Saturday, September 4, 2010

Long Break and New Experiments!

Well I am back from my fabulous holiday - I enjoyed every second of it and have realised I'm a complete sun and water baby! We swam every single day, about 4 times a day minimum! There's a lot to be said for having a swim in the sunshine before breakfast! We were very very careful and used lots of sun cream in a high factor - especially useful as the temperatures in Turkey hit 50 degrees C for a few days! Most people faint when I told them that, but we were fine with it - yes it was hot, no doubt about it but if you keep your fluids up and eat a healthy diet and keep cool as much as you can (like swimming 4 times a day) then it's completely manageable.  We ate really well - the fruit and vegetables are just amazing out there ... we visited a market one day and I swear to God, the peaches were the size of babies heads!!! We had to buy some - they were incredible, so sweet and delicious but we only had a half each they were so big. And watermelons galore, fresh apricots, and figs plucked straight off the tree given to use by the local villagers - I never knew it but green figs are stupendous (far nicer off the tree than bought in a shop too).  Can you tell we had fun?? We'll definitely go back - saving like mad already to book for next year!

Anyway, when we were away I had time to time and realised that I love the experimentation part of soap and body product making the very best of all.  So I decided I'd try something new and, this week, made cold process soap for the very first time.  Cold process soap making is a traditional method, used by your Granny and your Granny's Granny that makes soap from caustic soda (or lye) and fats - in this case, oils and butters.  You can add fragrances and herbs and colours or you can leave it as plain as you like. 

In order to work out how my lye you need to transform your oils/butters into soap, you HAVE to use a lye calculator - if you don't and you get it wrong, you could have a seriously flawed soap - which is dangerous because lye is caustic unless it has enough fats/oils to work with it to transform into soap.  If you don't get your proportions right, you could have a soap overloaded with lye - BAD soap!

So, I worked out a recipe on, a very reputable lye calculator used by most of the soapers that I know.  You also have to balance the ingredients in such a way that you get a soap that bubbles, but also conditions your skin, isn't too soft or too hard.  So a little bit of tweaking here and there, and some advice from soaping friends, I worked out a simple recipe with Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Palm Oil and Castor Oil. 

My first batch was fragranced with Sweet Orange, Grapefruit & May Chang essential oils - see pic below.  This is the basic soap (which you can't see cos it's on the bottom of the picture) and I took out two portions and then coloured one with Tangerine POP mica and the other with Lemon Drop POP mica (if you're a regular reader, you'll know that I had these specially imported from the US).  By swirling the top of the soap but not mixing the colours fully, you end up with a swirled pattern like I have below.  I actually put too much of each colour on and the soap batter was a little too thick to swirl properly but it pretty much worked. 

Above is a picture of the soap, just poured and swirled still in it's mould.  Below is a picture of it the next day, demoulded and cut. 

You'll notice that the tops of the soap are a little softer coloured - this is called ash and lots of soapers get it ... still not quite sure what causes it so I've more studying to do.  You'll see where I trimmed the edges a little and the bright tangerine colour is as vibrant as usual undernearth.  The ash actually doesn't cause a problem at all, it's perfectly good to use and lots of soapers don't mind it as it can add another layer to the design.  In this case, it softens the vibrancy of the orange which I think adds an interesting element.  I need to see how I can avoid it though - that way I can choose to have it and use it as a design feature or I can choose to avoid it. 

All cold process soaps need to dry out (or cure) for approximately 4 - 6 weeks.. I've decided to leave mine the full 6 weeks as a longer cure means a milder bar of soap.  I've used some soap by other makers that have cured as I've used them so they were lovely at the beginning but stunningly lovely by the time I'd finished them. 

Last night, I decided I'd try again and use a different recipe (the key being to find a recipe that I fall in love with - just like all my products, I cannot sell something I don't love).  This time I made it using Apricot Kernel Oil and Cocoa Butter amongst other things.  Agan I worked out the calculation on Soapcalc (I will never NOT do that, I dread to think what'd happen if you didn't and I'm not good at maths to work it out on my own!) and tried to balance it for bubbliness, creaminess, hardness etc.  This time I fragranced with an Amber Vanilla fragrance oil - I used this for a body oil I took with me to Turkey and it really reminds me of my holidays.  Almost all Vanilla based fragrances will discolour to a brown due to the natural vanillin in them - this one is sure to do that too so I decided not to colour it at all and allow the vanillin to do it's magic.  This soap batter was thinner than the previous nights so it would have been fabulous to work with to make thinner, more defined swirls.  I also used Coffee Butter as a super fatting agent (an additional portion of butter that the lye won't react with and that reminds in your soap to moisturise your skin even more) and this made the oil/butter mix a touch brown anyway. 

I apologise in advance for the terrible picture above - the light was horribly yellow in the room when I took it and I couldn't work out how to change it.  In reality, it was a creamy colour.  As you see, I made a swirl pattern on the surface of the soap - I'm hoping that it'll look really cool when I cut it.  I checked it this morning and it's now a really creamy fudge colour - takes all I have not to have a bite (totally NOT advised!!!).  This soap too will need 6 weeks to cure but it smells fabulous even now. 

So ... I'm backing to my love of experimenting and I'm loving making these soaps.  I can see that I will want to put these on sale (well not these soaps as such, they're only testers, but soaps made to the perfect recipe) but, before that, I will need to get them safety assessed (regular readers will know how much we value high quality ingredients and processes and safety in all our products).  But time enough for that, right now I'm enjoying playing around!!! I really hope you enjoyed this post and pictures - please feel free to leave a comment!!!

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