The History of Hemp Soap and a DIY Recipe

Jessica McKeil June 7, 2020 0 comments

Hemp oil products are popping up in the pantry, makeup bag, first aid kit, and now in personal skin care.

Hemp oil, a product of hemp seeds (not flowers), is the main ingredient in hemp-based soaps. Beauty and all-natural brands are rapidly launching new hemp soap products due to everyone’s excitement about this novel ingredient.

The rising popularity of hemp products is leading curious people to make hemp soap at home. Making soap with healthy, natural, ingredients is an easy way to control what goes into your beauty products — down to the very last drop.

What is the History of Hemp Soap?

Hemp soap might be all the rage among natural-beauty care companies today, but it has actually been around since medieval times. Researchers have found mentions of hemp oil and hemp soap in British medical texts from the era.

During this pre-petroleum time period, makers used hemp seed oil, along with other natural ingredients, to make a product known as “soft soap”. This soft hemp soap was safe to use on people, but also strong enough for industrial applications of the time.

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The Science Behind Topical Applications of Hemp

There are dozens of unsupported claims about the benefits of hemp soap making the rounds online. A search for the “benefits of hemp soap” returns thousands of DIY blogs and beauty gurus talking about the soothing, blemish reducing, and anti-inflammatory properties of the product.

Although there is a growing body of research into the possible benefits of hemp oil in topical applications, at the time of writing, there was nothing explicitly looking at hemp soap. Nevertheless, based on preliminary work looking at hemp oil for skincare, we have a few scientifically supported ideas about the beneficial properties of hemp-based soaps. These are strong theories, but not yet proven.

First off, hemp oil is an emollient. An emollient product is one that soothes and softens the skin. In 2019, a clinical study looked at the emollient properties of a cream made from hemp oil and CBD oil. The results of this study are still under analysis.[1]Avicanna Inc., (2019). Effect of an Emollient Cream Containing 0.5% Cannabidiol and 1% Hemp Oil in the Hydration and Erythema of the Skin. Identification No.. NCT04045314. Retrieved from … Continue reading

Secondly, hemp “has a remarkable fatty acid profile,” according to the authors of Comprehensive Natural Products II, in the Chemistry of Cannabis chapter. Hemp seeds usually measure between fifty to seventy percent linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid, and between fifteen to twenty percent linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Healthy skin biologically requires regular doses of dietary or topical applications of fatty acid.

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Importantly, essential fatty acids (like the ones in hemp seed oil) mimic the natural oils produced by our skin, creating a natural barrier. This oily boundary protects our skin from drying out, and from the absorption of certain environmental toxins. According to a summary by Oregon State University from the Micronutrient Center, “Both topical application and oral supplementation are effective means of delivering EFAs to the skin and systemic circulation.”

hemp soap with cannabis leaves

How to Make Hemp Soap at Home

Soap making is an ancient tradition, and one seeing a bit of a come back among people who enjoy DIY activities as well as people concerned with reducing harsh chemicals in their homes. The following recipe is adapted from Humblebee & Me.

Quick note: it is not vegan-friendly, due to the addition of tallow (an animal fat).

Hemp Seed Oil Soap


10 percent Shea butter

30 percent Tallow or lard

25 percent Coconut oil

5 percent Castor oil

17 percent Hemp oil

13 percent olive oil

Lye (see Soap Calculator for precise measurements)


Optional: Essential Oils, dried herbs, natural dyes


Two soap molds

Safety gear (goggles, rubber gloves, mask)


Large metal mixing bowl

Immersion blender

Sharp knife

hemp soap with leaves


  1. Melt all fats together over low heat, stir until combined, and set aside until room temperature. Use a large pot that will eventually accommodate all ingredients, including the lye-water mixture.
  2. Create a lye-water mixture using calculations from a Soap Calculator, for precise measurements based on the fats. Allow mixture to come to room temperature.
  3. Carefully combine both room-temperature mixtures and gently stir to combine. Lye water is dangerous at this stage, so ensure you are wearing your safety gear, including rubber gloves, goggles, and a mask.
  4. Using a hand blender or immersion blender, mix for roughly two to three minutes to achieve “trace.” Trace means the mixture leaves traces when it’s drizzled over the surface.
  5. Add essential oils and coloring if desired. Mix again until just combined.
  6. Pour mixture into the soap molds, decorate if desired.
  7. All to fully set (roughly 24 hours) before cutting into individual bars.

Hemp Soap is a Gentle Addition to Your Daily Beauty Routine

Beauty gurus aren’t wrong when they recommend hemp oil-based soaps and beauty products, but we might need a bit more scientific study to confirm (once and for all) the therapeutic qualities.

Preliminary evidence into topical applications of hemp oil and hemp soaps suggests hemp oil is a healthy natural fat. As a known emollient, it likely has potent soothing and softening qualities. Plus, it’s high in fatty acids, which could also prove immensely beneficial to the skin’s natural protection mechanism and act as a natural hydration boost.

Hemp oil is an increasingly popular ingredient for all-natural beauty products. Beauty gurus and big-brands are already banking on its potential therapeutic qualities. One could easily buy these products, but why not learn to make hemp soap at home? The process is a great way to take control of your beauty routine.


Author avatar

Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

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