Saturday, 21 September 2013

Orange Spice

As the autumn weather begins to roll onto the West Coast, I've been looking forward to making and using a few seasonal soaps. Along with pumpkin pie scented soap, one of my favourites is orange spice. This soap is scented with essential oils, and I love how the warm, spicy undertones contrast with the note of bright citrus from the orange.

The essential oils in this soap include cinnamon leaf, orange 5 fold, and a touch each of anise seed, clove and nutmeg. I also steeped a vanilla pod in the warm oils; as expected, the scent doesn't really come through, but I love the speckled look of the vanilla beans throughout the soap.

I also used coconut water for the liquid portion, which I had never tried before, and included tussah silk in the lye water. I coloured the top portion of the soap with cinnamon powder, and left the bottom portion uncoloured. I had intended to do a nice fluid swirl, but the soap thickened incredibly quickly (I didn't even have a chance to use the stick blender), so I did a quick swirl with a spoon to incorporate the two colours together. The result isn't quite what I had in mind, but I like the simplicity of the design.

Happy seasonal soaping everyone!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Shampoo Bars & Back to Basics

I have a serious love affair with shampoo bars. However, not any old soap will do. I like to use lots of conditioning oils, tussah silk and a nice scent. Moreover, I omit coconut oil from my shampoo bars, as I find that my hair stays fresh and non-greasy for longer.

Recently, I set about to make a new batch of shampoo bars. Though I have always used essential oils in my shampoo bars, I decided to mix things up and try a new fragrance oil, called blackberry jam. I used this fragrance oil at 3% of the weight of the base oils as the supplier had advised that no more than 3.3% should be used in soap. The fragrance soaped beautifully and a few days later, I unmolded the soap. To my surprise, there were pockets of fragrance oil seeping out of the bars. I have no idea why this happened as the fragrance oil was fully emulsified into the soap batter (in fact, I added the fragrance oil to the base oils before the lye water and stick-blended to ensure that it was fully incorporated). 

I must admit that this occurrence has tempered my previous excitement about fragrance oils. I found this experience to be discouraging and frustrating, mostly because the reviews for this particular fragrance were good and my usage rate was below that advised by the supplier.  As a result, I have scaled back my plans to make a selection of Christmasy fragranced soaps this holiday season. For now at least, I intend to focus on soaps scented with essential oils, which I'm much more familiar with.

Since moving back to basics, I have made a few soaps that I'm quite happy with. First up is a batch called "Botanicals". It is scented with an equal blend of lavender and peppermint essential oils, and naturally coloured with swirls of kelp powder and calendula blossoms. It also contains a good helping of coconut milk. The overall effect is quite delicate and pretty, and I like it a lot. 

Next up is a soap made for my grandmother, who loves oatmeal soap. It contains lots of ground oats, and goat milk powder and honey as well. It is very lightly scented with cinnamon bark essential oil and benzoin resin for a sweet scent that is reminiscent of oatmeal cookies.

Finally, my favourite new soap is called "Detox". It is scented with lavender and citrus essential oils, and naturally coloured with activated charcoal, white kaolin clay and cranberry seeds.

And because I still needed shampoo bars, I made a new batch today that is scented with citrus and mint essential oils. I feel calmer already :)