Natural ways to colour soap

In recent years, soap has become my main creative outlet and for that purpose making plain soap just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to make colorful pieces of art, smelling like all my favorite things in the world. Now, one of the troubles I’ve come across in making this happen, is that the most bright soap colors are often not naturally found. Even though Micas are by definition natural, the ones that are sold for soap making are made in chemical labs. This is due to the fact that deriving Micas from nature in a pure enough state is very difficult, making them extremely expensive. I have nothing against Micas, but I wanted to go a step further and only use what’s taken directly in nature. In this post I want to share some of the natural colorants I’ve used over the time, all with fantastic added properties that will make for a great soap. If you don’t know how to make soap, I recommend that you start here: How to make natural soap.

Methods to color soap

First, I’ll go through different methods of coloring soap. Let me list them out:

  • Powder – by powdering a number of herbs, algae, roots, flowers, spices and others, you can color your soap at trace
  • Oil infusing – by infusing some of the above in oil over typically 3-6 weeks, you can color the oil as well as add extra properties to it. Keep in mind it isn’t all herbs etc., that will give off color when infused
  • Liquid – by adding or completely substituting the water with another liquid, before adding the lye to it, you can color your soap without much extra work
  • Oils – by adding certain colored oils or essential oils, you can add a color naturally. I’ve only come across a few that really added color, but never the less I will be mentioning some of them

Now lets get to the specifics.

Turmeric/Haldi

Turmeric has been used for centuries in the traditional Indian medicine known as Ayuveda, because of its strong anti-oxidant and anti=inflammatory properties. Today, besides it’s uses in cooking, its still used for preventing and fighting disease as well as in traditional beauty regimes and remedies. Most common uses in beauty is by applying it in a paste to the face and body, for clear and bright skin. Actually a Turmeric paste is often applied on the skin of a bride to be in traditional Indian weddings, and some places in South India it is used by women as a face powder. Needless to say, it is a great additive to soap, and makes for a variety of yellow shades. When adding it to your soap, be aware that the color will look much darker right after being added, as it will when the soap has cured. Also, an excess will make the soap ‘bleed’ yellow. I typically add between 1-4 table spoon fulls per kg of oil.

Juice and Puree

Both Fruit and Vegetable juices and purees can be used as the base liquid for your soap, giving a beautiful color as well as extra properties. The same way nutrients in juices can nurture us from the inside, they can do the same from the outside. I prefer to press the juice myself, but it is also possible to use store bought stuff. Again, the color will always be brightest right after the soap has been made, so to ensure you get a bright color you can add a powder of same shade. For example add Turmeric with Carrot juice, or Spirulina powder with Avocado puree.

IMG_4283
Switching the water with Carrot juice, gives a lovely yellow color

Neem oil

Neem is in itself an amazing oil, also a found in Ayuveda. It has a deep yellow color, making it ideal to use for coloring soaps yellow. Even though it has a very strong smell, it fades as the soap cures if not added in two high amounts. Neem oil is also known to be an unstable oil, so I usually don’t add it above 10% of the complete amount of oils. Besides the added color, Neem is also one of the most healing oils you can find. It’s ideal for troubled skin, and can help treat a number of issues such as eczema, acne, rashes and irritations, fungus and infections as well as smaller cuts.

IMG_5613
5 % Neem oil in a Coconut soap

Multani Mitti and other clays

Also known as Bentonite clay or Fullers Earth this clay makes for an amazing additive. To read more about it’s amazing properties, you can start by reading Uses of Indian Healing Clay. There are a number of wonderful clays that can add color to your soap – but for environmental reasons, I prefer those found here in India. Though in the picture I’ve added a French Green clay soap, just because it looks so damn pretty. Doesn’t it? So, if you wanna go for it, french clay also includes Red and Pink clay, both giving beautiful looks to the soap. Another Indian clay is Karolin clay, that gives a light cream or whitish color. Additionally to the beautiful look, clay also helps scents stay in the soap longer, and gives a creamy lightly scrubby feel to it.

Spirulina & Activated Charcoal

This soap was actually a mistake. I wanted one part to be green and the other to be black, swirling it in a pattern. In the end I had to mix it, and this is what came. Unfortunately you cant really see the color Spirulina gives, but it’s one of the best green colorants I’ve found. Will be sure to upload a picture, as soon as I make one where the color is more clear. I ended up loving this soap and called it soap ‘Starry night’. Activated Charcoal, besides its intense black color, also cleans the skin by absorbing impurities and pollutants. This makes it a very popular additive in commercial products, but why not use it without all the chemicals?

IMG_4272

Coffee grounds

I’ve written on this before, so wont say much about it. If you want to read more on uses and properties of coffee grounds you can read it here: Reusing your coffee grounds. Actually I just wanted another excuse to display this beautiful picture. So here it is, enjoy!

IMG_4269

Alkanet Root

Alkanet is a herb, whereof the roots are commonly used in dyes for red and purple color. This root can also be used to color soap and other natural cosmetics in these shades. In the pictures below, the bigger picture is from grinding the root and adding it as powder. The top small one is from infusing the oil over a couple of weeks and adding between 10% to 30% of the infused oil to a batch of soap, When infusing it I use the full root without grinding it. The last picture is from adding shavings of an Alkanet colored purple soap to a coconut shampoo bar. So three fun ways to give purple color!

Henna/Mehendi

Last but not least, I’ve used Heena as a colorant for green or brown color. In India this plant is mainly used for coloring hair and skin, but it is also a very strong anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Now, because Heena colors the skin and hair if left as a paste, adding it to soap is a great way to use the wonderful properties of Henna without the stain. Henna does come in different variants, but you can see the color of the one I’ve used.

IMG_4152

And the rest..

The list of colorants are eternal. Here are a few I’ve come across:

  • Moringa, Alfalfa leaf and Stevia for green
  • Red Sandelwood and Saffron for red
  • Arrowroot powder for white
  • Annatto seed for yellow
  • Cinnamon and Cacao powder for brown

This was all I had for now. I’m sure there will be more posts on coloring soaps as I find new ways. As I have said in earlier posts, only your imagination limits the possibilities of artworks you can make out of your soap.

Do let me know if you have any colorants that should be added to this list.

//Louise

Advertisements

Uses of Indian healing clay (Multani Mitti)

I first heard of Multani Mitti when I was looking for a way to make a face mask (or face pack if you’re based in India) with all natural ingredients. Now, it’s not that I hadn’t tried making natural face masks before, but only from things such as yogurt and avocado, and honestly I always ended up making a mess with those. I wanted to find something that I could wear on my face, without having to lay completely still, and even then dripping down the sides of my face. Is it just me?? So now you must have guessed the first use.

For Skin

Multani Mitti has great cleansing properties, absorbs oils and impurities and is a natural antiseptic, making the name Indian Healing Clay very fitting. It can be used to treat a number of skin ailments such as acne and other skin irritations like small cuts, burns and insect bites. This is done by applying the clay as a paste to the effected area, leaving it to dry and then wash it off. Though, you can also use it in general to keep your skin clean and healthy. Once I asked a women I worked with here in India what her grandmother used to clean her skin with and one of the answers was ‘Multani Mitti’.

I’ve not used Multani Mitti as a general body cleaner, but regular use it to make a cleansing Face mask. I simply add few spoons of clay to water or other liquids depending on what I feel like my skin needs at the time.

  • Water for normal skin
  • Honey or Rose water for sensitive skin
  • Apple Cider vingar for Acne Prone skin

It’s a good idea to test this on your skin before going for a full mask, to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation. Other ingredients I sometimes add includes Turmeric and Activated Charcoal.

For Soap

IMG_2716
Swirl from Multani Mitti & Activated Charcoal

I use Multani Mitti in soap on a regular basis, because it gives a smooth lather and adds the properties of the clay to the soap. Its ideal for shaving soaps because the lather becomes very dense and silk like, making it similar to shaving foam (minus the toxins :)).  Clays also help the scent of essential oil stay in the soap, and then of course add the earthy brown colour.

For Teeth

Yes, I brush my teeth with it, and I must admit I love it. Would never go back to using conventional toothpaste. I’ve written an earlier post on my dental routine, including how I make toothpowder. You can find the whole post here. I will give the recipe here as well. It is as follows –

  • 2 tablespoons Multanni Mitti – gentle detoxifying cleanser, rich in minerals 
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda – mild abrasive polish that removes stains from teeth 
  • 1/2 teaspoon grinded cloves – – for flavour and gum health 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon – for flavour and gum health
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon steviato sweeten the taste 
  • 3/4 teaspoon activated charcoal to whiten the teeth 
  • 5-10 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oilfor minty fresh breath

Gather all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it. Keep in a glass jar, and simply wet your toothbrush and dip it in the powder when you want to brush your teeth.

For Detox

IMG_2703

Multani Mitti can detox the insides as well as the outsides. When getting in contact with liquid, Multani Mitti gets the ability to bind toxins. It can therefore be used as a natural remedy for a number of stomach ailments such as constipation, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, gas etc.  Simply add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of clay to your water, and drink it a few times a day. I suggest you start with one class, and wait to see the effect. This can also be used for pets with tummy issues, by adding 1/4 cup of clay or less to their water.

Another way to use it as a detox is to add it to your bath tub. Add 1/4 cup of clay to your bath, and lay back to relax. I’ve used this to help recover from the flu, but can also be to simply relax and stay healthy.

Other uses

There is a number of other uses of Multani Mitti I have not yet explored. Though I thought I would still put them down for anyone that would like to try it out:

  • As baby powder for irritated baby bums
  • As an alternative clothes whitener 
  • A natural remedy for morning sickness when pregnant
  • For a general daily health boost 

Now that was all. Do you know any more uses? Would love to hear them in the comment section.

//Louise

If you love it, share it!

Uses of Indian healing clay (Multani Mitti).png

How to reuse your coffee grounds

I love coffee. In fact I’m drinking coffee right now, at almost 11 pm. Safe to say I accumulate a lot of coffee grounds. I separate all my trash in the house, to recycle it – so if I’m not in the mood to put my grounds to better use, I compost it using Smart Bin Composter. Though, I have found a number of other more creative uses, that I would like to share.

Coconut/Coffee scrubby cubes

Coffee is known to be a great exfoliant, and can be used all over the body to scrub off dead skin cells. Many even say it can help lessen the appearance of cellulite, because it stimulates blood flow and tightens the skin. I will not commit to that outcome, since I don’t have any experience with it, but I still thought I should include it. Now, mixed with coconut oil, coffee grounds makes for the most skin loving body scrub – with the added bonus of being anti-microbial, because of the coconut oil.

How to make it:

  1. Take a ice cube tray
  2. Fill the bottom with your grounds, filling approximately 1/3 of the tray
  3. Pour coconut oil over the grounds
  4. Freeze, or leave out – depending on the temperature
  5. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge

How to use it: 

  • When showering take a cube out, and use it to scrub your body. It has to be used after using soap, since the coconut oil will be left on your body. The coconut oils will melt in your hand while scrubbing. It will leave your skin baby smooth and soft.

IMG_1870

Wash your hair in it

Now this might sound a little odd, but stay with me. Coffee exfoliates the scalp, stimulating hair growth and keeping it healthy. The grounds also softens the hair, and leaves it shiny. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

How to use it:

  • Take a small handful and scrub it into your scalp, after wetting your hair. Keep at it until you covered the whole scalp. Wash with shampoo, and rinse until all the grounds have been washed out. That simple!

Mix it in your soap

If you’re into making soap, be it melt and pour or cold process, adding coffee grounds can make for a great scrubby soap. Use it like any other soap additive. If you are new to soap making, you can start here. I love making one side scrubby and the other smooth like the picture underneath.

IMG_4269

Boost plant health

Coffee grounds make for a great plant health booster, because it releases Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus and other minerals. It also helps in keeping pest like ants, snails, and slugs away from your plants.

I keep an airtight jar in my kitchen where I put my remaining coffee grounds. When it’s full, I sprinkle them on my house plants, and leave it to mix with the soil. When my compost has turned to soil, I also mix it with coffee grounds for the perfect plant loving mixture.

I hope you found this useful, and do comment if you have some great uses for coffee grounds.

//Louise

5 ways to use oil.png

How to make natural soap from scratch (cold process)

There are tons and tons of information online on how to make soap, but I still thought I would make a guide of my own, to add what I’ve learned from my years of soap making. The perspective I can add is how to make ‘all Indian’ soap in the spirit of ‘Thinking Global, Buying local’. Keep in mind this is a guide to Cold Process solid soap making.

What is soap?

Soap consist of liquid, fats and sodium hydroxide (lye), mixed together causing a process called saponification. If done in the right measurements there is only soap left once completely saponified.

Fats in soap can consist of vegetable or animal fats. In the context of India I will only be discovering vegetable fats – or better known as oils. Carrier oils or Base oils, to separate them from Essential oils, are measured and mixed according to the property they add to the soap. Properties include cleansing, moisturising, hardness and lather just to mention a few. Even though a few oils can be used as the only oil in a soap, most soaps are made out of at least 3 oils. This is to balance the properties of the soap. I will get into more details when we start planning the soap.

Liquid is typically distilled water, but can also include juices from fruits and vegetables, spirits such as beer, vinegars, milk – and the list goes on. Adding another liquid than water can serve to colour the soap, or to add decided properties. Beer for example adds lather and moisture, vinegar adds cleansing properties, and carrot juice both adds a orange colour and other skin loving properties.

Sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, makes solid soap. It’s not to be mistaken for Potassium hydroxide that makes liquid soap.

These three will make you a simple bar of soap, though the possibilities of added elements is (almost) only limited by your imagination. Today soaping has become an art form, and I promise you if you love being creative as much as I do, this is a great way to satisfy the artistic itch.

For the sake of keeping this simple, I won’t go into how to make a recipe, but simply give an example of one I used recently. Later I will make a separate post on how to make your own. So here is what you need:

Ingredients: 

  • Carrier oils/butters – Coconut, Castor, Sesame, Sunflower, Neem and Kokum butter
  • Essential oils – Pine, Eucalyptus
  • Additives – Multani Mitti, Activated Charcoal, Aloe Vera gel
  • Sodium Hydroxide
  • Water (note: I just use normal clean water)

Equipment:

  • Rubber gloves (Thick)
  • Safety glasses (covering your eyes completely)
  • Stick blender
  • Pitcher
  • Bowls (plastic or stainless steel)
  • Pot (not aluminium)
  • Spatula
  • Hand whisk
  • Electric scale
  • Measuring spoons (best with millilitres)
  • Soap mould of choice

Note: even though I have heard of soapers that use kitchen utensils for soap making, I prefer to keep them separate. You don’t know if lye is left when you’re cooking in them, so don’t take the chance.

Step 1: Calculate your recipe

I will give percentage for the recipe, so the calculation basically depends on the size of the mould you want to use. The percentages are as follows:

  • Coconut – 25%
  • Castor – 10%
  • Sesame – 10%
  • Neem – 10%
  • Wheat gem 15%
  • Sunflower 15%
  • Kokum butter 15%

Now my mould fits 900 grams of oil, so the oils would be as follows:

  • Coconut – 225 grams
  • Castor – 90 grams
  • Sesame – 90 grams
  • Neem – 90 grams
  • Wheat gem – 135 grams
  • Sunflower – 135 grams
  • Kokum butter – 135 grams

This is the base of your recipe. Now you need to calculate your lye and water amount. Instead of getting into the technical stuff of how this is calculated, I’ll recommend you  to use any of the many saponification calculators available. I use the mobile app called Saponify, which also saves your recipes with dates and notes, so you can keep track of your experiments.

Here is a snapshot of the app:

Untitled design

Picture 1: Name you recipe something that you remember. When you start making a lot of batches using the same recipe, I recommend you start a soap diary with the details of each batch, but we can get to that later.

  • NAOH is Sodium hydroxide, so don’t change that unless you want to make liquid soap which is KOH (Potassium hydroxide).
  • Liquid % of oils is 38 by standard for beginners, but can be modified when you’re more experienced. Soapers put more or less water to control how fast or slow the soap saponifies, giving more time or less time to finish it.
  • Super Fat % of oils is how much of the oil is kept in the soap without being saponified. Usually soapers don’t go beyond 7 %, and in some of the Indian seasons too high super fat can make the soap ‘sweat’ (moisture drops appearing on the soap surface).

Picture 2: The next picture is where you add the oils. Simply press the the plus sign and choose the oils you want in your recipe. You will be putting the oils in grams, which we calculated above.

Picture 3: On the last picture the final recipe has been calculated. Water and NAOH has been calculated for you, and you are good to go.

Step 2: Prepare you work area

Making soap is a chemical process, and that needs to be respected. Cover your work area with newspaper, unless you have a stainless steel surface to work on. Note that lye can ruin soft surfaces, so make sure you got it well covered. If you have kids or pets, make sure they don’t have access to your area. Sodium hydroxide is very dangerous if ingested or if it gets in contact with eyes etc., so I cannot emphasise this enough.

Step 3: Mix up your lye water

I like to start with mixing the water and lye, since it takes some time to react, leaving me time to prepare the rest of the ingredients. Now there are a few important things to keep in mind when you deal with lye. First of all, protect yourself! Lye can make you blind if you get it in the eyes, so wear your safety glasses and gloves. Second, never pour water on lye, pour lye on water. I once read that you should just remember ‘the snow falls on the lake, not the lake on the snow’, and it really helped me in the start to remember. When you have measured out the lye and water, add a spoonful of Aloe Vera into the water, and then pour the lye and stir until its dissolved. Now set it aside.

Step 4: Mix your oils

I tend to mix the oils in the pot I’m going to blend them in, to save on the dishwashing. If using any butters, or coconut oil that hardens in winters, you will need to heat these to make them fluid. Simply measure all your oils on your scale (in grams), and gather them in your pot. Put your pot in a water bath to melt the butter, or melt it separately in a double boiler and add. When all oils are mixed and melted set it aside.

Note: if you are mixing several oils put them on one side on the scale, and move each to the other side once added to your pot. I have several times forgotten which I have already added, having to start over!

Step 5: Prepare the rest of your ingredients

Essential oil is the only thing I don’t measure in grams, but in millilitres instead. Now there are ‘fragrance calculators’ online, but I rely only on my personal experience. I have tried these calculators, but feel like they recommend very small amounts, ending up in a scentless soap. My principal is 15 ml per 100 grams of oils for ‘weak’ essential oils, and 10 ml per 100 grams for ‘strong’ essential oils. How exactly to say if its weak or strong is a bit on the personal experience too, but basically if the smell is fleeting its weak and if it stays in the nose for a long time its strong.

Clays and other additives I very rarely measure out. I just prepare them so they are easily accessible for me to use until it has the colour I want. Though it should be noted that some additives will ‘bleed’ colour if added in access, and others can make the soap ‘scratchy’. Still, the colour depends so much on which other oils are in the bar, so I prefer to have plenty and add as I feel. You can find lots of information online with recommended amounts, if you want to be 100% sure.

Step 6: prepare to make your soap

Soap is all about timing, and once you start making your soap, everything should be ready so you can concentrate on it fully. Otherwise you might risk the soap hardening in your bowl before you pour it in your mould.

I do the following:

  • Put your mould ready on the side
  • Essential oil measured out and put on the side
  • Additives ready with a spoon to add
  • Two bowls to divide the soap when adding Clay and Activated charcoal
  • Blender plugged in and a clean surface to rest it on between blending
  • A whisk ready to hand whisk if you need to slow down the process
  • A spatula to get the last soap out of your bowls
  • An extra mould – if the soap gets too hard to pour, I have an extra mould where I put the remaining, and then use these for hand wash at home. Could be little heart shapes for example. You can also intentionally make a little extra and use these to send out as samples if you want to make soap for business.

Step 7: Mix lye in your oils

Now, this is what you came for. Disclaimer: many soapers say you should measure the temperature of the soap and lye water, and mix them when reaching a certain temperature. I have stopped doing that after reading a lot of soapers that didn’t. I simply wait until my lye water becomes clear (transparent). When it does – you’re ready to make your soap. Pour you lye water into your oils while slowly stirring. When all the lye water is poured, emerge your stick blender fully and start blending. Make sure not to let it surface since it will splatter if you do. Now you need to pay attention to the texture of the soap mass. The time to pour your soap is called Trace, which is when the soap mass has thickened enough for the stick blender to leave a little mark when you lift it. Since you will be adding additives, stop blending at a thin trace. This is when the stick blender leave a mark when lifted, but the mark immediately disappears. When you reach this stage, go to next step.

Step 8: Add your essential oils and additives

At this stage add your essential oil, and whisk with your hand whisk. After its completely into the soap mass, divide the soap into two bowls. Now add your clay to one and activated charcoal to the other. When they have the colour you desire, you’re ready to pour your soap.

Step 9: The bowl swirl

Swirling is when you mix different colours of soap masses into a pattern. It’s a fun way to get creative, and keep developing your skills. The bowl swirl is one of the easiest I have come across. You simply pour one colour into the bowl on the other, and then pour it in your mould, making it swirl in different patterns.

Note: the two colours have to be contrasting. Otherwise it won’t be very visible in the soap.

Step 10: Pour your soap

Pour your soap carefully into the mould. You can use the whisk to make little shapes on the top of the soap. Set it aside to harden. Another thing I don’t do, is to pack my soap in a towel to get it into gel phase. Gel phase is when the soap turns gel like as a part of the process. This happens when heat is added, hence many pack it in old towels to make it warmer. Some soapers like it better after gel phase, because the colour changes a bit, but it doesn’t matter for the soap itself. I often experience the soap goes through gel phase here in India without doing anything, because the temperature is naturally hot.

Step 11: Wait, cut and cure!

Cold process soap needs to cure for min. 3 weeks. Depending on the oils and mould, it will be hard in everything from 1 day to 3 weeks. When completely hardened, you can un-mould and cut it – but you will still need to set it aside. The longer a soap cures, the harder and gentler it gets. For shampoo bars min. 6 weeks is recommended, for face and body bars 4 weeks minimum.

Now, you have made your first soap. Do let me know if you have any questions, tips or experiences!

//Louise

If you love it, share it!

How to make natural soap from scratch (cold process).png

How to form a solid soap recipe

When I first started making cold process soap I was determined to make soap from Indian sourced oils, but I very fast realised that this would pose some challenges. Soap resources online are majorly American/European based, where Olive oil is a stable in soap recipes. That Olive oil is so common has a lot of good reasons – since it makes a hard, moisturising bar and can be used in high amounts of the total amount of oils. Though, this did pose me with a challenge, but hey, challenge excepted.

But I was determined! So I started learning how to form my own recipes, and after a lot (A LOT) of trial and error I have found some general principals to use when making a recipe. Whether you use Olive oil or not, you should be able to use my experiences to shape your own recipe. I will focus on the base recipe, meaning the Carrier oils, and not the additional additives (essential oils etc.). If you’re new to Soap making start by reading How to make natural soap to understand the basic content and process of making soap.

Choosing the purpose 

There is a few things to decide when you want to make your soap recipe. Some basic questions you should ask yourself is:

  • What do you want to use the soap for? Hair and body bars are different in structure, but it’s also possible to make a ‘universal’ soap bar that can be used all over the body.
  • What kind of properties do you want your soap have? Soaps can be customised to treat a certain skin issue such as acne prone skin, dry skin or sensitive skin, but also just to your own personal preferences.
  • For the ones that sell soap for business I would add – What do you want to emphasise about your soap? – when buyers look for soaps they tend to focus on a specific ingredient or abilities of the soap, with a certain ‘flair’ to it. This can also be a certain oil and it’s abilities you want to emphasise. It takes some understanding of your audience, and this mostly comes with experiences. An option is to seek out soapers groups on Facebook or other forums, to ask more experienced soapers for their evaluation of the market etc.

After some thought on these questions, you’re ready to go on choosing the oils you want to include in the recipe. Now this takes some basic understanding of carrier oils, their structure and abilities and how they behave in soap. I’ve included some of the most common soaping oils to the list (that are found in India).

Choosing your oils

Each oil has it’s own structure, and with that comes a set of abilities in soap. Certain oils like coconut makes a super hard soap bar, with thick lather that is very cleansing while other oils add moisturising properties but also makes the soap soft. To keep this as simple as possible, I will not go into the specifics of the oil structure, but go through the properties different oils add and what percentage is recommended to use it at out of your total amount of oils.

Hardness and cleanse

Coconut oil – use up 50% of oils: a stable in most soap recipes because of it’s incredible cleansing properties, as well as contributing to the hardness and lather of the soap. It’s possible to use coconut in higher percentages if the soap is super fatted accordingly. My rule of thumb is – used at 30%/superfat 7%, used at 50%/superfat 10-15% and used at 100%/superfat 20-30%. If you want to read more on making pure coconut soap read 2 coconut soaps – for face, body and clothes. Additional to hardness, cleanse and thick lather coconut soap is known to add antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to the soap.

Butters – use between 10-30% of oils: butters are mostly a luxury to add in higher quantities in soap, because it’s on the pricy side. I use Kokum butter and Mango butter on a regular basis, but there is a long list of butter available today. Besides great moisturising and healing properties, butters add to the hardness of the soap and gives a creamy lather. One thing I’ve noticed is that by adding 15% of butters with 30% of coconut, I can un-mold much faster, and get a hard bar of soap. Because I tend to avoid Olive oil and Palm oil, which both contribute to hardness of the soap, this has been one of my go-to methods to make my bars harder. Different butter have different recommended amounts – Mango Butter/up to 30%, Kokum Butter/up to 10% and Cocoa butter/up to 15%.

Other hard oils I choose not to use: Olive oil (up to 100%), Palm oil (up to 40%), Shea Butter (up to 25%)

Moisture

Castor oil – use between 5-10%: castor is in a league for itself when it comes to adding moisturising abilities to soap. It can’t be used in too high amounts because it will make the soap soft and sticky. Though in the right amount, it’s also a stable oil in all my recipes.

Cheap oils (filler oils)

Sunflower – use up to 15%: sunflower is a relatively cheap oil, but also a very moisturising oil. Prices of oils are mostly set according to the cost of extraction, not how healthy or good it is. Reasons for not using too much Sunflower is that it will take away from the hardness of the soap, but in combo with hard oils it works great.

Safflower- used up to 20%: similarly to Sunflower, this oils is relatively cheap, and can therefore be used as a ‘filler’ oil to bring down the cost of the soap. This oil is also very conditioning.

Sesame – used up to 10%: I use this oil in almost every recipe since it a cheap and moisturising oil.

Other Filler oils I choose not to use: Canola (up to 40%), Soya bean oil (up to 15%)

Healing oils

Neem – used at 10%: now it might just be me, because I’ve heard of soapers that use it at higher quantities. What I’ve experienced is that it can cause the soap batch to expel oil when used in higher quantities. Also it makes the soap trace very fast so be aware when using it. You barely need a stick blender. On the other hand it is a strong medicinal oil, that can help treat and heal acne, eczema and other skin conditions. It also adds a yellow colour to the soap. Now, the oil has a very strong smell, but my experience is that the smell goes out of the soap after curing a few days. I’ve used it as a colorant together with coconut oil soaps, to give a beautiful yellow colour.

Luxury oils

Sweet Almond – used up to 20%: a very light oil, that contributes rich lather. Because it is a humectant (it attracts moisture), it adds moisture to your soap. It also helps soothe dry and troubled skin such as rashes and eczema. It is on the more expensive side, so I tend to use it at around 5-10%.

Avocado – used up to 20%: a very nutritious oil, with great regenerative and moisturising properties. It also helps treat dry and irritated skin, but because of it’s price I also use it in amounts between 5-10%.

Rule of thumb

Now, you can find endless info on the recommended usage of other oils, as well as their properties. What is important to understand is that any soap recipe needs to be balanced, between some basic properties most would find essential – hardness, lather, moisture, cleanse and price. I use some basic formula’s to ensure this, for body bars. For shampoo bars I exclusively make pure coconut soap bars, so this is for body bars only. Rule of thumb: 40-50% hard oils or butter, 30% filler oils, 10% Castor & 10-20% Luxury, Healing, Other oils. Here are two examples:

Recipe 1: 

  • 30% Coconut
  • 15% Butter – Mango Butter, Kokum butter
  • 30% Filler oils – Sunflower, Safflower
  • 10% Sesame
  • 10% Castor
  • 5% Luxury oil – Sweet Almond oil, Avocado
  • Superfat: 5%

Recipe 2:

  • 50% Coconut
  • 25% Filler oils – Sunflower, Safflower, Sesame
  • 10% Castor
  • 10% Neem
  • 5% Luxury oil
  • Superfat: 10%

This was all I had for now. I really hoped it gave you enough to start making your own recipes. It gives a lot of freedom and Creativity to the soap making process. Let me know if there’s some Indian oils I’ve missed (preferably available organic – Soya bean for examples is available in India, but not organically grown).

//Louise

 

Trashy toothbrushes & better alternatives

 

Well. Maybe I took some liberties in the headline, but it is somewhat fitting. Every year 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes that will never biodegrade are dumped in landfills and Oceans worldwide. Not to mention the toothpaste tubes, mouthwashes, floss – the list could go on depending on how complicated your dental routine is. You might be thinking, but we don’t have a choice, do we? Teeth needs to be taken care of.

I used to think the same way, mostly because I had never heard of or seen any alternatives to plastic toothbrushes or toothpaste. What’s very interesting in India, is that that most natural alternatives are still used widely in the rural areas, but these traditions are slowly getting lost in urbanisation, globalisation and commercialisation. Recently I had a very interesting conversation with a man from the Delhi Organic Farmers Market. What he said was that this is the generation to revive these old traditions, because otherwise they will be lost. I could relate because whatever natural alternatives of indian origin I find, people respond to it saying ‘my grandmother used to do that’. Traditionally a Neem stick is used to clean teeth here, but for the sake of keeping the alternative a little closer to what you might be used to – I won’t get into that option. Also, I really don’t like the taste of neem.

So I’m gonna take a go, at an easy to use dental routine, that is biodegradable, cleans your teeth, is minty fresh and even helps whiten your teeth.

Brush with Bamboo

An California based Indian family, together with their family friend, have come up with the best option available on the market today when it comes to biodegradable toothbrushes – namely a bamboo toothbrush. The bristles of the brush are not biodegradable, being made of 82% Castor bean oil and 38% plastic. The reason for this is that the only alternative to these bristles is pig hair which the inventors feel was an appropriate option.  I think this will ring true for a lot of people worldwide, and especially here in India where large amounts of the population are vegetarians and muslims. So the Neem stick would make for a completely biodegradable option, but I think the bamboo toothbrush is still a big step in the right direction. Additionally to being biodegradable, the bamboo is a sustainable resource. The write on their website:

Bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth. Because it contains naturally-occurring antimicrobial agents, there is no need for using fertilizers or pesticides during its cultivation. Our bamboo is totally organic and wild. After we harvest a bamboo stalk to use it for toothbrushes, another stalk takes its place and grows to full size within just 2 years — a remarkable growth rate! – Brush with Bamboo

I’ve bamboo toothbrushes for about a year, and haven’t felt any major differences in quality of these and plastic toothbrushes. It is a ‘one size fits all’ option, since they only make one edition – in a adult and child size. So you won’t get all that fancy new bristle technology other toothbrush companies offer, but if you ask me, you don’t need it. The brush is available from their website where you can also buy a cool toothbrush case, countertop toothbrush holder, bamboo straws and tongue cleaner. Bonus: even the packaging is biodegradable. If you live in Delhi, they are sold in The Altitude Store (See Organic Delhi) guide).

Toothpowder

When I started off making my own products, I used a different “toothpaste” than I do now. That one was made of coconut oil, baking soda, stevia and peppermint essential oil. Though it cleansed my teeth fine, I wasn’t a fan of the taste and feel. So about a year ago I shifted to toothpowder, and as of now I have no desire to use anything else. I cleans my teeth beautifully, gives a fresh feel and doesn’t get greasy like the other sometimes would.

Recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons Multanni Mitti – gentle detoxifying cleanser, rich in minerals 
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda – mild abrasive polish that removes stains from teeth 
  • 1/2 teaspoon grinded cloves – – for flavour and gum health 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon – for flavour and gum health
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon steviato sweeten the taste 
  • 3/4 teaspoon activated charcoal to whiten the teeth 
  • 5-10 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oilfor minty fresh breath

Gather all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it. Keep in a glass jar, and simply wet your toothbrush and dip it in the powder when you want to brush your teeth.

Other methods

There is a number of other methods to cleans your teeth and improve overall mouth, that I will be writing about and linking to this post. Until then there’s a lot of information online on several on them.

  • Oil pulling for detox and teeth whitening
  • Natural mouthwash with Aloe Vera
  • Flossing with silk
  • Tongue cleaner for fresh breath

I hope this gives a good start to a clean dental routine, in more than one sense 🙂

//Louise