It’s coming up to a year since I moved from the UK to live in France. A year since all our worldly belongings, bar a few suitcases, were boxed up and stowed away in a storage facility.
Is there anything I miss? Not much*. I can see why the minimalism trend has taken hold.
For the most part, we’ve survived with the few things we have, by begging and borrowing, adopting a healthy mantra of make-do-and-mend, and occasionally winging it. For example, early in the year when we needed an orange picker to harvest fruit for marmalade, a few bits of wire and old basket and a broom handle sufficed!
As for the things we’ve actually bought….yes, a few clothes. Well, I can be forgiven for that, considering we originally planned to travel for just three months . We’ve also given ourselves free reign to buy maker supplies, like 3D printer resins, paints and wire.
This eventually, and begrudgingly, included buying soap making materials. You see, I gladly left the bulky ingredients and equipment in storage, planning to return to them after three months. But, things change and nine months in I was sick of buying drying mass-produced supermarket shower-gels and missed the comfort of skin-kind homemade soap.
I needed a simple recipe with a short equipment and ingredient list that was easy to source.
And so, the galaxy soap recipe was born. A shimmering, swirling, moisturising bar with kaolin clay and oatmeal that is deceptively easy to make and sparkles subtly gold in the shower.
*Of all the things in storage, I miss scented candles, a framed artwork called the ‘Division Bell’ by my father-in-law which used to live on our living room wall and my favourite maxi dress.
Easy Galaxy Soap Recipe
If you’ve never made cold process soap before, stop here. Please read up on the safety precautions you should take. I recommend watching this Soap Queen TV series.
This soap shimmers in the shower thanks to antique gold mica which gives a subtle sparkle when wet. A superfat of 5%, and moisturising ingredients such as oatmeal, kaolin clay and sweet almond oil make for a gentle soap, easy on my sensitive skin.
The recipe makes about 3Ibs of soap. The perfect amount to fill up to two empty milk cartons if, like me, you don’t have a soap mould handy!
- 326g tallow (beef)
- 272g coconut oil
- 204g shea butter
- 204g rice bran oil
- 204g sweet almond oil
- 136g caster oil
- 14g beeswax (adds hardness to the bar so it lasts longer)
- 517g distilled water
- 187g sodium hydroxide
- 42g lavender essential oil
- White: Kaolin clay – 1 teaspoon per pound of soap
- Purple: Grape mica pigment
- Gold/black: Antique gold mica pigment
- Handful or so of ground oatmeal
- Coarse pink himalayan rock salt to decorate
Step 1: Sorting soap moulds
My beautiful wooden soap mould is in storage, so I cut the end off a juice and a milk carton, washed them out and stood them on their ends in cardboard boxes for support. This is a simple, cheap mould and, the best thing is, there’s no need to battle with / line them with greaseproof paper. Yay.
Step 2: Colour prep
I dispersed the mica colourants into few teaspoons of sweet almond oil and the clay into a little water. Plastic cups were on hand and the perfect size for this job.
Ideally, I would have had a mico blender/coffee frother to get them mixed evenly. But, in the spirit of make-do, I diligently mixed them with a metal spoon. It was fine.
Step 2: Lye to water
Luckily my apartment is well ventilated and usually pet/child/irresponsible-adult-free, and handily, I already had safety gloves and glasses with me from using the resin 3D printer. Time to ‘suit’ up.
Protection in place, I measured the lye (sodium hydroxide) and water, adding the lye to the water and allowing it to cool.
NB: I read that if you don’t have distilled water, tap is probably fine. You may just need to scrap off any scrum that appears on top of your lye/water mixture.
Step 3: Combine the oils
Beeswax felt like it took an age to melt. It needs to be at about 63-64°C, so I did this in a separate double boiler.
Then, I melted the hard oils (coconut, tallow, shea butter) and combined them with the soft oils (almond oil, rice bran, caster), aiming for a temperature of about 49-54°C.
Eventually, the lye/water mix and oils reached that sweet spot of within 10°C of each other. Finally (patience!), I added the lye/water mix to a big bowl of all the melted oils + beeswax.
Step 4: Blending and colouring
Using my dedicated soap blender, I reached light trace and separated the soap batter into three portions ready to add the colours – exciting times.
- In one, I added the clay/water mix – about 1 teaspoon did it – and a portion of the essential oil. I also added some coarsely ground oatmeal for an exfoliant.
- In the second, I added about a teaspoon or so of the purple mica/sweet almond oil mix until I reached the intensity of colour I wanted. I then added the second portion of essential oil.
- In the third, I added the antique gold mica/sweet almond oil mix and the final potion of essential oil. Note, the gold doesn’t look gold once it’s added – it looks black but gives a very pretty, but subtle, gold shimmer.
I then (rather messily) blended each separate portion of soap, working from light colour to darkest to distribute the colourant and thicken the trace.
Step 5: Pouring
I love the ‘in the pot’ swirl method – it’s easy and the resulting swirls are organic looking and it produces a marble-like effect!
To do this, I poured the white soap batter into a large bowl, then poured in the purple mix into four separate points. I did the same with the gold, then took a long spoon to drag between the points once or twice.
After than, I simply poured the mix into my makeshift moulds, finishing by adding some coarse pink himalayan rock salt to the ends for decoration.
Step 6: Cutting and curing
I cut this soap after after around 24-48 hours, tearing away the milk cartons, and then leaving the bars to cure for about six weeks.
NB: The milk cartons don’t give crisp square edges, so I neatened up the edges and turned the off-cuts into soap balls.
Above, a bar I’ve been using for the last few weeks. When wet, the black swirls shimmer with the gold mica! What do you think?