Mentholated shaving soap woes

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Hi guys and girls.

So I've been working on a real good shaving soap and I'm getting close.

Went to add menthol to it today and the lather was still there, but didn't explode with lather like it usually did.

I can only think it could be 3 things:

  • Adding the menthol
  • Adding a different essesntial oil (grapefruit in this case)
  • making a small batch this time, and having a higher percentage of inaccuracy for the ingredients (it is a slightly different colour than my usual soap). However, I have made shaving soap with the same basic ingredients in different combinations before, and I have never had an issue like this.

So my question is this - is menthol or that EO especially known to reduce lather? I'm only using small quantities - 3g of menthol and 2.5ml of EO added to 100g of the oils.

Can anyone help?

Thanks

Soapy
 

LBussy

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So my question is this - is menthol or that EO especially known to reduce lather? I'm only using small quantities - 3g of menthol and 2.5ml of EO added to 100g of the oils.
I have a bit of experience with small batches and with menthol.

To start, 2.5ml of an EO seems like a lot and it will have moved your superfat a bit. All EO's are different and I've not used that one, but that amount is definitely enough to kill some lather. I don't know if grapefruit EO is specifically bad for lather, but I know citrus will kill the head on beer for instance.

3g of menthol in 100g is of course 3% and that's not a lot for a HP soap. A lot of it will "gass off" and that amount leaves a nice coolness.

What was the resolution on your scale? You'd definitely want one that goes at least down to .1g and preferably .01 g to reduce error.
 

MorpheusPA

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How are you adding the menthol? Is it an EO or are you making your own mix at home (don't laugh, I do this by dissolving menthol crystals in a bit of propylene glycol).
 

LBussy

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How are you adding the menthol? Is it an EO or are you making your own mix at home (don't laugh, I do this by dissolving menthol crystals in a bit of propylene glycol).
I didn't know there was a menthol EO (although it makes sense) ... I have about 5# of crystals that I use in darned near everything. :) They dissolve nicely in glycerin, oil, pretty much anything.
 

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I didn't know there was a menthol EO (although it makes sense) ... I have about 5# of crystals that I use in darned near everything. :) They dissolve nicely in glycerin, oil, pretty much anything.

Cool! Yes, they melt at a very low temperature and distribute well. My use of PG is really overkill.

I'm actually surprised that 3 g in 100 g of soap wasn't Menthol Overkill by a rather extreme amount, actually! Since menthol is, in and of itself, very waxy, that amount might be getting in the way of lathering a bit. But I wouldn't expect anything extreme.

However, 2.5 ml of EO (roughly 2.5 more grams) added to that mix is starting to get a little hefty. We're now at more than five percent additives, one oil, one wax, on top of any super fat you also used.

One thing to try (aside from posting the base recipe so TEG and others can look at it) is to make the soap without scent and with the menthol alone, and see what it acts like.
 

LBussy

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3% in an after-shave fels pretty chilly where 3% in a soap is pretty tame. I was a little surprised myself. I can only guess it's the heat from the HP driving it off.
 
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OK guys, let me start from the top.

Firstly, let me thank you for replying.

The level of smell of 2.5ml of EO is right (to me and my nose at least). I struggled with scent levels at first because the recipe uses unrefined oils so has its own basic scent. I have found through experimentation that this level overcomes the natural smell and gives a pleasant level of smell if you see what i mean.

I am superfatting at 5%.

my scales only weigh to the nearest gram. I do however, use best judgment where possible, but you are right - i need new scales. Having said that, this is my 9th batch and they have all been better than this. The have had all different levels of the same ingredients as I have refined my recipe so I can't see the accuracy of the scales being a problem.

Ingredients are beef tallow, stearic acid, castor oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, lanolin, and shea butter.
Lyes are sodium/potassium at a 60/40 mix respectively.
Also adding glycerine and kaolin clay. Have some bentonite clay too but haven't used it with the menthol yet.

The menthol is in crystal form, and this is the only time I've added it. Added it straight to the oils and allowed it all to melt while preparing the lye. I usually add the glycerin right at the end with the essential oils and clay - perhaps i should be dissolving the menthol in the glycerin first? That may cause less to burn off, so i can include less to get the same affect, and hopefully then the lather will be okay?

At 3%, it worked pretty well coolness wise. For those that may not know, there are shaving soaps coming out now that actually hurt when you splash your face with cold water after shaving - it feels nice on a hot summers day. Not a clue how much menthol is in them though.

I hope I have answered all your questions.

By the way, this is hot process in a crock pot and i could certainly feel the menthol coming off of the soap when i was staring at intervals.

Thanks for your help
 
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EOs and FOs don't count toward SF. They aren't saponifiable oils. In terms of being too much, it depends on the EO in question and I think grapefruit EO has a decent range of safe amounts. It is an interesting question about whether a citrus EO would decrease lather, compared to citrus in beer for instance. However, citrus juice versus an EO are different animals but still, is it just the acidity that makes the difference in beer or some other property?

Some places list 5% as a max for grapefruit EO in CP soap, so that would be 5 gms. I don't know how much the 2.5 ml weighed, but my guess would be less than 5gm- depends on the density of course.
 
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LBussy

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my scales only weigh to the nearest gram. I do however, use best judgment where possible, but you are right - i need new scales. Having said that, this is my 9th batch and they have all been better than this. The have had all different levels of the same ingredients as I have refined my recipe so I can't see the accuracy of the scales being a problem.
I do. You could be off nearly a gram; if you multiply that by your seven oils that's a potential 7 grams (or 7%) superfat increase over what you intended. By my count that's now 12% SF which certainly will impact lather.

I've added my menthol at the end of the cook with the superfat and the fragrance oils. It's a little easier on the eyes/sinuses. :)
EOs and FOs don't count toward SF. They aren't saponifiable oils.
A superfat is not saponified by definition through - so why wouldn't an unsaponifiable oil count towards it? Oil is oil. Not being pedantic, I don't understand why that's the case.

However, citrus juice versus an EO are different animals but still, is it just the acidity that makes the difference in beer or some other property?
It *appears* to be the citrus oils physical properties. I am not sure if it carries over to soap.
 
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Fragrance oils and essential oils aren't true oils. They have properties in common with oils but are not oils and are not counted toward superfat because of that. I think the definition of superfat is the amount of saponifiable oils that is left in the soap because there is not enough lye to react with them; FOs and EOs do not saponify at all so they are not counted toward that percentage. The same would hold for mineral oil; if you chose to add that to your soap for some reason, the amount you put in would not be added to your superfat, because mineral oil is not saponifiable. You are thinking unsaponified versus unsaponifiable. Sorry if that seems repetitive.

This issue of the citrus is interesting. I've never heard anyone say they've felt citrus scented soaps lather differently or less than soaps without, but now I feel like an experiment is in order!
 
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Thanks for the input. You are right, scales with higher accuracy certainly can't hurt.

You mention superfatting at the end - why? I just add all the oils at the beginning and then add all the lye. from the soap calc that allows you to select your superset level, it tweaks the lye amount according to the amount of oils you have stated you have. So why does it matter when you add the oils?

Oh and by the way, I understand the need to be accurate, but why weigh down to 0.1 of a gram when traces of the oils will stay on the container you weigh it in? I have weighed these up to 3g before. I imagine the best way is to make a big batch so that the inaccuracy is reduced, unless there is a better way that you guys can tell me about?
 
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LBussy

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Fragrance oils and essential oils aren't true oils. They have properties in common with oils but are not oils and are not counted toward superfat because of that. I think the definition of superfat is the amount of saponifiable oils that is left in the soap because there is not enough lye to react with them; FOs and EOs do not saponify at all so they are not counted toward that percentage.
I was thinking about this in the shower this morning so I'm glad you replied. Yes I understand that in the true definition of the term superfat or lye discount is that portion of the saponifiable oils which are left unreacted. Maybe a different term is in order. "Active fat"? "Effective superfat"?

What I'm getting at is let's say a fragrance oil or an EO blend is mixed with almond oil as a carrier. If that happens to be a fairly strong FO we would mix it in at .3 or .5%. We do not figure our recipe with that in mind. But when we add the fragrance the oil is absolutely there to have whatever impact it will. At .5% there's not much and it's likely within the margin of error for any given batch. At 2.5% it starts to become significant when we ponder why lather behaves differently.

You mention superfatting at the end - why? I just add all the oils at the beginning and then add all the lye. from the soap calc that allows you to select your superset level, it tweaks the lye amount according to the amount of oils you have stated you have. So why does it matter when you add the oils?
I'm trying to get used to a new pair of contacts or I'd go looking for a particular thread where we discuss this. Basically with hot process you get to choose which oil is expressed in the superfat because the saponification is done at the end of the cook. Let's say you decide to use your mighty expensive argan oil for your superfat. You add it in the oils up front at that 2.5%. For the sake of argument let's say it saponifies to the same degree as the others. If your superfat calculation is 2.5% the superfact makeup is a mixture of all the oils you've used at the ratios you've used them.

Now, your very expensive argan oil which you intended to be your very nice superfat at 2.5% is really 2.5% of 2.5% = 0.0625% of the unreacted argan oil in your superfat. If you fully cook your soap and then add the superfat at the end, you get to choose what oil is used to moisturize your face. You really get 2.5% argan oil.

Oh and by the way, I understand the need to be accurate, but why weigh down to 0.1 of a gram when traces of the oils will stay on the container you weigh it in? I have weighed these up to 3g before. I imagine the best way is to make a big batch so that the inaccuracy is reduced, unless there is a better way that you guys can tell me about?
Good question.

The short answer is to not leave anything behind. The long answer is as complicated as you want to make it. Let's say you weigh everything into one bowl first before going to the crockpot. Arguably when you transfer that over, anything left is a representative mixture of your original blend so all of them are "left behind" in equal percentages.

Another way would be to weigh everything into the crockpot. My scale has a 2KG capacity at 0.1g resolution, so I can do my 1lb batches that way. If you are making 100g batches you can weigh them into a screw-top food storage container and use that in a bain marie as your cooker. I made a bunch in just that way. I used a scale with 0.01g resolution when I did those.

There's also a method by which chemists very accurately weigh small amounts into containers too large for the more sensitive scales. In his book, Dr Dunn calls this "weighing synthetically." You measure slightly more than you need in a container of a size which is suitable for your smaller scale. Let's say you need that 2.5g. You put ~5g in a small cup (the exact amount is not necessary yet), put your dispensing device (a pipette or an eye dropper) in the cup and tare it. You dispense into the large, heavy container an amount that leaves the scale saying -2.50g when you let the pipette or dropper rest back in it. Now you have exactly 2.50 grams if you were careful. At least you had the potential to weigh that much. :)

By the way, I was hoping someone else would say it so I wouldn't always be "that guy" but nobody did. :silent: Try crafting your soap without the clay. A lot of folks have found that clay does not add anything to a well crafted soap - and there are a lot of shavers (me included) who will not use a soap with clay in it. It's worth an experiment at least.
 
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I was thinking about this in the shower this morning so I'm glad you replied. Yes I understand that in the true definition of the term superfat or lye discount is that portion of the saponifiable oils which are left unreacted. Maybe a different term is in order. "Active fat"? "Effective superfat"?

What I'm getting at is let's say a fragrance oil or an EO blend is mixed with almond oil as a carrier. If that happens to be a fairly strong FO we would mix it in at .3 or .5%. We do not figure our recipe with that in mind. But when we add the fragrance the oil is absolutely there to have whatever impact it will. At .5% there's not much and it's likely within the margin of error for any given batch. At 2.5% it starts to become significant when we ponder why lather behaves differently.


I'm trying to get used to a new pair of contacts or I'd go looking for a particular thread where we discuss this. Basically with hot process you get to choose which oil is expressed in the superfat because the saponification is done at the end of the cook. Let's say you decide to use your mighty expensive argan oil for your superfat. You add it in the oils up front at that 2.5%. For the sake of argument let's say it saponifies to the same degree as the others. If your superfat calculation is 2.5% the superfact makeup is a mixture of all the oils you've used at the ratios you've used them.

Now, your very expensive argan oil which you intended to be your very nice superfat at 2.5% is really 2.5% of 2.5% = 0.0625% of the unreacted argan oil in your superfat. If you fully cook your soap and then add the superfat at the end, you get to choose what oil is used to moisturize your face. You really get 2.5% argan oil.


Good question.

The short answer is to not leave anything behind. The long answer is as complicated as you want to make it. Let's say you weigh everything into one bowl first before going to the crockpot. Arguably when you transfer that over, anything left is a representative mixture of your original blend so all of them are "left behind" in equal percentages.

Another way would be to weigh everything into the crockpot. My scale has a 2KG capacity at 0.1g resolution, so I can do my 1lb batches that way. If you are making 100g batches you can weigh them into a screw-top food storage container and use that in a bain marie as your cooker. I made a bunch in just that way. I used a scale with 0.01g resolution when I did those.

There's also a method by which chemists very accurately weigh small amounts into containers too large for the more sensitive scales. In his book, Dr Dunn calls this "weighing synthetically." You measure slightly more than you need in a container of a size which is suitable for your smaller scale. Let's say you need that 2.5g. You put ~5g in a small cup (the exact amount is not necessary yet), put your dispensing device (a pipette or an eye dropper) in the cup and tare it. You dispense into the large, heavy container an amount that leaves the scale saying -2.50g when you let the pipette or dropper rest back in it. Now you have exactly 2.50 grams if you were careful. At least you had the potential to weigh that much. :)

By the way, I was hoping someone else would say it so I wouldn't always be "that guy" but nobody did. :silent: Try crafting your soap without the clay. A lot of folks have found that clay does not add anything to a well crafted soap - and there are a lot of shavers (me included) who will not use a soap with clay in it. It's worth an experiment at least.

Extremely interesting! It's going to take me a while to read and digest all that. Thanks!
 
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I thought FO's were not sold already in a carrier oil and the same with EO's. I don't work with EO's much but that always seems to be a quality issue- getting a pure EO that is not diluted with anything else. If a person puts them in a carrier, then that should be accounted for in the recipe but straight out of the bottle, they don't count (for fat calculation, of course). I have made layered soaps with one scent in one layer and a different one inthe other. Sometimes the hardness of the finished soap is pretty different from one layer to the other. If an FO can affect the hardness or texture so quickly, does it affect the quality of the lather from the soap? I don't know but it's an interesting question, same as the citrus one.
 

LBussy

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I thought FO's were not sold already in a carrier oil and the same with EO's. I don't work with EO's much but that always seems to be a quality issue- getting a pure EO that is not diluted with anything else. If a person puts them in a carrier, then that should be accounted for in the recipe but straight out of the bottle, they don't count (for fat calculation, of course). I have made layered soaps with one scent in one layer and a different one inthe other. Sometimes the hardness of the finished soap is pretty different from one layer to the other. If an FO can affect the hardness or texture so quickly, does it affect the quality of the lather from the soap? I don't know but it's an interesting question, same as the citrus one.
It is an interesting thing. Of course unless you know you start with absolutely pure EO's there's no way to know. I went searching for ANY information on fragrance oils and about all I was able to figure out is "it depends." The differing flashpoints alone lead one to believe none are like the other.

So I suppose I'm back to "I have no idea" but it would be easy enough for the OP to test out.

Unless one wants to experience horrible flashbacks from college statistics class, avoiding changing two things at once is likely A Very Good Idea™. I could probably figure out how to figure covariance again, but I would not enjoy it.
 

LBussy

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She's much easier to believe.
Gee, thanks.

I still stand by my assertion that at some point, adding an oil whether it is saponifiable or not, has the same impact on the soap (we were talking about lather suppression).

Or we can just cut both ends off the roast.
 

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Okay, now that someone hollered my name over here, I've wandered over to see what the party is all about.

"...So my question is this - is menthol or that EO especially known to reduce lather?..."

I haven't heard anything about this, but that doesn't mean it isn't an issue, just that I haven't heard about it. I think, however, this is the least of your problems. Like others have said, I don't think the level of measurement accuracy is sufficient for the small batch size. You've also used about 5% fragrance by weight and that really is quite a lot, so you might want to reconsider your perception that this is only a small quantity of fragrance. It's a total guess at this point whether the lather problem is due to an overly superfatted batch caused by measurement error or due to the fragrances used. It's not reasonable to speculate much more about this when it's clear (at least to me) that improvements in quality control and more hands-on testing are needed.

So moving on to the discussion of whether EOs or FOs do have an impact on lather quality or other properties of soap. I'm game to talk about that. Frankly, I haven't seen any great effect of FO or EO on lather quality, but I'm not a straight razor shaver so I'll concede the fine nuances of shave soap lather are lost on me. What I have seen is that the more fragrance I use in my soap, the softer the soap can be right after saponification is over. I've attributed it to the fact that EOs and FOs are liquids and more liquid in the batter means more softness in the finished soap -- it's basically the equivalent of soaping with a lower concentration of lye solution (more water) vs. soaping with a higher lye concentration (less water).

I suppose different EOs or FOs will affect the hardness to different degrees, just as more or less sodium lactate or mango puree or milk or salt or sugar or [insert any other additive here] can affect hardness to varying degrees. It hasn't been enough of a problem for me to change my methods so far, but it may be worth thinking about -- I'm always game to do better with my soap making.
 
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Lee, I should re-state: She is more believable than I. My prior statement was not directed at you but at myself.

I don't necessarily disagree with you that additives can affect the outcome of the soap. I just disagreed that EOs and FOs should be calculated as SF.
 
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