Using extracts in soap making and homemade body products can add many great botanical extract benefits for your skin. They are fairly simple to use and will give your soaps and other products that little something extra to make them go above and beyond expectations.
Extracts are commonly made by steeping or infusing part of a plant (typically the dried leaves, flowers, or berries) in water, oil, glycerin, or alcohol. There are also some extracts made using carbon dioxide extraction. The benefit of CO2 extraction is that the end product is pure without being infused in a solvent that can interact with your other ingredients, but it can also be much more expensive. You will find powdered extracts as well; these are made by first extracting the plant chemicals through the use of a solvent then allowing the solvent to evaporate off, leaving a powder. Sometimes that extract powder is mixed with some powdered whole plant to give it more substance and color. These powdered extracts are typically stronger as there is no liquid diluting the plant properties. Most extracts used in cooking and baking are made by steeping a substance in alcohol and are therefore not suitable for making soap. Alcohol, even in small amounts, can cause soap to seize or suddenly solidify before you can get it into a mold. This does not ruin the chemical nature of the soap, and it can still be grated and reprocessed, but rebatching soap may prevent any special colors or patterns that you were planning. It is also a hassle to reprocess a batch of soap when you weren’t planning on doing so.
When adding extracts to soap, it is usually one of the last additions before pouring your soap into the mold. Add in your extract when the soap is at a light trace just in case your extract causes any trace acceleration. Generally add your extract after putting in any colorants, but if using multiple colorants it may be added before separating the soap mixture for the color additions. We wait for trace mostly for the ease of putting in all additives at relatively the same time. This does not mean that they are unaffected by the lye. Remember that soap cures for at least four weeks because it takes time for the lye and oils to fully react and incorporate. That means that the lye for soap is still very active at trace and will affect your extracts. While the extract will definitely be affected and probably partially neutralized by the lye, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth adding. However, if you want the full botanical extract benefits, it may be better served in other body products that stay on the skin and do not undergo chemical changes in their making. In other homemade body products such as lotions, it should also be added last. A general rule of thumb for adding extracts is to add one teaspoon of extract per pound of product. With soap, add one teaspoon of extract for every pound of oils you use in your recipe. This is a general guideline, and depending on the extract and the purpose of the soap, you may add more. If your extract is oil-based, you may need to factor that into your lye calculation. For example, if you typically have a 5 percent superfat in your soap, you may want to decrease that to 4 percent or even 3 percent if you dissolve your colorants in oil as well. When using powdered extracts as soap ingredients, remember that they are typically more concentrated than your liquid extracts. Often when you buy them, the name will include a ratio such as 4:1, this means that this particular extract is four times more concentrated than the liquid would be so you would only use ¼ as much.
There is a lovely variety of extracts that you can use in your cold process soap. Some of the more popular extracts include Aloe Leaf, Chamomile, Calendula, Green Tea, Grapefruit Seed, Mallow, and Evening Primrose. Extracts can be made from many different plants and have many different qualities. In your use of extracts, please be certain that your extract of choice is considered to be “skin safe” and won’t cause irritation or sensitivity to sunlight. Many botanical extract benefits include antioxidant properties, skin conditioning, anti-inflammatory properties, and extra moisturizing to your soaps and body products. They also add significant market value if you sell or give away your soaps or body products. Be aware that some extracts have the potential to color or discolor your soap and body products. This should be factored in if you have a particular color or pattern in mind, but it can also be used to your advantage if you prefer natural colorants. Overall, extracts are a great addition to your home soap making and body products. They add extra good qualities and add to the appeal of your products to others.
What are your favorite botanical extract benefits in homemade soap?