If you're worried about working with lye, rebatching is an excellent way to get started with soap-making. While you can't actually make soap without lye, rebatching lets you use already made soap (good, high quality soap - just like you'd make yourself!) and add colors and fragrances, so you can "make it your own."
Rebatching is the process of taking existing soap, melting it down, adding additional ingredients (such as colors or fragrances), and then allowing it to cool into a hard bar.
There are many rebatch bases available and most of them use the same exact pure, natural ingredients that you would use to make soap from scratch! Finding a good, high-quality rebatch base is easy, unlike the melt and pour bases which use harsh detergents and are no better than commercial soaps!
Not only is rebatching fairly simple to learn, but it's also a useful technique for your soap-making arsenal. Rebatching is often used by experienced soap-makers when something turns out not-quite-right in their soap. Rather than buy soap to rebatch, they use their own homemade soap and add what's needed to fix any problems. It's a way to save soap that didn't turn out as expected.
Rebatching is also a good way to try out new soap ideas. It's much easier to make one large batch of plain soap that can be divided into 5-10 smaller rebatch projects, each with a different combination of scents and colors, than it is to cook 5-10 batches of experimental soap. Rebatching, in this case, saves you time and work - and avoids the possibility that you'll be stuck with a large batch of funny-smelling soap that you really don't want to use or give away!
There is one final advantage of working with rebatch soap. Being able to add fragrances and colors to "finished" soap means your additives survive much better (they're not broken down by the chemical processes during soap-making). This gives a more colorful bar with a stronger scent.
To rebatch soap, you'll simply melt it down, add your own colors and fragrances, and then let the soap cool again. It's really that simple. Again, this method requires NO lye at all - the soap that you buy for rebatching has already been created using lye, and the lye has been completely used up in making the soap, so it won't be active.
When you shop for a rebatch base, check the ingredients. You should recognize most of them! Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) will be an ingredient, but remember, it has already turned to soap, and is no longer dangerous. You'll also see different types of oil (such as olive oil and palm oil.)
What you don't want to see is chemicals, such as "sodium lauryl sulfate". There are so many great rebatch bases available, it's worth spending the extra 10 seconds online to check the ingredients and make sure you get one of the good ones!