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Whether you are just looking for a new hobby that requires little time and expense, have sensitive skin, are concerned about harsh additives and synthetic fragrances that your bath & body products may contain, or just enjoy high quality bath and body products but do not appreciate the price tag they come with, you may want to consider making your own soap and/or other bath and body products.

Many things such as soap, bath salts, and bath/body oils can be much easier to make and a lot less time consuming than you may think. Basic equipment is relatively inexpensive and consists largely of common household items so you may already have almost everything you need to get started.

A Few Other Advantages to Making Your Own Soaps and Other Bath & Body Products:

  • If you make it, you know what the ingredients are.

  • It can cost much less to make your own high quality products rather than buying them.

  • You can make really nice, personalized gifts for family and friends.

Melt & Pour Soap Bases:

Image of White Glycerine Soap Base
There are 2 basic differences between melt & pour and hand milled soaps. First, never add water to melt & pour soap bases. It will make them slimy and prevent them from solidifying properly. Second, melt & pour soaps set up immediately allowing you to create handmade soaps in very little time.

Melt and Pour Soap is made from 3 basic soap bases: Translucent (clear) Glycerin, White Glycerin, and White Coconut Oil Soap Base. They can all be melted easily in a microwave or double boiler, colored, scented, and poured into molds. Melt and pour soap bases can also be purchased with natural additives such as avocado oil, shea butter, goat's milk, and olive oil or you can add these things yourself. If you choose to purchase bases with additives, be sure to check the label to see if the amounts that have been added are worth the extra expense.

Not all soap bases are the same and knowing what to look for when shopping for a high quality base can save a lot of time, money, and trouble. No matter which type of melt and pour soap base you are interested in, there are a few things that are universal when shopping for soap bases.

  • Ingredients and percentage of additives such as coconut oil are listed or available upon request.

  • Regardless of how you shop, return policies should be posted in writing.

  • Don't be shy about contacting a prospective company with questions or for additional information.

  • Bases should not inappropriately labeled. For example, a product is labeled as coconut oil base when it is glycerin whitened with titanium dioxide and a small amount of coconut oil has been added.

I have listed some additional details below that I hope you find helpful when looking for basic melt and pour bases.

Translucent (Clear) Glycerin Soap Base:

A high quality translucent glycerin base should be somewhat cloudy NOT clear in appearance. It should not contain alcohol, commercial waxes, or fillers. It should feel somewhat moist and sticky, not hard to the touch when sliced. A high quality translucent soap base should be gentle enough for all skin types.

Buyer Be Aware: Be very careful to check the ingredients when you see "Ultra Clear" soap bases. These often have alcohol and/or other additives to reduce excess moisture making them unsuitable for dry skin and people with sensitive skin. If you would like for your soap to be more transparent you can melt, allow it to harden, and re-melt before pouring into your mold. This is because it's the excess moisture that makes the soap base look cloudy and re-melting helps remove some of the excess moisture.

White Glycerin Soap Base:

White glycerin soap bases are typically glycerin soap bases that have been whitened with titanium dioxide (a natural pigment used in soap making, candle making, and cosmetics) and have some coconut oil added. Depending on the amount of coconut oil, it may cause soaps made with this type of base to lather a bit better than the translucent bases but not as well as a true white coconut oil soap base. They also have the same melting point as translucent bases but unlike coconut oil bases it stays white in appearance when melted.

Buyer Be Aware: some companies incorrectly label white glycerin as coconut oil base and some do not but will charge slightly more for their white glycerin bases than they do for their translucent bases. Before paying more, check the ingredients to make sure it is a true coconut oil base or how much coconut oil has been added to the base to see if it is worth the extra expense. If not, continue to shop around or if you are feeling adventurous you can get the same affect by whitening a good translucent base and adding coconut oil.

Read More about coconut oil and other natural additives on our Ingredients and Equipment Page.

White Coconut Oil Soap Base:

A true coconut oil soap base is made with coconut and vegetable oils and enriched with vitamin E. Coconut oil bases have a higher melting point than glycerin bases and need to be cooled longer before adding scent and pouring into soap molds. When melted the base looks clear but turns bright white as it hardens. Coconut oil bases tend to lather extremely well but they are more expensive and harder to find than glycerin bases.

Suggested Reading:

  1. Melt & Pour Soapmaking by Marie Browning: Melt and Pour as well as some hand milled soap recipes. I found it to be well written and easy to understand when I was new at this. There are large, color photos of every recipe so you can clearly see what you are making is supposed to look like. A lot of my own recipes were built on the foundation this book provided.

  2. 300 Handcrafted Soaps by Marie Browning: Quite a few more recipes for soap making than the first book and lots of great photos as well as detailed instructions.

  3. Essential Oils (Neal's Yard Remedies) by Susan Curtis: This is a very nicely priced book that has a great deal of information about safety, what to look for in essential oils, methods of extraction, where the highest quality oils come from, etc. I used this when I started working with essential oils over 10 years ago and still occasionally reference it to this day. It does contain information about healing properties of essential oils. Don't let that keep you from exploring the book if you don't believe in that - just ignore that part of the book and read the rest.

  4. The Natural Beauty & Bath Book by Casey Kellar: I have tried a few recipes from this book to get started with bath/massage oils, perfumes, and colognes, but mostly I loved it for the packaging ideas.

Essential Oils vs Fragrance Oils:

Image of Essential Oil What's the difference between essential oils and fragrance oils? That's a very good question and the answer varies from none to quite a bit. Essential oils are oils extracted without synthetics. Fragrance oils can be anything from a blend of essential oils, essential oils with synthetic fragrance added, to purely synthetic. Fragrance oils can have few to hundreds of scents added (both natural and synthetic) to achieve the desired scent. So what's the problem? If you have sensitive skin like I do it can be extremely difficult to determine which component(s) of the fragrance oil is causing skin irritation.

What can you do about it without paying a high price? I asked myself that question about 8 years ago and the answer I came up with was simple. Make my own soap and bath/body products. Start with very basic recipes and use additives and natural fragrances one step at a time to isolate and remove any offenders. The result was so much better than I could have possibly imagined and I have not bought pre-made soap since.

That said I am not opposed to purchasing high quality fragrance oils. When I find one that does not cause irritation I will use it. Let's face it you can't find essential oil of chocolate cake, some oils such as rose oil are extremely expensive, and some essential oils cannot be used to scent both candles and soaps (which can make it difficult to create soaps and candles with matching scents). The purpose of this site is to offer alternatives to people like me who are sensitive to certain synthetic fragrances and blends.


Caution Image

When working with Essential Oils it is extremely important to do your homework before trying one that you are unfamiliar with. Remember, just because something is "all natural" doesn't necessarily mean that it is safe or that it cannot cause skin irritation and there are some essential oils should not be used in soap making or in other bath & body products.

As with synthetic fragrances, essential oils are highly concentrated and can cause irritation when they come in direct contact with the skin and/or mucus membranes. Some people can be sensitive to the concentrated scent of some oils. Working in a well ventilated area, wearing vinyl or latex gloves when handling essential oils, and immediately cleaning spills can prevent unpleasant experiences. It should also be noted that some essential oils can strip varnish and/or paint so be sure to choose your workspace wisely.

I have posted a short list of essential oils that I have researched and use regularly in my own soaps and bath & body products on the Ingredients & Equipment page.