The beauty of making your own soap is that you can choose and use the ingredients you like. The process is both a science and an art and a perfect activity for anyone that likes to experiment. Whilst your aim might be to make a bar of soap that looks and smells great, you might like to give your well-being a thought.
Beauty specialist Angela Lopez from AngelasBelleToi (angelasbelletoi.com) in Bournemouth has selected her favourite herbs and flowers, which are beneficial that can be added to this basic soap recipe.
Lavender – is antibacterial and can help to heal wounds and especially burns. Lavender is also well known for its relaxing properties and is used as a natural sleep aid, so I find it’s a good choice for bathing the kids before bedtime
Chamomile – this gentle healing herb is very soothing and works wonders on scars and wounds. It can also help to remove bacteria on the skin and is a good soap to wash away your troubles before you go to bed.
Calendula – these beautiful blooms is a remedy for skin complaints and washing daily with marigold soap can help to remove redness from inflamed skin. It’s also good for washing feet that are infected with athlete’s foot and is so mild that it can also help to alleviate nappy rash.
Lemon balm – the lemony fragrant leaves will kill germs and are thought to have antiviral properties, which is helpful if you’re troubled with cold sores. Pick the leaves before the flowers open to use fresh or dry.
Mint – This is my ‘go to’ herb for all kinds of ailments from indigestion, nausea, wind, diarrhoea and colic. I also drink mint tea to relieve the symptoms when I have a cold and use it cold make a cold compress to bring down a fever. It’s one of my staple ingredients for many of my beauty recipes and makes a good antibacterial soap. I like washing with peppermint soap, as it gives an invigorating start to the morning.
Rose – helps to soften the skin and dried rose buds and petals will provide gentle exfoliation. They are my perfect age-defying beauty ingredient and excellent for dry and sensitive skin.
Earmark kitchen equipment for making soap that will not in future be used for cooking. You’ll need enamel mixing bowls, a couple of Pyrex measuring jugs and plastic spoons. You can buy soap moulds at craft stores or online.
The one thing when making a solid bar of soap that you can’t substitute is sodium hydroxide, known as lye. This substance, which is often used for drain cleaning, is caustic and will eat holes in fabric and cause burns on your skin, so for safety’s sake, you will need wear gloves and goggles when handling it but don’t worry there’ll be no dangerous residues left in your soap.
Tell everyone you live with that where you’re working is off limits. Always add lye to water (not water to lye), and be ready to start stirring right away, as it will produce toxic fumes but only for a minute or so.
Use fresh herbs or flowers, which have been dried either naturally in the sun, or in an oven. They will to add scent and texture to your soap but must be dried thoroughly, as any that are damp will produce mould in your soap
⅔ cup coconut oil – to produce good bubbly lather
⅔ cup of cheap olive oil – which makes a hard and mild bar, which is good for moisturizing
⅔ cup grapeseed oil
¼ cup lye – also called 100% sodium hydroxide
¾ cup cool distilled water
Prepare your work area. Cover the worktop with newspaper then put your gloves and goggles and open the windows and back door to allow the fumes to escape.
Measure the water into a large Pyrex measuring jug and have a spoon to hand so that you are ready to stir when you pour the lye into the water. It’s a good idea to stand back while you stir to avoid the fumes. The water will start to clear within a few minutes so the jug can be set aside.
In a separate jug mix the three oils together. Heat in a microwave for about a minute.
Check the temperature of the oil using a stainless steel thermometer, it should be about 44C or so. Wait for both the oil and lye to cool to around 37C (This temperature is critical for if it drops too low the soap will be coarse and crumbly). Then slowly add the lye, stirring until it’s all mixed and like cake batter it become lighter in colour and thick.
Add the flowers and stir thoroughly to combine. Pour the mixture into mould(s) and cover with cling film then wrap in an old towel to keep the residual heat in and start saponification, which is the process when the base ingredients become soap.
After 24 hours, check your soap. If it’s still soft, allow it to sit another day or so. When it’s cold and firm, turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper and cut into bars then allow soap to cure for a month or so.
Be prepared to turn it over once a week to expose all the sides to air. When the soap is fully cured, wrap it in wax paper or keep it in an airtight container.
Hand made soap creates its own glycerin, which pulls moisture from the air. It should therefore be wrapped to keep it from attracting dust and debris with the moisture.
Clean your equipment that has been exposed to lye with white vinegar before washing it in detergent.
NOTE: As with all remedies using herbs, Angela recommends doing a ‘patch test’ to check that you are not allergic to your homemade soap