I mess around with making my own lotions, balms, scrubs, etc...to varied results. I have spent a couple of years experimenting with the oils and butters and essential oils that suit my skin type (dry and sensitive...and, let's be honest, 'maturing') and have broken myself out into hives on more than one occasion before figuring out what actually works for me. As a result, I've had a lot of 'Nailed it' experiences, which I have either thrown out or foisted onto my poor friends and family. *
While I'm a lot more comfortable with lotion and balm making now, soaping is new and treacherous territory with the potential for disaster around every corner. Not only are there corrosive substances involved (lye), which have to be combined in the right order to prevent minor explosions, blinding oneself or removing one's top layer of epidermis, it's also serious chemistry! You have to understand your oils and how they interact with the lye and the other oils, do lots of calculations to make sure you've got enough lye for the fats and lots of other stuff that I don't really understand yet. I am convinced, though, that had I been introduced to chemistry through making something practical like soaps or lotions (or baking!), I would have seen its point. Unfortunately, when I was 18 years old its point wasn't clear to me at all, so I failed chemistry and switched my major to English.
All of this to say....my most recent soaping experience has not gone well.
My goal was to follow my friend Tracy's activated charcoal recipe on her very professional and beautiful blog full of very professional and beautiful things that she has made. ( At this point in my soaping career, I just need to follow recipes. Some day, when I can make soap that doesn't end up looking like snot, I'll try my own formulations!). My sole reason for making this soap was so that I could give some to my dear friend Jess, who uses some pretty expensive activated charcoal soap which she buys from a company that excels in making natural things and then marking them up by about 1000%. Tracy's very beautiful and simple recipe is here:
As previously mentioned, soap making can hurt you, so I always dress like a mad scientist and wear goggles and really thick gloves.
I carefully followed Tracy's instructions, screamed at both children to get out of the kitchen multiple times, tripped over the dog once or twice (seriously...why is it that when you are doing something potentially dangerous, all children and animals swarm around like they have been summoned by the gods of bad ideas?), burned another few holes in what's left of Jim's beautiful countertops...but when I poured my activated charcoal into the mix, my soap didn't turn black. This, I realised immediately, is because my activated charcoal wasn't ground finely enough. Maybe the charcoal will do something when my soap has cured in a month or so (exfoliate?), but for now my activated charcoal soap looks like something that Slimer from Ghostbusters left behind after he escaped a burning building. Lucky Jess!** Nailed it!
*If you don't know the Netflix show "Nailed it!" I highly recommend watching it. It will make you feel much better about all of your failed baking experiments. I feel, actually, that I am the ideal candidate for that show, having mastered the art of really deformed cake baking.
**Don't worry, Jess. I'll make another batch before you visit.