Soap Making Magic

The temperature is rapidly rising and it’s beginning to feel like summer has officially arrived here in Southern California.

Warmer weather means more soap making at the Lavender and Olive household and I already have three batches of new creations curing in the wooden crates, waiting patiently until they’re ready to be loved and enjoyed, in about four weeks.

My latest batch is this all-natural Olive Oil soap with Eucalyptus, Lavender, Rosemary and Tea Tree scents.

And just for fun, I made this 30-second clip capturing how the oil and lye mixture turn into soap! I hope you enjoy watching the transformation! I’ll make a full, “how to” video tutorial soon!

Blushing for LUSH

Sometime, I wonder if I should just get real and rename my blog to “Things I Purchased at LUSH,” or “Homage to LUSH,” or “How I Got Suckered Into Purchasing Things I Don’t Really Need at LUSH … Again,” or something that shows how addicted I am to this cosmetic joint.

I’m not a fan of every product there (some are too strong in scent and some are just outright weird) but I seldom walk out of the store without a bagful of items that I never knew I needed but could no longer live without.

My latest acquisitions were a bottle of rose and lavender toner water named “Eau Roma Water” (eau my!) and a small container of Rose Cheeks fresh face mask, from the store in Portland’s NW 23rd Street, aka “Trendy” Third.  If you haven’t noticed, I love all things rose.

One good thing about a visit to LUSH, other than brining home fun skincare products, is that the place reignites my love for homemade cosmetics. Every time I leave the store, I come out with a motivation to start creating again.


As soon as I got home from Portland, I got busy making a batch of Marseille soap. I scented it with Lemongrass, Lavender, Rosemary and Sweet Orange Essential Oils. I can’t wait for it to become ready in about a month!

Most Luxurious Soap

rose soap 2

One of my favorite soaps on the market today is Rose Geranium with Rosehips and Shea Butter from The Soap Kitchen. It’s incredibly decadent and its feminine, rose-like scent is out of this world (Although rose and rose geranium are from a different plant family, they do share a very similar floral scent). I feel that this soap captures everything I love in handmade soaps – warm color, luxurious lather, with a subtle but a splendid presence of flower-y sweetness.

I pick one up every time I go into the lovely store in Old Town Pasadena and I must say that it’s a lot more frequent than I’d like to admit.

I tried recreating these sumptuous soaps at home and I’m in love with how they came out! It’s no secret that I totally tried to replicate my favorite The soap Kitchen soap as best as I could (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?). Although they’re not exactly the same, I think I was able to capture the essence of my favorite soap in this handmade version.

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Most Luxurious Soap
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1200 g batch

Olive oil (72%): 864 g
Palm oil (14%): 168 g
Coconut oil (14%): 168 g

Distilled water: 467 g
Lye (85% discount): 150 g


Rosewood essential oil: 160 drops
Ylang Ylang essential oil: 100 drops
Organic Geranium Rose essential oil: 30 drops
Citronella Java essential oil: 50 drops
Lavender essential oil: 10 drops


Madder root powder: 1 teaspoon


Crushed dried rose petals: 3 tablespoons

Note: The scent of citronella Java essential oil was pretty dominant during the curing stage but it slowly neutralized into a subtle lemon-y scent. The color also became a lot more subtle as the soap bars dried. At first, the soap loaves were deep burgundy and I panicked. I’m happy that it ended up becoming a lovely dark pink hue.

rose soap 1

Happy soaping!

The Perfect Soap Drying Rack


My friend D recently introduced me to this lovely café in Pasadena called Lincoln. We had an early lunch there after running a lap briskly walking and conversing around Rose Bowl one morning.

I thought about taking photos of the chic industrial restaurant interior, the colorful array of candies and pastries that fill the cafe, as well as breakfast and lunch served beautifully on simple, white ceramic plates and bowls with edible flower or two on top, but I couldn’t because my two-and-a-half-year-old daughter took hostage of my iPhone to watch cartoon during the meal (Mom of the Year here, I know). Instead, please do read Jonathan Gold’s Los Angeles Times article detailing all the delicious dishes it serves up!


So, why talk about the restaurant when I have no photos or stories to share, you may ask? Well, it’s because I found something perfect for my soap-making adventure there! How random, I know!

Next door to the café is an auxillary gift shop, where patrons can find hand-selected, Anthropologie-esque items such as books, candles, ceramics, etc. While browsing the shop, I came across a stack of wooden crates available for sale for $8 each. I picked one up and knew immediately that it would be perfect to complete my soap drying rack.

I’ve used shoe rack to dry the handmade soaps but I had to get rid of it once my daughter was able to crawl. I could not longer have anything on the floor where she can easily reach. I recently purchased three-tiered oven rack but couldn’t find anything that would fit. Then came these Loncoln-logo-branded creates!  Yipee!  I purchased two but went back two days later to pick up four more.  The search for the perfect drying rack is finally over and I couldn’t be happier!


I’m currently drying Olive Oil soap with dried spearmint leaves on the top rack, and another Olive Oil soap scented with Eucalyptus and Lavender Essential Oils on the bottom.

Emotional Highs and Lows of Soap Making


The incredible sense of euphoria I experience from looking at a freshly unmolded soap loaf with perfect edges and smooth surfaces, or soap bars sliced into individual squares and lined up perfectly onto a wooden crate to dry, convinces me that I’m officially a soap addict, and a slight obsessive compulsive.

But it’s easy for me to get really, really disappointed too when a loaf comes out with some sort of imperfection, like discoloration or uneven surfaces, and I even consider tossing it out and start over when that happens. The inner soap perfectionist in me (and this is not a compliment) can’t handle it!  I don’t, of course, throw away an otherwise perfect handmade soap loaf, but I definitely experience extreme emotional roller coaster when it comes to soap making.


I experienced an unbelievable high when I unmolded two loaves of all-natural Olive Oil Soap the other day. They both came out so perfect, with beautiful cream color, perfect edges, and silky-smooth exterior, and I couldn’t be happier. Then I hit the lowest low shortly thereafter when I discovered that my two-and-a-half year old daughter got to them and made giant dents on, no only one, but both loaves, while they were drying on the dining table! Noooooo! 😥 😥 😥  I was in foul mood for the rest of the day.


Luckily, I was able to slice the loaves into individual squares and salvage most of them, with an exception of two with the imprints. So all in all, everything worked out fine at the end, but man, this soap-making thing is not good for my mental health!

I will share more information about the Olive Oil soap on a separate post. In the meantime, I’m going to go lay down and recover now.

#FirstWorldProblem … I know …

RECIPE: Homemade Kitchen Soap


I love the Honest Company Dish Soap we use at home but it’s still a luxury. It’s concentrated and little goes a long way, but I like the squeaky clean finish so much that I end up using more liquid soap than I really should. This results in an empty bottle every week or so, which is way too much, especially at about $6 for 16 fl. oz.

I didn’t want to walk away from my Dish Soap – I love it way too much – so I needed to come up with a creative way to stretch the cost. I tried diluting the liquid soap by adding water but I ended up using double the amount. I thought about alternating it with a less expensive kind but I don’t like the heavy artificial scent and the filmy residue that many supermarket brands leave behind.


I never entertained the idea of making homemade kitchen soaps but after doing some research online, I found that it’s a pretty common thing. I found lots of great ideas for which oils to use, particularly from this cute Japanese soap-making blog. Necessity is the mother of all invention, that’s for sure!

I created a recipe that used mostly Palm Oil (to create firm bars) and Coconut Oil (to provide a nice lather), and threw in some Olive and Castor Oils as a good measure, to provide a little bit of moisture for the hands.


Homemade Kitchen Soap
1200 gram batch — makes about 14 bars, at 4 oz each.

kitchen soap ingredients

I’m only sharing the recipe / ingredients and not the instruction. Please refer to soap making books or online resources for a proper and safe soap-making process.


I’ve been using these soaps for a week and I love it! Here are some thoughts:

  • The bar holds its shape well, thanks to Palm Oil.  I put the soap in a little bowl and the water doesn’t drain completely after each use but it’s still nice and firm. 
  • The lather is perfect!  I’m not into big bubbles so the finer suds this soap produce are just right. 
  • The scent is refreshing without being too artificial. I’m happy with the Cucumber Melon Fragrance Oil from Bramble Berry, especially because I got it as a free sample! 
  • I feel like the dishes don’t get as squeaky as Honest Company’s, but you still get the nice clean feel. You can definitely hear the squeak when you rub the dish after a nice wash.
  • The suds wash off the sponge faster than the liquid kind so you might need to reapply more frequently. 
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see that the soap doesn’t leave a streak on glass and stainless steel pots! 

I’m so satisfied with the homemade version, I may not need to go back to the Dish Soap for a while! 

Enjoy! smile

Handmade Summertime Soaps


Summer is an ideal time to make handmade soaps. The hot temperature allows the soap to reach trace (when all the ingredients “marry” and become thick and velvety) in no time and makes the entire process quicker than if I were making it in the chilly winter months.

Three batches of soap that I made last month are now ready for use!  biggrin

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Aloe Vera Soap (all natural)
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Ingredients: Olive oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, hazelnut oil, palm oil, coconut oil, distilled water, lye (85% discount), fresh aloe vera juice, essential oils (lavender, lemon, bergamot, and spearmint).

The aloe vera leaves used were from my backyard. I love its healing properties. The refreshing citrus and spearmint scents make these perfect soaps for hot summer days, and after a sweaty workout!

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Moisturizing Soap (all natural)
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Ingredients: Olive oil, shea butter, macadamia nut oil, palm oil, coconut oil, distilled water, lye, and essential oils (lavender, bergamot, and rosemary)

It was over 100 degrees outside when I made these soaps, and they only took one hour until they ready to be pour into a mold!  These soaps are seriously beautiful and are now one of my favorites to make and use.  They’re perfect to moisturize the sun-kissed skin after spending a day at the beach.

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Sweet Summer Soap
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Ingredients: Olive oil, avocado oil, shea butter, palm oil, coconut oil, distilled water, lye (85% discount), colorants (madder root powder for pink, comfrey leaf powder for green), essential oils (lavender and spearmint) and fragrance oil (Sugar Plum).

I wanted to make something fun for my third batch, so I used the Sugar Plum fragrance oil to add a bit of playfulness to these three-layer soaps.  These soaps were inspired by Ayumi’s Summer Peppermint soap, but they didn’t come out quiet as lovely as her version.  cry

The last few days were very pleasant here but I know that scorching days are just right around the corner!

Skincare Superhero: Yogurt Soap

I’m really looking forward to the holiday season this year. I know that I’m getting a little ahead of myself to start thinking about a Christmas tree and holiday cookies (it hasn’t even gotten cold here yet), but I know how December sneaks up on me so quickly every year eek that I can’t be over-prepared. My goal is to finish my holiday crafting by the time we cook up the Thanksgiving feast. It’s going to be a pretty busy next few weeks for me craft-wise but I’m super excited.

I’m planning to give away my handmade soaps as gifts this year again, and I already have a few batches ready to go. I made three batches of soap last month and they’re now ready to be packaged and sent off to my soap-loving friends and family.

One batch that I’m particularly excited about is the Yogurt Soap that I made using my homemade yogurt.  It was inspired by the bowl of yogurt with fresh peach I enjoyed in the summertime when the juicy fruit was in season!

The health benefits of yogurt are widely known but did you know that it can also be great for your skin? It’s great for acne treatment (due to high concentration of zinc), and serves as a much-needed moisturizer during the upcoming chilly weather (due to high fat content). I’m sure you’ve seen girls smother dollops of yogurt on their face during their home spa session on a slumber party, along with other all-natural super skin heros like cucumbers, avocadoes, bananas, and honey. I tried my first bar in the shower this week and I absolutely love the way it makes my skin feel. It lathered incredibly well, with frothy white foam, and the subtle but sweet scents of peach fragrance oil and sweet orange essential oil made my skin smell like wonderful summer days.

Giveaway!  If you’re interested in trying this yogurt soap, leave me a comment here!  I will be happy to share them with first three people to comment on this post!biggrin   

Updated on October 21, 2011:  Thank you to Trisha, Lenna, Va, and Erin, for commenting! You will each receive the homemade Yogurt Peach Soap from Lavender and Olive (which is my Etsy shop). Please kindly email me your mailing address to and I’ll get the soaps out to you! Again, thanks for your participation!

Yogurt Peach Soap: Olive oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, palm kernel oil, palm oil, homemade yogurt (2% fat), distilled water, lye, peach fragrance oil, sweet orange essential oil, lavender essential oil.

It’s 67 days until Christmas!

And the Winners Are …

Thank you so much for your participation in the first soap giveaway! I put the names of those who left a comment on the contest post in a bowl and randomly selected two winners.

And the winners are:


… and …


Debbie and Jordan:  Congratulations!  Please send me your mailing address to and I will send you four of my favorite soaps made by me! 🙂

For all of you kind friends who entered the contest (Saori, Cynthia, Brian, Ikkinlala, Joy, and Himawari), you are winners too! YAY!  Please also send me your mailing address to the aforementioned email and I will send you a little surprise gift as well!  Sorry, they are not soaps but I’m sure you will like it!

Again, thank you for your continued support of this blog!

Essential vs. Fragrance Oils

I think the dilemma every conscious soaper faces at least once in his/her soap-making endeavors is whether or not to use a fragrance oil to scent the soaps. The obvious best choice for scenting the soap is through essential oils that are packed with the beneficial properties of a plant or a flower. They not only smell earthy and beautiful (my favorite is the warm scent of lavender … I can be around the scent forever!), they have so many other benefits only natural products can produce. Meanwhile, there are fragrance oils, which are the lesser version of essential oils, with no real benefits of their botanical cousins, but can achieve the powerful and playful scents that drive all my senses crazy!  I want to keep my soaps as natural as possible with no unnecessary additives but it’s hard for me to dismiss all the lovely scents too.  It’s a dilemma!

Until I make up my mind, I’ve decided to test out as many batches of both all-natural and almost-natural soaps and see how I feel about it at the end. I guess there’s no real harm in keep making both … afterall, it’s not like fragrance oils are the potion of death or anything! Soaps made in the kitchen still have so much more benefits for the body and the environment compared to other mass-produced counterfeits, and the usage of fragrance oils won’t compromise the quality and integrity of handmade soaps!

So, here are the two batches of soap I made the other day. The first one is Baby Grand from the book, “The Soapmaker’s Companion,” with avocado, sweet almond, jojoba, coconut, and palm oil, and a little bit of shea butter. This is the first soap I’ve made without olive oil and I’m feeling a little weary about the end result. I used multiple tablespoons of Sugar Plum fragrance oil and my entire apartment is smelling lovely now!

Here is the all-natural soap I made – another gentle soap with olive, sweet almond, avocado, palm, and coconut oils. I used great quality lavender and bergamot essential oils. I used the wooden box as a mold, and used the cookie cutter for these heart-shaped soaps.

I took the leftover soaps and made small balls, which I’ll later wrap like candies!