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?

29 comments:

  1. I love salt bars, but it never occurred to me to add activated charcoal to them! (You may have just inspired a new batch of salt bars here!) :) That is such a great idea.
    To complement the coconut oil, I like to use coconut milk and I often sub 10-20% of the coconut oil with shea butter.

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    1. Hi, Amy! Yes, I think that this will be a very nice batch with the charcoal and the salt together. I hope that you give it a try, too! Coconut milk and shea butter sound like wonderful, luxurious additions to a salt soap. Thanks for your comments!

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    1. Thanks! I think that this will be a very nice batch of soap!

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  3. Despite my love for charcoal, I have never tried it in salt bars. What a fantastic idea! :)

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    1. Thank you, Silvia! I've just recently started soaping with charcoal, and I really like what it brings to a batch. I hope that you give it a try in salt bars!

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  4. You and your blog have really been an inspiration to me as a new soap maker. I love your creations! Is there some particular reason that you add your fragrance before blending? All the books and recipes that I have read say to add the FO and EO at the end of the recipe with the colorants. Doesn't this accelerate trace? I love these black bars, they do look like granite! I can't wait to get a report on how you like them after they cure.

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    1. Hi, beckster! Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm glad that you enjoy the blog. I think it all comes down to personal preference. Different soapmakers do different things. Many soapmakers add their fragrance oil at trace. Some soapmakers advise adding the FO to the cooled oils before adding the lye solution, especially if the FO is tricky. The idea is that the oils may act as a buffer to help prevent acceleration or seizing. I've heard of other soapers mixing their FO with some reserved oil or a bit of the soap batter - kind of like tempering eggs when cooking - so that the FO is less of a shock to the soap when they add it at trace. I personally like to add the fragrance to the oils before mixing in the lye solution because it gets well-incorporated and there's less of a chance I'll forget to add it. Of course, sometimes I do add the FO at trace if I'm splitting a batch up for different scents, or if I know an FO discolors and I want to leave a portion of my soap unscented so it doesn't discolor. It works out fine either way, unless the FO just decides that it is going to misbehave! Thanks again for your comments, and thanks for reading!

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  5. What an interesting combination: charcoal and salt in a soap, Jenny! Beautiful grey color, love it!

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    1. Thanks, Natalia! I think that charcoal and salt will be a wonderful combination. I like the color, too!

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  6. I have 2 salt bars right now. One of them is pink and scented with pink grapefruit EO. The other is scented with Sweet Orange EO and is striped pale orange and uncolored ( white ). I love salt bars and my customers love them too. I may just have to make some with activated charcoal now.
    cabinofbows.blogspot.com

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    1. Thanks, Lois! Your salt bars sound lovely! I'll bet they look and smell so pretty. I really like salt bars, too, and I plan to always have a batch around. If you give the charcoal a try, I hope that you enjoy it!

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  7. Love the look of your salt bars Jenny, they do look a lot like granite! So beautiful. I'm glad that you are so descriptive in your writing, a lot of times I read something and think why is that, but I'm too lazy to look it up. This way, I get to read about your cool new soaps and learn some basics as well.

    Do you have several soaps going at a time, or are you a one bar at a time person?

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    1. Thanks, Monica! I'm glad that the post was helpful! The number of soaps I have going at any given time depends, but it seems like I often have several bars going. Right now, I've got one bar in the guest bathroom. In the master bathroom, I've got three bars by the sink - one for handwashing and two for my face. (Of the face bars, one is an activated charcoal bar and the other a salt bar from my last batch. I use whichever one I'm in the mood for.) And I usually have one main bar in the shower along with a sliver of the previous bar, or a small bar of smooshed-together slivers. And sometimes I have test bars going, too. But I try to have one bar in each location that I mainly use so I don't have tons of partially-used bars everywhere. :)

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  8. I think that charcoal and salt will be a wonderful combination.
    I am a fan of salt soap,simply and unscented.
    Having a very sensitive skin, I've seen how soothes the skin under the shower.
    I highly recommend a salt soap in the bathroom.
    Wish you a very happy week.

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    1. Thanks, Alegria! I think that charcoal and salt will be a great combination, too. I love both charcoal and salt bars and thought, "Why not put them together?" I hope you have a happy week, too!

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  9. They turned out amazing Jenny, love the granite-like look of the sides. I really love the salt bars for my face too, the activated charcoal will be a great addition!

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    1. Thanks, Cee! I love how the sides look, too! So smooth and polished. I think the salt and charcoal together will make a great facial bar!

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  10. Ooooo...it's like black lava! What a great idea to incorporate activated charcoal. I have never made salt bar soap, but I think it's time I learn. I have tried it and loved it. Your scent combination sounds perfect.

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    1. Thanks, Cindy! I hope you give making salt bars a try. I love having salt bars in my soap rotation!

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  11. Look how shiny it is, I see your background reflection on its sides! We seem to have similar skin type, so no wonder we love salt bars in summer.
    I make it with 80% c.o., plus castor, plus some butter, with 20% SF. You keep us updated how you like 100% coconut.
    Love your videos, you're so talented.

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    1. Aww, thanks, Maja! I'm glad that you enjoyed the video. I also thought it was so cool that the shiny sides of the soap reflected the pattern of the scrapbook paper! I tend to start thinking about salt bars once the warm weather rolls around. The 80% CO with castor oil and a butter sounds similar to the recipe I used for my first batch of salt bars. I loved that recipe - it had such a luxurious feel and the lather was great. I'm curious to see how the 100% CO compares to it.

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  12. I think that this is really original idea to combine activated charcoal with salt. I am sure that your face will benefit from this combination. It is so hard to determine right time for salt soap cutting, but your bars are perfectly shaped and cut. You did a grate job Jenny!

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    1. Thanks, Gordana! I think that the salt and charcoal will be great for my skin, especially during the summer. And I love my slab mold with dividers for salt bars - it takes all of the stress about cutting out of the equation.

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  13. I have a question about salts on the skin. I have looked at and looked into salts - they are crystals with razor sharp edges, unlike sugars, I have seen and heard that salts because of the sharp edges and corners of each granule can cause skin more damage than good when used as a soap or a scrub. Any insight here???

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    1. Hi! I've heard that coarser grained salts can be irritating so I stick with fine grain salt and haven't had problems, although I usually suds up with a shower pouf instead of putting the soap directly on my skin. I hope that helps! Thanks for reading!

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