Soap colour - natural or not

The catalyst that started me to make my own creams and soaps was primarily the chance to get products that were pure.  Pure in the sense of having only what is needed and then preferably natural ingredients.  I relished the thought of preservative free lotions and potions to smother all over my body in reckless abandonment... so to speak.

So, my first soaps were just completely naked: Pure vegetable oils, some lard sometimes, Icelandic spring water and lye.  And I truly loved them, so it came as a bit of a surprise to observe peoples reaction.  This is universal:  Everyone seems to pick up a soap and first smell it and then look at it closely.  My soaps weren't really sexy so people were less than enthusiastic.  They expected colour and scent.

Now the biggest problem that I had when I was starting out was getting ingredients.  Palm oils doesn't exist in this country.  I was lucky to discover coconut oil (almost in disguise) and but exotic oils (avocado, rose hip, borage, argan) are simply unavailable.  Some (almond, jojoba, evening primrose) are obtainable in tiny quantities at exorbitant prices. The same applied to colouring and fragrances.  Essential oils are sold in tiny bottles and are very expensive.  I found that I needed to use a whole bottle to scent a kilo of soap.  But stuff to colour the soaps - well forget it.  I searched high and low, but found pretty much nothing.  Admittedly I did find a seller of melt and pour bases (with a warning: Can cause itching and all sorts of other unplesantness!) and synthetic colour.  I did buy some of the colour since I was desperate and ready to experiment.

I have a love/hate relationship with synthetic colour in soaps.  I love colour, don't get me wrong.  When faced with having to choose between a selection of colours, I want them all!  I look at many of the soap that I see on all these blogs and my mouth waters at the sight of those yummy soaps.  And a part of me is desperate to get more colouring stuff to experiment.  The other part of me wants to make soaps with only natural ingredients.  I have Googled back and forth and tried some of the things that I have found to work as colourants.   I ordered alkanet root and some clays the other day.  Madder root is on my shopping list, as that seems to be almost the only thing that gives a red/pink that is natural.  Some things like spirulina /algae, charcoal, cocoa and coffee I have already tried, but colour continues to
be elusive.

This weekend I tried using hibiscus to colour soap.  I had seen it listed as a possible provider of red colour, although somewhere else someone said it didn't work any more than beet root juice/powder.  But I had to try it.  To make sure that I didn't miss anything I tried to infuse it in oil as well as make tea from it.  The tea was a beautiful bright red, but the oil infusion - nothing. Absolutely nothing!  I heated it and begged and pleaded, but NO.  So I made the soap with the colourless oil infusion and the bright red tea.  To try to fool the lye, I had decided that I would add the tea to the soap at trace rather than dissolve the lye into the tea.  But lye will not be fooled.  When I added the tea to the soap, it turned this gorgeous green!  I was thrilled!...but oops, it didn't last!  I watched in amazement as it simply disappeared into a light creamy yellow.  Not really a remarkable achievement considering that creamy yellow is the default colour of soaps.

So I now can't wait to experiment with natural colour.  Not that I think that everything natural is necessarily good and healthy.  Plenty of poisons are natural and plenty of synthetics are simply man made identical chemicals to the natural ones.  It's just that it somehow feels more naturals to use things that are natural.  Naturally!

The photos:  The soap I never tried with the artificial colour.  It's nice enough, but... The silk peonies are fairy lights, why I bought them I don't know... but they're decorative.  The other photo is my collection of micas.  I tried to use them in soap, but didn'tlike the results.  I've made eye shadow, but mostly I just like to admire their beauty.


  1. Love your post! I have used plant material, clays and oils (carrot root oil) and mineral pigments to bring color to my soaps.Then, craving the OMG lab color effect after 6 years of naturals I broke down and bought some to try. All I can say is: Back to the roots! The lab colored soaps looked so artificial in comparison to my other ones, that I won't be using them in the future.

  2. Great to hear from you. I think I agree, I love the colour to look at, but I haven't been able to bring myself to try the ones that I used artificial colour in! They just sit there - looking pretty, but...
    I am waiting for my order of natural colourants. They should arrive soon and then I'll really start to experiment.

  3. Hi! I am also a lover of the Natural - natural colour and only Essential Oils. As for natural colour I have tried coffee - awesome dark brown. Cinnamon - brown. Cacao / beautiful dark brown. Alkanet root - love this one but just can't get it to do what I want! It turns either purple or blue or gray and I have no control yet.... I think the more castor oil the more purple? Not sure.... Then Cucurma (can't remember what this is in English.... maybe turmeric?). Nice orange. Spirulina tablets crushed but still have not gotten much of a nice natural green. Have also tried Green Clay - turns the soap a greeny gray. And pink clay which makes a fabulous pink. That is about all that I have experimented with so far, but if you look at the Cocobong site you will see an AMAZING green from nettle tea! I have no idea where I am going to get ahold of Nettle.... but I have to!! I have also heard that Nettle is wonderful for Excema. Am dying to find a reliable natural blue, a black (charcoal?), a great yellow (oh yeah - I have tried liquorice root in the lye for yellow but it makes the trace delay and does other things I am not sure I like....), and red? Let me know how your new experiments go!!!! xo Jen

  4. Thank you for visiting:))) is pleased to friends! you have a wonderful "delicious" photos, but now I will study and texts with the help of a translator:) good you time of day!

  5. I had the same problem. People want soaps that look and smell nice! So now I make both kinds of soap. Some natural and some with lab colours and scents. I believe that a soap made with precious oils and colours and scents is better than a commercial soap! So at least the people using my colored soaps have some of the benefits! LOL. ANd also I can express my creativity with colour. Have a nice day!

  6. Hibiscus is my favorite natural colorant when I want to achieve a light tan/brown. Infused in water and then adding lye before combining oils will always give your soap a nice tan/light brown :) It is so fun playing with natural colorants.

    I do both. Although I think natural is best I have customers that want soaps made with synthetic fragrances. I just make natural soaps with natural colors and EO's and then soaps with artificial colorants and FO's. It works out great!

  7. I know nothing about soap, and I am afraid I am one of the crowd that usually goes by smell. but your soaps look and sound lovely.
    Thanks for following the Blog Hop again, we appreciate it.

  8. I've had good luck with both Paprika (for a peachy salmon pink) and Turmeric (for a golden soft yellow orange). I recently read that Burdock leaves infused into one of your oils and heated could make a great green shade, I'm going to try it soon. I finally decided I'd be ok with artificial scents (because most of it is a carrier oil anyway, so your soap is still 95%ish percent natural), but I really don't want to use artificial coloring too.

  9. I also am a fan of natural colorants. For the red hues, Moroccan red clay is okay but the Madder root is truly fantastic. I find, though, that it works even better when added to a hand-milled batch. Red wine reacts very strangely when mixed with lye; the end result was a meh-beige color, never red!


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