How to make sensitive honey & lavender soap using pure olive oil, lavender essential oil, raw honey, and other skin-loving ingredients
When it comes to making handmade soap I like to keep it simple. Natural colors, real flowers and herbs, and plant-derived scents. This recipe follows on that ethos and sticks to the subtle scent of lavender essential oil blended with the sweet fragrance of warmed honey. It’s a combo that worked well for me in a cookie recipe and I might say that it does even better in a bar of handmade soap!
Decorated with dried Lavender flowers
What I also like about this lavender & honey soap recipe is how elegant it looks. When you use pure and simple ingredients it’s always best to decorate the soap in the same way. I’ve used the natural tendency for honey to ‘warm’ a soap’s colour and have decorated the tops of the bars with stems of dried lavender flowers. No other colours or adornments are necessary.
The ingredients and method are making this soap are below and include olive oil as the main soaping oil. In combination with coconut oil, castor oil, shea butter, and golden beeswax this recipe is ideal for sensitive skin. Follow the directions carefully and you can make three beautiful bars of soap that will leave your skin feeling and smelling great.
Honey & Lavender Soap Recipe
12oz / 350g batch — makes 3 bars
Read my free 4-part soap making series here
Special Equipment needed
Step 1: Getting set up
Safety first! Make sure to be wearing closed-toe shoes, long sleeves, eye protection (goggles), and latex or washing-up gloves. You’ll be working with Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) and splashing a bit on your skin isn’t the most pleasant of experiences. To learn more about lye and lye safety read this piece on the equipment and safety needed for soap making.
You also need to have all of your ingredients measured and your work surface organised. Open a window for ventilation, close doors on pets and children, and have everything you need laid out:
- Sodium Hydroxide and water measured into heat-proof containers: glass, pyrex, or polypropelene plastic
- Solid oils measured into a small stainless steel pan.
- Liquid oils (and the 1/4 tsp honey) measured into a bowl
- Mold set out and ready. You’ll also need a towel to lightly insulate it so have that ready too.
- Stick blender plugged in and ready
- Digital thermometer out
- Utensils laid out: stainless steel spoon for stirring the lye solution, a small fine-mesh strainer, and a flexible spatula
- Fragrance and extras at the ready: essential oil, additional 1/4 tsp honey, Grapefruit Seed Extract, and Lavender flowers
- Read all of the directions in this piece thoroughly before making your soap.
- To read my free four-part series on natural soap making head over here
Step 2: Create the Lye Solution
If you’re like me and have a window above your kitchen sink then you can work there. If not, you’ll need to create your lye solution near another window (or better yet, outside) for ventilation.
- Holding the jug of water away from you and towards that open window, pour the lye crystals into the water and stir well. Steam, fumes, and heat are the product of water and dry lye combining. Be wary of all three.
- Place the steaming jug of lye-water in the sink. Next fill the sink with a little water to help the lye solution cool. Use a basin if you’re working away from your sink.
- If you’re opting to use the optional Sodium Lactate (which makes your soap harder) then add it to your lye solution when its temperature is below 130°F / 54°C. It comes in liquid and powder form — if in powder form, mix with an equal quantity of water before adding.
Step 3: Heat the solid oils
Move away from the lye and begin melting your solid oils on the lowest heat possible on your hob. When there are just a few pieces of solid oil floating in the pan, turn off the heat and move the pan to a pot holder. Stir with your spatula until all of the oils are melted.
Step 4: Mix your oils
When the solid oils are melted, pour your liquid oils into the pan. Use the spatula to get as much of it in as possible (castor oil has a real tendency to stick). Now measure the temperature of your oils with your digital thermometer. You’re aiming to get it down to about 110°F / 43°C.
Step 5: Balance the temperatures
Once you have a read on your oil temperature, head back over to the lye solution and take its temperature too. It’s fine to go back and forth with the digital thermometer for both.
You’re aiming here to get the lye-solution and the oils in the pan to be within 5 degrees of each other in temperature. You also want that range to be around the 110°F / 43°C mark. It can be lower and down to around 100°F but if you go higher than that the honey in your recipe will cause the soap to turn a darker brown.
Step 6: Stick Blending
When the temperatures are balanced, it’s time to mix the lye-solution with the oils. Pour the lye-solution through the mini strainer (to catch any pieces that might not have dissolved) and into the pan of warm oils.
Next, place the stick blender into the pan and use it to stir the mixture together gently. The head of the stick blender should be completely immersed in the oil-lye solution. If it isn’t, you need to use a smaller pan.
Bring the stick blender to a stand-still in the center of your pan and then press pulse for a few seconds. Then stir gently again for a moments and repeat the stand-still stick blending.
Continue pulsing and stirring your soap batter until it hits a light ‘Trace’. This means that the batter thickens and if some of it dribbles down from the stick blender, it will leave a mark on the surface of your soap-batter before melting back in.
There’s a photo below of trace with another honey soap recipe below — it’s one that you mix at a higher temperature so the honey makes the soap a different colour.
Step 7: Add the Fragrance
When your soap batter has thickened to a ‘light trace’ it’s time to stir in your fragrance, the additional honey, and the Grapefruit Seed Extract. GSE is an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidants help keep the oils in your soap from going ‘rancid’. You do not need to use preservatives when making handmade soap.
Pour each of them into the batter and gently stir until they are all dispersed. Give it a good 20-30 seconds of stirring.
Step 8: Mold & Decorate your Soap
Pour your soap batter into your silicone mold in a place where you can leave the mold for at least two days. If you’re using a Silicone Loaf Soap Mold like mine, it will only come part of the way up. Use your spatula to get as much of your soap out of the pan and into your mold.
Settle the soap so that it has a flat top. You do this by gently shaking the mold. If it won’t settle completely then don’t sweat it, it just means that your soap is now at a thicker trace and setting into its final form. Rustic textured tops of soaps are very much in!
The final touch is laying your dried lavender flowers on top, making sure to think about how you want to cut the loaf up into bars. When this is finished, cover the mold lightly with the towel making sure the towel doesn’t touch the top of the soap.
Step 9: Cut and Cure the Lavender and Honey Soap
After 48-36 hours you can pop your soap out of the mold. Leave it sitting on a piece of grease-proof or baking paper for another day or two before you cut it up. Use an ordinary kitchen knife and cutting board to slice it into bars — note that in interior of the soap will be a light golden brown and the outer edges of the soap where it touches the mold will be cream. If you’ve used Sodium Lactate your soap should be fairly firm by now. If you didn’t, there’s a chance that it will be sticky and you’ll need to leave it to dry for a few more days. That way you won’t make a mess of it when you slice it into bars. Alternatively, you can pop your soap into the freezer for 30 minutes to harden it temporarily.
Next is the hard part — waiting for your soap to ‘Cure’. Olive oil soap takes longer than other soaps so you’ll need to keep your bars on that grease-proof paper for another six weeks. Place them on a book-shelf or another place that’s airy and out of direct sunlight.
Your soap needs all of those weeks to finish turning into soap. It also needs time to allow the water to evaporate out. After your six weeks is up, use and gift your handmade soap to your heart’s content. For full instructions on how to cure handmade soap head over here