Clays, essential oils and other add ons: what do we use at Homestead Soapery

  • How do you know which clay is right for your skin?
  • Where does clay come from, and what are the benefits of using clay in soap?
  • What is the difference between a fragrance oil and an essential oil?
  • What other additives and exfoliants are used in soap making?

We often mention the benefits of cold process soap making being the ability to modify, change and create soap recipes that are suitable for you. At Homestead Soapery, we aim to make our soaps using master batch blends of oils and butters, and a selective mixture of clays, essential oils and exfoliants that bring superior benefits in natural soaps.

CLAYS

Clays have been used for centuries, particularly on the skin, and are still incredibly popular today. Clays tend to be very soft, fine-grained minerals pulled from our wonderful earth. Clays are mostly used in cleansing regimes (think face masks) as they have excellent purifying properties.

At Homestead Soapry, we use clays for two reasons. The first is the abundance of therapeutic benefits. Clays are said to attract and draw out free radicals and toxins from the skin and helps with the relief of minor skin conditions. This is why bentonite clay is so often used in facial masks and scrubs. The second is the colour. Cold process soaps made with clay get a lovely natural colouring which can fade over a prolonged period of time (but we know you’ll use your soap well before that happens!)

So rather than add synthetic or unnatural substances to our soap to achieve these same requirements, we feel that clays can provide that service two-fold.

For dry to normal skin, the following clays are recommended: rose clay, kaolin clay, Brazilian clay (red, purple, yellow)

For normal to oily skin, the following clays are recommended: sea clay, french green clay, bentonite clay, brazilian clay (red, purple, yellow)

At Homestead Soapery, we use the following clays and addons in different variations:

Bentonite Clay
Bentonite clay is formed under sea beds from volcanic ash. The USA is the primary producers for this clay, but it is also sourced from Australia and has been used by traditional cultures in Australia for centuries.

Kaolin Clay
Kaolin Clay (aka white clay) is used in many skin care products due to its absorption properties. Kaolin is a very mild clay and is incredibly suitable for those with sensitive skin. Kaolin Clay helps with exfoliation, leaving tired skin feeling refreshed. Kaolin Clay is also very rich in other minerals such as calcium, silica, zinc and magnesium and as such is a wonderful product for oily skin. Kaolin type-clays also come in a variety of colours and sometimes are driven by the regional areas they come from. Rose Clay can be a light to medium pink and Brazilian clays tend to be dark red, yellow, caramels and purple.

French Green Clay
This clay is known for its terrific absorption properties, and is effective in cleaning, tightening and refreshing the skin. Its strong absorbency enables the clay to remove impurities, oil, dust and other contaminants.

 

Activated Charcoal

Made from 100% coconut husks, activated charcoal is a fine, odorless, black powder and has many uses and benefits in skin care. Activated charcoal is a wonderful deep cleanser and detoxifier and we will be using it in our facial soaps.

Himalayan Pink Salt

With such an old history and wonderful method of conception, Himalayan Pink Salt is lovely for use in soap. We use it in our traditional German salt brine bar recipe, where the water used in the soap making process is infused with salt to give an incredibly hard bar that is also superior in exfoliation and cleansing. Himalayan salts is free of pollutants and toxins and is extracted using no explosives or mechanical devices. It is superior in alleviating muscle soreness and aiding in sleep regulation. A shower with a salt brine soap and a nap is exactly what the doctor ordered!

ESSENTIAL & FRAGRANCE OILS

We prefer the use of essential oils in our soaps, but we love the creativity of fragrance oils. In general though, our soaps will be scented with essential oils to ensure we retain our bar soaps to be as natural as possible.

Essential oils are natural scents and a great choice in soap making. They tend to be extracted from flowers or herbs or even plants using a process of steam distillation. Essential oils tend to be more expensive as a raw ingredient as they are a purer form of extract from a plant.

Some common essential oils include eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree or peppermint, but there are many variations for use in soap making.

Where the use of essential oils could fall down is if you attempt to make a soap with a vanilla or strawberry theme. These scents cannot be extracted into essential oils and therefore to scent such a creation to vanilla or strawberry you need to use a fragrance oil, which could contain unnatural ingredients.

The fun part though is that essential oils can be blended to provide your own custom scents. Our favourites tend to be those that smell like the bush and fresh rain.

On the other hand fragrance oils can be made of 40-80 materials and are classed as synthetic scents. But if you think about it, a luxury perfume could have 5 times that number! (and how often do you use perfume?) Fragrance oils tend to be described like perfumes – there are multiple notes that hit at various points, from first smell, to medium, to end scent. 

These types of oils also tend to be better for luxe soaps. Bramble Berry created a champagne fragrance oil which is one of their best sellers and is often described as smelling a bit like ginger ale and suitable for use with lemon scents.

Fragrance oils are fun. Care needs to be taken when using them in cold process soap because they can accelerate trace (the process used to emulsify the oil and sodium hydroxide together). They can also discolour soap. Often, scents with vanilla tend to have issues turning out darker in colour or altering a lighter colour, so dark micas are used to cover this discoloration up.

EXFOLIANTS

When you think about exfoliants, do you only think of loofahs? Exfoliants come in many variations and have different uses. We tend to use anything from pumice and ground coffee to salt and walnut shells. Exfoliants stand up really well in cold process soaps due to the mixture being thicker and allowing the exfoliant to suspend at intervals throughout the soap.

Exfoliants are best used in soaps that need to remove dead skin and surface layer debris. We like to use it in our activated charcoal face soap and our Exfoliation Bar Collection.

All in all, there are many different ways to use additives (clays, fragrance oil, essential oil and exfoliants) to custom create your soap.

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