Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spa Salt Bars With Activated Charcoal

If you are a soapmaker like me, you probably have several batches of soap laying around at any given time. And you probably don't use up one batch and then start in on another. You probably take a bar from this batch, and then next time take one from another, and ooh, I haven't used one of these bars in a while...

Sometimes I end up with soap that has been around for a year or more. Which is fine. It seems soap is like wine - it gets better with age. I even still have a bar from my very first batch of cold process soap back in February 2011. It's a plain little bar and the scent has completely faded, but it still looks to be a fine bar of soap otherwise.

Anyway, that is how I ended up making my last batch of salt soap last over a year. If you've been following this blog for a while, you may remember that it was a Pineapple Ginger-scented soap made with coconut oil, avocado oil, castor oil, and Pink Himalayan salt.

I really enjoyed that batch. The recipe makes big, long-lasting bars. And I especially like salt bars for my face. I have oily skin, and it feels like the salt just gets into my pores and balances everything out.

When I realized that I was down to the last bar, I just had to make some more. I did things a little bit differently this time, though.

Last time, I followed Sarah's salt soap recipe. I love this recipe and highly recommend it. The avocado oil makes the bars more luxurious, and the castor oil gives the lather a boost.

This time, though, I decided to try a recipe of 100% coconut oil with a 20% superfat. Usually soapmakers
use about 30% or less of coconut oil in their recipes because it can be drying. But, as a neat kind of break-the-rules thing, coconut oil can be used exclusively if you include a high superfat. Superfat refers to the amount of unsaponified oils in the soaps, meaning that those oils don't react with the lye and remain free-floating in the soap, resulting in more nourishing bars. For a normal soap recipe, I usually go with a 7% superfat. But for 100% coconut oil soap, I went with 20%.

Coconut oil is the main oil in salt soap because coconut oil is the only oil that lathers well in salt water, making it perfect for salt bars. It's typically 80-100% of the total oils. Last time I used 80%. This time I wanted to try 100%.

The salt I used was different, too. Instead of using Pink Himalayan salt, I just used plain old table salt. The amount was different, too. Last time, I used the salt at about 65% of the total oil weight. This time, the rate was 100% of the oil weight, meaning that for 32 ounces of oil, I used 32 ounces of salt.

Salt soap is great for the entire body, but, as I mentioned, I especially like it for my face. So, when deciding on how to proceed with this new batch, I thought of activated charcoal. Activated charcoal is supposed to be good for detoxifying oily, acne-prone skin. I figured the salt plus the activated charcoal would make a great facial bar. I used one teaspoon of activated charcoal per pound of oil.

I love how the sides are shiny and smooth like granite!
Because salt bars have a spa-like feel to me, I wanted to keep things more natural this time, fragrance-wise. So I scented this batch with cedarwood essential oil (which, according to Wanda Sellar's The Directory of Essential Oils, may be good for oily acne-prone skin, too) and clove essential oil. I would have liked to have used sandalwood essential oil as well, but, gawd, have you seen how much that stuff costs? So I used Bramble Berry's Indian Sandalwood fragrance oil instead. For 32 ounces of oil, I used 1 ounce of the sandalwood FO, .80 ounce of cedarwood EO, and .20 ounce of the clove EO. I went easy on the clove because too much can irritate the skin. Clove can also accelerate trace.

When my oil and lye solution were both around 100 degrees F, I added the fragrance blend and the activated charcoal to the melted coconut oil. (I mixed the charcoal with some glycerin first to avoid clumping.) Then I added the lye solution to the oil and stickblended to trace. Once the soap traced - which it did pretty quickly - I gradually whisked in the salt. When it was incorporated well, I poured the soap into the mold.

For this batch, I opted to use my slab mold. Salt soap can set up very quickly, and if you make a loaf and don't slice it at just the right time, you can end up with hard, crumbly soap that is difficult to cut. Using a slab mold with dividers takes the guesswork out of when to cut. I let the soap gel and unmolded it the next day.

Here is a video showing how I made this batch of salt soap:

The lather of a salt bar is different from that of a regular bar of soap. Salt soaps tend to be more frothy and less bubbly. The lather kinda reminds me of shaving cream or the foamy head of a beer. You can see the difference in the video above - I compare the lather of my regular soap to that of the salt soap.

I'm so glad to have salt soap back in my rotation, especially as the weather heats up. It seems that the hotter it is the more oily my skin gets. And these salt bars will be a treat for my face and the rest of my skin!

Have you made or used salt soap? Did you like it? Do you enjoy any other additives to make salt soap extra special?