Embracing the brown

Years ago I tried a lemon poppyseed fragrance oil.  It was dead-on--sweet vanilla cake mixed with tart lemon.   However, I was stumped when my beautiful yellow soap with black poppyseeds went dark brown in a day or two, until I realized that, of course, it was the vanilla.  It was my first time using a fragrance that contained vanilla--I hadn't even thought to check. The color was such a turn-off I never tried it again.

I've since fallen in love with a vanilla lavender fragrance that's become a longstanding favorite in my shop, never mind that it turns a deep brown.  Here are a few pictures of my last batch.

It started out so creamy and the loveliest shade of ivory.

The next day it was a light caramel color.  If I could just hold it at this color!

And before a few days had gone by it was its usual color.  I tried to color it a deep purple once, but the result was still plain ol' brown. 

It's funny how we're conditioned to associate vanilla only with white or ivory--vanilla ice cream, cake, pudding, etc.....but have you checked out the color of a vanilla bean lately? Some soapers try to maintain that creamy white by using a vanilla stabilizer.  However, a stabilizer will only work for so long... as I recently discovered in my kitchen cupboard.

I'm a cake decorator and I once needed to make the icing on a wedding cake as white as possible, so I bought a bottle of clear vanilla.  Most of my customers don't care about pure white icing, so over time the bottle found its way to the back of the cupboard.  During a recent sorting and re-arranging, I rediscovered it.

Blech!  It was as clear as water when I bought it.  To each his own, of course, but to me, vanilla stabilizer is just an ingredient that doesn't serve a beneficial purpose to the soap (and your skin), so why use it at all?


  1. Your soap looks great. I know I've used vanilla stabilizer in the past but then I stopped using it because it's an added expense and there is no real benefit other then trying to keep the soap a lighter shade. For me brown soaps never sell as well but some customers understand the reasoning behind it and have no problem with it.

  2. Huh. I had no idea the clear vanilla would eventually turn brown!!

    I typically avoid scents that will turn brown...although I have a couple that I keep around. :)

  3. I usually just avoid the vanilla scents AND the vanilla stabilizer, except for Fall soap. I've used VS but like you said, it's still wishy washy. Imagine how thrilled when I started making candles and I could buy all those vanilla scents and LOVE THEM?!?!?! :-)

  4. I stick mainly to non-vanilla fragrances too, unless it is a really, really good scent. (And brown lemon poppyseed just doesn't work!!)
    I really like vanilla scents, too, but I wish I liked making candles, Holly!

  5. Like yourself, I too, have learned to EMBRACE the brown...lol. It seems that there are just too many of my soap customers that love vanilla scents for me to "steer clear" of them because of my own, personal frustrations with the look of my finished product. In 6 years of soaping, it took my first 5 to "just give in" to the powers of vanillin & saponofication! hehe! P.S> LOVE your blog!

  6. Thanks, Kelley! Nice to meet ya! This blog post reminded me this morning--I have never made a straight vanilla soap. I think I've been overwhelmed by the choices (not the fact that it will turn brown). I need to remedy that!

  7. I think your Lemon Poppyseed soap still looks lovely even with the discoloration, Amy! It sounds like a fantastic scent. It is a bummer when an FO discolors when you don't want it to. If I am going for a certain color or effect, I have to be careful to select an FO that won't discolor. Otherwise, I just roll with the discoloration and try to find a way to make it work. :)

  8. Totally true. I used a wonderful vanilla scent that I didn't check beforehand - turned all my soap this dark brown color. Which was fine b/c I added oatmeal - but still a big turn off, like you said.

    I have yet to get another vanilla scent as I've been tweaking over citrus scents so far this spring!

    By the way - this soap is gorgeous. I love the upsweep with the accent of lavender. Stunning.

  9. This is a really beautiful soap, it looks so rustic. I was not aware about this change of colour with vanilla, thank you Amy!
    I believe I will want to try this vanilla&lavender combination .

  10. I think still think the Vanilla Lavender soap looks great! Especially with the dark purple of the lavender against the creamy dark brown.

  11. I think it's beautiful! I've learned to embrace the brown for some favorite scents. If I want some contrast I just leave a bit unscented to swirl or whatever pattern strikes me :)


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