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

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.

Essential Oil Top Ten for Handmade Soap

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
Blend up your own essential oil blends with these starter blends!
Create your own essential oil blends with these essential oils for beginners!

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
Blend up your own essential oil blends with these starter blends!
Blend up your own essential oil blends with these starter blends!

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? Every tutorial and recipe that uses an essential oil blend is tagged, so you can find it easily! Or 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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35 Responses

  1. Thanks for the good info. We are natural perfumers and new to the world of soapmaking and are finding ourselves limited in the EOs we can use because of their lower flashpoints (citrus in particular, also rosemary). For example, lavender EO contains both linalyl acetate that volatizes/disappears around 157.3 °F and linalool with a flashpoint of 131°F. Meaning, we lose all the linalool notes in lavender when we use it in our HP soap, because we can’t pour any colder 135°F. (We have given up on CP soap because it is too hard to navigate how a particular scent compound will react with the lye, and our tests were getting too pricey with the EOs we were using 🙂 Also, do you have experience with absolutes causing soap seize more than EO — is this because some of the solvent is still remaining?
    Do you have any advice for us? Thanks for your time. – CC

    1. Flashpoint is not the boiling or volatilizing point of oils. It’s the point at which the vapor can ignite and used for safety reasons. Your soap probably isn’t getting the scent because it is just being diluted or covered up. Sometimes other oils are needed to bring out all the scent, and overall this is what makes soap making complex in my opinion.

  2. Hi Kenna!!

    Great list!!! Question for you. I use all of these extensively in my soap except for the Clary Sage. I’ve seen soapers concerned about essential oils and pregnancy and this is one of the essential oils listed as not good for pregnant women to use. Do you have any information on that? Do you put a warning on your soap for pregnant women when you use it? Thanks!!!

    1. Clary sage can cause contractions that’s why pregnant women should not use it. If they are full term go for it, it can make contractions stronger. It worked for me.

  3. Thank you Kenna for sharing all your tricks and tips. As a new soap maker, the information you share is invaluable. My favorite Essential Oils to use is dragon’s blood, sage, jasmine dreams (E.O Blend), patchouli, sweet orange, and tranquil oasis (E.O. Blend. I am still learning, but eager to try new things.

  4. Oooh thankyou thankyou! I was having blenders block!! I have made soap for about three years then finally summoned the courage to open a wee tiny shop… being in France I found myself mixing lavander with everyhing!! Then day one…. 3 customrrs asked for lemony summery scents. Arrgh. I am now inspired and away to plan my weekend of soap making. Thanks again for your tireless efforts in giving back. ☺

  5. HI! These combinations sound divine! I am so excited to try several of these. I am newer to soap making and I have a hard time judging how much total essential oil I should be putting into my batter. Your percentages are very helpful, but what is a good way to decide how much total oil I should have for a pretty standard size batch of soap?

  6. Thanks fir your recipes – However for 1 lb of soap as an example – Houw much in ounces or drops do we add ?
    this as example ::::
    50% Lemon Essential Oil
    30% Rosemary Essential Oil
    15% Cedarwood Essential Oil
    5% Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil

    thanks !!

    jules

    1. Since these %s are divisible by 5, you can convert this recipe to “parts”. Then use your measure of choice (teaspoons, fl oz, oz wt., grams, mls.) to create the blend.
      10 parts Lemon
      6 parts Rosemary
      3 parts Cedarwood
      1 part Litsea Cubeba
      There’s no “one size fits all” amount to add to the soap batch, but generally you can start with 1/2 oz PPO (per pound oils) and adjust from there.

    2. Jules,
      You can visit our EOCalc (eocalc.com) to determine safe usage rates for this blend.

      Cee, while you are right there is no “one size fits all” amount, there is a safe maximum set IFRA that should be adhered to.

  7. Hi Kenna,

    Do you know of a good essential oil brand/wholesale company to buy from? I would like to make cold processed soap and want to make sure I’m using the right ingredients.

    Thank you!
    Priscilla

  8. Hi Kenna,
    I am wanting to make an orange patchouli soap with 5 fold orange and dark patchouli. I have litsea I could anchor with, too, but I’m at a loss for how much of each to use. Any advice?

  9. Hello Kenna ~ you have provided us with some great information. My question is how to calculate your percentages into number of drops for those of us who are simple melt and pour soap makers. I make soaps for holiday gifts.

    1. VOLUME CONVERSION TABLE
      20 drops = 1 ml
      40 drops = 2 ml
      60 drops = 3 ml
      80 drops = 4 ml
      100 drops = 5 ml = 1 teaspoon
      300 drops = 15 ml = 1 tablespoon
      600 drops = 30 ml = 1 fluid ounce
      1 fluid ounce = 2 Tablespoons (liquid)
      2 fluid ounces = 6 teaspoons (liquid)
      3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon
      3 teaspoons 1 = Tablespoon

  10. Hello, thank you for share with us!! I am new at soapmaking, and you know EO are expensive, I want to try some EO in my soaps, at the begining I was thinking not use them, but I notice that people love aroma in the soaps… so I want to ask for your recomendations of a range of EO not too expensive and easy to find on amazon, I am from Mexico and here I don´t know why but not like too much the kind of aroma on EO, so I found on amazon brands like Now Foods or Sun essential oils, do you recommend one in particular? Thank you for your help. Regards From Mexico.

  11. I would like to know how much evening primrose essential oil fr 16onz of Shea mp soap base, what would blend nicely with it..
    I’m new to soap making,these are for family.. I get totally confused with the amounts 5% .. shows I’m just learning.. thanks in advance

    1. Hey, Geraldine,
      Check in with your essential oil supplier to see what percentage of they recommend for wash off products when using the essential oil you’ve chosen. Also, check with your melt and pour supplier to see the total amount of additives the base can accept.

      You are working with two different limits here: (1) the amount of essential oil that is safe to use in your product and (2) the amount that you can add to your base without causing issues with its integrity or effectiveness. Whichever percentage is lowest will be the maximum amount you can use. However, you may find the scent to be strong enough at a lower percentage.

      You can also visit our EOcalc.com for blend inspiration.

  12. no geranium??!! geranium is a must..it blends well with just about everything on the list..and is indispensable for any soap maker. citrus oils are tough…dont hold their scents in cold process and problematic with seizing

  13. Pingback: Quick & Easy Non-toxic Soap-Perfect for Valentine's Gifts! - Go, Green Mamas!

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