To me, soapmaking is a never ending learning process. There’s just so many different ingredients and techniques to try- the possibilities are endless. I have always kept my mind and eyes open for new ideas. Well, I also love to cook and where better a place to come up with new ideas than your very own kitchen? I’m not sure if anyone else has tried this or thought of it yet, but for me a new trick popped up and I wanted to share my experience with other soapmakers.
Having a sensitivity to coconut oil in soaps and also having temperamental skin in general, has kept me stingy with lathering oils in my soapmaking recipes. However, people are so used to the abundance of lather usually associated with bought soaps (since they cheat with sodium laurel sulfate), that a more “lotion-like” lather is harder for some to except. Besides, let’s face it- who doesn’t like big fluffy bubbles? Because of this I have always tried to increase lather in my soaps through other natural additives.
The addition of various types of powdered milks not only adds the nourishing we all know is famous for gorgeous skin, but has seemed to help somewhat in adding more of a lather and contributed a certain creaminess to it. Silk fibers added to my lye water gave even more positive results for me. I always knew silk provided wonderful “moisture locking properties” and a truly luxurious feel- but since I felt how it significantly increased my soaps ability to lather, it quickly became one of my favorite indulgences. Then there’s the other trick of the trade… Sugar. Whether dissolved in lye-water or it’s presence enters in from the addition of honey in my soap batches, sugar has displayed outstanding results. As a matter of fact, when I first began soaping, castor oil was almost mandatory in all my soap recipes due to the rare ricinoleic acid in it that contributes to lather without being nearly as drying as typically used “lathering oils”. I have found the combination of silk and sugar works so well together that even though I still respect and welcome castor oil for it’s wonderful content of essential fatty acids, it is no longer absolutely necessary for me to soap with.
Well, good thing I’m a “label reader”! One day while baking my husband a special treat, I happened to glance at the ingredients list on a bag of confectionery sugar. “Ingredients: sugar and cornstarch”. As with many addicted soapers, I have a personal problem with often swiping items from our food cabinets to sneak into soap- if it’s in the kitchen, it’s game! I have tried cornstarch in my soap before and it was in fact really nice. (Cornstarch is soothing to the skin and sometimes used as a replacement for the feel that silk gives in vegan soaps.)
I decided to give it a shot. When my soap got to a very thin trace I added about one tablespoon confectionery sugar per pound of base oils, attempting to add it carefully and space it out around the bowl for easier mixing. I then put my stick blender to it and mixed it very well, making sure that it was evenly incorporated into the mix and no clumps were left behind. I noticed it did thicken up a tad, but not so much that it was that hard to manage getting my soap into it’s mold when it was ready. Once curing time was up and I tried it, I jumped up and down like a kid at Christmas. It seemed to have the effects a soap would have from the batches I would take the extra steps to dissolve my sugar in water before introducing the lye, and the added feel that cornstarch can bring! The only difference is that was a lot easier and faster than having to heat up your water and stir like a mad person to dissolve your sugar, and then wait for it to cool down a little before adding my lye. It seemed to be a truly effective time saver.
I love sharing ideas with other soapmakers and I really hope some of you out there will find this trick helpful. Happy and safe soaping!