How to Make Honey Soap
Tips, Why, plus a Simple Recipe
Reading Time: 4 minutes
In the world of soapmaking, there is an almost infinite number of additives for soap in order to give certain characteristics or benefits. One very common and much-loved additive is natural honey. Honey lends many beneficial qualities to homemade soap, but it can be a touch tricky to work with. Let’s learn more about why we might want to try making honey soap then explore how to do so with fewer difficulties.
Benefits of Honey for the Skin
Honey has been used to improve skin for thousands of years. It is believed that even Cleopatra used milk mixed with honey as a face mask. There is quite a bit of reasoning behind the belief that honey is good for the skin. The main reason is that honey is a humectant. A humectant is a substance that attracts water and holds it. When applied to the skin, honey will attract moisture from the air so that the skin can then absorb that moisture. The reason why honey is a humectant is interesting and may take you back to high school chemistry. Do you remember supersaturated solutions? No worries if you don’t. A supersaturated solution happens when water has been forced to dissolve more sugar than it wants to at a certain temperature. This is typically done by heating the sugar and water solution to force the dissolution then allowing it to cool. Bees make honey a supersaturated solution by fanning the uncured honey to help evaporate some of the water content. When it reaches the desired consistency, the honeycomb is capped to keep it at the desired sugar-to-water ratio. Another benefit of honey for skin is in its antimicrobial properties. For those who suffer from acne, raw honey can be a treatment to help balance the bacteria occurring on the skin. Honey’s antioxidants are also helpful against the signs of aging.
Tips for Making Honey Soap
When adding honey to soap, the typical ratio is 1 teaspoon of honey per pound of oils in the soap. Measure out the honey beforehand and dissolve it in a small amount of hot distilled water. This will help assure even distribution in the soap batter. When your soap batter reaches a very light trace, carefully pour in your dissolved honey and mix. The main reason why honey is tricky in soapmaking is that the sugars react with the lye, causing it to heat up quickly. If left unchecked, this overheating can result in heat tunnels, glycerin rivers, lye pockets, and even a soap volcano. There are a few ways to help prevent this from happening. The first way to prevent overheating is to mix your dissolved lye and oils at a lower temperature, aiming for 105℉ rather than 120-130℉. You can even allow your lye water to cool completely to room temperature if you plan far enough in advance. The only precaution with soaping at a low temperature is to make sure that any butters or solid-at-room-temp oils are still completely liquid when you mix in the lye. You also risk getting a false trace as the butters solidify from the cooler lye water.
If you don’t want to risk false trace from soaping at too low of a temperature, you could simply avoid gel phase (when it is most likely to overheat) by immediately placing your soap in the fridge or freezer as soon as you pour it in the mold. Whether you gel your soap or not is a personal preference and doesn’t affect the quality of the final product, but gelling does tend to produce a smoother bar and brighter colors if you are using colorants. I prefer to gel my soap, so I leave my honey soap out of the fridge, but I watch it closely. Sometimes I still have to rebatch the soap if it develops a heat tunnel without my noticing.
Honey Soap: a Simple Recipe
While a simple soap recipe with honey as its only additive is not that likely to overheat unless you use too much honey, adding other ingredients can increase your chances of overheating. One example is adding honey to milk soap. The addition of the sugars in the milk increases your likelihood of overheating, so you may need to take more than one precaution. This is also true of many other additives. Some fragrance and essential oils are prone to misbehaving in soap and should be tested prior to adding them in addition to honey. If you have not made cold process soap before, please take some time to educate yourself on safety and make a few simple batches without tricky additives before attempting honey soap.
- 12.16 oz distilled water
- 4.46 oz lye
- 6.4 oz coconut oil
- 11.20 oz olive oil
- 11.20 oz palm oil
- 3.2oz castor oil
- 2 tsp honey dissolved in a small amount of hot distilled water
This recipe has two pounds of oils, so it uses two teaspoons of honey added at very light trace. I do not add any fragrance or essential oils because I make honey soap for sensitive, dry skin that can be irritated by soap scents. Because this recipe has no other additives, it should be able to safely go through gel phase without complications if you so desire. I do still recommend soaping at a lower temperature, in the 105-110 degree F range to help prevent possible overheating. I hope you enjoy this gentle honey soap on your skin!
Have you tried a honey soap recipe? What challenges did you face and what tips do you have to offer?