As much as I enjoy making soaps with fragrance oils and pigments, my first and true love has always been natural, therapeutic soaps. I get really excited discovering and experimenting with new ingredients that may offer any kind of skin benefit.
I have been soaping like crazy since I came back from Taipei two weeks ago. I made mostly fragrance oil-scented soaps, but I managed to make two all-natural ones using some of the ingredients I stuffed my suitcase with.
With so many choices, it was hard to pick which ingredient to use first. I finally settled on calendula, a very popular herb among soap makers, but it was my first time to use it.
Instead of steeping the petals in oil, I made a concentrated tea and let it steep overnight. Since we don’t have calendula in the Philippines (maybe we do, but I am not aware of it), I didn’t want to throw away the petals. I wanted to use everything so I separated most of the liquid and proceeded to blitz the remaining calendula with reconstituted goat’s milk powder. I mixed all the liquid with the blended petals into my oils – coconut, olive, palm, rice bran and cocoa butter – before adding my master-batched 50% lye solution.
To intensify the yellow color, I used 2 parts blood orange e.o. and 1 part litsea cubeba, totalling 4.2% of my oils. Next time I will increase the essential oils to at least 5% because at 4.2%, the scent is barely there. I wanted to add some interest so I tried doing a pencil line for the first time. I really like the effect but I think I was a bit heavy handed with the activated charcoal.
The second ingredient I decided to use was Job’s Tears powder (coix lacryma jobi). It is also known as Chinese pearl barley, but it has nothing to do with the common pearl barley that most of us are familiar with. In China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, it is eaten as a grain or cooked into a drink. It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine for its cooling and anti-cancer properties, and for its stimulating action on the spleen, kidneys and lungs. Beauty-wise, it is reputed to remove blemishes and make the skin softer. (Click here to read more on the benefits of Job’s Tears)
I still have some lard that I carefully rendered with salt and water a few months ago. I plan to just finish what I have and no longer use it in the future. It is just too tedious to make and I don’t think it would appeal to people even though it makes for a gentle and hard bar of soap.
I needed the extra hardness for the facial soap I had in mind, so I incorporated a little bit of lard into my recipe containing coconut, olive, avocado, rice bran, pili and castor oils. I also added 2% salt and 1.5% sodium lactate, less than what I used for my Charcoal Neem Soap. For a richer and creamier soap, I used coconut cream, and to keep it all natural, I used essential oils of blood orange, rosemary and tea tree. I mixed the essential oils with Job’s Tears powder along with kaolin clay and turmeric powder to anchor the scent, before adding everything into the soap batter at light trace.
I love that the soap is completely ash-free and the texture is so smooth and creamy. I think the powders, partly acting as anchors for the essential oils, worked, because I could smell the blood orange amidst the strong tea tree. I hope the scent stays after cure!