There are times when I simply despair of myself. I can be in such a hurry to make a soap or shampoo bar that I completely overlook the basics, which I did yet again, the day before yesterday.

I had on hand my favourite shampoo bar recipe and all the ingredients but wasn’t sure about a design until I had a light bulb moment. Drop swirls! I just love the look of those and thought it would make a nice change to have a shampoo with drop swirls, just for a change.

Now as you know to make these swirls your batter is best at the just emulsified stage,so I waited for the temperature to drop to between 80-85 degrees for both the lye and my oils and butters.

Adding my lye to my oils I was about to bring the batter to that just emulsified stage when from the bottom of the bowl it became really thick, working its way up. No amount of stirring or stick blending could change this so I quickly divided up the mixture, coloured it, added my fragrance and quickly spooned it into my mould giving it a spoon swirl to finish.

Why did it seize? Nope, wasn’t the fragrance as I hadn’t at that point added any.

Next I checked the recipe, one that I had made dozens of times without any problems until now.

Slowly but surely something stirred in the darkest recesses of my brain – temperature!

I googled all of the ingredients and their melting points and voila! Cocoa butter has a melting temperature of around 100/140 degrees and Shea isn’t far behind.

So? I hear you ask what’s wrong with that?

Everything! If the temperatures gets too low (below 85 degrees F), the batter will false trace in cold process soap, which of course it did!

False trace is caused by the saturated fatty acids solidifying and cooling before saponification begins which was exactly what cocoa butter and shea had done.

However, despite this the shampoo bars turned out fine, but I certainly won’t forget that lesson again.

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