Making aromatherapy soap at home lets you choose the scents you want and avoid ingredients you don't want. This article describes options for making soaps, talks about how to choose essential oils, and points you to resources for detailed soap-making instructions.
To make cold process soaps, you combine a base oil containing fatty acids (almost any oil, from beef tallow to olive oil) with sodium hydroxide (lye).
Lye is a caustic substance that you must handle with extreme care using the appropriate safety precautions. However, no lye remains in the finished soap. Learn more about lye in soapmaking.
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 some people use as much as one ounce of essential oil for each pound of base oil. However, that much essential oil creates a very strong scent not everyone likes or can tolerate.
You want to add the essential oils near the end of the soap-making process, after the lye has mostly evaporated. Lye can damage essential oils.
Here's a video on getting started making cold process soaps:
A variation of soapmaking 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.
Here's an introductory video:
The easiest way to make soap is to use melt and pour. You purchase a clear soap base, melt the blocks, add color (if desired) and essential oils, 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 can you use in making aromatherapy soap? You can choose any oil that's not irritating to the skin. It's also important to use only high-quality oils.
Floral scents are popular: jasmine, lavender, neroli, rose, ylang ylang.
Citrus scents are also popular: grapefruit, lemon, orange, tangerine.
Earthy scents: frankincense, myrrh, patchouli, vetiver
Woodsy scents: cedarwood, sandalwood
Spicy scents: ginger, nutmeg
Resource: Making Soap Magazine
These blends are given in percentages so you can adjust the amount to the size of the batch of soap you're making.
60% rosemary essential oil
20% cedarwood essential oil
20% spearmint essential oil
60% sweet orange essential oil
20% ginger essential oil
20% patchouli essential oil
Source: The Essential Oil Company
30% clary sage essential oil
70% lemongrass essential oil
50% lemon essential oil
33% lavender essential oil
17% may chang (Listea cubeba) essential oil
50% peppermint essential oil
33% anise essential oil
17% vanilla oleoresin
Source: Lovin' Soap Studio
Photo Credit: kzinn / MorgueFile