Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Making of a Cream Soap Recipe Part one

The Elusive Cream Soap

Firstly I haven't made Cream soap....yet.  There is so little information on making this kind of soap.  It's like a TOP SECRET soap.  I can understand the fact that if you haven't made soap before it's not something you should attempt first thing.  But still, why make it so hard for soapers to learn how to make it?  And I of course have to research something to death and love to watch multiple videos on something before I attempt it myself.  So this is what I've done so far.  I found several recipes online that I ran through two different lye calculators to find out what cream soapers wanted in a recipe.  Although that may not be what I want in a cream soap it's somewhere to start.  I read over all the websites listed below. One of which is the Help section in the Summer Bee Meadows Advanced Lye Calculator, which was a big help.  Of course I watched a few YouTube videos on 'How to make cream soap'.

So what have I learned so far.  

Potassium and Sodium Hydroxide Amounts.  Snow Drift Farms website recommended anywhere from a 75%-90% Potassium Hydroxide and a 10%-25% Sodium Hydroxide amounts. Other websites state that the general amount of a 5:1 ratio of Potassium Hydroxide:Sodium Hydroxide  is used.  That would mean 83.33% Potassium Hydroxide : 16.67% Sodium Hydroxide.  If you use a higher amount of sodium hydroxide your mixture will be thicker and stiffer where as if you use a higher amount of potassium hydroxide you mixture will be softer and creamier.

Different ways to process cream soap. Cream soaps can be made with a water-only process or with a water and alcohol process similar to liquid soap making. For my purposes I'm going to stick with water only for a beginner cream soaper.  But using alcohol "provides accelerated saponification in a more diluted initial broth mixture for easier processing."(Summer Bee Meadow website)  Which I'm thinking means that it makes the mixture more fluid so it's easier to stir.

Glycerin. You may notice that glycerin is used in all the recipes in the links I provided at the end of the page.  Summer bee meadows says it's a necessity in this type of soap making although they don't mention why.  It is said though that it is auto-calculated in there calculator for 55% of the total Stearic Acid amount in the recipe.  That tells me it's probably used to combat the natural drying properties of the Stearic acid.  But that is my guess.  I haven't found any other information as to why this is a necessary piece of the cream soap puzzle.  And on the Sage forums page a writer actually used sodium lactate to replace half of her glycerin amounts and her recipe was more fluid, which is similar to what SL does for HP soap making, and it "whipped up beautifully".  I am seriously considering adding sodium lactate to my recipe.  Even though I'm a beginner.  Hey if it makes it easier I'm all for it.

Superfatting. Cream soap shouldn't be superfatted.  If you do superfat you may find your oils separate out of your cream soap solution.  So it is recommended that you don't superfat, unless you use some 'turkey red' sulfated Castor oil, since it disperses in water.  Which, is simular to liquid soap making.  It's interesting to me that if I use a water soluble oil it will be ok.  That makes me wonder if I just add some emulsifier to the cream soap can I then add more oils to superfat it?  It sounds like an experiment is on the horizon.  lol.  You don't have to worry about any excess lye if you supercream your soap.  Which is a percentage of stearic acid melted and mixed with glycerin and added after the cook.  (which just between you and me sounds like superfatting but I won't tell if you won't lol)  I think that the stearic acid may work when the other oils don't is simply because it is a co-emulsifier.  So it helps to stabilise the emulsion of water and the oils together.  The main emulsifier in a cream soap would probably be the soap itself.

Stearic Acid.  Cream soap recipes all seem to have large amounts of stearic acid.  I've read that it makes the consistency of the cream soap fluffy and whipable. Summer bee Meadows recommends a 50%-70% stearic acid amount.  Although the recipe given in the book "The Everything Soapmaking Book" has a recipe that has half that amount.   And the SnowDrift Farms website has recipes that are all around 12% stearic acid.  I'm wondering if reducing or increasing the stearic acid amount is a better way to adjust the hardness of your cream soap.  Another experiment in the making there.  Plus I don't like using that high amount of stearic acid because of the drying properties. I really want a cream facial soap that doesn't dry out the skin.  I'm hoping that if I use high amounts of hard oils that have a naturally occuring high amounts of stearic acid I won't have to use so much of the commercially produced stearic acid.

What did I learn from soapcalc.

The recipes all had several things in common.  A really high hardness number, which was attributed to the stearic acid and/or other hard oils. Amount ranged from a 54-76.  The recipes with numbers in the lower range where discribed as a medium density cream soap.  Also one of those recipes, the Everything Soapmaking Book, the author mentions on her website that her recipe can be put into pump bottles.  That tells me I probably shouldn't go any lower than 54 on hardness and also that 76 is probably really hard and may need to be put into jar containers.  All the recipes had the glycerin in the amounts stated above except for the one on the sage forum in which sodium lactate was used as well as the glycerin.  The conditioning numbers on all the recipes where pretty low. In my opinion too low.  Some  of them where "supercreamed" but stearic acid doesn't have any conditioning properties.  The one recipe that has a better conditioning number than the others was not supercreamed.  However, the glycerin and the sodium lactate would add some moisturizing, conditioning and skin softening factors.  Cleansing numbers varied as per usual recipes.  The Iodine levels on all the recipes where really, really low.  Again probably because of the high solid oil content.  The  INS numbers where way off like way higher than they are suppose to be for a bar soap.

So I took all that information and made my own first Cream Soap Recipe.  I probably should take my own advice and use a recipe that is already been done but I really want different oils in my recipe.  I don't want to use as much coconut oil as all these recipes call for.  So I decided to go for it and make my own. Next step is actually making the recipe.  Join me and see what happens.  :)

I am currently awaiting purchase of the Cream Soapmaking Booklet by Catherine Failor.  But the 5$USD book is going to cost me a pretty penny because it isn't sold in Canada.  So it's on hold till I can afford it.  Unfortunatly soaping supplies in the form of oils and lye is more important right now.  So I'm just going to go with what I have so far and experimentation.  If it doesn't work then I'll buy the book and see what hidden clues I'm missing.  :) Or, I could purchase the 'Cream Soap Naturally a reference guide for formulators' but then I'd have to sign a 'Terms and Conditions of Use Agreement' that would mean I couldn't share any information I learned with anyone else.   Bummer.  So no, I'm not going to do that because I believe that information and knowledge is for everyone to benifit and enjoy.

Here are some reference/recipe links I found that really helped me out:


Advanced Lye Calculator from summerbee meadows


  1. I actually got KICKED OFF one soapmaking forum because I dared to reveal that stearic acid is not a mandatory ingredient of cream soap. People act as if Catherine Faillor invented it, but cream soaps go back more than a century.

    Cream soaps are just soft soaps. They're made with a mixture of sodium & potassium hydroxides, so as to result in soaps with a consistency partway between solid & liquid. Combine a recipe for bar soap and one for liquid soap in the right proportions, and you get a cream soap recipe. Stearic acid CAN be used in it, just as it can be used in bar soap, but there are fats & oils you can use instead that will provide a good deal of stearate when saponified.

    1. I'm curious: you can make a cream soap without stearic acid? That really appeals to me - would you mind sharing a recipe, Robert? I haven't yet made a cream soap but wanted to use the minimum amount of chemicals in it so would like to try cutting it out completely. Thanks.

    2. I don't have a PARTICULAR recipe, but cream soap is just a matter of a consistency too soft for a cake & too thick for a liquid. You can get any intermediate consistency you want by adjusting the ratio of sodium to potassium soap. The ashes that were used in the early time of soapmaking were partly of potassium & partly sodium, and made a soft soap which would be kept in pots. A little over a century ago, someone made soft soap sound sexier by rebranding it "cream soap".

      However, I'll add that if the soap is to be used primarily for shaving, then formulas with stearic acid will work much better than formulas without. In shaving cream, the other ingredients are practically a vehicle for delivering stearic acid, which is a great lubricant.

  2. Thank you finally I found an article to help me with my cream soap formulation. Like you I want to do my own mix.

  3. Thank you finally I found an article to help me with my cream soap formulation. Like you I want to do my own mix.

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  5. Thank you for information regarding Stearic Acid. I really do not want to add it to my soaps. I havent tried yet to make a cream soap, but it is on my mind. I am gathering all info possible, to make this type of soap