Monday, April 7, 2014

Vanilla...Friend or Foe?

One  of the greatest frustrations a soap maker can experience is working with fragrance oils that contain vanilla. It's very challenging trying to keep pretty colors from turning into muddy something-or-other colors when using vanilla-based fragrances.  Color stabilizers are out there and may help for a period of time, but in the end, vanilla rarely, if ever gives up the effort to 'do its own thing.'

I recently decided to do an experiment of sorts using a fragrance that had a vanilla content of between 9-10%.  It is a lovely scent and one that I would like to use on a regular basis.  As part of the effort, I used the same base recipe for each of two batches.  For the first batch,  I separated out a portion of the emulsified soap mixture and colored it a lovely shade of purple.  I added the fragrance oil to the remaining soap mixture.  I wanted it to be a nice, creamy white in order to provide a contrasting  back-drop to the beautiful purple.  In order to help counteract the vanilla content, I added titanium dioxide to this  portion.  I poured it into the mold, doing a drop swirl with the purple and finishing with a light chopstick swirl.  Below is a photograph taken after unmolding the next day.

The color contrast was beautiful and just what I had wanted.  In spite of my satisfaction, I felt that it would only be a matter of time before the white would start to darken.  Even then, I wasn't feeling at all confident in the addition of the titanium dioxide!  The photo below was taken one month later and it is easy to see that the vanilla turned the creamy white into a somewhat mottled shade of brown.

For the second batch, rather than trying to avoid the effect of vanilla, I decided to work with it instead.  Once again, I used the same recipe as before and after blending the oils and lye, I separated out a portion of the emulsified mixture.  This amount would be divided in two portions, one that would be colored white and the other purple.  I added the same fragrance oil used in the first batch to the remaining emulsified soap.   I added brown mica to this larger amount in order to 'assist' the vanilla content in the fragrance.  After pouring it into the mold, I topped it with the remaining portions using the nicely contrasting colors of purple and white.  Below is a photo taken after unmolding the next day.  I was so impressed by the  finished product and not concerned at all about the vanilla.  If the main portion turned darker (it would), all the better!

 Below is a photo taken one month later...

The color has turned into a rich, deep, chocolate brown and is so pretty.  Best of all, I was still able to incorporate the purple and white colors that I had wanted in the first place!  From now on, cooperation will be the name of the game when working with vanilla fragrances.   Is 'friendship' possible with vanilla?   I think it is!