Around Mother's Day, I tend to make soaps with some fragrances, or essential oils, for gifts throughout the year for those I love. My stepmother loves gardenias and I have bought them for her as live plants throughout the years and made her a special batch of soap and beauty items. Gardenias have a joyous sweet floral fragrance and the aroma can be intoxicating with even just a few flowers. One of my favorite ways of displaying these flowers comes from a restaurant where my parents worked when I was a child, they would place one flower in a small bowl of water to float around at the center of every table, elegance at its finest. To this day I take notice when she decorates my childhood home with this memorable delight.
Lavender oil is always in our home, car, and medical kits, for it is pet safe and useful in many situations. Once a year as the lavender is blooming and being collected to dry for soaps, I make sure there is enough lavender essential oil for adding to a single batch of soap, as it is the number one fragranced soap I am asked about. Stashing a few bars here and there just for the lavender lovers out there that I run into at art shows, local markets, and in daily life.
*pro tip- Slivers can be annoying and painful, adding a drop of lavender essential to the surrounding skin, and allowing it to soak in, before covering it with medical tape or a bandaid for a day can help the sliver come out easily the next day. Wood soaks up the oil and helps to easily push out the foreign object and soothe the skin at the same time.
If any fragrance is judged just by a name it would be patchouli, invoking a love or hate relationship with most people, and I have found that just setting one bar on my display table is enough to get a reaction. Man people have an extreme disdain towards patchouli and have been exposed to it in a concentrated form of essential oils being applied to the skin and worn as a perfume. In large doses, this can be overwhelming to those who are not accustomed to rich earth fragrances, while blended into a batch of soap can produce a warm engaging feeling 7 out of 10 people enjoy. For this reason, it is placed on my table without a label, as most of my soaps are fragrance free this does not stop people from picking up any available bar to sniff one after the other, and coming across this fragrant delight, then explaining to the fragrance they are holding is a cured bar of PATCHOULI soap. Some of the reactions are delightful to watch as it can help change someone's perspective about being a hippy fragrance to one of my favorite soap smells, for it only gets better with age, unlike some fragrances that just fade over time.
*Pro-Tip- slicing a patchouli bar into smaller hunks and adding it to my dresser drawers is one of my favorite ways to add a gentle fragrance to my daily life.
* pro-tip. Adding a drop or two of patchouli oil to a carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil (liquid coconut oil) is a great way to make a body/hair oil that has enough yet not too much fragrance.
My beloved first soap is still something I produce to this day, blending honeysuckle fragrance oil and lemongrass essential oils before adding the decorative looking gentle exfoliation of poppyseeds. Sweet, floral, and bright-smelling this soap is one of the best-selling fragranced soaps I have ever made, even some of the most rugged men request for it to be released again in our shop. Whenever it is in production I make sure to save a few bars to gift to my neighbor who uses it daily, as it rinses clean, exfoliates, and gives off a delightful smell of love. Honeysuckle is the only fragrance oil I use in my items now for the reason It was my first soap and I am still drawn to it, grew up in Spokane Washington where the Woodbine (honeysuckle) grows wild and fills the air with its sweet smell. It is known to be the fragrance of love and said to make someone fall deeply in love with you, as in a Midsummers Night's Dream.
Summertime is when I can get locally grown Eucalyptus bouquets to use in my soap, one batch usually gets some eucalyptus essential oil added just for those at markets who ask. When I am sick or not feeling well this is my go-to bar, providing a soothing fragrance that helps to relax the mind and body. Defusers have become easier to find and are now available at most health food stores and big chain stores like Walmarts and Targets for a fair price. I like to fill mine with distilled water and add a few drops of oil to distribute the fragrance throughout our home, helping to add moisture to the dry winter air. Eucalyptus oil is often my go-to choice for defusing oils, and I prefer the water defused fragrances to burning scented candles for they have multiple settings and can last for hours on end, are safe to use around pets and children, and the fact that I can set the defuser and leave the house without fear of burning down the house, like an unattended burning candle. Portable defusers are another favorite of mine, working with a USB port, I can take my little defuser along with us on road trips, camping, and to other outings like art shows.
Mixing baking soda and citric acid with a few drops of essential oil and distilled water, and packing the mix into ice cube trays to dry for a day is a great way to make your own shower and bath bombs when you are not feeling well. Menthol crystals are another favorite to add to amp up the fragrance of these little delights. (Be mindful that menthol crystals are a solid form, and are extremely strong. Just a tiny pinch will do the trick, you can always add more to your next batch if you would like a little stronger fragrance.)
Give this recipe a try with common household items you may have in your kitchen.
1 cup Baking soda
1/2 cup Cornstarch Or (1/4 cup citric acid)
30 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil
15 drops of Peppermint essential oil
Or a pinch of menthol crystals
1/3 cup Distilled Water
Mix together ingredients and pack into a mold
12 cup Muffin tin, mini
1 Paper muffin cup liner
Or icecube trays if you want a smaller version
Mint is one of my favorite plants and I have it growing all over my yard. There are many varieties of this plant and they are all so unique and different from fragrance to color, and taste. Many people prefer to grow this plant in containers for its ability to grow and take over a space and even overrun an area, but I would rather have mint growing any place it wants instead of unused patches where not many things grow if any at all.
Collecting sprigs in bundles as it grows and drying them for tea, and beauty products throughout the year can be an annoying chore, but one that does not go to the waist. I love adding items from my yard to soap and mint is one of the most popular items added to soaps. I am a sucker for mint self-care items and prefer mint to spearmint any day for a fragrance and flavor, yet I enjoy the plants in the garden the same. If I am looking for a super bold soap I dig into my stash and add some menthol crystals to the batch for an extra mint punch.
*Pro-Tip- menthol crystals are super concentrated and a tiny bit goes a long way. If you are new to making items with this item I recommend trying it on a test patch of skin, for it can be extremely uncomfortable if too much is added. I like to dilute my menthol by mixing it into extra salt and or sugar for making a bath soak. A pinch of menthol crystals can be added to a cup of sugar or salt to help ensure adding a little at a time. Start by adding one teaspoon of the mix at a time to your bath water until you achieve desired minty feeling and fragrance. * less is more! *
While almost all of the soap I make is fragrance-free, I do love a good fragranced bar of soap every once in a while, and when I am out and about at markets checking out other soap maker's soaps, I tend to pick up fragranced bars to add to my collection of soaps in our shower. Essential oils have many benefits, bring back memories, and have a special place in my heart, working with blends of oils and creating a specific fragrance for defusing and self-care items for my family and customers always brings joy to my day. Gifting bars of soap throughout the year is a special process for me and is a delight to hear how they are cherished. What are some of your favorite fragrances that you are drawn to, and why?