All About: Exfoliants

Let’s face it; making beauty products is like a giant science experiment in your kitchen. (Well, unless you are already a pro and you have moved onto bigger and better things!)  One of my favorite parts of making beauty products is experimenting with different exfoliating ingredients.  There are literally so many different exfoliants to choose from you will never be at a loss for something to use. Many of them you have in your kitchen right now.  Today we will talk about some of the more popular and favorites we all like to use.

But first – what is an exfoliant you ask?  An exfoliant is a material that is used to scrub off dead skin cells and dirt. Exfoliants come in so many shapes and sizes – there is literally no “one size fits all”. Some are mild and hardly noticeable while others are extremely coarse and not for the most sensitive skins.

When adding an exfoliant to any product you are making, you will first need to determine what the use of the product will be. For example, if you are making a facial soap bar, you will want to use a gentle exfoliant.  However, if you are making a soap that is intended to be used to clean very dirty gardener’s hands, you’ll choose an exfoliant that is courser and more apparent in the product.

As with any ingredients in your handcrafted beauty products, there are no rules or strict guidelines to follow.  It is a preference that will work for some, but may not work for all.  Experiment – like variety is the spice of life, exfoliants are the scrubby of soaps!  Check some out below:

Colloidal Oatmeal:  This form of oatmeal is a micro ground powder that is ideal for facial products. It is known to be a soothing, yet a hardly noticeable exfoliant.  Note that oatmeal can also be ground into a “not so micro” texture if you prefer to have a more coarse oatmeal experience.

Baking Soda: This is a gentle exfoliant, which is oil absorbing and a great additive for face masks and toothpastes.

Activated Charcoal:  This is a great exfoliant for facials scrubs, as it’s known to trap toxins in the body and allow them to be flushed out. It works by binding the toxins and not allowing them to be reabsorbed.

Jojoba Beads: These are a somewhat gentle exfoliant that you can get in several different colors and sizes.  Jojoba beads are derived from jojoba oil and are completely biodegradable.

Salt: Like jojoba beads, salts come in many sizes and colors. You will find several varieties of salt, as well as the qualities they contain.  Dead sea salts are great to use in a scrub, while you can use a more coarse salt in a salt soap recipe.

Coffee Grounds:  As I said – some exfoliants can be found right in your kitchen – here is one of them! Used fresh, coffee grounds are a more coarse exfoliant that are great in a soap recipe. While using brewed coffee ground, they are a softer exfoliant and have the “edge” removed, making them great in a facial scrub.

Loofah: Whole loofah sponges are a fun exfoliant for soap. Loofah is actually a vegetable that grows on a Luffa plant. Whole slices of loofah can be placed in a soap mold and poured over with soap to create a loofah soap.  Because the texture of a loofah is rough, it is not typically a good facial exfoliant, rather a perfect exfoliant for rough heels, elbows or knees.

Seeds: There are many types of seeds that can be used as exfoliators, including blueberry, cranberry, strawberry and poppy seeds.  Most seeds are considered a coarser exfoliant and are most suitable used as a body exfoliant rather than facial.

Dried Botanicals:  Lavender, Chamomile, Calendula, Mint, Rosemary to name a few. Not only do these dried botanicals add exfoliating properties to your soaps, they also are loaded with beneficial properties and smell great!

Clays:  Clays are perfect for facial scrubs. Much like activated charcoal, clay helps to remove skin toxins. They are also oil absorbing and help hydrate your skin.

As you can see from the rather brief list above, exfoliants come in many shapes and sizes. There really are no limitations to your imagination and experimentations!


You’ve got the exfoliants, now you need the fragrances! Make sure to check out  our fragrance blending article, Fantastic Fragrances and How To Blend Them, available at


Common Scents: Rose Absolute

Welcome to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a series of articles exploring the history of commonly used essential oils and how they became so popular in modern day soap and cosmetic crafting. This week, we’ll be talking about Rose Absolute!

Think of a flower. Was it a rose? If it was, that’s no surprise; the rose is one of the most recognizable flowers in the world! Besides being the symbol of love, romance and beauty, roses are widely used in soaps and cosmetics and have been revered throughout history for their intoxicating aroma.

Rose oil comes in two different forms and is extracted from the petals of the rose flower, from the genus Rosa of the plant family Rosaceae. The rose is native primarily in temperate areas of the northern hemisphere, and is grown in Asia, North America, Europe and northwest Africa.

What’s in a Name?

The word rose comes from the Latin word rosa and transformed into the spelling we know today via Old French.

A Sweet Smelling History 

Roses have a long history of inspiring love, temptation and promoting beauty. Let’s take a stroll into the mythical history of this beautiful flower to find out why it has stood the test of time as the prevailing material way to show affection.


In ancient Persia as well as in ancient Indian literature, the rose is used symbolically as a tool in the creation of the world and of manking. For example, Vishnu (the supreme god of India) created Lakshmi, his bride, out of 108 large rose petals and 1,008 smaller rose petals.


In Greece, it was believed that Aphrodite created the rose after her love, Adonis, was wounded on a hunt for a boar. When she heard that he was suffering, she rushed to him and her tears mixed with his blood to form red roses. It was also believed that the sea foam from which Aphrodite was formed created white rose bushes wherever it touched land!


The Romans believed that Flora, the Goddess of Springs and flowers, was so distraught when she found the dead body of her most beloved and beautiful nymph that she called out to the other gods to help her transform the nymph’s body into the Queen of Flowers (widely considered to be the rose). Hearing her call, Apollo gave the nymph the breath of life, Bacchus bathed her in nectar, Vertumnus gave her fragrance, and Flora gave the nymph petals so that she would always be remembered as being beautiful.

In Religion

Christians widely believed that the rose did not have thorns until Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, and the thorns were formed because of mankind’s wickedness. In the Muslim religion, roses are said to be formed from the perspiration of the Prophet Mohammed.

Types of Rose Oil

There are two types of oil that you will come across in your search. The extraction and distillation of rose oil dates back to before the French Revolution, when the French would distill roses specifically for the use of their famous rosewater!

Rose Otto: Rose otto, also called attar of roses, is an oil produced via steam distillation of roses, specifically the Damask rose. This oil is usually either olive green or a pale yellow and has a scent that is described as floral and spicy.

Rose Absolute: The more commonly used of the rose oils, rose absolute is produced using solvent extraction and is favored for its lower price point. Rose absolute is noticeably thicker than rose otto and is usually olive green or red/orange in color. The scent of rose absolute is described as light and floral, and is the closest to the popular rose scent of the two oils.

To produce one ounce of rose absolute, approximately 60,000 roses are needed. This is why rose absolute is more expensive then many other popular essential oils; the process of extraction is much more time consuming and costly. Flowers are typically picked by hand before sunrise and then the extraction process begins!

Benefits of Rose Oil

Besides allegedly inciting feelings of love, rose absolute has been used throughout history for many ailments, including:

Stress relief

Anxiety reduction

Menstrual and menopausal symptom relief

Wrinkle reduction



Remember: this information is being provided strictly for educational and entertainment purposes. The FDA has not approved rose absolute or rose oil in general for medical use. The HSCG does not give medical advice and does not advise using rose absolute for medicinal purposes.


Because it is so expensive to produce, some dishonest merchants dilute their rose oil with other oils like geranium and palmarosa. Sometimes, these oils will still be marketed as pure rose absolute oil; be sure to buy from respectable and historically honest suppliers and ask questions about the oil’s origin to make sure you don’t spend rose absolute money on mostly geranium oil!

Final Thoughts 

Using rose absolute oil in your soap and cosmetics can add a light, romantic scent that is both uplifting and inspiring. With the storied history behind the rose, you have many talking points for your rose-scented products; don’t let the expense of the oil dissuade you! A light touch with a high quality rose oil will make any soap or cosmetic positively float off the shelves. Get creative with fragrance blending and invent your own warm and romantic aroma to keep your customers coming back time and again.

Do you know what pairs well with rose absolute? Find out by taking a look at our article about Fragrance Blending:

A Beginner’s Guide to Castile Soap

Castile soap is arguably one of the most simultaneously simple and complicated soaps in existence! From debates on its origin, to arguments about what it should and should not contain, castile soap means something different to just about every soap maker.

The Debatable History of Castile Soap 

It is difficult to find a definitive answer as to where castile soap originated. Some say that it dates back to Levant, where Aleppo soap makers historically and presently produce hard soaps based on olive and laurel oils. Others say that the soap originated in Castilla, Spain. Whatever the true root of castile soap may be, one thing is for certain; soap makers have been utilizing the benefits of this hard, luxurious soap for thousands of years.

Contents in Flux 

Finding the definitive answer of exactly what castile soap should contain was no easier than learning its history! Some believe that true castile soap is made using 100% extra virgin olive oil and sodium or potassium hydroxide. Others believe that the scope of ingredients encompasses all soaps made with only vegetable derived oils and lye, as long as the recipe is devoid of any and all animal tallow (also known as animal fat). Because of this, it is possible to see a castile soap made from almost any vegetable based oil; but many soap makers still believe that a true castile soap should contain only olive oil as its main ingredient.

The Benefits of Castile 

Finding the benefits of castile soap was easy; this beloved soap is revered for its multi-purpose cleaning skills. In liquid form, many people use it to clean their floors, toilets, sinks, countertops or as a spray-able solution for plants to help repel pests. In bar (and liquid form), castile soap is used to wash the body, hair and face. It is a truly versatile product that is very simple to formulate, and has the added benefit of being vegan-friendly by nature because of its all-vegetable based oil ingredients. Because of its simple formulation, it is also customizable with colors, scents and oils, which means the options for making your own standout soap are limitless.

The Drawbacks of Castile 

Although there are few drawbacks of castile soap, it is important to take them into consideration before making it.

Castile soap can be made using either the cold process method or the hot process method. The biggest difference in these two processes when it comes to castile soap is most definitely the cure time. Cold process castile can take between 4-6 months to cure, with unmolding after a two week initial wait. This can be a big drawback for soapmakers who intend to offer this at an upcoming show or event; make sure to give yourself plenty of time. As with any soap, a longer cure time is desired to produce a harder bar, but this is a must with castile soap.

Using the hot process method will drastically cut down on the cure time, but will not produce as smooth a finished product as cold process. However, the cure time for castile soap using hot process is only about two to four weeks, with unmolding after 24 hours. Although this is a faster turnaround for this particular kind of soap, it is important to note that the longer the cure time, the better your bar will be.

Formulating Your Castile 

Formulation of your castile soap is going to depend on a few factors.

  • Are you making liquid castile, or bar castile? If you are making liquid castile, you will need to use potassium hydroxide. If you are making a bar castile, you’ll need sodium hydroxide.
  • Will you be sticking with the traditional 100% olive oil method, or mixing a few vegetable-only oils?
  • Are you using hot process or cold process, and what is your timeline for a finished product?
  • What will your superfat percentage be? Although superfatting between 5% and 10% is standard, consider reducing your superfat to 3 or 4 percent instead. A lower superfat percentage will help your bar become harder in a shorter amount of cure time.

Final Thoughts 

Castile soap is a simple, traditional product that appeals to a wide consumer base. If you plan around the cure time needed to have a quality, hardened bar, your customers will come back time and again for this amazing soap!