Mom & Me a Long Time Ago
No matter what kind of Mom we have – some are stern, some are kind, some are soft-spoken but carry a big stick, some are fun, some chose us, etc – Moms have a special place in our hearts and lives. From the time we are born they help to shape us and make us the people we are today. While they aren’t the only factor, they are a “major contributing” factor.
I became a parent well into my 30′s and up until then, I never fully realized how hard motherhood is. I only have two kids spaced almost 4 years apart. I’m still amazed at the job she did with four kids with the first and last only 3 1/2 years apart. There was constant movement in our house and such a wide range of personalities and abilities that I’m sure what worked for one didn’t work at all for the other. Are we all perfect? Of course not. Was she perfect? Of course not. To expect perfection for 18 years is asking a little too much of anyone. I know as a Mom I struggle with balance between being fun, stern, over-protective and even having a bad day. So here’s a glass raised in toast for all the good things my Mom did for me and all the sacrifices that she made for all of us.
I use a variety of additives, most of them are natural, but not all of them. I am going to group them into categories to make them easier to talk about.
* Herbs – I add a few herbs mostly for interest or color, but sometimes for effect. Finely powdered oatmeal is actually really great for your skin. These are all-natural.
* Exfoliants – These add a little scrub. Some of the exfoliants are poppy seeds, oatmeal, almond meal and rosehip powder. These help to clear away the old skin to reveal healthy new skin underneath. They are also great for gardeners, painters and anyone who needs to scrub away dirt and grime.
* Colorants – These add all the color and interest that help sell the soaps. Most are minerals such as ultramarine and oxides. I also occasionally use herbs or other plant materials such as green algae and cinnamon. I have also used clays.
* Essential Oils – These are natural fragrances that are distilled from plant materials. I try to list these out on the labels but sometimes run out of room. I do list these out on the website where I don’t have to worry about space. If I don’t have the room to list them individually they will just be listed as “fragrance”.
Peppermint Essential Oil
* Fragrance Oils – These are synthetic fragrances or natural scents that are not distilled. Many are a blend of both. I use these because it means that I can offer a much larger variety of scents.
* Vitamin E – this acts as an antioxidant and helps to preserve the oils that weren’t converted to soap. They help to keep the bars from going “rancid”.
* Silk – The Tussah Moth Silk I use in some of my soaps is harvested in the wild. I clip the silk into tiny pieces and let it soak in the lye mixture. Some of it dissolves and some remains in these small strands. It helps make the soap a little harder and also gives it a little “slip”.
Natural Shea Butter
Over the years I have used a variety of plant and nut oils and butters as my base oils. Just as each oil or butter (basically a solid oil) is different in its base form, they are all different after they react with the sodium hydroxide. That’s one reason I like to use a variety of oils in my quest to make the perfect soap. It’s a fine balance between oils that clean, oils that lather and oils that moisturize all the while trying to make a blend that is also hard enough that it won’t melt in the soap dish. My basic recipe is made with olive and/or rice bran oil, coconut oil, and organic and sustainable palm oil. Those aren’t the only oils, just the ones that make up the greatest percentage. I also add in almond oil, avocado oil, shea butter and cocoa butter. Here is an overview of the more common oils and how they help the soap.
* Olive and rice bran are both gentle cleansers that provide a nice fine lather.
* Coconut oil helps to make the bar harder while also making a great cleanser and lots of lather. It’s an important oil to use in the soaps, but you don’t want too much or it will be drying.
* Palm oil helps to make the soap a little harder while being gentle on the skin and offering lather. I use organic and sustainable palm oils to help support the communities around the world that are using sustainable practices and preserving the plants and animals in their native countries.
* Almond, Avocado and Jojoba oil are gentle and moisturizing. A fairly small percentage can make a big difference in how the soap feels. They have a tendency to make the soap softer so I don’t use too much of these in my formulas.
* Shea and Cocoa butters add a different “feel” to the soap and help to make it more moisturizing. These butters remain more “intact” as oils than the oils listed above. That makes these oils very moisturizing when used in base formula. Since they are harder in their raw form, they also make the soap harder. They are not “healing” like they can be in their raw form.
Basil Citrus Watermint Soap in the Mold
I make my soaps in relatively small batches of 48 bars. Even at 48 bars the initial recipe weighs about 16 pounds. To start out, I carefully measure all of my ingredients and bring everything to about the same temperature. I don my gloves and goggles and mix the oils, lye and other additives together by hand in a large pot. When the mixture just starts to turn into soap and thicken, I add color and fragrances to it. Then I pour it into a large “slab mold” or block. When I pour the soap into the mold, I can layer and swirl and add other effects as well as texture the top. This step requires perfect timing but it is also the one that gives my soaps my artistic look. I cover the mold and insulate the soap with towels and blankets for a day. During this time the soap actually heats up because saponification is exothermic and releases heat. During the peak heat the soap goes through a “gel” phase which looks kind of opaque. When it cools back down the texture and color of the soap changes back to its final color.
Freshly Cut Green Tea Soaps
After a day or two I take apart the mold and let the soap sit for another few days before I cut it. First have to cut off the sides and slice it into logs. After that I can slice it into bars and put it on a curing rack. During this time, the soap will continue changing. The lye continues to react with the oils in the soap and the water evaporates. While I could use these soaps now, if I let them sit for about a month they will get gentler and harder. I let them sit on the racks for at least two weeks before I trim the edges and put them in boxes to finish curing. The total cure time is a minimum of 4 weeks before I can package them.
(c) Can Stock Photo Inc. / ScantyNebula
I have had so many questions about the different types of soap that I thought I should write it all down. And if I’m going to write it all down, I may as well share it with everyone else. Now this is going to take a little longer than one post, so you will have to bear with me over several posts.
This first post is just going to be an overview of the different bar soaps that you run across. Pleaese note that some soaps belong in more than one category.
- True Soap – True soap as defined by the FDA: “The bulk of the nonvolatile matter in the product consists of an alkali salt of fatty acids and the product’s detergent properties are due to the alkali-fatty acid compounds.” So what does this really mean? In short, true soap is what you get when you mix oils (both plant and animal oils or fats) with a strong base such as sodium hydroxide (lye). Ivory is a popular true soap.
- Cold Process (CP), Hot Process (HP) or CP/HP Soap – These are all true soaps made with similar ingredients, but at different temperatures. Each method produces a different texture and has different curing times but produces similar soaps. The ingredients in these soaps have a much greater impact on the quality of the soap than the process.
- Glycerin Soap – This is a tricky term and you almost need to ask the person using the term what they mean. Glycerin is a by-product of the “True Soap” method, so all soap should be a glycerin soap. Unfortunately, many commercial soaps remove the glycerin from the soaps so most true commercial soaps are not glycerin soaps. Handmade soaps and soaps made by smaller companies still retain the glycerin in the soaps and some people refer to these as glycerin soaps. Others only refer to translucent soaps as glycerin. Some glycerin soaps are not true soaps, but are detergent bars (see below).
- Melt and Pour Soap – These soaps are made with a base that is melted and then poured into molds. These soaps can be wonderfully artistic. Some are translucent and some are opaque, it just depends on the base. Some of these bases are true soap and some are not. The FDA does not recognize these as “soaps”. Most contain glycerin. Some are made from natural soap bases while others are made from chemicals and many are a blend of natural soaps and chemical detergents. Once again you may need to ask questions or at least look on the ingredient label.
- Triple Milled or French Milled – These soaps are generally considered luxury soaps. They are usually moisturizing, hard, long-lasting, smooth and shiny. They cannot be handmade. A soap is made using oils and lye and then it is finely grated and “milled” in a milling machine. It is rolled and blended until it forms a paste. Extra ingredients are added at one of the three milling processes. After the final stage it is molded.
- Detergent Bars – These soaps (or should I say cleansers) are made with chemicals instead of alkali salts. You will see ingredients such as sodium laurel sulphate, EDTA and glycol. Each ingredient is chosen because it lathers, cleans, decreases soap scum or changed the feel of the soap. Melt and Pour Bars are considered by the FDA to be detergent bars as well as major brands like Dove.
As I said this is just an overview. Future articles with highlight the differences between soap and detergent bars, the difference between glycerin soaps, how the ingredients affect the quality of the soap and what an ingredient list can tell you. What other information would you like to see in future articles?
White Ginger & Amber Soap
White Ginger & Amber is one of my three most popular spring and summer fragrances. It has a universal appeal that makes it an easy choice for a gift. The soaps, 15 oz Dead Sea bath salts and the 5 oz Dead Sea bath salt tubes are 10% off this month.
Merry Christmas! We’re almost there. With all the cleaning, baking, cooking and cold weather, your hands are most likely dry and maybe even cracked. I think for me it is the cleaning and the weather that really get to my hands. There are times when my hands are so dry that they develop cracks at the fingertips that never seem to heal.
Here are a few things that can help avoid severely dry hands:
- Avoid the sanitizing hand cleansers if possible, their ingredients are very drying.
- Wear protective gloves when cleaning.
- Wear gloves when going outside in cold weather.
- Find a good moisturizer and put it on every time you wash your hands.
Despite all of the hints above, I still occasionally get dry hands. Here are a few things that have helped me:
- Use a moisturizing soap. I find the handmade soaps work best.
- Use an oil or butter-based sugar or salt scrub to help exfoliate the dry layers. A salt scrub will sting if you have open cuts, but you may find the benefits far outway the mild discomfort. For severe dryness you might want to try a sugar scrub first.
- Moisturize with a product that contains a high percentage of emollient vegetable butters such as Shea butter and Cocoa butter. I like to use cocoa butter in the winter because it also provides a barrier that traps moisture under it.
You can find hand therapy kits in stores and at most skin-care sites. They are just a modification of the Wash – Exfoliate – Moisturize regime. I like to use that three-step routine at least once a day in the winter. (Of course I use my gentle handmade soaps, silky scrubs and moisturizing body butters. But you wouldn’t expect anything else, would you?)
Is the excitement just a little too much? Are you stressed because you have too many cookies to bake? Tonight is the perfect night for a long stress-relieving bath with some lavender bath salts. Depending on your Christmas Eve traditions, tomorrow could be another late night so why not make tonight perfect. A wonderful soak in Dead Sea Bath Salts with lavender essential oil is just the ticket!
© Forca | Dreamstime.com
Maybe you had a late night Christmas party or maybe you couldn’t sleep because you are a little stressed out trying to make the perfect Christmas. Dark circles can be caused by a number of things, but this time of year, stress and lack of sleep are on the top of my list. What I do know is that those pesky dark circles make me look older than all those wrinkles combined. Before you put that make-up on, there are a few simple tricks you can try to help make them less noticeable.
1. Cut some thick, cool cucumber slices and place them over your eyes for 10 – 15 minutes.
2. Take two used tea bags and place in the freezer to cool. Place them over your eyes for 10 – 15 minutes.
While the jury is still out as to whether it is something in the cucumbers that actually relieve the puffiness – the cold definitely has an effect. Hope it works for you!
Normally I steer clear of recommending natural products for hair. I simply don’t have the expertise in that area. This simple hair rinse, however, is perfect for this time of year. It’s simple and won’t do any damage if it doesn’t work for your hair. It’s also likely that you may be using more styling products with all the Christmas parties and family get togethers. It doesn’t take long for residue from shampoos, conditioners and styling products to buildup on our hair and scalp. They can weigh down and dull our hair. Cider vinegar helps remove the residue to increase both body and shine. I wouldn’t recommend this for color-treated hair. It could dull or strip the color.
Cider Vinegar Rinse
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1 quart water
1. Combine vinegar and water.
2. Apply to hair after shampooing. Leave on for a few minutes then rinse with cold water.
3. Towel dry. The scent will disappear when the hair is dry.
Don’t use more than once a week when you first start. Since everyone’s hair is different, pay attention to how your hair responds and adjust accordingly.