Natural Additives and Colorants for Making Natural Soap: Elevate Your Homemade Creations

The world of soap making offers a captivating blend of science and artistry, transforming ordinary ingredients into luxurious lathers that pamper the skin. As you embark on this creative journey, you’ll discover a vast array of natural additives and colorants that can elevate your homemade soaps to new heights of sophistication and effectiveness.

Enriching Your Soap with Natural Additives

Natural additives play a crucial role in enhancing the properties and benefits of your soap. From nourishing butters and emollients to exfoliating salts and botanical extracts, these natural wonders can transform your soaps into powerhouses of skincare.

In this chapter we’ll take a deeper look at the natural ways to add scents, colors, and textures to your soaps. I know you want to make beautiful soap, yet you also want to keep your creation healthy and nourishing. I’ve got you covered! Some natural additives are for exfoliating, while others moisturize your skin. A lot of additives change color once they go through saponification, some may rapidly speed your soap to trace, and still others heat the soap so much that you need to treat it differently after pouring. I’ll make sure you have all the information you need about natural additives so you will know what to expect before beginning your soapmaking projects.


One thing I love about natural soapmaking is that there are so many options when it comes to natural additives. You can search around your kitchen for herbs, flowers, coffees, or teas to use. Even salt, oats, blackberries, and strawberries make great additives. Not only do all these natural additives contribute desirable qualities to soap like exfoliating properties and beautiful color, they also add nutritive and therapeutic qualities.

Each recipe in this book has been thoughtfully developed to include natural additives for color, texture, scent, and more. But don’t let my ideas limit yours! Before long you’ll be substituting additives in your recipes with your favorite herbs and essential oils. In order to guide you through the recipes in this book and prepare you to venture out on your own, I want to outline some of the considerations that should be made when adding natural additives to a recipe.


Many herbs, such as peppermint, nettle, lemon balm, lemongrass, lavender leaves, calendula, and chamomile, can be used for visual effect, exfoliation, or health benefits. Please keep in mind that most herbs turn brown when added at trace. If you want to avoid this, add them to the top of your soap right before it sets, or use finely powdered herbs like alkanet root, parsley, or spirulina for benefits to the skin and added color.

Activated Charcoal

Activated charcoal is commonly used for detoxification and cleansing. I use it in my facial soaps for its beneficial impact on the health of skin, including helping acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Add 1 teaspoon per pound of soap.


Bentonite, rose, white kaolin, and Moroccan orange clays are my favorite clays to use. They add color, act as wonderful cleansers, and are used for detoxification. If you decide to try another clay, do some research first. Some clays can change the texture of the soap or don’t hold a true color after saponification.


Honey makes a creamy, bubbly soap. It also breaks down within the soap to nourish the skin in a way few other ingredients can. It is antimicrobial and a humectant that will absorb moisture from the air for your skin. I typically add 1 tablespoon of honey per pound of soap.


Goat, cow, and even coconut milks contain vitamins that our skin and hair need. Be aware, however, that using milks in your soapmaking does add a few more steps to the process. I recommend replacing no more than half of the water in a recipe with milk. You will still need to add lye slowly so that you do not burn the milk sugars, but you’ll have fewer problems with overheating your mixture.


Juices can be added to soap recipes, but these are a little harder to manage because the sugars can cause overheating. Most will turn a dark color within the soap, typically brown, depending on how much you add and how fast you add the lye to your juice and water mixture. Replacing 25 percent of the water with juice gives the bar a more golden color without browning or causing sugar difficulties.


My favorite exfoliants are ground oats, coffee grounds, tea leaves, ground nuts, and salt, though you can add other exfoliating ingredients from your kitchen. Just make sure to only add ingredients that have a long shelf life.


I love adding aloe to soap. Use full-leaf aloe, not just the common aloe taken from the inside of the leaf. This will ensure that your soap has more nutrients, including those that are stored within the green part of the leaf.


I do not recommend large pieces of fruit, but puréed and dried fruits work beautifully in soap. A little goes a long way. When using puréed fruits, you need to be aware of the impact of the sugars on the soap. I typically do not insulate soaps with fruit or other high-sugar ingredients (see here for more information on insulating).

Questionable Natural Additives

Before we go on, you may be wondering why you don’t see additives like titanium dioxide or mica in this book. Some soapers consider titanium dioxide to be natural because it is used in sunscreens, but studies have shown that it is absorbed into skin cells and can cause damage to DNA, so you won’t find it in my recipes. Likewise, many micas have been doctored to give brighter colors than what you would find naturally. I’ve chosen to stay away from controversial additives and GMO or ethically questionable oils. It’s not always easy to know what’s completely natural or ethically processed, so I’ve done my research to provide you with only the best options.


Natural additives can be added to the lye water, at trace, or to the top of your batch of soap as it is setting. The best time depends on the additive.

Milks, juices, coffees, teas, and aloes are added to the lye water, replacing some or all of the water.

Honeys, clays, charcoals, fruit, exfoliants, and some herbs are added at trace.

When adding any powders at trace, you should transfer a few large spoonfuls of soap to a separate bowl and stir the powder into that before adding it to your large batch, just as you would with flour when making gravy. This eliminates any possibilities of larger lumps being left in your soap batch.


Colorants are one of the most common ways that unnatural and toxic ingredients are added to homemade soaps. Even though certain colorings are approved for use in foods and cosmetics in the United States, many countries have limited, not outright banned, the same ones because of studies showing the damaging effects they can have on the nervous system and brain. Some unnatural colorants can be easy to miss. For example, mica is natural, but most powdered micas found online have pigments added to them so that they are much brighter than they are naturally.

Soapmaking supply stores almost always promote unnatural colorants made from artificial pigments, food colorings, and synthetic dyes sold in powders or small blocks. Yes, these colorants are often brighter than natural colorants, which can be muted or have a natural earthy tone. But you can still achieve strong colors like blue, red, yellow, and green using the guide I will provide for you. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the photos in this book. All those beautiful colors are made from all-natural colorants only!


I’ve found clays to stay true to initial color, making them easy and fun to use. Use clays like bentonite, white kaolin, Moroccan orange, and rose. I prefer to use white kaolin in small amounts for a silky soap, as too much will make soap slimy. Moroccan orange clay sometimes seems to be more tan, depending on the vendor, so if you are looking for orange, make sure that the packaging specifically says that it is orange.

Powdered Herbs

You can use many herbs in your soapmaking. Be aware that some will turn brown after saponification, so unless you’re up for some experimentation, use those recommended in this book or place them on the surface of your soap.

Kitchen Ingredients and Spices

Cocoa powder, paprika, coffee grounds, ground turmeric, ground ginger, tomato purée, carrot juice: There are so many things that you already have in your kitchen that can be used to make beautifully colored soap!


Certain natural colorants perform better when they are added to the lye water, added at trace, or prepared ahead of time as an oil infusion and added to the oils before the lye water is added. You can also add color after pouring your soap into the mold, to create special effects. For more information, see the Natural Colorants chart (here).

Adding Natural Colorants to the Lye Water

This is the simplest method-you just stir the colorant directly into the lye water.

Adding Natural Colorants at Trace

To add color at trace, remove a scoop of the soap when it has reached a light trace, place it in a glass bowl, and add your colorant. Use a whisk to make sure there are no lumps. Return it to your soap batch and mix well until the color is fully incorporated.

Adding Color as an Oil Infusion

You can take whatever oil is called for in a recipe and infuse it with a beautiful color. Just substitute some of the oil in your recipe with the infused oil to color your soap. If you choose lighter-colored oils for infusion, it will result in a purer color.

Adding Color After Pouring

I use this method to create layers and swirls. Transfer a scoop of soap to a bowl and blend in the colorant. Pour the large soap batch into your mold. Then add the colored soap by layering smoothly or swirling.


It’s important to note that some colorants added at trace or after pouring will change color as they cure and are exposed to air. Here are some examples:

  • Spirulina added at trace is bright green when it comes out of the mold, but it turns more of an algae-green after a week. For a brighter green, try oil infused with liquid chlorophyll.
  • Alkanet root powder added at trace will turn bright blue during the first 24 hours, then mature to a deep purple after curing. It’s fun to watch!
  • Turmeric infused in oil will hold a beautiful orange even after cure, yet when it is added as a powder at trace it will give your soap a strong golden-orange color that will fade significantly after curing to a pretty but more muted gold.
  • Clays usually hold true to their color whenever they are added.
  • Beet root powder starts off a pretty, bright pink, but when added to soap, it turns brown.
  • Woad has become very expensive. To create a cheaper bluish effect, use just enough activated charcoal powder to create a gray and then pair it with pink, peach, or orange. This will create a pretty blue-gray appearance without the high cost.

I have put together a Natural Colorants chart (here) to help you in your soapmaking. The colorants listed can be added in different ways, but I’ve found that these particular methods give soap the strongest and richest color. Amounts will change depending on the strength of your infusions and desired richness of color.


Sources / References

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Kelly Cable

  • The Natural Soapmaking Book For Beginners
  • DIY Soaps: Using All-Natural Herbs, Spices & Essential Oils

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