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Homemade Herbal Soaps

Handwashing Fun: Keep Your Skin Happy with Homemade Herbal Soaps

Handwashing is essential, but the constant use of sanitizer and soap can be drying. Commercial soaps often contain synthetic ingredients like dyes, preservatives, and artificial fragrances that can irritate the skin even more.**

Herbs to the Rescue

Herbs have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and moisturizing qualities that are beneficial for all skin types. To make the most of these benefits, you can incorporate herb-infused oils into your homemade soaps. This means substituting regular oil in your soap recipe with an herb-infused one.

Soapmaking Methods

You can make homemade soap using one of three methods: melt-and-pour, cold process, or hot process. The hot and cold methods are more advanced, requiring heat, plant butters, oils, and sodium hydroxide to saponify and harden into soap. This can take from 2 to 4 hours.

Melt-and-pour soapmaking is a great starting place for beginners. You simply heat a premade soap base, add your extra herbs and oils, and then let the mixture cool and harden into a bar.

Choosing Your Soap Base

The melt-and-pour base is a mix of carrier oils like olive or coconut, sodium hydroxide, an emulsifier like Sorbitol, and other skin-conditioning agents. There are various melt-and-pour soap base varieties, such as olive oil, hemp, and aloe. You can mix and match bases for a unique formula. For example, if you have sensitive skin, try a base mixture that includes oatmeal, goat’s milk, or honey.

Herbal Oils to Infuse

Herbal oils can be absorbed through the skin when applied topically. First, research all herbs of interest for their properties and actions, then select your carrier oil. Both selections are important, and all the ingredients listed below offer nourishing qualities that can be enhanced when combined.

Start with one or two herbs so you can see how your skin reacts. Make a list of herbal properties that are important to your skin’s needs—this could include moisture, antioxidants, or wound healing. Over time, you'll get a sense of which mixtures work well with your skin type.

Herbs to Consider

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla):** Soothing, anti-inflammatory, and stimulates tissue repair.

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Antiseptic and astringent properties that promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation.

Chickweed (Stellaria media): Cools hot, inflammatory skin conditions like sunburn, heat rash, boils, and eczema.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense): Anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and astringent properties that benefit all skin types, especially eczema, psoriasis, and other sensitive skin conditions.

Carrier Oils

Choose plant-based oils labeled "organic," "pure-cold pressed," or "pure expeller-pressed." You can find these natural oils in your local health food store either in the cooking oil aisle or the natural beauty section. 

Some favorites:

Olive Oil: Nourishes the skin, soothes inflamed areas, and keeps the skin smooth.

Sweet Almond Oil: Lightweight, easily absorbed, and features vitamins A and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Jojoba Oil: Similar to the skin’s natural oil, sebum. It seals moisture into the skin and provides a healthy dose of antioxidants.

Crafting Your Herbal Oils

You can add finely-ground herbs into the soap mixture when it’s still in liquid form. Or, you can infuse your herbs in an oil base and then add that oil to your liquified melt-and-pour base before it hardens. It can also be fun to decorate your soaps by sprinkling your favorite herbs on top before it dries.

For herb-infused oils, you can use the solar or stove-top method. For the solar method, fill a glass jar 1/3 of the way with dried herbs and then fill the jar with a carrier oil. Cap the jar and set it on a windowsill for about 4-6 weeks, shaking it every few days.

For the stove-top method, place the herb and oil-filled jar in a double boiler over medium heat for a few hours. You can also use a crockpot as your double boiler. Keep the temperature below 140 degrees so as not to “cook” the herbs. When either method is complete, strain the herbs from the oil and transfer the finished oil to a clean, dry glass jar.


Herbal oils will add indulgence to your homemade soap, sure to leave your skin smiling. Enjoy diving deeper into the world of herbs through bath and body care experiments such as this one.

Homemade soaps also make for phenomenal holiday gifts. Bars and body oil, anyone? Check out this homemade massage oil recipe for ideas on how to use leftover herbal oils, or Herbal Academy’s newest course on natural perfumery to help you handcraft the perfect custom-scented gift set for the ones you love.

Want to learn more about making Soap and Other Herbal Goodies?