Cold Process Soap with Fragance Oils

How to Choose a Fragrance Oil for Cold Process Soap

Whether you’re making candles, lotion, or soap, there are chemical processes taking place when you mix your ingredients together. Fragrance often plays a significant role in how your recipe behaves. The formula varies for each fragrance oil, so each one can cause different effects in your recipe even if everything else is the same.

Fragrance oils can change any recipe, but the effect can be more drastic when making soap. With the highly caustic ingredients used in cold process soap making, these differences can be very noticeable in your final product. Many fragrances will behave just fine, but others may cause significant discoloration or issues with your batter like ricing or acceleration.

What Makes a Fragrance Good for Soap?

Many factors determine how well a fragrance will behave in a cold process soap recipe. What makes it “good” for soap can vary depending on your own evaluation criteria. For example, most soapers want fragrances that don’t cause unexpected issues in their batter such as ricing, separation, or acceleration. Scent retention, fluidity of the batter, and discoloration are also important factors. 

Some of these criteria might be more important to you than others. For example, some soapers avoid any fragrance that causes brown discoloration. However, this doesn’t usually affect how the soap performs, and there are lots of ways to work the discoloration into your final design. 

For example, our Chocolate Drizzle fragrance oil typically turns soap brown. However, the color looks very much like chocolate, which can be a key component in your design. 

Using Fragrance Oils in Soap

Acceleration in Cold Process Soap 

Acceleration occurs when a fragrance oil or another ingredient causes the soap batter to thicken more quickly than expected. Fragrances that accelerate your formula may also cause the batter to heat up. To prevent or slow down acceleration, switch to a hand whisk instead of using an immersion blender.

If a fragrance causes acceleration, you can typically still use it successfully in your recipes. You usually just have to be more careful about stirring. Acceleration tends to shorten your working time even when you stir carefully. If you’re using a fragrance that causes acceleration, you may want to stick to simpler soap designs such as single-color pours or layers. 

Ricing in Soap 

Another potential issue you might encounter is ricing. Ricing happens when your fragrance oil binds with the oils in your recipe and causes lumps that resemble grains of rice. You can sometimes reverse the effect by using an immersion blender to smooth out the lumps. However, this can thicken your soap and make it more difficult to work with.

Ricing is usually an unwelcome outcome when making soap. However, it’s more of an aesthetic issue. Most soap with ricing can still be used without any issues. The texture is just less desirable to most people. 

Separation in Soap 

Separation happens when your oils don’t blend together properly. It usually gives your soap a curdled or oily appearance. You can sometimes fix separation by blending your soap more. However, you may need to re-batch the soap. This is the process of cutting or grating the hardened soap and re-melting it so you can try pouring it in a mold again.   

Cold Process Soap Bars with Fragrance

Cold Process Soap Testing Notes

If you’re a soaper, we have great news! All our soap fragrance oils are being updated with testing notes and soap photos. We hope this information will make your cold process soap making much easier with our fragrance oils.

What Fragrance Oils Have Soap Testing Notes?

Any fragrance oil approved at 3% or more in the IFRA Soap category will include testing notes. If you don’t see the testing notes listed, it’s likely because the fragrance is approved at less than 3% for soap making.

When making soap, you can still use fragrances approved at less than 3% in the soap category. For example, you could use a fragrance approved at 1.50% - we just don’t have testing notes for these scents because they are less popular for soapmaking.

What’s included in the notes?

You will find basic information on how the fragrance oil behaved in standard cold process soap making. Most fragrances will include notes on:

  • Ricing, separation, and acceleration info. 
  • Changes to batter color when fragrance is added.
  • Scent retention (how strong the fragrance smells in the soap) after curing 2 weeks.
  • Final soap color after curing.
  • Other helpful info, if available.

Testing Fragrances in Cold Process Soap

Testing is always the key to any handmade recipe. The notes we provide on our fragrance oil pages are meant to be used as a reference so you have a better idea of what to expect. However, you should always do your own testing to see how a fragrance will work in your recipe.

Depending on your recipe, your results may vary from those in the test batches. Because of the numerous different factors involved, we can’t guarantee the color or performance for all soap recipes.

Cold Process Soap

Curing Your Soap 

If you’ve made soap before, you probably already know that your results can change over time as your soap cures. When testing, it’s a good idea to take notes about how the soap behaves during the mixing process and after curing. 

Curing is simply the process of letting your soap air out so that the excess moisture can evaporate. During this time, the soap can also finish saponification, which refers to the chemical process of the lye combining with the oils to create soap.

Saponification takes just a few days, but you want to let your soap cure for at least 4-6 weeks to ensure it has time to harden properly. If your soap is used too quickly, it will be softer and not last as long when used. 

Do testing notes apply to melt & pour soap?

The testing notes were taken while making process soap, so they won’t necessarily apply to melt & pour soap recipes. If you’re using a melt & pour base, you can glean some useful information from the testing notes. However, melt and pour soap behaves differently than cold process soap.

The results you get from melt & pour soap will likely be different. For example, discoloration in the cold process test results may not look the same with melt & pour soap. Likewise, the scent retention can be different. 

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