Olive oil has been used both inside and outside the body for thousands of years, especially in Mediterranean cultures where the olive trees flourish. It is loaded with antioxidants, polyphenols and other components that nourish, condition and soften the skin when applied externally. It also has a long history of being used in soapmaking, and the olive oil soaps made in the Castile region of Spain are legendary.
Castile soaps made with 100% olive oil are mild and gentle on the skin. They have many of the same moisturizing and conditioning qualities of the olive oil they are made from. However they are somewhat challenging for the home soapmaker to produce, requiring more mixing time with the lye, and lots more curing time before they are ready to use. While most cold process soaps are cured and ready to use four to six weeks after they are made, 100% olive oil soaps are best after six months to a year of curing time. And while 100% olive oil soaps are great for the skin, they are also shy on their lathering properties, and the lather can sometimes leave a slimy feel on the skin.
All the soaps we make at Happy Acres have some olive oil in them. Our basic soap recipes usually have between 30-40% olive oil in them, along with other oils and butters. We have made several 100% olive oil soaps too, but so far haven’t been real happy with the results. Earlier this year I revisited the idea of making a soap with a high percentage of olive oil. And after some research, I found out about Bastille soaps which have a high percentage of olive oil along with a few other carefully selected base oils. And so the recipe for Lavender Honey Bastille Soap was born!
This soap contains 70% olive oil, along with a small amount of coconut and castor oils plus some shea butter. The coconut oil helps to increase the lather and harden the soap, while the castor adds moisturizing qualities and makes for a creamy lather. Shea butter also hardens the bar plus it’s great for the skin.
The soap also has honey in it, which helps increase the lather. I like to add some lavender essential oil, but you can use your own favorite EO or leave it unscented. The honey is added to the lye water, which typically turns a reddish brown color when the lye reacts to the sugars in the honey. When the lye water is mixed in with the oils, the result is usually a yellow-gold color. It would be nice if the soap turned out to be this color, but it lightens up to a shade of tan as the soap cures.
We poured this soap into one of our homemade PVC pipe molds, after lining it with freezer paper to keep the soap from sticking to the mold. We let the mold sit for for four days to finish saponification.
Then we pulled the soap from the mold, removed the freezer paper, and cut it into bars.
After cutting, we laid out the soap so it can cure. It is generally safe to use after a couple of weeks, but the longer it cures, the harder the bars will be.
Please refer to the cold process instructions here if you are new to making soap. Always take the proper safety precautions (we wear rubber gloves and goggles when mixing and making the soap).
For more recipes and soap information, check out my wife’s Soap Recipe page. I’ll be back soon with more adventures. Until then, Happy Growing (and soaping) from Happy Acres!