Soap Makes my Skin Feel Tight and Sticky

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Aug 5, 2015
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I am a new soap maker, and have completed quite a few recipes from Ann Marie's Soap Crafting book. Every single one of my soaps makes my skin feel sticky and tight. I let them cure for 6 weeks. All soaps are SF from 5-7%. I use the recommended amount of fragrance as per the fragrance calculator. I hate the feel of my soaps and need help.

For example the recipe I have been using lately:

20% CO
15% PO
55% OO
5% Hemp oil
5% Mango butter Superfatted 7% Use double the lye weight for water weight.
I agree with EG and think you might want to look at adding a chelator to your recipe. Something like sodium citrate, citric acid or EDTA. Even in the soft water I have, you can feel a definite improvement.
Welcome Lina

Three things come into my mind that they maybe make your skin feel that way.

You may have a type of skin that is sensitive to CO, and you can try lowering it even less than 20%. You may also have very hard water where you live and it might be for the soap scum that all the soaps create. Finally it may also be for the 7% superfat that leaves an oily / sticky feeling on your skin.

Hello Lina and welcome to the forum. Sorry to hear your soaps are making your skin feel tight and sticky. A couple of thoughts about your recipe that you provided, I would cut the coconut oil down to 15%, a lot of people find it aggravates their skin at higher percentages, or alternatively use palm kernel oil which is said to be milder. Any reason you are using hemp and mango butter. It might be a good idea to stick to basic oils till you know what feels good on your skin and then start experimenting. I would also do full water at 38% whilst you are still finding that perfect combination of oils. The high olive oil percentage will make your soap soft for some time and I would suggest upping your palm oil more and decreasing the olive oil. A nice additive is Castor oil, it helps with the lather and is used a lot by soapers at maximum of 5%. Please note I have only be soaping a year so I am sure other more seasoned soapers will come along later and give you more and probably better advice. Good luck and welcome to the addiction!!
Thanks Saponista. Which one of these chelators would you recommend, and do you have tips on how to add it to my soap?
I use citric acid (because I already had some for bath bombs).

This is the money shot in that thread about CA or SC from our resident guru:

Typical dosage: 10 g citric acid for every 1,000 g oils (1% ppo). Range 0.1% to 3%.

Citric acid and Sodium hydroxide (NaOH) make Sodium citrate in soap
10 g citric acid neutralizes 6.24 g NaOH

Citric acid and Potassium hydroxide (KOH) make Potassium citrate in soap
10 g citric acid neutralizes 8.42 g KOH

Stir the citric acid into the water you will use to make your lye solution. Add the lye to the water and proceed with your recipe as usual.



If dosage rate you want for citric acid is 1%, the equivalent dosage for sodium citrate is 1.3%

If dosage rate you want for citric acid is 1%, the equivalent dosage for potassium citrate is 1.6%

Do NOT add additional lye if you are using potassium or sodium citrate. Extra lye is only needed if you are using citric acid.

Stir the citrate into the water you will use to make your lye solution. Add the lye to the water and proceed with your recipe as usual.


"...I used to add the SC to my water before the lye but I added sugar and salt once too and something didn't work. They all appeared to be dissolved but when I'd added my lye and let it cool I had crystals in the bottom - these could have been salt, sugar, SC or lye...."

It was most likely the salt falling out of solution as fine crystals when the lye changed the solubility of salt in the mixture. People see this with the lye solution for solseife soaps; that's why the advice is given to add the salt first and the lye second -- any salt that falls out of solution when the lye is added are tiny crystals that aren't objectionable in the finished soap. If you do the reverse, some of the salt crystals won't ever dissolve and they will remain as larger particles in the finished lye solution, so you'd want to strain them out for appearance's sake.


"...I don't add any sodium citrate to the lye water. I did that once and it heated up a lot which concerned me..."

The heating created by dissolving trisodium citrate (the usual stuff you'd use) in water is very small -- in a typical recipe (see below) the temp rise would be about 1.2 deg F (0.7 C). I don't think there should be any other chemical reaction going on with the citrate that should add more heat, so I'm a bit puzzled by your finding. Not to say it wasn't real, just I'm not understanding what's going on fully.

There ~is~ some heating caused by including citric acid (CA) in a soap recipe. I did some digging today and if the numbers I found are correct, here's what you'd get for adding citric acid:

If I dissolved 10 g CA in 400 g of water (a round-number amount of water for a "full water" recipe with about 1000 g of oils), and added just the lye needed to react with the citric acid, I calculate that should release about 3000 calories of heat. The temperature rise in the water caused by this heat release would be about 13.5 deg F (7.5 C). (I'm focusing just on the heat released by the CA and NaOH reaction and ignoring the much larger amount of heat released by dissolving the lye in the water without any CA involved.)

I don't know if that temperature rise is "a lot" compared with the temp rise caused by dissolving lye in water, but it's certainly there.

Whether you add the CA to the water or add it to the oils or whatever, the same amount of calories will be created by the reaction of the NaOH and the CA. If you add CA to the fats, you are basically causing the reaction to happen later in your soap batter rather than up front in the lye solution. The temperature rise in this case will be somewhat lower because there's more mass in the soap batter vs in the lye solution, but a temp rise will still happen. This ~might~ increase the rate of trace, so it's something to keep in mind if you are working to get a slow-trace soap.

Other possibilities are that you are sensitive to the coconut oil, or mango butter perhaps (can you eat mangos all right?). I personally dont like much palm in my soap. It's all so personal, but its great when you make that perfect soap for you.
you could also be allergic to any of the oils or fragrance oils you might be using. I am assuming the recipes in that book are tried and tested ones as it comes from a well known soaper, but that doesn't mean they will be perfect for every single person. So you could try eliminating one oils in each of your next batches. I am also assuming that you are still taking care to run your recipes through a lye/soap calculator, and measuring everything in grams. If that is not the case, you need to elaborate what you are actually doing here so we can troubleshoot better. I have never lived in a hard water area, so I do not actually know how soap scum feels on skin, but sticky sounds right to me and I know that handmade soaps form more scum than syndets. thankfully there is an easy fix for that, chelators. Make your choice and use it in every single batch. You might want to try this first and if it doesn't work, do the single oil eliminations.
I totally agree with the other folks' suggestions for the tight feeling. But I'm wondering about the sticky feeling... Are you giving your soaps a nice, long cure? I don't like OO above 40% until my soap cures for a couple of months. I don't get slime, but it does feel a bit sticky on my skin - like it doesn't wash off without some real effort.
It would help if you wrote out the recipe in actual weights used, including water and any additives. It helps us narrow down what is actually going on, and we may know that "X" FO or "Y" colorant causes issues.

Also, are you running those recipes through a lye calculator for yourself? Typos happen, and you need to be sure you are using the right amount of lye.
Lina, I think it's great that you started out using recipes from a book from someone who knows what they are doing. For me, that might have been a bit of a problem b/c I would think you'd then end up using a bunch of different oils in different combinations, so it would be really hard to figure out exactly what was going wrong for *you*. Given the fact that they have all ended in the same result, I agree w/everyone above, it seems as if it likely has something to do w/your skin needs or your water.

What have other folks that have used them (in your area) say? If they like them, you might be able to eliminate the hard water issue. I have incredibly hard water, you can tell b/c using hand made soaps w/it results in much more scum than sydets, it my case it coats the shower and all the bits of me that it can reach. If you have it, yours may not be as bad, but you should be able to tell from the increase in the scum.

I use EDTA as a chelater, I like it b/c there you just mix it w/distilled water rather than having to juggle the lye amounts, I am not a math person and am always afraid that I'll absent-mindedly make a mistake. I make the EDTA solution in batches and keep it pre-mixed in a squeezie bottle so that it is easy to grab and add to every soap batch. Some people do prefer CA b/c it is more "natural".

Re all the recipes, with all the different oils, it might be good to start w/a really basic one that is likely to be good for dry skin and tweak it. Many of us like and recommend high lard soaps for this purpose, and just generally, really.

Aside: I know you guys are going to be like: "here she goes about the lard again!" In doing a search for something lately, I came across a post titled "Get off my %$& about the lard already" and thought it was from someone who had had enough of the lard drum-thumping from us devotees, actually s/he was talking about her customers who didn't like the idea of it! Anyway, it is really moisturizing, slow tracing, makes a great bar of soap.
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Random thought: these recipe books, they are strange b/c although I think maybe they are good for inspiration purposes sometimes, I don't know how much practical utility they have.

Ie; I think most of us would tell a v. new soaper to start w/the basic, tried-and-true oils, slowly tweak and add to see how they work for you, and then go from there with other oils/additives. By the time we've spent months and made zillions of batches doing that, we have a decent idea of what we like and are likely to want to make our own recipes, w/our own adjustments, rather than using a book. I personally did not do the "exploration of the fancy oil universe" thing in the beginning b/c (a) it was too expensive to get little bits of all those costly oils; (b) you couldn't selectively superfat unless you did HP, which I didn't, and (c) it intuitively seemed like it would not make much sense to use them in soap b/c they washed off, but I know many newbies get really excited about that.

Plus, in the end, I think many/most really experienced soapers end up using mostly the staple oils for most of their soaps anyway. Mavens, is this generally true? Anyway, not so much a fan of recipe books.
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Hi Lina! Thought I'd throw in some thoughts in case you find them helpful to your situation. The recipe sounds lovely. The CO & PO percents add up to 35% in hard oils. When I began, one rule suggested was that total hard oils be a minimum of 40%. Some recipes (especially older ones) actually use olive oil as a hardening oil as well as a conditioning oil, and it seems this one does. I have also found longer cure times good for OO. The hemp & mango are also softer oils, and may contribute to the sticky feeling until they are cured. Like you, I usually try the soap at 6 weeks, because I can't stand not to! But I have learned not to make a final judgement on a batch until it has gone through a 5-6 month cure if more than 20% OO is used.(Heavens!! Really that long???) Yup. Just put it away in a box in your closet and give it the time it needs.
Water: There may be distilled water sold by the gallon (Walmart has some-under a buck) in a grocery store near you. Using distilled will eliminate any water-mineral concerns. I figure if one goes through the work to make soap, use the best water available.
RigneyLane, just to clarify, I think the posts re hard water/mineral content concerns have to do w/the water coming out of the tap (and interacting w/the finished soap) rather than as a soap constituent. Always best to use distilled water when making, of course!
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Thank-you everyone for your advice. I am so flattered that you took time out to help a newbie ;-) Feeling the love!!

At the very very beginning I did start out making a bunch of recipes just using sustainable PO, OO, and CO in equal proportions. I do convert to grams and run it through a lye calculator. I had that yucky feeling, so I thought trying different recipes from my book would be a good idea.

So I made a bunch of soap using the next recipe:
3.5 ounces palm oil
3.9 ounces coconut oil (76 ° F)
0.7 ounce castor oil
5.8 ounces olive oil
9.2 ounces rice bran oil
3.1 oz of lye
7.6 h2o

and this recipe

11.3 ounces palm oil
11.3 coconut oil (76 ° F)
1.7 castor oil
17.6 ounces olive oil
5.9 ounces sodium hydroxide (lye)
13.9 ounces distilled water

That dry, tight, sticky feeling was so awful with these recipes that I picked a recipe with lots of OO and with exotic butters thinking this has to make my skin feel better (the first recipe I posted). This recipe also is not working for me. I also tried adding coconut milk. I have yet to try that soap.

Before starting soap making I was using only handmade soaps, which contained the ingredients that I use now so I know I am not sensitive to them. I am not sure about the CO % though. I do have a batch on the curing rack where I switched the percents. So, PO (20%) and CO (15% CO). It is not ready yet.

I am going to try:
1) Using a sodium citrate (our water is not hard, but I think it may help)
2)increase my cure for high oo soaps,
3) get a better scale
4) decrease to 5% superfat
5) see how my lower co soap feels when cured
6) only use oils from my batch to mix with colorant (I do this sometimes and sometimes I use sweet almond and don't account for it)
7) cure in my house instead of the garage (it is very hot right now though), so I don't know if this will make a difference?

Thanks for all your advice. Hugs...Lina
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I have to wonder if the high OO amount has anything to do with it? OO can make me tight and sticky so now I only use it at 25% and my soap feels great on my dry skin. My normal recipe is:

Lard (or palm) 50%
olive oil 25%
coconut 20%
castor 5%

SF at 8% and I like to use aloe juice in place of water.
See and I love OO but I dont care for palm oil - its all so personal. I also adore almond and hemp oils, but some don't feel the love. Oh and clay! I think some nice clay might possibly help here too, but maybe that's just me. My skin is also much happier with salt bars, but some people hate them. You have a good list to start with - try that list first and see where it gets you.

I will suggest that you do try a bar with 50% or more lard, just so you can see what the fuss is about.
Welcome to the soapers heaven , I would lower OO to 30 and CO to 15-17, 5% of hemp oil is nothing and keep it for your lotions or body butters. I would also lower superfat , I have one soap with 7 superfat and I do not like it, even it is very hard due the tallow. you can go higher with palm oil. With 55% OO it needs the longer cure , ;)) the soap looks good to me. I also use 1.5% of Citric acid and Sodium lactate, it helps with lather too.
What about Castor Oil? It really makes a different in soap;))