Common Scents: Ylang Ylang

Welcome back to our series, Common Scents! Common Scents is a collection 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 talk about ylang ylang!

 This month we are going to talk about everyone’s least favorite essential oil to pronounce: ylang ylang! Pronounced ee-lang ee-lang, this sweet oil is versatile and mysterious, with a heady, floral aroma.


Ylang ylang has been popular throughout history for its purported therapeutic and medicinal qualities. The first official documentation of its use as a medicine came early in the 20th century, when two French chemists working on research on the island of Reunion discovered the healing properties of ylang ylang oil. They reported that they believed it to be an effective treatement for malaria, as well as other digestive and intestinal complaints. The chemists also believed that ylang ylang oil had a calming effect on the heart during times of distress or anxiety. They were hardly the first to come to this conclusion though; in the Philippines, healers turned to ylang ylang oil for treatment for snake and insect bites, as well as commonplace injuries such as burns and cuts and cardiac complaints. The cardiac benefits of ylang ylang oil were also noted in Oriental medicine, where healers used it most commonly for calming the heart.


Ylang ylang oil is derived from the ylang-ylang (cananga odorate) tree, sometimes referred to as the Cananga tree. This tree can grow up to 60 feet tall! Ylang ylang oil is steam distilled from the fragrant flowers of the tree; these flowers do not bloom until at least the fifth year of the tree’s life. It takes approximately 45-50 pounds of flowers to make one pound of oil; special care must be taken in regards to the timing of the distillation to ensure the desired quality.


There are three different grades of ylang ylang oil; extra, first, second and third. Extra grade refers to oil that is taken within an hour of distillation, and is considered the most fragrant; this grade is used most frequently in the perfume industry. First is taken up to four hours after distillation begins, second after approximately seven hours, and third can be taken up to ten hours after distillation begins. Typically, first through third grades are used in soap and cosmetic manufacturing.

Medicinal and Therapeutic Uses 

Ylang ylang enjoys a reputation as a versatile healing oil. Let’s take a look at some of its medicinal and therapeutic uses throughout history:

Mental stimulant

Muscle spasm relief

Lowers blood pressure

Reverses insect and snake bites


Nerve and muscle relaxer 

Remember: the HSCG is providing this information for informational and entertainment purposes only. The FDA has not approved ylang ylang for medicinal use, and we are not providing this information as a recommendation for medicinal use.

Ylang Ylang in Modern Times 

Ylang ylang is a popular fragrance for soaps and cosmetics; its sweet, floral scent is appealing to a wide variety of audiences in an equally wide variety of products. Considered a base note, ylang ylang mixes well with grapefruit, vetiver, marjoram, sandalwood, bergamot, and many others.

Final Thoughts 

Ylang ylang has a rich history and makes a great addition to any citrusy or warm scents you already have in your products! Be creative with this versatile oil; your customer will love it.

Need a little more inspiration to blend your fragrances? Check out our How-To article called Fantastic Fragrances and How to Blend Them:

Common Scents: Vetiver

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; in this edition of Common Scents, we’ll take a look at vetiver. Revered by Indian culture and referred to in Sri Lanka as the “Oil of Tranquility”, vetiver’s unique scent and purported cooling, calming and medicinal properties have earned it quite a bit of respect.

Vetiver’s Roots 

Vetiver (c.zizanioides) is part of the genus Chrysopogon, family Poaceae, and is a grass-like plant native to parts of India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Vetiver is also cultivated in Reunion, the Comoro Islands, Japan, the Philippines, West Africa and South America. It is known by different names regionally; in Java, it is known as Akar Wangi or fragrant root. In India, it is known as Khus Khus, meaning aromatic root. In Sri Lanka, it is referred to as the Oil of Tranquility. The origin of the word vetiver is thought to come from the Tamil word vettiver.

Cultural Use 

In India, mats are woven from vetiver to help keep houses cool, due to the purported cooling properties of the herb. A similar approach is used in Africa, where vetiver is used to make roof thatches and rugs/floor mats.

Vetiver is used in Indian culture for its many supposed mental health benefits, as well as spiritual benefits. A few things that vetiver oil is used for include:

Relief of muscular aches

Fever reduction

Relief from pain attributed to arthritis

Used to combat fatigue

Used in the treatment of heat strokes

Relief from various joint disorders

Treatment of various skin issues

Used in the treatment of headahces

Along with the medicinal uses of vetiver, the Chinese also believed that the oil had the power to induce calmness, and awake the brain. They also believed that vetiver could calm angry and destructive thoughts and generally stabilize emotions.

It is important to note that the FDA has not approved Vetiver for use medicinally. The HSCG does not make or support any medicinal claims, and is providing this information for educational purposes only.

Vetiver oil is used in many fragrance blends.

Use in Modern Day 

Vetiver is considered a base note, and its scent is described as woodsy, warm, and earthy. Used alone, it is classified as a “masculine” scent. Using vetiver as a base in more complex fragrance blends is very easy to do, given its heavy, sweet aroma. Mixed with lavender, ylang ylang, cedarwood, oakmoss, rose, lemongrass, or sandalwood for example, vetiver lends depth and spice.

Final Thoughts 

Vetiver has a unique history and reputation for inducing the most desired of human conditions: tranquility. After the business of the holidays and overall craziness of day-to-day life, producing a soap or cosmetic using this aroma is sure to help your customers relax! Consider adding vetiver as the base to your fragrance blends to capture the scent of well-being and calm.

Vetiver blends well with rose and lavender; have you taken a look at the history behind these two popular oils? Check out the articles for both by visiting the following links!

Common Scents: Lavender:

Common Scents: Rose:

And for advice on fragrance blending in general, take a look at

Beer Soap For Beginners

Today, we are going to talk about making soap using a popular alcoholic drink; beer! I used the hot process method, but these observations will apply to those of you that use the cold process method, too. Let’s get started!

Considerations for Beer Soap 

When I first began doing research about beer soap, I found many conflicting articles and conflicting instructions. I was left confused; did I have to boil the alcohol out of the soap? Did the beer need to be frozen first? Was I going to blow up my kitchen? I’m happy to say that one of those things didn’t happen (I’ll give you a hint; nothing exploded). I did, however, finally narrow down my recipe and method through about three hours worth of online exploration; hopefully I can save you a bit of time with this article, but remember; besides the chemistry of soapmaking, creatively, make this yours! The sky is the limit and the creative potential for your product is exponential.


First, I decided how much beer I would be using in my soap. Because I wanted a lot of beer in my soap, I decided to completely replace all of my water with beer. This means, I added my lye to my beer; with a few steps in between, of course.

I also decided to boil my beer first. I understand that there are conflicting ideas of whether this is necessary, but, being that it was my first time making it, I didn’t want to take any chances (again-I like my kitchen in one piece). I used a blonde beer to avoid the darkness of a stout; I needed around 18 ounces for my recipe, but started out boiling about 34 ounces because of the chance of it boiling off and leaving me with a lower amount of liquid at the end of the process. I brought the beer to a boil and let it cook at approximately 175 F for 15 minutes; I ended up with about 27 ounces of beer when I was done. Not bad! I had enough for this recipe, and subsequently made a batch using both beer and distilled water the next day.

In the final minutes of the beer boiling, which made my house smell pretty badly (I would definitely recommend having a fan on), I filled my sink with ice and then placed the pan I boiled the beer in on top of the ice, filling the sink with cold water around it. I cooled it quite a bit, and quickly with this method; when it was cool to the touch, I then put it in a quart freezer bag and laid it flat in my freezer for about an hour. After the hour, it was not frozen, but rather slushy; this is what I was looking for!

Once the beer was slushy, I slowly sprinkled the lye into the semi-frozen liquid, careful to slowly and make sure that the granules completely dissolved. This is important, because if you add the lye too quickly, there is a chance it may scorch the beer which will result in an very unpleasant lye-beer mixture that you may not want to use, depending on your desired finish product.

Because it was cold outside, I allowed the lye beer to sit outside and cool down. I like to combine my lye mixture and oils while they are around the same temperature, and usually at around 140-150 degrees. Once I had everything at the desired temperature, I combined the lye mixture and oils in my crock pot with an immersion blender; and it came to trace very quickly! Within 5-10 minutes, the mixture was at trace.

Now, at this point, the batter was quite dark; I’d say about the color of wheat bread. I had decided to do a pencil line in my bar, but had chosen a very light and pretty mica; unfortunately, I didn’t anticipate the soap would lighten to the color of a cup of coffee with a half cup of creamer in it! Because of this, my pencil line is barely visible; keep in mind that, depending on the type of beer you use, this may happen to you as well.

The Cooking Process and Aftermath 

Although there didn’t seem to be much of a difference between my normal soapmaking and making soap with beer, what I noticed the most was the smell. Before I added my fragrances, the smell of the batter while cooking and even the next day when I cut it was very strong and honestly, unpleasant. But, don’t worry! Once the bars sat for about 24 hours, that smell faded away and all that is left is the smell of my fragrances, and a very light, earthy smell that is actually quite pleasant.

Final Thoughts 

Making soap with alcohol may seem like a strange extra step to take when you’re making your soap, but people love it! Do you make soap using beer or wine? We want to see it! Show us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter so we can see you’re beautiful brew creations!