Creating Exfoliating Soap Using Walnut Powder

Designing a new soap

While mulling soap ideas in my mind, it landed on walnut powder.  Since the walnut powder wouldn't leave my thoughts, I decided to make it a focal point in my next soap.  With that decision made, the process of designing a new soap was in overdrive.


Ground Walnut Powder

Sometimes coming up with a name is the last thing to do, but in this case I soon had a name - "In a Nutshell" and helped to further define the theme.

I knew I wanted to include many "nutty" oils so it promised to be a very different formulation than my usual base recipe.

I also knew that I wanted colors to be natural and neutral.  It would have browns as the predominant color.  The design itself would be simple and not heavily swirled.

And of course, it would include walnut powder to exfoliate.

Selecting the Ingredients

Staying with a nut theme, I settled on these oils:

Apricot Kernel Oil

Super Powers:  Similar to the makeup of Sweet Almond Oil, Apricot Kernel Oil is high in vitamin E, lightweight and easily absorbed by the skin without leaving it feeling oily. It exhibits skin softening and moisturizing properties and is therefore recommended for skin that is dry, irritated or has prematurely aged. It produces small bubbles.

Usage Notes: Usage rates up to 15%.  Apricot Kernel Oil may produce a softer bar.

Avocado Oil

Super Powers: Avocado oil is from the pulp of the Avocado fruit not the "nut", but it contains vitamins A, D, and E which makes gives it healing properties as well as moisturizing.  It is particularly good for mature and dry or scaly skin and scalps.

Usage Notes:  Avocado Oil is generally used at 20% or less in cold process recipes.

Castor Oil

Super Powers: Castor Oil is my wild card oil as it's not a "nutty" oil, but castor oil is a great humectant attracting moisture to your skin and makes a wonderful stable lush lather.   I rarely make a bar of soap that doesn't include castor.

Usage Notes:  Usage rates can be as high as 25% although you may notice the bars are a bit stickier at the higher amount.  Using 10% or less will eliminate the stickiness and avoid overly soft soap.  Castor oil can accelerate trace. 

Coconut Oil

Super Powers:  Hardness, Fluffy lather, and Cleansing.  Coconut oil can lather well even in hard water.

Usage Notes:  Coconut oil can be drying if used in high percentages so keep total percentage at less than 25% of oils.  If using more than 25%, then also increase superfatting in recipe to 10-15%.   

Kokum Butter

Super Powers: Kokum butter is more emollient than most butters and possesses natural healing properties.  It is often used as an alternative to cocoa butter in recipes but it is not as greasy as cocoa butter.  

Usage Notes:  Kokum Butter percentages in a recipe would be less than 15%.  It may accelerate trace.  Kokum butter has a long shelf life.

Shea Butter

Super Powers:  Shea Butter is made from shea nuts and is rich in essential fatty acids and vitamins A and E.  It easily absorbed by the skin and said to be beneficial for treating dry skin, blemishes, scars and wrinkles.  It is safe even for sensitive, fragile skin

Usage Notes:  Its usage rate in soap is typically under 15%, but is sometimes higher especially when using palm-free recipes.  In soap, it provides a stable lather, conditioning, a silky, slippery feel and can quicken trace.  It contains a large percentage of ingredients that do not react with lye, thus remaining in the soap to nourish your skin.  Shea butter an accelerate trace.

Walnut Oil

Super Powers: An emollient oil which is said to help regenerate, tone and moisturize damaged dry skin and to aid in preventing wrinkles, controlling eczema, dandruff and rough, dry or sunburned skin.  

Usage Notes: Gold in color and high in antioxidants, this emollient oil has been known to condition and moisturize skin. It can be used up to 15% in soap. ... rancidity


Picking the ingredients for this recipe was a ton of fun, as there were so many "nutty" choices.  You can substitute other oils such as Sweet Almond Oil, Kukui Nut, Macademia Nut, Peanut Oil or others.  Just make sure that you run it through a soap calculator.)

You can find more information about different oils in a great chart format at Wholesale Supplies Plus

Recipe Formulation

The recipe is a luxury bar recipe.  Because of the selected oils, the cost per bar may be a bit higher than your everyday recipe but after running it through a lye calculator.  However, I was super excited to indulge and feel the difference.  What attracts me to this recipe is the low cleansing score while still being a relatively hard conditioning bar with very good lather. 

Recipe Qualities.png

* If your recipe uses palm oil, your will be higher in Palmitic Acid.  Palm-Free recipes are generally higher in stearic acids.  Looking at them together will give you a better picture of "if you are in range."


In A Nutshell Soap Recipe

(Total Oil Weight: 32 oz)

  • 227 grams - Shea Butter (25%)
  • 181 grams - Coconut Oil (20%)
  • 136 grams - Kokum Butter (15%)
  • 91 grams - Apricot Kernal Oil (10%)
  • 91 grams - Avocado (10%)
  • 91 grams - Walnut (10%)
  • 91 grams - Castor Oil (10%)
  • Water to Lye Ratio:  2:1 and Superfat 7%
    • 232 grams - Water
    • 120 grams - Lye (NaOH)

Fragrance:  28 grams

Additives: 1 Tablespoon Ground Walnut Shells

To resize this recipe to fit your mold, use the Recipe Resizer at Summer Bee Meadow.


Follow basic soap making steps outlined quickly here.

Step 1 - Wearing safety gear, weigh the lye and weigh the water into two separate containers.

Step 2 - Pour the lye into the water while stirring. Set aside to cool.

Step 3 - Prepare Mold.

Step 4 - Weigh the hard oils/butters and melt.

Step 5 - Weigh the liquid oils and add to the melted oils/butters.

Step 6 - Take the temperature of both the oil mixture and lye solution.  Both should be around 100 degrees before proceeding.

Step 7 - Add the fragrance to the oil mixture

Prepare mold, measure lye solution, oils and gather additives.

Prepare mold, measure lye solution, oils and gather additives.

Step 8 - Slowly stir the lye solution into the oil mixture.

Step 9 - Give a few pulses with the stick blender and then alternate stirring and pulsing using the stick blender until there soap is at a thin trace.


Stick blend and stir until soap is at a thin trace.

Stick blend and stir until soap is at a thin trace.

Step 10 - Pour a portion of the batter into a separate bowl.

Step 11 - Add 1 tbsp. nutshell powder to remaining batter and stir well until there are no clumps.

Divide soap into two portions.  Add walnut powder to one.

Divide soap into two portions.  Add walnut powder to one.

Step 12 - Pour batter with nutshell powder into the prepared mold reserving a couple of tablespoons of batter.

Step 13 - Pour uncolored batter on top of the nutshell powder layer.  Pour it over a spatula so that it doesn't break thru the first layer.


Pour second layer over a spatula so it doesn't break thru the first layer.

Pour second layer over a spatula so it doesn't break thru the first layer.

Step 14 - Pour reserved batter down the center of the mold and use chopstick to swirl a design onto the top of the soap.

Step 15 - Lightly tap mold and insulate.

Top has been swirled and will be cut after 24-48 hours.

Top has been swirled and will be cut after 24-48 hours.

Step 16 - Unmold after 24-48 hours and cut and cure soaps for 4-6 weeks.

The Cut

Unmolded "In a Nutshell" and its smooth feel.

Unmolded "In a Nutshell" and its smooth feel.

After 24 hours, I removed it from the mold.  There were two things very different about this soap.  The first was the outside of the log was very slick and smooth almost like glass.  I believe this was due to the Apricot Kernel Oil in the soap.  I really loved the feel of the soap so I will be substituting 10% Apricot Kernel in my regular recipe to see if I can duplicate the feel.

The other thing was that after 24 hours, the soap was really hard.  This was due to the amount of Kokum Butter in the recipe.  When using high percentages of Kokum Butter you need to be prepared to cut soap within 24 hours.  The soap in the picture below has not been cleaned up and you can see how rough the edges are due to it being so hard at the time of cutting.  

The final cut of "In a Nutshell" with its rough edges from the high percentage of Kokum Butter.

The final cut of "In a Nutshell" with its rough edges from the high percentage of Kokum Butter.