Spicy n Soapy

Kavitha Srinivasa

A hint of cardamom essential oil can do wonders to a bar of soap. It adds color, an undeniable spicy flavor, and above all, it’s a decadent lingering feeling. Described as the Queen of Spices, soap makers tap the antioxidant properties of cardamom to full use.

Yes, friends, we are talking about spice oils and extracts which have made their way into soap making or ‘saponification,’ as the process is officially known.

It’s anyone’s guess why these spice oils or extracts go into soaps. They are aromatic, natural colorants and rub in healing properties as well. All it requires is a hint of imagination to mix-n-match spice extracts with essential oils, to create a signature line of colorful, fragrant handcrafted soaps that package an olfactory experience with indulgence.

For instance, Haldi or turmeric which adds a characteristic color to the soap is sought after for its ability to heal and prevent dry skin. That’s just one example. Players in the bath soap segment are reviving the ancient ayurvedic techniques of soap formulations using spice extracts and herbs. With the result, many of our kitchen spices are being processed in an industrialized manner. “Spice extracts are beneficial to the skin. For centuries they are being used for their medicinal properties. Some of the popular spice extracts include turmeric, strands of saffron and black pepper,” said Amit Sarda, managing director Soulflower, India’s leading company of natural cosmetics made with spice, herbs, fresh produce, and essential oils.

Spices are not just meant to add fragrance or pep up your spirits, but make the bathing experience a truly cleansing one. And in many cases, these spices have not been tweaked. There’s no such thing as ‘expect the unexpected.’ Having said that, let me tell you, the combination of spice ingredients makes these soaps interesting. “Star anise is a good scrub and black pepper oil is used for body massages as it is suited for backaches. Likewise, some amount of cumin in the soap is good for inhaling,” added Sarda.

Many entrepreneurs have created a market for aromatic-relaxing soaps. A case in point is Bangalore-based Ahalya Matthan, whose company Ally Matthan Creations Pvt. Ltd. manufactures an ingrown label Areev that maximizes the use of locally grown ingredients in all its natural and handmade bath and skin products. “We use a number of locally available extracts of spices like Clove leaf oil, clove bud oil, cinnamon oil, cardamom oil, aniseed oil, green pepper oil, and turmeric oil, said Ahalya Matthan, founder Ally Matthan Creations Pvt. Ltd. Though a perfumer trained at Versailles, she makes soaps using essential oils, spice extracts, and oils.

Matthan believes that what you feed your skin and hair with, should be as good and if not better than what you feed your body. “To this effect, all the spice oils that we used to show remarkable efficiency in skincare, for example, turmeric oil in a massage oil or cream evens out skin tone and reduces blemishes without imparting the harsh yellow color,” she added.

On this note, we open up the spice jar for soap makers. Nutmeg Oil adds warmth to the soaps while vanilla is fragrant and comforting.

As ginger is a root, the common belief is that it can be classified as a spice. The ginger extract works really well in combination with citrus essential oils. Ginger contains several antioxidants that rejuvenate aging skin by removing toxins and improving circulation, resulting in the delivery of more nutrients to your skin. Anti-oxidants prevent damage from free radicals, preserving the elasticity and thus the youthful appearance of skin.

Apart from all this, is the added bonus of a wonderful natural fragrance. Yes, we agree. In fact, bubble baths are incomplete without herbs and relaxing spice oils. Manufacturers have elevated soaps to a luxury product. Individually wrapped, soap makers blend spices with cocoa-shea butter, essential oils, and floral extracts.

Time has come when handcrafted soaps are imaginatively designed and almost look edible.