Hi everyone! I'm pretty new to soap making, but am really trying to start my own business! I'm active duty Navy and would like to have something going for when my contract is up. I'm currently working on formulating my own recipes for what will eventually be my own products. I guess my question is this: When making a new batch of soap, I've noticed that the top part of my loaf will turn out sort of crumbly. The activated charcoal will be black throughout the bar, but gray towards the top where the texture has changed. This is the same for Brazilian Pink Clay. Is this due to the recipe itself? The air exposure? I haven't figured out insulation to allow for gel phase quite yet, would this issue be resolved if the soap were allowed to gel? My recipe is: 6% Avocado Butter 10 % Avocado Oil 30% Coconut Oil 6% Mango Butter 30% Olive Oil 18% Shea Butter I've used a 5% superfat and water is set at 38% This is the only recipe I've done trial and error with so far, my resources are limited so I'm doing my best to be calculated in every batch that I make in an effort to not waste any materials and always make progress forward. Any help or advice or experience that anyone would be able to share with me would be greatly appreciated!!! Charcoal (and any other additive, I sometimes have this problem with oatmeal) can settle to the bottom if you pour too thin. I find that my soap works best poured at medium trace, when the batter feels like a thin to stiffening pudding. It still pours, but if I mix for two more minutes, it wouldn't, and the bowl requires scraping. Crumbly top can be any number of things, from letting it set too long before cutting, to lye heavy, to strange amounts of water. None of those seem like an issue, but...I'd try a small batch solving the separation issue first and see what happens. Pics please? Google soda ash - that might be what you are describing. Also, a lot of us posters here have strong feelings about people planning to sell when they are just starting out. So you might get some strong reactions! I sprayed the batch with alcohol, would soda ash exist internally other than just on the surface? My intentions aren't really anybody else's business, but since people here would apparently like to judge me without knowing any details of what my hopes are for my future, let me go ahead and clear it up. I'm not here for drama or to be judged, I'm here to learn and gain knowledge from those who have more experience than I do. I have 2 1/2 years of active duty service left. I am 7 months pregnant and will owe more time at sea after I have my son, so the 2 1/2 years will be more like 3 1/2 years. My hope is to start now in being proactive about creating something that will eventually be a real business. I'm not saying that I'm going to make a questionable batch tonight and go and sell it in 2 days just because I feel like making some cash. I am trying to learn how to do things the right way, to learn tips and tricks about how to improve so that one day in the next few years I'll be able to have a product and have the knowledge and experience to begin a more entrepreneurial chapter of my life. Honestly, I'm not too concerned with other people's judgments or negative opinions about how I go about planning for my future. I enjoy making soap just like everyone else here. I love the freedom and creativity that can go into every batch, as well as the respectable aspect of real life chemical reaction between materials to create a product that we use every day. So even if this doesn't blossom into a business like I hope it will, I will still continue to make my own batches as a creative and intriguing hobby. I hope that cleared up your "strong feelings" about my personal life. The batch doesn't really separate, just has a different texture along the surface. I'm not able to post pictures right now, but once I get home in a little while I'll be able to post some so you'll be able to see what I mean. I agree with this assessment. Way to be proactive. Best wishes. Carol Ignore the fact that in this particular batch, there were other mistakes that I made which I’m aware of and the batch definitely didn’t turn out as well as it did the first time around. The first picture with the beyond messy swirls is this most recent batch I’ve made and the texture difference is obvious. The second picture of the prettier bars was the first and worked out just as I’d hoped, apart from the texture difference at the surface. In the first batch I had put Himalayan Salt on top, meant to be decorative, but it fell off quickly and didn’t look as appealing afterwards. For the second batch (the one I learned lots of lessons with) I had ended up grinding up the salt to a finer grit and incorporated a little of it in the pink swirl as a mild exfoliant. I’m planning to leave it out altogether the next time I make this recipe. When you say water is set at 38%, are you talking about lye concentration? I would hesitate a guess that you are not, which means that your lye concentration is quite low (around 27-28%), and that leads to easy ash formation. You can even achieve an ash swirl if you pour a thin batter at this low lye concentration Increasing your lye concentration (to around 33%) can go a long way to help alleviate ash formation, as can gelling the soap. Basically, anything that forces the lye to react with the oils, instead of moving around and reacting with the air, will reduce the ash. Some people spritz the top with alcohol (which apparently melts a little soap and forms a temporary barrier that allows the lye to react with the oils first), others CPOP (using an oven to force a full, and quicker, gel) and yet others pour at a thicker trace. It's up to you what techniques, or combination of techniques, work for your soaping style. Himalayan Salt, even as small ground-up crystals, is sharp enough to cut your skin without you feeling it (initially - then it's like multiple paper cuts). There's a detailed explanation here, on the culture dixiedragon was trying to give you the heads up about. The water as % of oil weight is 38% which is what the lye calculator automatically sets to unless you adjust it, I use an app on my phone called Soap Calc Pro as well as running it through the BrambleBerry Calculator just to verify. How would I increase lye concentration, or even calculate that to find the value, in my recipes? This is all so helpful, in all of the reading I’ve done I haven’t come across anyone who’s talked real in depth about lye concentration as a percentage or the production of soda ash. I did not know any of that about Himalayan Salt, it basically has a microdermabrasion effect? I really appreciate all of the information Salted Fig!