A homemade wonderful coconut oil soap recipe with lavender scent and color – great for soap making beginners.
Coconut Oil Soap
Coconut always reminds me of warm weather, tropical islands, fruits and scents. Therefore in my imaginary, taking a bath or shower with a coconut oil soap it’s almost a tropical thing. And while unrefined coconut oil does smell like coconut, its resulting soap does not: the saponification is a realitely strong chemical reaction that destroys scents and even colors. If you wish for a coconut oil soap smelling like coconut, you do have to use a coconut fragrance.
For soapmakers, coconut oil soap has a different meaning. It means high cleansing and great foam – the best created by soaping oils. Hardly any soap recipe that calls for a oil mixture doesn’t have coconut oil, because of its wonderful soap properties.
For me, it started to mean the same thing: moisturizing, cleansing, foamy and pure white soap. And while it doesn’t smell like coconut, the soap natural scent is subtle but pleasant.
How To Make Pure Coconut Oil Soap
When starting to read about soapmaking, pretty quickly you will learn about two long-standing rules:
1 – Do not use more than 30% coconut oil in a recipe – it will leave your skin very “dry” (check for coconut oil in Soap Making Oils Chart).
2 – Do not use a percentage of “superfat” (extra oils) greater than 8% to 10% or the soap will become too soft, too oily, will make little foam and is susceptible to get rancid fast and create DOS – Dreaded Orange Spots.
However, that’s exactly how you make a pure coconut oil soap. Coconut oil cleansing, hardness and conditioning properties allied with 20% superfat combine to counteract the negative effects of using a high percentage of coconut oil – which dries the skin – and a high percentage of “superfat” – which makes the soap too soft and “oily” -, resulting in a spectacular soap.
The explanation is that coconut oil does not dry the skin, it is just a strong cleansing agent. Cleans the skin so deeply that it completely removes the fatty layer from the skin, leaving it with a dry feeling. But coconut oil alone is moisturizing for the skin. With an extra 20% of coconut oil the dryness effect disappears, resulting in a smooth and skin-friendly soap.
As for becoming rancid due to the high amount of extra oil, coconut oil is very stable and long lasting. On the other hand, coconut oil always produces a very abundant foam, so the negative effects of a high “superfat” are not applicable in this case.
This Recipe Traces Quickly – Be Careful
While making an Olive Oil Soap Recipe you will notice that it will take around 10-15 minutes to reach trace. After adding the after-trace ingredients like essential oils and the anti-oxidant, the soap batter remains liquid and it’s easy to pour on molds.
Be careful with this coconut oil soap recipe, as it won’t quite behave that way, simply because coconut oil is a hard oil, and the soap made with hard oils has a tendency to trace quickly. This means that the soap batter will start hardening very quickly, sometimes instantly – it’s called “seizing” or an “accelerated trace”.
Bear in mind that your soap will always be good, whether you have trace acceleration/seizing, or not. The only problem will be the shape of the soap bar.
I have adjusted the temperature to 35ºC – 95ºF (I usually use 38ºC to 40ºC – 100ºF to 104ºF to ) and a low lye concentration (more water) to slow down trace. Still, and especially at the moment of adding essential oils – they also speed up trace in general – be ready to pour your soap into the molds. Have fun at home doing your coconut oil soap!
NOTE: Coconut oil, although very rare, can cause allergy to anyone who has allergies to nuts. If so, try a little coconut oil on your skin and see if it causes an allergic reaction.
If you look carefully at the photo below, you will see that the soap has a sort of “glossy” surface, while it looks slightly translucent and darker in the center. That is because, for the first time, I had soap going through gel phase in my rectangular soap molds, without the need to insulate the mold.
Gel phase is a part of saponification when soap gets really hot – up to 82ºC – 180ºF. When it happens, your soap will have a sort of gelatinous/glossy look, and deeper, more vibrant colors. I wasn’t planning to make it happen, but it was hot in that day and room temperature was around 30ºC – 86ºF, which obviously helped with gel phase.
To have soap going through gel phase or not is a matter of aesthetics and personal taste.
For example, if I am making soap in a bulk bar (a box soap mold) I want to force gel phase, because the soap will definitely gel in the middle, and if I don’t properly insulate the whole soap, I will have a “dark circle” or “stain” in the middle of the soap bars.
If I want my rectangular bars to have an opaque, pastel color, I use low temperatures and I don’t insulate the soap mold. I would just like to add that gel phase doesn’t affect the quality of the soap, just its looks and color.
If you want to know more about gel phase, how to force it and how to avoid it, check out also this article.
Find Where to Buy Coconut Oil Soap
If you’re not yet ready to try to make this recipe at home, but you still wish to enjoy natural soaps, you can find handmade coconut soap in the following links:
- 100% Coconut Oil Soap Bar (Etsy)
- Lavender Coconut Oil Soap Bar (Etsy)
- Gardner Coconut Oil Soap Bar (Etsy)
- Coconut Palmarosa Bar (Etsy)
- Other Soaps – Apple Valley Natural Soap Reviews
- More about Vegetable Oils: Soap Making Oils Chart
- More about Essential Oils: Essential Oils for Soap Making
- More Soap Recipes: All Natural Cold Process Soap Recipes
- More Recipes for Beginners: Homemade Soap Recipes For Beginners
Watch These Videos Before Starting Your Recipe
- 99 g distilled water
- 33 g lye (100% sodium hydroxide)
- Watch the video above about "Cold Process Soap Making tutorial" or read the post How To Make Soap by Cold Process Step-by-Step for instructions on cold process soap making before starting. These are generic but important steps for all recipes.
- Wear goggles and gloves! Look at “Safety Recommendations” in the video above or in How to Make Soap From Scratch
- Assemble everything: ingredients, equipment, safety equipment. Prepare your workstations. Measure all the ingredients. Don’t start the recipe without having everything ready!
- NOTE: The mica, or soap dye, as well as the essential oil, are optional ingredients. The idea is to turn this coconut soap into a lavender one. You can choose other colors. You can choose other essential oils like litsea cubeba, tea tree or peppermint. Or you can skip the scent and dye entirely for a totally natural coconut soap.
- Add 0,5-1 tsp of coconut oil into to a small cup, add the dye and stir well to avoid lumps. You can add 1/2 teaspoon for a stronger tone and 1/4 teaspoon for a soft tone. The recipe in the video used 1/2 teaspoon.
Prepare the Lye Water
- Make the lye solution according to How To Make Lye Water. Mix it until the vapors start to dissipate. Strain it to catch any undissolved lye crystals.
Make the Soap Batter
- Use as a target temperature 35ºC for the oil-solution mixture. If necessary heat the coconut oil a little.
- Pour the lye water into the oils. Starting stick blending.
- Now add the oily dye mixture to the soap batter and stir well.
- Reach trace with the immersion blender.
- Add the extract and essential oil (s) after trace. As coconut oil is a hard oil, use a spoon and avoid the stick blender, or the soap batter might seize. Pour the batter into the molds as soon as possible.
Molding and Curing
- Pour the soap into the molds using a pitcher. Sprinkle with alcohol or witch hazel, to avoid soda ash. Let it set for 12 to 18 hours. You can use pre-heated oven for gel phase.
- Unmold and let the bars cure for 4 to 6 weeks. See How To Cure Handmade Soap.