A huge part of the challenge of making soap is what fragrances do I use to get the smell I want? Honestly this is my vertical learning curve. I was very clear that I wanted to develop my own blends using essential oils rather than pre produced fragrance blends that may not be quite so natural. Ready blended is quicker and easier but they don't always contain simply essential oils and can have an impact on the soap making process. One of the things that happened to me at the beginning of this journey was that a ready made blend was not at all suitable for cold process soap and when I aded it to the soap batter is caused my soap to "rice". This is literally the fragrance reacting with the soap oils and forming loads and loads of little lumps that look like grains of rice. Ultimately the soap was useable but definitely not pretty looking. Learnt that lesson 😂
My first soaps are based on other recipes that are used around the internet and smells I like. Despite the fact that I haven't opened the shop yet I am ready thinking about new recipes to expand my stock. So.....more research required and more learning needed.
There is so much information out on the internet and honestly it is mind boggling. Luckily I found this amazing website that has been an absolutely brilliant place to start. https://www.freshskin.co.uk/blog/essential-oils-blending-guide/
There are basically 3 ways of grouping essential oils. A cautionary note here please be very very careful with essential oils. Whilst they have fantastic health benefits they can also be dangerous to certain groups of people such as pregnant women so you must check on what you are doing before using them. In cold process soap making I am only allowed to use essential oils to a maximum of 3% of the total soap recipe. When I develop my soap recipes I have to submit them to a chemist for assessment and to obtain my safety certification to enable me to sell my soap legally.
Anyway, back to essential oils. They can be grouped in 3 ways: according to effect, fragrance or note.
Essential oils have 4 key effects. Some can be energising, relaxing, cleansing and / or grounding. For example an energising blend could be made from lemon, grapefruit and peppermint or a relaxing blend could be made from bergamot, patchouli and ylang yang.
Essential oils can be grouped by fragrance. The citrus oils blend well with all other fragrance groups. The floral oils blend well with citrus, woody and spicy fragrances. Herbal oils blend well with woody and spicy oils. Spicy oils blend well with floral, woody and citrus oils and finally woody oils blend with all others. For example you can have a spicy / floral blend of lavender, geranium and sandalwood or a citrus / herbal blend of sweet orange, grapefruit, lemon and peppermint.
Finally essential oils can be blended by note. Essential oils evaporate at different rates so blends of different notes will provide a fragrance that changes and lingers over time.
Top notes are smelt first and fade quickly, middle notes can then be smelt and last a little longer than the top notes before finally giving way to the longer lasting base notes. Typically base ones are of a woody nature. There is a general rule as well for blending in notes and this is 30 / 50 / 20. So for example you can have 3 parts bergamot (top), with 5 parts lavender (middle) and 2 parts frankincense (base). A different blend may be 2 parts lemon (top) 1 part spearmint (top), 3 parts lavender (middle) and 2 parts geranium (middle) and 2 parts sandalwood (base).
When formulating a blend I now ask myself:
What effect am I hoping to achieve?
When will the soap be used?
So for example if you want a bar of soap to get you going in the mornings then I will make an energising soap. If you want one to last all day long then a soap made with a blend of notes may be better.
I have only just started this journey. I have come such a long way in a short time but there is so much more to learn and I am having so much fun.