Silk soaps are where some natural fibres are added into the soap recipe, and they feel amazing on your skin and are definitely in the luxury realm of soap making. In this article, you will learn what types of silk fibres there are, the benefits of adding them to soap and how to incorporate them into your recipe.
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What Are Silk Soaps, and why are they special?
Silk soaps are made by adding natural animal or plant fibres into the soap. The lye solution dissolves the fibres and can help the soap to feel amazing on the skin. The silk soaps are unique in that they are very mild on the skin and are usually suitable for sensitive skin types or people who enjoy a less drying soap.
What are the different types of silks?
There is no singular perfect fibre. All of the fibres listed below have unique properties that can be beneficial, and you can easily find them on Etsy or Amazon*. You usually cannot use just any old fibre. If it is animal fibre, you will need to search for specific baby roving; it must be delicate and able to be dissolved in the lye solution. For example, I know a local soap maker who makes silk soaps with the first shearing of their baby alpacas.
Different silk types can also colour your soap; Usually, light creams through to dark browns. It can give the soap an earthy-looking quality. Most silks can be divided into two categories, Animal Fibres and Plant Fibres.
*A note on Animal Fibres: You must ensure that you buy from a humane farmer who doesn't exploit the animals or keep them in poor conditions. The best way to do this is to buy locally and visit the farmers. Still, you want to know more. In that case, CareElite breaks down the different organizations in Germany and worldwide that support animal welfare.
If you want to make Vegan soaps, stick with the plant silks because silkworms are “farmed” for their cocoons and are usually killed when harvested. If left alone, the silkworms would have developed into moths. The moths are not allowed to leave the cocoons because that would cut the fibres and compromise the strength of the silk.
It is also possible to get liquid silk to add to your soaps. This is usually created from the spent cocoon of the silkworm and will be called Hydrolyzed silk. It is made by hydrolyzing the silk proteins producing amino acids. It helps to condition skin and hair, giving a smooth feel.
How to add silk to your soap recipe
You have to experiment, but for your first time, try this:
- 1/4 teaspoon for every 150g or 5.5 oz of your chosen recipe.
- Add it to the lye solution and make sure it is completely dissolved. The best way to do this is to add your lye to your oils through a strainer. Then you catch any fibres that didn't dissolve properly.
Below is a list highlighting the various features of Plant and Animal silk products.
Scientific Name: Bombyx mori
Origin: the domestic silk moth is a domesticated insect. A single silkworm produces around 200-250 grams of cocoons, and the silkworm is the larva of a silk moth.
Scientific Name: Bambusa
Origin: This comes in a ground-up powder, but Bamboo is quite strong, so dissolving the fibres might be an issue. You would have to strain. But it's a good substitute for vegan soap.
Scientific Name: Ananas comosus
Origin: Pineapple fibre is a new, eco-friendly textile fibre derived from pineapple leaves. Silky, resilient and robust fibres with an unusually long staple length of 6-8 inches are most often used for sheer, silky fabrics, ropes, twine, and paper.
Scientific Name: Ascophyllum nodosum and Laminaria Digitat
Origin: Brown, ethically sourced seaweed. Out of all the fibres, this looks like the most exciting product to add to your soaps. You can buy powder and add it to your soap just like any other additive.
Scientific Name: Gossypium
Origin: waste from cottonseed crushing is gathered and made into a cake; this can then be ground down and added to soap. Cottonseed oil can also be used to make soap. I have never tried it, But it is definitely on the list!
Scientific Name: Capra aegagrus hircus
Origin: Most Cashmere comes from goats in the Gobi Desert, which stretches from Northern China into Mongolia. Beneath the animals' coarse hair lies an undercoat of superfine fibres concentrated on the underbelly.
Bactrian Camel Silk
Scientific Name: Camelus bactrianus
Origin: Baby Camel is an exceptional fibre. Spun from the specially selected hairs on the underside of young camels, the fibre length is long and robust, meaning pilling is reduced. The resulting yarn is super soft, warm, lightweight, non-allergenic, breathable and robust.
Origin: Angora hair or fibre is the shaven coat made by the Angora rabbit. While the names of the animals are similar, Angora fibre is different from mohair, which is from the Angora goat. Angora fibre is also different from cashmere, which is from the cashmere goat.
Scientific Name: Vicugna pacos
Origin: The Alpaca is a species of South American camelid mammal. It is not a llama. However, they are similar, but the Alpaca is smaller when you stand beside each other. The two animals are related and can crossbreed
Scientific Name: Bos grunniens
Origin: From the Tibetan plateau comes this incredibly soft and durable fibre. Very similar in consistency to cashmere.
Scientific Name: Lama glama
Origin: Llamas come from the Andes Mountains of South America, primarily Peru and Bolivia. They were domesticated 4,000 to 6,000 years ago and may be the first known domestic animal.
Scientific Name: Capra aegagrus hircus
Origin: Most mohair comes from South Africa and the U.S.A. Angora goats are bred for their soft inner coats, shorn twice a year, beginning as early as six months after birth.
Essential tips when adding any fibre to your soap
- Always strain the lye solution, even if the fibre looks dissolved. Unstrained solutions can leave yellow spots in the soap.
- Be careful of allergens and always label and disclose if you use animal fibre in soap. People can be allergic to wool and silk.
- Most fibres will act like a dye, so keep that in mind when mixing your recipe.
It's a silken wrap
Adding silk to soaps is a luxurious addition to any soap and an exciting path to explore, but be careful when searching for silk to put into your soap as sometimes it is not ethically produced. Find someone kind to their animals and concerned about producing cruelty-free products. I get my alpaca wool from a farm near me; I've seen the animals and know the farm, so I feel comfortable using their products in my soap.
I hope you have found this article informative!