Soap Making Fragrance Oils

Fragrance oils are a great way to add a personal touch to your homemade soap. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Markhillary.

Scenting your homemade soaps is a great way to personalise your soaps, and with such a wide variety of options is a matter of personal preference.

There are two varieties of oils that can be used to scent soap: fragrance oils, and essential oils. Either can be used, according to the preferences of the soap maker.

Fragrance oils are made from a mixture of aroma chemicals. They are commonly used when there is no essential oil available for a particular fragrance, or when the essential oil is far too costly or environmentally irresponsible to use.

Unlike essential type oils, fragrance oils can be part natural and part synthetic, or all synthetic.

Fragrance oils are usually thinned with diluents, to help thin out the compounds and create some uniformity of pungency across the spectrum of fragrance oils that are available.

Essential oils, on the other hand, are all-natural fragrances that are taken from various plants and herbs. The oil can come from any part of a plant, but are most often taken from the flowers and leaves.

Many essential oils are associated with a particular benefit or effect, and they are often used in aromatherapy. It takes many (sometimes thousands) of pounds of a plant to make a pound of essential oil; because of this, pure essential oils are much more expensive than fragrance oils.

Deciding which one to use is a matter of preference and can depend on a variety of factors. If cost is an issue, fragrance oils might be a better option than essential oils; as with most things, there are different grades and the better ones tend to be more expensive.

There are some well known scents can only be found in fragrance oils, because there are no natural blends to match them. The cons of fragrance oils are that they don’t tend to last as long as essential oils, because they are diluted and the alcohol in them evaporates quickly.

Pure essential oils are undiluted, so they tend to be stronger, and last longer in soap. There are some scents that can only be found in these oils and simply cannot be mimicked by synthetic compounds. Essential oils are also easier for those new to soap making oils, because the additives in fragrance oils make the soap batter prone to seizing.

Essential oils made from plants that have beneficial effects are known to retain those effects, and pass them on to your soap as well.

If you want your essential oils to retain the vitamins and antioxidants they possess before soap making, it is best to use the cold process method. Add them at trace – the heat from the hot process method can break down these nutrients and destroy their ability to nourish your skin. (Click here to learn more about the various soap making methods, and which is the most appropriate for different situations).

Another problem with essential oils is that they are volatile, and while they are long lasting in soap, they evaporate quickly when exposed to air, so the process of mixing them into the soap must be expeditious. Make sure you have the right soap making equipment ready to go, to avoid wasted time, money and ingredients.

As previously stated, there are pros and cons to both oils, and which product you use to scent your homemade soap will be a matter of personal preference.

As with all other aspects of the soap making process, learn as much as you can about the fragrance or essential oils you plan to use, so that you can make an educated decision about which one to add to your soap.

Regardless of which one you choose make sure that it has been tested and proven safe for use in soap making. If you are making soap for someone you know, you may want to do a test to see if the intended recipient is allergic to the substance.

Soap Making Oils – Which one to choose?

Some oils are added in soaps for their moisturizing properties, while others are used for their scent or healing properties. Confused on which one to use in making your soap?

Here’s a quick list on commonly used soap making oils today:

Aloe Vera Oil

It is soothing and healing therefore it provides the best relief for dry and damaged skin.

Apricot Kernel Oil

Apricot kernel oil in soap makes a good moisturizer and helps soften skin. Add 1-2 ounces per pound of fats.

Avocado Oil

Avocado Oil in soap acts as a preservative and anantioxidant. It is a great moisturizer and contains vitamins A, B, D, E, and lecithin. Good for baby soap, and beneficial for dry or wrinkled skin.


Beeswax makes a harder bar of soap and contains a high percentage of unsaponifiables.
it is a skin protectant, often used in lip balms and hand salve.

Calendula Oil

Heals a variety of skin damage. Add 1 and 2/3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of soap at trace, or up to 20% as base.

Canola Oil

Less saturated and can be slow to saponify; needs to be mixed with other saturated fats/oils. Can be used in place of more expensive oils, add up to 50% of base.

Cocoa Butter

Makes soap harder, but is an excellent skin softener and lubricant. It has a natural chocolate scent, add 1 ounce per pound of fats at trace, or 15% of base.

Coconut Oil

Makes great lather, but can be drying to skin if too high a percentage of base oils. It will make a very hard white soap as it is a saturated fat. Add 20-30% of base.

Grapeseed oil

Grapeseed oil has a mild astringent property so it is useful for acne and other skin problems.

Jajoba Oil

Has antibacterial properties and helps moisturize the skin.

Lard (Made from pig fat)

Cheap and easily obtainable, it makes a white, lathery bar of soap. Without other oils it can make the soap soft and not work well in cold water. Add up to 70% of base.

Olive Oil

Excellent base oil,but avoid extra virgin. The lower the grade the better – olive oil soap moisturizes and softens skin and is very mild. Add up to 100% of base.

Palm Kernel Oil

Has most of the same qualities as palm oil; it lathers well and makes a hard soap. Add 20-30% of base.

Palm Oil (Vegetable Tallow)

Makes a hard soap, but is mild and a good substitute for tallow in all-vegetable soaps. Palm oil soap soothes and moisturizes dry skin. Add 20-30% of base.

Sesame Seed Oil

Sesame seed soap is said to be good for psoriasis, eczema, rheumatism, and arthritis. It is moisturizing with a strong nutty scent and makes a soft bar unless used in conjunction with other, more saturated oils. Add up to 10% in addition to base.

Shea Butter

Lots of substances don’t interact with lye, and stay in soap to nourish skin. Add 1 and 2/3 tablespoons per 5 pounds of fats, added at trace, or up to 20% of base.

Soybean Oil/Vegetable Shortening

Cheap and readily available, it produces a mild, stable lather. It will make a hard soap. Add up to 50% of base.

Sunflower Oil

Sunflower oil in soap acts as a preservative and is a less expensive alternative to olive oil soap; contains vitamin E and is a less saturated oil, so must be mixed with more saturated oils. It can make soap take longer to trace and harden. Add 15-20% of base.

Wheat Germ Oil

This thick antioxidant is rich in Vitamin E. It nourishes dry skin and reduces scarring and stretch marks.

Base oil Vitamin E Oil

A preservative and an antioxidant, it is great for your skin. Add up to 10% in addition to base.

Above are listed some of the more common fragrance oils that can be added to your homemade soap. It is important to understand the characteristics of any oils that you add in the soap making process, and the impacts they might have on the end result.

Like choosing the ingredients in any recipe, choosing the oils in your soap is essential in soap making. It is very important to balance out these properties to be able to make that perfect bar of soap.

You have to keep in mind though that some of these oils may irritate sensitive skin so it is very important to test first
your oil before deciding on anything.

If you have any questions on these or other soap making oils, leave a comment below or contact us on Facebook or Twitter for help.

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