Sweetly scented chamomile soap recipe
Natural chamomile soap recipe made with essential oil, chamomile flowers, and naturally coloured yellow using annatto seeds
Have you ever made yourself a cup of calming chamomile tea? That same sweet and relaxing scent and is magnified in this all natural chamomile soap recipe. It’s blended with rich oils including shea butter and castor oil that moisturize as they cleanse. The creamy yellow colour comes from annatto seeds, the fragrance comes from pure essential oil and dried chamomile flowers decorate the top.
German vs Roman Chamomile
There are two main types of chamomile that you can both grow and get extracts from. The easiest way to think of them is Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) is the type that you can grow low-lying chamomile lawns with. It’s a perennial and doesn’t grow more than a few inches off the ground. German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is grown as an annual, so must be grown from seeds each year and is much taller at 1-2 feet in height.
The main differences in the essential oils and flowers is that Roman chamomile has a sweet, floral, and almost apple-like scent. German chamomile smells like sweet summer hay and is a more vibrant blue colour. That’s right! Both types of essential oil will be blue when you pour it from the bottle. German chamomile is bright blue but Roman comes out a much paler shade.
The dried flowers in this chamomile soap recipe are there mainly for decoration and you can use either german or roman. They look quite similar and it’s the essential oil that will fragrance the soap.
Benefits of Chamomile for the skin
The essential oil I use in this recipe is Roman chamomile because it smells prettier. If you’re looking for more skin therapy from your chamomile oil though, German has far more benefits. Used in lotions, creams, and serums, German chamomile helps ease the symptoms of eczema and regenerates the skin.
Both types calm, soothe, and help provide restful sleep. That means that this Roman chamomile based soap recipe will be perfect for an indulgent and relaxing bath after a long week’s work.
Chamomile Soap Recipe
This chamomile soap recipes is a one pound (454g) batch – so, 6 bars if you use this silicone soap mould
65g (2.3oz) Sodium hydroxide (also called lye or NaOH)
120g (4.23oz) Water (preferably distilled)
1.5 tsp Chamomile essential oil
Dried chamomile flowers
Special Equipment needed
Natural Soap Making for Beginners
If you’re new to making handmade soap, you might also want to check out my four-part series on natural soap making. It gives a good introduction on what to expect from ingredients, equipment, recipes, and how to combine everything together to make soap.
For this recipe, make sure that your main oils, water, and lye are pre-measured. Wear an apron, gloves, eye-protection and work in an orderly space free from distractions. Any tools, pans, or bowls that come into contact with the lye should be soap-dedicated. It’s best to not use the same items that you’d prepare food with. Make sure that the jugs that you measure the lye and water into are heat resistant.
Step 1: Infuse the Annatto seeds in oil
This is an optional step that will need time to prepare. Annatto seeds is where this soap gets its yellow colour from. You can use annatto seeds to create batches that range from a light yellow to a vibrant orange soap. Though you can get annatto in a ground form, I like to infuse the whole seeds into oil to avoid any additional texture.
For this recipe I infused the annatto into almond oil. However, you can infuse it into any of the light liquid oils in this recipe if it pleases you. You could for example have 20g of the sunflower or olive oils infused in annatto. To get my own annatto infused oil I placed 142g sweet almond oil in a jar and then added 1 teaspoon (6g) of annatto seeds. After a month I strained the seeds out and had enough infused oil to tint several soap batches.
If you make this recipe without annatto seeds, you’ll still need the oil that it was supposed to infuse with. Just add it un-infused. The colour of your soap without annatto will be a pale cream.
Step 2: Mix the lye-water
Make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves and eye protection. In a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors if you can manage it, pour the dry Sodium hydroxide (lye) crystals into the water. Hold it well away from your face and mix until the lye is dissolved. There’s steam and heat in this step so be prepared.
When mixed, set the jug of steaming lye-water in a basin of cold tap water. This will help it to cool down.
Step 3: Melting the oils
On very low heat, begin melting the coconut oil and shea butter. Move the oils around in the pan to increase its surface area and to melt it quicker. Don’t leave the melting oils unattended — they’ll melt quicker than you think. As soon as there’s just a tiny amount of un-melted oil in the pan, take it off the heat and continue stirring.
When the oils are fully melted, pour in the liquid oils and stir it all together.
Step 4: Balancing temperatures
Take the oil’s temperature — you’re aiming to get it to between 100-110°F (38-43°C). Once you have a reading, take the lye-water’s temperature too. You’re going to try to bring the oil down (or up) to the right range and make sure that the lye-water is between 5-10 degrees of the oils. Getting the right temperature ensures that you won’t run into any issues that may include unwanted colour changes, cracking, or issues with the next step.
Step 5: Mixing the oils & lye-water
When the temperatures are where they need to be, pour the lye-water into the oils through a sieve (fine mesh strainer). This helps to catch any particles of undissolved lye that might still be in your solution.
Next comes the magic of saponification! You’ll need a stick blender (immersion blender) and a few minutes to transform your ingredients into soap. Without a stick blender this next step would take well over an hour of manual stirring like it did in the past.
Step 6: Blending
Dip the stick blender into your pan at an angle — this reduces the amount of air in the head and thus in your soap. Do this each time you take the stick blender out and put it back into the batter.
With it turned off, gently stir the mixture together. Now bring the stick blender to the centre of the pan and while stationary, turn it on for a couple seconds. With it off, use the stick blender to stir the batter together. Having the blender on whilst stirring can kick up splatters of soap on you and at this point it’s not safe to have on your skin. Safety first when making soap.
Step 7: ‘Trace’
Repeat the stationary blending and then stirring until the soap thickens up. It will have the consistency of warm custard and will leave a trail on the surface if drizzled from the stick blender. When you’re able to see this, pour in the essential oil and stir it in well with a spatula.
Working quickly, pour the soap batter into your mould(s). Once it’s poured, you can sprinkle dried chamomile flowers on top to decorate. If you’re using the silicone mould I recommend in this piece, you can leave it out on the counter uncovered. If it’s in a larger loaf mould you might want to pop it into the fridge to keep the colour on the inside light.
Step 8: Curing your chamomile soap
Leave the soap in its mould for 48 hours. After this point, saponification is finished and it’s safe to handle. That’s how long it takes for all the Sodium hydroxide (lye) to bond with the oils completely.
Next you have to cure the soap before it can be used. This is all about evaporating the excess water from your bars and allowing them to harden. For four weeks you need to leave your bars of soap in an airy place that’s not too hot or cold and out of direct sunlight. Space them out on a sheet of grease-proof (or baking) paper and let them scent the room for you while they’re finishing up.
After those four weeks are up you can use your bars or gift them. Once made, your soap can have a shelf-life of up to two years. Look on the backs of all the ingredients you use to make your batch and the best by date that’s closest is the one you need to use your handmade soap by. For full instructions on how to cure handmade soap head over here
More soap recipes
If you enjoyed this chamomile soap recipe, I invite you to have a browse of my other soap ideas. I also have an easy recipe for chamomile infused lip balm if you’d like to create a second project. How fun would that be to give handmade bars of chamomile soap with a chamomile balm during the holidays?