You can use essential oils for soapmaking to create soaps with both a pleasant scent and possible healthy benefits (if you use authentic, genuine essential oils and add them near the end of the soapmaking process).
Although the process of making soap is beyond the scope of this article, here's some basic information, so you know what's involved. For more details, see any of the mentioned references.
To make cold process soaps, you combine a base oil containing fatty acids (almost any oil, from beef tallow to olive oil) and sodium hydroxide (lye).
For cold process soaps, Cathy Winsby of Soap Making Essentials recommends 3 to 4 teaspoons (15 to 20 ml or 0.5 to 0.7 ounce) of essential oil for each pound of base oil. She notes that some people use as much as one ounce of essential oil for each pound of base oil, but that much creates a very strong scent that not everyone likes or can tolerate.
You want to add the essential oils near the end of the soapmaking process, after the lye has mostly evaporated, because lye can damage essential oils.
A variation is hot process soaps, where you heat all the ingredients to put the soap through various stages. When the excess water evaporates, the soap is ready to cool and then use. You add the essential oils at the cooling stage.
For melt and pour soaps, you purchase a clear soap base, melt the blocks, add color and scent, and place the melted mixture into molds to harden into solid soap. This approach is especially good if you want to get your children involved.
Which essential oils to use? You can use any oil that is not irritating to the skin. It's also important to use only high-quality oils.
Floral scents are popular: jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose, and ylang ylang.
Citrus scents are also popular: grapefruit, lemon, orange, and tangerine.
Men may prefer earthy scents (frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, or vetiver) or woodsy scents (cedarwood or sandalwood) or spicy scents (ginger or nutmeg).
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