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