I recently embarked on cold process soap making…you know, the kind where you use lye. I had always thought lye was scary and mysterious, not to mention dangerous. But I’d been watching videos on soap making and it ended up looking pretty do-able, as long as you donned the proper safety garb and could follow instructions reasonably well.
So I found me a small batch recipe and grabbed the ingredients that I had bought a few months earlier.
The recipe I used called for olive oil and shea butter…I can’t remember what else, but the olive oil’s color was a pretty strong green, even with the shea butter and whatever on earth else the recipe called for (maybe coconut oil?)
I prepped the lye/water solution first. You have to wear eye protection, protect your body (long sleeves, specifically) and def def definitely (Rain Man movie reference) want to wear a mask to protect your lungs. Let me be the first to tell you: it won’t. As soon as I added the lye to the water (never add water to lye because it’s riskier) and started to stir a bit, my breath caught in my throat. Literally, my breathing came to a screeching halt and an alarm system went off in my brain that commanded all breathing be halted. I had never so precisely encountered that aspect of the safety mechanism of the human body, but let me tell you- it’s a pretty efficient system. The vapors emanating from the lye/water mixture were NOXIOUS. Ain’t no mask going to save you.
You just figure out that you don’t get to breathe while you are mixing at first.
You stir a little while you hold your breath, step away to inhale some sweet, fresh air and then move back in to stir a little more. The fumes dissipate after a bit and all is well, but that lye/water mixture is now HOT. And it has to cool it’s little chemical jets for just a while.
So to the oil blend. I mentioned it was green…and for some reason that base color was no cause for concern for me. I had this fragrance for my first batch of soap set aside for my first excursion into Soapland and it was called “pink sugar”. I didn’t connect the fact the scent wasn’t going to be fitting for a soap that was planning on being green. Frankly, I didn’t really connect anything at all, except for “lye water noxious”.
So you heat the oil blend just a bit while you wait for the lye water to cool just a bit and when they are at about the right temperature (whatever that is, lol) you get your trusty stick blender out and you blend.
So blend I did.
Now it doesn’t take long for the soap to get to a point they call “trace”, which means that it leaves sort of tracks in the tip when you stir it around. It’s kind of a pudding consistency. That stage means it’s ready to add fragrance and color and then you can pour it into the mold.
Well I got me my pink sugar fragrance and stirred that in well.
Then I figured the soap should actually BE pink, so I got my pink pigment powder and measured out a decent little spoonful into the soap and blended.
And uh oh. The soap wasn’t turning pink. It was kind of a sickly peach. So I added more pigment. This time, it was a slightly darker sickly peach. Now, remembering there was a thing called the color wheel that might have been helpful earlier, I figured there was not much else I was going to be able to do to make the soap color any better, so I decided to pour it into the mold. At this point, that sickly peach color looked a little flesh toned. Pretty unattractive. I decided to sprinkle it with glitter. I had been looking for biodegradable glitter, but didn’t have any, so in desperation, I sprinkled some glitter that I had handy on top of the soap before it dried.
And it was pretty (from the glitter) ugly (from the soap color).
So with cold processed soap, you have to let it cure for about a month before it should be used, and let me tell you, things did not get any prettier. The soap actually got uglier. I mean real ugly. It turned a little darker, like cheese does when you leave don’t put the plastic wrap back on it and it sits in the fridge getting ugly soap made by some novice soap maker (lol). I could try to dress it up on a pretty platter or something to take pix which I will, but ain’t nothing gonna make this soap that pretty pink sugar soap I had in mind. So basically, now it’s call to fame (not that it actually had a call to fame to begin with) is being possibly “The Ugliest Soap Ever Made”.
And that’s my story. You can come visit “The Ugliest Soap Ever Made” at your next appointment with me at Bloom. 😀