Charcoal & Clay Facial Soap Recipe

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Charcoal and Clay Facial Soap Recipe
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I’ve been making my own soap for a long time, both by cold process and hot process in a crock pot. It can seem really intimidating to begin making your own soap, but everyone I know who actually tries it is amazed at how simple it is.

Hot vs. Cold Process Soap

As I explained before, both methods of soap making use water, lye and a combination of oils. The additional step of heating the mixture with hot process soap speeds the saponification process and results in a faster soap making process.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each type of soap. Hot process creates a faster soap, and cold process often creates a smoother soap, though I’ve found both work great on my skin.

A third option I’ve only experimented with slightly is using a melt and pour soap base (like this cocoa butter soap base or this goats milk soap base). This option does not require any Lye and is faster and easier for those who don’t want to deal with the chemistry of soap making. Essential oils, clays, salts and other natural ingredients can still be added with melt and pour soap, but I prefer to use the hot or cold process method so I can control the oil ratios in the soap.

Melt and pour soap can be a gateway into regular soap-making for those still a little hesitant to use Lye, but I’ve found that the most cost-effective and natural option is to start from scratch.

Is Lye Dangerous?

As I explained in my original soap recipe:

When Lye is used in soap-making, it is what is called a reagent, meaning it is used in a chemical reaction to create other substances. In soap making, a carefully measured water/lye mixture is blended with natural oils in a process called saponification. Lye is simply an agent used to create soap from oils and water.

There is no unreacted Lye remaining in properly made soap. If you’re considering making soap, definitely use extreme caution with unreacted lye and use a soap calculator to make sure you are using the correct ratio of water/lye/oils but don’t be afraid of this age old process.

Where to Find Lye: Some hardware stores carry Lye (sodium hydroxide) though many have stopped carrying it. I wasn’t able to find it at any of our four local hardware stores so I ordered this one online. If you have a local (not big brand) hardware store they might also be able to special order it for you.

I now feel safe using Lye for soap making, I just take precautions and don’t use it when my children or around. It is also very important to remember to add lye to the water and NOT water to the Lye (which can cause an explosion).

Clay and Charcoal?

Why add clay and charcoal to soap? When I first started experimenting with adding these to my soap recipes, I was a little unsure how they would turn out. After all, these are both great for face masks and whitening teeth, but wouldn’t they leave residue on skin?

I found that they absolutely do not leave a residue on skin, and that they are absolutely perfect for oily or acne prone skin since they are naturally anti-bacterial and toxin removing.

In fact, I made these as a body soap (and they can definitely be used that way) but I fell in love with them as a gentle facial soap that works incredibly well. I still use the oil cleansing method but for other times when I need to wash my face, I use this gentle cleansing soap.

I add activated charcoal powder and bentonite clay to this recipe. I’ve found that this also extends the life of the soap.

Calculating Percentages

I used to calculate the ratios for this soap, and I highly recommend it, especially if you are new to soap making. I wanted to use a mixture of coconut oil, olive oil and castor oil so I entered these into the soap calculator and got these percentages:

Charcoal Soap Recipe

With soap making, it is very important to measure the weight. I use a digital scale and measure by grams to be most precise. This ensures that there is no remaining Lye in the recipe and that the oils fully saponify. I also keep the following tools and supplies on hand for soap making:

Charcoal Soap Ingredients:

How to Make Charcoal Soap

  1. Make sure that your work area is clean, ventilated and that there are no children nearby. This is not a good recipe to let children help with since Lye is caustic until mixed with water and oils.
  2. Measure the oils in liquid form (by weight) and pour into the slow cooker. Turn on high just until oils heat up and then reduce to low heat. At this time, Add the clay and charcoal and use a stick blender to incorporate fully.
  3. While oils are heating, carefully measure the lye and water separately. TIP: This is the only thing I ever use disposable plastic cups for. They don’t weigh anything on the scale so they make measuring easy and I keep three separate cups labeled:
  4. Water, Lye and Oil to use for this purpose only. I reuse them each time so they aren’t wasted and I don’t worry about anyone drinking out of them since we don’t usually use these types of cups.
  5. Carefully take the cups with the water and the lye outside or to a well ventilated area. Pour the water into a quart size or larger glass jar. With gloves and eye protection, slowly add the lye to the water. DO NOT ADD THE WATER TO THE LYE (this is really important). Stir carefully with a metal spoon, making sure not to let the liquid come in contact with your body directly.
  6. As you stir, this will create a cloudy white mixture that gets really hot. Let this mixture set for about 10 minutes to cool. It should become clear and not cloudy when it has cooled.
  7. When the oils in the crockpot have heated (to about 120-130 degrees F), slowly pour in the water and lye mixture and stir.
  8. Quickly rinse the container used for the water and lye mixture out in the sink. I rinse well and then re-rinse with white vinegar to make sure all Lye has been neutralized.
  9. Use the metal or wooden spoon to stir the lye/water mixture into the oil mixture in the crockpot. Once it is evenly mixed, use the stick blender to blend for about 4-5 minutes or until it is opaque and starting to thicken.
  10. Cover and keep on low heat to thicken. I set a timer for 15 minutes and check it every 15 minutes until it is ready. It will start to boil and bubble on the sides first. After about 35-55 minutes (depending on crock pot) it will thicken enough that the entire surface is bubbly and the sides have collapsed in.
  11. At this point, turn the heat off and remove the crock. If you are going to use essential oils for scent, add them now. I added lavender and orange.
  12. Quickly and carefully spoon into molds. I’ve often heard of people using empty Pringles containers but haven’t tried it. I have used empty boxes lined with parchment paper.
  13. Cover the molds with parchment paper and set in a cool, dry place.
    After 24 hours, pop the soap out of the molds. It can be used right away, but I prefer to let it set for a few more days so that it lasts longer.

This soap will leave a little bit of residue in the bottom of the shower over time, but I’ve found that this is easy to clean with a quick microfiber wipe down each day.

Ever made your own soap? How did it go?

This facial soap recipe uses activated charcoal and bentonite clay with a base of coconut oil, olive oil, castor oil and essential oils.
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


136 responses to “Charcoal & Clay Facial Soap Recipe”

  1. Ellen Plock Avatar
    Ellen Plock

    My batch came out as a paste (after 2 days.. still paste. Obviously, there is too much oil in my batch. I was pretty sure I measured everything correctly so I don’t know how much extra oil I have. Any suggestions on how to rematch this? I’m not sure how much lie I could add to it to fix the problem.

  2. Andre Robichaud Avatar
    Andre Robichaud

    I have been making CP soap for 10+ years. I super fat at 5%. So therefore if charcoal (alkaline) is added, doesn’t the extra oils (acid) combine the charcoal and produce more soap? Leaving with no charcoal?

  3. Esra Duff Avatar
    Esra Duff

    Hiya! I am really grateful for all of the recipes you share! I want to make charcoal soap but using the cold process. Can I add active charcoal and Bentonite clay in your cold process soap recipe? I am not a chemist and I feel quite hesitant when it comes to soap making. I find the soap calculator to be very confusing. TIA!

  4. Fiona Cherukara Avatar
    Fiona Cherukara

    Do you have any recommendations where we could buy charcoal soap besides MLM’s? I would like to try making this but maybe in a different season of my life. Thanks!

  5. Frank Wick Avatar
    Frank Wick

    Thanks for all of the detail and information! I love what you are providing.

    Question (and I think I know the answer):
    Can hot process soap be re-melted once it has cooled? If I don’t have enough molds ready to pour into I assumedI’d simply have to pour the hot soap into a box or form to cut it up later. OR I would simply need a bunch of form molds ready for a larger volume of soap. Can you weigh in on this? Thanks so much! Keep up the great work!

  6. Erin Avatar

    Hi Katie. I’m new to soap making and have very sensitive acne-prone skin. At this point I’m looking into making my own facial bar cleanser, but I notice this recipe has both coconut and olive oil in it – both of which are not good for skin like mine due to their high rating on the comedogenic scale (olive isn’t that bad, but it makes me breakout). My question is – is there anyway to make soap without including these comedogenic oils? It seems every recipe I look at for acne skin includes them. Maybe I’m just misunderstanding the chemistry of the sopanification reaction and these fats somehow get eaten up in the process? Thanks for your help.

    1. Katie Wells Avatar

      Great question… the saponification process does change the oils. Even though coconut can be problematic for a lot of skin types, it can actually be drying and not cause breakouts once saponified, depending on the percentage. There are definitely soap recipes that don’t include either of these oils, and you can play with ratios using a tool like this

  7. ariel Avatar

    hi Katie i love your recipes, thank you so much for sharing.
    i’m getting ready to try soap for the first time, i have a question about the clay? if i have added clay to the oils then the lye and water mix should i not use a metal spoon to stir that because of the clay? would it be ok to use wood?

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