You can turn your plain handmade soap into luxurious handcrafted soap by the addition of extra ingredients and fragrances. You need to be careful, however, when adding ingredients to handcrafted soap. The lye may ruin some additives, and some fragrances can cause the soap to “seize”. Some dyes won’t work at all in handmade soap and can turn your soap from a lovely purple to a muddy looking mess.
There are many things you can add to your handcrafted soap to change its texture, properties or overall appearance. Coffee grounds are added to soaps for their exfoliating properties. There are claims the caffeine from the coffee grounds help diminish cellulite, as well as providing a wake-up boost in the morning. Calendula petals are a skin-soothing addition, as is oatmeal. Green tea leaves add a lovely speckle to your soap. Shea butter and cocoa butter are added at the end of the soap-making process to improve the soap’s skin-softening properties. Most flower petals will turn dark in the presence of lye, so those pretty pink rose petals will turn dark brown once you add them to your soap. Whenever you decide to add an unfamiliar ingredient, always make a small batch first to test the ingredient and see how it reacts in your soap.
You can use natural ingredients to color your soaps or soap dyes made specifically to hold their color in cold-process soaps. Cocoa works well as a soap colorant; just a little makes the soap a tan color, while a heavier addition can be used to make dramatic brown swirls throughout your soap. Paprika and sage are also natural colorants. For typical colors such as blue, pink and purple, turn to the colorants made specifically for the cold-process soap trade. Regular cake frosting colors rarely work; the dye reacts with the colors and changes them into something you probably were not expecting. Yellow cake dyes are an exception; some yellow cake dyes will stay true to color when used in soap. However, they are usually water-soluble and will come off on a washrag.
Fragrances are tricky. You have a choice of essential oils or fragrance oils. The selection of essential oils is somewhat limited, and some are cost-prohibitive to use in soap. Jasmine essential oil, for example, is an amazing fragrance, but it is expensive. You may want to splurge and use it in soap you are making for yourself, but it would drive the cost of your retail soaps above the average budget. But some, such as bergamot, are affordable and work well in soap. The disadvantage of fragrance oils, although they are much less expensive, is that many people are sensitive to the artificial ingredients. Which oil you choose to use depends on the market you are targeting. When using either essential or fragrance oils, always make a test run in a small batch of soap. Some of these oils can cause cold-process soaps to change color or, worse, “seize” and begin to harden before you get your soap in the mold.
Once you’ve experimented with handcrafted soaps and have developed your own style and varieties of colors and fragrances, you’ll need to think about labeling and packaging your soaps. Labeling your soaps will not only help you remember which soap is which, it also provides a way for you to list the ingredients. Packaging the soaps keeps the fragrances separate, and makes them look professional for giving them as presents or even selling them. You’ll find information on labeling and packaging your soaps in “Labeling and Packaging Your Handcrafted Soaps.”