Friday, November 11, 2005

How to make your own herbal soaps (Skin care recipes)

*This post has been editted to clarify some information (mainly added that 8 ounces equals 1/2 pound), and to add some information (a few other soap recipe ideas).

Though I haven't yet attempted to make cold process bar soap from scratch (with sodium hydroxide aka lye), I have made my own herbal bar soaps with the melt and pour method. The melt and pour method is much simpler, and doesn't involve handling such caustic ingredients such as lye (the final end product (soap) has no lye in it; the lye and the oils/fats undergo a chemical reaction, and produce soap and glycerin). Basically you melt an already made soap base, add your favorite herbals, and then pour into a mold, let harden for a few hours, and then, you have your own herbal soaps!

You can add all kinds of wonderful ingredients to your base; these are just a few suggestions:

liquid: hydrosols, herbal infusions (tea), distilled water, aloe, honey, goat's milk, oatmeal 'slurry' (simply put a small amount of oatmeal in several ounces of hot water, let sit for several minutes, and then strain)
texture/exfoliates: oatmeal (good for sensitive skin), almonds, cornmeal, dried and crushed avocado seeds
texture/herbs: all kinds. some popular ones are lavender flowers, chamomile flowers, calendula flowers, rosemary leaves. Make sure you grind/crush them somewhat.
other powders: all types of clay, herbal powders like comfrey root
fats:some popular choices are cocoa butter, shea butter, olive oil, and lanolin
fragrance: essential oils (some people also use synthetic fragrances oil which of course I do not recommend)
colorants: I've found that they are not necessary but you can add natural pigment and colors if you want.

You do not have to add an ingredient from each list of course, just pick one, two, three or so that you like!

As to the ratios/amounts to use, it varies from author to author. I've summed up the information below. These are only guidelines, feel free to experiment with the amounts.

These measurements are based per 8 ounces (half a pound) of soap base. If you decide to use several items on this list, be sure to use less of each ingredient (and be sure to write down what you put in the soap so you remember!)

liquid: Out of all the books I have, the measurement for liquids vary the greatest, anywhere from 1 Tablespoon to 1/4 cup (4 Tablespoons). One book even recommended adding a 1:1 ratio of honey (which I've found to be a tad too much). Be sure to not add too much liquid, as the end product will end up being too soft/mushy!
texture/exfoliates: ranges anywhere from 1 Teaspoon to 4 Tablespoons, depending how much texture you want. Start with a small amount, and then add more as needed.
texture/herbs: same as above
other powders: ranges from 1 teaspoon to 1 Tablespoon.
fats: 1/2 Tablespoon to 2 Tablespoons
fragrance: 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of essential oils, depending on the strength of the smell of the essential oil (some essential oils are more profuse than others). Always start with less, especially with this ingredient.
colorants: Honestly I have no idea since I don't use colorants, but most companies will post suggested amounts on their product.

How to make your own all natural soap:

You will need:

-a soap mold (preferable greased with the same kind of oil/fat you are using in your soap. If you are not using oil/fat, just use olive oil)
-8 oz (half a pound) of soap base
-your chosen additives
-a double broiler

In a double broiler, melt the soap base over low to low/medium heat until fully melted. Remove from heat and add your additives. Pour into your molds, and set in a quiet area where they won't be disturbed for several hours. When they are hard, run a sharp knife around the edges of your mold (note for some very, very irregular mold shapes, skip this part, as you may inadvertently mess up the shape). Turn them upside down over on a clean surface (a surface covered with wax paper works nicely), and lightly pop the soaps of the molds. Soap mold are quite flexible and strong, don't worry about exerting a little force and bending them. Wrap in wax paper or some nice (perhaps handmade) paper, and label your creations!

The recipe is foolproof. If your soap doesn't feel hard enough or you feel there isn't enough herbs etc, simply melt it again and add more base or other ingredients.


Melt and pour soap base is usually a natural glycerin soap base. Be sure you buy from a reputable company, as some companies may put synthetic chemicals or additives to their base.

The above directions are made with only 8 ounces of soap base--but feel free to use more or less, just be sure to calculate how much of the other ingredients you'd need. The number of soaps you will have after crafting, of course will depend how much base and ingredients are used, and what size mold is used.

Another alternative to using glycerin melt and pour soap base, is to take your favorite brand of castile soap, shave it into small amounts, add liquid (about a 1 part castile to 3 part liquid or so), and melt over low heat. You can also use already shaved castile soap flakes. Make sure it is pure Castile.

Double broiler: if you don't have one, just place a heat-safe bowl over a pot of water. Make sure the bowl is large enough so that it's sturdy, and doesn't tilt over.

Sample recipe:

Super Lavender Soap:

8-9 ounces of soap base
1/4 cup of lavender infusion/tea (made with lavender flowers)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground lavender flowers
1 teaspoon lavender essential oil

Other good ideas: Honey and oatmeal, olive oil and aloe, chamomile, peppermint; the possibilities are endless!

Companies to buy from:

For supplies such as the melt and pour base, soap molds, and all kinds of soap supplies, I suggest buying from Sunfeather Soap. This soap company is owned and run by well-known soap maker, Sandy Maine. I highly recommend buying one of her books on soap making. Her store also sells kits to make the cold-process kind of soap, castile soap flakes, and she also sells already made bar soaps as well. Note: be sure you read the descriptions of each product carefully; though the majority of her products are natural, she does sell a few synthetic products like fragrance oil and SLS powder.

Craft stores like Michael's also sells soap base and molds, but I think the brand of soap base they sell (though marked as natural) contains a few synthetics.

You can also use candy molds as soap molds, but as these will make irregular shapes, it might be hard to pop them out of the mold.

For herbs, essential oils, additives, and carrier oils: Mountain Rose Herbs

Essential oils and carrier oils:Nature's Gift

Herbs: Herbalist Delight is a great place to buy small amounts of herbs.
Edited: it looks like this company is no longer in business, or at least their old website now goes...ahem...elsewhere. Sorry if you clicked on it. Thanks Georgette for pointing this out. :)

Also try your supermarket for herbs, and ingredients like oatmeal and (in health food stores) essential oils.


Joey said...

Thank you - this looks so awesome - we're totally going to try it! So, I have one question. In cooking 1/2 cup = 8 ounces. So - I'm assumeing that you mean ounces in in weight, right? Yay!!!

Solarkat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Solarkat said...

Hi Joey,

You're welcome. Yes, I meant weight: 8 ounces as in half a pound. I guess I should fix that!


Joey said...

nah, it made perfect sense once we saw the soap base packages. We've already made two batches. It worked great. Thanks again!

maggie said...

Beware of some of the melt and pour or glycerin soap bases on the market. Many of them contain synthetic ingredients and are not actually soap, but a harsh detergent. Use truly natural real handmade soap instead, which contains more glycerin than these so-called glycerin "soaps". Find real soap here:

Anonymous said...

This was extremely helpful, especially for first timers! Thank you for the detailed yet easy-to-do information. Will let you know how it turns out!

Solarkat said...


(Sorry it's taken several days to respond)

Glad you like my blog! Hope it turned out well!


georgette said...

hi li, i just wanted to tell you, the last link you posted for where to buys herbs goes to a toppless sight,you might wanna check that
hugs georgette

Solarkat said...

Hi Georgette,

Damn! I haven't checked this entry in almost 2 years. I am guessing the business went out of business, because the url used to go to their website. Thank you so much for pointing this out! And apologies for anyone who clicked on the link and got an eyeful!


Anonymous said...

do you know of any other supplier that carries melt and pour bases without added synthetics? besides sunfeather.


Solarkat said...

Hi S

Will email you/will respond to your email about this.


Anonymous said...

Frankly speaking your soap making instructions are very informative. Thank you! I'd like to add them to my collection of soap recipes here. By the way, do you have an online catalog or price list? I would love to have it please, if it's possible.

Solarkat said...

Hi Anon

I am very sorry I didn't response sooner (I am working on my thesis and am trying to finish it asap).

I currently do not have a catalog or price list, as I haven't started my business yet (I am going to start it as soon as I finish my thesis). But please keep checking the main page of this blog for when that will be.

Please email me ( about your request to post my recipes on your site. I usually don't allow people to post my recipes on their sites unless I am very familiar with their site and background, and also have talked to or have met the person (as in the case of GOW and ANB). Can you tell me more about your site and background?


tlmiracle said...

I found this article very helpful, but i have a few questions.

First off I bought some orgainic soap base from a company online called and I bought some ground powder herbs from Have you ever heard of these companies? just curious. And, my last question is when do you add the powder and essential oils? I read places that the oils can evaporte if adding when the soap is too hot. And, I haven't found anything on the powder. Any advice? Thanks again for this great blog!!! very helpful!

Solarkat said...

Hi tlmiracle

Glad you like the article :)

I don't usually allow links in the comments section any more (was getting too much spam), but I'll make an exception in your case :) I am very biased about Garden of Wisdom since I'm one of the mods on their forum ;P Markey has a lot of very nice products and raw ingredients, she buys from many good vendors.

I have not heard of

I answered your other questions in your email, but I'll repost my answer here in case someone else had the same question.

Powders should be added with all the other additives (so right after you melt the soap). Be sure to stir well. If it is a powder that tends to sink (some do
and some don't), you may want to first take the soap off the heat, and then add the powder after it cools down a little (just a few minutes).

Essential oils should be added last since they are volitile and can evaporate, however the soap should
not get very hot if you are using a double broiler (don't use a microwave as others recommend, soap can get way too hot in a microwave). Also the amounts of essential oils used in soap are quite high so even if a little does evaporate, most of it will not evaporate
before the soap hardens.

Here are some links you may like :)

Many soapers love Kathy Miller's soap making pages,
all types of soap making.

Soap nuts library.

Happy soaping :)



Anne said...

Can anyone tell me if the glycerin base used for melt and pour soups is vegan (no animals products)?



Solarkat said...


Sorry for the very late response (been super busy with my thesis, business, etc).

It depends on which company and which base, since some companies make soap with animal tallow (though most I've seen use vegetable/nut oils), while others may add honey or goats milk to their bases. Was their a particular base that you were interested in (most companies should post the ingredients on their website, but if they don't I recommend contacting them for a complete ingredient list).

HTH :)