Shea Butter-Sal Butter Comparison Soap
I’ve had lots of fun making all of the comparison recipes with Shea Butter and Sal Butter. My last project for this series was to make soap.
Since my normal soap recipe contains multiple luxury oils, I went back to the basics and used our 6-5-4-1 recipe guide. This recipe allows me to showcase each butter without having competition from other luxury oils.
I was a bit concerned that I would get the two soaps mixed up if they looked the same, so I pondered a few ways to make them obviously different at first glance. Different molds? Different scents? Colors? I decided to give each soap a different scent and a different color. I chose Forks Fragrance Oil for the Sal Butter soap, and I added Moss Green color as a nod to the pine forest scent. The Shea Butter soap got Dreamsicle Fragrance and Blaze Orange color. Remember Creamsicles? That was what I was thinking of with that particular color and fragrance combination.
Let’s gather up some supplies to make my super simple recipe!
Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
Shea or Sal Butter
Sodium Hydroxide (lye)
Liquid of choice (I used goat milk)
Microwave Safe Container
Pipettes (for fragrance oils)
Small paper cups (for mixing colors)
Popsicle sticks (for mixing colors)
Before I began, I ran my recipe through our Lye Calculator to determine how much lye and liquid I would need to use. I also wanted to make sure there was no difference in the amount of lye needed for either kind of butter. The saponification values for Shea and Sal Butters are 180 and 185, respectively, so not a huge difference.
Let’s see what the Lye Calculator has to say.
I cannot stress enough that there is NO substitute for using a lye calculator to make sure you are using the correct amount of lye and liquid! The times I have failed to check my recipe are also the times my recipe has dramatically failed. Those failures taught me never to skip the lye calculator!!
For the Shea Butter recipe at 5% superfat (which is my usual level), the lye calculator recommends 2.28 oz of lye and 4-6 oz of liquid.
For Sal Butter at 5% superfat, lye calculator recommends 2.29 oz of lye and 4-6 oz of liquid. Not much of a difference, as expected. Good to know for certain that the two oils are basically interchangeable in a soap recipe.
Recipe in ounces (one-pound batch)
6 oz Hydrogenated Soybean Oil
5 oz Coconut Oil
4 oz Olive Oil
1 oz Shea or Sal Butter
2.28 oz lye
6 oz fresh-squeezed goat milk
Recipe in Percentages
37.5% Hydrogenated Soy Oil
31.25% Coconut Oil
25% Olive Oil
6.25% Shea or Sal Butter
After pouring the soap into a mold, I had a bit of fun sculpting the top of the little bars. The green soap got some spoon dips that make me think of tall conifers, and the orange soap got a bit of a tip like the ones you’d see on top of a soft-serve ice cream cone. I loved the consistency of the soap batter! Neither of the fragrances caused any issues with trace acceleration, leaving me plenty of time to get the colors mixed in and to play around with the soap once it was in the mold.
I checked the Fragrance Calculator to determine usage rates for the Forks and Dreamsicle fragrances. I was tempted to scent the Forks soap heavily, but I made myself back off. My soap curing area currently smells of Blueberry Bliss, which is quite delicious, and I don’t want to add a forest to cover up the sweet, luscious aroma! I’m digging the blueberry aromatherapy!
Follow basic soap making procedures. If you are not sure what that means, please take a few minutes to read this blog post!
Once your soap batter has reached a light trace, add the fragrance oil. Stir with a spoon, then pulse a few times with the stick blender to be certain the fragrance is fully incorporated.
Now for color! I had premixed the powdered colorant with liquid glycerin in a small paper cup, so it was ready to be added. Coloring soap is where soapmaking becomes art. I don’t want to give a certain amount of how much color to add, because the color is right when you think it is!
I put several quick pours of color in the soap batter and stirred it in with my spoon and a few pulses of the stick blender. I was not happy with the hue, so I added more. I wished I had thought to add some Black Onyx to the Moss Green for a deeper green!
I added enough of the green to suit my vision of a deep evergreen forest, and I poured the soap into the mold — same story with the orange for the Shea Butter soap.
I was gratified to see that my one-pound fat batch filled precisely half of the mold I had set out to use. Whew! After pouring both soaps and making my fun designs on the top, I set the soap filled mold aside to harden.
My husband walked by and asked me why I was fooling around with pureed vegetables – he thought the orange soap was pureed carrots and the green was spinach! I had a good laugh at his flashback to the long-ago days of making baby food. Now I can’t stop thinking of these bars as the carrots and spinach soaps. 🙂
Unmolding is always a breeze when I use silicone molds, and since these bars of soap were so tiny, they weren’t at all sticky after sitting just overnight. I weighed them, filled out cure cards, and set them on the drying rack. I’m very excited to try them both, but that won’t happen for a few weeks. In the meantime, I can tell you that the Shea and Sal Butters did not act differently in the soap batter. I did not note any difference in the trace.
I gave these soaps two weeks to cure before I grabbed a couple of bars and headed to the sink. The Sal Butter bar seemed to make a bit more large bubbles in the lather, but both felt very similar. Creamy and dense is how I’d describe them both. I like these soaps, and my conclusion is that Shea and Sal can be used interchangeably in soap.
Thanks for joining me over the past few days for the Shea Butter and Sal Butter comparison series! Have you tried your own comparisons? What ingredients would you like to compare?