Alternative Liquids – Soap Challenge

Black Russian Soap                                                                           soap-challenge-club-logo230

Black Russian Soap Challenge**I’ve been disqualified for using more than 2 alternative liquids but still — What a fun challenge! After reading the preview, I began an inventory of any alternative liquids that could possibly be used in soap that were already in my home. I had orange juice, mango juice, coffee, various teas, milk, cream, half & half, apple cider vinegar, red wine, beer, gin, scotch, vodka, honey mead, Kahlua, and Peppermint Kahlua. I wasn’t about to give up my wine to soap but the others were fair game! While reading the instructions for this challenge, I went to one of Amy’s example links soap-challenge-week-4 and decided to try Kahlua soap also and see what happened.

Searching the internet for Kahlua soap only brings up a couple of posts, one of them Amy’s and this Kahlua Coffee Bar from The Soap Kitchen. A further look into the benefits of using Kahlua IN soap provided nothing useful, landing this ingredient firmly in label appeal territory. Thinking about how I could use Kahlua and still find some information to share, I decided on a recipe with Kahlua in it and then broke that recipe down into parts.

In the recipe for “Black Russian” soap, I needed to include two parts vodka and one part Kahlua, which; over ice is the makings of this drink. Amy’s example turned out super dark and I wanted mine to be dark as well but I did not have any of the fancy coffee co2 stuff around. Improvising to get the darkest possible results, these ingredients made it into this soap.

The oils including cocoa butter, for the slight scent it might give the soap. Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, I know it’s not traditional to the Black Russian recipe but I wanted the deep color it would lend to the soap – this alcohol also added something else – sugar. Kahlua, used again for color and of course its part of that recipe. This also adds – sugar. Coffee, for color and scent. Vanilla extract, only wanted a hint of vanilla and knew that much of this would burn off but again looking for color. Espresso grounds, for color and exfoliation. Moroccan Red Clay, for color and texture. Vanilla Bean Specks, used for texture and a little color. Vetiver Essential Oil, used to balance what I knew could be an incredibly sweet smelling soap.

Now I needed to research what benefits of each of the ingredients included in my alternative liquid might provide. Some ingredients were easy to research but the Kahlua was a bit problematic. On the surface, there is nothing indicating any benefit whatsoever, except label appeal. Breaking it down a bit though, Kahlua’s ingredients include some nice six and a half year old coffee beans and some booze made from sugarcane and water (essentially rum), blended.

The benefits of ___________ in soap:

VODKASome sources indicate Vodka is some sort of miracle stuff when used topically for skin and hair doing things like unclogging pores and curing dandruff see: Healthy Skin and Hair, Flawless Complexion, and Miracle Drug. I won’t focus on internal claims as I hope no one eats my soap. One source is not as fluffy about the benefits of alcohols on skin, “In benign form alcohols are glycols used as humectants that help deliver ingredients into skin. When fats and oils (see fatty acid) are chemically reduced, they become a group of less-dense alcohols called fatty alcohols that can have emollient properties or can become detergent cleansing agents.” – Well, this seems good! However, “The nasty ones have low molecular weights. These include ethanol, denatured alcohol, ethyl alcohol, methanol, benzyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, and sd alcohol, which not only can be extremely drying and irritating to skin….” (Is it safe?; para 3-4) Well shoot. Vodka is an ethanol. Fortunately, my vodka would be undergoing some transformation wherein the alcohol or ethanol would be cooked off. OR would it??? Does alcohol cook out? “…you will always retain some alcohol, unless you boil off all the liquid.” Let’s hope my other ingredients counterbalance any potentially drying effects of the Vodka. For now, I’m going to say that this ingredient can really only be classified as – LABEL APPEAL

Tea – also see coffee – of course, there are many sources indicating tea is beneficial topically. I have used it myself to treat a sunburn, rubbing tea bags all over to ease the sting. There’s good stuff like caffeine, polyphenols, tannins, and some vitamins in tea. “The complex polyphenolic compounds in tea provide the same protective effect for the skin as for internal organs” (Stallings, 2009). Even though science is showing good evidence for all kinds of benefits from teas, “… cosmeceutical products containing tea extracts or phenols have not been tested in controlled clinical trials…the concentration of phenols is not standardized in these products; therefore, some products may have little-to-no therapeutic effect…” (Stallings, Teas). In addition, I do not know how the distilling process of Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka would alter the tea benefits. Therefore, although I think tea definitely has beneficial properties, this particular time I’ll have to classify the “tea” in this soap as LABEL APPEAL.

KAHLUANone on the surface, LABEL APPEAL

Coffee – see below – there is most definitely coffee in Kahlua but again, I do not know if the distilling process would alter the coffee benefits. However, I added 60 grams of concentrated coffee to the recipe as well!

Rum – see Vodka – see sugar – No specific information on Rum in soap.

SugarSugar adds lather when used as an additive. Sugar also caramelizes at higher temperatures. The sugars used in the Black Russian recipe were already caramelized in the alcohol. I was a little worried the soap might be sticky but it was fine. Since I did not add this ingredient specifically in its pure form, I cannot really claim any benefit to the soap but hope it did contribute something to the lather.

COFFEESources indicate coffee adds several benefits to soap. The CAFFEINE in coffee is the real beneficial component except for the obvious benefit of exfoliation when coffee grounds are used. In the scientific paper, Caffeine’s Mechanisms of Action and Its Cosmetic Use, the author tells of caffeine’s ability to pass through our skin’s barrier. He mentions caffeine for cellulite reduction, as an antioxidant, for reducing puffiness, and for hair growth. Therefore, coffee (and the caffeine in coffee) could be interpreted to have some wonderful properties when added to soap. Perhaps some get a little carried away in sharing those benefits sometimes, as from a scientific standpoint most of the benefits come from the caffeine specifically and “…more research is necessary to determine the appropriate doses and delivery systems for caffeine penetration through the skin” (Herman, 2013). For now, I would still place coffee somewhere in the middle when determining whether to state benefits because we cannot determine exactly how much of the caffeine in soap would actually penetrate our skin barrier to provide those benefits. However, we can claim exfoliate properties easily enough. Therefore, coffee can be – BENEFICIAL

Herman A, Herman A, P, Caffeine’s Mechanisms of Action and Its Cosmetic Use. Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2013;26:8-14

Stallings AF, Lupo MP. Practical Uses of Botanicals in Skin Care. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2009;2(1):36-40

Now, on with the Black Russian Soap making!

Amy had some trouble with her recipe. The lye would not melt in the Kahlua and then there was the rapid acceleration to deal with. I wondered if Kahlua’s syrupy consistency might have much to do with the fact that the lye would not melt. I considered how lye reacts when using glycerin as the water replacement. Generally, the most effective way to melt lye in glycerin is to add the lye to room temperature glycerin and then add heat (carefully). Considering this, I decided to very carefully experiment. I did NOT boil the alcohol out of the Kahlua or the Vodka! Note, I would not try this with a carbonated alcohol O_o

Lye and AlcoholUsing long sleeves, gloves, goggles, pants, shoes, a super long spoon, and a very large and tall container, I proceeded with my alcohols straight up, cold but un-boiled. I put them together in my container and poured in my lye. Standing well away from the container, I stirred carefully with my super long spoon. At first, it seemed as if I were going to have the same issue of the lye just lying there in the bottom of the container.

Jello AnyoneKnowing there would be a reaction with the alcohol though, I continued to stir carefully. Soon enough, the mixture erupted into a boiling mass of liquid! The heat that poured up the sides of the container and blasted out of the top was scary! Thank goodness, I was properly attired AND properly wary. When I looked at the dark line of alcohol in the container the liquid had only boiled up the sides of the container about 1/2 an inch. Shew! The heat blast though is something to look out for, I am so glad my face wasn’t right over the container…not that it ever would be but still. The lye melted, ALL the way! I put it away in the refrigerator to cool completely and prepared for the mixing.

Molde first tryI had watched Amy mix just a little too long. Therefore, I vowed to mix a lot less. Well, I had hardly mixed at all with my stick blender before I had the consistency of some seriously jelled jello! I plopped, pushed, smashed the soap into my mold, and smoothed it out as best I could. When I cut the loaf the next day though, I realized that my liquid ratios were off some. The soap was dry and trying to crumble. Clearly, I needed more liquid. I tried again.



Black Russian Soap Attempt No. 2

Ready to mix batch 2I wanted to keep the same amount of Vodka and Kahlua at 2:1 in the recipe. All I needed to do was make the soap not crumble. I decided to add 30 grams of Vanilla Extract (35% alcohol), and 60 grams of concentrated fresh brewed coffee. I followed the same procedure as above in mixing my lye into these alcohols taking every precaution…and then added my cold extra liquid right before mixing in hopes that it would be enough. Went through all the same stages and it was slightly less terrifying. THEN…

I used a WHISK rather than my stick blender. I did not want JELLO. As soon as the lye met the oils, they started to gel. I mixed evenly and quickly with the whisk dispersing the initial jelly like globs and poured almost immediately Bottom of the bowland smoothly into my mold. Success! I dabbed the top of the soap with my whisk for a little texture until it started to pull off bits.

I am pleased with my second Black Russian soap. The texture is just right, there’s some interesting patterning on the inside, and the soap smells lovely, like warm caramel, vanilla, coffee, and cocoa. The vetiver balances the sweetness just right making the soap smell a bit like an alcohol-laden drink. I will absolutely try the recipe again and when I do, I may be inclined to incorporate fragrance oil to make the subtle scent a little more intriguing than it already is.

Black Russian in moldEven though this Black Russian soap contains some potentially beneficial ingredients and does not appear to be drying in any way, no claims can be made about this soap without some scientific sorts of experiments to find out if the ingredients are actually effective. Therefore, the ingredients in this soap fall firmly in the category of LABEL APPEAL.

Unmolded Black Russian topUnmolded Black Russian bottom


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