Using appropriate fixatives is really the key to fragrancing soaps.
Soap making has become very popular, and most home attempts are successful if the measurements of the ingredients and temperatures required are followed exactly. The aroma of the soap is another matter. While we can’t delve into the actual preparation of soap from scratch here, it is exciting to look at the essential oils we can use to successfully fragrance soap.
It is very difficult to mask the lard odor and even in an all-vegetable soap, the lasting quality of the fragrance is a challenge. Saponification is an interesting chemical process that actually continues for quite some time after the bars of soap are made. Any essential oil in the formula also undergoes a reaction to the presence of alkali substances and evaporation.
Soap can modify the aroma of an essential oil blend so it becomes almost unrecognizable. Using appropriate fixatives is really the key to fragrancing soaps. To effectively judge the suitability of an essential oil or blend of oils in soap, it is recommended to leave the soap to cure for one month, then test it for fragrance.
Blending oils for soap is a challenge. You may choose to create just a pleasantly fragranced soap or you may choose to incorporate a therapeutic goal to your blend. An example of this is Blend 32. All the blends in the following section can also be added to liquid soap. For hard or glycerin soap, we suggest matching the fragrance to a color. Suggestions have been made where possible. We leave the rest to your imagination and patience.
Soap can modify the aroma of an essential oil blend.
ESSENTIAL OILS FOR SOAP
The following is a list of essential oils suitable for fragrancing soaps. The stability and fixative qualities have been indicated with: * = strong ** = medium *** = mild **** = very mild
- Anise Pimpinella anisum: This is a powerful aroma in soap, so use it sparingly. **
- Basil Ocimum basilicum: This essential oil is best blended rather than used alone. It works well with floral aromas. **
- Bay Laurus nobilis: This essential oil blends well with rose in soaps. **
- Benzoin Styrax benzoin: A good fixative, but it may darken the color of the soap. *
- Bergamot Citrus aurantium: An excellent essential oil in soaps and a good fixative. *
- Black Pepper Piper nigrum: Useful in carnation fragrance blends. **
- Caraway Carum carvi: A rather fleeting essential oil, but it gives a characteristic aroma. ***
- Cassia Cinnamomum cassia: A useful essential oil for rose blends. It may darken light-colored soap. *
- Cedarwood Atlas Cedrus atlantica: A powerful essential oil for soap, blending well with sandalwood and violet *
- Cinnamon Cinnamomum zeylanicum: A good substitute for clove; it may darken light-colored soap. ***
- Citronella Cymbopogon nardus: A powerful fragrance for soaps. *
- Clove Syzygium aromaticum: This essential oil gives a sweet note to soap and is wonderful with carnation aromas. *
- Eucalyptus Eucalyptus globulus: Great in medicated soaps, but a touch in a rose blend is pleasant. *
- Fennel Foeniculum vulgare: Pleasant in soap when blended. ***
- Geranium Pelargonium graveolens: Indispensable in blends. *
- Labdanum Cistus ladaniferus: A great fixative in small quantities. It blends well with lavender, helping to hold the fragrance in soap. It replaces ambergris. *
- Lavender Lavandula officinalis: On its own, it has no substance as a fragrance for soap. It does not last and does not mask the fatty note of the soap. If blended with either basil, labdanum, oakmoss, rosemary, or thyme, it can work well. ***
- Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus: This is a good basis for a verbena aroma in soap. It is best modified with palmarosa. It may turn the soap a yellow color. ***
- Lemon Citrus limonum: This essential oil can also darken soap slightly. It is great in cologne soap but must be fixed well to last. ****
- Nutmeg Myristica fragrans: It is occasionally used with lavender compounds. w
- Oakmoss Evernia prunastri: Great fixative for lavender. A very persistent fixative. *
- Orange Citrus sinensis: This essential oil may darken soap. It sweetens a fragrant blend. It must be fixed well to last. ****
- Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini: Stable in soap and useful to blend with rose for a floral fragrance and lemon grass for a citrus aroma. *
- Patchouli Pogostemon cablin: A stable fixative. Use at about 10%. *
- Peppermint Mentha ×piperita: A small amount is useful in soap to enhance other aromas. *
- Peru Balsam Myroxylon pereirae: A fixative that gives a warm aroma to soap. It will darken the soap over time. *
- Petitgrain Citrus aurantium var. amara: This essential oil will turn soap yellowish over time. It is effective in glycerin and cucumber fragrances and cologne soaps. **
- Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis: Stable in soap. This essential oil gives a fresh quality to soap and is effective blended with lavender. **
- Sandalwood Santalum album: Useful as a fixative and modifier in violet and rose aromas for soaps. **
- Sassafras Ocotea cymbarum: A trace in a violet fragrance helps to fix the aroma. It is also used in a chypre-type blend. The oils common to chypre blends are oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, and vetiver. *
- Spearmint Mentha spicata: A powerful aroma initially, but it does not hold in a soap. ***
- Thyme Thymus vulgaris: Thyme gives an antiseptic freshness to soap. *
- Tolu Balsam Myroxylon balsamum: A good fixative in soap, but it may cause the soap to darken. *
- Vetiver Vetiveria zizanioides: Even small amounts in soap are persistent. It is pleasant blended with violet type aromas. *
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