Friday, July 24, 2015

Natural Colorants

In my Soap au Naturale post I talked about using more natural ingredients in my handmade soap. I've been experimenting, and I'm back to report on some natural colorants that I've been playing with.

Green: Parsley, Spirulina Powder


As I mentioned in this post, dried parsley flakes can make a lovely green in cold process soap. I usually grind my own parsley with a mortar and pestle, so there can be some green specks of parsley in the finished soap. I like that it adds character and visual interest to the soap. The green color from the parsley fades over time. You can see in the picture how the vibrant green has faded to a more muted tone after 4 months. Please take into account that the pictures are taken on different wooden surfaces, with different natural lighting.


Parsley as colorant, a couple of weeks after making the soap.


Parsley as a colorant after 4 months has faded, but is still a lovely shade of green.


I decided to give spirulina powder a try, but found that the fading is even more pronounced than with the parsley. Spirulina is extremely sensitive to sunlight, so the fading began almost immediately. All of my soaps are cured in my home office on paper towel lined shelves that are adjacent to a curtained window. My Ginger Lime soap wasn't exposed to direct sunlight, but the lovely olive green color still faded significantly. I really like the effect with this scent combination, but I was disappointed with how finicky the spirulina powder was in terms of color retention. The verdict for natural green colorants? Back to the drawing board!


Spirulina powder can make a lovely olive green...

...that is extremely photosensitive.

Pink/Red: Madder Root Powder, Rose Kaolin Clay


For pink and red hues, madder root powder is an incredibly versatile colorant. By varying the amount that I use, I can achieve a soft pink as shown in the middle layer of my Flora soap or the more vibrant shade in my Strawberries & Champagne soap.


The middle layer is colored with madder root powder for a soft pink.


Madder root powder can also create a more dramatic pink, as shown here in my Strawberries & Champagne soap.


Another go-to colorant for softer shades of pink is rose kaolin clay. Clays are easy to work with and this one creates a spectrum of pinks. I prefer it for softer, pastel type colors, as shown in my Love Spell soap, but it also worked well for brighter shades like the one in my Cranberry, Fig & Orange soap.


The pastel pink color shown here is rose kaolin clay and the orange is orange illite clay.


Rose kaolin clay was used for the pink tones in my Cranberry, Fig & Orange soap.

Purple: Alkanet Root Powder


I think that alkanet root powder has been my favorite of the new colorants that I have worked with. It's versatile, easy to work with, and the tones that it creates are absolutely lovely. It can range from a greyish purple to a deep purple hue depending on usage. I used a lesser amount in my Flora soap below on the left to make a soft lavender, but went for a more dramatic look in my Lavender Rosemary soap on the right in the picture below.


Alkanet root powder made the lavender shade on the left and the deep purple on the right.


Yellow/Orange: Turmeric, Orange Illite Clay


Turmeric has come to be a versatile staple in my soap colorant arsenal. A little bit goes a long way, so I can choose if I'd like the hue to be more of a a light buttercream yellow (as seen on the right side of the the picture below in my Flora soap) or a deeper yellow as shown in my Lemongrass Litsea soap below on the left. Turmeric can also be used for a nice bright orange color.


Turmeric made the yellow accents on the left, and also the pale yellow on the right.

I also used parsley in the Lemongrass Litsea soap on the left, leaving speckles of parsley in the mix for visual interest. Over time the overall green of the parsley colorant will fade, but the speckles will retain a bit more color.

Orange Illite clay is another versatile clay that can create orange tones ranging from pastel to a dramatic, almost brick like color. I used orange illite in my Love Spell soap shown above for a lighter shade.

More Natural Colorants to Try!


I have a laundry list of techniques, colorants, essential oils, and fragrances that I want to work with in my soaping world, and the next one is activated charcoal. It makes a deep black color, and is sought after in skin care products due to its ability to absorb undesirable elements from your skin, among other benefits. I'm also looking forward to experimenting with indigo powder, which produces blues along the same spectrum as traditional blue jeans.

As a consumer, does it make a difference to you whether the colorants in your skincare products are natural?