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!

Bubble-licious …

I went into our bedroom to pick up something, and had the sudden urge to take pictures of my soap rack.

Looking at these little handmade soaps that I made from scratch in our kitchen, I realized how much I miss making them. Summer is such a perfect time for soap making because the curing process quickens in the warm weather, so I think I’m going to dust off my olive oil tub and essential oils to make a batch or two in the next weeks.

I love the fact that my next soap is only a quick step away in the bedroom, and not to the nearest shopping mall.

Oh, and did you know that soaps are like wine (and women) … and they get better with age? I used my first generation soap the other day and it was one of the best I’ve ever lathered! It was lusciously bubbly, and although the scents are barely there now, the experience made me fall in love with handmade soaps all over again.

Lavender and Olive’s Original Shampoo Bar Recipe

Ever since Agree-brand hair products disappeared from the drugstore shelves many, many years ago (Do you remember them? They were wonderful!), I have never found a shampoo and conditioner that I can fall in love with. Then, about five years ago, I discovered Basin, a Lush-like shop that sells natural soaps, and its shampoo bars and I was back in love again. I like the shampoo bars more than the mainstream ones for several reasons. One, because it cuts down the plastic consumption to, well, zero, because the soap comes in a solid form. Also, because it leaves my hair clean but conditioned, even without using a conditioner. And last but not least, they last forever! It is wonderful to travel with it too since you can toss it in your carry-on luggage without having a TSA agent come running after you.

The only downside about the shampoo bars is that they are a little pricey. For a 65 gram bar, it costs $8, plus shipping since I get mine online. It’s much cheaper than  other bottle shampoos but still, that’s a lot of money. So, I’ve been looking to formulate my own recipe for the best shampoo bars that I can make at home.

After trying many, many, many recipes – some that I found in books and online, as well as my original concoction – I finally found the one that I absolutely fell in love with. I made a small test batch a few months ago, and I finally took the bar out for a test run last week … and I was amazed at how shiny and healthy my hair really got. I’m not kidding! After using this shampoo bar on my hair every day for the last five days, my hair has never felt or looked better. I think it’s the castor oil and molasses that work so well for my dark mane.

It’s a little embarrassing to plaster my face here, but here’s a picture of my hair. Before this shampoo bar, I had to use gel to control my hair before blow drying it but not any more! I didn’t have to use any hair products and my hair behaved just fine!

Here’s the recipe. Please follow the basic cold-process soap-making instruction before proceeding.

Lavender and Olive’s Original Shampoo Bars (for Dark Hair)

A little disclaimer here.  A kind blog reader informed me that she tried this recipe and found that the batch was too soft to remove from the mold, even after a week of curing.  I’m not sure what caused this but I’m determined to get to the bottom of this, so I’m making this batch again to troubleshoot what went wrong!  Stay tuned!  And thanks, Waterlily, for taking the time to bring this up! 

This is for 650 gram which is like a size of a regular milk carton. It makes about 7 x 4 oz bars.  FYI, Lavender and Olive is my Etsy shop name. 🙂

130 g Castor Oil (20%)
130 g Macadamia Nuts Oil (20%)
65 g Hazelnut Oil (10%)
65 g Avocado Oil (10%)
65 g Olive Oil (10%)
65 g Shea Butter (10%)
65 g Palm Oil (10%)
65 g Coconut Oil (10%)
253 g Distilled water
78 g Lye (85% discount)

Mix them in right before you pour the mixture in to the mold

¼ cup Molasses
30 drops Lavender Essential Oil
30 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
20 drops Bergamot Essential Oil

Just a quick disclaimer here. Please consult with your physician if you have special conditions or are not sure if you have any allergies to any of the listed ingredients here. While the ingredients used are often suitable for babies and young children, I found that it really hurts when the soap gets in the eyes. It is probably best not to use the bar to wash their hair. Also, please feel free to double check the lye content with Lye Calculator.

If you use this recipe to create shampoo bars at home, I would love to hear your feedback. I hope you love them as much I do!

Oh, and I don’t use regular conditioner after I wash my hair with the shampoo bar.  I usually rinse my hair with a vinegar and glycerin mixture.  I know, you might be thinking … eeeew, vinegar!?$?@?  But trust me, with a little dash of your favorite Essential or Fragrance Oils, it doesn’t smell bad at all.  More on the hair rinse talk next time.

The Royal Wedding and New Soaps

My body is a little out of whack at the moment. I stayed up all night, with billions of people around the world, to watch the live coverage of the Royal Wedding, which started super early Friday morning  (it really sucked to be on the Pacific Time Zone).

When the sun came up, I decided to push through and start working.  It seemed like a good idea at the time. At around 4:00 p.m. this afternoon (I had been up for 30 hours straight at this point), my body finally gave up and I completely fell asleep on the couch, only to be awakened by my fiancé’s phone call at 9:00 p.m. Now, at 2:00 in the morning, I can’t go back to sleep.  I really need to go to sleep pretty soon, or else I’ll be messed up for the next few days! Yikes.

Well, speaking of the Royal Wedding, I am obsessed with Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, the wife of Prince William, the future Queen of England, and the most beautiful woman in the world. I have a major girl crush on her. I thought she was absolutely breathtaking in the lacy, sophisticated yet modern wedding dress designed by Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen. She was the perfect example that you can be super sex without showing too much skin. What a classy princess!

I wish the lovely couple the lifetime of happiness and a fairy tale life of happily ever after.

Well, now that I’m wide awake, I’ve decided to share pictures of my latest soap creations! This was my first time making soaps in a very long time (first time this year, actually) but like riding a bike, I picked up where I left off.

I am madly in love with soaps with little bits of earthly goodness in them, like oatmeal bits, lavender buds, chamomile flowers, and peppermint leaves. I love the way the soaps look and they add a wonderful grainy texture perfect for light scrubbing. The two new batches I made have loads of these wonderful dried leaves in them.

The lighter-color soaps are all-natural Lavender soaps, using my ultimate favorite recipes with olive oil, castor oil, sweet almond oil, avocado oil, and other wonderfully moisturizing oils. This recipe is my original and it is my absolute favorite.

The darker ones are all-natural Peppermint soaps and I love the rich dark hue! I’ve had requests from guy friends that they’d like to see a darker, more “manly” looking soaps (instead of the cutesy pink ones) so these are perfect for the dudes.  They’ll both be ready in my Etsy shop, Lavender and Olive,  in the summer.

Anyway, I guess I better wrap up soon and go to bed. I am having breakfast with my fiancé and I want to make sure that I am up on time so it will not turn into a dinner date!

Bubbly Souvenir from Seattle: Pirouette

I know I’m in love with something when I become a student of the discipline. When I find myself taking the time to study it, learn its history, submerge in it, and even become a little obsessive by spending every second of the day thinking about it, I know that I’ve found something special. This is why I have bookshelves full of baking books and soap-making references in my apartment. I just want to learn everything about it and make the art my own.

People often ask me if I still shop and spend money on soaps, shampoos, lotions, and other cosmetics since I make my own at home now. They are a little surprised when I tell them that I still enjoy shopping for those items immensely. The amount of money I spend on toiletries have certainly gone down in the last several years but I still drop a good, week’s worth of pay at some of my favorite shops like Soap Kitchen, Lather, and L’Occitane.

To borrow my favorite cookbook author Nigella Lawson’s words from her cookbook, How to Eat, “Although it’s possible to love eating without being a cook, I don’t think you can ever really cook unless you love eating.” I think aspiring home chemists too need to appreciate the wonderful work of others to be able to create their own masterpiece.

When I met up with B last week during my business trip, she brought back an adorable little soap sampler she found at a little shop in Seattle called, Pirouette, that specializes in handmade essentials. She gave me the Botanical Soap Sampler with palm-size Lavender Earl Grey, Peppermint Party, Black Pepper Citrus, and Cucumber Coriander soaps. I used the Black Pepper Citrus the other day in the shower and I loved the way it lathered! The foam was so rich, like a peak of a well-whisked meringue! I was a little nervous because none of the soaps contained Olive Oil, the primary ingredient in my soaps, but the bar I used was still very moisturizing, leaving my skin baby soft! I can’t wait to start using the rest of these little heavenly bubbles! Thank you B for thinking of me! 🙂

Love Is in the Air: All-Natural Soaps

One of my favorite parts of the soap making process is enjoying the incredible scent of essential oils that fill the house while waiting for them to cure. Four to six weeks is a pretty long time for anyone to have to wait for the soaps to cure and become ready for use, but having a little perk makes the entire process slightly more forgiving. My soaps are typically very lightly scented, but I can still smell the sweet and calming scents of peppermint, lavender, and citrus fragrances lingering nicely in my apartment. It’s absolutely heavenly!

Here are my new batches that I made, with my soon-to-open Etsy shop in mind. I’m hoping that these soaps turn out good enough to begin my soap selling endeavors. So far, all batches look incredibly promising. I’ll keep you posted if and when these soaps go up on sale, if any of you are interested! 🙂

The Weekend Warrior: New Soap Batches

I used to bake to relieve stress but now, I find myself making soaps in the kitchen as a way to relax and unwind. I have a “no working on a Saturday” policy (okay, I just made that up last week just so that I can watch the Olympic games all day) so even if I have mountains of work I have to finish by Monday morning, I use the day to relax, without feeling guilty. If I’m not working out with my sister, an amazing personal trainer, my Saturday is usually spent doing household chores like laundry, grocery shopping and other not-so-exciting but absolutely necessary tasks. But in between running to the laundry room and Trader Joe’s, I always find time to make soaps on a Saturday.

Here are some soaps I made:

Green Tea Soap: I colored the soap with green tea powder. Instead of adding the power at the end, I dissolved it with distilled water and mixed it directly to the lye. At first, the batch had the dark, brown, unappetizing hue, but it settled into nice, light green after a few days. I mixed in a handful of cut-up baby soaps that I made the other day to add the playful, confetti-like effect. I added the White Tea and Ginger fragrance oil and they smell delicious! I especially love these soaps because hey look a little like Japanese sweets!

Apple Straw Hat: I used the recipe from my favorite soap book, Soaps for the Four Seasons. I added the dried Calendula that I got as a sample from Bramble Berry (score!).  I love how these soaps came out. They remind me of the soaps I find at Soap Kitchen!

Rose Avocado Soap: I made this soap with my mother in mind. Unlike my father and sister who drank my soap Kool Aid, she is still a little hesitant to use my handmade soaps because she thinks that bar soaps would leave her skin dry. She loves the liquid body wash for its moisture so I decided to make a soap with lots of wonderful ingredients with moisturizing properties. I found this soap recipe while browsing through nice avocado oil-based soap recipe. I used rose water and English Rose fragrance oil so I hope she’ll like it!

Cherry Petal: This recipe also came from the above-mentioned Japanese book. Instead of adding the pink confetti, I decided to make the entire batch pink! I used paprika powder to create a nice, orange-y hue.  I scented it with Sweet Pea fragrance oil.

All these batches should be ready for use before Easter!

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!