Note from Mommypotamus: Hey guys, I’m buried in boxes right now – packing up the house for a big move! We don’t know for sure where we’ll be in two weeks, but I’ll let you know as soon as I do. In the meantime, I’ve got some GREAT stuff lined up for you! Today, Susan from Learning And Yearning – the mama behind these DIY shampoo bars – is sharing her recipe for an extra gentle bar soap that’s great for those with sensitive skin, eczema, and of course babies!
I didn’t meet our only grandchild . . .
Until she was 4 years old, and she didn’t officially become our grandchild until she was 10, so I haven’t had the pleasure of a grand-baby. But now we have a brand new great-nephew to fuss over, so I wanted to come up with a gentle soap just for him, for times when soap is needed. Water, of course, is the best cleanser for babies. In DIY Organic Beauty Recipes, Heather says:
Water is the ideal daily cleanser for babies, because unlike alkaline soaps it preserves the protective acid mantle. If you’re not familiar with it, the acid mantle is a “very fine, slightly acidic film on the surface of the skin acting as a barrier to bacteria, viruses and other potential contaminants that might penetrate the skin. It is secreted by sebaceous glands. The pH of the skin is between 4.5 and 6.2, so it is acidic. [Bacteria, viruses] and other chemicals are primarily alkaline in nature and the skin’s moderate acidity helps to neutralize their chemical effects.” Soap’s natural alkalinity neutralizes this mantle, so I recommend using it sparingly.
I had several requirements for this soap
First of all, it needed to be super-fatted. Let me explain. Soap making involves a chemical process where lye and fat are combined in exact amounts to form soap (saponification). After curing, the soap will not have any traces of lye left in it. With superfatting, extra oils are added, or the amount of lye is reduced to form a very emollient soap.
Next, I wanted a soap that suds nicely, but is not drying. Oils which help to form suds include coconut and palm, but these oils can actually be drying to the skin if they make up more than a third of the oil in the recipe. I chose coconut oil for my soap, but it makes up only about 10% of the oil in the recipe.
I’ve also included a small amount of jojoba oil. I chose this because jojoba oil is actually a liquid wax – not an oil – with properties similar to our skin’s sebum – that acid mantle that we already discussed. It is gentle, rich in Vitamin E, protects the skin from the elements, and has anti-inflammatory properties. It is one of the oils in my shampoo bars that makes them so special.
Next, I chose olive oil, which is gentle, soothing, and moisturizing – perfect for a baby’s sensitive skin. It is also a source of antioxidants, which protect the skin.
And finally, my soap needed to have a mild, herbal fragrance, and the essential oils used needed to add beneficial qualities to the final product. Essential oils can be harsh for a baby’s skin, so care was taken in choosing oils that are safe even for newborns. Chamomile and lavender are each a great choice. Both are soothing herbs, and just breathing in the scent will help a child relax so that he can sleep soundly. In addition, they are both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is important to note that all essential oils, even those deemed safe for newborns, should be used sparingly because they are so highly concentrated (never apply an essential oil directly to a baby’s skin).
Chamomile and Lavender Homemade Bar Soap for Baby
To make this gentle bar soap you will need the following equipment (it’s best to keep these items only for soap making):
- a scale for measuring ingredients (like this one)
- a stainless steel or enamel pot
- a glass or plastic pitcher for mixing and pouring the lye
- containers for holding oil while it’s being weighed – I use 32 oz plastic yogurt containers
- 2 large plastic or wooden spoons – one for stirring the lye and one for the oils
- a spatula
- 2 thermometers – one for the lye and one for the oil
- soap mold – this can be as simple as a shoe box lined with plastic, a plastic tray with sides, a plastic shoe box, or glass bread pans
- rubber gloves – wear these the entire time
- cardboard to fit over the molds
- a heavy towel or a blanket to insulate the cooling soap
- protective clothing – this is not a project for shorts and a tank top. Wear long sleeves and long pants to protect your skin.
- vinegar – I have this under equipment, rather than ingredients because it is not used in the recipe, but is kept on hand to pour on your skin if you accidentally get lye on you. Lye is extremely alkaline and can burn your skin and vinegar is acidic, so it will neutralize the lye. The first sensation you will feel if you get lye on yourself is an mild itch. Don’t panic, just dab some vinegar on the area and all will be well.
Weigh the following ingredients on the scale. Please note that these are not liquid measurements:
- 3 oz coconut oil
- 1 oz jojoba oil
- 25 oz olive oil
- 3.72 oz lye (where to buy lye for soap making, why lye is safe for soap making)
- 10 oz distilled water
- .5 oz chamomile or lavender essential oil, or .25 oz of each
1. Fill your sink with several inches of cold water and some ice to use as a water bath to cool the lye mixture.
2. Wearing your rubber gloves, place the 10 oz of distilled water into your pitcher and very slowly stir in the lye. I suggest doing this outdoors since even the fumes are toxic. Stir slowly until dissolved. The temperature will rise very quickly to 220°F or so. Now place the pitcher into the cold water bath in your sink and begin to take its temperature. The goal is 100°F.
3. Then place all the oils, except the lavender and chamomile, into your pot and heat at a low temperature trying to reach 100°F. This will happen quickly. You now want to get both the lye and the oil to 100°F at the same time. This is one of the trickiest parts of soap making. Use the ice water bath to help lower the temperatures as needed.
4. When both the lye and the oils are at 100°F, pour the lye mixture very slowly into the oil mixture. Continue stirring with a spatula until the mixture reaches a point called “trace”. The soap is traced when your stirring causes lines in the mixture that stay in place or when a drizzle of the soap mixture retains it shape on the surface of the soap. Trace can take up to 2 hours or more, but usually occurs within a half hour. If it is taking over 15 minutes, you may take breaks in stirring – stir for 10 minutes or so and rest for 10 minutes.
5. At trace, add in the .5 oz of essential oils and stir well. Then pour your soap into your prepared molds. Cover with the piece of cardboard and then wrap in a towel or blanket to hold the heat. You want your soap to cool slowly. You may remove the towel after the first day, but the soap itself will take several days to harden. Super-fat soap is a soft soap that takes longer to cure than recipes that are not super-fatted. When it feels solid, you may cut the soap into bars and un-mold it. The soap is still alkaline and should not be used until it has cured for 6 weeks.
Whether you are an experienced soap maker or a beginner, I think you’ll enjoy this delicately scented, creamy soap – even if there is no baby in your house. I made this soap for my little nephew, but I’ll definitely be keeping some of it for myself.
Also, don’t miss Mommypotamus’ pure coconut oil laundry soap.
Susan Vinskofski has been making a mess her entire life, whether it’s melted beeswax on the floor, stains in the sink, or dirt tracked in from the garden. She’s happiest that way. Visit her at LearningAndYearning.com where she blogs about gardening, foraging, real food, and natural living.