Can you use food coloring to color soap?

Making your soap gives you the benefit of using your desired colors. If you advocate natural, organic soaps, you probably considered using colors extracted from foods and herbs. But does food coloring work in soap making?

Can you use food coloring to color soap? Food coloring is not an ideal choice for soap making in general. Some food colorants don’t retain their color during the saponification process. At the same time, most of the color will fade away while using the soap. There is also the chance that your skin gets irritated.

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Handmade soaps are a great way to express your creativity. But not always does creativity bring you the best results. When it comes to coloring your soaps, you probably should not use any food coloring, even though many people would tell you to.

Can you use food coloring to color handmade soap?

People who label their soaps as all-natural or organic don’t like using synthetic dyes. Understandable, but using food dyes even though they are FD&C approved might not be the better option. When you read FD&C-approved dyes, this means they are ‘safe’ for food and cosmetics, but this doesn’t mean they are safe for soap

How do you make natural color soap?

If you want to make natural, organic soap, you can use dyes naturally present in our food. Here is a guide to using natural foods and herbs for coloring your soap.

  • Blue (it tends to stain): found in poppy seeds.
  • Brown: red petals, cocoa, cilantro, coffee grounds, cloves, cinnamon*, ginger, rosehip seeds, comfrey root.
  • Orange: Pumpkin, orange juice, safflower petals.
  • Green: cucumber, alfalfa, aloe vera, henna, fennel, grass, dill, sage, rosemary powder, spinach, seaweed.
  • Pink: tomato, paprika*, beetroot, rose hips, hibiscus, red wine.
  • Gray: ground pumice.
  • Purple: alkanet, madder root, rattan jot.
  • Red: Moroccan clay, cochineal powder.
  • White: Kaolin clay
  • Tan: milk
  • Yellow: curry powder, saffron, annatto seed, cornmeal, marigolds, chamomile, beta carotene, blackberry, blueberry, orange peel, turmeric*, ground calendula petals.

(* use only in exfoliating bars as it may cause skin scratching)

Is food coloring safe for the skin?

If you’re new to soap making, or even if you’ve been doing it for a while, the chances are that at some point in your crafting journey, you’ve encountered the question of whether food coloring is safe for skin. Food coloring is made from natural ingredients and technically should be safe when used externally on the skin. But many people have reported reactions like redness, hives (a type of rash), itching, and swelling–all signs that something’s wrong.

Why is food coloring bad in soap?

Food colors are intended for use in food products, and they often do not go well in soaps. When you use food coloring in your soap, you can expect; 

Inconsistent Color:

Most of the food colors may fade away or morph due to the alkali’s intensity present in the soap. Using a food color is likely to give an uneven soap bar with faded color.

Fades away with use:

As the food colors are soluble in water, they come out of the soap each time you use it. In this way, the soap bar will become unattractive soon.

Leave tints:

There is a big chance that food coloring used in the soap may leave stains on the skin. Sometimes they may also cause sensitivity and skin irritation. Yes, even some natural ingredients are not so suitable for all skin types, especially sensitive skin.

What are the best types of dyes for soap making?

Some people perceive food colors as the safest colorants for soap. However, they are not an ideal choice for making soaps. Food colors are likely to fade away too soon than expected. If you mix two food colors, they will bleed into each other. Soaps made with food colors also leave tints on your skin when used for hand washing or shower.

Soap Colorants give a pleasant look to your soaps and make them attractive. The main kinds of dyes used in soap making process:

FD&C Colorants:

These are synthetic dyes that are allowed for use in soaps, foods, and cosmetics. You can find a wide variety of colors in FD&C colorants. They come in both powder and liquid forms.

Soap Making Pigments:

These pigments are specially developed to work well in any soap-making process, be it cold process, melt and pour, or hot process. You can choose from a huge variety of soap pigments, the colors you desire in your soap. They contain oxides and ultramarines.


Micas also make a suitable dye for soaps. When seen in light, they appear slightly shimmery, especially when used in clear melt and pour. They also come in a variety of colors, and we cannot class them as totally natural.

Can I use food coloring in cold process soap?

Food coloring for cold process soap is not suitable; it typically contains sugar which will accelerate trace and make your soap rubbery. Since food coloring is soluble in water and oil, it won’t be easy to see the definition between the colors.

Can I use food coloring in liquid soap?

Another common question that people who are new to soap making ask is, “Can I use food coloring in liquid soap?” Liquid soap is a lot like cake batter. The ingredients are mixed together and heated up, then poured into a mold or dish for cooling. However, food coloring can’t be used because it will change the mixture’s pH and make it unsafe to use on your skin. Soap crafters have come up with alternatives that give their soaps funky colors while still being safe for you!

How to color soap the right way?

There are many different ways you can color your soap, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Here is how you can use the soap colorants in the right way.

Using Pigments in Cold Process:

For the cold process, soap dissolves 1 tbsp. Of pigment in a tbsp. Of lightweight oil such as avocado or almond. You can increase the quantities depending on the batch size—1 tbsp. Dispersion will suffice 1 pound of soap.

Using Pigments in Melt and Pour:

For melt and pour, we will use glycerin to mix the pigment. You can also use 99% isopropyl alcohol alternatively. The pigment to a solvent will remain 1:1. Slightly pour this mixture (only ¼ tsp. at a time) in the melt and pour soup until you reach the desired shade.

If you have a pigment block, you can simply shred a little bit of it and mix it well in the soap mixture. 

Using Micas in Cold Process:

Micas often fade or morph during the saponification process. Therefore it is better to test them or check the manufacturer’s instructions. 

For small batches, mix 1 tbsp of mica in a light oil like avocado or sweet almond and add to the cold process soap mixture. Increase the quantity by 1:1 proportion if you are creating larger quantities of soap with this technique

Using Mica in Melt and Pour:

Add mica directly into melt and pour soap mixture and mix well until well blended. ½ teaspoon mica is sufficient for each pound of soap. You can also use 99% isopropyl alcohol to make a suspension first. Then add this color suspension to the soap mixture.

Using Lab Colors:

Before you add lab colors to your soap, you will have to dilute them in distilled water, and often a preservative is also added to that mixture. ½ ml of this dilution is sufficient for one pound of soap. They work best during the gel phase.

Using Natural colorants in Cold Process:

The dilution formula is 1 tbsp. Of powder in 1 tbsp. Of lightweight oil. Clay goes best in distilled water. Making oil-based infusions is also a good way to incorporate food colorants in soap.

Using Natural colorants in Melt and Pour: 

The dilution formula is 1 tsp. Powder with 1 tbsp. 99% isopropyl alcohol. You can also mix it with distilled water. Add gradually in the melt and pour base until the desired shade is achieved. 

Using food coloring in glycerin soap

If you are looking for a way to color soap the right way, it’s pretty easy. Here is one way to do it. The first thing you need is a bar of clear glycerin soap. You then soak your soap in water and then add a few drops of food coloring or liquid dye. You will want to make sure that the colors are mixing well before pouring them into your mold.

If there are any bubbles, it’s best if you use an immersion blender or stick blender until they subside. The last step is just waiting for them to set up!

Final Verdict:

The pigments made for soaps are formulated so that they are not soluble in water or oil. If you are a soap enthusiast who loves to experiment with soaps without worrying too much about the results, you can try natural pigments and food colorings. 

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