Update on Jan. 17, 2012 at 5:40 pm: From your feedback, it looks like the soap isn’t creamy and dense enough. That will be something I’m going to attempt to fix in the next few instalments. Please let me know your thoughts, criticisms and things that you want out of a shaving soap in the comments below!
I’ve done a few reviews on shaving soaps and unfortunately they tend to have one thing in common, the addition of fragrances which can be harmful to the skin.
A few readers have asked me to either put together a recipe for making their own soap, or selling my own! So I’ve been tinkering with a formulation for the past day.
I started off by looking at highly regarded soaps, what people thought of them, and what difficulties people had in using them. Watching a few videos on Youtube and jotting some notes, I put together a list of what I think will make a good shaving soap (These aren’t really listed in order of importance)
1. It needs to foam in to a dense and stable lather
2. It should lubricate the face, but not be too greasy and slippery.
3. It should rinse off without leaving a residue.
4. It shouldn’t be fragranced and contain as simple and natural ingredients as possible
5. It should be meltable, so people can pour it into their own soap tins.
6. The soap should be soft enough, dry, that a brush can “scrape” off enough without too much time and effort.
7. It should use quality, but cheap and widely available ingredients.
Choosing the Oils to Saponify…
I’m making a saponified oil soap (Click to read an article describing what they are and how they are made), it’s just about the only “natural” way to make a soap, that still works like how a soap should. There are saponins, which are found in plants such as yucca and soapnuts that act as surfactants, but they barely foam at all - unfortunately.
Looking at a few popular brands, the same oils keep popping up: Tallow, Coconut oil, Palm Kernel oil and Palm Oil.
There are other oils too that make good soaps, like olive oil and hemp seed oil. But they tend to turn rancid and spoil, due to their high unsaturated fatty acid content.
Tallow, coconut, palm kernel and palm oil are high in saturated fatty acid content, which makes them less prone to oxidation and rancidity. They also make soaps that foam a lot better than high unsaturated fatty acid oil soaps.
The problem is that high saturated fatty acid based soaps are more drying. Soap manufacturers get around this by leaving in unsaponified oil, which can leave a film on the skin after rinsing. This unsaponified oil can, however, cause clogged pores and acne in those prone to it.
So the challenge is to create something that foams a lot, without drying the skin out too much.
I ended up choosing coconut oil as the main base of the soap. It’s around 92% saturated fats, meaning it will produce a hard bar that lathers a lot, making it a foaming base for the soap. We can add moisturizers and other oils in to the final product to make it less drying.
Here’s the lather from a pure coconut oil soap. I did 20 circular swipes on the soap itself with a damp brush (I fully saturated the brush with 40 degree Celsius water, then hand squeezed the excess), then 80 swipes in a dish with 10 ml of water at 40 degrees Celsius already in it. For reference the brush is 6 cm long.
Modifying the Foam…
Pure coconut oil produces large bubbles, which tend to dissipate quickly, this might be OK for cleansing the hands or body, but for shaving…we need the foam to build up and last on the face.
Castor oil is a very unique oil, it has its own fatty acid unique to the castor seed – ricinoleic acid. Studies have even found that this fatty acid may have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
The problem with castor oil based soaps though, is that they tend to be very gel-like and soft, and the foam is sticky and almost paste like…
I did the same 20 circular swipes with a damp brush, then 80 swipes in a bowl with 10 ml of water.
…but when added to another soap in smaller amounts, it transforms the soap in to a creamy, rich lather!
Here I took 19 swipes of the coconut oil soap and then 1 swipe of the castor oil. This is the lather from 80 swipes in a bowl with 10 ml of water.
So now I’ve got a good foam structure, but the soap itself is a little bit drying on the skin…tune in next time to “Designing a Shaving Soap” as I add moisturizers to the soap! Cliff-hanger!
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