January 29, 2011

Homemade Soap and Moisturizing Cream

I made bar soap today. I'd rendered suet before and froze it. I've not done it for a long while, so I re-skimmed all my soap books to refresh my memory. I've not bought soap, since we like my homemade soap, having made and used it for over twenty years now.

I used department store boxes lined with stapled on plastic garbage bag plastic. I still have these in the garage, tho Monte made me nice wood boxes several years ago. I line these with freezer-wrap paper, waxed side up, of course - taping it to the edges. My boxes' inside dimensions are 11 1/2" x 18" and a couple inches deep.

Firstly, I put on my apron, glasses, and a mask, to make the lye - water mixture, as it heats to over 200 degrees and needs to cool. I use a recipe I have in my cookbook I got from Ann Bramson's Soap book from the 70's. I first measure my empty 1/2 gallon canning jar and add 32 oz (2#) water. Some years I've brewed herbs in this water hoping for their herbal properties in my soap. Then I stir in 12 oz lye (sodium hydroxide - ordered from online) using a silicone spatula. Little bits of lye will tingle with a burning sensation on your skin, if you get it on it. Just rinse it off. You don't want to breath this reaction, so ventilation is nice.

Measure your stainless steel 4 qt pan and add 38 oz tallow (palm oil is it's equivalent; shortening could be used too), then add 24 oz coconut oil and 24 oz olive oil (this time I did 20 oz and 4 oz castor oil - just because I wanted to!). Heat these till solids are not quite melted. It takes some time to cool down, and will continue melting while sitting.

You want the lye mixture and oil mixture to be about the same temperature around 95-98 degrees. I had to set the lye mixture outside to cool down. I put some cold water in the sink to cool the fats down some too, once the lye was down and ready. If the lye cools too much, sometimes just stirring it will raise the temp a bit. I put the pan in the sink (no need for water in the sink) for slowly pouring the lye mixture in. You want the lye water to pour slowly like a pencil width, stirring the fat continually at the same time, using a silicone spatula. Gently keep stirring for the lye and fats to chemically connect and do their thickening thing.

Keep stirring in circles and swirls gently for at least 10 minutes. Then you can occasionally stir it. This time it set up fast (some times it can be an hour or more), thickened enough that when dripped from the spatula it leaves a trace on the surface, leaving a trail a short bit. At this point is when additives like scent and coloring is added. I usually don't add these, liking the creamy color and tallow or palm oil are forever sweet smelling. If lard were used, or a poor quality beef fat, it develops an off smell over time, so scenting masks this. It's best to use essential oils rather than synthetic fragrances. Colorants I've used are things like cinnamon, cocoa, turmuric - this time in one of the soaps I added 5 tsp paprika.

I also added essential oils this time: 2 tsp lavender, 1 1/2 tsp rose geranium, 1 tsp rose oil, 1/2 tsp sage. Not like that's my favorite, but what I had that I thought might go together. Most bottles sold are typically a 3oz size. I found that's about 2 teaspoons worth. For this amount of recipe (about 8 pounds) it's suggested you use 4-5 teaspoons. I ended up adding to my shopping list now that I took stock of what I've got and what I want. For gift-giving and covering with felt, having scented soap is nice.

Once the mixture is thick enough with the tracing, pour it into the molds. Soap needs to sit covered with a blanket to keep warm, for about 24 hours. Then I dump it out on a plastic table cloth. Using rubber gloves I'll cut it into bars or shapes. I'll post a pic of this tomorrow or the next. The soap then needs to sit on brown paper or stainless steel racks or wicker or rattan placemats to cure for 2-4 weeks. During this time the lye turns from a caustic ingredient, into an emollient mixture - the term is "saponification".

I have been making soap for years - now two decades! I guess that tells you we like using homemade soap. My very first books that started me down this journey were Jeanne Rose's Herbal Body Book and Soap by Ann Bramson. I see that both are still available from $1-100. Both were printed in the 70's. I refer to Jeanne's book as my "Hippie" book. It is so marked up with notes and about to fall apart. It's the best beginning reference for what oils, essential oils, fats, herbs, etc are good for - like nutritive values, for what skin types, hair, etc. I've collected other books over the years - the others I've most used are by Susan Miller Cavitch. Her books are still available too. The Natural Soap Book makes 12 pound batches. Her second, The Soapmaker's Companion, makes 5 pound batches. She uses a mixer - I don't. My cookbook has the basic recipes I make once a year.

Since I wrote my book, I've been making a shampoo soap bar and moisturizing lotion - both from The Soapmaker's Companion, tho I've tweaked them quite a bit. In the picture to the right are the three main soap bars I keep stocked. If I don't give too much away, I only have to make soap once a year (even longer span now that it's mainly just Monte and me)(I'll have to ask my kids if they want homemade soap made for them) - that's our total soap use - no buying of bar soap, face soap and creams, nor shampoo! In the past I've done lip balms and laundry soap too and other household cleaning stuff - maybe I'll return to doing that. So pictured are a small tub of the face cream (moisturizing lotion), and stacked from bottom to top: body soap, face soap, and shampoo bar. Cold-pressed, unrefined, extra-virgin coconut oil is great for cooking, but also makes a wonderful massage oil, and Monte's been using it as his body lotion. It and my face cream initially feel greasy, but they soon soak in. I've tried so many facial products, including expensive ones, and still prefer my homemade ones!

The Moisturizing Cream I make is considered a firm mousse. The recipe proportions amount to about 140 grams of solid fats, 400 grams of liquid fats, and 400 grams of water. Each time I make it I use differing ingredients depending on supplies on hand. Olive oil is a dominant fat in all my soapmaking. The solidifiers in the cream are melted beeswax, cocoa and shea butters. I like castor oil in both the cream and my bar soaps. In the cream, I've used wheat germ oil, jojoba oil, apricot oil, and always almond oil. I don't use water - making it's proportion up with liquid lanolin, aloe vera gel, rosewater, and witch hazel. Then there's added glycerin, borax (helps in emulsifying the liquids and solids, so no separation), grapefruit seed extract for naturally preserving the mixture from spoilage (parabens are what's used in almost all cosmetics and studies are finding health issues from this chemical), and then I add some essential oils: lavender, peppermint, sometimes nutmeg, and always lemongrass essential oil. This fills 3 small tubs and a quart jar I keep in the fridge for refilling the tubs. This batch lasts me for more than a year!

I want to write out the recipe because I know a few people would read this and want to make it - I would. I don't want to overwhelm you, but I do keep these ingredients stocked in a bin in my linen/cleaning equipment closet. I used to order them from a co-op, but now purchase them from a health food store and online. Like, Google soap making, and you'll find many sources. Lye is a major bar soap ingredient. When mixed with coconut, palm, olive, castor, etc oils it saponifies into a rich healthy-for-the-skin soap - non-drying to the skin. Store-bought soaps have the natural by-product of glycerin extracted, for making other stuff, therefore removing the emollient quality.

Melt the solids - I put them in a large glass bowl, and melt using the microwave (Cavitch does it in a saucepan on the stove, which I should do).

SOLIDS - 130-140 grams
100 gms beeswax (I used to grate it, but now found pellets)
20-25 gms each of cocoa butter and shea butter
Make sure the beeswax melts - I've occasionally found tiny bits when using my cream :-D

OILS - 395-400 grams
250 gms Olive Oil
50 gms Almond Oil
20 gms Castor Oil
25 gms Wheat Germ Oil
50 gms Jojoba Oil
The oils can be added to the melting solids. Don't heat above 165 degrees. Remember, you can use whatever you have on hand as long as you keep to the overall proportion. Like this time I didn't have wheat germ oil (it needs to be kept refrigerated, and I must have thought it too old awhile back ... and then didn't write it down on my 'to buy' list ...). Also, when I opened the jojoba oil, knowing it was getting old, I smelled it. I won't use rancid smelling products. So I only used more of the castor and almond oils this time.

WATER - 400 grams
primarily witch hazel and rosewater
then some liquid lanolin and aloe vera gel (I used about 100 grms of each this time)
Then 10 gms of borax
15 gms vegetable glycerin
5-10 gms grapefruit seed extract
Make sure the borax completely dissolves in the water mixture.

A freestanding mixer would be nice to use, but I've always used a hand-held little mixer. I might try my immersion blender sometime. Starting on low speed, slowly drizzle the water mixture into the oils. Continue mixing as the mixture thickens, occasionally scraping the sides and increasing the speed. Once it's thickened like mayonnaise and cooler, add essential oils - 5-6grams. I didn't weigh them this time, so used 1/4 tsp each of lavender and peppermint. I would have used nutmeg too, if I'd had it. Then 1/2 tsp of lemongrass.

I often add vitamin E. I used to add Vitamin A to this mixture too. Vitamin A, retinyl palmitate, is good for the skin, but new studies are finding that it might, with sun exposure, develop skin tumors. It's put in lots of lotions, including sunscreens because it is an antioxidant and slows skin aging, but with sun exposure, is it cancerous? On the subject of sunscreen, I read labels and try to avoid oxybenzone, which is hard, cuz it's in just about everything, including lip balms. It can be allergenic, but primarily it messes with hormones. Sunscreens too are messing with our Vitamin D absorption. I also don't use products that use mineral oil - robs skin of it's own natural moisturizing mechanism - it's used cuz it's cheap!, and don't use petrolatum products (in ChapStick and Vaseline). Europe won't allow usage of these products. Monte wants me to start making two moisturizing creams - one with the Vitamin A, for a night cream.

I still have lots of homemade soap bars in tubs from many years of soapmaking days with friends. Over the years we've tried all sorts of additives. I'm sensitive to fragrances, so rarely use them. When soap is made with lard, over time it develops an off smell, so fragrances mask this. I don't use lard, using tallow or palm oil for the other 'fat' in my bar soaps - forever has a sweet smell. We've added ingredients like oats, honey, and powdered milk; colorants like cinnamon, or turmeric ... I've brewed a strong herbal tea to use as the water, adding the herb properties to the soap as well as differing color.

I've started felting wool over these soaps. I'm posting a picture of some I did this year to go with, matching, some of my knitted washcloths. Think: "Soap in a Sweater"!

Felted Soap

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