Annatto Seeds Soap Making

Today, we are going to be taking a look at annatto seeds soap making techniques to color your product 100% all naturally from a bright sunny yellow to a deep dark orange. This botanical will produce different shades depending on the method of inclusion and how many of the seeds are used. Soap colored with annatto seeds can be quite spectacular! Let's take the guess work out of using them in your product!

annatto seed soap

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This annatto seeds soap making tutorial is meant to be extremely thorough, exploring all aspects of coloring your soap with annatto seeds. So, please don't be intimidated by its length. It is a fun and interesting read and is full of useful pictures along the way. So, sit back, relax, and enjoy learning all about using annatto seeds in soap making! I hope this page will be a useful resource for you and will be referred to again and again. Don't forget to share it with your fellow soap makers!

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Below is a picture of all the annatto seed colored soap batches that I created for this tutorial using the Soap Making Resource 2 pound no-line acrylic soap mold. There were 8 batches in all! Especially when placed next to each other, you can clearly see the different shades that are achievable using the various annatto seeds soap making methods. Keep reading for complete instructions and more pictures below...

all my annatto seed soap batches

Due to the length of this tutorial, below I have included a table of contents for your convenience.

I strongly recommend, however, that you read this whole page so that you can get an idea of all the various annatto seeds soap making methods and choose the one that is best for you!

In this lesson, I will be going over my recommended amount of annatto seeds to use and the various methods for incorporating them into your batch to color your soap naturally. Of course, you can always experiment with different quantities if you'd like to adjust the strength of your hue.

I think that this tutorial will give you a nice starting point and take away most of the guess work as you'll be able to personally see the resulting soaps from using a specific amount of annatto seeds for coloring. Then, if you want to adjust the shade, simply increase or decrease the amount of seeds or length of infusion.

Infusing Annatto Seeds into your Liquid Oil

Infusing annatto seeds into one of your liquid soap making oils is my recommended annatto seeds soap making method. The seeds infuse very nicely and you won't get that scratchy feel in your bar that sometimes accompanies adding botanical powders to your batch.

For my annatto seeds soap making demonstration, I will be using a simple 4 oil soap recipe. Here it is:

* This recipe has a 5% super fat.
* Ingredients are available to purchase at the online store.

There are 21 ounces of oils in this soap batch which after the lye and water are added will produce 2 pounds of soap total. I will be using the 2 pound Soap Making Resource no-line acrylic soap mold for this batch. The 2 pound Soap Making Resource wooden cutting slot mold will also work for this annatto seeds soap making demonstration if you are following along!

Our first step is to get our annatto infusion ready. When infusing our oil with a natural colorant, the goal is to extract the color of the colorant into our soap making oil. This infused oil is then used in our batch to color the soap.

We will be infusing at the rate of 4 teaspoons annatto seeds per 8 ounces of oil. It's easiest to prepare your infusion completely separately from the rest of the oils in your batch.

NOTE: If you make more infused oil then needed for your annatto seeds soap making recipe, it's not a problem. Actually, I recommend it! Just keep the extra infused oil in a jar and store it in a cool, dark place. Then the next time you want to use annatto seeds for coloring your soap, you're all set to go! Keep in mind that the longer you store your oil with annatto seeds, the darker the color will become so you may need to adjust how much infused oil you use in your batch. If you want to avoid the darkening of your infusion, for producing a more consistent color, remove the annatto seeds before storing the excess oil.

For results similar to mine, just stick with the proportions above for your infusion. For example, if you want to make 16 ounces of infused oil, use 8 teaspoons of annatto seeds. For 32 ounces, use 16 teaspoons of annatto seeds and so on. Just stick with 4 teaspoons annatto seeds for every 8 ounces of oil.

So, I've measured out 1 cup of olive oil and placed 4 teaspoons whole annatto seeds into it. Now I will apply heat. Pour the combination of olive oil and annatto seeds into a crock pot and set at a low heat setting for approximately 2 hours. Keep in mind that you can use any liquid oil for your infusion... You don't have to use olive oil if you don't want to.

annatto infused oil in crockpot

If you don't have a crock pot, you can simmer the annatto seeds and olive oil mixture on your cooktop at a VERY low heat for the same amount of time as you would have done in the crock pot. Make sure the heat setting is as low as it can possibly go. You don't want to scorch your oil or burn the annatto seeds!

Alternately, you can use the "cold infusion method". Simply place your olive oil and annatto seed mixture into a mason jar and let it set. Occasionally give the jar a good shake. After about a week or two, the infused oil will be ready for your annatto seeds soap making project.

annatto seeds cold infusion

OK... so your 4 teaspoon to 8 ounce oil infusion is ready to go... right? Here's a picture of what it should look like...

annatto seeds in crockpot after infusion

As you can see, the infused oil appears to have a deep red-ish amber tone, but the oil will indeed produce a yellow to orange hue in your soap. Annatto infused oil looks absolutely beautiful, doesn't it!

Below is a picture of the infused annatto seed oil that is pictured above dropped onto a piece of paper towel. As you can see, the color produced is yellow, not red.

annatto infused oil on towel

For our first annatto seeds soap making experiment, we are going to produce an orange colored soap with our annatto infused olive oil. For this darker hue, I've allowed my infused oil to take up 15% of the total oils in my recipe. You don't want to use too much because, as with any colorant, it can bleed from the soap and give you a colored lather. We don't want that! 15% I've found to be a good number for a dark color.

The math: For my batch, I have 21 ounces of oils total. 15% of 21 ounces is 3.15 ounces. So I want to use 3.15 ounces of annatto infused olive oil in my recipe. 3.15 ounces is 15% of my total oils. Let's say you are making a 5 pound batch of soap using 53 ounces of oils. How much infused oil do you use? Simply calculate 15% of 53 ounces to get 7.95 ounces. So for your recipe, you will be using 7.95 ounces of annatto infused oils. Easy, right!

My recipe, as shown at the beginning of this tutorial, already has 8.4 ounces of olive oil in it, so we will use the 3.15 ounces of annatto infused olive oil and 5.25 ounces of non-infused olive oil to get the total of 8.4 ounces of olive oil that is needed for my annatto seeds soap making batch.

annatto seed infused olive oil and regular olive oil

Now go ahead and make soap as usual! I am using the standard cold process method for this tutorial.

You can add the annatto infused oil in with the rest of your soap making oils or you can add the infused oil to your soap a few seconds after pouring your lye solution into the batch. The latter will allow you to watch your mixture turn colors. It's personally my preferred method. Don't wait till trace though to include your infused oil portion. Add the infused oil right away after initially mixing the lye into your oils. You need plenty of time to properly mix in the annatto infused portion of oil and certainly don't want to risk having your batch solidify in the pot by delaying too long.

pouring annatto infused oil
Never made soap before or need a refresher? Check out my soap recipe section and follow along step by step with one of my tried and true formulations.

Here's a picture of the resulting soap from the 15% annatto infused oil batch. Isn't it lovely!

annatto seed soap 15% infusion

Next, let's try reducing the amount of infused oil in your annatto seeds soap making recipe for more of a yellow color. Below is a picture of the annatto seed soap with the infused oil taking up 5% of my recipe. Remember... I had 21 ounces of oils in my recipe, so 5% is 1.05 ounces of infused oil.

annatto seed soap 5% infusion

Let's dig a little deeper now. Will a really high percentage of annatto infused oil in your soap cause bleeding and a colored lather? Here, I've made soap with 35% of my recipe as annatto seed infused oil. Sure enough, my lather was yellow and the color bled. Apparently, 35% is WAY too much! It made a pretty interesting color though... as you can see below:

annatto seed soap 35% infusion
washing hands with annatto seed soap

Adding annatto seeds to the lye solution

Another annatto seeds soap making method is to add the annatto seeds to your hot lye solution and allow them to soak until the color is extracted from the seeds into the lye. Then use this lye solution in your batch to color your soap.

Add the seeds immediately after the lye solution is created while the solution is still very warm. This heat, naturally created when the lye and water is combined, will help extract the color from the seeds into the liquid.

Below, you can see a picture of the annatto seeds soaking in the lye solution. It doesn't take long for the color to start to extract and become ready for your annatto seeds soap making experiment...

annatto infused lye

The seeds are then removed from the lye, using a fine stainless steel strainer and the now colored lye is used in your soap making process to color the entire batch of soap.

I like to filter out the seeds as I am pouring the lye into my soap making oils. You can see me doing this in the picture below:

filtering out annatto seeds

Below is a picture of a soap that I colored with annatto seeds soaked in lye. I added exactly two teaspoons of annatto seeds to my lye solution and let them soak for 3.5 hours before using the colored lye in my batch. For consistencies sake, I also used the same recipe that I've been using throughout this annatto seeds soap making tutorial. Click here to review that recipe now. As you can see, the soap turned out very yellow when using this annatto seeds soap making method. I really liked this color!

annatto seed soap after seeds soaked in lye

This was a 2 pound batch of soap, so if you make a larger batch, be sure to adjust your annatto seed amount accordingly. Since I used 2 teaspoons of seeds for this 2 pound batch of soap, the rate I used consequently was 1 teaspoon annatto seeds per pound of soap. So, if you are making a 5 pound batch, use 5 teaspoons annatto seeds. If you are making a 10 pound batch, use 10 teaspoons annatto seeds... if, of course, you want a similar hue to mine.

For a darker color, add more seeds and allow it to soak longer. For a lighter color, add less seeds and allow it to soak for less time.

Adding your whole annatto seeds to the lye solution is a great annatto seeds soap making method to use, especially for those who don't want to fool around with making the adjustments to your recipe when infusing one of the liquid soap making oils in your batch. Simply add the seeds to your lye solution, drain out the seeds once the color is extracted and then add the colored lye to your batch. Couldn't be simpler!

Add Annatto Seed Powder to Soap

Let's now take a look at the possibility of adding annatto seeds in powdered form to your soap. There are definitely a few detriments to this method compared with infusing.

For one... whenever adding a powdered botanical to your soap, you risk giving your product a scratchy feel. Not all powdered botanicals will cause this scratchiness, but some will.

Secondly, some powdered botanicals can give your soap a speckled look. This can be a good or a bad thing depending on your preferences.

As you can see below, I've grounded up about 2 teaspoons of seeds in my coffee grinder for use in my annatto seeds soap making batch.

ground up annatto seeds

For my 2 pound batch, I will be adding 1/2 a teaspoon of powdered annatto seeds at light trace. This rate is 1/4 teaspoon per pound of soap. I am using the same 4 oil recipe as described above.

Let me note here that I do not add the powder directly to my traced soap. I simply remove an ounce or two of the soap from the pot and try to mix the powder into this small portion as best I can. This methodology helps to avoid clumping that can sometimes occur when adding the powdered botanical to your entire batch all at once.

mixing annatto seed powder into soap

Once the powder is thoroughly integrated, pour this small portion of oil into the rest of your batch and mix it in.

pouring annatto seed powder into soap

Alternately, you can add the powder to the lye solution if you so desire.

Here's the resulting soaps from adding the annatto seed powder for color:

annatto seed powder soap

After testing the soap, I did notice a slight scratchy feel. Furthermore, it did have a bit of a speckled look as expected.

One thing I should note here... I have read that some annatto seed powder is actually not powdered whole seeds, but rather a powdered form of the outside shell of the seed. Apparently, this outer shell is what contains the color. So, the results may be different if this type of powder is used instead of grinding up the whole seeds at home.

How will Super Fat Percentage Affect your Annatto Colored Soap?

Next we are going to take a look at whether or not our soap's super fat percentage will affect the color produced by the various annatto seeds soap making methods. Don't know what a super fat percentage is? Click here for an explanation.

Increasing your soaps super fat percentage is said to affect the PH level of your bar. Some natural colorants are sensitive to PH levels and will produce different colors depending on whether they are high or low.

In an attempt to test annatto seeds I have taken the same recipe that was used above, but increased the super fat percentage from 5% to 12%. Everything else has remained exactly the same.

Here are the new ingredient proportions with the now 12% super fat percentage:

As you can see, the only proportion that has changed was our lye amount. This lye discount has increased our super fat percentage to 12% as is needed for this annatto seeds soap making test.

Please note that the same proportion of 4 teaspoons annatto seeds per 8 ounces of oils has been used.

I am allowing the infused oil portion to take up 15% of my total oils as in the first example higher up on this page in which we created the medium hued orange soap. We will compare our coloring results with the only alteration being the higher super fat percentage.

Here are the pictures of my results:

annatto seed soap 12% superfat
annatto seed soap 5% superfat

As you can see from the pictures above, with this particular natural soap colorant, no significant changes occur when the super fat percentage is at a higher level. The color of the 5% super fat bar and 12% super fat bar are pretty much identical.

Will the Gel Phase Affect the Color Produced by Annatto Seeds?

Some soap makers allow their soap to go through the gel phase while others do not. When making soap, heat is naturally produced through the saponification reaction. If this heat is allowed to build and the gel phase is reached, it can potentially have an affect on the hue produced by the colorant used in your batch. Some colorants are changed more drastically by the gel phase then others.

So how will this extreme heat affect annatto seed colored soaps if allowed to build up to the point of gel? Well... Let's take a look. Below, you will see pictured an annatto seeds soap making batch that was covered with a lid, wrapped with a heating pad and insulated heavily with towels consequently forcing it to go through the gel phase.

gelled annatto seed soap

This soap was made using the same recipe as used for our first annatto seeds soap making batch that was demonstrated at the top of this page. Here is the recipe again:

The same annatto seed proportion of 4 teaspoons of seeds per 8 ounces of oils was used for the infusion. The annatto infused oil was allowed to take up 15% of our total oils and the super fat percentage was kept at 5%. Here is the final soap after going through the gel phase:

annatto seed soap after gel

The following soap pictured directly below was not allowed to go through the gel phase. Gel can be prevented by leaving the lid off the mold and placing the batch immediately in the freezer in order to keep it cool. As our goal was to compare the affects that the gel phase would have on annatto colored soap if all else is equal, the recipe was kept exactly the same as the one mentioned above for our annatto seeds soap making batch that was allowed to go through gel.

annatto seed soap that did not go through gel

As you can see from comparing the two pictures above, the gel phase does indeed affect the color produced by annatto seeds in soap. The soap that was allowed to gel, produced a much darker color then the soap that did not go through gel. The color of the gelled soap is actually very similar to the 35% annatto infused oil recipe from earlier in this tutorial except it doesn't bleed or have colored suds. That being said, I think it is safe to say that allowing your soap to gel is a great way to achieve a darker color in annatto seeds soap making without using so much of the infused oil that you gain adverse affects, like color bleeding.

Other Notes about Annatto Seeds Soap Making...

There are a few more things that I should make note of... First of all, you can re-use the annatto seeds a couple of times after the first infusion. Just keep in mind that they will probably produce less and less color each time they are used.

Also, to retain the vibrant color of annatto seeds, keep your soap, any infused oil and the seeds out of sunlight. Store your finished product in a very dark environment.

Annatto seed colored soaps are absolutely perfect for your bars scented with citrus essential oils like orange, lemon, grapefruit etc. has a large variety of 100% pure essential oils for you to choose from.

Closing Statement...

I hope that this annatto seeds soap making tutorial was helpful for you all! Thank you for taking the time to read it and thank you for considering as your source for quality soap making supplies.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions. I'm happy to help!

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