Marla Bosworth is the founder and owner of Back Porch Soap Company. She teaches classes, corporate events and experiences including candle making, soap making, organic skincare and perfumery.

March 11, 2010

Top Five Essential Oils for Soap Making

One of the most frequent questions I am asked during soap class is "Which essential oils should I buy to have on hand for soapmaking at home?" It's a very good question for several reasons.

First, essential oils are one of the most expensive ingredients in soapmaking. It's wise to be selective as you won't want to buy 12 or 15 essential oils as you ease into your new craft. Remember, you are adding 0.5 oz of essential oil per pound of oils in your recipe. So if you are creating a batch of soap that requires four pounds of oil, you will be adding 2 oz. of essential oil. It can be one essential oil or a blend of oils, but right around 2 oz. Some soapers use a bit more, and others use a bit less. As you become experienced, you get a feel for your particular oils and their staying power.

Second, if you narrow down your oils to the top five, you can purchase in larger quanitities (I recommend 16 oz. of each) for best pricing. Most suppliers charge more per ounce on 2 oz. or 4 oz. than they do on a 16 oz. or pound of essential oil. So you're spending your money wisely up front.

Lastly, if you choose your top five wisely, you'll end up with blending options. This means besides making a one-scent batch, you can also make a two or three-scent batch.

In the natural skincare and soap classes I teach, students use only essential oils. These are derived from nature - from herbs, flowers, fruits and more. They provide physiological and psychological benefits. For example, two of lavender essential oil's many physiological benefits is that it aids in relief of psoriasis and skin wounds. One of its psychological benefits is that it is calming. You'll want to choose essential oils based on their essence as well as for the healing properties they provide.

Note for new soapmakers: Fragrance oils are synthetic and man made. They do not have physical, emotional or other healing properties. If you are using fragrance oils just confirm that they are intended for use in soap making and ask your supplier if they perform well or if there are any known problems.

Here are my Top Five Essential Oils for Soapmaking:

Properties: Calming, soothing and relaxing, which helps those with stress and nervous tension, headaches and migraines. It is a natural choice for healing many skin conditions such as acne, bruises, burns, dermititis, eczema, inflammation, psoriasis, sunburn and wounds to name a few.
Blending: It blends well with many oils, from citrus to florals.

Properties: Rosemary immediately alters my mood. If I'm feeling a bit down, just a little sniff will help restore and balance my mental state. In addition, it is wonderful to use to aid in dermatitis, acne, eczema, and your boosting immune system.
Blending: Try blending with lavender, peppermint, cedarwood, basil, and lemongrass.Note: Rosemary should not be used by individuals who are pregnant or who suffer from epilepsy.

Properties: Refreshing, restorative and a wonderful stimulant. It aids in circulation, muscular pain, can relieve asthma, and boosts the immune system.
Blending: Works well with rosemary, lemon, eucalyptus and of course lavender just to name a few.

Properties: Calming in small amounts, and uplifting in larger amounts. A known anti-inflammatory and useful in relieving dry skin.
Blending: Patchouli is one of several essential oils known to "anchor" scents. Use in small amounts, even when blending, as it can easily become overpowering. Blends well with lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, bergamot, clary sage and many more.

Properties: Uplifting and refreshing (one of my favorites for a kitchen soap). Aids in healing of acne and improves muscle tone.
Blending: Works well with citrus oils, lavender, geranium and bergamot. I love it with peppermint or eucalyptus. It is exceptional with a bit of patchouli.

Suggested Blends based on 4 oz. oil:

Lavender (2.5 oz.), Rosemary (1 oz.) and Patchouli (o.5 oz.)
Lemongrass (3 oz.) and Peppermint (1 oz.)
Lemongrass (3.5 oz.) and Patchouli (0.5 oz.)
Lavender (3.5 oz.) and Patchouli (0.5 oz.)

Rosemary (2 oz.) and Lemongrass (2 oz.)
Lavender (3 oz.) and Peppermint (1 oz.)
Peppermint (3 oz.) Patchouli (1 oz.)

It was challenging to pick just five, as Eucalyptus and Spearmint would have both been next on my list along with Vetiver, Geranium, Bergamot and Tea Tree.

Feel free to post your comments and let me know which oils you love or if you have any questions. You can check out my soap classes and natural skincare classes on my website.

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