10 ways to get essential oils to be more intense in your soap (melt and pour and cold process)

So you’re probably looking for how to get your essential oils to be more intense in your soap. You might be making cold process soap or melt and pour soap. Maybe you’ve made some homemade soap with pure essential oils and it didn’t come out with a strong scent, or perhaps you’re planning your first homemade soap making project and are hoping to execute a perfect first-time soapmaking recipe.

Here, I’m going to go through ten ways to get essential oils to be more intense in your soap. These methods for increasing the scent of your soaps are all based on principles of chemistry. Essential oils are volatile compounds which means they evaporate easily. That’s actually why we love them! They wouldn’t smell so good if they weren’t made exactly the way they are by nature.

Getting a stronger essential oil fragrance in soapmaking is one area where melt and pour soap really outshines cold process, and is one of the reasons I prefer melt and pour soap. Secretly, I think a lot of soapmakers prefer melt and pour, but it’s more profitable for them to write about cold process because it takes more skill to make it (so there’s more to write about).

Essential oils do really well in melt and pour soap. Cold process soap tends to eat the fragrance. But these are not hard and fast rules. It took me several attempts to get lavender essential oil to show up in my melt and pour soap.

If you look at my infographic on essential oils in soap, you’ll see the results I got when I tried a range of essential oils in melt and pour soap. Lavender oil was particularly problematic in melt and pour, and I’ve written a separate article on this.

1. Have you used the correct amount of your pure essential oil in your soap?

This is the easiest fix! All handmade essential oil soaps require different quantities of essential oils to get the perfect fragrance. Bramble Berry’s Soap Queen blog has a fragrance calculator that can help you out. You can find it here.

2. Add a clay as this can hold the fragrance in the soap.

Typically, this works to intensify the scent of essential oils in cold process soap, but I found it made a noticeable difference to increasing the scent of melt and pour soap too. French clay, kaolin and bentonite are all great choices, but some of them will colour your soap so be sure if you plan to sell your soap that the colour matches what you would expect for the scent (e.g. yellow-coloured lavender scented soap would probably be a bit confusing, but yellow-coloured lemon soap or grey lavender soap would make more sense). I prefer French clay and it produces interesting muted colour effects in transparent melt and pour soap base (you end up with a beautiful translucent glow).

3. Is your soap getting too hot?

For melt and pour, it’s easy to overheat the soap while you’re trying to get it to melt, particularly if you use a microwave (which is another good reason to make melt and pour soap without a microwave). For better results, don’t add the fragrance until the soap has cooled to about 37 or 38 degrees celsius. For cold process, pack your soap with ice packs to keep it cool. If you absolutely need your soap to go through gel phase (where it gets very hot), you might have to just accept that your soap won’t smell very strongly if you use essential oils.

4. Consider using a blend of essential oils instead of one individual oil in a soap recipe.

If you have a base note, a middle note and a top note, the fragrance is more likely to permeate the soap in a more nose-catching manner. An example would be lavender as the base note, chamomile as the middle note and lemon as the top note. There are other ways to blend essential oils (you can blend them by effect, e.g. for sleep you might use lavender, chamomile and valerian, or you can blend them by group, e.g. you might want an overall citrus scent incorporating lemon, ten-fold orange and citronella. Different scents have different volatility (evaporation point, which is when fragrance is unleashed from your soap), so a blend of oils will mean your soap has a nice scent regardless of the air temperature, pressure or humidity.

5. Consider using melt and pour instead of cold process, and avoid hot process entirely if you want your essential oils to smell more strongly in your homemade soap.

There is more going on during soapmaking than the soap getting hot. The process of oils turning into surfactants (cleansers) is called saponification, and this is a chemical reaction. The heat is just a byproduct.

6. Wrap your soaps in something as soon as they are able to be unmoulded.

The wrapping needs to be something that doesn’t let oxygen in. I’ve gone through twenty alternatives to plastic for wrapping soaps in this article.

7. Burn incense when you make soap.

Sounds crazy, right? But from a chemistry point of view it makes sense. Scent escapes because it goes from an area of high concentration to one of low concentration. If the air in your soapmaking place is already saturated with a smoky scent, such as an incense stick (not the scent of an oil diffuser) you can prevent scent loss in the same way smoked salmon’s flavour is sealed into the fish (only, you don’t want your soap to smell of smoke which is why you don’t want to go too far with this method). This is a balancing act because you must always follow ventilation safety when working with chemicals.

8. Let your soap harden (and cure) near a dehumidifier or a big bowl of rock salt.

An electric dehumidifier or a big bowl of rock salt will pull the moisture out of the air, which means the scent will have nothing to evaporate into, so it will remain in the soap for longer.

9. Add a sea salt such as Himalayan pink sea salt to your soap.

Himalayan pink sea salt looks beautiful in cosmetics, and especially when it’s embedded in bars of homemade soap. The pink crystals sparkle in bright lights giving your soap an ethereal quality.

Himalayan sea salt will work as a nice exfoliant as well as helping stop the scent escaping. Just don’t put big chunky pieces of salt into a facial soap or you will get redness.

10. Mix in some charcoal, or do a charcoal swirl.

The benefits of charcoal in soap include being fantastic for acne and great at purifying in warmer climates, as well as being a good additive to prevent your fragrance disappearing before you ever get to use your soap! However, charcoal is a black powder and it will change the colour of your soap. Doing a swirl with charcoal is another option, so part of the soap is more fragrant, which will improve the overall effect while still letting you use nice colours in the rest of the soap.

That’s my 10 ways to fix your soap if your essential oil fragrance is too faint or if your essential oil fragrance doesn’t last. Do you have any other ways? Share them in the comments!

Easy breastmilk soap recipe

Do you have excess breastmilk or oversupply of breastmilk? Perhaps you are looking for a way to preserve your breastmilk or turn it into a beautiful gift? If you’re anything like me, after six months or a year of breastfeeding, you have a freezer full of breastmilk and you want to do something with that liquid gold!

A breastmilk pendant is a beautiful idea but let’s be fair, it doesn’t use much of that milk. You’ll still have boatloads of the stuff left!

In New York beauty salons, breastmilk is seen as the “miracle ingredient” that can work wonders for your skin. People pay hundreds of dollars for breastmilk facials. Midwives often tell new mothers to put breastmilk on their sore nipples in the early days because of its amazing moisturising properties.

I have so much milk sitting around. I tried giving it away to hungry babies three months ago, and I didn’t get any takers in my small country. Instead, I decided to try turning it into various beauty products. Some came out better than others. Don’t make the mistakes I did. If you’re looking for a really quick and easy thing to do with your leftover breastmilk, here’s a fabulous simple melt and pour breastmilk soap recipe.

It uses something called melt and pour soap base, which is ready made for you to turn into soap. All you have to do is follow this easy breastmilk recipe to get the most creamy and cleansing bars of soap you ever tried! It’s also sulphate free and paraben free!

You will need:

A silicone soap mould I have these ones but you can get identical ones in the US here.

Stephenson’s melt and pour SLS free soap base available in the US here or here in the UK.

A microwaveable or heat proof glass jug (you need at least 500ml/1 pint, available here in the US and here in UK but they’re cheaper in Tesco if you’re near one).

A spatula for mixing (any non-metal spatula or wooden spoon will work).

A sharp knife to cut the soap base (any kitchen knife will be fine as long as it hasn’t blunted and the handle is safely attached to the blade).

Breastmilk.

The soap base is sold in boxes of 1kg and if you wanted to turn all of it into breastmilk soap you would need 500ml of breastmilk, but do not worry if you have less breastmilk. To make it as easy as possible, I’ve done this in 250g blocks of melt and pour soap base, which is a quarter of a tub and will fill your soap mould.

Method:

  1. Cut the 1kg block of Stephenson’s melt and pour SLS free organic soap base into quarters with a knife
  2. Taking one quarter of the soap base (roughly 250 grams), chop it into small squares and melt it in a glass jug in the microwave or put the glass jug into a pan of hot water just like you would if you were melting chocolate to make chocolate krispy cakes. Microwave on a low heat (I go for the lowest setting) for about 2 mins, check, then put it back in, checking every 30 seconds to 1 minute until it’s melted.
  3. Once the soap base is melted, add 125ml of cold (but not frozen) breastmilk and stir it well to get it all to mix.
  4. Pour your mixture into your soap mould. You can put it into the fridge to solidify faster, but don’t leave it more than an hour as melt and pour soap base contains glycerin which will start to draw moisture out of your fridge and make the soaps less solid!
  5. Once your soaps have solidified, turn them out and wrap them. Most people advocate putting them in plastic wrap such as saran wrap, but I prefer beeswax paper or baking paper as these are better for the environment.
  6. Use your soap! I found this to be super-moisturizing compared to store-bought soaps.

I love this straightforward and easy breastmilk soap recipe but I have made a few others, too, which I will post in the future.

breastmilk soap1