous than having to dissolve solid NaOH every time.  Needless to say, extra precaution has to be taken when dealing with any hazardous substance.

When I need to use some lye pre-mix, I just pour directly from the jug. I don’t even shake it because I think the the NaOH has dissolved and bound completely with the water. But that’s just me.  I guess there’s no harm in shaking it up a bit before using, if that makes you feel better.

Happy soaping! 🙂

Yogurt Soaps and Notes

I love yogurt. I think anything with yogurt is better than just plain ol’ milk (ok, not including coffee or tea! 🙂 )

I don’t remember exactly when I started making my own, all I know is that it has been many years and it has really saved me bucks.  I don’t know why it’s double the price of milk when it’s nothing but inoculated milk and ridiculously easy to make. (I will do a separate post on my easy and fool-proof method)

Homemade yogurt and yogurt soap

Homemade yogurt and yogurt soap

It was originally for personal consumption, but later on I started using it in my cafe, e.g. in cakes, smoothies, sauces and dressings. At home, I like having it with granola for breakfast, and for a healthy and quick snack or dessert, I mix it with frozen berries drizzled with honey.  Even my not-so-health-conscious husband loves it.

When I feel like pampering myself, I make a face mask by mixing yogurt, finely ground oats, and honey.  I swear it’s the best facial mask ever! It manages to tighten pores while moisturising and hydrating the skin at the same time.  To me at least, I find that my skin looks brighter and more supple after a yogurt mask.

For a skin detox, yogurt with activated charcoal mixed into a thick paste works great! It’s easy to wash off and won’t leave your skin black the way a plain charcoal and water face mask will. (Trust me, I’ve tried it and it took a few washes to completely remove the blackness of the charcoal!)

Even my shi-tzu, Chewie, loves yogurt.  He eagerly licks it as if it were ice cream. I started giving him a spoonful of yogurt once a day after a friend told me that her vet recommended it for a healthier gut.

Chewie's begging pose.

Chewie’s begging pose.

Chewie eating his yogurt.

Chewie eating his yogurt.

Licking the spoon clean.

Licking the spoon clean.

With the way I just love anything yogurt and having it around as a staple, I don’t know why I’ve waited this long to make yogurt soap.  But thanks to Cee of Oil & Butter Soap , I was inspired to finally go for it.  Check out her gorgeous and elegant Sunflower Yogurt Soap.

After attempting to have colors and designs in my soaps the past couple of months, sometimes succeeding but mostly barely so, this time I wanted something plain and unadorned.  Since I like gelling my soaps, I just added a small amount of titanium dioxide to counter some of the discoloration, but basically I just wanted it to look natural – a bit creamy and off-white.  I normally scent my soaps at 4 – 5% ppo, but for these I just wanted a background scent, so I went down to a bit less than 3%.

yogurt 1

From left to right: pear & green tea; lavender; clean cotton & neroli

yogurt 2

Soaping with yogurt is quite easy. I did not even bother freezing it, as is usually the case when using dairy in soap. I just started master batching my lye solution (bookmarked for a future post) so I simply blended the yogurt with the oils before adding in the lye solution. Yogurt itself does not accelerate trace, so it all depends on your fragrance or essential oils.

After cutting the soaps, I noticed a sour-ish smell but that went away after a day or so.  I can’t wait to try these soaps!  If it’s any indication, I washed my hands with the scraped bits left on the liner and the lather was just incredible!