Both cold process and melt and pour soap are made by mixing water, lye and oils together. These then undergo the saponifaction process and end up as soap. In melt and pour soap extra glycerin is added. Glycerin is a humectant, which means it draws moisture to it. The glycerin is what makes it possible to melt down the base into liquid that can then be coloured, fragrance and manipulated to create different effects.
Within these 2 types there are bases with added ingredients which offer a variety of skin nourishing ingredients. In the clear bases you can find added ingredients such as aloe vera, honey, hemp seed oil, olive oil and argan oil.
Goat’s milk and solid oils like shea, mango, and cocoa butter are white and opaque, so you only get these in the white base, as if you add it to a clear base, your base will be cloudy.
You can also get a shaving soap base.
There are really only a couple of major melt and pour soap base manufacturers – Stephenson, SFIC and Crafter’s Choice. They supply worldwide.
There are a couple of different types of base, which are useful to know about:
LCP or Low Sweat
LCP stands for Like Cold Process and is firmer and doesn’t have as much glycerin in it. This means it will sweat less than a regular base, so it is perfect for embedding in cold process soap and is perfect for using in humid climates. However, it is less transparent than some other bases, so is not so good for putting other embeds into it.
Ultra Clear or Crystal Clear
This is a base with 25% added glycerin, which gives the soap a very clear base, which is perfect for embeds and other projects. However, because it has higher quantities of glycerin, it is not the best choice for embeds for cold process soap as it will attract too much moisture and may cause the different soaps to separate from each other. You should probably avoid this one if you live in a humid climate.
These bases are thicker and are perfect for suspending light additives such as oatmeal or petals.
However, this base will retain more air than other bases, which may affect the clarity of your finished bar.
You can buy a variety of bases made with organic or natural ingredients, or bases that avoid ingredients that are considered to be harmful or skin irritants.
SLS and SLES Free Bases
These bases do not contain Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Lauryl Sulfate SLeS), both of which are considered to be skin irritants. They still have excellent foaming properties and moisturizing properties.
Natural HF or Detergent Free
These are vegetable derived soap bases made from natural ingredients, which are free from synthetic surfactants and propylene glycol
These bases are regulated by a European association and are guaranteed natural and organic
These are bases made using sustainable palm oil.
As you can see, there are plenty of choices out there. You can also buy rebatch soap. This is not melt and pour soap – it is grated cold process soap and will not behave the same way as melt and pour soap. It will not become liquid and you can not use it in the same way.
A good way to get started with melt and pour is to buy a small amount of clear and white bases and use them to see what you want most out of your soap, and then buy other bases accordingly:
If you want more clarity for embedding objects, maybe you want to buy a clearer base, such as a crystal or ultra-clear base.
If you want to suspend additives, maybe you want a suspending base.
Many suppliers offer a deal on sample packs, where you can buy a 1lb or 2lb block of several different types of base. This is a good way of trying out a variety and working out what you like best at a discount, before buying larger quantities