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 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.
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.
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.