lye heavy?

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Jan 26, 2017
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Hello, I've been making a few different batches of soap, running them through a lye calculator, following the recipes religiously, and yet they seem to be harsh on my skin. I have done the zap test...nothing. But when I test them with the ph test strip from the drug store, they come out with a very high ph. I am testing soaps made from hot process, cold process varying from 2 weeks to 6 weeks old. They all seem to come out high...turning the strip a dark purple, which I've read means very high...I have no idea what I'm doing wrong. Any ideas?
Well soap by nature has a high pH, around 10... maybe a bit less depending on the fatty acid mix of the oils you use. When you say "harsh" what do you mean? Also providing your recipe might help.
recipe example

good suggestion! Here's one recipe that I've tried.

1 oz castor oil (2.9%)
3 oz coconut oil virgin (8.6%)
1 oz jojoba oil (2.9%)
28 oz olive oil (80%)
2 oz shea butter (5.7%)
4.41 oz lye
11.55 oz water

traced very nicely, poured into molds, unmolded in 2 days, quite soft, which I expected because of it's large olive oil content (I was hoping to use it as a baby soap...) by harsh, I mean it dries out my hands.

no zap, but ph is showing at around 12 - 14. :???:
Can you describe this harshness? Homemade soap generally feels different to use than commercial soaps do. Also, since when have you been making soap? Is the colder/different weather affecting your skin and it happens to coincide with starting to use your own soap?
How long of a cure time does it have? With that high a percentage of OO it will take at least 6 months to be soap.( IMHO)
Lye discount is %5 according to my calculations which means that unless there was a weighing error it should not be lye heavy.
I'm fairly new at this soap making thing...about 2 months. I don't think it has much to do with the weather, I've just noticed that with some of the soaps that I've let cure for 6 weeks, like the above recipe, when I test them, my hands need moisturizing after. So by harshness, I mean dryness.

Also, I expected the OO soap to take longer to cure and get hard...will it also need a longer time for the ph to lower to an acceptable level? Perhaps I just need more patience and need to wait it out...
The recipe looks okay as far as not too much lye. I wouldn't use any newly made soap right away and expect it to be at its best -- it's always worth waiting about a month -- but it sounds like you know that.

What are you comparing your soap to -- a commercial "cleansing" bar, perhaps? The Gent is correct that a cleansing bar with some synthetic detergents (syndets) will have a different skin feel from handcrafted soap. So ... have you compared your soap to someone else's handmade soap? If so, how does your soap compare to that?

Do you have hard water? Soap scum created when soap reacts with hard water minerals can make your skin feel sticky and taut. Syndets don't make soap scum, but real soap can.
As far as I know, pH strips are wildly inaccurate when it comes to soap or other non-liquid substances. As long as you're using a good kitchen scale and not getting a "zap", the pH should be in the normal 9-10 range for lye-based soap bars. You can't change this pH much.

No bar of lye-based soap will ever be "moisturizing". My skin usually feels squeaky clean after using a normal recipe. Perhaps with a more gentle recipe with a higher superfat, you won't get as much as a "squeak", but your hands will never feel moisturized after using a bar of soap.

Generally, soaps will become more mild as they cure. Some soaps benefit from curing for over a year! So if the soap is only a few weeks old, it should improve greatly over the months.
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after using my soap well cured soap 8 weeks plus, I do not need body lotion, only maybe for my feet after shower. Somehow my skin recovered from the abuse it was exposed when I had used body wash:))
I does not dry our skin at all.
The other thing I forgot to mention earlier is that in the winter I have been known to make a "few " batches with a higher lye discount ( superfat). For this very reason. Our inside air is very dry and drying in the winter with our heating system.
Your soap needs a longer cure before it will even begin to feel any kind of gentle. With that much olive oil in that batch, you need another 6 weeks before you might start to see a difference. I also find olive oil to be deceptively harsher than some other oils so I tend to substitute another oil for some of it. Maybe you're reacting to the olive oil? It's hard to say. I say keep that batch and try it again after 6 weeks and record your observations. After you try it again, repeat for another 6 weeks or try a tester on a weekly basis even.
Thank you for your suggestions and advice...they are greatly appreciated! It seems the consensus is to wait it out a few more weeks at least and trust the science and the zap...Or lack thereof .