Why goat-milk soap? Goat milk is packed with vitamins, minerals, protein and natural fats, including Vitamins A, B2, B6, B12, and Niacin. With a pH of around 6.4, goat milk is also similar to a normal skin pH of around 5.6, which makes for better skin tolerance. As soap is generally alkaline with even a mild soap having an alkalinity of 9.5-11, goat milk helps to also lower the pH of soap, which makes goat-milk soap a milder bar of soap for even the most sensitive of skin conditions.
As someone unable to tolerate many products on my skin, as well as skin sensitivities and allergies, goat-milk soap was my answer. I was able to formulate a product that my skin would tolerate and eliminate the use of traditional oils that also tended to irritate my skin. I chose to use the traditional method of cold-process goat-milk soap making, which entails a cure period of at least four to six weeks, ensuring a milder bar of goat-milk soap for you. My goat-milk body mousse, goat-milk lotion, and other goat-milk products are all carefully formulated using ingredients that you should feel comfortable putting on your skin.
All soap, including goat-milk soap, is made by combining fats and oils with an alkali (lye) which, when combined with water, loosens and attracts dirt, allowing it to be washed away. The history of soap dates back to 2800 BC in the excavation of ancient Babylon. Some sources say that soap was discovered when rain washed ashes and animal fat from sacrifices at Mt. Sapo to the banks of the Tiber River, creating suds. Early references to soap were for the washing of fibers such as wool for use in weaving. There are a multitude of references of natural occurrences of the creation of soap going back even as far as prehistoric times. In all of these references, the basic act of the creation of soap stays the same, dependent on the type of alkali used, most notably being potash.
With that being said, the term “soap” is generally misused. What is being marketed as “soap” are actually detergents, which are chemicals combined to create cleansing product, used as dish detergent, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, body wash, and even the bars that you buy commercially and use on your skin are compiled of detergents and cleansers.
With that history of soap, presently sodium hydroxide or lye is used as the alkali in cold-process soap. While lye is a natural-occurring substance, it is currently manufactured into lye crystals. These lye crystals need to be dissolved in a liquid. This is where the beginning of the soap fascination begins. The liquid can include regular water, aloe juice, goat milk, yogurt, pumpkin puree, cucumber puree and anything else you can imagine. When lye meets with any liquid, especially goat milk, there is an intense reaction creating immense heat immediately. I personally have documented heat over 200 degrees Fahrenheit in a matter of seconds from a room-temperature liquid. When any milk product is heated, it will burn with intense heat, which is what happens when goat milk is added to lye. For this reason, I freeze my goat milk to slow this heat process and eliminate the burning of the goat milk and still fully dissolve the lye. In this manner, my goat-milk soaps end up being a lighter colored goat-milk soap than some others, with the exception of certain fragrances discoloring the soap.
While I have my goat-milk/lye solution dissolving, I either mix my oils or use my premixed master batch of oils and melt to a room temperature or just a bit warmer. The oils that I choose are based on their individual attributes and what they add to the finished bar of soap. Some oils are considered to be cleansing, some conditioning, some add creamy lather, some intense bubbles, and some add hardness to the mix. A lot of careful formulation is done and ultimately trial and error to get the desired quality. Typical oils used are coconut oil, palm oil, tallow, olive oil, as well as a wide variety of other oils, fats, and butters.
Palm oil, tallow and lard make a nice hard, conditioning soap without adding much lather while coconut oil gives soap a cleansing, bubbly, and hard bar of soap. This sounds like THE perfect oil, right?! Unfortunately in the makeup of this oil, there are a lot of people who experience irritation with coconut-based soaps. This is why I have eliminated this oil in my basic recipe. Now coconut oil IS an amazing oil, which I use in other products, including my lip balms. It is just the naturally-occurring chemical reaction once the coconut oil is saponified (or turned to soap) that makes this a harsh oil on your skin. I have chosen the exotic Babassu oil in its place, which makes for a nice, firm bubbly soap that is easier on sensitive skin. I have also chosen to use sustainable palm oil, tallow, olive oil, castor oil, as well as a multitude of other butters like cocoa butter.
Once I have melted the oils and dissolved the lye in goat milk, I add my additives such as clay, sodium lactate, fragrance or color if I am doing a single-color goat-milk soap. At this point, I pour the lye/goat-milk solution into the oils usually a bit warmer than room temperature, around 110 degrees or so. This allows the oils to be completely melted and also avoid a false trace. Trace is what happens at the precise moment when the oils and lye have combined enough to avoid oil separation and ensure that the saponification process has commenced. Trace is achieved by stirring the lye solution and oils until the mixture begins to thicken or hold together. Currently, most people use a stick blender in bursts to achieve trace. There are stages of trace, and once trace occurs, things start to move fast! In fact, certain fragrances, additives, oils, liquid content will affect trace causing such things as soap seizing, which is basically soap on a stick and with which it is impossible to work. A light trace is a fine line between the actual saponification process and not quite mixed enough, which then leads to oil separation and a worthless batch of soap. A light trace is also what is desired when one decides to swirl and do fun artistic things to their soap. Once you have your desired effect, you are then ready to pour, swirl and mold.
Once I have molded my goat-milk soap, it will continue to saponify and go through stages, one of
which might be a gel phase. Gel is when the soap heats up so much that the soap turns to an almost jelly-like state and then cools back down. This entire process takes approximately 12 hours depending on the formulation, water content, and additives. It is possible to avoid gel by keeping the soap cool or by even sticking it in the freezer. There are mixed opinions on to gel or not to gel, but depending on what you are trying to achieve is the reason you would or would not. Sugar and goat milk can burn and even overheat in gel situations, which is where experience lies in determining what to do. Non-gelled soap does take longer to harden up, unmold, and cut, but the saponification process is the same. It is a chemical reaction that results not dependent on heat or cold.
Once my goat-milk soap
has hardened enough to unmold and cut, usually 12-24 hours,
cold-process soap must have a cure period, which is generally around
This cure period allows my goat-milk soap to harden by evaporation of excess water and also allows for a milder bar of soap. However, if the soap is formulated correctly, the lye will have gone through the natural process and not even be present in the soap sometimes as soon as 36 hours. This is tested by the scientific “zap” test…basically sticking your tongue on a bar of soap. If it zaps like a 9 V battery, it is lye heavy and not ready or not formulated correctly! All soapers are quite fond of this term!
At four weeks, most cold-process soap makers consider their soaps to be ready for sale with the exception of soaps with a high percentage of olive oil, which are typically better after six months to a year or more. Most soapers have learned that the longer the cure period, the better, harder, and bubblier the soap is.
In conclusion, there are so many variables that soap making is a never ending fascination, frustration, and obsession, with goat-milk soap being one of extra benefit and one that I am sure you will love without much hesitation!