Friday, April 16, 2010

The Itchy and Scratchy Show! With Lobster Sauce or RINSE! EXFOLIATE! MOISTURIZE!

The next few pages of my notebook are dedicated not to soap but some lotions. I thought since many of us are warming up temperature-wise , now would be the perfect time to talk about skin issues.

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!

Eczema Cream

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 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

Pore's runneth over?

Pores you could park a car in?

I got this super tip from a Korean pedicurist: scrub your face with toothpaste. As we get older, our pores get larger. Some of us already have pores that are large and accumulate noticeable dirt. This little trick is an oil free cleanser to get the road dirt out of the pores and the mint snaps those puppies closed tight when you're done. It feels awesome in the summer. If the mint is too intense try a fennel or other whole foodsy flavor. Keep It away from your eyes (DUH!) Do not use cinnamon toothpastes as they can cause a burning sensation and possible photo sensitivity.

Skin a little red , puffy, hungover?

Pepto Bismal to the rescue! Not for your tummy, for your face! Pepto abysmal or milk of magnesia make a great mask to reduce puffiness or redness in the skin. If you have ever had a bout with rosacea or done a work-out in Austin TX you know how hot the skin can feel sometimes. Use the generic stuff from the dollar store and dab it on with some cotton balls, sit for as long as you like, and rinse.

Frown got you down? Turn it upside down!
Try a little preparation H on those forehead and eyebrow creases. Some argue that it only has a temporary effect, but I know many gay men who swear buy this stuff. My leather friends tell me they rub it all over themselves to tighten skin and accentuate muscles. I wouldn't go that far, but I would use it on my face before spending too much on a jar of "oil of Old lady", if you get my drift.

Now before trying any of this stuff on your face, do an allergy test in the crook of your elbow. I learned the hard way that I was allergic to the shark oil they put in diaper rash cream. I will never make that mistake again!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Waste not Want not

Did you have a happy St.Patrick's Day? I had a fabulous time. My brother came in from out of town and we feasted. If you have the pleasure of being Irish, and a Chicagoan then you probably know what I was serving. For the rest of you I will give you the menu:
Corned Beef
Little potatoes
Soda Bread
Green river soda
Grasshopper cake
Lots of Beer!!! Smithwicks is my favorite but I seemed to find a lot of half-drained MGDs lying around on my counters. The day after the supreme sumptuousness I was left with a lot of lame ducks and some of the cabbage in a salty brine of hard cold fat. I mean this stuff was an inch thick! It made me glad for every ones' hearts that I do not make this dish more often, but it also got me thinking about soap. Can a girl like me really resist an inch of hard cold clean fat? The answer is most certainly no.
I cleaned up the fat, a bit since it had floaters and spices in it. There is lots of info out there on how to do it, but I just take the biggest chunks and boil them intensely in salted water. I pour the hot mixture into another pot through a fine mesh metal strainer and let the fat sit overnight. The next day you should be able to cut it and lift it off the water with ease. From my leftovers I accumulated about 8 oz of waste fat. Since I had a lot of beer I decided to use that as my primary liquid for the soap. Try and let it sit around for a few days while the liquor evaporates. Others have recommended cooking the liquor off, but how do you know when it is fully evaporated? I don't either, so that doesn't sound like a good method to me. If you were cooking the soap you could pour it right in , but you would still have to beware of the dreaded volcano. The reason you cannot use the beer straight is that when it comes into contact with the lye it will explode-ask me how I know about disgusting brown caustic gack all over the counter tops!
Ok, so here is the recipe I used for the soap:
8 oz waste fat (you could use tallow)
8 oz olive oil
4 oz palm kernel oil
8 oz beer
2.75 oz lye
There are no special instructions for the soap. The usual add lye to water mix into fats stuff I have covered before . When you add the lye to the beer it will turn an awful orange-ish brown color. This will not retain in your soap as you can see from my soap pictured. I am sorry it is not a better image, but that was the best I could do with the web cam because my digital cam died. The Corned Beef imparts a really strong aroma and having a well trained nose, I can detect the beef smell in the soap despite having scented it really strongly. I may have to chalk this one up as a Gag gift -literally! I could just be sensitive as this soap does lather up nicely and cleans well too. This is the scent combination I used:
1tsp fresh cut grass
1 tsp spear mint
1 tsp balsam fir
You could use any combination of green scents you like, but I would recommend strongly using spearmint to help blend away any unwanted odors and keep up with the St.Paddy's theme. More to come from the notebook itself once this Easter thing passes.