#29 Sensuous Amber & Myrrh (BBW Type). Or How I had to Save a Batch of Soap. This is a long read with lots of pictures.
What used to be $10 lotion at Bath & Body Works is now nearly $60 on Amazon. The sprays are even more. My friend, Mary, who loves the scent but not about to pay outrageous prices, asked me to make her a soap. She sent me a lotion sample through the mail in hopes that the NSA or DEA or FBI or any other acronym government agency didn’t come pounding on my door wondering what the hell was in the bottle. (They didnt.)
This one took me awhile because I had to do some searching. None of the formularies of fragrance oils makes a BBW type Sensuous Amber & Myrrh. None. I looked. I asked other soapers. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bath & Body Works does make a Sensual Amber, but without the myrrh, Mary hates it.
The various formularies of fragrance oils do make a Sensual Amber (bbw type), so I picked that up and a plain Myrrh fragrance oil. Unfortunately, no two vendors had both the Sensual Amber (bbw type) AND a plain myrrh. I checked Fragrance Oil Finder, and though one vendor said they had both, the myrrh was only part of a set.
I mixed the fragrance oils at a 50:50 ratio on a couple of test strips first. The test strips smelled very similar to the lotion sample. Without the chemical smell that the lotion has. The lotion makes my nose itch.
I used three different colors: Titanium Dioxide for the white, Myrrh Gum Powder for the peachy color, and activated charcoal powder for the black. I was trying for colorful and exotic.
The activated charcoal has a number of health benefits as far back as the ancient Egyptians using it on wound-care, and the Hindu used it to filter water (LiveStrong.com). It’s also known for drawing out the impurities and toxins in the skin (some soapers swear by it!) and beneficial against acne. Within a soap, its non drying and helps keep hands younger looking longer (EHow). Over on Charcoal Remedies, other people have listed additional uses for charcoal.
Myrrh gum powder is used to rejuvenate skin cells for a more youthful glow, decreasing the appearance of wrinkles and general skin toning (LiveStrong) . I also wanted the added myrrh to the overall scent of the soap, plus its gritty enough to serve as a gentle exfoliant.
In this case, the titanium dioxide is used to lighten a 1/3 of the batch, but a common use is also in suntan lotions for its refraction properties (wiseGEEK), but I doubt there is enough in this bar to give the skin any UV protection after use. One of my favorite soapers to follow, Jo at the Soap Bar, did a blog post about the safety of titanium dioxide back in 2011 with a lively conversation in the comments. It’s safe for cosmetic uses, but careful of nano-sized grains – which I don’t use.
My water content was 50:50 of Aloe Vera and Distilled Water, so if there are any sunburns, this soap will be very soothing. Other clients (friends of mine) have loved the aloe vera in the soaps they have purchased, especially in cases of sun burn.
I used eight different vegetable oils: Olive Oil pomace, sunflower oil, palm oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, castor oil, shea butter, and meadowfoam oil. This will be a highly conditioning soap, great not only for the body but for cleaning the face, too.
I had initially forgotten the coconut oil, but added it before I molded the soap, including the water to compensate (this will be important later). I decided to forgo the fragrance oil compensation at this point.
I took my time with this one. I didn’t want an in-the-pot swirl (video), or a mantra swirl (tutorial), and was trying to think of something I hadn’t seen yet. Though, its very possible someone already thought of this, I just haven’t come across it yet. In this picture, I have my three colors: white, gold, black, and the soap mold where I’m already half way through the process. For this, I did skinny layers of each shade, just swirls and straight lines and jagged lines, but just enough to create patterns before going to the next color. It was a long process, but it was fun.
Just finished filling the mold and the top layer is gold and black with a feathered top.
Several hours after I put the soap log to bed for the night, I went to take a peak, and OMG! Notice how much its weeping? Without touching it, I’m assuming its oils or fragrance oils weeping, but eventually it will either evaporate or seep back into the soap. Or a combination of both. Right? Right?! (Nope.)
Here it’s splitting down the middle from the heat (I still have not figured out how to keep my soaps from doing that), but the design looks really cool from this angle, like molten lava. Note the beads of sweat on the top layer. That’s not normal.
When I tried to unmold it, it was sticking to the sides and bottom in clumps and was really super soft. I was so angsty because I knew I would need to rebatch it. All the careful time I put into the pretty stripes *SIGH*. Plus this batch had the activated charcoal, so it was going to be an ugly brown/grey color. I DID however take a pic of the stripes. They remind me of a tiger. *sniff* I’d like to come back to this technique at a later time, and hopefully I don’t mess it up.
I angst about rebatching for a good hour or two, and even sent my question to a soaping group I subscribe to (Soaper’s Retreat, love them!). Remember the added coconut oil? When I calculated the actual oils in SoapCalc, I had a 21.5% superfat.
What is superfatting?
- S: (adj) superfatted ((of soap) containing extra unsaponified fat) “superfatted toilet soaps” (WordnetWeb)
- S: (n) saponification (a chemical reaction in which an ester is heated with an alkali (especially the alkaline hydrolysis of a fat or oil to make soap)) (WordNetWeb)
What makes handmade soap different than the lye soap your grandmother made is the amount of lye to oils ratio. It wasn’t precise back then, just dump a bunch of lye into the oils/animal fat pot and hope for a nice hard bar of lard soap that was good for laundry. Lye also tended to vary as well. However, these days, lye is chemically precise, and soapers will superfat a batch anywhere from 3-8% (sometimes more or less, depending on what the application will be for). For instance, a super fat of <1% is good for laundry soap. I generally superfat all of my soaps at 5% which allows for more moisturizing. I’ve read that a 100% coconut oil bar should be superfat at 20% because of the nature of coconut oil.
This batch only had about 13% coconut oil, not nearly enough to warrant that much superfatting. At least I knew what the problem was, I recalled adding the coconut oil without compensating with lye/water.
I posted the results on Facebook and what I needed to do to save it (including adding more activated charcoal to make it a black soap), and Mary posted back with, “YAY! Black soap!” Paraphrased since I can’t find the exact quote. I was feeling much less angsty after that.
Once I submitted to the fact I had to rebatch, I dumped the slices back into the pot, and let it warm up inside another pot with water. Double boiler method, I didn’t want to burn it. I added the missing lye/water, more activated charcoal for a deeper grey/black, and another .5 oz more of fragrance (the same 50:50 ratio as above) since it was definitely lacking.
I had started with adding the activated charcoal within a bit of oil so it wasnt so powdery, but I quickly realized that I would need more charcoal until I achieved black or the slate grey that I ended up with. If I kept adding more oil, I would have the same issue as before, too much oil, not enough lye. So I added more distilled water.
I added too much. Hmph.
When I poured the soup back into the mold, it was behaving as it should, but I knew it would take forever to cure. A normal cure will take anywhere between 4-8 weeks, depending on the batch (some oils take longer to cure), I was expecting 3-4 months, and Mary had waited long enough already.
Here is my embarrassment: I would like to point out the shoddy mix job. I had not mixed it with the stick blender, and it shows. As this picture illustrates, do you see all the white spots? (I was arranging soap squares for a possible embed project.) It was also soft (not like the day before when it was also oily, this was just water-soft). I can now tell the difference when its lacking lye, or when it has too much water. Live and learn, right?
I rebatched it a second time, however, no more water or fragrance this time. Just dumped it into the pot and let it simmer for a few hours to simmer off the excess water. I stirred it every 30 minutes to an hour to make sure it was coming along ok. I even put the stick blender in this time to really get it blended well. Those white spots were annoying me, it was the OCD kicking in. When I poured it this time, the soap didn’t want to make swirly q’s on the top for me. It could do jagged just fine. *smirk*
I wasn’t quite sure if this would be enough, so I turned on my oven to 170, popped the soap in the oven and let it bake for 5 hours.
This method is called CPOP (cold process oven process) which is meant to force the soap through a thorough gel phase. For my purposes, I wanted it not only to saponify the rest of the lye I had added in the rebatch, but to evaporate the excess water.
After 5 hours, I turned off the oven, and left the soap to sit over night. Five hours might seem excessive, but I have read of another soaper who does 5 hour bakes (forum post). While others will do a 1 hour bake.
I think I burned the soap.
Anyone know? Because this is how it came out, and this is how it stayed (this pic was taken on 9/1/13). Only the outer layer is this brownish/rust color.
I decided to take it off, starting with the bottom. Normally I can just scrape the soap, but this wouldn’t scrape off. I had to actually cut it off. The soap is still fairly soft underneath, so it was easy to slide the cutter under the brown layer to remove it. After the fifth bar I was getting pretty good at this.
See? Damn, I’m good.
After slicing off the thick layer, the soap is initially tacky, but it hardens up in no time at all, so that is a good sign. Once the bottom hardened, I cut off the sides. I left the top at the request of Mary. I gave her the option, leave the top, or cut it all down and bevel it. The textured top is far more interesting. This will be left to cure for another 3-4 weeks, then I’ll clean it up for presentation, box it up, and make labels.
The moral of this story is: Write everything down. I kept tabs of what I added on top of the initial recipe and documented every step of the way in trying to save the batch. I had not done so on the batch I ruined last year.