Posted by on 3/4/2021 to Let's Talk Soaping
Process of Blending & Mixing Essential Oils to Perfection, Part I: The Basics
Cold process soap making is fun for so many reasons. There is something special about coming up with your own cold process soap recipe or even getting ideas from others, and coming out with a beautifully crafted homemade soap.
When you first begin your journey as a soaper, getting past the early phases of understanding the lingo, understanding the science and starting to formulate your very first recipe, is hard enough, right?!
But once you have a strong understanding of the basics, the next thing that you can do is start to play around with scent profiles and blending or mixing fragrances and essential oils. It may just be one of the most exciting parts of soaping (at least it is for us here at RN to Zen).
Blending fragrances and/or essential oils can be something that sets you apart from other soap makers and makes your company unique. With that all being said, there are important things to know and learn about how to safely and effectively blend oils.
So in this post we'll cover how to safely and effectively blend essential oils.
Why Essential Oils?
Chances are, you've probably heard about essential oils before. Many times you'll here about them in regards to aromatherapy, aromatherapy massages, their usage in aromatherapy diffusers, and many other bath and beauty products. However, they are even a popular choice in soap making, for scenting purposes.
Essential oils are plant extracts, where parts of a plant (flower, leaves etc.) are steamed distilled or pressed to capture their compounds which produce an aroma. High quality essential oils, you'll probably notice, are not cheap! This is because when done right, it can take pounds of plants to achieve enough extraction of oils to produce one bottle.
According to The National Institute of Environmental Health Services, it takes approx. 220lbs of lavender flowers to produce 1 pound of lavender essential oil.
These extracts retain there natural smell and flavor of whatever their source is. The compounds within the flowers, bark, leaves, that are extracted, have been touted or studied to have certain medicinal usages. This can include headache relief, anxiety relief, even antimicrobial properties to treat infections and such.
However it's important to note their IS NOT enough research to verify many of these claims in human health, according to Johns Hopkin Medicine.
Still, many people swear by using essential oils as natural health remedies. Nonetheless essential oils are all natural, and smell amazing in homemade soap, so many soapers choose to include them in recipes because of these properties.
This is a great list of popular essential oils and notes about each one!
Some of the more popular essential oils used in cold process soap making that tend to hold there scent well are lavender, peppermint, and lemongrass. Other essential oils like lemon, orange and lime are best paired with complementary oils. This is also known as anchoring with deeper, richer and more long lasting scents that help retain more subtle oils.
Using Essential Oils in Bath and Body Products!
Like fragrance oils that you find at many suppliers, not all essential oils are created equal, it's important to purchase from reputable companies. Each and every essential oil also has it's own usage rate depending on what you're making (i.e. soaps, bath bombs, lotions, shampoos, candles), based on suppliers tests!!!
Wait....What? Based on Suppliers Tests???
That's right! You see "Fragrance" oils are based off of usage rates recommended by the IFRA. The IFRA or International Fragrance Association for four decades has set boundaries for fragrance creations. It's kind of like a governing body for fragrances, making sure consumers are enjoying fragrances with confidence, setting criteria for certain ingredients.
* However...For essential oils there are no "official" recommended usage rates from this body (IFRA). *
Luckily many suppliers now have built in fragrance calculators (not an affiliate link) that you simply set the amount of soap, bath bomb mixture or, lotion needed (in grams or ounces), and it will spit out the exact amount of oils to use for light, medium, or heavy scents.
These suppliers have most likely spent a lot of time and money testing these essential oils for their own recommendations.
Related Article: Process of Blending & Mixing Essential Oils to Perfection, Part II: Top, Middle & Base Notes!
Blending Essential Oils, Tips & Tricks Of The Trade!
The tricky part comes into play when you start discussing blending essential oils.
How do you do it?
It also helps to know common essential oils (and there properties) that cause issues in soap making or even ones that may commonly irritate skin.
You will be less likely to run across essential oils that irritate the skin in soaps, because the soap is washed off the skin pretty quickly!
Some essential oils just don't play well in CP soap making!
For instance, some essential oils are more prone to seize-up the batter when soaping, like clove! Other essential oils, specifically, citrusy scents, tend to have trouble sticking in cold process soap. Meaning there fragrance either doesn't last saponification (due to pH and heat), or it makes it through, but at a much lesser degree and may even fade over time to be non-existent after the soaps cure.
The easiest method we have found for mixing essential oils is below.
1. Choose the essential oils you wish to blend & your batter amount.
Ounces of CP soap: 44 oz.
a. Levander essential oil
b. Bergamot essential oil
c. Rosemary essential oil
2. Put each of them into your suppliers Fragrance Calculator one at a time (again these are NOT IFRA values, they are supplier recommendations.), along with the amount of soap (44 oz.)
For this Example we used BrambleBerry.com Fragrance Calculator!
We enter in Lavender essential oil (shown above) into the search bar and hit the "next" button
Which brings us to the screen below...
We told the calculator, what we were making (cp soap), how much we were making of it (44oz), and how we wanted it measured (in ounces). Then hit "next" button (pictured above).
Which brings us to these results...
The example we used is Lavender. You would initially do this for each essential oil (bergamot and rosemary as well) to find it's max usage rate to safely use this oil.
The results of all 3 are below...
a. Levander essential oil: For strong scent; 2.64 ounces
b. Bergamot essential oil: For strong scent; 2.20 ounces
c. Rosemary essential oil: For strong scent; 2.20 ounces
So, what can we decipher?
a. The max usage rate (for strong scent) for Bergamot & Rosemary essential oils are the same: 2.20.
b. Meaning, the max amount of either one of these oils I can use in my soap is 2.2! The max amount of "total" oils I can use in the soap is 2.64!
c. The maximum usage rate for Lavender is slightly higher at 2.64 ounces. Because this is my higher end oil amount, this is the maximum I can use (in ounces) of the 3 oils combined.
3. How Much of Each?
This might be the trickiest part, because you have to have some idea of how well these oils hold up in CP soap, how they smell together, and whether one will over-power the other. This is a personal preference thing. However, we know from experience these smell great together!
We like the TOP notes of lavender, middle of bergamot, and bottom of rosemary.
So for this soap, we'll do:
Lavender: 1.5 ounces
Bergamot: 0.8 ounces
Rosemary: 0.34 ounces
= 2.64 Total
This will yield the strongest scent profile for this amount of soap at 2.64 ounces of essential oils combined.
Let's say you want to adjust this slightly, after thinking more about it. You want 1.6 ounces of lavender. Well...this will now put it over the 2.64 ounces, if you keep the bergamot and rosemary the same. So, you'll have to either decrease one of them or both slightly.
Now, you don't have to use the max of 2.64 ounces. You can adjust it for a lighter scent if you wish. This was just an example!
Bonus Tips For Making Essential Oils Last In CP soap
1. Substitute common citrus scents that have trouble making it through the environment that is cold process soap making. Example: Lemongrass for lemon essential oil; 10x orange for orange essential oil.
2. Try anchoring your essential oils with kaolin clay. Oils can adhere to the clay for added staying power!
3. Store away from direct heat or sunlight. Cool dry environments work the best. Dip cotton swab in the oil, and place close to the soap when curing.
4. Check your usage rates. If your usage rate were lighter then you would like and you have room to increase it, then do that!
5. Pay attention to temperature. Fragrance oils have a flashpoint. If using essential oils with lower flashpoint you can try to soap at lower temperature.
6. Typically you want your blends to have a "top, middle and base" note or notes. Some essential oils like lavender can act as both a top note and a middle note. For the betterment of this blog, we will keep this a basic tip, but you can explore some of the best top, middle and base notes here.
7. Test. Test. Test!
There is no way around it, the more you practice and test recipes the better you'll get. If one essential oil did not stick as much as you would like, don't right away give up on it so quickly. Maybe there is something you did or could do different to help anchor it better or maybe you just need to increase the amount to your recipe!
If there are other techniques you use we would love to hear them and so would the community of soapers.
Thanks for coming by and happy soaping!!!