Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Zen of Soapmaking

There are so many reasons that I enjoy making my own soap. First of which is that I can control the ingredients that go in my soap. Chemicals that are common in store bought soap include heavy perfumes, BHT (a preservative) and Pentasodium pentetate (a chelating agent). These are ingredients that I find unnecessary and are not in the soap I produce. Heavy perfumes can be very irritating to skin so I use either essential oils or high quality perfume oils and in small amounts as to NOT cause irritation to my sensitive skin. I have used vitamin E as a preservative and additional emollient however; I often forget to add it. In an unintentional experiment, having forgotten the bars were in the cabinet, I stored several bars of my soap in my garage for 3 years, exposing them to heat in the summer and cold in the winter. I was so pleased to find that none of the bars turned rancid. The scent was faded but the quality was excellent. I also do not need to add a chelating agent as I use distilled water when I mix my lye solution. Chelating agents bind with metal ions in hard water and supposedly make soap foam better.
The soap formula I use makes a hard bar that is rich, moisturizing and offers a luxurious lather. It is also superfatted, which means the formula has excess fatty acids that do not match up with the sodium hydroxide (lye) molecules after saponification occurs. The excess fat remains in the soap and becomes a soothing moisturizer for the skin. Adding natural colors such as beetroot powder, paprika or spirulina and adding exfoliants such as oatmeal, cornmeal and poppy seeds are fun and add a Spa treatment feel to a bath or shower.  I often do not use colorants as I have found that the essential oils or perfume oils tint soap a soft yellow or soft earthy tan and those tints look good on soap.  
When people ask me about my soap, one of the first things they seem to stumble over is the fact that I use Lye. Once they understand the process, they are no longer apprehensive. The soap making method in chemical terms is quite complex however, simply put, the Lye molecules react with fat and oil molecules in a process called saponification to produce soap and a byproduct; glycerin. We all know that glycerin is good for skin. Soap making has become very popular and with technology, it is now easier to understand and learn.   
I use either a Hot Process or a Cold Process for my soap making, but I tend to prefer the Cold Process because I feel more in control of the “process”. Hot Process progresses fast whereas Cold Process allows me to get into the Zen of the process and enjoy it. For me the Zen part is the stirring. I use a stick blender with a whisk attachment to slow the process and allow for a more complete mixing of the fats oils and the lye. While stirring I infuse Reiki healing symbols into the mix and this is where the Zen occurs. For me, making soap is quite a relaxing experience. 
 Notice the soft buttery yellow of this soap tinted with only the perfume oil added for a light scent.

No comments:

Post a Comment