How to Make All-Natural Colors in Soap
You can use citrus peels, berries, and herbs—all found in your pantry at home.
A beautiful bar of soap is one of life's little luxuries. It's pleasure to use, to admire by the sink, and to give as a gift. The ones here bring freshness and flair-the zingy scent of lemon and it's bright sunny color, or the gorgeous green of herbs and their fragrance-to your cleansing routine. The vivid colors make the translucent soap almost glow. Try making a batch of colorful soaps-we bet you already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen and garden.
With natural colorants, you won't get the mix-and-match hues that commercial soaps give you. (Remember most of those are artificially colored.) Instead, you get the soft, deep tones that nature intended. And some natural colorants provide added exfoliation, antioxidants, or other benefits. Look for natural ingredients like citrus peels, berries, and herbs, then add them to the glycerin base using an easy melt-and-pour technique.
Color Glossary: Orange and Yellow
Tangerine's pretty peel exudes a powerfully astringent essential oil. The soap above was molded in a juice container; as the soap set, the color-from puréed zest-became more intense at the top and bottom. For a more yellow hue, try lemon. The cleansing star of the citrus family, lemon is a zesty natural deodorizer and has antiseptic elements in the oil of its peel, making it a great soap for the kitchen. Sunny slices of lemon-tinged soap on a soap dish make a beautiful (and practical) gift.
Color Glossary: Pink and Red
Grapefruit's invigorating scent is used by aromatherapists to induce positive feelings; its oil is often found in skin toners. The pigment in pink grapefruits is lycopene, the same antioxidant in tomatoes. On the red side, try raspberries, as a vitamin-rich, acidic fruit, has been used as an astringent for eons. Its seeds are a natural exfoliant and produces a deep reddish-maroon hue. Strawberries are the most fragrant of the berry soaps and, like all of them, it will have lovely pink variations in color from batch to batch.
Color Glossary: Green
Thyme, the aromatic plant is much more than a garnish. Its little leaves contain oil long believed to be soothing to skin and muscles. Use the leaves whole, not puréed, for a lovely green hue. Basil's familiar, evocative scent is used in aromatherapy and perfumes. The longer the prepared leaves are steeped in the melted soap, the deeper the green color of the finished bars will be. Mint has been valued since the days of ancient Egypt for its invigorating menthol scent and its health benefits. Today, the herb is used to relieve painful or itchy skin.
Color Glossary: Blue
Blueberries are packed with antioxidants, and this little berry turns the soap surprising shades of greenish blue.
How to Add Color to Soap
For the mix-ins, look to your kitchen scraps and composting bin. Use just the peel of citrus, which contains the fruit's beneficial essential oils. With berries, purée the entire fruit; the small seeds of blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries act as a mild exfoliant. First, wash and dry all fruits and herbs; use whole berries, herb leaves, or citrus rinds with pith removed. Purée them separately in a food processor. To make herb purées, you may need to add 1 to 2 tablespoons water; place puréed herbs on a coffee filter, and wring out excess liquid before mixing into soap.
Glycerin soap is the base of these bars. It comes available in cubes and blocks that you can melt down and reshape in molds (for those, raid the recycling bin for household containers and cartons). Melt it, and mix in puréed fruits and herbs. Start with a teaspoon purée per cup of soap. The color will intensify as the purées steep in the warm soap; stir frequently to keep the soap from setting. Heavy additives may settle at the bottom, while light ones float to the top. For consistent distribution, let the soap cool (but not solidify); then stir in the purée, and pour into the mold. Fill small containers 3/4 inch full with soap; for cartons, fill partially to form one bar at the bottom, or completely to make a block for slicing into bars. Spray surface with alcohol to eliminate bubbles. Let the soaps set, 20 to 60 minutes, depending on size. Transfer molds to freezer for about 2 hours (this will help the soaps release from the molds). Note that unless you've used this colorant before, or are following a new soapmaking tutorial, it's important to do some experimenting to find your perfect handmade soap.