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Extreme Beldi Soap--How To Make the Ultimate Spa Soap
WHAT IS BELDI SOAP?
Beldi soap is a traditional "soft soap"--made with potassium hydroxide (KOH), rather than the sodium hydroxide (NaOH) used to make hard bar soaps. The finished soap is a soft paste.
KOH makes a soft soap and is the form of lye that can be made from wood ashes. Hence, many traditional soaps were made with KOH. The old-time lye soap our grandparents made using wood ashes was soft KOH soap, which was often hardened with the addition of salt.
Beldi is said to have originated in the Levant, many centures ago, and goes by the names Beldi Soap or Moroccan Black Soap or Savon Noir. Beldi soap is now a local specialty of Morocco.
Traditionally, Beldi soap is made from olive oil and olive pulp from crushed olives, and it is traditionally used in steam saunas--"Turkish Baths" or Moroccan "hammans." After the bather has been well steamed in such "steam rooms," which opens the pores and induces sweat, Beldi soap is applied all over the body to the damp skin. It is intended to be left on the skin for 3-15 minutes, to allow for deep cleansing. The Beldi soap is then rinsed off while scrubbing the skin with a bathing mitt made of coarse fabric, called a "kessel."
USING MODERN BELDI SOAP
If you have access to a health club with a steam sauna, this would be the ideal way to use your Beldi soap: Have a good steam, apply the soap all over your body (except for the area around the eyes), let it sit on your skin for awhile, and scrub off in the shower, using your favorite scrubber, such as a bath puff or loofah. I prefer bath puffs or loofahs with a long handle, so you can scrub your back.
If you don't have access to a steam sauna, you can still enjoy most of the benefits of Beldi soap in your home, in a warm, steamy bathroom. Here's how I use Beldi at home:
I pin up my hair, jump in the shower and get wet all over, and run about a gallon of hot water into a bucket with a long-handled bath puff.
I get out of the shower, with the bucket of water and bath puff and sit on a chair spread with a towel and apply the Beldi soap all over. Then I dip the bath puff in the hot water (shaking off excess water) and scrub in the soap with the bath puff--usually at least twice over. (I don't use the bath puff to scrub my face until I get bach into the shower, for obvious reasons.)
Attending to your other bathing rituals, such a leg-shaving and foot pumicing, should allow plenty of time for the Beldi soap to work its magic on your skin.
Once you're done, jump back in the shower and rinse off.
While you don't get the benefits of a steam sauna by doing it this way, you do get the benefits of the exotic oils I'm suggesting for this Beldi formula, and the benefits of plenty of exfoliation. It makes your skin feel great!
I personally consider Beldi to be the ultimate spa soap.
I've also found that my own versions of Beldi are excellent facial soaps, not only because the basic recipe is gentle and nourishing to skin, but because of the high superfat--especially when the superfats include the luxury oils that are said to be so beneficial to skin. Using Beldi as a facial soap seems to have reduced my problems with acne, for example--mainly blackheads. This is a soap suitable for the most sensitive and delicate skin.
FORMULATING MODERN BELDI SOAPS
Modern soapmakers have been merrily re-formulating Beldi soaps, feeling that there is no need to feel constrained to the traditional olive oil and olive pulp versions of this soap. For one thing, recent studies have shown that olive oil is not necessarily the best oil to use on skin. (See: http://dermatologytimes.modernmedicine.com/dermatology-times/news/skin-barrier-benefits-sunflower-seed-oil?page=full.) Modern Beldi soaps are often KOH soap pastes made with the soapmaker's preferred oils, with the addition of the soapmaker's preferred superfats.
Since Beldi is a hot-process soap, you can enjoy the full benefits of fats and oils added after saponification is complete. This means that Beldi is a soap that is ideal for lavishing with fancy superfatting oils, and since it is a paste that clings well to the skin, it's ideal for leaving on the skin for awhile.
Another advantage of modern Beldi soaps are that they can be formulated to lather well; traditional Beldi soap has little or no lather.
EXTREME BELDI SOAP
The "extreme" approach
For my Beldi soap formula, I have basically gone to the extreme with fancy oils and additives.
I live in a rather conservative rural area, and I had little expectation of being able to sell a fancy "spa" soap to my farmers' market customers. So I made this soap mainly for personal use and to give as gifts to family members--some of whom could use help with dry and sensitive skin. Strangers who are not soap nerds never properly appreciate exotic and wonderful ingredients--but I do, and so do my daughters with dry and sensitive skin. It's intended to be the very best: the most skin-loving and moisturizing concoction I could come up with.
The basic soap formula is the same as for Liz Ardlady's shampoo bar, formulated as a KOH soap, with added glycerin. I like this recipe because of its gentleness, high conditioning, and high percentages of linoleic and linolenic acids.
The "extreme" part is, I've used nine different "luxury oils" for the superfat.
You don't really have to make this as an "extreme" soap. You can use your choice of superfatting oils, using a total of 4.5 ounces of superfat. There are many, many less expensive superfatting oils that would also give you a lovely result, such as sunflower oil. There are also many moderately expensive superfatting oils that would work well, such as hempseed oil, peach kernel oil, safflower oil, etc. If you research the many carrier oils and their properties, you may find many others oils specific to your wants and needs.
My trouble was, I had gradually purchased quite a collection of the "luxury oils," for making lotions, body butters, and hair masks and such, and I was eager to try them in a Beldi recipe, using the "everything but the kitchen sink" approach. These luxury oils are supposed to be great--but you shouldn't feel that they are necessary to make a good Beldi soap. You can just use 4.5 ounces of your preferred superfat.
If you select different superfat oils that the ones in the recipe, be sure to run your recipe through SoapCalc, in case your changes require changes in the amount of lye or water (or apple cider vinegar, as used in this recipe). Here is the link to SoapCalc's lye calculator: http://soapcalc.net/calc/SoapCalcWP.asp
Be sure to set the recipe for 15% superfat and to select KOH and 90% pure.
I also got a bit carried away with additives--which I also had on hand for other products.
I added DL Panthenol (pro-Vitamin B5) because I've long been impressed with its benefits to both skin and hair.
I added Honeyquat (Hydroxypropyltrimonium Honey) because it is a powerful humectant that imparts long lasting, intense moisturization that resists being rinsed off. And, unlike many traditional conditioning agents, Honeyquat does not reduce lather. Honeyquat does have a slight unpleasant odor--which seems to be detectable in some products and not in others, for reasons I don't understand. Using fragrance in this product will effectively mask the odor of the Honeyquat.
Finally, I added 3 tablespoons honey.
These additives are optional, but if you omit them you may want to adjust the amount of fragrance, since omitting these will reduce the total volume of the batch, and you want to keep your fragrance at no more than 5%--especially if you use any type of fragrance that might have an adverse effect on sensitive skin. I think almost all fragrance oils are likely to contain ingredients that could harm sensitive skin. (They won't tell you what's in them.) Essential oils are a better choice. I've chosen Bulgarian Lavender essential oil, cypress essential oil, and a few drops each of ylang-ylang essential oil and litsea cubeba essential oil. All have skin benefits, but there are many essential oils to choose from, so you will probably want to pick from among your own favorites.
I have used fragrance oils in Beldi soaps. If you do choose to use a fragrance oil, select one that is phthalate free and use no more than 5%.
"EXTREME" BELDI SOAP RECIPE
For the purposes of simplicity and organization, I've broken the ingredients down to Oil Phase, Water Phase, After Cook, and Cool Down Phase. Superfats are adding during the "After Cook" Phase, because they must be added after saponification is complete. Cool-Down Phase ingredients are added after the soap has cooled to about 100 F., because they are sensitive to heat.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is substituted for water in this recipe. You may prefer to use distilled water instead.
8 ounces Canola
5.3 ounces Coconut Oil
1.1 ounces Castor Oil
0.8 ounces Mango Butter
0.8 ounces Sunflower Oil
4 ounces Glycerin
7.8 ounces ACV
4 ounces KOH
After Cook Phase
0.5 ounces Argan Oil
0.5 ounces Borage Oil
0.5 ounces Black Cumin Seed Oil
0.5 ounces Perilla Seed Oil
0.5 ounces Safflower Oil
0.5 ounces Tamanu Oil
0.5 ounces Flaxseed Oil
0.5 ounces Meadowfoam oil
0.5 ounces Hempseed oil
3 Tablespoons honey
Cool Down Phase
1.8 ounces Honeyquat
2 ounces fragrance: cypress, lavender, rosemary: .5 ounces Cypress, 1 ounce Bulgarian Lavender, a few drops ylang-ylang, a few drops Litsea cubeba
1.8 ounces DL-Panthenol
MAKES 42.2 ounces
SoapCalc Recipe Page
Heat the oil phase oils in a crock pot on high.
Mix ACV and KOH and stir till dissolved. Add to oils in the crock pot and stick blend to trace.
Leave the crock pot on high and stick blend every ten minutes or so until soap reaches the vaseline stage. This could take 30-90 minutes.
Touch your tongue to the soap to see if it zaps. It it doesn't zap (just tastes like soap) use a dab to wash your hands, to check lather. If soap lathers well and doesn't zap, it's done. Soap may be very stiff at this point but will loosen up as the other ingredients are added.
Turn off the crock pot.
Add the superfats and honey in the "After Cook" list. Stir and stick blend to get these well blended into the soap.
Let the soap cool to about 100°.
Mix DL Panthenol and Honeyquat till DL Panthenol is dissolved. Add this mixture to soap and stir and stick blend till well blended into the soap.
Add fragrance and stir and stick blend until well blended into the soap.
Spoon soap into individual containers of your choice.
The finished soap will have an opaque whitish appearance, but will gradually become more translucent. The whitish appearance results mainly from air bubbles.
CURING BELDI SOAP
Traditional Beldi made with olive oil doesn't need to cure--supposedly anyway.
But it's considered best to allow about a month cure time for Beldi made with other oils, as in this recipe. After a few weeks, the soap "relaxes," improving the texture. The quality of the soap will continue to improve over time, but about one month of curing is adequate.