Saturday, April 10, 2021

Hair Care is Self-Care - shampoo experiments

 Sometime over the last week or so, I managed to catch a cold - sneezing, runny nose, a bit of a cough (I always have a cough due to one of my meds), just feeling ick. Out of an abundance of caution, I took a couple of days off to look after myself. And, if you know me at all, any opportunity I have to play in my soap kitchen is more than okay with me. 

This week, it was shampoo bars. I've recently discovered that my go to recipe is a little top heavy with one of the ingredients. It's upper usage rate is about 50% and the recipe uses 73%. That is not too say that it's bad for your hair; I've been using this recipe for the past three years and my hairdresser told me that my hair is VERY healthy. However, I do want to stay within guidelines so I started doing more research into shampoo bars. I've made three different variations this week.

One of the dilemmas I have is that I tend to make things that are suitable for me; my hair is dry, fine, and wavy so I need a shampoo that cleans gently and doesn't leave it feeling like straw. I recognize that not everyone has hair like mine so I need to keep that in mind when I'm creating. So, ingredients are important. What will be best for the most people? Do I create shampoo bars geared to specific hair needs or do I stay in the middle of the road and gear the bars to "normal" hair with different fragrances and additives?

To that end, three varieties. Two of them are especially geared to my and John's hair and one is one I'm hoping will be a good, all 'round shampoo bar that will appeal to a broader base.

#1 -  A Conditioning Bar with Botanical Extracts. It's made with Hydrolized Oat Protein, Panthenol, Chamomile Extract, and Grapeseed Extract. Both Chamomile and Grapeseed extracts are great for hair and the Grapeseed extract also gives the bar its colour. My first impression of this one is that it would likely be a good contender for a shampoo for Normal to Dry hair. 

#2 - A Conditioning and Hydrating Shampoo Bar with Humectants. It uses Propanediol 1,3 (from the New Directions website:

With a plant-based origin, Propanediol is a biodegradable and petrochemical-free solvent that is NPA approved, making it an excellent corn sugar-derived alternative to petroleum-based Glycols for hair- and skincare formulations. It offers benefits and functionalities that include improved emollience, enhanced viscosity, non-irritating properties, exceptional sensory characteristics, clarity, and anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, among many more).
I also added Foaming Oats, Hydrolized Rice Protein and scented it with a fragrance called Caribbean Escape. My first impression of this one is that it lathers up quickly and it's beautiful, thick lather. My hair feels fuller and thicker, right down to the ends. 

#3 - Basic Shampoo Bar with Mango Butter. This one has most of the same ingredients as the other two, with the addition of a bit of Mango Butter. I scented it with on of my more popular shampoo bar fragrances, a blend I call Fresh (equal parts Lavender, Peppermint, and Rosemary). I just made this one this morning so I haven't tested it yet but once I do, I'll add my impressions here.

So, you see my dilemma, right? What would you do? Make several varieties or make a middle of the road, "Normal Hair" shampoo bar? 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Knitter's Hand Cream

I don't know about you but I always find winter and early spring very hard on my hands. Working in a print shop doesn't help, either. My hands get incredibly dry. Each year, I end up with cracks around the edges of my finger nails and it takes a long time for them to heal. 

Thing is, I make soap and bath & body products. Good thing, too. Late last year, I made a Knitter's Hand Cream that I'd almost forgotten about. I came across my last jar of this rich cream last week and have been using it this past week. It has made an incredible difference. 

It's a thick rich cream, made with the addition of lanolin, argan oil, jojoba oil, quinoa extract, and colloidal oats. Lanolin is a wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of domestic sheep primarily raised for their wool. Lanolin's role in nature is to protect the wool and the sheep's skin from climate and the environment. In cosmetics, lanolin is used in the protection, treatment, and beautification of human skin, making it a great addition to a luscious hand cream.

Jojoba oil is more of a wax than a true oil and comes from a shrub native to the south west area of the US (California, Arizona) and the north west of Mexico. It is very close to our skin's natural sebum and, as such, is a great addition to creams and lotions meant to moisturize. 

Argan oil has been used as an edible oil and in skin care in Morocco, where it comes from, for centuries. A few small studies indicate that argan oil may be effective at reducing signs of aging, either when ingested or applied directly to your skin.

Colloidal oatmeal acts as a natural, deep penetrating moisturizer that can help reduce the itching and irritation caused by dry skin. It's easily available in any local drug store, along with products using it. You may know it by the brand Aveeno. It's an amazing addition to a rich hand/body cream.

Quinoa Extract is a water soluble product that is commonly used on aging skin and in hair strengthening products, as it is full of amino acids and minerals. 

With all that goodness in a small pot of hand cream, it's got to be effective, right? What I do know is that my hands love it! And the addition of a little bit of Karma fragrance oil (from the product description: "an aura of orange, lavender and pine with notes of patchouli, lemongrass, cashmere and musk". This rich cream smells amazing and works well. What more could you want in a hand cream?

Knitters rejoice!

Saturday, March 6, 2021

On Pause

 Well, it doesn't look as if non-food vendors will be allowed at local Farmer's and Crafter's markets any time soon. If I'm not mistaken, Dr. Henry will be revisiting the guidelines in April. So, for now, my soapmaking forays have been curtailed. I am still making an occasional batch just to keep myself inspired but I've definitely cut back from my usual one to two batches per week. 

Instead, I've been focusing on using my kitchen for what it was intended for -- cooking food. Yesterday, I was given a dozen free run eggs by a local farmer and we still had almost two dozen eggs in the fridge so John suggested I make something with eggs. Challenge accepted!

Quiche Lorraine is a good start, don't you think? I'd forgotten just how labour intensive making a quiche from scratch can be. Normally, I take the easy way out and buy a pastry crust; this time, the whole quiche is from scratch. I used an old-fashioned 100% lard pastry recipe because, yeah, I just happen to have a few pounds of lard around here for making soap and nothing makes a better pie crust... or soap. Well, butter's good, too, but not so much for soap.

The pastry was made first thing this morning and allowed to rest in the fridge until needed. Then, I mixed up the eggs (4 of them!) and cream mixture and stored that in the fridge as well. I grated the cheeses and prepped the rest. Instead of strictly following the traditional Quiche Lorraine recipe, I decided to add a couple of sauteed leeks and a handful of spinach leaves because veggies are good for you. Right?

Once it was all prepped and the pastry had been mellowing out in the fridge for a couple of hours, I rolled it out and blind baked the crust. Then, everything was put together and baked. 

My house always smells good when I'm making soap but walking into the house after making this just makes my mouth water. I'm looking forward to dinner!!

Oh, I thought I'd share a nifty little tool I picked up a while back at our local Asian market. I think it's meant for ginger but it works a treat for nutmeg! (Quiche Lorraine has a bit of nutmeg in it.)

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Digging In The Dirt

Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day here in the Okanagan. I decided to take advantage of that and wandered around the yard for a bit, just to see if I could find any signs of awakening. I did. The Cannas are starting to come up! In the front garden, the tulips and irises are beginning to show themselves, too. Spring really is right around the corner.

Of course, once you know that spring is almost here, its time to get your hands in the soil. And that means you need a good, scrubby yet gentle soap to get those hands clean. Our Gardener's Hand Soap is the perfect answer. With the addition of poppy seeds, corn meal, dried orange peel, and pumice, this gentle hand soap will get the dirtiest of hands clean!

The base is made with Beef Tallow, Coconut,  and Sunflower oil. I know the use of animal fats in soap can be a contentious issue for some but I will never apologize for its use. As long as we are a planet of meat eaters, the fats from those animals largely ends up in landfills. I would prefer that it be used to make other products, beneficial products. Beef tallow, and lard as well, are very close in nature to our own body fat and make for hard, long lasting, yet gentle bars of soap. 

So, get out there, get dirty! Then, come in and get clean!

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Thrice Rice Soap - Rice Three Ways

 A while back, on the SoapMaking Forum, one of the makers mentioned that she adds rice to her soap and it's one of her favourite soaps. After some discussion, I decided to try it... and immediately fell in love with it.

I decided to use Jasmine rice, just because I happened to have some Jasmine fragrance oil and a large bag of Jasmine rice. First, I washed the rice thoroughly and used that wash water to dissolve the lye. Because of the starches from the rice, the lye liquid quickly turned into a mush, thickening up almost like a pudding. I've never seen that before.

Once the rice was rinsed, I cooked it in more than double the  amount of water usually used for cooking rice and I overcooked it, almost to the point of mushiness. I drained the water, reserving all of it; the rice was blitzed in a Magic Bullet, along with enough of the cooking water to create a fairly loose slurry. 

When I was ready to put it all together, the slurry, along with some rice flour (that's the thrice part) was added to my oils. The lye rice water was added and, once the batter reached trace, I added the Jasmine fragrance oil.

So, what does rice bring to the soap? Rice has been used for centuries in Asian skin care. According to articles I've read, the geisha used to wash their faces in rice water; they were known for their flawless skin. According to an article in the Daily Times of India, rice "revitalizes and protects the skin from sun damage. It comes loaded with antioxidants that fight free radicals and give you a more youthful-looking skin. It helps in skin brightening too. It's considered a mild exfoliator, making it ideal for daily use."

Granted, the article is talking about a rice puree used as a masque and washing with rice water. Truth be told, soap doesn't really stay on your skin long enough to provide any real benefits, other than cleansing. 

In this soap, the rice provides an amazingly silky, creamy lather. I was pleasantly surprised the first time I washed with it. I have dry skin and I found that it didn't strip my skin, leaving that dry, tight feeling. I still used a moisturizer because, as I said, I do have dry skin. The light scent of the Jasmine fragrance oil made this soap feel like an indulgence. I can see why rice soap is as popular as it is.

Saturday, January 2, 2021



2020 behind us no; what a year it's been. When I look back though, I have to say that I am grateful. With everything that has transpired over this past year, I can honestly say that it has been a good year for me personally, and an amazing year for my little business. I am thankful for each person who has helped to make 2020 a good year in a time of upheaval.

As I look forward to 2021, I'm excited by the possibilities, both personal and professional. I hope you are, too! I'm looking forward to seeing you in 2021 - may it be a year full of excitement and possibility!