Today I made some Shea butter & Oatmeal Soap in preparation for the Uzima event at the end of the month. Cold process soap takes on average 4-6 wks to cure (ready for use). During this time the soap loses water, hardens and completes the saponification process. At the end of the process, there is no Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) left in the finished soap. Saponification is the chemical reaction that occurs when a vegetable oil or animal fat is mixed with a strong alkali (Sodium Hydroxide). The products of the reaction are soap and glycerin.
I took a few photos to show the different stages of the soap making process. 1st you need to decide on the oils or butters you want to use. Coconut oil creates lots of glycerin, makes big bubbly lather, and is very stable but can be drying if used in large amounts. Olive oil has natural antioxidants and its makes a soap with a creamier lather. Palm oil creates a hard, long lasting bar of soap that is mild and cleanses well. Castor oil is very emollient, giving a rich creamy lather. Shea butter added after trace remains partially unsaponified in the finished soap, maintaining it’s natural moisturising properties.
Start by measuring out your oils and butter and melt over a low heat:
Next, carefully measure the Lye and water and mix together:
The lye solution has to be added to the oils at the same temperature, so as you can see I have a thermometer in each batch. When both the lye and oils have reached the desired temperature, slowly add the lye to the oils (never the other way around). Sodium hydroxide is extremely caustic and will burn like acid so take great care using it. Respect it and it will respect you……Ensure you wear rubber gloves and goggles when mixing the lye solution for protection.
When you first add the lye to the oils, the mixture is very liquidy:
After using a stick blender for a few minutes, and the saponification process begins taking place, the mixture starts to thicken. Thin trace is said to have occurred when a drizzle of the mixture sits on top for a second before sinking. Notice it looks like welts:
Full trace is when the mixture is thick like pudding and when you need to pour it into the mould before it thickens too much, making it hard to pour. I added Oatmeal at light trace as you can see the flecks in the picture. Also note how thick the welts are denoting full trace:
The traced soap is then poured into the mould and left for a minimum of 12 hours before it is cut and left to finish the saponification process. I will take a photo of the soap tomorrow when I have removed it from the mould and cut it.
This recipe should yield a very creamy moisturising bar thanks to the Shea butter and Oatmeal.
So why go through all this effort to make handmade natural soap when you can just buy a bar in the store for cheaper??
Well……Store bought soap made in mass-produced factories has all of its naturally-occurring glycerin removed and is then sold separately to the cosmetic and other industries for profit. An important difference between most commercial soap and real handmade soap is that the glycerin is left in real handmade soap and thus it retains its natural moisturizing property, whereas store bought soap tends to be drying (glycerin is a humectant and draws moisture to the skin). Many persons have great success using handmade natural soap to soothe Eczema and other skin conditions because it is milder and doesn’t contain added detergents etc. As I mentioned in a previous post my brother had a positive experience to using handmade soap to help with his Seborrheic Dermatitis. I personally use handmade soap instead of using shower gels etc filled with sodium lauryl sulphates which dry out the skin and strip it of it’s natural oils. If you’ve never used handmade soap, try it and see if you notice a difference to your skin.
.As promised, these are the photos of the soap I made.
The ones with the fine coating of oatmeal on top is made with a lot of Shea butter and I’ve added Rhassoul Clay (note the dark swirls) and goats milk, the other bars without oatmeal on top, have oatmeal added throughout the soap, and again is made with Shea butter. Even at this early stage with weeks of curing still ahead, you can feel how creamy the soap is!!
- Piping soap cupcakes – another palm free recipe (lovinsoap.com)