Homemade Old-Fashioned Bar Soap

The first time I made soap, it was a badge requirement for my American Heritage Girls troop. I invited 6 giggling girls over and we followed an internet recipe for lye soap. I didn’t expect the soap to be so lovely. It was creamy and cleansing, with a great lather to boot.

Since then, I have practiced more and more to come up with the perfect blend of oils for my family. I even use this soap to cleanse my face regularly, and I am pleased with the results: it’s not too oily and not at all drying.

Many people dispute the idea of using lye in soap because it is a toxic chemical. I agree. Let’s not put that on our bodies. But during the process of making soap, the lye undergoes a chemical reaction and is completely transformed. That means that there is no lye in the final product.

Let’s Make Some Soap

First, a few tips

  • This is a chemical reaction, people! The lye to oils ratio is very critical. If your ratios are not balanced, you will either end up with a soap that is too oily or, worse yet, one that burns and dries your skin.
  • If you don’t have the oils in my recipe on hand, feel free to adapt and substitute. However, each oil has a unique profile and they cannot merely be exchanged 1 for 1. If you want to modify the recipe, do a google search for a soap calculator. Put in the oils you want to use, and it will help you figure out the ratio of lye to oils.
  • Use a kitchen scale. Don’t measure with a measuring cup, and don’t eyeball it.
  • Only use glass or stainless steel utensils with lye. Do not use plastic, wood, or silicone until you combine the oils with the lye mixture.
  • If you want to add essential oils to your soap, you absolutely can do so. It will take a lot of oils for a whole batch of soap (around 3-5 mL). I personally prefer my soap unscented because it gets washed off. The fragrance of the oil makes for a nice smelling shower, but it does not stay on your skin. I like the clean, fresh fragrance of the unscented soap and apply my oils after my shower.
  • I started out using a cold process method and learned about the hot process method about a year ago. Hot process results in soap that is ready to use in just a few hours.  If you don’t mind waiting 6 weeks for your soap to cure, this recipe works equally well with cold processing.
  • The process is a bit tedious, but I suggest you follow it exactly.

Supplies

My Recipe

6.01 oz. lyeingredients

3.51 oz. purified water

5 oz. organic beeswax

2 oz. organic cocoa butter

12 oz. organic virgin coconut oil

10 oz. organic palm kernel oil

1.95 oz. organic grapeseed oil

10 oz. organic extra-virgin olive oil

The Process

  1. Gather all your supplies before beginning.
  2. Place your stainless steel pot on the digital thermometer, and tare the scale to zero. Add each of the solid oils and beeswax into the pot, taring after each addition.weighing
  3. Place the pot on the stove, and gently warm over medium heat until melted. Turn off heat and remove from stove. Add remaining liquid oils and stir to combine.
  4. Meanwhile, place the glass measuring cup on the scale and tare to zero. Measure water into the measuring cup.
  5. Re-tare the scale and measure lye into the cup with the water. (Be sure not to touch it, as it can burn your skin. If it does get on your skin, wash off immediately with soap and water.) Immediately take this mixture outside or near an open window. As the lye dissolves, it will produce fumes that can burn eyes and always make me cough. Once outside, gently stir with a stainless steel spoon, and leave outside.
  6. Once lye is dissolved, you can bring it back inside. Use caution, as the mixture will now be hot (almost boiling) due to the chemical reaction.
  7. Wait for both the oil mixture and the lye mixture to cool to about 110°F. You may put them in an ice bath to speed up the process.
  8. Once both mixtures are cooled to 110°F, carefully pour them into the slow cooker.
  9. Use your immersion blender to start blending. Be careful to keep the blender submerged so as not to splash or incorporate too much air into the mixture.
  10. Blend for about 5 minutes, or until you start to see a cloudy “trace” on the surface of the soap. It will also thicken during this process. The final product looks like creamy, yellow pudding.blending
  11. Turn the slow cooker on low and put the lid on. Cook for about 1 hour.
  12. After an hour, remove about 1/2 teaspoon of the soap, allow it to cool to touch, and try washing your hands with it. If it is done processing, it will produce a nice lather. If it is not done processing, it may feel greasy or even sting a little (don’t worry, it’s very minor stinging). Continue cooking until it produces a lather.
  13. Once it is done processing, use a silicone spatula to stir and incorporate any dry parts.
  14. If you want to add essential oils, oatmeal, coffee, dried flowers, etc., do so now.
  15. Begin filling silicone molds. Work quickly, as the soap dries and hardens almost immediately. I like to use a cookie scoop for this. Each mold will hold 2 heaping scoops. After scooping or spooning soap into molds, use the silicone spatula to smooth the top. Continue filling molds until all soap is used.
  16. My soap is always a little bumpy on top. If you want it to be smooth, you can dip your spatula in water and smooth the top of each bar while it is still warm.
  17. Once dried, pop the soap out of the molds and it is ready to use! The recipe above makes about 18 bars of soap.soap

Shout out to my friend Amy, who taught me about hot processing and gave me tips for perfecting my soap-making skills. Check out her book, Anyone Can DIY with Essential Oils for more soap recipes and tons of other DIY creations!

 

The Science Behind Emotional Oils

How does a whiff of pumpkin pie transport someone back to their grandmother’s Thanksgiving table? Or the smell of a fresh topsoil instantly bring back the heartache of a long-lost man’s-best-friend? There is actually a scientific reason why certain smells can trigger strong memories and emotions from the past to resurface in our minds.

How the Sense of Smell Works

The sense of smell is considered a chemical sense because it enables us to detect chemicals in our environment. With far more receptor sites for smell than any other sense, our sniffer is 10,000 times more sensitive than our other sensory organs, giving us the ability to differentiate among thousands – if not millions – of different odors. Here’s what happens in the process of smelling:

  1. Odor molecules in the air reach the nostrils and dissolve in the mucus on the roof of each nostril.
  2. Beneath this mucus layer, smells are transmitted to receptor cells that detect the odor.
  3. The olfactory receptor neurons transmit the information to the olfactory bulb located at the back of the nose.
  4. The olfactory bulb directly connects to the limbic portion of the brain where the odors are perceived. This highly-specialized portion of the brain is also home to the amygdala (responsible for our emotions and feelings) and the hippocampus (where our memories are stored.)
  5. These brain centers perceive odors and simultaneously access memories and their associated feelings and emotions to remind us about people, places, or events associated with specific smells.

Smell and Memory

The reason smell can trigger a memory or feeling so effectively is that other senses like touch and taste must travel through the body via neurons and the spinal cord before reaching the brain. So smell is the only sense with direct access to our brain. In addition, smell is the only sense that is perceived in the limbic portion of the brain, where memories and emotions are handled.

We Just Took Essential Oils to Another Whole Level

When I first learned about essential oils such as Forgiveness, Hope, Believe, and other “feelings” oils, I did not put much faith in their ability to work as their names claim. For example, the Young Living website describes Hope essential oil this way:

Hope essential oil is a unique blend that helps you reconnect with optimistic feelings of strength and grounding.

My initial thought was that I would rely on the Lord for my hope, thank you very much. While I still proclaim that my hope does indeed come from the Lord, I have come to learn that this oil has been formulated using chemical constituents that are known to react with specific molecules in the limbic portion of the brain that actually trigger emotions of optimism and strength. With a background in biology and chemistry, this gets my attention.

Most of you reading this are probably already using essential oils and loving the benefits of them. Hopefully you are even discovering that a single oil can have multiple advantages because of the amazing chemical complexity in each tiny drop. You have probably learned that essential oils can offer support to every single system in our bodies. So why do so many “oilers” dismiss the idea of how oils can benefit us emotionally? It is okay to use oils for common ailments, first aid, and even some more serious health concerns, but it is taboo to suggest that an oil can support our emotions and feelings?? I, too, once thought this way, until I studied the chemistry of how the oils work in our brains, and even more so when I tried some of them.

Let’s Get One Thing Straight

The feelings oils were never intended to replace a relationship with the Father. After all, essential oils have been ingeniously designed by the Father Himself to bring us closer Him. What is even more mind-blowing is how essential oils can actually assist us in releasing damaging negative emotions and accessing those feelings and emotions that help us connect with Him more deeply. So if using an oil can “activate” your physical brain to encourage a desired emotion, imagine how the power of your prayers can be magnified to activate your subconscious mind, where your beliefs are seated!

What Have You Got to Lose?

If this is a new idea to you, or if you are like I was – skeptical and doubtful about the emotional benefits of oils – I urge you: put aside your doubts, fears, and concerns. Prayerfully seek the Father and see what He has to say about using an essential oil that He created to support your emotions. Put on a dab of Believe and open your mind and heart to hear from the Lord. Then just let Him speak to you.