Scenting Soaps Naturally

For the past couple of years I have contemplated how I can offer more naturally scented soaps – that is, using plant-derived scents instead of synthetic fragrances. Natural essential oils can provide many beneficial properties from the plants they were extracted from. Some are anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-depressant, and the list goes on… (For more information about essential oils and their properties, please visit AromaWeb.)

However, there are limitations to using essential oils in handmade soaps. Natural scents are limited by what can be found in nature, and what can be distilled into an essential oil. Even though apples and raspberries can be found in nature, there’s no such thing as apple or raspberry essential oil, for example. Natural scents are usually quite a bit more expensive than their synthetic counterparts, and their scents may not hold up to what is initially a rather harsh environment when the soap is made. As the soap cures over several weeks, it becomes extremely mild, but during those first 24 hours the fresh soap is very caustic and hot. Some natural essential oils can be skin irritants, and others can cause the skin to be extra-sensitive to sun exposure, and some are unsafe during pregnancy, so not all natural ingredients are actually good for your skin!

There are several soaps in the Great Cakes Soapworks line that are currently scented synthetically, but could be scented naturally. For instance, last year I was able to create a blend of essential oils for the Oatmeal, Milk & Honey soap that doesn’t really smell like the synthetic fragrance I used to use, but is still a very nice alternative. Just this past week, I decided to see if I could re-create the Cinnamon Bun Coffee Soap with some natural essences. I have some 20-fold vanilla oleoresin that is quite thick and holds up to the soapmaking process. Combining it with a bit of cinnamon essential oil smells pretty fantastic, but doesn’t have the same WOW factor as the synthetic fragrance. Not to mention that the oleoresin alone is more than twice the price of its synthetic counterpart. Here is the result of my test batch of five bars:

Naturally scented Cinnamon Bun Coffee Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

I don’t think I’ll be re-creating this soap in a full-sized batch though. Even if the scent came close to what my customers are used to, unfortunately I couldn’t justify the price.

I also experimented with a couple of new soaps that are completely natural, and I believe they turned out much nicer. The first one is a test batch (5 bars) of Ginger Lime, made with ginger CO2 extract and four-fold lime essential oil and colored with algae powder:

All-natural Ginger Lime soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

It smells amazing!! I’m not sure how the green color will hold up over time, but I like the results so far! Depending on how my customers like it, I am hoping to create full-sized batches (24 bars) of this one.

The next soap came as a request from a customer for something scented with bergamot. She uses it in an oil diffuser at home and wanted to know if I had any soaps or could make a soap with the same scent. She reminded me that bergamot is what gives earl grey tea its flavor! I used a bergamot essential oil with reduced bergaptine, so it won’t cause photosensitivity and mixed it with a couple other “secret” essential oils. The result is what I’m calling Citrus Soother:

All-natural Citrus Soother Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Citrus Soother is colored with rose clay, french green clay, and more algae powder. I made a medium-sized batch of this one, so there are 11 bars. All three of these all-natural soaps will be available for purchase at around February 11th.

On the Curing Rack: Cinnamon Apple Peach

Cinnamon Apple Peach Soap by Great Cakes Soapworks

Here it is! Cinnamon Apple Peach soap is cut and curing. I’m loving this scent!! It will replace the Apples & Spice scent that I’ve made for the past six years. Out with the old, in with the new! (Even though it’s really not that much different…) This soap should be available for purchase on Saturday, September 25 at and at the Overland Park Fall Festival.

I’ve been debating whether or not to tell you what my plan was for this soap. It turned out pretty great as it is, but it wasn’t what I was thinking. I was actually going to make three layers, with the top one being a lighter version of the upper two thirds of this soap. My plan was to use Erin’s layering method, but it wasn’t long after I poured out the bottom layer that I knew this plan wasn’t going to fly. The water discount was too steep, and the soap was already setting up. So I added the cocoa powder to the bottom layer as planned and got it in the mold, then spooned the rest over the top. I had some time to texture the top, and then had the splendid idea to sprinkle on some cinnamon at the very end. There are a few tiny holes here and there where I didn’t get all the air bubbles out – but at least this time I know they are air bubbles (since they are dry)!

Not sure if you can make out what’s in the background of this soap photo, but that would be cake decorator tips and bags. I spent about four hours this afternoon decorating the cake for my grandma’s 80th birthday party this weekend. I’m so wiped! I’ll have photos of the cake to show you next week sometime.

Tomorrow I’ll tell you about the Great Cakes Soapworks Labor Day Weekend Sale!