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Kenna's Top Ten Essential Oils for Soapmaking & Starter Essential Oil Blends

soap science and info

A few dozen fragrances houses make all of the soap-safe scent blends available on the market. Striking out on your own is one way to make your products stand out from the crowd. Since you've read past the title of this post, I'm guessing you want to create your own essential oil blends for soapmaking. And I literally wrote the book on that...

(Want to dive deep and learn everything about using essential oils in soap and cosmetics in one place? Snag your copy of Smellgoods: How to Use & Blend Essential Oils in Handmade Soap & Skincare.)

Have other essential oil questions? I've probably answered them in another article.

But in this article, I'm focusing on my top ten essential oils for soapmaking and some beginner essential oil blends using my recommended essential oils for soapmaking.

I chose my top ten essential oils for making soap based on:

  • Versatility
  • Cost
  • Availability

These essential oils can be found in a ton of my blends, blended with each other and all sorts of other essential oils. So, I think they are the most useful to add to your supply inventory (whether you want to use them straight or in blends).

Cost and availability ranges, but you can pick and choose which essential oils to add to your arsenal based on your budget and supplier availability. Also, remember that cost varies widely based on the season and crop yields of any given year - what is affordable right now may not stay affordable a year down the line!

My Top Ten Essential Oils for Soapmaking

1. Lavender Essential Oil

There are thousands of varieties of lavender out there. And narrowing down which lavender essential oil to add to your supply cabinet will be a challenge in itself. A good choice for soapmaking is Lavender 40/42 Essential Oil. (Or you might try a Lavandin, such as Lavandin Grosso or Lavandin Abrialis, rather than a true Lavender.)

Lavender 40/42 is standardized so that it always smells the same. That makes it a good candidate for manufacturing. Its scent leans toward an English Lavender, an herbaceous floral with a balsamic undertone. So, it's less floral than a Bulgarian Lavender.

  • Current cost: Moderate; $55 to $110 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers.
  • Blends well with: Just about anything! Lavender will pair well with any of the other top ten recommended essential oils for soapmaking.
  • Try it in: Lavender Citrus essential oil blend

2. Rosemary Essential Oil

As with any other variety of essential oil, there are a large number of varieties of rosemary essential oil. Each one has it's own scent profile, ranging from more herbaceous and camphorous to more woody and resinous. I prefer Spanish Rosemary as it's more camphorous. But Moroccan Rosemary is also a popular choice due to it's more woody and herbal aroma.

  • Current cost: Low to Moderate; $50 to $80 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers.
  • Blends well with: Many citruses, herbal scents, and woody varieties. Try blending it with bergamot, cedarwood, lavender, lemon, orange, patchouli, and peppermint.
  • Try it in: Rosemary Mint Twist essential oil blend

3. Folded Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil smells just like the fruit itself, with a bright, cheery, and slightly tart aroma. Folded varieties (as indicated by the prefix 5 Fold, 10x, etc.) are better for soapmaking and have stronger sticking power in blends that are exposed to the saponification process. You will want to use steam-distilled lemon essential oil for leave-on products, due to photosensitivity, but cold-pressed smells much better.

  • Current cost: Low to Moderate; $30 to $100 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Other citrus essential oils, as well as most other essential oils to bring a sparkling top note
  • Try it in: Brisk essential oil blend

4. Cedarwood Essential Oil

Cedarwood varieties range from woody and sweet to dry and smoky. My favorite varieties of cedarwood are Atlas, Himalayan, and Virginian. Not all cedarwood essential oils are actually cedar varieties, and some are from the juniper family, but all cedarwood varieties can add a wonderfully dry and woodsy base note to blends.

  • Current cost: Low; $15 to $40 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers.
  • Blends well with: Most herbal and citrus essential oils. Try it out with bergamot, clary sage, lavender, and rosemary.
  • Try it in: In The Dark essential oil blend

5. Dark Patchouli Essential Oil

Patchouli usually evokes a love or hate feeling from soapmakers. But whether you love it or hate it, it can't be denied that it's a fabulous blender! Patchouli essential oil is a warm, earthy, musky, and somewhat sweet aroma. I personally prefer Dark Patchouli over Light Patchouli, as it's richer in scent. Unlike many other essential oils, patchouli gets better with age, and aged varieties tend to go for a premium.

  • Current cost: Low to Moderate; $45 to $70 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at a few soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers.
  • Blends well with: Some citrus essential oils, as well as many floral and herbal essential oils. Try it with orange, lavender, clary sage, rosemary, and spices, such as cinnamon or clove.
  • Try it in: Bamboo essential oil blend

6. Clary Sage Essential Oil

Clary sage is a robust and unique scent, which is why it makes my top ten list of essential oils for soapmaking. It can be described as mostly herbal and floral, with slight earthy, fruity, and sweet notes. I personally prefer the Bulgarian variety, but I haven't met a clary sage I didn't like!

  • Current cost: High; $150 to $200 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at very few soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Most citrus and herbal essential oils, as well as many woodsy varieties. Try it with bergamot, cedarwood, lavender, lemon, orange, patchouli, and ylang-ylang.
  • Try it in: Verdant essential oil blend

7. Folded Sweet Orange Essential Oil

Like lemon essential oil, sweet orange essential oil smells just like the fruit itself, with a juicy and sweet aroma. Folded varieties (as indicated by the prefix 5 Fold, 10x, etc.) are better for soapmaking and have stronger sticking power in blends that are exposed to the saponification process. You will want to use sweet orange essential oil, rather than bitter orange essential oil, due to photosensitivity.

  • Current cost: Low; $10 to $30 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Other citrus essential oils, as well as most other essential oils to bring a juicy and sweet note. Works with any other recommended essential oils for soapmaking!
  • Try it in: Tropic essential oil blend

8. Peppermint Essential Oil

Different varieties of peppermint range in sweetness and sharpness that you know and expect from a peppermint. While the minty sweetness usually stumps soapmakers new to blending, it can often add an unexpected twist to blends.

  • Current cost: Moderate; $30 to $80 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Citrus and minty/camphorous essential oils, as well as herbal and some woodsy essential oils. Try it with bergamot, cedarwood, lemon, lavender, rosemary, tea tree, and evergreen/woodsy essential oils like pine or fir.
  • Try it in: Modern Mojito essential oil blend

9. Bergamot Essential Oil

Bergamot is unique in its citrus and slightly spicy floral scent profile, and works beautifully in blends. I prefer to use bergaptene-free bergamot essential oil, due to its aroma and photosensitivity issues with bergaptene.

  • Current cost: Moderate to High; $80 to $185 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at very few soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Most essential oils blend well with bergamot, where it can bring a warm spicy floral note to the table. Try it with any of the recommended essential oils for soapmaking!
  • Try it in: French Kiss essential oil blend

10. Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea tree is definitely not for everyone, due to its medicinal, sharp, and camphorous aroma, but many soapmakers swear by it in facial products. When you think of tea tree, you likely think of the Australian variety. However, lemon tea tree is also popular (and more expensive), bringing a more citrus and woodsy complexity to the classic scent.

  • Current cost: Moderate; $40 to $145 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Herbal, minty, and some citrus or spicy essential oils. Try it with bergamot, clary sage, lavender, lemon, orange, and rosemary.
  • Lavish Spa essential oil blend

Bonus: Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil

I just couldn't finish this list without litsea cubeba, also known as may chang essential oil. Litsea cubeba essential oil has a beautiful citrus aroma with a more complex crisp grassy undertone and slight spice compared to other classic citruses. It's quite similar to lemongrass without the heaviness. It works beautifully in blends with other citruses to give them more robust staying power in soapmaking.

  • Current cost: Low; $40 to $50 per pound, depending on supplier and variety
  • Availability: Can be found at most soapmaking suppliers as well as essential oil distillers and suppliers
  • Blends well with: Other citrus essential oils, as well as most other essential oils for soapmaking to bring a rounded citrus note.
  • Sunkissed essential oil blend 

Ready to blend up the top ten recommended essential oils for soapmaking?

As you probably noticed, most of theses essential oils work well together. Even if you start with blending the recommended essential oils for soapmaking with two essential oils evenly in a blend (1:1 ratio), you have fifty-five possible combinations!

Takeaway: With just ten or eleven essential oils, you have hundreds of possible blends at your fingertips.

Not feeling very inspired to start blending your own essential oil blends?

Above I've included a favorite blend from our EOCalc.com with each essential oil listing. Here are a few more of my favorite starter essential oil blends using only my recommended essential oils for soapmaking. Get your creative juices flowing!

Smoothly Lemon Essential Oil Blend
  • 50% Lemon Essential Oil
  • 30% Rosemary Essential Oil
  • 15% Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • 5% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil
Citrus Breeze Essential Oil Blend
  • 35% Tea Tree Essential Oil
  • 35% Bergamot Essential Oil
  • 25% Orange Essential Oil
  • 5% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil
Herbal Citrus Essential Oil Blend
  • 35% Orange Essential Oil
  • 25% Rosemary Essential
  • 20% Lavender Essential Oil
  • 15% Peppermint Essential Oil
  • 5% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil
Supernatural Essential Oil Blend
  • 34% Clary Sage Essential Oil
  • 32% Lemon Essential Oil
  • 25% Lavender Essential Oil
  • 5% Orange Essential Oil
  • 4% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil
Roots Essential Oil Blend
  • 40% Lemon Essential Oil
  • 21% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil
  • 20% Bergamot Essential Oil
  • 19% Peppermint Essential Oil
Gentleman's Lavender Essential Oil Blend
  • 50% Lavender Essential Oil
  • 20% Clary Sage Essential Oil
  • 10% Orange Essential Oil
  • 10% Patchouli Essential Oil
  • 5% Cedarwood Essential Oil
  • 5% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil

Looking for more essential oil blends?  You can visit the EOCalc for essential blends from my personal formulary and submitted by the Modern Soapmaking community!

What are your favorite and most recommended essential oils? Leave a comment below and let me know!

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