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Butters/Exotics/Additives in CP soap - what works vs what doesn't?

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Nikko

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Hello All,

My question pertains to what exotic oils/butters or additives may be added to CP soap to give the 'average user' (as I know it's very hard to generalise otherwise) an actual tangible and real improvement in the quality of the end soap produced.

***Full disclosure, I'm very new to soap making - have done what seems to be two successful batches (only a week old so early days!) but greatly welcome the feedback of more learned peers in this very variable and subjective craft.***

Now again I know whats an improvement for one e.g more moisturising - may end up being a negative for another e.g it's now not as hard/durable - but for arguments sake a generalisation is more than fine by myself.

Also I should clarify upfront I'm asking STRICTLY for personal use - and therefore whilst i know there's a consumer perception on many products - thus adding them to a product (regardless of actual benefits/if any) is helpful, I'm after only ACTUAL real improvement in the product. :)

1)
With regards the more expensive exotic oils and butters are these somewhat 'wasted/misused' by adding them to a CP soap?

I say this as my understanding is that even if you wait until heavy trace - the 'Lye Monster' will 'take what it wants' and the majority of the saponification process is yet to occur. Hence most of your far more expensive butter/exotic oil, will end up being consumed (and depending on the oil/butter somewhat lost) by this process.

I ask this as most of the exotic oils/butters are per weight generally 3-5 plus times more expensive. Therefore if I'm not getting good 'bang for buck' from them it makes sense to avoid/minimise usage. e.g if I'm making a PO/CO/OO CP soap with 10% Mango Butter and it's saponified as per it's ratio's regardless of when/how late the MB is added maybe it's not REALLY worth adding - any benefit is pure perception?

In contrast is a pretty dull PO/CO/OO type base SF@5% going to be that different from the same base formulation with 5-10% of something sexy e.g Mango/Avocado/Shea/Cocoa butter added at the same SF? If different would you imagine much or real splitting hairs stuff thats mainly perception (which is expected as you've paid more and thus expect/hope it helps make a better soap)?

1a)
Assuming folks feel there are some exotic oils/butters with a real benefit - which ones do you feel work best (regardless of cost)? And alternatively, which ones do you feel are the BEST VALUE ones to add e.g perhaps the BEST one is twice as good as this but costs 3 times as much...so this is better value.

1b)
Is there any 'best way' to use these in CP soap to ensure best results e.g adding as late to process as possible - or no real difference?

2)
Regarding other non-oil/butter additives to soaps, what else is felt to be good 'value' additives to improve the soaps usability qualities?

I've used green clay powder in each of my first batches - is clay of much benefit? Also read consistantly good feedback on colloidal oatmeal - so added that to my 2nd batch.

Seems there's conflicting info on benefits of Aloe Vera in soaps (even in actual medical circles they seem very unsure) - but thinking about adding this as I have fresh plants and have read up on how to add.

I know people use various milks etc as well (will leave that for when I get more advanced) but is there anything much else that helps?

Thank you very much in advance for any feedback or thoughts you might have.

Kind regards,

Nicholas
 

Seawolfe

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Oils I could never do without: coconut, olive, castor and lard.
Oils I really like and use quite often: Palm, sweet almond oil & shea
Oils I use once in a while for special purposes: Cocoa butter & beeswax for hardness, especially with shea if I don't want to use lard or Palm. Hemp oil for nice conditioning and a lovely green, especially with French green clay. I'm still learning about mango butter.

Your mileage will totally vary to suit your own taste :)

Shea or sweet almond oil are the only two I typically add specifically as the superfat in HP. In cold process it doesn't matter when you mix in the oils.

My husband and I love clay in soaps. I like the way they add glide, I like the colors, and I like how my skin feels afterwards.

I think you should make a known recipe with aloe and see if it brings anything to the party. I quite like beer or coconut milk, but usually I just use water with sugar dissolved before the lye.

Because our soaps are on our skins for seconds, a minute or two at the most, and then rinsed off, I try to stick to benefits I can perceive directly.

I hope something here helps :)
 
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Nikko

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@Seawolfe, thank you for your reply - you alluded to HP in your post, do you only HP or CP as well? I only ask as whilst I'm aware of the ability to essentially 'choose' your SF oil in HP it seems you really can't in CP.

I take it you are definitely of the opinion that the exotics/butters etc do make a real and significant difference?

Thanks for the feedback on clay - I do think it's a smart/value additive to CP soaps as costs a few cents per batch and therefore any benefit doesn't have to be huge to make it worthwhile.

I agree that perception is a massive part of this - hence I'm trying to get the specific feedback from users as alas I'm not in a position to make batches of all the variables etc to see what works for me - I wish I could be it's not going to happen.

Best scientific testing practice would be double blind testing and very few of us are in a position to do that - hence I think it's a very disciplined and skilled individual who can even in general terms say, this really works or this really doesn't....but thats what I'd love to know.

Alternatively if there's not much of a difference and to me thats where YMMV somewhat comes in (though thats also a preferences thing - but I did try and address that when phrasing the OP) - then it would seem logical to do the most cost effective thing and put marginal cost of exotics etc into other parts of the soap batch etc.

Thanks again for your reply. :)
 

Seawolfe

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I read once that all soapers start simple, have to go through a stage of trying everything they can, and then usually settle back into fairly basic recipes that work for them. I've only been soaping for a little over a year, and there's still things I want to try, but I have narrowed down my list.

The only "exotics" I'm really into now are sweet almond oil, shea,and hemp, or the mix for a hard soap. Those have made differences that I appreciate. That list is different for everyone. I think that some things really do add to the soap - finding out which is the trick. I adore clay, and can't really see the difference with silk, yet I know soapers who adore silk, and don't care for clay.

If cost was a bigger issue, I would definatley be sticking to the basic oils, and save my money for nice essential oils, clays and natural colorants.

I rarely HP anymore unless it's shaving soap, liquid soap, or my new fun, making transparent melt and pour. But HP is valuable for the ability to select your superfat, and the fact that you can use less EO and it isnt affected by the lye reaction - two very good reasons.
 
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The Efficacious Gentleman

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I'm afraid that it's not a case of "it seems that you really can't ....." when it comes to selectively superfatting cp - it is a fact, proven by Dr Kevin Dunn. So, if you do use exotics in cp, add them when it is easiest for you to do so as it will make no difference at all.

As to whether or not butters make a tangible benefit (specifically not just a difference, as a difference can also be something negative!) some people try it and say yes, others say that they really can't feel any difference between a soap with butters and one with , as an example, lard instead.

But as has been said, maybe have a play with a small batch and see if you or your family feel a benefit from it and if that benefit is worth the extra expense.
 

cmzaha

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My favorite oil is Avocado and use it in both soap and leave on products. I usually do not add in butters to my soaps except to a few for label appeal. I just do not notice any great difference with butters versus avocado oil. Lard, tallow, palm, canola and sunflower are also favorites of mine for soap. I love the feel of canola versus olive oil which I do not use a lot of. I always add roe into my canola oil to lengthen the shelf life. Oatmeal, clays, charcoal and milks are also favorites. Milk more for label appeal, I really do not notice a difference other than lather when using distilled water instead of milks. Soaps made with Distilled Water and Sugar give the best lather in my opinion. I do use Aloe but only fresh cleaned aloe not the thin juice found by the gallon. I also add in avocado puree into all avocado soaps, it makes a nice creamy soap.
 

jules92207

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I am a fan of avocado, almond and sunflower oils and tend to add them at 10-20% to my soaps. I have used cocoa butter and shea butter in a few recipes but don't really find they make a world of difference to my recipes so I save those for leave on products like whipped body butter.

I'd also encourage you to take a recipe you have been using and just change 10% to a specialty oil/butter you would like to try then compare them. That's the best way to find what you like.

Everyone is so different so a few test wouldn't hurt to find what you love.
 

reinbeau

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I love mango, I like the 'dryness' of it compared to (to my skin) the relative greasiness of shea. I have lots of exotic oils, I use them very specifically, if I use them. Most are for an intended delve into lotion making, something I haven't ventured into yet.
 

biarine

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As seawolfe said exotic oil and butter you can put as sf for your HP. Like hemp butter or St John worts oil I put them as superfat for my hot process. But not often I used this because of the prices.
 

hmlove1218

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1)
With regards the more expensive exotic oils and butters are these somewhat 'wasted/misused' by adding them to a CP soap?
In my opinion: Jojoba oil, meadowfoam oil, camellia oil, etc. Basically most of the more expensive oils are best saved for other products.

I say this as my understanding is that even if you wait until heavy trace - the 'Lye Monster' will 'take what it wants' and the majority of the saponification process is yet to occur. Hence most of your far more expensive butter/exotic oil, will end up being consumed (and depending on the oil/butter somewhat lost) by this process.
Correct. The only way to save a specific oil/butter to be your superfat is to HP.

I ask this as most of the exotic oils/butters are per weight generally 3-5 plus times more expensive. Therefore if I'm not getting good 'bang for buck' from them it makes sense to avoid/minimise usage. e.g if I'm making a PO/CO/OO CP soap with 10% Mango Butter and it's saponified as per it's ratio's regardless of when/how late the MB is added maybe it's not REALLY worth adding - any benefit is pure perception?
I personally LOVE mango butter in soap. It makes a very creamy lather. I use it at 10% as well. I don't use it for the perceived benefits. I simply use it because I like it.

In contrast is a pretty dull PO/CO/OO type base SF@5% going to be that different from the same base formulation with 5-10% of something sexy e.g Mango/Avocado/Shea/Cocoa butter added at the same SF? If different would you imagine much or real splitting hairs stuff thats mainly perception (which is expected as you've paid more and thus expect/hope it helps make a better soap)?
It all depends on personal preference. I would not use 3 butters in a recipe because you would have to keep the percentages so low that it wouldn't even be worth adding them (butters inhibit lather).

Some people really like avocado, some people say they don't even notice a difference. I haven't noticed much of a difference, but I haven't gotten around to comparing the same recipe with and without it. Some people think avocado is just a more expensive olive oil as the two can be used interchangeably most of the time.

1a)
Assuming folks feel there are some exotic oils/butters with a real benefit - which ones do you feel work best (regardless of cost)? And alternatively, which ones do you feel are the BEST VALUE ones to add e.g perhaps the BEST one is twice as good as this but costs 3 times as much...so this is better value.
I haven't found anything that I prefer over mango butter. And if you know where to look (and are willing to buy a couple of pounds) you can get it at a pretty good price.

1b)
Is there any 'best way' to use these in CP soap to ensure best results e.g adding as late to process as possible - or no real difference?
The best way to ensure a noticeable difference is to use at least 5% of the oil/butter in your recipe. Anything less just isn't worth it IMO.

2)
Regarding other non-oil/butter additives to soaps, what else is felt to be good 'value' additives to improve the soaps usability qualities?
Again, that's all up to personal preference really. Many people like to use milks, while others say that they have no noticeable difference between a milk soap and a non - milk soap. Some like adding coffee or beer, some like herbal teas. We don't know if any benefits survive, but they're fun to use anyway and usually provide some color.

I've used green clay powder in each of my first batches - is clay of much benefit? Also read consistantly good feedback on colloidal oatmeal - so added that to my 2nd batch.
Clay provides slip to the lather. It's often used in shave soaps, but can add a nice touch to non-shave soaps as well. Many use them for a natural colorant.

Many say good things about oatmeal. I don't know if it actually makes a gentler bar, but it adds a gentle exfoliation if added directly to the soap. If used to make oatmilk, it provides a very creamy lather IMO.

Seems there's conflicting info on benefits of Aloe Vera in soaps (even in actual medical circles they seem very unsure) - but thinking about adding this as I have fresh plants and have read up on how to add.
I don't know if aloe vera gel or juice actually adds anything to the soap, but it's a fun alternative to full water, as are most liquids.

Carrot juice can be used for a yellow colorant, as well as adds to bubbles because of the sugars it contains.

Honey is another bubble - boosting addative. Really, anything with sugars in it will add to bubbles.

Hope this helps!
 

shunt2011

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Another vote for Avocado Oil, I love it in soap as well as other products. I also use Shea and Cocoa Butter. I love buttermilk, beer and coconut milk as well. It's certainly a personal preference. I use the more expensive oils (Argan, Meadowfoam & Jojoba) for leave on products
 

pamielynn

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I tend to use almond, sunflower or rice bran at 10% in every batch. I will also use one of those in combination with a mango, shea or cocoa butter.
While I would probably not be able to tell which oil or butter is in a particular soap in the shower - over time I can tell the difference if I'm using one with those ingredients added or just a bar of OO/Palm/CO. My skin seems to like these "exotics" better. I will say that I LOVE beer used in my lye water.
That said, I doubt I'd ever use really expensive oils like kukui, emu, EPO or even rosehip in a soap because I think the expense outweighs the benefit.

However, if resources are limited, you CAN make a very good soap with just the OO/Palm/CO (or lard instead of palm) - it's a matter of the balance of fatty acids that your skin likes.
 

navigator9

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I've been making soap for 8 or 9 years now, and every batch is a learning experience. What Seawolfe mentioned is true. Most beginning soapers see all of the possibilities laid out before them, ingredients, techniques, etc. and they want to try them all. This is actually a good thing, because this experimentation allows you to narrow your focus eventually on the techniques and ingredients that work best for you. After many batches, hopefully you'll find a few standard recipes that you can't do without.

I'm one of those who have tried many different ingredients along the way, botanicals, exotic oils, magical bark from Mexico, (yes really), infused oils, clays, silk etc. and found that for me, at least, it's more about proportion and balance. After trying all the different things out there, my basic bar consists of olive, palm and coconut. But I took that recipe and tweaked it endlessly, until I had it juuuust right. I have found some "extras" that I do love in soaps. Oatmeal is one of them. I grind it to a fine powder, and leave some more course, for a little scrubbiness. Milks of all kinds are also nice. I do use avocado oil in my facial bars after doing a blind test with friends and co-workers, who loved the avocado. I've found blind tests a very valuable tool. Users who don't know what's in the samples can't be swayed by label appeal, and can only judge by what they experience. So yes, I do feel that a great bar of soap can be made without a lot of "fancy" ingredients, and my customers agree. And no, I don't think it matters when you add different ingredients, the lye will take what it takes. My experience comes from CP, it's all I do, and all I can speak for.

So I would suggest making several different basic recipes, have your friends and family try them out, get some feedback. It's hard to be objective when you're so close to the subject. Enjoy the experimentation, and all the lovely soap along the way!
 

LittleCrazyWolf

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I went through a phase where I kept trying expensive butters and oils. Truthfully, I don't think they are worth it in soap. The butters did make the lather a little creamier (IMO) but then they inhibit bubbly lather.

I have settled on lard/tallow, olive, castor, and coconut for the majority of my batches. I think lard/tallow adds a nice creaminess to lather. I do use goats milk or coconut milk in my low coconut batches because I like the extra bubbles that I feel they bring to the soap.

I think the best thing to do is find a combo of base oils that make a soap you like. Then switch out 10% of one of those oils in exchange for a butter or oil that you want to try. Just make sure you take the 10% from the same oil every time.
 

TVivian

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I use a very basic recipe and have not noticed a positive difference to my skin in adding butters or exotic oils. Same with my soap testers, they always come back to the basic recipe being the nicest on their skin. Where I do notice a difference when I add Avocado, sweet almond, cocoa Butter, or Shea butter (those are the "extras" I normally add to my basic recipes) is in the texture of the bar itself. They make the bar look and feel smoother, slicker and sometimes harder and so that's really why I add them in.. Usually at 10 percent. I also like to substitute part of my coconut oil with Palm kernel oil for those same reasons.
 

shunt2011

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I use a very basic recipe and have not noticed a positive difference to my skin in adding butters or exotic oils. Same with my soap testers, they always come back to the basic recipe being the nicest on their skin. Where I do notice a difference when I add Avocado, sweet almond, cocoa Butter, or Shea butter (those are the "extras" I normally add to my basic recipes) is in the texture of the bar itself. They make the bar look and feel smoother, slicker and sometimes harder and so that's really why I add them in.. Usually at 10 percent. I also like to substitute part of my coconut oil with Palm kernel oil for those same reasons.
I soap the exact same way as you do. I use both PKO and CO in combination along with CB and SB and Avocado. I use Almond once in awhile. I've discovered the same thing as you, Basic with a couple additives.
 

Susie

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Nikko- do yourself a HUGE favor. Keep one bar of each of your starter recipes. When you go to try the "exotics", substitute one in per batch. Then test it against your base recipes at an appropriate cure time. Then you will know for yourself.

I tried all the exotic oils and decided I love my lard soap best. YMMV
 

LBussy

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Oils/fats add the same thing to every soap in different percentages:


  • Lauric Acid
  • Myristic Acid
  • Palmitic Acid
  • Stearic Acid
  • Ricinoleic Acid
  • Oleic Acid
  • Linoleic Acid
  • Linolenic Acid
  • And of course, glycerin

When saponified, to the extend that these are in comparable proportions, I don't believe one fat makes any difference over another. If you add 10% oil of virgin unicorn to your soap, and superfat it at 5%, you get about 0.5% of that special oil in your soap left unmolested.

Given the amount of soap that is actually used on the skin and for the short period of time it is actually in contact, I believe there's a lot of "Emperor's New Clothes" impressions on some of these low percentage, expensive additions. I've been soaping just about a year now so that that for what it's worth - but sometimes it just takes that one voice calling out to people to realize they've been misled. Or maybe I have the skin of a range Buffalo. Who knows.

Now there are unsaponifiables in each oil and those can make a difference since they are not tied up in the reaction. They are of course exposed to lye and there's no telling what happens to them but let's just assume for a moment that nothing does. Here's some SAP values of common oils:

Jojoba - .068
Lanolin - .076
Tallow - .136
Lard - .141
Stearic Acid - Vegetable - .148
Babassu Oil - .178
Coconut Oil - .181

So from this we can see that Coconut oil requires the most lye, and from that we can assume it converts more fully than the others listed. That makes sense from what we know of CO in soap - it leaves your skin very clean and very dry (generally). Let's assume for a moment that nearly 100% of the makeup of CO is converted - it seems pretty likely. Lanolin and Jojoba require the least amount of lye and therefore leave almost 50% of their weight in unaponifiables in the soap.

So now we see that a 100% CO soap with 0% SF would be very drying and a 100% Jojoba soap with 0% superfat would still be roughly 50% unsaponifiables. I'm not even sure that would make a solid bar of soap but let's assume for a moment it does. It makes sense that the Jojoba would be a very different experience on your skin.

Now go back to 10% of some super-expensive oil ... I'll pick Argan Oil at .136 SAP. That's a difference of 25%, so Argan oil leaves 25% of it's mass in unsaponifiables. If you multiply that by the 10% by weight you are using, that means 2.5% of your soap's mass is whatever magic substance is in there - the rest is from that same list of fatty acids everything else uses. Worth the money? Not my money.

So this is why you see some of the more experienced soapers settling back to a more simple formula that works - and they concentrate on color, scent, and packaging. Those three make more of an impact than 2.5% virgin unicorn essence ever will.

IMHO, YMMV, IANAL, and all that.
 
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Dahila

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I like combination of Avocado oil, OO, CO and lard/tallow. Sometimes I add cocoa butter at 7% or so, it does give a luxury feeling to the skin. I always add sodium lactate, and lately CA . Every soap I make is used by us, and my friends. so far so good. Many excellent ideas I got here, of course. When you check the forum regularly you collect so much knowledge, you must make some notes:)) Good luck Nikko with awesome soap, you are going to make very soon
 

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