Non-Fading Natural Colorants

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makemineirish

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I am quite happy to use oxides, ultramarines, and micas. However, I would like to experiment with some truly natural colorants for my "crunchy granola" friends. I have browsed through all the threads on this forum and the Soapmaking Resource to identify which herbs/seeds/flowers yield the most vivid results.

My research thus far has indicated that a number of natural colorants fade significantly (especially greens) over time. I have not yet found a thread that addresses this particular issue and wondered if y'all had any input on which colorants retained their initial hue. Did you find that any of those that you experimented with had real longevity...or do they all fade to colors that are relatively unsatisfactory?
 

topofmurrayhill

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I am quite happy to use oxides, ultramarines, and micas. However, I would like to experiment with some truly natural colorants for my "crunchy granola" friends. I have browsed through all the threads on this forum and the Soapmaking Resource to identify which herbs/seeds/flowers yield the most vivid results.

My research thus far has indicated that a number of natural colorants fade significantly (especially greens) over time. I have not yet found a thread that addresses this particular issue and wondered if y'all had any input on which colorants retained their initial hue. Did you find that any of those that you experimented with had real longevity...or do they all fade to colors that are relatively unsatisfactory?
I was very interested in natural colorants. The more I experimented with them, the less interested I became. Yes, they mostly fade and look crappy relatively quickly, and there are other problems.

Indigo doesn't fade, but using it in soap is a kludge. In real life, there is some clever chemistry that goes into dying clothes with it, and it looks great. You can't do that with soap, in which it's just an odd pigment. It may not fully disperse, so there are likely to be little dots. The color you get can be unpredictable and it's generally nothing to write home about. People say it's blue. But let's call it "blue."

Alkanet root is one of the few things that gets you a decent and relatively stable color, but it's not concentrated. You have to use a sizable amount of alkanet-infused oil. Therefore, if you want more than one color to swirl or whatever, you will probably make separate batches of soap and swirl them together.

Activated charcoal is a very good colorant. Some clays can be decent.

I ultimately decided to use oxides and ultramarines. They are nature equivalent and look innocuous on an ingredient list. I skip the mica for the more natural-oriented soaps because it can contain any colorant under the sun and doesn't always look good on the label.

I'm a foodie. I like cooking and I like eating good food. Some people are going to like natural colors the same way my parents believe gluten-free food and uncured bacon are good. It's what they're into. I just have my own perspective and I hope it helps.
 

Seawolfe

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Natural colors (besides brown) that I have found that word reliably in CP soap are activated charcoal, carrots and carrot juice, infusions of alkanet, madder root & anatto seeds. I've heard good things about paprika. Hemp oil adds green, as does French green clay. Moroccan red clay is nice too.
 

mintle

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I agree with clays, charcoal, annato and cocoa powder not fading. Madder root, indigo, carrot puree and alkanet fade a bit in my soap over time (like after a few months) , but not to an extent that they are not useful, still ok. Havent found a way to have more vivid natural greens though :/ since the green clay results in a green-grey tint.
 

Saponista

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Paprika definitely holds for a long time, but is a pain in the same way as alkanet as it has to be infused in oil. I am of exactly the same mind as topofmurrayhill. After experimenting with natural colours and having unpredictable, unsatisfactory results with most of them, I turned to oxides and other mineral pigments. I see some lovely pictures of just unmoulded soap in groups in Facebook and they are beautiful, but no one reposts pictures after a six week cure to show exactly what they end up with. I am also dubious of the ones with flower petals on top. I have never yet achieved an effect that doesn't go brown and faded and ugly after cure.
 

paillo

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Cocoa, activated charcoal. Clays - pink, Brazilian purple, Brazilian yellow (both Brambleberry), orange, rose, green, Moroccan red - all the clays are pretty dull and earth-toned but still lovely. Pureed avocado and cucumber are pale but pretty and keep their color. Pureed tomato has kept its color for years, I have some oolldd soap still vibrant orange. Those are the only ones I still use for natural color. Otherwise oxides, ultramarines and yes, mica, I love the sparkly Flares from Nurture.

And as someone else mentioned, yes, fresh pureed pumpkin stays gorgeous. The canned stuff does not, murky brown...
 
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dixiedragon

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Beta carotene does fade, but it takes a while. I have some soap that was a vivid orange and blue and is not blue and white, but it's about 2 years old.

Clays last. I like rose clay and Moroccan clay. I have some purple Brazilian clay from BB I want to try.

I don't like spirulina.
 

Seawolfe

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Oh and I forgot everyone's favorite - red palm! I really like the orange if you use just a bit.
 

makemineirish

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I see some lovely pictures of just unmoulded soap in groups in Facebook and they are beautiful, but no one reposts pictures after a six week cure to show exactly what they end up with. I am also dubious of the ones with flower petals on top. I have never yet achieved an effect that doesn't go brown and faded and ugly after cure.
This is my concern. I can find a number of blog posts detailing the colorants and techniques used. Soapmaking Resource has some nice picture comparisons of differing concentrations. However, they are all immediately after unmolding. I was in love with the color that spirulina imparted until I read that chlorophyll-based greens fade quickly, unattractively, and sometimes before your soap has completed its cure:confused:. I have no intention of converting to natural colorants. However, I would like to pick a few standouts to make a couple of soaps with for my "nothing touches me that has not been birthed from Mother Earth" friends".

I do not mean to sound dismissive of this viewpoint. I am an environmentalist myself and think that most of us who choose to DIY personal products do so out of a desire to be selective in the ingredients. I am just not necessarily at the extreme end of the spectrum. I'm happy to use a phthalate-free fragrance oil when a natural option may be irresponsible (sandalwood), present health concerns (oakmoss), or does not exist (champagne). Likewise, I have no problem with nature-identical pigments and appreciate sparkle or shimmer as a design element (while typically not attracted to "bling" otherwise).

I am a research fiend and feel that if something can be done, I can figure out how. Azulene sounded promising, but was largely unavailable and apparently cost the earth ($65/5g or $670/kg + shipping). Blue Chamomile, which was slightly more accessible and contained azulene, did not appear to be an effective substitute. Therefore, I am a bit determined to attempt the capricious indigo (out of sheer stubbornness) in the hopes of getting something blue-ish that is reliable.

If I have any success in my trials, I will be happy to post follow-up pictures six months later...since it does not seem to exist elsewhere on the web:grin:

Actually, it is probably more important to post the photos even if they are failures (a more likely scenario), as a cautionary tale. I would appreciate that myself right now.http://www.soapmakingforum.com//www.pinterest.com/pin/create/extension/
 
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green soap

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My experience has been good with indigo, alkanet, annatto and calendula. The last three I use in in oil infusions.

Madder root makes a lovely color, but for me it faded. Low concentrations of paprika give a nice peach, but it also faded. If you use more paprika, you can get a really nice brick red color, which will accelerate trace. I now use rose clay for rose and reddish colors.

Activated charcoal works beautifully for black/gray, but leaves a grittiness I don't like.

Other approaches are tomato, pumpkin, carrot. Tomato works surprisingly well, but I rather just eat them! Cocoa powder works well for brown, but getting brown never seems too difficult.

The colors are a lot more subdued than with oxides or micas, which for me is a very good thing. Your crunchy friends will probably appreciate them too.

I make green by mixing indigo and either annatto or calendula in different proportions. Chlorophyll will work very well but it can shorten the live of your soaps (DOS or early rancidity). I found this out the hard way, this is why I mix my blue (indigo) and yellows (annatto and calendula) now for greens.
 

green soap

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Here are some pictures showing some of my greens (and others).

For indigo, I recommend the jacquard product sold by Dharma trading (they sell several natural dyes). The indigo needs to be dissolved in the water BEFORE adding the lye. A little mortar and pestle crushing will help get rid of the blue dot effect.

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makemineirish

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Here are some pictures showing some of my greens (and others).

For indigo, I recommend the jacquard product sold by Dharma trading (they sell several natural dyes). The indigo needs to be dissolved in the water BEFORE adding the lye. A little mortar and pestle crushing will help get rid of the blue dot effect.
The colors that you have achieved are remarkable. The soaps are gorgeous. I had intended to try combining more stable blues and yellows to achieve greens when the reviews of chlorophyll-based options indicated their intransigence. I am encouraged by your success. I already had a cart with Dharma as I had found information on using indigo crystals elsewhere and was intrigued. They were also the only supplier that I found with cochineal, which I really wanted to play with. Manjistha and woad were interesting, but required me to order them individually from other suppliers and were less cost-efficient options that I was not sure were worth it.

I like the idea of playing with some new materials, but do not sell and often have an "eyes bigger than my stomach" problem. The number of things that I want to try outpace the rate at which I can consume them. I try to adjust for this by making tiny batches, which is why I do not balk as often on more costly ingredients. That being said, I still hate wasting my money, time, or efforts to achieve lackluster results...on anything. I understand that a learning curve is unavoidable, but hope that diligent research makes mine just a little steeper. (The significant other is my polar opposite in this and feels that the learning is all in the doing... with only cursory research required.) Thank you for being so generous with your information pictures:mrgreen:.
 
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penelopejane

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You might want to research cochineal. If you use the real thing you can't call your soap vegan because it is crushed tiny animals. Some people are highly allergic to it.

BB champagne is phthalate free.
 

makemineirish

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I spoke with Dharma Trading's customer service and got some information that I felt was worth passing along. The indigo crystals are nature identical, but laboratory synthesized which eliminates them as an option for me in light of my parameters. More importantly, none of their colorants are food or cosmetic-grade as they are not processed in a clean facility. This is not an issue for my personal soap, but I feel a little uncomfortable using those ingredients in gift soap. The search continues...

This raises the question, can it be assumed that all food-grade items are cosmetic-grade...or are the legal intricacies trickier than that? (I am now spinning out into labeling regulation research.)
 
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penelopejane

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This raises the question, can it be assumed that all food-grade items are cosmetic-grade...or are the legal intricacies trickier than that? (I am now spinning out into labeling regulation research.)
Food grade is higher than cosmetic grade. Look up FDA regulations. They allow some % of contaminates in cosmetic grade.

But what is food grade (for eg: colourants) does not necessarily work in CP soap.
 
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joy.

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Here are a couple samples of my color tests. The skulls were made late August, the square and butterfly are from June.

Left to right:
Annatto, infused in oil and ground seeds added; plain white control; alkanet powder infused and added at trace (this started out brown for me and didn't seem to fade much, if any); alfalfa, infused and some dried added; organic indigo, infused (this is not the blue powder - it's organic unrefined ground indigofera tinctoria plant leaves)

I haven't played with alkanet since, but I'm really happy with the results from the rest. I also like turmeric, paprika and wheatgrass infused in oils, but I can't find my tests. I think someone must have used them.

colors.jpg
 
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SplendorSoaps

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For natural greens I'd stay away from spirulina (it fades like crazy), but I've had pretty good luck with spinach powder.

I also really like madder root powder (pink/red), turmeric (yellow/orange), orange illite clay, rose kaolin clay (pink), alkanet root (purple), and indigo (blue). As others have mentioned, vegetable purees can work nicely. I especially like the pumpkin puree.

ETA: The pic in my profile to the left has some natural colorants in it. The upper left soap is a patchouli orange that uses orange illite on the bottom, cocoa powder in the center, and calendula petals on the top. The soap on the top right uses madder root for the pink, and the soap on the bottom left uses alkanet for the darker purple. The other colors that I used were micas, iron oxides, and ultramarines.
 

CaraBou

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I'm traveling, and happen to have with me in my hotel room a 15 month old bar made with beta carotene as the base color. I The photo of the uncut / unused bar from the same batch was uploaded to FB on 11/12/14 (and downloaded to my smartphone tonite). I'm very happy with the color retention of the bc. And it still smells great too (orange-patch)! The other colors are brick oxide, orange mica and AC.
 

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