Friday, July 2, 2010


Hibiscus is my favorite natural soap colorant. Not because it creates a vibrant color in my soaps but because hibiscus has so many beneficial uses. I learned about hibiscus as a tea when I was a student living in Mexico during the early 1990's. In the town I lived in the Jamaica Tea (hibiscus) was plentiful, at every corner and every restaurant. When I'd visit my then fiances family home I'd always get Jamaica Tea with my dinner. My mother-in-law in later years told me that Jamaica Tea was used to detoxify ones body. After learning this I did some research and sure enough, it has many health benefits including an ability to cleanse the liver (something modern science is just learning but the ancients of Mexico already knew).

As for soap, I just tried it because I always have it on hand. I was hoping it would create a beautiful red/pink soap but as with most natural colorants mixed with lye, that wasn't the case. Instead, hibiscus creates a nice tan color. Anytime I want a tan soap that doesn't contain honey (another way of making soap tan), I use hibiscus.

Where to find hibiscus locally?

It can be found at local ethnic food stores. We get ours from El Burrito Mercado (Mexican Market)

Steps to Creating the Tea:

This is done the same way any tea is done. These steps probably aren't necessary for those who make tea regularly but I'll just go through them anyway.

I take out how much hibiscus I think I'll need, which is usually a handful, but for the purpose of this soap I measured an ounce and mixed that with 16 ounces of simmering water.

I let it simmer until I feel like most of the color has been absorbed from the leaves. Usually 5 minutes. Then I strain it.

I don't mix hot water with lye (no no no), so I just pop the tea in the freezer while I get my oils and other things ready to go. The freezer cools the tea pretty quickly.

Proceed with mixing lye into water, etc... After you pour the lye into the water you'll SEE and SMELL the different. You no longer have a beautiful maroon-ish tea but instead a pukey brown that stinks equally as bad as it looks.

Mix it with the oils as usual... it will still smell pukey. Additives included as usual. Pour in mold and this is the color you'll see:

And this will be your final bar: (some things can affect the final bar color, things like fragrance and other additives but usually in terms of how dark of a tan you'll get)

NEXT WEEK: Parsley