Since I began soaping, I've been using very cost-efficient, vegan recipes to get plenty of practice under my belt before taking on the task of formulating my own recipe incorporating pricey ingredients. It's not so bad to lose a batch when your only ingredients are coconut oil, canola oil, and vegetable shortening! Do the same with a recipe with shea butter, palm oil, sweet almond oil, and palm kernel flakes -- YIKES. The list of expenses add up quickly.
Now that I've been at it (extensively) for a few months, I thought it was time to figure out my recipe. This was a big step, as this formulation will become the trademark recipe I make my soap with (so no, no sharing! (: ) So I sat down with SoapCalc as a backup reference (and to keep track of the INS totals of my recipe) and a list of all the possible soapmaking oils, their INS values, and what each one was good for.
Then, I asked myself: What do you want in a bar?
Easy enough. I want a nice, creamy, hard bar of soap that lathers well with decent bubbles and stability. I also want it to be hard enough to be very long-lasting, so that my customers don't have to worry about purchasing them often. I also wanted to make sure that there was enough skin-loving oils to make the "necessity" of using lotion after a shower -- well, non-existent. And easily obtained oils were a plus.
Considering I work at Rustic Escentuals, the oil-supply issue isn't much of a problem. I currently get my coconut oil, castor oil, and sweet almond oil from there. The Chemistry Store is where I get my Palm Oil and palm kernel flakes, as those are some of my preferred ingredients. I couldn't live without palm oil in my bars -- it's too nice on the skin and makes them super, super hard! My only other alternative would be to use beef tallow -- and considering I want vegan bars, this isn't an option. Yes, I know the controversy surrounding palm, and I don't agree with it, so I make sure to purchase it from places I trust. TCS delivers, and their customer support is awesome. :)
I also found a great deal on shea butter on Amazon -- 17.99 (shipping included!) for 5 lbs! AMAZING. Of course I bought it -- granted, it's unrefined, pure, natural, lovely off-yellow shea. Some complain about it's natural earthy smell, but I can;t get enough of it. I even use it outside of soaping -- straight out of the bag onto my skin when it needs a little extra nourishing.
So, recipe wise: I had castor oil, which at a mere 5% adds amazing, stable, bubbly lather. Adding coconut oil adds skin conditioning benefits, as well as a more creamy lather. Shea butter for superfatting as well as in the recipe adds a higher level of skin-moisturizing and nourishing properties -- and who wouldn't want shea in their soap? Palm oil is a must, the base for the soap for its hardness and conditioning properties. A little palm kernel flakes for some more hardness, and a pinch of canola oil to pull down the cleansing level of the soap (No higher than 20! And 15 is my preferred.). After fiddling with percentages, I was intensely happy with my values!
Just to make sure the bar was as hard as I want it, I intend to add 1% melted beeswax to the recipe as an additive. Since beeswax takes a much higher temp to melt, and when trying to room-temp melt my hard oils (the beeswax DIDN'T melt at all. HOLY COW), I have to melt this separately and add to my liquid oils while waiting for my solids to melt. Time to go a-testing!
I wanted to make a manly (or unisex) bar of soap, one I can send to some friends I had promised. I melted my hard oils with my hot lye-water, added my liquid oils, and went to blending! Considering my recipe had so many hard oils, I was amazed that it isn't a fast-moving recipe, even after blending in fragrance, adding activated charcoal, and titanium dioxide. I used a 9x9 silicone baking pan as my soap mold ($10 on Amazon with Prime shipping), pouring the activated charcoal first. I then took a mall mix of my titanium dioxide-colored soap and made a grid pattern (being very careful not to pour too high or too fast -- this pattern is only for the top!). Once that was done, I ran my spatula (the soap is still at a light trace! WOW!) through the white lines in a up-and-down motion (if you youtube spatula swirl, you'll see what I mean here.)
I didn't have a chance to take pictures during all of this, as I was focusing on the soap and making mental notes about how it acted through the process, and toward the end of the swirl I circled my spatula around the mold once, for a nice effect.
|My beautifully swirled soap in the mold!|
|A close-up of the swirl|
|The glitter/size of the bar|
|They're so thick!|
As fragrance, I added 1 OPP of Ezra Fitch type FO (sold by Rustic Escentuals in Amy's line), which smells like straight-up man out of the bottle. It's an insatiably manly scent, and I was hoping it would soap well. After unmolding and cutting, it seemed to morph a little -- it wasn't as strong as it had been, but it had mellowed out very nicely, leaving top notes of a cologne-type scent with bottom notes of heavy musk. The intense-man scent had become a nice unisex one, though this one is still for the guys. ;)
If you guys every have any questions, comments, photos, or anything at all -- let me know! Comments are always welcome!