A Guide to Soap Making with Essential Oils Posted on 31 Aug 12:20

1. SHOULD YOU USE ESSENTIAL OILS IN YOUR SOAP? 

The short answer is, yes. Essential oils work very well in soap making. The reason for this is at least two-fold: first, essential oils emit strong aromas which is obviously an important part of your soap making plan; and secondly, essential oils are believed to pack a powerful punch of therapeutic benefits as well. Some of these benefits are believed to derive from the aroma itself (olfactory); others are believed to be effected by means of contact with the skin (topical). Soaps in particular are a perfect pairing to essential oils because we depend on them for both olfactory and topical applications.


2. WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS

Essential oils are an important tool for creating wonderfully fragrant soaps. Because essential oils are so available and varied, your scent options are, too. Because essential oils are often considered a natural means of infusing your soap with certain healthful benefits, however, you’ll want to be as educated as possible with regard to this specific ingredient. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you search for the perfect aromatic/therapeutic blend:

  • Some essential oils are, in fact, better than others. What you’re looking for here are “pure essential oils” or “therapeutic grade essential oils”. Some oils, often referred to as “fragrance oils” or “fragrance blends”, are diluted variants of pure essential oils, often cut with chemicals to enhance certain scents or increase the margin of sale on the oil. Do your best to steer clear of these. For best results both topically and aromatically, be sure you’re sourcing premium essential oils and blends. (Healing Solutions is a trusted brand supplying tested and verified premium essential oils. Learn more about them here.)
  • Each essential oil is known for a distinct catalogue of therapeutic benefits. So do your research. In addition to creating a wonderfully fragrant soap, you may be able to experience additional benefits with just a small amount of forethought.
  • Essential oils are natural substances. There are no formulas here. There are, however, certain guidelines to be aware of since essential oils are highly concentrated. For instance, some oils are far more stimulating than others, even irritating to the skin, and may need to be lightly diluted in certain cases. Again, some basic research goes a very long way in helping you to create a safe and effective soap.
  • Some essential oils can be harsh to the skin of infants and small children. Be very sparing with your use of essential oils in cases where soap will be topically applied to the skin of babies.


3. A BRIEF HISTORY OF ESSENTIAL OILS AND FRAGRANCE

You’re probably antsy to start pairing scents to develop your own unique aromas. Before you do, however, let’s review a few basics to help you in your search for that perfect scent.

Believe it or not, there is a bit of a science to this. A Frenchman by the name of G.W. Septimus Piesse even went so far as to categorize essential oils based on a musical scale system of top note, middle note, and base note. This scale is still used today and may be a helpful resource as you begin to decide on which essential oils to use in your blends. Here’s what this looks like:

Top notes are fleeting. This is the first rush of scent.
Middle notes take a bit longer to recognize, but they provide body to a scent blend.
Base notes are slow to evaporate, long lasting, and act as a fixative in the blend. They are typically rich, heavy scents.

Have a look at this list set to the “music” of Piesse’s scale detailing a number of essential oils you may want to become familiar with: 

Top Notes

Middle Notes

Base Notes

Anise

Black Pepper

Cedarwood

Basil
(top/middle)

Chamomile

Frankincense

Bay

Cinnamon Leaf

Myrrh

Bergamot
(top/middle)

Clary Sage

Patchouli

Citronella

Clove
(middle/bottom)

Rosewood
(middle/bottom)

Eucalyptus

Geranium

Sandalwood

Fennel
(top/middle)

Ginger
(middle/bottom)

Vanilla

Grapefruit

Jasmine
(middle/bottom)

Ylang Ylang
(middle/bottom)

Lavender
(top/middle)

Juniper Berry

 

Lemon

Lemongrass

 

Lime

Sweet Marjoram

 

Mandarin

Neroli

 

Sweet Orange

Nutmeg

 

Petitgrain

Oregano

 

Spearmint

Palmarosa

 

Birch

Peppermint

 

Tangerine

Pine

 

 

Rose

 

 

Rosemary

 

 

Tea Tree
(top/middle)

 

 

Thyme
(top/middle)

 


4. HOW TO TEST

This part is fun, inexpensive, and super easy. Rather than going out and buying fragrance strips (or stealing them from perfume stores at the mall!), I’m going to recommend that you use toothpicks instead. (You’ve probably already got these in the house and they will help you to conserve on oil as well.)

Simply dip the tip of a toothpick into a bottle of essential oil. This toothpick has now been “scented”. Do this again for each oil that you wish to test in a blend, hold all your newly-scented toothpicks together, and have a sniff. A good trick is to place the “toothpick blend” in a sealable container like a mason jar and come back later to determine if you still like the scent.

This is more art than science. So take your time, experiment, and have fun. Find what works for you - for your nose, for your body. A good practice for designing a well-balanced blend is to try and pick at least one oil from each of Piesse’s categories


5. SELECTING YOUR ESSENTIAL OILS 

You’ve already got a good reference to help you understand which essential oils fit into which “musical” categories; now let’s break them down by the different health benefits each is believed to contribute.

NOTE: It is important to remember that these are natural oils that may or may not provide the healthful benefits described below. Each human being is a unique system - physically, emotionally, and psychologically. The key here is to educate yourself, then experiment to determine what works best for you.

  • Acne - Bergamot, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Clove, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Spearmint, Tangerine, Tea Tree, Thyme, Ylang Ylang
  • Anti-Bacterial - Black Pepper, Chamomile, Citronella, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Neroli, Nutmeg, Oregano, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Pine, Rose, Sandalwood, Sweet Marjoram, Sweet Orange, Tea Tree, Thyme
  • Anti-Septic - Anise, Basil, Bay, Bergamot, Black Pepper, Cedarwood, Cinnamon Leaf, Citronella, Clary Sage, Clove, Eucalyptus, Fennel, Frankincense, Geranium, Ginger, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Mandarin, Myrrh, Neroli, Nutmeg, Oregano, Patchouli, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Pine, Rose, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Spearmint, Sweet Marjoram, Sweet Orange, Tangerine, Tea Tree, Thyme, Ylang Ylang
  • Aphrodisiac - Black Pepper, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Clove, Ginger, Jasmine, Neroli, Nutmeg, Patchouli, Rose, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Thyme, Ylang Ylang
  • Astringent - Bay, Bergamot, Cinnamon Leaf, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Lemon, Lemongrass, Lime, Myrrh, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rose, Rosemary, Sandalwood, Spearmint, Thyme
  • Athletes Foot - Clove, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Myrrh, Patchouli, Tea Tree
  • Chapped/Cracked Skin - Myrrh, Patchouli, Sandalwood
  • Dandruff - Bay, Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Patchouli, Rosemary, Tea Tree
  • Deodorizing - Bergamot, Citronella, Clary Sage, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Lavender, Lemongrass, Lime, Neroli, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Pine, Rosewood
  • Depression - Basil, Bergamot, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Geranium, Grapefruit, Jasmine, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Neroli, Patchouli, Peppermint, Petitgrain, Rose, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Sweet Orange, Ylang Ylang
  • Dry Skin - Chamomile, Jasmine, Frankincense, Lavender, Rosewood, Sandalwood
  • Eczema - Bergamot, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, Myrrh, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Peppermint, Rose, Rosemary, Thyme
  • Hair Growth (promoting) - Basil, Bay, Grapefruit, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang
  • Insect Bites - Basil, Bergamot, Chamomile, Cinnamon Leaf, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon, Tea Tree, Thyme, Ylang Ylang
  • Insect Repellent - Basil, Bergamot, Cedarwood, Cinnamon Leaf, Citronella, Clove, Geranium, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Patchouli, Pine, Rosemary, Sandalwood
  • Insomnia - Basil, Cedarwood, Chamomile, Clary Sage, Frankincense, Lavender, Mandarin, Neroli, Petitgrain, Rose, Sandalwood, Sweet Marjoram, Tangerine, Thyme, Ylang Ylang
  • Mature Skin/Wrinkles - Clary Sage, Frankincense, Fennel, Geranium, Jasmine, Lavender, Mandarin, Myrrh, Neroli, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Rose, Rosemary, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang
  • Oily Skin - Bay, Bergamot, Citronella, Clary Sage, Fennel, Geranium, Jasmine, Juniper Berry, Lavender, Lemon, Lemongrass, Mandarin, Palmarosa, Patchouli, Petitgrain, Rosemary, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Tea Tree, Thyme, Ylang Ylang
  • Psoriasis - Bergamot, Lavender
  • Rashes - Chamomile, Lavender, Sandalwood, Tea Tree


6. A QUICK WORD ON PORTIONS

Fortunately or unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how much scent should be used in your soap. A good starting point for cold process soaps would be 3% - 5% per pound of base oils, but at the end of the day, trial-and-error wins out as the most effective means of determining what portions and blends work best for you. Remember, this is more art than science, so be kind to yourself and enjoy the process!


7. CONCLUSION

A final note about using essential oils: it is very important to remember that these oils are natural substances, not over-the-counter medicine. The recommendations and references made in this article regarding certain benefits or “traditional uses” of these oils should in no way supersede the advice of a doctor. Be responsible in your use of the oils and, again, educate yourself. Do your research and get to know each of the oils personally. Take the time to understand how they communicate with your own beautiful, unique body and mind.

To shop some of the purest essential oils available on the market today, visit the Healing Solutions website here.