Store-bought soap lathers well and smells nice, but often contains harsh detergents and irritating chemical ingredients. Natural soaps, while gentler, can cost $5 or more per bar. If you'd prefer to save money while treating your skin right, make your own soap. The melt-and-pour method yields a bar that's ready to use right away. Personalize your soap by mixing in colorful natural dyes, fragrant essential oils and herbal additives.
Cover a flat, stable work surface, such as the kitchen counter or a table, with wax paper for easy cleanup.
Cut a block of white or clear melt-and-pour soap base into small, even-sized chunks. Soap bases are commonly made of glycerin and contain some coconut oil. Glycerin is a humectant that draws moisture to your skin. Coconut oil nourishes skin and makes it feel soft.
Put the soap chunks in a heat-safe container, such as a glass measuring cup, and then put the chunks in the microwave. Heat the soap for 30 seconds, then stir it. Microwave the soap for 15 more seconds, then stir again. Repeat this until the soap is fully melted. Let the soap cool slightly. Alternatively, put the soap chunks in a double boiler set on a stove burner. Adjust the temperature to medium-low heat. Stir the soap as it melts. Remove the soap from the heat when fully melted, then transfer to a large bowl and let it cool slightly.
Add a pinch of mica to the melted soap, if desired, then stir well until blended. Mica gives soap a shimmery or pearly look.
Add several drops of fragrance oil or essential oil to the soap. Tea tree essential oil has antibacterial properties and is useful if you have acne-prone skin. Roman chamomile oil soothes sensitive skin. Lavender oil promotes relaxation and has antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Mix in an additive, if desired. Cinnamon and ground cardamom are astringents, which may help oily or acne-prone skin. Ground almonds, cornmeal, wheat bran and oatmeal work as gentle exfoliants. Dried rosemary boosts circulation and adds scent to soap. Use between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon of the additive. Too much may discolor your soap or give it a scratchy texture.
Add colorant to the melted soap, if desired. Liquid cosmetic-grade soap dyes are typically man-made, not natural. If you're using liquid soap dye, stir the soap and add the dye drop by drop until you're happy with the color. Natural colorants include dried herbs, spirulina, paprika and cocoa powder. Add a pinch of paprika to soap for a reddish-pink hue, or a pinch of ground tumeric for a golden-yellow color. Spirulina provides a dark green color, and cocoa powder turns soap light brown.
Line a soap mold with a thin layer of petroleum jelly. This makes it easier to get the finished soap out of the mold.
Pour the soap into the mold. Lightly spritz the surface of the soap with rubbing alcohol to get rid of any air bubbles or mica clumps.
Allow the soap to harden fully. This takes between 30 minutes and an hour. To speed up hardening, put the soap mold in the refrigerator.
Push the soap out of the mold once it has hardened. If you used a brick mold, cut the soap into bars.
To make a two-colored soap, split the melted soap base into two equal portions. Add a few drops of dye to one portion and several drops of dye of another color to the second portion. Pour the first portion into a mold. When the second portion's temperature is 125 degrees Fahrenheit or below, add it to the mold.
Use caution when making soap. Melted soap can burn you.
Don't use food coloring to dye soap. It will stain your skin when you use the soap.
Melissa King began writing in 2001. She spent three years writing for her local newspaper, "The Colt," writing editorials, news stories, product reviews and entertainment pieces. She is also the owner and operator of Howbert Freelance Writing. King holds an Associate of Arts in communications from Tarrant County College.