Friday, April 16, 2010
I had this little Revelation last summer while my boyfriend broke his leg. His scalp went crazy itchy and he was just tortured by awful scaly, flaky skin. No manner of itch shampoo was putting a dent on it. I tired varying the products, I tried going unscented, I tried coating him with olive oil and coming out the flakes like nits (I know baby you are going to hate me for sending all this TMI out into cyberspace) and nothing bloody worked!
Then the following summer my daughter started flaking up too. Big snowflake sized things-then I got it(not the flakes, but like Eureka!) It was sweat. SWEAT! While his leg was broken he was running a mild fever all the time and it was causing his head to sweat. My daughter didn't have dandruff issues in the winter, only in the summer from the sweat. This sweating causes our skin to shed cells, and cells and sweat means gunked up pores and then there are zits and pimples and bigger flakes and then sometimes BOILS!!! OMG I am getting way ahead of myself.
ok, lets stick to flaky scalps. So if you have a sweaty scalp you must keep it clean and well hydrated. This means rinsing the sweat out of your hair and off your scalp daily or twice daily if you sweat copiously. Note, I didn't say Shampoo! Shampooing washes off ALL of the oils on your scalp and will leave you too dry. This is generally the problem with the dandruff shampoos-they wash off all the beneficial oils off of your scalp and leave you dry making your scalp to create more to hydrate itself and it begins this cycle of flaking that never ends. You should wash and condition (you heard me GUYS! I don't care how much hair you have. You have to condition your scalp)every other day. Use a VERY moisturizing conditioner like Aussie deep or Cholesterol products for women of color are good. It should be thick like mayonnaise and not made by Suave, or be a bargain brand there should be no petroleum or mineral oil in the product (we are not going to fund the oil wars with our beauty products, right?) . No two in one products either. Does that work in the car wash? That's what I thought. If the itching is super unbearable you can make your own anti-itch with the same ingredient the big labels do-salicylic acid. That is a fancy word for aspirin. You can crush them up and put them right in your preferred brand, or you can dissolve them in a cup of water and throw them over your head in a last rinse. Easy and cheap, right?
The other Key is exfoliation. When I lived in Hawaii my middle girl would go roll around in the beach and get sand all over her scalp and her scalp eczema would disappear for a week or two while I scrubbed away at the insistent layer of sand. You need to keep the area free of those excess skin cells. Brush as often as you can especially after you have rinsed or washed. If you haven't much hair a boar's head brush is perfect for scalp exfoliation. ( I am an animal lover and do not advocate using animal products but am using it more as a reference to the type of bristle) For longer hair you will probably need something stronger but it will need to have bristles that can get to your scalp.
Now we can move on to skin. So really the same principles apply. Let's start with eczemic skin first. The tendency with eczemic skin is to keep slathering moisturizers on but they can just be dirt attractors that exacerbate the problem. Treating eczemic skin starts in the shower. Wash with good quality soap, preferably hand crafted, but not clear glycerin soap. It is made with alcohol and regardless of any extra shea butter, aloe, glycerin or any other goodies they may add to it they will not be enough to counteract the drying. Commercial Bars are also not the way to go. We could have great debates here about sodium tallowate (soap made of beef fat presumably a cheap by-product of the beef industry)causing blackheads, and if comedogenocy is really a science at all, and that a cleansing bar is not soap at all but a detergent tantamount to rubbing laundry soap on your skin, but putting heavy commercial fragrances on distressed skin is reason enough to stay away from them. AND, they cook out all the skin loving glycerin that is good for locking moisture in. WHEW!
OK, so we are washing in the shower getting all the sweat off of us, then rubbing the eczemic skin with a rough towel to exfoliate as much of the loose skin off as possible. It is key to do this while it is moist or you will damage the new tender skin growth underneath. If you damage the undergrowth you will break it and leave it open to bacterial growth and yeast in combination with the overabundant dry skin and it is what makes that stinky funky scale. Once this dries Apply some eczema lotion. Here is my personal formula that I used to rid my daughters of it. It is based upon Betsy's body Lotion. A lovely soaping girl I met in NM who shared her recipe with me, and I altered it to make my own recipe. That was 10 years ago! I wish I could find you to give you credit Betsy, so thanks!
1 c Aloe vera juice steeped in (chamomile flowers or tea and blackberry leaf )
1 TB Emulsifying wax
2 Tb Stearic acid
1 Tb Vegetable glycerin
2 Tb Shea butter (mango is great too)
1 Tb Calendula oil (or olive oil infused with calendula petals)
1 Tb Evening Primrose Oil
1/2 tsp jojoba
pinch of citric acid
several drops of vitamin E
1/2 tsp wormwood extract
1 tsp powdered oat ( a coffee grinder is a perfect and inexpensive way to grind up all these little herbs, but mortar and pestle or glass and a bowl will work in a pinch)
The biggest problem of any kind in lotions is bacterial growth. they can experience rancidity and grow bacteria. You MUST MUST MUST sterilize your utensils and your containers when you make lotion. Don't go dipping your stuff in bleach water now! That does work but bleach is so very nasty on the environment and you. Remember your Gran canning her jam? It is the same process. You just need to place them in boiling water for a dip. If you are afraid you will melt your container then wash it thoroughly with HOT soapy water and it should be sufficient for personal use. If you are going to be putting your fingers in the pot of cream I would refrigerate the stuff. If you are going to squeeze it out of a container it won't have contact with anything but itself and room temp should be fine. But, losing a hand made container of lotion to mold can make you want to kill, and cool lotion on eczemic skin can feel soothing, so maybe keeping it in the fridge full time isn't a bad idea. If you are going to sell any lotion commercially you HAVE to preserve it. The Vitamin E and citric acid in this formula will also help keep the nasties away.
First bring the aloe to a brief boil and steep the chamomile and blackberry leaf in it until it is warm but not cool. If you let it get too cool it will *curdle* the waxes when we add them.
Add the pinch of citric acid glycerin, and wormwood.
Whisk in powdered oat.
Nextly we want to microwave the emulsifying wax and stearic acid just do 20 second blasts. Make sure it is a container that can take a pretty high degree of heat.
Then come the butters/oils. They will look a bit curdly, but place them in the nuker and give them a 20 second blast to melt them.
Whisk the Aloe Mixture into the oils.
Give it a couple of whisks ever so often until it cools and is nice and creamy. Easy peasy lotion squeezy!
Now just remember RINSE! EXFOLIATE! MOISTURIZE!
Now that you have the basic instructions I am also including my Lobster Sauce. No, this does not go on your rock or Maine lobster tail! This goes right on that sun burnt tail. I keep a bottle in the fridge for when we have gotten fried.
1c Aloe vera juice
1 Tb Emulsifying wax
2 Tb Stearic acid
1 Tb Glycerin
2 Tb Sweet cream butter
2 Tb Peanut oil
1/2 tsp Jojoba
1 tsp vinegar
pinch of citric acid
several drops vitamin E
1 drop peppermint essential oil
1 drop lavender essential oil
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Here is a list of the ingredients I tried and my personal results:
Borax: Scratchy! Borax is reputed to be a hardener and to help create a fluffy lather. Now I have seen people admonish others for using this additive because they "use it in ant insecticide". Boric acid is NOT the same as cosmetic grade Borax. It is like the difference between vinegar and hydrochloric acid. We all use vinegar with varying degrees of success, but wouldn't think of putting HCL on our salad. I have found that Borax is a safe mineral that is best used in lotion preparations as a binder in emulsions (holds the oil and water together) but didn't impart any great hardening properties to my bars. As to the lather, I think it was mildly scratchy enough to make the lather appear to be fluffier. If it ain't broke, don't fix it , right? I didn't find it to be worth the expense.
Salt: Soap itself is a salt, but not the same kind as regular table salt. I am not sure why it is here on my list anymore, or what I was hoping it might impart. Probably it was hardness. In my past post I recommended using either salt or vinegar to neutralize a lye burn. Yes, I found out the hard way that salt will neutralize your lye and thus your saponification will be disrupted. I did hear some ladies on a soap forum (I am such a sucker for rumor!) talking about adding table/healing salts in the last minute of soap making to form "salt bars". I imagine they would be very drying and might only be good in situations where you need to remove a lot of grease/oils from your hands, like a mechanic would? If someone wants to tip me off with a recipe, I'll try it and let you know how it goes.
Sugar: Sugar is purported to also increase lather. I have not noticed a significant increase in lather but it will help to get your soap to the gel stage. If you want to make sure you have a good and strong gel without "dog-boning" (differences in soap texture generally around the corners of your mold where gelling was not complete) then sugar is your man. You can dissolve it in the lye water, but I prefer making a simple syrup and slipping it in right before adding the scent. If you are making a milk soap, skip this step. A quicker gel means the soap gets hotter faster and may burn the milk turning your soap a caramel color.
Glycerin: The more the merrier right? Not necessarily. More often than not when I added it the soap would sweat it out later.
Vitamin E/Tocopherols: Vitamin is touted as the greatest anti-oxidant in skin care. It is the cheapest out there and is most common in wheat germ and sunflower oil. There are conflicting studies as to the actual benefit when applied topically. Some studies show that it can cause many to develop hives or contact dermatitis, and usually less than 10% will notice a benefit to their skin. Do I think this makes it worth the expense of adding it to my formulas? I will go into this more with my next ingredient, but I think this may just be a case of "don't believe the hype". I think most of us have heard that Vit.E is good for the skin for so long that we believe it, and we expect out customers will believe it too and be attracted to soap that has it as an ingredient. As to the antioxidant properties..we move on to the next and possibly most debated ingredient in soap making...
Grapefruit seed extract: Many of us believe that GSE was antibacterial, antiviral and antimicrobial. It just isn't true. More rumor and conjecture led people all over the natural loving world to believe that this stuff could cure yeast infections and cancer. It has been used in Chinese medicine for many years, and it was never used as a germ fighter-that should tell you something. The studies that showed it had germ fighting properties used samples that were contaminated with preservative. The reason it would work as a preservative in your soap is because it contains preservatives in its manufacture that are not natural. If you buy GSE that is made without the preservative, it will not fight germs, that's it plain and simple. And as for preservatives...(as I get upon my box) soap doesn't need them. Even formulas that have oils that are prone to spoilage don't need them. So maybe you have to plan a little better...
Like, don't go crazy on the superfatting. The more free oils running around, the more prone the soap will be to spoilage (orange spotting) . I like 3%, but if you want to play with 15% then make sure it is not sitting around too long. If you are going to use oils that are unsaturated and spoil easily, then make small batches more often.
Sodium lactate: This ingredient was not in my first few pages, but one I experimented with nonetheless. It is a by-product of the fermentation of lactic acid. Why anyone wants to ferment lactic acid I am not sure, but it is a "natural" process. My experience? ROCK in the pot. I followed instructions specifically, made sure my formulas were rock solid, and I couldn't get sodium lactate to perform consistently for me in cold-process soap making. I had ricing, overheating, and caustic messes. I think most are looking for a quick cure (no pun intended) for a bar they can get off the shelves and in the customers' hands sooner. Where I did find sodium lactate to have significant benefit was in hot process soap making. Add some of that to your hot-process soap and it helps keep it more fluid during the cook and harder when it gets to the mold.
Here is where we get to the crux of the matter. From the list we can clearly extrapolate that I was obsessed with harder bars and fluffy lather. Why? Ivory soap. We are still following a standard of commercial soaps. Isn't it about time that those of us who make soap come clean with the truth that harder and fluffier bars are not better for your skin? Babbasu, Palm, coconut, tallow, etc are not oils that nourish and make skin feel happy. That bar made with 15% superfat that can take a dent from your fingernail and is softer than some cheeses is the kind you want to rub on your skin. Weak lather from a 100% soybean oil soap gets you clean AND makes your skin soft. I dare you! Throw out your coconut/palm/palm kernel oil/ tallow out of your formula and see what happens. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.
So here's one of my first soap recipes. It cures to a nice olive green and makes about a pound. I used to call it my "soap on the dope"bar. Right after it came out of the mold I would poke hemp bracelets/necklaces in the corners with a bamboo skewer.
2 oz Hemp seed oil
7 oz Olive oil (I recommend Pomace as dark as you can get it)
2 ox Palm Kernel Oil
1.5 oz lye
1.5 oz H2O
2oz hemp milk
1 1/2 tsp Clary sage
1 1/2 tsp patchouli
Notes: I put this mold into a little sample cardboard box I got from chestnut farms. It is so cute and handy for little batches. It is what I have pictured. The hemp milk is not necessary and if you would like to omit it, then use 3.5 oz water instead.
Measure lye and water and make your lye mixture. Measure out Palm Kernel oil (PKO) and melt. Add hemp oil and stir, so as to warm the hemp oil up a little. Measure Olive oil and add that to hemp and PKO. Measure essential oils and dump them in oil mixture. We are not really concerned about accelerating trace, we are trying to encourage it. The high amount of hemp and olive can take a long time to trace, so we are going to ride it like a trick pony! Go on and dump the hot lye in. Stick blend it until you get a soft trace. Not custard, but runny gravy. Now we add the hemp milk and stick blend until we have custard. Honest it shouldn't take but a minute. Place it in a warm place to encourage a gel. You don't have to, but I think having a good gel on this soap really accentuates the pretty green color from the hemp and Olive oils.
you may want to let this one set in the mold for 72 hrs if you can stand it. It will be softer than other soaps at 18-24 and if you are logging it, you may have to let air get to it before it is firm enough to cut. Once it has a full cure it makes a gorgeous green bar.
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
Technique: So I am going to tell you how I make soap. There are lots of rules to follow, and I am in general a rule breaker. I will be as honest as possible, but I will never tell you to do anything that I do not do myself. So know, I am living dangerously too!
First: Set up your materials. You will need a glass measuring cup or a thick glass jar that will pour easily without spilling. I have a couple of plastic containers that I have set aside for measuring. They are some old plastic ware that I am not worrying about damaging. This is key, as you make soap often enough the oils will degrade the plastic, the lye may scar glass etc. Set out your oils, put out a couple of spoons. Put your stick blender in a handy place (I like to keep my ISOCAN mug next to it so i have something to put it in so it won't roll) and have your molds set out and ready.
Next: Let's measure. I use a food scale....Yes, you heard me right, I said food scale. I do not use a $50 scale that measures to the 100th of an ounce. I have found that using a food scale that goes to 1/4 or 1/2 ounce suffices just fine. I make an effort to keep my recipe as near as possible to easy to measure numbers. The first things I measure is the Lye. It is a good idea to wear gloves here. I don't always because I am well practiced at not touching anything and a little stupid. This goes into a plastic container for measurement (glass is a little heavy for my food scale) and then into my large glass peanut butter jar. I add the little tuft of raw silk. Now comes the water. I pour some from the tap into another plastic container, Then I take these out to my back porch. Walk steady now! I set my lye-in-glass and water-in-plastic on the dryer and go back in the house for a heavy duty plastic spoon (not a lightweight spork, not a wooden spoon nor a metal one or they will melt/degrade into your soap) . When I come back out I put my shirt over my face, hold my breath and gently pour the water into the lye. Do not do this the other way around as it may splash. I stir for as long as i can hold my breath, and then run back inside. The fumes from the reaction will burn your lungs and make you sick, thus the stirring outside. Now that the Lye is heating up we will start to measure the oils. My favorite measuring container for the oils is an old sherbet container. It is lightweight, flexible, and they come in small or huge sizes. First I put out the solid oils, like coconut oil and/or shortening and melt these in the microwave. 30seconds at a time stirring in between until melted. Once these are liquid, I then add in the liquid oils. This helps to rapidly cool down the oil. Measuring is complete for now.
Also: Let's check back on the lye. I stir it around a bit to make sure the lye is dissolved and bring it back into the house. When it is a small batch it doesn't take too long to cool, but in larger batches I sometimes place it in the freezer to cool it down. Once the mixtures seem about body temp it is time for mixing. I add the fragrance oils to the other oils and give them a once over with the stick blender. I learned more than a few times that soap can surprise you. Sometimes I haven't had the chance to put the oils in, or once I have it can seize up quickly. At least if it traces up on me quickly, it will be well distributed within the soap. After blending in the fragrance I slowly add the lye. I give it a stir a couple times with the spoon to test it out and distribute it well within the mixture. This is a good time to add the the cream. Sometimes if it goes fast I don't use the blender at all, but usually I stick blend it until I have a soft-set pudding stage. (there are a ton of videos on u-tube that will visually show you better how a trace looks than I could ever describe)
Finally: Pour it in the mold quick! Once you get the trace it is a good idea to get it into the mold asap. I used these cooly celtic molds from Milkway. I have had them so long they are starting to yellow and fall apart! Now I place the molds into my gas oven for the cure. My gas oven has a pilot light and stays pretty warm all the time .This helps the soap go through a nice gel stage ( if you have an electric stove sometimes the light is warm enough or I have used an electric blanket- but turn it off right after you egta good gel)and after 18 hours it Ph tests to a nice 7. Now I don't think ph strips are necessary, but since they were only 75c (at American science and surplus) they are handy to have around in case something didn't come out right. After the 18 hrs I put them in the freezer for a little while to pop them out of the molds. I have never noticed a difference in the soap as to weather it has been in the freezer or not, but it will hold the detail of the mold better. I put them in my pantry on a paper bag and let them harden/dry up. Rotate them every couple of days if they need it.
So that's it! That is my first recipe of many soaps. Can you believe I have over 120 scents/recipes in that little darned book? That doesn't even touch on all the lotions and other insanities in there. Until next time...