It’s time for our second Christmas soap (and Christmas theme) of 2021: Candlelight Christmas Soap. It’s a warm, rich soap that I designed to look like a glowing candle and smell like cozy, fireside cuddles. Let’s get started!
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This theme—candlelight—is a much more mood/aesthetic-based theme than Frosted Cranberry, which has stronger ingredient ties. Candlelight is all about coziness, warmth, and indulgence. It’s sipping a mug of hot cocoa while snuggled up with your favourite book and blanket by the fire. It’s a cozy scarf, warm socks, flickering candles, and a bowl of rich stew. The formulations in this series will be all about rich, warm scents, textures, and experiences ❤️
Our fat blend features a decent dose of rich shea butter and a slightly-higher-than-usual superfat for added richness. I’ve also included a solid scoop (or five!) of kaolin clay for extra creamy, slippy lather.
I rummaged through my fragrance oil collection with warm, glowy, indulgence on the brain and settled on using Brambleberry’s Kentucky Bourbon Fragrance Oil to scent my soap. You can definitely choose something else that makes your nose feel all cozy and glowy, just be sure that you use it within the allowable usage rate for soap (IFRA category [rinse-off products for hand & body]). Your supplier should provide this information; it might be in the product description or in some extended documentation. Make sure you’re checking—some fragrance oils are designed more for use in candles and other non-topically applied products and can have very low allowable usage rates for the skin. It’s also a good idea to read up on how a fragrance oil performs in soap before using it; not all suppliers will test their fragrances in soap, so you may have to do some additional research if your supplier doesn’t.
There is definitely an opportunity to use essential oils instead of (or in addition to) fragrance oils in this soap, but keep in mind that several of the essential oils that you might associate with warm, cozy scents have low maximum usage limits. New Directions Aromatics provides usage information for all their essential oils in the “Quality & Regulatory Info” PDF you can download under the “GCMS & Documents” tab. The cozy-est of the essential oils (in my opinion), cinnamon bark essential oil, is limited to 0.0714% in soap. For reference, I used 2.8% fragrance oil in this soap. It’s definitely doable, just make sure you do your research. You could also opt to leave the soap unscented.
I used a bit of a gradient pour to create a warm, glowy look that is reminiscent of a glowing candle. I started by portioning off about a quarter of the batter and adding enough mica to make it a deep, warm gold. I then poured a layer of that, and then added some plain batter to the gold batter to fade it ever-so-slightly; pour a layer of that, and then repeat until you’ve used up all the plain batter and the top layer of the soap is not noticeably coloured.
The design on the top of these bars is reminiscent of wispy smoke and flickering flames. I created this look by whisking mica into a bit of extra liquid oil, scattering drops of the mixture across the surface of the soap loaf, and then swirling it all together with the end of my whisk (a toothpick would work as well). Make sure you watch the video to see exactly what I mean 🙂
As the batter is quite fluid to allow for our gradient-y pour, you’ll want to leave it in the mould for about four days before slicing, and then let it age for 4–5 weeks before gifting. Enjoy!
Relevant links & further reading
- Shea Butter in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Castor Oil in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Tallow (beef) in the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia
- Why I Use Lard or Tallow in My Soap (And Why You Should, Too)
- What is superfatting/lye discounting? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- Do I need to add a preservative to my soap? in the Humblebee & Me FAQ
- How do you know how long to age a bar before using it? on IGTV
- How to Use SoapCalc (it’s easy!)
- My Soap Mould (measurements to make your own!)
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Candlelight Christmas Soap
Per 500g fats:
- 30g (1.06oz) white kaolin clay (USA / Canada)
- 14g (0.5oz) Kentucky Bourbon Fragrance Oil
- Doubloon Gold mica, as needed
Kick things off by calculating out your recipe for the amount of soap you’re making to get the finite amounts of the fats, lye, and water. Unsure about how to use SoapCalc? I made a video to walk you through it! Please ensure you’re familiar with standard soap making procedure before diving in (click that link if you aren’t!).
Prepare your mould—you’ll want a loaf mould for this soap. Melt your oils together in your soaping pot, and a container with a pouring spout handy (I use these awesome funnel pitchers). Let your oils cool to slightly warmer than room temperature. Mix up your lye water and let that cool to about room temperature (you can use ice for part of your water to speed up the cooling process).
Lay out your work area so you can easily grab your fragrance, mica, and clay. Prepare your mould by lining it, if required.
Now you’re ready to get started! Begin by blending the white kaolin clay into the fats. Once that mixture is smooth, add the lye water and bring to a thin trace. Add the fragrance, and blend that in.
Pour about 1/4 of the batter into your spout container, and add enough mica to make it a deep gold. Pour a layer of that into your mould.
Dilute the gold batter in the spout container with some extra uncoloured batter; stir and pour. As the batter is quite thin I recommend pouring over a spatula that is held close to the surface of the soap in the mould so you don’t get too much inter-mixing.
Repeat the diluting, stirring, and pouring until you run out of batter.
Rap the mould on the countertop to knock out any air bubbles. Decorate the top as desired; I splattered it with some extra mica mixed in oil and then swirled the splatters around. Leave the soap to set up for around four days before slicing and leaving to age for at least four to five weeks before using. Enjoy!
Shelf Life & Storage
Because bar soap has a low water content, high pH, and very high anionic surfactant content (soap is anionic surfactant), it is self-preserving. These bars should last years if allowed to dry between uses. If you start to notice orange spots developing on the surface of the soap, throw it away.
As always, be aware that making substitutions will change the final product. While these swaps won’t break the recipe, you will get a different final product than I did.
- It is essential that you calculate this soap out yourself using a soap calculator like SoapCalc. Not sure how to do that? I made a video to walk you through it!. This is how you get actual amounts to use in the soap, including amounts of lye and water.
- To learn more about the ingredients used in this formulation, including why they’re included and what you can substitute them with, please visit the Humblebee & Me Encyclopedia. It doesn’t have everything in it yet, but there’s lots of good information there! If I have not given a specific substitution suggestion in this list please look up the ingredient in the encyclopedia before asking.
- You could use a different fat blend that you like, just be sure it’s moveable enough to handle the pour.
- You can use a different fragrance oil—just choose something that is warm and cozy, and make sure you are following IFRA guidelines on allowable usage.
- You can use a different mica—I recommend choosing something warm and glowy.