My Journey with Soap Colorants
When I first started soaping I wanted to go as natural as possible. I started out with just plain soap. I made it using my oatmeal starch and using really ground up oatmeal. I made my first infused oil soap. Which to this day these are still my favorite soaps. The work really well. I don't have to worry about them making my body break out in a rash. I absolutely love the feel of the bar and the way they smell on there own without any fragrance or essential oil to bring more scent into the mix. Honestly I was a bit scared of both Essential Oils and Fragrance oils. As well as all the different kinds of colorants out there. How can I tell which is best for me. I was a little bored of just a plain bar so I went looking for the best most natural soap colorants.
I first discovered herbs and though they grow in the ground what could be more natural and safe than that. I found a website that was very informative as to what plant material would make what color in your soap. This was my first mistake. There are a few websites out there that don't have the correct information and they set up the soaper for failure. This was one of them. It told me that hibiscus would make a nice pink color in your soap and that beet root powder would make a nice beautiful red color. Both herbs are pretty much harmless so I thought I'd try it out. I didn't end up with pink or red soap. One was brown, one was a squash color. I did eventually finds some accurate information on using herbs to color soap. I now know that Annato seed infused in oil makes a lovely yellow or orange color. And that Alkanet root will make a robin's egg blue or a purple in your soap depending on the pH of it. Chlorophyll depending on the kind you get will make a lovely green color. (I've never tried this one). I tried some of them out but ultimately decided it wasn't for me. The mixed results and the added information that sometimes what an herb has in it might be dangerous, I'm talking mostly about Madder root here. But also cinnamon is an irritant to the skin of sensitive people and may lend a scent in the final soap bar that you don't want. This plus my experience with Hibiscus and beet root kind of turned me off the herb train. I may go back someday or try it out a bit at a time. But for now I'm moving on to try other colorants that may be easier to use. If you want a full list of herbs used for coloring soap and what qualities they lend to the bar. Get a copy of the Soap Makers Companion. Actually get a copy if you make soap and don't have one. It is the best book out there for new soapers.
Enter food coloring (Yup) lol
Yes I tried food coloring. I though well if I could eat it then surly it would be fine in my soap. And actually it didn't work so bad. There was a couple of colors that morphed into the wrong color like blue turned purple and my lime green turned yellow then back to a softer green color. Apparently they fade over time but I've yet to see that happen before I'm finished using up the soap. I like using food coloring. The only reason I moved on to try a new colorant because someone said that it may stain peoples bodies and washcloths. Although, I think you would have to use way more than I did in order for that to happen. I will still use food coloring in my soap. But without a full color chart to tell me what color it may be in soap testing is in order for all my dyes.
Enter Iron Oxides, Ultramarine and Mica
When I got up the courage to use these. I was at first put off by the fact that although they look natural most of these are synthetically made. The natural for of these would have actually contained harmful lead and other minerals that would have hurt people. So they found a way to make them synthetically. I braved using them and found I really like them. They are easy to use and lend some really spectacular hues to the soap. I so far haven't had any incidents in my skin breaking out because of the use of them. And the companies selling them (I'm talking about Voyageur Soap and Candle Company here) generally have a little picture showing what color your final soap bar will be, in cold process and melt and pour. That was the selling factor for me. No guessing games. Plus the mica's added a bit of sparkle to the soap when used and what girl can resist something shinny....well not me anyway.
Enter Lab Colorants
I honestly have not had too much experience with these yet. Unless you count my jaunt through food coloring land. They are pretty much the same thing. I have three colors of these and I will use them. I like how some companies do put up a handy picture when buying to show what color they will be in the final soap bars cold process and melt and pour. (again Voyageur Soap and Candle Co). Some of them morph as you can see in the pictures when used in cold process. Brambleberry has a handy chart that you can use as well for mixing the best colors for you and one day I'm going to buy it.
Well I think that the iron oxides, ultramarine's and mica's are my favorites so far. They are easy to use. I haven't had any morphing, so far, or fading. I love the fact that I don't have to add a preservative to them so they last a really long time on there own. I will still use my Lab colorants that I have but as for buying more I think I'll stick with the oxides. The only time I will think about trying out Lab Colorant's again is if they come out with a really beautiful ruby red color. So far that color has eluded me. I have heard whisperings though that some colors can be achieved by mixing both Lab colorants with the Oxides. Like a nice red. I have yet to experience that and when I do I will post my results so the world can benefit from my happiness.
So this is my experience and journey in finding the colorants for me. I didn't really mention clays here because they are clay colored with either Lab Colorants or Oxides to give them the hues you see. So they fit in both categories from what I've read anyway. Plus I haven't used them as a colorant yet. I hope you enjoyed my journey. I don't know if the information will help anyone. Dont' take my word for it. There are some soapers that are perfectly happy with using the herbal colorants or swear by Lab Colorants. Test it out find out what's best for you. This is just my experience.
Happy Soaping! ♥