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Join Jo & Her Botanical Love: Coloring Soap Naturally

guest contributors soap science and info
a row of naturally colored soap

My name is Jo Haslauer, and I LOVE soaping with natural colorants, botanicals and essential oils. I love to infuse herbs for their color, their herbal properties, and to enhance essential oil scents. 

Yes, some plant infusions can help hold scents!

The magic of seeing a red colored infusion turn blue when mixed into the lye, and then purple within 7 days, never ceases to amaze me. I like nothing better than finding a new plant colorant, putting it through the lye monster, and finding a new shade to play with!

How many different plants give purple anyway? Here are just three plant infusions that have produced different shades of purple!


 From Top to Bottom: Ratanjot (Onosma echioides), Alkanet (Alkanna Tinctoria Root), and Gromwell root (Lithospermum Erythrorhizon)

Before I start an infusion, I decide what product I will use it in. If I want the infusion for coloring soap, I infuse it in an oil used in my soap recipe (for example, olive oil.) If I decide I would like to use the color in a bath truffle, I will use an oil that is not heavy and oily, but is clear and light (for example, fractionated coconut oil.) If the infusion is to enhance a scent, I decide what scent I would like to enhance (like lavender), and then follow the above for the product I will use it in.

 A Collection of Jo's Plant Infusions

Olive oil (pomace) is my favorite oil to use. Pomace olive oil has a long shelf life, but more importantly, it is not green in color. Green colored oil will mess with your pretty blue woad infusion! You will never get Robin’s egg blue if you use oils that are green or yellow in color, no matter how hard you try, or pray, or how many tantrums you throw, it just won’t happen.

Most plant colorants don’t like to play with palm oil. They much prefer white base oils like coconut. If you can remember to give plant colorants the whitest soap oil base you can, you will be rewarded with the most beautiful rainbow of plant colorants you have ever seen.

 Just a small selection of Jo's beautiful and naturally colored soaps!

This advice also applies to essential oils!

Citrus oils are great if you want a yellow or orange colored bar. Use a citrus essential oil to strengthen your plant colorant, like lemon myrtle essential oil (which will enhance your annatto) and ten-fold orange essential oil (that will enhance your carrot juice soap.)

Conversely, if you want a blue color, don’t use a citrus essential oil as it will change your final hue. Try a clear essential oil, like peppermint essential oil.

Not all colorants require an infusion, some are better placed straight into the lye solution and some like to be added straight into the batter. Although I don’t use that method very often as it will give specks in your soap and I am not personally a fan of that look!  Botanicals can be sprinkled on top of soap and/or added to soap batter to spread throughout the soap bar. Essentials oils can be used for their color straight, blended or not used at all.

A quick list of natural colorants to color your soap naturally!

Let’s look at a list of easy to purchase plant colorants that will give you a rainbow of color and the ways I have found they prefer to be treated:

Use in Lye Solution

  • Madder root – pink colors ranging from pastel through to bright pink
  • Indigo – blue colors ranging from pastel through to navy blue and almost black

Use in Oil Infusion

  • Annatto – sunshine in a bottle, yellows to gold
  • Turmeric – pastel colors through to juicy fat oranges on a tree
  • Alkanet – pastel colors through to rich royal jewel purple

Added Directly to Soap

  • Liquid Chlorphyll – pale pastel mint through to dark green
  • Dead Sea Mud – beige through to dark green/brown
  • Cocoa powder – brown to dark chocolate brown

In the rainbow soap photo above, here are the colorants and techniques I used for each soap, from left to right:

  • Dead Sea Mud – added at trace to soap batter
  • Turmeric – oil infusion
  • Annatto – oil infusion
  • Liquid Chlorophyll – added at trace to the soap batter
  • Woad – oil infusion
  • Indigo – add to the lye solution
  • Madder Root – added to the lye solution
  • Alkanet – oil infusion

Finally, to really reap the rewards of plant colorants, you will need to gel your soap as it truly brings out the plant’s best color.

Are you ready to learn how to create infusions and use natural colorants in soapmaking in more depth to conquer coloring soap naturally? Join me for the rest of the series!

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