Classic Cedarwood and Coconut Milk Shave Soap Recipe

Learn to make your own shaving soap from scratch with this natural soap recipe.

December 2017
Story and Photos by Jan Berry

Shave soap

Simple and Natural Soapmaking (Page Street Publishing, 2017), by Jan Berry shares more than 50 homemade soap recipes that use natural ingredients and are easy-to-make. Jan includes step-by-step tutorials and detailed instructions, making this book perfect for soap crafters at any level. This excerpt is from Part 2, ”Soaps from the Forest.”

You can purchase this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Simple and Natural Soapmaking

Make this natural cedarwood and coconut milk shave soap to get the perfect shave.

Yield: 8 to 10 round bars of shaving soap (2 lbs 5 oz/1.05 kg)

What You Need:

• 10 oz (283 g) distilled water
• 6 oz (170 g) coconut milk
• 1.2 oz (34 g) sodium hydroxide
• 1.8 oz (51 g) potassium hydroxide
• 10.6 oz (300 g) kokum butter (60 percent)
• 3.5 oz (100 g) coconut oil (20 percent)
• 2.6 oz (75 g) castor oil (15 percent)
• 0.88 oz (25 g) shea butter (5 percent)
• 0.5 oz (14 g) vegetable glycerin
• 0.18 oz (5 g) cedarwood Atlas essential oil (about 1-1/2 tsp)
• 0.07 oz (2 g) clove essential oil (about 5/8 tsp) (optional)
• 0.07 oz (2 g) vetiver essential oil (about 3/4 tsp) (optional)
• Shaving brush, required for proper lathering


1. Combine the distilled water and coconut milk. Wearing protective gloves and eyewear, carefully stir both types of lye into the combined water and milk mixture until completely dissolved. Set the lye solution aside to cool slightly while preparing the butters and oils. Melt the butters and coconut oil, then add them with the castor oil into a 2 quart (1.89 L) slow cooker. Turn the slow cooker’s heat to low.

Shave soap

2. Pour the lye solution into the warmed oils and start stirring, using a combination of hand stirring and an immersion blender until trace is reached. This may take anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes, depending on the type of the coconut milk used and temperature of the oils, lye solution and slow cooker.

Shave soap

3. Once trace is reached, cover the slow cooker and allow the soap to cook undisturbed, checking every 15 minutes to be sure it’s not overflowing from the cooker and stirring as needed. The soap will go through several stages as it cooks, resembling a thin porridge that noticeably thickens over cook time. (See three pictures below, which show the batter after 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 45 minutes)

Shave soap

Shave soap

Shave soap

4. Liquid may pool up and separate from the soap batter while it cooks, but that’s normal. After 45 minutes of cooking, remove the lid and stir the soap. After stirring, there will likely be visible lumps of soap forming in the otherwise liquid soap batter; this is normal.

Shave soap

5. Cook the soap an additional 15 minutes or until it’s transparent and resembles thick petroleum jelly or glossy mashed potatoes when stirred. To make sure it’s fully cooked, remove a tiny bit of soap batter, let it cool to a comfortable temperature and dab just the tip of your tongue on it. If you feel a zapping sensation, similar to licking a battery, it needs to cook longer. If it just tastes like soap, it’s fully cooked. Regardless of the outcome, be sure to rinse your mouth out thoroughly after this test. (See photos below, which show batter before stirring and after stirring)

Shave soap

Shave soap

6. Turn the slow cooker off. In a small bowl, mix the vegetable glycerin and essential oils together. Stir this mixture into the still hot soap batter. The glycerin will help loosen the soap, making it easier to work with and helps promote a better lather once the soap is cured.

7. Spoon the soap batter into a silicone column mold or press it into individual round molds.The rounded shape makes it easier to fit inside a shaving mug or bowl.

Shave soap

8.Leave the soap in the molds, uncovered, for 24 hours or until completely cool. Cure the soaps for at least 3 weeks before use, allowing excess water to evaporate out, yielding a harder bar with better lather.

Shave soap

Tip: To use shave soap, place the soap round in a small bowl or mug. Generously splash some water on the shaving brush and in the bowl/mug and start making a vigorous circular motion over the soap with your brush for a few minutes until a thick creamy lather forms.

Variation: For a fun floral variation, try adding 1 teaspoon (3.6 g) of rose or purple clay to the hot lye solution, for color, along with 0.17 (5 g) lavender or geranium essential oil. A shave brush will be required to work up the proper amount of lather.

More from Simple and Natural Soapmaking:
Creamy Avocado Soap
Orange Honey Shampoo Bars

Reprinted with permission from Simple and Natural Soapmaking by Jan Berry and published by Page Street Publishing, 2017. Buy this book from the MOTHER EARTH NEWS store: Simple & Natural Soapmaking

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