When you make soap in a log mold (like I do for most of the Sirona Springs soaps), a new way to decorate that top edge of the bar is always welcome. The mica oil swirl is something that I’ve been watching other soapmakers do all of last year, with some great results! (Just Google “mica oil swirl soap” and you’ll see what I mean).
I gave it a try recently and found that, like most new skills, it takes a bit of practice. And that (also like most new skills) once you get it, the results are totally worth it!
Using micas to swirl soap
Micas are a class of soap colorants that soapmakers use because they blend easily and come in lots of vibrant colors. They also have a lovely sparkling look to them. Think “shimmery eyeshadow” and you’ll have a good idea of what I’m talking about. Micas are what make eyeshadows sparkle the way they do. But in cold process soap, the shimmer is lost when the mica is mixed into the soap. The color is still vibrant, but no sparkle.
This technique is so exciting because it keeps the shimmer of the mica in cold process soap.
Mixing the oil and the mica
The first step is to mix some mica with a bit of light oil. I used olive oil. Other kinds of oils that could be used are sweet almond, rice bran, or safflower. I used 2 parts oil to 1 part of mica. That ratio gave a pretty good consistency: not too runny and not pasty. I mixed them up in these little glass custard cups that I use to mix all my soap colors. But little Dixie cups or small plastic portion cups would work well, too.
Once the mica oil is ready, the soap is made in the usual way and poured into a mold. I was using some little wood molds that each hold one pound of soap.
Swirling the mica oil
The mica oil is drizzled on top of the soap right after pouring it, while it’s still loose enough to be swirled around. You can use a spoon or plastic pipette to drizzle the oil. Then choose a tool like a skewer or chopstick to swirl the oil around.
I was really surprised at how thin the mica oil is. I’m used to swirling with soap batter that is colored, but this flows and spreads out so much more easily. I quickly figured out that only a few drops are needed to get a nice wispy swirl.
In my first tries I drizzled on more mica oil and the soap ended up more heavily colored. That’s not necessarily a bad thing (especially with this beautiful copper mica), but it was good to learn.
One of my favorite swirls was with the gold and pearly white micas. I chose those colors for this soap because I had scented it with a vanilla fragrance oil, which I knew was going to turn the soap brown. It can be so difficult to make brown soap look pretty, but this mica oil swirl really fit the bill perfectly!
With this technique, you only need a little bit of mica and a little bit of swirling to have a really big impact.
Have you tried this yourself yet? Leave me a link in the comments and show off your own beauty!