Silicones (Cyclomethicone and Dimethicone)

There are dozens of silicones in varying viscosities (we stock the above as they are the most versatile for crafters - full details listed on the site) and they are ingredients that people either embrace or avoid.  So, I'm not going into the yes/no debate, but a quick explanation of what they are used for ☺

Cyclomethicone is a clear, odourless liquid which leaves a silky-smooth feel when applied to the skin making it ideal for body sprays, lotions creams, hair care, linen sprays etc.  "Cyclo" is mainly used as a base to blend with fragrances, to hep stop frizzy hair, for a silky skin feel in creams and lotions. 

Dimethicone is more occlusive, and is also used in haircare for the frizzies, but is also excellent as a moisture barrier.  It's emollient, offers lubricity and is a de-tackifier and of course a skin protectant, which can also be used in lip products offering shine and glide. This is the silicone used in products applied used after frequent hand washing.

The thickness or viscosity of silicones is measured in units called centistokes (cSt). The lower the number, the thinner and more pourable it is. For instance: our Cyclo is 200 cSt, and is thinner than the viscosity of of Camellia Oil (as an example) while a 30,000 cSt fluid resembles a thick and slow moving gel.  For skin care, we stock a 200 cSt Cyclo and a
50 cSt Dimethicone, which are easier and the most flexible for use in most skin care applications.

In hair care, Dimethicone improves wet and dry combing, helps with shine, improves hair feel (softness), reduces static charge, and works as a humidity resistor.  And in colour cosmetics, like foundations, it is a lubricant, spreading agent, emollient, and diluent/carrier ingredient.  Remember, a little goes a long, long way in hair care!  You will create a build up if you over do it!

It is the differing viscosities exhibited by these ingredients which make silicones so unique.  If you haven't tried them before, just purchase a 100ml and have a play - it's the best way to learn!

We have formulas in our Free Recipe Formulary and also in both our Books (Bubble Bubble Toil & Confusion and Making Your Own Moisturisers) if you want to use a pre-made formula.  We also have a free info flier available - but you need to request this when you place your order as we can't email this out.

Lots of uses for Bicarb Soda

Bicarbonate of Soda - An oldie, but a goodie!  Also known as bicarb, bicarb soda and baking soda.  Used in many green cleaning applications, but for bath and body crafters, its main function is as the backbone ingredient of Bath Fizzies, Bath Bombs, Bubble Bars and Shower Tablets.  It is an economical ingredient, has a long safety history and its chemical composition is NaHCO3. What is it?

"Sodium bicarbonate or sodium hydrogen carbonate is the chemical compound with the formula NaHCO₃. Sodium bicarbonate is a white solid that is crystalline but often appears as a fine powder. Wikipedia"

It absorbs odour in the fridge (and running shoes too with a few drops of Lemongrass Essential Oil), can clean ceramic surfaces in the bathroom, cook tops, oh, the list goes on!  Mostly it shines in formulating solid fizzing products for the reaction that occurs when you add citric acid and then add water!  Some like to use Bicarbonate of Soda as a bath soak alone, and even a dry shampoo, but as it's pH value is 9, it is quite alkaline, so if you experiment with this, don't over do it.

Check out Care2Com's 51 uses for the humble bicarb! - 51 environmentally responsible uses for bicarb, and we have a page too on Using Bicarbonate of Soda in your home.

Pock Marks on Cold Process Soap

It is easier to achieve a good gel phase in your Cold Process Soap in a column  or vertical mould?  If you have had a tough winter and have been having to encourage gel like I have, you can try using a column mould.  However, if the soap overheats, you'll see little "pock marks" in the sides of the soap when using silicone moulds.  They aren't lye filled or harmful, they are simply cosmetic - it just means the surface isn't perfect!  You can watch your soaping temperatures, and how hot gel is for your recipe and fragrance combo and note in your Soap Diary.

Cleaning waxy utensils

that there is an easy way to cleaning your oily, waxy lip balm and solid perfume pyrex jugs?  Warm the jug for a few seconds to soften the mixture around the walls of the jug.  Then wipe thoroughly with paper towel whilst it’s hot and liquid.  Then grab some of your left over Melt and Pour Soap scraps, just bits and bobs, and melt them in the jug in the microwave.  Swirl it round so it covers all the waxy surfaces.  This absorbs the oil, as it sets, scrape it out to the bin, and repeat if necessary.  Then wash with hot water and detergent.

pH and the skin

Did you know.....  that our skin's pH is closely related to the acid mantle (a slightly acidic layer that is our body’s first defence against invading bacteria ) of our skin.  This protective covering is vitally important and the pH of the skin plays an extremely important part.  The acid mantle has a level of acidity from about pH 4.2 – 5.6.

With increasing age the skin’s pH increases and becomes more and more neutral (like an infant) making it less defensive.  During the aging process biochemical changes occur in collagen and elastin levels in the skin, which becomes less elastic, drier and thinner.  This means it is less supple, wrinkles form and older skin is injured more easily and heals more slowly.  So, slip, slop and slap - protect from the sun, exfoliate and moisturise - even in winter!  Protect your amazing and protective skin!


Sweet Almond Oil is an excellent ingredient to include in all skincare products

Setting up your Soap utensils for very little

That there are loads of items you probably already own that can be re-dedicated to your soapy addiction?  Apart from the obvious such as stock pots, spoons, spatulas and jugs there are useful things you may not have thought of.  Such as the old vegetable peeler - invaluable tool for bevelling the edges off bars, particularly cold process soap, slicing ribbons of so to embed (both melt and pour and cold process soap) - though I keep a specific colour for soap because soapy veggies don't taste great!  Then there is those not-used-any-longer biscuit cutters, stick blender, baking trays (if they are in okay condition) and don't forget the crock pot - perfect for melting Melt and Pour Soap, and making liquid soap and also cream soap.  Manual whisks, large and small really useful, and plastic jugs past their best by date - no issues as long as you wash them before soaping, and then keep for soapy use.  Yoghurt tubs can be used as moulds (depending on the quality), old spatulas, plastic bags can be used to line wooden moulds and loads more!  Soon you'll see all sorts of possibilities just sitting waiting!

Crazing and crackling (2) in Cold Process Soap

that colour questions are the biggest single subject query we receive?  One issue I still experience, and we get frequent questions about is "crazing" in cold process soap.  This is where the glycerine forms veins in the soap during saponification affecting where the colour sits within the soap.  It is more common using pigments than dyes, but I have had it happen in a batch with dye too.  It can be caused by many things....pigment overload is common, but it can also occur when you have a very hot gel, or it cools down after gel unevenly - so basically temperature fluctuations.  This effect is sometimes called "glycerine rivers", because basically the uncoloured part of the soap is glycerine rich and forms veins (streams) and the colour surrounds them like land.  Can you avoid this crackling?  Yes, you can combat it by:  hydrating powdered colours well before adding to the traced soap, and also mixing well into light trace for even pigment distribution;  if you experience (and often know) in advance that it's a hot gel batch, take immediate action and take off insulation or even use the fridge; sit your mould on an old baking cooling rack to allow airflow underneath the mould during gel.  These can all help eliminate it.  For me, I have to be disciplined and measure and note down how much coloured pigment I add instead of doing this by eye (a bad habit I have had since my early soaping days!).  Some soapers like the crackled effect, just as some soapers embrace soda ash, but for me, I'd rather avoid both these soapy issues in my soap! 

Brown Soap....

We've had a load of new subscribers and customers in the last couple of months, so thought it time for a refresher on planning, and knowing what to expect when using fragrance in your soaps.
You can have your gorgeous creation almost "ruined" if you use a heavily vanilla based fragrance, not realising it will discolour.  Then there is "water white", these fragrances don't discolour Cold Process soap, but importantly they don't cloud Melt and Pour Soap, which is important for clear and embed projects.

Check out these links if this info is new to you:

Vanilla Discolouration Notes
About water white fragrances

We are adding Vanilla percentages to the fragrances as time permits, but the descriptions already tell you what to expect regarding discolouration and acceleration of trace for CP'ers.  This will be a little while as we are currently devoting a lot of time to the new workings of the upgrade on the site.

Making Red in Cold Process Soap

Cold Process Soap just eats red colour!  And red, red red! that dratted red in cold process is tough to achieve!  I always blend a red around this time of year, you can use one of our rich red mica's mixed with Brites NG Pink or Fired Up Fuschia Neon Powder with Bordeaux Mica or Merlot Mica - all these colours are stable in cold process soap.  Premix the colours in oil or water until you achieve the depth you need and begin adding at light trace, and a well gelled batch will produce a richer colour

Crazing and crackling (1) in Cold Process Soap

That if you have a crazed, crackled vein type look in cold process soap it is most likely pigment overload coupled with heat.  There is no specific "correct" amount of colour to add to cold process soap, I might find your beautiful pale lemon colour a little bland, and my vibrant pink you might think "whoah, yuk, Barbie Pink!"  So I try not to give exact measurements except in specific recipes.  For my personal soap I colour by eye, in the formula you'll usually see either a picture or measurements of colour.  In cold process soap, it's usually best to colour a shade or two darker in the traced soap that you want the cured soap to be, it usually pulls back a little.  Ultramarine Violet for example will be pale mauve to grey if you don't use enough colour, and I often boost it with Liquid Dispersion Royal Purple.  More next time on RED!

Sucrose Cocoate:  such a difficult ingredient to find, but so worthwhile!

f you formulate your own shampoo, conditioner, skincare or baby products, you’ll find that Sucrose Cococate is an outstanding, very versatile ingredient.  It is a surfactant, made from sugar and coconut, so no PEG’s, and it offers your formulations gentle, oil-free emollience and moisturisation.  It is used in hair care as a “re-fatting” agent, as you would add an oil, and because of its mildness it’s perfect for facial cleansers and baby products.  However, because Sucrose Cocoate is water soluble, you don’t compromise any lather (and natural surfactants do provide a lower level of lather that sulfates offer), and as a bonus does increase foam density.   Sucrose Cocoate has been clinically tested and shows the skin as more cushioned and “plump” after using products containing it. 

Use in lotions and creams at around 3%, and in cleansers around 4%.  In lotions you add it to the water phase (as with Shampoo and conditioners).  There is a slight thickening effect when used, but you’ll still need to check the viscosity depending on your fragrance or essential oil.  Sucrose Cocoate has no known toxicity, and is used in many high end products where mildness is essential.

You can make a simple Facial Cleanser in our Free Formulary using Sucrose Cocoate and you’ll find more formulas in our Bubble, Bubble Toil and Confusion Book.


Even happier that Sucrose Cocoate is Palm Free, Ecocert and GMO Free!

Fine Detailing Melt & Pour Soap

That when you are filling in the fine details in moulds with Melt & Pour Soap, you can make the soap flow more easily into the fine detailing if you give the mould a quick spritz with Isopropyl Alcohol?  This allows the soap to move quickly into the little nooks and crannies, flowing through the finely detailed areas.  Also helpful is to have a cup of hot water handy if using a Pipette or our Soap Injector Tool to pipe the soap to keep the soap from blocking the nozzle.

Making Melt and Pour "stick"......

That you can "glue" Melt & Pour Soap "tops" onto cakes, and little decorations a few different ways.  If it's frosting on a pie, spray with alcohol, and spoon the whipped soap straight on top.  If it's a decoration, you can spritz with alcohol, arrange the decorative Melt & Pour, and then pour a thin clear layer 1 - 2mm deep and this will hold the flower/fruit/decoration in place on top.  Or you can work fast, spritz with alcohol, spray the decoration a quick dollop of liquid Melt & Pour Soap, and place the decoration before it sets.  Finally, there are some situations, you can use a very thin layer of melted Cocoa Butter.

Using Column Moulds and Insulation....

that if you are making Cold Processed Soap in a column mould, that they don’t need insulating?  Even if using a 1 litre milk carton (though you may need to encourage gel in a 600ml one), the internal heat as the soap comes to gel, coupled with the depth (diameter) of the tube or carton encourages gel.  Most pipe type "moulds" are made from a proportion of PVC piping, and that does a great job at insulating!  Don't forget to leave a couple of cm space at the top when pouring as the soap will usually rise inside a column mould during gel.

Column Mould Insulation

Fragrance and Essential Oil scents remaining in silicone moulds.......

We recently had a question about fragrance odour remaining in moulds, which we have not experienced, but I was thinking a paste of bicarbonate of soda might help.  So I've done some research and here's what I found:  There are two other methods to try, especially if your mould is flexible or silicone. Try soaking it in a solution of 5% bleach solution, or indeed a bicarb and water solution overnight, rinse and allow to air.  Or you could try using isopropyl alcohol on flat surface (like a silicone mould) and rinse off.  Beware of inhaling that alcohol during use though :)

How to deal with Ash......

This tip is a repeat as we're asked about it so many times  (in case you think it's Déjà vu)!   If you like textured tops on your Cold Processed Soap, and can't stand ash, you can eliminate it in two ways.  Firstly, if you make flat soap logs or trays, simply cover your soap with a layer of Glad Wrap, laminate offcuts, plastic or a board.  If you are making fancy or textured tops, you can give a good spritz with Isopropyl and this does the trick too!  In both cases, just wait until your Cold Processed Soap starts to set up and is firm enough to touch with the end of your finger or a scraper without sinking in. Voila! No More Ash :)

Shiny, Shiny Soap for photos.....

that you can make your soaps look even more amazing when taking photo's if you give the surface a spray with Alcohol, quickly take your photo, and you'll have that gorgeous shiny finish really shine in your graphic.  If you are dealing with round or 3D shapes take note - they will be slippery little beggers once sprayed, so set everything up for your photo shoot ready