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Tutorial: Neem Soap with Rosehip & Evening Primrose

My two favorite facial soap formulas are activated charcoal and tea tree facial soap and neem soap. Everyone and their dog’s uncle has an activated charcoal and tea tree soap recipe out there, so I decided to whip up this neem soap tutorial and recipe for y’all.

I always use at least 20% neem oil in neem soap formulas, and I have to tell you – neem oil¬†smells… like dirty¬†feet in the mud, rubbed with tree bark. It’s very earthy, slightly nutty, and kind of smoky, if you ask me. So, if you don’t tend to enjoy those types of scents, you will probably hate the smell of neem. Fair warning!

There aren’t any fragrances that cover the smell of neem, and in my opinion,¬†it works best to compliment the scent as much as possible. I like to do this with cedarwood or patchouli, with a dash of lavender, rosemary, or other herbal notes. If you want to give¬†blending your own complimentary essential oil blend a try, please do!

This particular neem soap recipe also features rosehip and evening primrose oils, as well as gray illite clay, which are some of my favorite facial skincare ingredients. While being palm-free and vegan-friendly like¬†most of Modern Soapmaking’s recipes, it’s also¬†free of coconut oil.

Tutorial: 20% Neem Soap with Rosehip & Evening Primrose
Tutorial: Neem Soap with Rosehip & Evening Primrose

This neem soap recipe is sized for a 10″ Bramble Berry silicone mold, like most of my other tutorials, even though I used my SoapHutch Uber Kate mold as shown. You can resize it using a lye calculator for whichever mold works for you. As requested, I have started to add percentages to the formula & essential oil blends for your convenience.

(If you aren’t sure how much soap your mold holds, you can find out with this guide to resizing your soap recipes to fit your mold.)

Neem Soap Recipe Used

  • 9¬†ounces Babassu¬†Oil (23.7% of the oils)
  • 8 ounces Neem¬†Oil (21.1% of the oils)
  • 8 ounces Olive Oil (21.1% of the oils)
  • 5 ounces¬†Evening Primrose Oil (13.2% of the oils)
  • 3 ounces Kokum Butter (7.9% of the oils)
  • 3 ounces Castor Oil (7.9% of the oils)
  • 2 ounces Rosehip Oil (5.3% of the oils)
  • 5.10 ounces¬†Sodium Hydroxide (7% superfat)
  • 10.36 ounces¬†Distilled Water (33% lye solution)

I buy most of my soaping oils from Soaper’s Choice (Columbus Foods). 

Essential Oil Blend Used

  • 20 grams of Atlas Cedarwood¬†Essential Oil (40% of the blend)
  • 15 grams of Lavender 40/42¬†Essential Oil (30% of the blend)
  • 10 grams of Australian Tea Tree¬†Essential Oil (20% of the blend)
  • 5 grams of Egyptian Geranium¬†Essential Oil (10% of the blend)

These essential oils are from Liberty Natural, but you can use any fragrances or essential oils your heart desires.

Colorants Used

PREP WORK: Weigh out your soaping oils. I like to add my essential oils to my main soap pot so I can’t possibly forget them later. Make up your lye solution, too!

I keep my Titanium Dioxide¬†premixed and diluted, so I can easily add it to my soap. If you don’t, you’ll want to prep your TD. In one¬†measuring cup, I measured out the titanium dioxide and the gray illite clay, and¬†mixed them with a¬†small amount of oils from the¬†main batch of oils.

GET STARTED: Add your lye solution to your soaping oils.

Stick blend until barely emulsified. (Not sure what that means? Find out in this guide to controlling trace.) This formula slightly accelerates trace, so you want to be careful with your mixing.

Pour a third of the neem soap batch into the measuring cup, so you have two-thirds of your batch in your soap pot, one-third in your TD/gray illite clay mix.

Add the lye solution to the soaping oils, use the shaft of your stickblender to prevent splashes
Add the lye solution to the soaping oils, use the shaft of your stickblender to prevent splashes
Pour part of the neem soap into your measuring cup with titanium dioxide and illite clay, mix well!
Pour part of the neem soap into your measuring cup with titanium dioxide and illite clay, mix well!

POUR IT: Pour about an inch of the uncolored neem soap from your soap pot into your mold, and drizzle a small amount of your TD/clay soap in the mold randomly and from up high.

Continue alternating pouring both the uncolored and clay colored neem soap into the mold, until all of the uncolored neem soap is in the mold and you have about one-third of your clay colored neem soap left.

Pour about an inch of neem soap into the mold
Pour about an inch of neem soap into the mold
Drizzle the TD/illite clay colored soap into the mold to create an in-the-mold swirl
Drizzle the TD/illite clay colored soap into the mold to create an in-the-mold swirl
Continue alternating between the uncolored and colored neem soap portions until the main soap pot is empty
Continue alternating between the uncolored and colored neem soap portions until the main soap pot is empty

p.s. The two other soaps in the mold are the¬†Lavender & Cedar Split Tiger Stripe Soap and an upcoming tutorial featuring¬†homemade rosewater, nom! I use my acrylic dividers to lay on top of the other mold chambers, so I don’t drip soap on other batches. ūüėČ

TOP IT OFF: Flood fill (pour the soap over a spatula into the mold) or drop swirl, using the remainder of the clay colored soap from the measuring cup.

Flood fill the top layer of the neem soap in the mold with the remainder of the TD/illite clay soap portion
Flood fill the top layer of the neem soap in the mold with the remainder of the TD/illite clay soap portion

FINISH IT UP: Texture the top of the soap with a spoon, if you wish. I used a spoon to drag from the left side of the mold to the right side, followed by using the handle of the spoon to drag from the right side of the mold to about an inch inwards, creating little dollops of soap.

Use a spoon to create a texture on the top of the neem soap if you wish
Use a spoon to create a texture on the top of the soap if you wish
Use the handle of the spoon to drag from the other side and create dollops of neem soap on top!
Use the handle of the spoon to drag from the other side and create dollops of neem soap on top!

Spritz the top with rubbing alcohol when it loses the sheen of wet soap, and cover with plastic wrap to help keep the ash monsters away.

Finished textured neem soap, with a spritz of isopropyl alcohol to keep the ash at bay
Finished textured neem soap, with a spritz of isopropyl alcohol to keep the ash at bay

Remove the soap from the mold, slice it up, and give it a good cure. Enjoy!

Cut & cured neem soap with evening primrose and rosehip oils. Yum!
Cut & cured neem soap with evening primrose and rosehip oils. Yum!

This neem soap recipe featured in this tutorial is a palm-free, coconut-free, and vegan friendly formula. It uses a 7% superfat and a 33% lye solution. Feel free to adjust as necessary!

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9 Responses

  1. Beautiful soap. I love neem soap (even though it stinks). I noticed that you used some rather expensive butter/oils i.e. Evening Primrose and Kokum in the recipe. Do you know whether the saponification process diminishes or nullifies the specialized attributes of these ingredients? I use these ingredients in lotions and facial products, but I’m reluctant to use butter/oils high in desirable, yet fragile properties except as a superfat at trace. Could you lend your educated opinion?

    1. Hi Kathleen,

      There isn’t much scientific information available as to what happens to (supposed) beneficial properties of botanical ingredients during saponification. Many oils, butters, and essential oils have unsaponifiable content, which means those components don’t turn into soap when mixed with lye.

      That being said, superfatting at trace in cold process is a myth – saponification is not complete at trace, and lye is an equal opportunity saponifier. It doesn’t care if you add the oil before trace or at trace, it will still saponify what it can.

      I don’t mind putting expensive ingredients in soap, one of my favorite soaps contained amber resin, cocoa absolute, etc. If you are making products for sale, you obviously need to consider your target market’s interest in such a product and more importantly, if they would pay for it! ūüôā

      Sorry there isn’t a more definitive answer, there just hasn’t been research done on this enough – just as we can’t scientifically prove a lot of the beneficial properties of ingredients.

      Kenna

      1. Thank you! This comment seriously made me appreciate Modern Soapmaking so much more! And I love neem soap. I always use 30% and add in some clove essential oil in the barest of amounts to work with the scent. I affectionately call my neem soap “Ass Soap- because it smells like ass”. But list it as “Happy Skin Soap” to sell.

        Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. I think you have an error in either the percentage of the amount of the Babassu Oil. The recipe states 9 ounces, which is 16.3% of the total, but you then state that 8 ounces of Neem Oil is 21.1%. Can you confirm?
    The receipe looks amazing!
    Thanks for doing what you do.

    1. Thanks for catching that, Dee! I had copied the percentages from Soapmaker 3, and I clearly messed that one up. Ooops! Should be all fixed now. ūüôā

  3. Could you please suggest substitutes for the babbasu oil and Kokum butter. I’m relatively new to soaping and have already spend a lot on supplies and can’t spend any more presently. I do have the rest of the oils. Is it possible to use borage oil instead of babbasu, and shea butter instead of Kokum? Would they alter the properties a lot? Also do we need to use an antioxidant, since we are using oils with a short shelf life? Thank you Kenna , for all you do for soapers of all levels…

    1. You can substitute coconut oil for the babassu and cocoa butter (it’s closest to the brittle butter like kokum) for the kokum. You could use Shea or Mango for the kokum also but it’s not considered a “brittle” Butter but “hard Butter”. Just make sure you run EVERYTHING through soapcalc to get the right Lye amount. You don’t necessarily need a preservative because of the pH level of soap but some soap makers add ROE or vitamin E oil but that’s just helps with rancidity, it’s not a preservative and isn’t necessarily needed if your oils and butters are fresh. Goodluck ‚ėļÔłŹ

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