The best soap recipe produces a bar with a luscious creamy abundant lather.
It creates a rock hard bar of soap that is long-lasting (but not too long-lasting!)
A perfect soap formula cleanses without being overly drying and has just the right amount of skin-nourishing oils and additives.
And of course, the ideal soap recipe wouldn’t cost more than $1.50 per bar to produce.
Sounds like music to your soapmaker ears, right?
The thing is, the best soap recipe?
It’s like the holy grail of soapmaking. The perfect soap recipe is as unique as you are.
What features I like in my soap are probably different from what you like (and ultimately, different than what your customers might like!) I love creamy tight bubbles. When I drop a bar of soap on my floor, I love when it’s so hard that it’s completely unscathed.
I like to lather a bar of soap in my hands (while you might like to use a loofah.) And I have semi-soft water on tap (while you might have extremely hard water.) All of these factors change how a bar of soap can perform.
These factors can ultimately change what the perfect soap recipe is for me versus what you think is the best soap recipe. Furthermore, what your customers feel is the best soap recipe might be wildly different, too. (Honestly, they probably aren’t as picky and keen to minute changes as we are, as soapmakers!)
So, what is the secret to the best soap recipe?
When it comes down to it, learning your fatty acid profiles, understanding your oil properties, and tweaking a formula to your liking is the name of the game. But if you aren’t quite there yet, these general guidelines should help!
If you are looking to increase the size of the bubbles or the amount of lather in your soap recipe, try:
- Increasing the percentage of oils that contribute to bubbly lather, like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and babassu oil
- Decreasing the superfat of the total oils, as too many free oils can cut down on lather
- Using lather increasing additives like sodium citrate, sodium lactate, sugar, or rosin
- Replacing the water with a lather booster that contains sugars, like beer or wine
If you are looking to stabilize or sustain lather in your soap recipe, try:
- Using castor oil at 5% to 10% of your recipe. (Be forewarned, using more than 15% castor oil tends to make the bar sticky, tacky, and rubbery.)
- Adding or increasing oils that support lather, like almond oil, lard, tallow, cocoa butter, palm oil, shea butter, or sunflower oil
- Decreasing oils that do not contribute a lot to lather (or hinder it), like olive oil
If you are looking to increase conditioning in a soap recipe, try:
- Replacing the water with alternative liquids, like goats milk (or other milk), yogurt, or aloe vera juice
- Increasing the superfat of the total oils to condition the skin
- Adding or increasing nourishing oils, like apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, olive oil, rice bran oil, or sunflower oil
- Adding “luxury oils” at 5% to 10%, like argan oil, evening primrose oil, flaxseed oil, hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, meadowfoam oil, pumpkin seed oil, or wheatgerm oil
If you are looking to increase bar hardness in a soap recipe, try:
- Increasing your hard to soft oil ratio, by using a higher percentage of hard oils (oils that are solid at room temperature)
- Adding stearic acid at 0.5% to 1% of the total soap formula
- Including beeswax at 1% to 5% of the total soap recipe
- Adding sodium lactate at 1% to 3% of the total soap formula
What’s the next step in finding the best soap recipe?
Try out your recipe, changing one variable at a time, until you are happy!
Remember, that these are all rough guidelines to help you find YOUR perfect soap recipe.
Whether these tips will work for you will depend on your soap recipe’s current oil and fatty acid profile. Learning the fatty acid profiles of each oil and what properties they contribute to your formula is the key to successful formulating.
If you are totally stuck on trying to perfect your recipe: I can help you get there with my exclusive video class over at The Nova Studio. In plain English, I’ll teach you the chemistry behind soapmaking, the significance of fatty acids, the ratios to formulate different kinds of soap, and how to troubleshoot. You’ll never rely on anyone else’s recipes ever again.
Want a soap recipe to start off with?
Check out my soap making tutorials to see if a recipe strikes your fancy, like this recipe featuring avocado or this one using coconut milk. If you want to give it a go in formulating your own soap recipe, try this basic builder soap formula:
- 60% Hard Oils (Solid at Room Temperature)
- 25% to 45% Lathering Hard Oils
- 15% to 30% Conditioning Hard Oils
- 40% Soft Oils (Liquid at Room Temperature)
- 20% to 30% Nourishing Soft Oils
- 5% to 10% Luxury Soft Oils
- 5% to 10% Castor Oil
Hard oils would be any oil that is solid or semi-solid at room temperature.
Lathering hard oils include oils like coconut oil, palm kernel oil, babassu oil, and murumuru butter.
On the other hand, conditioning hard oils are oils and butters such as palm oil, cocoa butter, lard, tallow, kokum butter, illipe butter, sal butter, mango butter, shea butter, etc.
Soft oils are oils that are liquid at room temperature.
Some examples of nourishing soft oils in a soap recipe are high oleic sunflower oil, high oleic safflower oil, olive oil, canola oil, almond oil, apricot kernel oil, and avocado oil.
Luxury soft oils include oils like evening primrose oil, walnut oil, wheat germ oil, hemp oil, rosehip oil, and pumpkin seed oil.
Lastly, castor oil stands in a league of its own. There are no comparable oils due to its unique fatty acid profile! Castor oil is well worth its inclusion in a small percentage in a soap recipe to sustain beautiful lather.
Do you have any other tips or tricks to formulating the best soap recipe you want to share? Leave a comment and let me know!