How to Naturally Color Soap with Plants, Roots, and Clays
When I first began making soap, I was just concerned about the soap lathering and being natural. As I got better at soap making, though, my creative side took over, and I decided to begin experimenting with plant and clay-based colorants. I've had all kinds of experiences, ranging from, "OOPS!" "Meh." and "Totally AWESOME!."
I'm here to share with you what has worked for me in the realm of coloring hand made soap naturally. By the way, these colorants can be used in all methods of soap making: Melt & Pour, Cold Process, and Hot Process.
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How to Use Natural Colorants in Your Home Made Soap:
There are several ways you can color your soaps naturally using herbs and clays. Here are some ideas.
Plants from the earth are a wonderful way to color your soaps!
You can create teas, which can be substituted for a portion (or all) of the water in a soap recipe. You can also powder the leaves for a grainier look.
You’ll need to powder the roots, leaves, berries as finely as possible if you choose to use powdered herbs for your soaps.
I'll also strain to get the finest particles I can if they turn out on the coarse side (as in annatto---I have a hard time getting a fine powder). You may have darker speckles with some roots and berries, but I have found the leaves grind very well.
I put the powdered herb into the oil part of the soap, before mixing to trace.
The other option is to make an infusion/tea in the water portion of the soap making process. This will color the water, which will add color to the soap without the extra powders/speckles.
If you want texture from herbs such as lavender, calendula, etc., you can add these at the end of the cooking time in hot process soap making. Or before you pour the soap into the mold in cold process soap making.
You should expect most herbs you add to soap to turn a brown color. Rarely do they retain their vibrant original color through the saponification process. Calendula is the only exception I've found so far for flowers. Nettle and alfalfa will keep the soap a nice green color.
I love using clays as colorants. They add another dimension to your soap! Clays detoxify your skin and they add a wonderful "slip" to soaps. A more slippery soap makes for excellent shaving!
Clays also make for a denser and harder soap, as well. They seem to last a bit longer.
My Favorite Plants and Clays for Coloring Soap Naturally
This is certainly not a complete list, as there are MANY herbs and clays to color your soaps. These are my favorite ones, though, at least so far!
Red and Pink:
Madder Root: Produces a range from pinkish to red, depending on how much you use.
French Pink Clay: A light pinkish brown, actually quite pretty.
Morrocan Red Clay: Provides a lovely dark red brown, depending on the amount used
Kaolin Pink Clay: Also a light pinkish brown soap, similar to French Pink Clay.
Nettle Leaf Powder: Using Nettle leaf is my very favorite for a bright, vibrant green.
Spirulina: Makes a nice green-blue color
Green Clay: Makes a calming light green color
Henna: I have not actually tried using Henna in soap---only my hair. I hear it makes a nice olive green/brown soap.
Yellow and Orange:
Calendula Petals: Using Calendula is my favorite way to make yellow soap. I infuse the petals in the almond oil or olive oil for about 6 weeks. The oils turn a beautiful golden yellow--and no extra colorant is needed in the soap! Plus the Calendula is extremely softening and soothing to the skin.
Annatto Seed: You'll have to grind this to as much of a powder as you can, then strain for just the finest particles. A tiny bit of this goes a long way! Color ranges from light yellow all the way to striking orange with more added!
Paprika: Paprika makes a darkish orange color. It's quite pretty, and great in the Fall!
Safflower Powder: Another way to make a rusty orange bar of soap
Turmeric: Turmeric makes a nice yellow soap. It's not as pretty a yellow as Calendula, in my opinion, but I've used it often and it turns out nice!
Purple and Blue:
Alkanet Root: If you buy it unpowdered, just grind it in your spice mill! This makes a wonderful very dark purple bluish color. Go easy on it! A little goes a long way. Also, it may turn a grayish color depending on the lye content, but it's not unpleasant.
Indigo: Gives a deep blue color. It will stain, so be careful!
Blue Cornmeal: I haven't tried this yet, either, but I hear it turns a purplish-blue to brown color.
Cinnamon: Cinnamon makes a nice brown color. You can also swirl it in at the end. Caution: Cinnamon may be irritating to the skin for some people.
Clove: Makes a darker brown color.
Coffee: Ground fine, infuse in the oils as they heat. It will give you speckles in your soap, but will really scrub your skin well!
Activated Charcoal: Hands down the best for making a black soap! If you don't use enough, though, it will be a gray color. Activated charcoal is purifying to your skin, too!
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But now, a note on "natural." What Does Natural Really Mean?
These days, when you hear the word, "natural," you really do need to take care. “Natural” can be only a small portion of a product. It can also mean that it was actually made in a lab, but the chemicals match up with the real thing. This is not natural, my friend. It’s deceptive and unsafe.
Like micas for coloring soaps and using in body care? NOT natural, even though mica is found naturally in the earth. The brightly colored fluorescent and shiny colorants people often “ooh” and “ah” over are not natural at all.
So how do you know if what you choose to use (or buy) for that matter is the real natural deal?
Well, I have solved that problem for myself by simply using organic plants (roots, seeds, leaves) that I powder myself or purchase powdered, clays that actually come from the earth and are minimally (or not at all) processed, and powders such as activated charcoal---which is no longer actually a plant but does come from wood.
Basically, if I know where it came from exactly, and I know what it is, and especially if I grew it myself—-then I feel good about using it.
There are some colorants that are sometimes touted as "natural," but which I personally choose to refrain from using because they have crossed the line somewhere in the manufacturing process.
These include micas, anything colored with wax, and anything else that has been processed in chemical ways or are lab manufactured. Those brightly colored soap colorants you see? NOT natural.
Natural colorants are going to have a softer, more muted tone.
And I think they’re beautiful.
Final Thoughts on Coloring Soaps Naturally
There are so many ways you can use plants and clays to color your handmade soaps. Teas, powdered herbs, and infused oils are some of the ways you can get herbal color or color from the earth (clays) into your handmade soaps.
It’s exciting business when you start learning about all the things you can do to create lovely natural and healthy soaps.
I’d love to know your question, thoughts, and any ideas you have that I didn’t include so please leave a comment in the comments section.
That's it for coloring your soap naturally!
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