Essential oils have enjoyed a seemingly exponential rise in popularity over the past 30 or so years, with these extra-potent botanical oils finding their way into people’s homes in various forms. From candles to diffusers to room sprays, essential oils have become an integral part of many people’s lives – and the popularity is only growing, with an anticipated 404.2 kilotons market demand for essential oils projected by 2025. It is therefore no surprise that many people wonder if essential oils also have a place in soapmaking.
Thankfully, the news is positive: if you’re a fan of essential oils already, you’ll be delighted to know you can indeed use these products in soaps, too. Even if you’re not yet familiar with essential oils, the chance to experiment with an all-natural, incredibly potent, and purportedly health-and-well-being-beneficial product should be a cause for excitement also. In this piece, we’ll delve deep into the subject of essential oils for soapmaking purposes, and even provide a few recipes for you to try for yourself…
Choosing your essential oils
One of the greatest benefits of essential oils is that there are no “rules” you have to follow. You could, for example, make soap using a single oil; perhaps a tea tree oil soap bar to help with congested skin, a lemon essential oil bar for that perfect morning “pick me up”, or even a beautiful ylang ylang essential oil soap to use as part of the ultimate pampering sessions.
Alternatively – and usually preferably, especially for those who like to experiment – you can branch out and create soap using multiple oils; formulating a bespoke blend that suits your needs and fragrance preferences perfectly. Due to the potency of essential oils, a blend of up to three oils is recommended – anything more and some of the fragrances can become lost in the mix.
In terms of how many drops to use, experimentation is key here; everyone has different preferences for the exact proportions they will enjoy. Start with equal amounts of each oil and, if you feel one scent is being lost or another needs to be boosted, amend accordingly until the blend is just right.
It is advisable to create your essential oil blend at least 48 hours before starting to make your soap so that the different oils really have a chance to combine.
Essential oil soapmaking ratios
It is theoretically possible to use essential oils as part of any soapmaking process, but opting to use a Melt and Pour base is usually the most straightforward choice.
As a general rule, you should aim for your essential oil (be it a single or a blend) to be around 3% of a bar of soap. Here’s how to calculate the exact amount of essential oil required:
- Let’s assume that the bar of soap is going to weigh 100g. This will mean, going by the 3% ratio, that 3g of essential oil needs to be used to fragrance the soap.
- To measure the right amount of essential oil – which is measured in millilitres – you divide the gram amount that you need by 0.9. So if you need 3g of an essential oil, the millilitre amount is 3.3ml.
- As a rule of thumb, 22 drops of essential oil will make 1.1ml, or 1g. So, to make 3g of essential oil (which is 3% of a 100g bar), you will need 66 drops.
It is worth noting that, if you are making essential oil soap for the first time, then it might be worth lowering the percentage to 1% (22 drops). The soap will still be fragranced (remember: essential oils are very, very potent indeed), and the lower percentage helps to reduce the likelihood of adverse reactions.
Finally, if you are intending to use your soap on your face, then definitely use a 1% solution. Facial skin can be very sensitive, so it is always worth dialling back the strength of essential oils in these recipes.
Three essential oil soap recipes to try
In addition to experimenting with your own blends, we thought you might one to try a few prepared recipes, so here are our top three favourites.
For a 100g bar of soap:
- 40-60 drops (depending on desired strength) of the following essential oil blend: equal parts lemon essential oil, sweet orange essential oil, and lime essential oil.
- 100g organic Melt and Pour base
- A 100g soap mould.
- Rubbing alcohol spray.
- Cut the base into small, easy-to-melt blocks.
- Place the blocks in a microwave-safe bowl and then microwave.
- Stop the microwave every 30-45 seconds to stir the mixture and make sure it is melting evenly.
- When fully melted, add your essential oil blend and stir thoroughly.
- Pour the liquid directly into the mould, spray with rubbing alcohol, and leave to set for at least six hours.
You can also use the above method to create many other essential oil melt and pour soaps; here are a few different blends you may want to try…
A delightful festive soap fragrance that makes for the perfect Christmas gift.
- 3 parts cinnamon essential oil
- 3 parts orange sweet essential oil
- 3 parts clove leaf essential oil
- Optional: 1 part sandalwood Australian essential oil (for a slightly softer, woodier fragrance)
A blend designed to help ease stress and calm your mind; an ideal choice for a pampering session.
- 4 parts clary sage essential oil
- 4 parts lavender essential oil
- 2 parts ylang ylang
- Optional: 2 parts Roman chamomile essential oil
A blend designed to bring a smile to the face of anyone who uses it.
- 3 parts geranium essential oil
- 3 parts bergamot essential oil
- 2 parts lavender essential oil
- Optional: 1 part orange sweet essential oil
A note of caution
Essential oils are wonderful products, offering users the ability to enjoy excellent fragrance at a reasonable price point and access the benefits of aromatherapy for themselves. However, the botanical nature of essential oils can sometimes result in the belief that these oils are inherently safe and can largely be incorporated however the user wishes to use them. In actuality, essential oils should always be used with caution, so please do keep the following in mind as you embark on your essential oil soapmaking journey:
- Do not use oils without dilution. If a neat oil does come into contact with your skin, make sure to wash it off as soon as possible – contact dermatitis is a rare reaction, but it is a possibility, so always err on the side of caution.
- It is generally advisable to ensure children and pets do not come into contact with essential oils.
- Remember the potency of essential oils at all times; a little goes a very long way! These oils are extremely concentrated, so if you’re looking to increase the fragrance in a particular mixture, keep steady and increase by just a drop or two at a time.
- If you have sensitive skin, then you may want to avoid citrus, mint, or eucalyptus essential oils to guard against any unwanted reactions. Milder essential oils, such as lavender, ylang ylang, rose, and Roman chamomile are likely to be preferable.
Essential oils are tremendous fun for soap making and are absolutely worth experimenting with. We hope the recipes above have inspired you to give the idea a try for yourself – either with one of our suggested blends, or by creating your own for a truly unique bar of soap.