Saturday, December 31, 2011

The joy of avocados

Most people already know this about me but I am obsessed with everything avocado. I love eating them on sandwiches, mashing them up into a magnificent guacamole, whipping them into a wonderful dessert, and I even use the oil in one of our favorite soaps. There are whole websites dedicated to the avocado, that in itself is noteworthy.

What is it exactly that I like about this fruit so much? Maybe it's the efficiency of it as a whole. The skin doubles as a bowl once you open and scrape the meat out, the seed doubles as an awesome massage ball and the meat itself can be incorporated into a savory dish or a delicate and sweet dish with ease. It is also  packed with vitamins and healthy fats to boot.

The below information was found on www.livestrong.com.





Avocados have a long and rich history dating back to the Aztec civilization. The fruit is known to improve heart health, aid in weight loss,provide a good course of vitamins B, C and E and is safe to use in baby food and in a diabetic diet. Besides all of the internal benefits, avocados have received a well-earned reputation for keeping skin looking young, beautiful and moist. Centuries after their first discovery, avocados are making a a cosmetic comeback to fight aging and dry and acne prone skin.

 

History

The word for avocado comes from the Spanish word "aguacate" which comes from the Aztec word "ahuacatl." Agri Business Week reported in 2009 that the word "ahuacatl" translates to "testicle," probably a reference to the way the fruit hangs from the tree, and that for centuries the fruit was associated with being an aphrodisiac. Because of its sexual reputation, avocado purchases were nearly non-existent in the western world where buying one might lead to slanderous assaults. Despite the rumor, countries around the world have been using avocados in ice cream, milk shakes, as a side dish, as a dip, in soups, in salads and as an ingredient in face masks for optimal skin health.

Avocado's and skincare 

According to Avocado.com and livestrong.com, avocados reduce the appearance of age spots, help reduce signs of skin aging and heals dry skin and eczema. Large amounts of sterolins, a protein proven to reduce the appearance of age spots, scars and sun damage, are found in avocados. Avocado oil contains the highest amount of sterolins in the fruit, making it an ideal ingredient in skin moisturizers marketed to people with dry or damaged skin. Avocado oil also increases the amount of collagen found in the skin. Avocado.com reports that a loss of collagen in the skin occurs in the natural aging process and avocado oil helps to slow that process down. Avocados do not clog pores.

With old man winter knocking furiously at my door these days I find that my skin is feeling a bit dryer and tighter than usual. I treated my face to a little facial which ended with an avocado mask. It felt wonderful and made my skin feel great.

Avocado mask:
1/2 avocado
1tbsp avocado oil (you can substitute this for a more readily available oil)
5 drops of Clary Sage essential oil (this oil helps control oily skin problems and smells kind of nice and earthy)

Directions: (if you have a small food processor that is most helpful if not, no worries just use elbow grease.) Mash up avocado, add oil slowly and blend well, last add the drops of clary sage and then apply to your face and neck. Leave on for about 15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and soft cloth. Tone and moisturize as usual.

For an extra treat I put a little avocado oil directly on my face after my mask and my skin soaked it right up (it was very thirsty!).
Avocado's in my belly
I stumbled upon a dessert dish recently which utilizes the Avocado and wanted to share it because it's just that good!

Whipped Avocado:
Serves 4
1 Avocado
1/2 C Milk (I used my favorite, coconut milk by soy delicious)
1/4 C white sugar (could be less if you do not want this to be too sweet)
1/2 Tsp vanilla

Directions: Whip, chill, serve.....yes, it's that simple!
Well this will be my last post for 2011, I hope you have enjoyed my posts this year, I have enjoyed doing the research and writing them. Wishing all my friends/fans and wonderful customers an awesome and safe New Years Eve and a rocking new year! 
'Till next year.......
~Your Soapsmith


For additional information check out these sites:
www.avocado.com
www.livestrong.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pumpkin

Ahhh, the pumpkin. A squash that is easily identified and loved throughout the world. It indicated that fall is on it's way and with it comes jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating and changing foliage. Pumpkins can actually grow in many climates and can be found on every continent except Antarctica, it is a member of the winter squash family and while it can be found in many different color variations, the most recognizable color would be a shade of orange. This squash has been cultivated for over 9,000 years and is indigenous to North America, for the people of this continent it was a mainstay in their diet. Pumpkin is packed full of nutrients such as: protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins A & C, potassium, zinc and beta carotene to name a few. It is also high in fiber and low in calories.

Pumpkin can be found in many different dishes, anything from appetizers to desserts to beverages, it is the great unsung hero of the food world, I wish I could find it on more menus. The self proclaimed capital of pumpkin festivals is  located in Half Moon Bay, CA, maybe someday I will get to visit this great festival.

Pumpkins and skincare.

Now that we have established the magic that is the pumpkin in food, let's talk about it in skincare. First let's look at the components that make up a pumpkin:

1. The meat or pulp
2. The seeds
3. The oils that can be pressed from the seeds

The meat of the pumpkin is packed full of vitamins that our skin can benefit from, vitamins A and C are great, A helps to improve the skin's texture, firmness and smoothness, this vitamin is believed to be essential for the generation and function of skin cells. Vitamin C is a well known anti-oxidant when combined with vitamin E in skincare these two are a powerhouse and can effectively fight free radicals as well as repair damage from the free radicals at skin level. Zinc is great for the skin, it is sometimes referred to as a micornutrient and is believed to accelerate wound healing as well as offer protection from some types of UV rays* (use only an FDA approved sunscreen please).  Zinc plays well with vitamin's A & E and promoted collagen synthesis in the dermis, it is also an effective when used to treat acne since it can lower sebaceous secretions. Pumpkin also contains something called AHA's or alpha hydroxyacid. This is also known as a "fruit acid." Depending on the concentration and pH of a formula containing AHA's they can help many different skin types and conditions. Some of the benefits include: reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, lightening of surface pigmentation, softer more supple skin with improved hydration. AHA's also act as a natural exfoliant and can help to regulate the top layer of the epidermis by reducing it's thickness.

When using pumpkin meat in a skin care preparation, such as a mask, focus on what it will do for the top layers of your skin, it can exfoliate dead skin cells, help with moisture retention and possibly pave the way for less acne and dryness with a regular proper skin care regiment for your skin type.

Let's talk about pumpkin seeds, the easiest use of this component would be as an exfoliant. If you are creating a home pumpkin seed exfoliant be sure to grind them up so that they are very fine, your facial skin is delicate and can get micro tears if the exfoliant is too sharp, the seeds may be better suited for other parts such as arms and legs and can be mixed with other exfoliants such as sugar, ground coffee or finely ground nuts. I will include some home recipes below for a fun home spa day.

Last but not least pumpkin seed oil. This oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the pumpkin, bringing with it most (if not all) of the nutrients found in the seeds. This oil can be included in lotions, soaps, scrubs and masks too. Only a tad is needed in a formulation in order to get the nutritious benefits it can offer. It will absorb readily into your skin and is thought to help other humectants also absorb leaving your skin super moisturized and soft. Just like most vegetable based oils it will not clog your pores.

So are you ready to get all pumpkin faced? Here are some fun recipes to make in your own kitchen.


Please note that unless you are using a proper preservative make these recipes in small batches (one use) and discard the rest as it will become prime breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and molds, even if you cannot see it, it's still there, don't take the risk!

Pumpkin mask:
2 tsp pumpkin meat (can use canned puree too)
1/2 tsp honey (a great humectant)
1/4 tsp milk (I prefer buttermilk and use buttermilk powder as it is high in AHA's and will help break down dead skin cells)
Optional: I also added about 1/4 tsp of pumpkin seed oil, this mask goes on very smooth and feels creamy. There may be slight tingling due to the fruit acids. If it's too much for you or you feel uncomfortable rinse off immediately with warm water.

(Suggestion:warm the honey slightly) Mix all together and spread on face and neck, let sit for approximately 15 minutes (watch Charlie Brown's great pumpkin) then rinse with warm water, tone and moisturize as normal.



Pumpkin seed scrub:
2 tsp finely ground pumpkin seeds
1 tsp granulated white sugar (if you have another sugar preference feel free, just make sure the granules are fairly fine)


Mix the dry ingredients together and slowly add the oil until it is the consistency you prefer, I prefer my scrubs to be very dry so I usually add very little oil.

If you want to make more to use this for a body scrub about 3-4 ounces would do it for a one time use application so use your kitchen scale for better accuracy:
2 oz finely ground pumpkin seeds
1 oz granulated white sugar
1 oz vegetable oil of choice (more if you would like a "wetter" scrub.)
If you have an essential oil or fragrance oil that you want to use, add it slowly drop by drop and try to limit it to no more than 2% of the total recipe. .08 oz or 2.2 grams max.

Directions for face or body:
Rub scrub in circular motions avoiding eyes and other sensitive parts. If using in the shower be cautious as the tub may become slippery.



Pumpkin Oil Serum:
This is a great serum to use before bed, for those that prefer the OCM (oil cleansing method) this can be adapted for use in that manner as well.

For a 2 oz bottle with lid:
Quick kitchen recipe, use your kitchen scale and convert to grams for better accuracy:
1.5 oz Pumpkin seed oil
.5 oz Almond oil
1 vitamin E capsule (pierce capsule and add the vita E oil)

A little more advanced recipe for a 2 oz bottle:
1 oz Pumpkin seed oil
.5 oz almond oil (or other light vegetable oil of choice)
.25 oz fractionated coconut oil (or other light vegetable oil of choice)
.25 oz jojoba oil
1-2 drops vitamin E oil
1-2 drops of preferred essential oil (lavender is lovely as is rosemary. Tea tree has great healing properties)

Mix all ingredients well and pour into your sanitized container. To use, first cleanse and tone your face then pour a couple of drops onto your clean finger tips and smooth gently onto your face and neck in circular motions. Leave on overnight.



Because the serum is anhydrous (without water) and you will not be dipping your fingers into it you can go without a preservative and it will last longer, store in cool, dry place.

So there it is, the pumpkin is just great for you inside and out. Have a fabulous fall and enjoy the power of the pumpkin !

Until next time
~ Your Soapsmith

Monday, July 18, 2011

Let's talk about Triclosan

Triclosan is an ingredient which is found in multiple household items. It is a common ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes and some cosmetics as well as being incorporated into clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys.

While this ingredient is not known to be harmful to humans there have been several new studies released and the FDA and EPA have collaborated and are re-evaluating its effects on the environment as well as humans in light of these studies.

This question is posed on the FDA web site which I found to be very interesting:

Does triclosan provide a benefit in consumer products?

For some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis.

For other consumer products, FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. 


There are other studies are investigating the possibility that use of triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

According to the EPA:

Current as of March 2010

Triclosan (2,4,4’ –trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether) is a chlorinated aromatic compound. Its functional groups include both phenols and ethers. It is used as a synthetic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in 1969.


Triclosan is also utilized in many industrial settings for machinery and equipment in order to prevent microbial growth.

Based on monitoring, triclosan was found in at least 36 US streams which were close to some sort of water treatment plant (sewage, sludge etc. plant) and is believed to be contributing to the occurrence of triclosan in open water. While it currently appears that fish are not affected it has been determined that aquatic plants are affected (which would lead me to believe that fish may eventually be effected via the food chain).

The EPA admits that it does not know how much triclosan is being released into the environment from industrial sites and is amending some rules and regulations as well as labeling regulations for these institutions to begin being able to monitor this pesticide better.

There are a list of "Nest Steps" listed on the EPA site about it's plans for triclosan:


Next Steps

  • Given the rapidly developing scientific database for triclosan, the Agency intends to accelerate the schedule for the registration review process for this chemical. Currently, the Agency intends to begin that process in 2013, ten years earlier than originally planned.
  • EPA and FDA are collaborating on research projects that will help both agencies to better characterize the endocrine-related effects of triclosan, including toxicological effects, human relevance, and the doses at which they occur to determine if levels of human exposure are safe or not. The Agency will pay close attention to this ongoing research and will amend the regulatory decision if the science supports such a change.
  • The Agency is also updating its 2008 assessment of triclosan exposure using the newly released 2005-2006 NHANES urinary monitoring results and will incorporate those results into the revised risk assessment.
  • The Agency will continue to participate in the Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance and evaluate information that results from that activity, and will continue its cooperative efforts with the FDA to share information on triclosan and discuss future research efforts and needs that will best meet the needs of the two agencies. 
Why am I writing about this particular ingredient? Simple, this ingredient is used in many if not most of our every day products and there are just now numerous studies coming out with information stating that this may not be the best thing since sliced bread. For starters, you really can't kill it, it kills things and therefor itself is very hard to render ineffective.

I was really surprised when I learned that it was first registered with the EPA as a pesticide and is now in my toothpaste......toothbrush fibers.....some cosmetics.....and pretty much anything labeled anti-bacterial. I saw on another site that it can stay active in your skin for up to 12 HOURS! I am still working to confirm this bit of info with a scientific based source, but if this is true it pretty much means that we all eat triclosan daily in addition to eating it when we brush......um, yuck! Just the simple fact that the EPA is moving their assessment timetable up for this ingredient by 10 years raises some red flags with me.

Anytime there is an ingredient that is used so heavily in such a variety of ways I am instantly curious and want to know more about it. Conveniently the EPA and FDA have also decided that they are curious and want to know more too so I will be keeping a close eye on this topic and report back what is published as I learn more. I always find it particularly interesting that through so many of these studies the FDA still stands behind the study that washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective, so it leaves me wondering why to the big corporations add the extra chemical and dump so  many millions and billions of dollars into marketing something that may not even be necessary?

Stay healthy my friends
~Your Soapsmith

My resources:

http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm205999.htm

http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/triclosan_fs.htm


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Ingredient Highlight - Neem Oil

Neem Tree
In this fascinating industry there is always something new to learn about. I heard about neem oil quite some time ago and even bought some to experiment with but somehow never got around to it until recently. There was recently a fantastic article in an online magazine I subscribe to called Saponifier on neem oil. That was my inspiration to get in gear and play around with this magical ingredient.

The neem tree is described as an evergreen which is native to India, this is a vegetable oil which is extracted from the tree as opposed to a nut oil. This oil has been used for a very long time as antibacterial, antivirul, antifungal and insecticidal. It can also soothe irritated skin and I have seen it in products which are formulated to help with acne too.

An ingredient this great should really be in more products, don't you think? Well I thought so and set off on my little adventure with the elusive neem oil. I will say this, it has a VERY distinct scent, very strong and not particularly my favorite scent for sure. But like with many things that are good for you they sometimes smell or taste not so good, broccoli comes to mind (yuck!).

I made a simple soap, small batch because I am just experimenting at this point. The article in saponifier said that it is most effective when used at a rate of 20%-40% so I went with the lower end of that and used it at a rate of about 25% to start with. Since this is such a healing oil I wanted to make sure my other oils would be very complimentary so I also added some shea butter and other totally skin loving oils and to finish it off some lavender essential oil. I was hoping the lavender would help cover some of the scent but also lavender is a wonderful and healing essential oil.

This soap got very hot in the mold and hardened fairly fast too, it was interesting. The next day I unmolded and was inspecting the soaps, they smelled faintly of.....peanut butter??? It's kind of peanut butter colored too. So strange, a few days later that scent is dissipating and I swear I can smell a tad of the lavender.

All in all it was great working with such an interesting ingredient, I look forward to sampling the soap and seeing how the scent ends up working out in it too.

The lovely neem soap

Well this soap has a few weeks to go before I can really take it for a spin, I will update once I try it out.

Until then stay bubbly my friends,
~Your Soapsmith

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Which product would you rather use?

As I sit here in the studio I thought it would be fun to post a little about ingredients. I wanted to know which product you would rather purchase and use based solely on the ingredient list.

Product A: Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis Oil, Beeswax, Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit, Theobroma Cacao Seed Butter, Cocos Nucifera Oil, Ricinus Communis Seed Oil,  Tocopherol

Product B: Sweet Almond oil, Beeswax, Shea Butter, Cocoa Butter, Coconut Oil, Castor Oil, Vitamin E Oil

At a quick glance product B probably looks more appealing because you can instantly recognize all the ingredients. BUT what if I told you that they are the same product? That's correct, this is a lip balm that I make, for A, I used the INCI names and for B, I used the common (English) names which are easily recognized.

INCI stands for International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients and it is a system of names for waxes, oils, pigments, chemicals, and other ingredients of soaps, cosmetics, and the like, based on scientific names and other Latin and English words.

It is a system which is easily recognizable throughout the world so if you are shopping in the streets of Italy (lucky you) you can recognize ingredients in a product even if the rest of the label is in Italian.

So many times I hear people say "I won't use a product if I can't recognize or pronounce the names of the ingredients" and so many times they are referring to the INCI names which look strange and foreign, unless you were a Latin major or a chemist in college. While I understand the thought behind that of not wanting to put potentially dangerous chemicals on one's self just remember that sometimes you cannot pronounce or recognize a name simply because it is in Latin. Case in point, the INCI name for Shea Butter is Butyrospermum Parkii Fruit, something I certainly cannot pronounce and would never guess except that I deal with these ingredients daily.

So there you have it, INCI is not scary, it just takes a little research to know what the ingredients are when they are labelled accordingly.

Here is a helpful link to INCI names for your reference: http://www.oshun.ca/inci.html

Rock on my friends
~ Your Soapsmith

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hair care pantry raid!

While surfing the net I came across some fun home hair care recipes. With the fun of summer and heading to the beach and pool you will need to give your hair some extra love to keep it from becoming too dry and damaged.

There are many items that you will find in your kitchen that can provide some great nourishment and only take a few minutes to make. I found a nice one on youtube that includes one of my favorite ingredients, avocado! I love all things avocado, I love to eat it, put the oil in my soap and wear it in my hair. This fruit has so many benefits it's crazy, another blog I came across described it as the world's most complete food. Avocados are deeply penetrating and rich in vitamins A and D, lecithin, potassium as well as vitamin E

Here is the recipe for the whipped avocado hair treatment:
1 pitted avocado
1/2 can coconut milk
1 oz coconut oil
2 tsp olive oil
2 tsp honey
2 oz pure aloe
1 tsp castor oil (you can sub almond, grapeseed or more olive oil for castor if you don't have any)

Place all ingredients in the blender and whip until it has the consistency of a mousse. Once that is complete, you can put treatment in your hair, using a comb may help. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, put hair in plastic shower cap if you have one, then rinse out in lukewarm water, you can shampoo if you'd like to or skip the shampoo and simply condition for the ultimate treat.

A really simple treat that you may like is an olive oil mask. That's it, just olive oil, warm it slightly (not hot) and start at the ends of your hair working to your scalp. Give your scalp a good massage and leave the olive oil on at least 15 minutes but you can leave it on up to an hour before rinsing out, shampoo and condition as normal.







Have some hair product build-up? Mix baking soda with some water and rinse through your hair. About 1 1/4 tbsp per 1 c water should do it, you can clean and style as normal.










Do you love eggs......from your head down to your legs? Well maybe you will after this treatment. Eggs are packed with nutrients, protein and lecithin all ingredients that your hair wants and needs. I found a couple of treatments using eggs to help make your hair shiny and beautiful, a couple of sources also sited that it will make your hair grow faster but I have my doubts since hair growth and hair patterning is genetic and body dependent.

This simple recipe calls for 1-2 egg yolks (depending on hair length) and 1 tbsp of honey. Honey is a humectant and will draw moisture to your hair, this is not great for all hair types because some hair will just become puffy and frizzy, usually hair with tight spiral curls will become too frizzy, you can just skip the honey and do the egg portion. Work the egg mixture onto your hair massaging your scalp well, rinse off after about 10-15 minutes make sure to use warm water so to not cook the eggs (yikes!) Shampoo and condition as normal, this can be done as often as once per week.

Some essential oils can be added to any of these treatments, some that are great for hair are tea tree, rosemary, peppermint and lavender, click here for more information on their benefits. When using essential oils it is important to know that they should never be used directly on your skin, always mix with a carrier oil. Also some essential oils should not be used on people with certain health conditions, including pregnancy and epilepsy, please consult a physician with questions.

Alright, go raid your pantry and have a good time!!!

Yours in shiny hair
~Soapsmith

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cold Processed, milled, and rebatched soaps, what's the difference?

We have run into questions on different soap making processes a few times so I thought it would be nice to put a post together about the differences.

cold process soap
Cold process soap is soap made without adding much additional heat in order to reach saponification. Once the soap goes through saponification and cools off (24-48 hours) it is ready to be cut and then cure for anywhere from 3-6 weeks depending on the recipe and climate in which it is curing. Before I get ahead of myself saponification is the chemical reaction in which oils (acids) and sodium hydroxide or lye (the base) mix together into an emulsion to become soap. The soap making process creates its own heat in an exothermic reaction, it's really neat to put a fresh batch of soap into a mold and check on it a little later, sometimes it gets REALLY hot and sometimes not so much, again it all depends on the recipe and other variables. I really enjoy watching a creation incubate into the final product.

French milled soap
Milled, French milled or hand-milled soap is something different. We have all most likely seen milled soap before, it is generally a very shiny hard bar. Milled soaps are not the same as a basic cold process soap. The maker takes fresh cold process soap and the natural glycerine is removed from it and it is processed through a large machine in which rollers flatten the soap into paper thin pieces. Next it is shredded and put through the rollers multiple times so that all the shredded pieces are ground back together. This mixture finally goes through an extruding machine which finally spits out a bar of compacted soap flakes. If you are looking for a natural product, this is not for you. Milled soaps are made primarily with beef tallow as many commercial soaps are as well as added synthetic ingredients which helps to give it the pretty shiny appearance. The synthetics also give it flexibility so that it can survive the rolling machines. The glycerine, which is a natural by product of soap making, is removed because it would gum up the equipment too much. On it's best day hand milled "soap" is nothing more than a laboratory imitation of the real and good thing.

Re-batched soap
Rebatched soap it sort of a marriage between cold process soap and milled soap. Rebatched soap is made when a soap maker takes a cold processed soap and shreds it up. There are no rollers or glycerine removal involved in this process. The soap is simply shredded, re-melted and remolded. There are various reasons why a soap maker would re batch a soap, sometimes the fragrance that they wanted to use is too fragile to with stand the soap making process or they want to use an expensive oil whose benefits would not be able to withstand saponification so they make their recipe then shred it down to add the extras.

So there you have it, three slight variations on the bar soap making process. Here at Soapsmiths we make cold process soaps from high quality oils, butters, essential & fragrance oils and other great skin loving additives, it's our favorite way to make a good quality product.

Toodles for now
~ Your Soapsmith

Resources: The Natural Soap Book, making herbal and vegetable soaps by: Susan Miller Cavitch

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Why we exfoliate

This seems like a simple enough question but I meet so many people who ask me just this.  The question goes a little more like "why bother?" Or something of that nature.  While exfoliating may seem like a luxury or for some just an extra step in your skin care regiment, it is actually necessary and very helpful for your other products to do their jobs properly.

Let's go back to basics and look at HOW to exfoliate. Your face/neck area and the rest of your body need to be exfoliated differently as your face is more delicate and needs a gentler approach.  Typically skin cells reproduce about every 28 days and need to be sloughed off in order to keep pores clear, prevent ingrown hairs and give your skin the beautiful radiant glow it deserves.  Exfoliation also makes even makeup coverage easier to achieve since there are no uneven dry patches.

Ok, I got off track, HOW to exfoliate is easy fun and feels great on your skin and to the layers below your epidermis (some say it even stimulates collagen, who doesn't love that?!?)  My preferred method of exfoliation is rubbing the exfoliant in small circles beginning at the shoulders and working down to the feet (skip the soles if you are standing in the shower so you don't slip and hurt yourself.) I call this MY preferred method because the technical way to do this is to start at extremities and work towards the heart.  It helps with blood flow etc. and your esthetician should do this if you go in for a treatment but when I am in the shower I always work from top down it's just my preference.

Pay special attention to your elbows, knee areas, backs of your hands and cuticle areas, chances are they are the driest because your elbows and knees are always bending and stretching the skin and you most likely wash your hands throughout the day drying out that delicate skin. I have used both sugar and salt scrubs, I like them both very much and think that it's really a matter of what you like best.  You can exfoliate the soles of your feet (and they will thank you) but I recommend making sure you are sitting down because scrubs generally have oils in them.  You can do a nice sole exfoliation, rinse well, put your favorite cream on (peppermint is great for feet and legs) and cover your tootsies with cotton socks, seriously your feet will thank you!

Ok so WHY exfoliate? Why add this one more thing to your regiment? Well you need to exfoliate in order to remove those dead skin cells and make it possible for your new cells to be able to absorb your favorite lotion, cream, balm, etc. It will also help to prevent ingrown hairs (ladies, I kid you not when I say exfoliate your underarms if it is a problem area for you) You will also notice that after a good exfoliation your lotion will sink right into your skin.  Also certain types of salts (dead sea salt for example) contain a high number of minerals and help to clean out pores which is awesome and helps with that beautiful glow we all deserve.

WHEN to exfoliate.  This answer varies, three times per week would be a maximum, and maybe too much for some, I would say once per week minimum and twice is the sweet spot.  Don't overdo it though, too much will become damaging and create micro-tears in your skin and be irritating.

FACIAL EXFOLIATION.  It is not recommended to use your body exfoliant on your face and neck.  The skin on your face is more delicate and needs an exfoliant that is formulated for that area. Be sure to get a separate one and once to twice per week is more than enough for your face, our faces and necks take more abuse from sunlight, makeup, wind and many other elements that we need to treat it with care so we look fabulous long into our later years! A great way to exfoliate your face is to start from the top down, start with the forehead making small circles, work outward towards your cheeks then sweep in to your nose area and then down to the chin and jaw bone area.  The jaw bone is a great area to spend a little time on because that is where many of the sebum glands are and it helps to keep them flowing (we like that).  After the jaw bone, work down towards your neck but use light feather movements from your collarbone up to your jaw bone (help fight gravity!) You can also do your decollete with your facial exfoliant if you'd like, that skin is also very delicate.

One other area to exfoliate that is always overlooked is our lips. It may sound like a foreign concept but if your lips are dry and you keep applying lip balm you are only applying it to the dead skin and you are:
A. wasting your money and
B. trying to raise the dead, literally, you are trying to revive skin that is dead and not benefiting your new young skin below.  There are some great lip exfoliants out there that will make it worth your money because then your lip balm will work better and your lip sticks will glide on without clumping onto the dry skin.






Glow on my friends
~Your Soapsmith

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What is Castille Soap?

Historically Castile soap is a soap made with only three ingredients: olive oil, water and sodium hydroxide.  The origin has been traced back to Castile, Spain and since olive oil does come from there that makes good sense.  Other sources trace it to a little deeper into the Mediterranean regions of Europe such as Italy or Greece.

Today the term castile soap is beginning to take on new meaning.  I have seen companies claim that they have a castile soap because it is made with all vegetable oils, not quite correct but it seems like it is becoming a more accepted norm as of late.

So why all the fuss?  Well olive oil is great for you inside and out.  Our skin's natural pH is 5.5 and conveniently olive oil's pH is also about 5.5 making it a good and gentle cleanser for just about anyone.  I have heard it recommended to those with sensitive skin or conditioned skin as something that is mild and will leave skin feeling smooth and hydrated.  Since this soap only has one oil it lacks some properties that other multi-oil soaps would have.  For example, coconut oil helps to make soaps nice and hard and palm oil helps to make the bar last for a long time, castor oil (one of my favorite oils) helps to make soaps nice and bubbly.  I am not saying that a castile bar cannot have these properties, it's just that the cure time is generally longer and it may not get as bubbly, or become as hard or last as long, but do not discount this soap.  It's benefits far outweigh some of it's differences and a properly formulated bar should leave you feeling satisfied and wanting more.

Currently we are working on our own type of castile bar.  Personally I love a good bubbly bar of soap so I have kind of thrown making this bar on the back burner for awhile.  Well today I got on the horse and decided to give it another try.  We sourced fresh milk from a local farm and I used that as my liquid portion.  I am hoping that the sugars and added fats from the milk will help make it creamy and bubbly.  I am impatiently waiting as it saponifies and will cut it tomorrow to begin it's curing journey.  I am very excited to see what the outcome is. During the creation process it felt thicker and creamier than when I formerly made castile with water so we shall see!!!

Stay tuned, I will post pics of the soaps with I have them cut.

Until then, stay bubbly
~Your Soapsmith

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan Relief

In the grim aftermath of what happened last Friday in Japan I sit here feeling like such a little person in this very big world wondering if anything I do to help would make a dent.  Well I am going to do something anyway.  We have lots of soaps from seasons past here at Soapsmiths that look really beautiful but let's face it, no one is buying flip flop shaped soaps in March.  So we are sending them across the pond to the Japan relief effort.

Why send soap you may ask?  While we know that many MANY items are needed soap is also important to keeping an environment sanitary and helping to prevent health problems such as diarrhea, infections from cuts, colds, flu, lower respiratory infections, impetigo and more.  These problems will affect mainly young children.  Something as simple as having access to a bar of soap to wash their hands can prevent a plethora of illnesses.  Some studies project a 42-47% reduction in these health risks with proper sanitation.

So yes, we the little Soapsmiths will be sending our soaps to Japan and other countries to help reduce health risks for the children and people who need it most.  If everyone does something, even if they feel they are too small to make a difference, it will make a difference in the end and people will be thankful, even if we never cross paths with the person we helped, know that it will make a difference in their lives.  I don't know about you but that's all I need to know.

For more information on donations please check out these links:
http://cleantheworld.org/default.asp
http://www.redcross.org/
http://www.habitat.org/  < although it may be some time until they can start to rebuild, they are international.
http://www.unicefusa.org

There are tons of sites, please take a minute to search the web, if you find a great one, let me know and I will list it here so everyone can see it.

Be generous my friends
~Your Soapsmith

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cleanin' out our closets

So you may have heard already but the Soapsmiths are relocating up to wild wonderful Vermont.  Burlington, Vermont to be exact.  As I am here at my own house cleaning and packing I was sorting through a bunch of old lotions, soaps, make-up and whatever else I managed to just throw into the drawer "for later use."  It is good to go through your products at least yearly and THROW AWAY OLD PRODUCTS!!!  

The reason for this is for many products with active ingredients the ingredients will not stay active indefinitely, they may become weaker over time or just simply be ineffective.  For other products such as lotions, face creams, serums etc.  They are not meant to last forever.  Even those with preservatives have a life span, preservatives can give a product a longer and safer shelf life but it does not make it indefinite.  My rule of thumb for my bathroom is that if it is more than one year old it gets tossed and that's it.

On some products you may notice a little picture of a container with the lid propped open and a number and letter next to it, this indicates that the product is good for XX time frame once opened.  Usually the letter designation is M which stands for Months, I find that to be very helpful when I can actually remember when I bought and opened that item.

Another thing to remember is that the ingredients themselves have a lifespan let alone the mixture.  Certain oils have longer shelf lives than others.  Jojoba for instance can last for a year or slightly longer, but if that same product has an ingredient with a super short life span such as hemp oil then the product may not last for one year and may not smell so pleasant after awhile.  I have also found that certain fragrances and essential oils tend to fade over time, leaving me with a non-scented item or just the sad reminder of how great it once smelled.

The moral to this story is to purchase things in quantities that you know you can use in a reasonable amount of time.  If you are slow to use a certain something or like to have multiple scents around buy small so you don't have to throw your dollars out.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

Happy spring cleaning!

~Your friendly neighborhood Soapsmith

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ingredient Highlight- Olive Oil

With all the awesome and skin loving ingredients in our soap studio I thought it would be great to start highlighting the important properties of them to help explain why we choose to use certain ones in our products.

To kick this off I wanted to write about a very common one, in fact, you probably have it in your kitchen pantry it's so common.

OLIVE OIL  - (Olea europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil)- This is a liquid oil that ranges in color from yellow to green in color.

History: The olive tree dates back to between 5,000-6,000 years ago the actual location of origin varies by what story you read. It was discovered anywhere from Southern Asia to  Israel and spread to Europe and Northern Africa from there.  It has been used for centuries for everything from religious ceremonies to healing and cleansing. A plant that has survived this long through so many different climates, wars, rulers and plagues certainly deserves a nod.

Olive Oil in skin care: It is high in oleic acid and is a good skin cell regenerator. It is traditionally included within soap, cream, balm, body butter, herbal infusion and hair care formulations. Olive Oil attracts external moisture to the skin and still permits the skin to properly release sweat, shed dead skin and release sebum. It is a good oil for inclusion in massage oil formulations and it helps to sooth inflamed skin. Olive oil has a pH of around 5.5 which is very close to the skin’s natural pH.

Recommended skin types: all

Bubble on my friends
~ Your Soapsmith

Friday, February 4, 2011

Home Skin care Part II

home oasis
In our previous home skin care post we explored the basics of skin care, three steps that should be done at least twice daily.  If you are looking to augment your regimen here are some additional steps that can be incorporated periodically to really pamper your hardworking skin and make you feel great!

These steps are:
  • Exfoliate: 1-2 x weekly
  • Steam: 1-2 x times weekly
  • Mask: 1-2  x weekly
What is Exfoliation?

Dry, dead skin cells block your pores, leading to blackheads, whiteheads, acne, ingrown hairs and more. When that dead skin is removed, the new healthy skin is revealed and skin care products can better penetrate and keep this new skin healthy and radiant. Exfoliation can sometimes help remove sun damaged and discolored skin, too.
Regular exfoliation can result in:
sea salt exfoliation
  • Reduction in the appearance of wrinkles
  • Fewer ingrown hairs, especially for men
  • An even, more uniform tone
  • Fewer blotches and discoloration
  • Less noticeable scars
  • Brighter, more youthful appearance
  • More even make-up application and coverage (think no flaky or dry looking spots
The face isn't the only area of the body that deserves exfoliation. You should exfoliate your entire body including your hardworking hands and feet.

Types of exfoliation:
There are two main types of exfoliation methods.  Abrasive and chemical.  Home exfoliation is generally abrasive and if you are in a pinch and need to exfoliate STAT you can find ingredients right in your kitchen to help you out.  Sugar, salt and oatmeal are three examples of exfoliants found in the home.  While you are trying to remove dead skin cells make sure the exfoliant you choose is abrasive but NOT SHARP so as to avoid irritation and skin damage such as micro tears in your delicate skin.

Home exfoliant recipes:
Gentle Sugar Facial Exfoliant
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tsp grape seed oil (can also use almond oil)
5-10 drops essential oil if you would like.  (we really like lavender here)

pamper tip: you can gently warm this up prior to use

Directions:
Mix well
Apply to damp face and gently rub in circular motion (this will also feel great on your lips!)
Rinse off, pat face dry (do not rub too hard), tone and get ready to steam (or moisturize as normal and you are done!)

Body Sea Salt Scrub
1/2 C Sea Salt (can use dead sea salts, or just sea salt.)
1/2 C grape seed oil or oil of choice
10-15 drops skin safe fragrance or essential oil if desired (please note, fragrances used to make candles are NOT skin safe)

Directions
Combine ingredients in a NON BREAKABLE container.  Hop into the shower and exfoliate away, please be careful as the shower floor will be slippery from the oil.

To make your home exfoliants more "dry" feeling simply add less oil until you have a consistency that you are happy with.

About the oils.  Both grape seed and almond oils are great to make scrubs with because they are very light and soak into the skin fast not leaving a heave slidy feel on your skin.

Home Steam
refreshing and natural
Most everyone enjoys a good steam when they have a spa day, but what about those times in between?  Well you can treat yourself to a nice little steam at home too without too much effort.

To prepare:
Send children and pets to another room to play, remember you are dealing with something that is hot and don't want anyone to get hurt.
Tie your hair back and gather the following items:
large bowl
tea kettle (with water)
clean hand towel
dried herbs (you can cheat and use a couple of tea bags such as chamomile)
10-15 drops of essential oils if you would like (eucalyptus is great if you are feeling a little congested)

Directions:
Cleanse your face and pat dry.
Boil the water in the kettle and pour into your large glass bowl with your herbs and essential oils
Place the towel over your head and lean over the bowl to allow the steam treatment to begin
Relax and enjoy yourself for 10-15 minutes*
Pat your face dry, tone and move onto your facial mask (or moisturize and you are complete)
* note, if you have sensitive skin or broken capillaries, you might want to start with a shorter time and work up to what you feel is appropriate for your skin type

so many masks, so little time
Masks
There are SO MANY different kinds of masks on the market what one is right for you?!?  So what goal are you trying to achieve with your mask?  Depending on their ingredients they can do the following:
tighten and tone
draw out impurities
clear up blemishes
hydrate
nourish
calm and soothe
rejuvenate
brighten the complexion

Some other factors to consider are that there are non-setting masks which are more cream or gel based and setting masks which are clay based.  A fun kind of mask that can be made at home are biological masks which are  - you guessed it made from ingredients you can find in your kitchen.

Let's talk about biological ingredients and their benefits:
avocado - rich in vitamins and oil; beneficial for dry and sensitive skin
cucumber - soothing and healing; can be used as a mask or simply as eye pads
egg - egg whites can tone and tighten the skin and egg yolk has a nourishing and softening effect (good for mature and dry skin)
herbs - many herbs and teas such as chamomile are used for masks and compresses
honey - hydrating, toning and tightening
papaya - exfoliating with enzymatic properties
potatoes - used for oily skin or to reduce puffiness in the eye area
yogurt - cleansing and mildly astringent

Other items which are great include
pineapple - citric acid (helps to dissolve oils)
banana - nourishing
oatmeal - hydrating
milk - lactic acid (good for complexion, think - Cleopatra)
apples - malic acid (gentle exfoliant)
grapes - tartaric acid (gentle exfoliant)
mushrooms - kojic acid (skin brightening, good for hyperpigmentation)
sugar cane - glycolic acid (aids in exfoliation)

soothing, nourishing banana mask
Here is a quick and easy recipe for Normal type skin:
1 ripe banana
1 tbsp honey (slightly warm)
1 egg, beaten

Mix all ingredients together until smooth.  Apply to face and neck and leave on 10-15 minutes.  Rinse off, tone and moisturize as normal. Your skin should feel soft and moisturized after this mask.

Be adventurous and play around with biological ingredients until you find a combination that your skin absolutely loves, remember it's your personal time to pamper yourself so don't stress, just enjoy!

Bubble on my glowing friends,

~Your Soapsmith

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Preservatives Part III- Parabens

Let's talk about parabens.  

First a little history:  Parabens are a family of synthetic preservatives widely used in cosmetics around the world since the 1920's because of their efficacy, low risk of irritation, and stability.  This family includes butylparaben, ethylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben, with the last two being the most commonly used. All of these parabens are effective against a broad spectrum of microorganisms, including most fungi and most bacteria.  They prevent growth of other possible contaminants such as yeast and mold.  They are used in quantities of 0.1 to 0.5 percent of total formulation, and it is estimated that 30 percent or less of the total amount of paraben used (0.03 to 0.15 percent) may penetrate the skin.

In 2004, the safety of parabens and preservatives became and issue.  This was the result of a UK study that focused on the use of paraben-containing deodarants.  It evaluated if long term use of parabens was biocumulative and thus somehow related to breast cancer.  Since then, cosmetic chemists who are familiar with the skin-penetration activity of parabens maintain that accumulation of parabens from topical application is not possible because once parabens enter the skin, they form metabolites that are incapable of mimiking estrogen. Other studies indicate that after entering the skin, parabens are metabolized in para-hydroxbenzoic acid with only a small percentage remaining as the original paraben.

The most recently conducted studies seem to invalidate the claim of potential breast cancer risk when using cosmetics with parabens. Studies have shown that parabens are 1,000 to 1,000,000 times LESS estrogenic than estradiol, the major estrogenic compound in the body. Lets put this into perspective a little bit more. Phytoestrogens, substances from plants that have estrogen-like qualities including soybeans, clover, strawberries, sage, red clover, pumpkin, and rosehips (among others), and are considered to have natural estrogenic effects 1,000 to 1,000,000 times STRONGER than parabens. 

According to the American Cancer Society:
Other studies have found some form of parabens in the urine of about 99% of US adults. This would suggest that people are getting parabens from more than one source. But so far, studies have not shown any direct link between parabens and any health problems, including breast cancer. There are also many other compounds in the environment that mimic naturally-produced estrogen.

The bottom line is that larger studies are needed to find out what effect, if any, parabens might have on breast cancer risk.

http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk

I recently heard someone comment that parabens have been banned in the European Union.  Upon further researching this comment I found it to be another bit of mis-information which is floating around.

It's a shame that parabens get such a bad rep off of a study which was done and ruled inconclusive.  This family of preservatives has been around and studied for 91 years!  That's quite a track record for something which is perceived as being so very dangerous.

In conclusion, are parabens bad and will they kill you? No, but if you feel that they are a threat at least do your own research and come to your own conclusions instead of jumping onto the bandwagon of mis-information which is driving around out there.  

 

Resources:
Milady's skincare and cosmetic ingredients dictionary, 3rd Edition By: Natalia Michalun and M. Varinia Michalun


www.cancer.org


http://ec.europa.eu/consumers/cosmetics/cosing/index.cfm?fuseaction=search.details_v2&id=28137

Stay bubbly my friends

~Your Soapsmith

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Preservatives Part II "Natural preservatives"

Don't be fooled by ingredients that sound too good to be true.

According to The Green Beauty Guide there is one completely natural preservative.  It is: Suprapein.  The book also states that, Lemon peel oil, grapefruit seed extract, vitamin C and vitamin E can prevent oxidation which is true but makes no sense being squashed into a paragraph about preservatives and is VERY misleading. 


The ingredients for Suprapein are: Origanum Vulgare Leaf Extract, Thyme Extract, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Bark Extract, Rosemary Leaf Extract, Lavender Flower Extract, Lemon Peel Extract, Peppermint Leaf Extract, Golden Seal Root Extract, Olive Leaf Extract.


I am still looking for an MSDS sheet on this, in the meantime I did find a study done on this ingredient but it was unfortunately done by the company who formulated it.  Of course they find this product to be an effective replacement to and synthetic preservative but their patent is still pending.  When I find more information and reliable studies I will post the results here.

Let's look at the ingredient names which the green beauty guide so slyly put into the chapter on preservatives as these are commonly mistaken for actual preservatives.

Grape fruit seed extract- ingredients: grapefruit seed extract and glycerin.  Normally used as an antioxidant to help prevent rancidity in lotion and lotion bars.  This means that it will delay the breakdown of the oils.  It will not protect against bacteria, mold or yeast.  This is NOT a preservative.

Vitamin E oil- again this slows the oxidation process of oils which delays rancidity.  It is also a good anti-oxidant but is not a preservative.

Vitamin C- Same, it will delay oxidation but will not protect against bacteria, mold or yeast, not a preservative.

Rosemary Oleoresin Extract AKA- ROE- This is also commonly mistaken as a preservative but it is not.  It is an antioxidant.  Pregnant women are recommended to avoid using rosemary due to its abortion inducing properties. Even nursing mothers should avoid its use without consulting a physician.  Also, intake of rosemary oil extract in large doses have been found to cause seizures in otherwise healthy people. Regarding the last sentence we remind you that anything taken in large doses (even water) can be dangerous.

Let's look at the last item in green beauty guide's list: Lemon peel oil.  This ingredient like many essential oils have natural anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties which will help to delay rancidity of the product however in order to keep a product absolutely safe a lab tested and approved preservative is always needed.


Now, why is a preservative needed if essential oils and base oils have natural anti-bacterial and anti-microbial qualities?  The answer is this: if the product you have purchased comes in a little tub, i.e. you dip your fingers into it you are always going to be introducing new bacterias, molds and not to mention air-borne yeast into your product, there is no guarantee that the oils can fight these off, in fact we don't know what bacterias and microbes they can battle against, but I will bet you that they would lose a fight against Staph or even worse MRSA (and even more resistant form of staph if you can believe it!).  If your product comes in a pump container it most likely contains water, a lovely breeding ground for all sorts of nasties and remember we can't see microbes with our naked eye and may not know they are there.


Resources:

Milady's skincare and cosmetic ingredients dictionary, 3rd Edition By: Natalia Michalun and M. Varinia Michalun


The green beauty guide By: Julie Gabriel


www.lotioncrafter.com (for the MSDS sheets and ingredients)



Stay bubbly my friends

~Your Soapsmith

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A word (or two) about preservatives Part I

Well what began as one innocent blog entry has turned into a three part series because as I went through my books and other resources I found that there was a lot of information and wanted to paint a whole picture for the reader.  Please enjoy my little preservative series.

This is something we are often asked about regarding our lotions and scrubs.  In a word, yes we use preservatives because we are a responsible company who wishes to do no harm to our wonderful customers.  Now let's explore why we consider it responsible and safe to use preservatives.  While we are at it, let's explore different types on the market as well as "natural" versus synthetic.

We will discuss some commonly used preservatives which can be found in products produced by smaller companies such as Soapsmiths.

1. Germaben II- Ingredients: Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea, Methylparaben, Propylparaben
I know you see the word "paraben"  we will discuss this in another blog post.  This preservative is ideal for both oil and water emulsions.  It is a complete antimicrobial preservative system which has broad spectrum coverage.  The two parabens listed help to make it effective against bacterias as well as yeast and mold.  According to the material safety data sheet (MSDS) while this product can cause irritation to eyes and skin at full strength (this is NEVER the case when used in formulations) studies indicate that there are no known chronic health hazards.

2. Phenonip- Ingredients: Phenoxyethanol (and) Methylparaben (and) Ethylparaben (and) Butylparaben (and) Propylparaben (and) Isobutylparaben.
Much like Germaben in what is will protect against.  This preservative will work in both water and oil based emulsions.  It is a broad spectrum antimicrobial and also effective against yeast and mold.

3. Optiphen Plus- Ingredients: Phenoxyethanol (and) Caprylyl Glycol (and) Sorbic Acid
ISP's second globally approved preservative in the Optiphen family developed as an alternative for personal care formulations requiring a paraben and formaldehyde-free preservative system, particularly within lower pH systems. Optiphen Plus performs best in formulations below 6.0 pH, but is also proven effective at pH levels above 6.0.  From personal experience I know that this preservative performs better in oil based emulsions.  Also it has pH restraints which must be taken into consideration.

4. NataPres- Ingredients: Glycerin, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, lonicera japonica (honey-suckle) flower extract, lonicera caprifolium (honeysuckle) extract, populus tremuloides bark extract, glucono-lactone.  This is a newer preservative to hit the market and you will probably start hearing about it and seeing it more in the future.  We could not find it's MSDS sheet but will keep looking as that is a good source which will measure this preservative and challenge as the previous ones have been.  


A reliable vendor did an independent test in their lab and published their findings, here they are:
NataPres™ it turns out is just another ineffective natural preservative riding the wave of consumer demand.  We tested out NataPres™ in our lab and the intital results were promising.  It passed early testing, but eventually failed.  When Ryan called the NataPres™ manufacturers with our failed results they revealed that NataPres™ needed to be used in conjunction with an anti-fungal agent to create a properly preserved emulsion.
Ryan asked if their lab results with NataPres™ were similiar to ours and found that indeed they had found in their testing that it failed against fungus.


Don't be fooled by ingredients that sound too good to be true.



Resources:

 http://essentialu.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/12/review-of-natapres-preservative.html (review of the NataPres preservative)

Milady's skincare and cosmetic ingredients dictionary, 3rd Edition By: Natalia Michalun and M. Varinia Michalun


The green beauty guide By: Julie Gabriel


www.lotioncrafter.com (for the MSDS sheets and ingredients)


www.chemistrystore.com (for the MSDS sheets and ingredients)

Stay bubbly my friends

~Your Soapsmith


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Natural vs. Synthetic

Now that we have defined what organic really means scientifically, lets explore natural vs. synthetic and try to better understand what that means to us as consumers.

It's unfortunate that the word synthetic has such a negative connotation in today's world, there are many natural substances which are harmful and we would never think to use (snake venom and poison ivy for example), but the second someone sees or hears synthetic it is automatically bad and will cause some awful ailment.

Let's look at this more closely.  Synthetic ingredients can be just as effective and may have certain advantages over ingredients derived naturally from plants. Why?  Because they are formulated in a controlled and sterile environment and often times studies for months, even years and decades after they have been created.  They are tweaked and improved upon as new science comes to light.  Also synthetic ingredients are often times inspired by something that was originally natural and then improved upon in a laboratory.

For instance hyaluronic acid is an ingredient used to bind moisture in formulations, the natural version of this substance was originally derived from rooster combs. While a great ingredient its synthetic counterpart is more stable with more water binding properties and predictable when used in formulations not to mention the roosters are much happier to keep their combs.  If we as consumers all only wanted natural ingredients our environment could be seriously affected adversely.  Whole races of animals would be wiped off the planet, forests would be completely gone, etc.  Let the scientists take the natural ingredients and work with them to produce the synthetic cousin so we can keep this blue marble spinning.

Are all natural ingredients bad?  Of course not, there are many that are great, the important thing to understand is to be able to find the balance between the worlds of natural and synthetic.  Some natural resources cause a negative environmental impact and should not be considered, synthetic ingredients really shine in this department.  Both have positive and negative drawbacks and both need to be researched with an open mind in order to make informed decisions. 

So the next time you are shopping for your new bath and body product, remember to read the ingredient list with an open mind, if you don't recognize an ingredient don't automatically think that it is bad, I encourage you to look it up, sometimes the long scary names are merely the INCI names or "International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients" which simply means the scientific name which is recognized world wide. 

We believe in education our already intelligent consumers with the correct information and not some marketing mumbo jumbo which has become the norm in society these days.  We encourage you to ask us questions about our products and ingredients, we are always happy to answer and help you to make the right decision for your skin and lifestyle.

 Stay bubbly my friends
~ Your Soapsmith

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Organic Vs. Inorganic - The science behind the matter

This terminology is not to be confused with the terms Natural and Synthetic, although they seem to have become interchangeable lately, which is unfortunate because they are not one in the same.

Let's break this down.
Scientifically speaking:
  • An organic object is an object that contains carbon
  • All living things, whether they are plants or animals, contain carbon
  • The term organic is often used to mean "natural" because of its association with living things, the term also applies to things that have never been alive.
Examples are: gasoline, plastics, synthetic fabrics, pesticides and fertilizers.  These products are manufactured from natural gas and oil, which are the remains of plants and animals that died millions of years ago.   

Organic compounds will burn.

Inorganic objects:
  • do not contain carbon
  • they are substances that are not and never were alive
Examples: Metals, minerals, pure water and clean air are examples of inorganic substances,

Inorganic substances will not burn.

Stay bubbly my friends~
Your Soapsmith

Monday, January 24, 2011

Understanding Sun Protection

There are two types of sunscreen.  Chemical and Physical.  Chemical screens ABSORB the sun's rays while physical ones REFLECT the rays.

Physical sunscreens:
  • titanium dioxide
  • zinc oxide 
Chemical sunscreens:
  • octinoxate (octyl methoxycinnimate)
  • octisalate (octyl salicylate)
  • oxybenzone (benzophenone)
What is SPF?  SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor which was developed by scientists who were studying physical sun damage in 15 minute increments.  In order to better understand what those numbers mean on your sunscreen bottle there is a formula which can be followed to estimate how long your sunscreen can protect you.  This applies to both physical and chemical sunscreens.

Say you have a sunscreen with an SPF of 4:


SPF 4 X 15 minutes = 1 hour
60 minutes

Other examples:

SPF 8 X 15 minutes = 2 hours
60 minutes

SPF 15 X 15 minutes = 3.75 hours
60 minutes

SPF 35 X 15 minutes = 8.75 hours
60 minutes

SPF 45 X 15 minutes = 11.25 hours
60 minutes

SPF 50 X 15 minutes = 12.5 hours
60 minutes

And so on, but remember even though an SPF of 50 MAY protect for up to 12.5 hours other factors such as sweat and swimming will the time it is effective to plan accordingly and re-apply liberally if you are playing in the sun.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

What is African Black Soap?

True African Black Soap
 African black soap is an all-natural soap hand-crafted in Western Africa . There are more than 100 different varieties of African black soap. The production and recipe for the soap varies depending on the region of Africa that it is made. Most black soap is made with a blend of plantain skin, cocoa pod powder, tropical honey, and virgin coconut oil. African black soap is most commonly hand-crafted by village women in Africa who make the soap for themselves and to support their families.

What Makes Black Soap Different:
  • Natural source of vitamin A, E and Iron
  • Can help to relieve acne, oily skin, clear up blemishes
  • Can help with skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis
  • Can help reduce stretch marks
  • Can also be used in the hair as a shampoo
  • Can be used to shave with
  • Contains no preservatives, color enhancers or fragrances
  • Can be drying to some skin types
How Black Soap is Made:
 


1 - Leaves and bark of various trees and plants are burned in a vat or kettle. These may be leaves from banana trees, plantain skins, palm tree leaves, shea tree bark, and/or cocoa pods.
 


2 - Water is added to ashes to be filtered. Oils such as coconut oil, shea oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter are added to the water to create the soap.
 


3 - The soap is then hand-stirred by local women for at least a day and then set out to cure for two weeks.

People have tried to re-create African black soap in the west, but it has never been able to truly replicate the authentic product. This is because genuine black soap is created using age-old traditions that are passed down from one generation to the next in smaller villages in Africa.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Home Skin care

Today I thought it would be nice to put up a fun home spa recipe for all to try.  I pulled out my mountain of papers and recipes and began to sift through looking for THE recipe of the day.  UGH!  Who makes these things up?!?  Either they have ingredients that wouldn't possibly be readily available in someone's home (seriously - who keeps dried yarrow on hand?).  Or they are recipes that I am convinced the author never tried on their own face but still decided to recommend it.....yikes!
For today I decided to change gears a little, let's talk about proper face care steps. 

These three steps should be done twice daily, make it your personal time, even if it is only 5-10 minutes that you get.
 Remember to include your neck in this process as it will age just as fast as the skin on your face and is often forgotten.

1. Cleanse: this will rid your skin of dirt, makeup and oils

2. Tone: this will close pores after they have been cleansed, making them appear smaller, toners also help to balance the pH of your skin.

3. Moisturize and sunscreen: to replenish and protect your skin

Let's talk about the daily routine and discuss a little further.  While you want to cleanse your face and rid it of the grime of the day you don't want to completely strip it twice a day of it's natural protection, also known as sebum.  Find a gentle cleanser that makes you feel clean without your skin feeling too tight and dry, the more harsh the cleanser the harder your skin will have to work to re-set to its proper pH causing more issues in the end.  A personal favorite of mine are cleansing milks.  I didn't like them at first because they weren't bubbly and I thought therefor not cleaning my face, but after a trial period of using them I realized that my face felt great, it was less dry and just felt nice to the touch after.

An example of cleansing milk


Toner is one of the great unsung heroes of skin care.  Although there are many ways toner can be formulated most toners help to close pores and re-balance pH which is very important for the health of your skin.  The healthy pH of skin is about 5.5 but cleansers usually have a more alkali pH so the skin needs to be re-set afterward so it does not go into overdrive.  When skin goes into overdrive the sebaceous glands work extra hard to re-coat your face sometimes they overshoot causing your skin to feel oily soon after washing your face, and who wants that to happen?  I like to put my toner into a little spray bottle for good coverage on my face and neck.

Toner in a spray bottle


Now the final step of your regular regimen, moisturizer.  A good skin appropriate moisturizer will help to cover and protect your skin from daily wear and tear.  Of course a sunscreen should also be used or a moisturizer with a sunscreen for daytime.  If you live in a cold climate you may find that a lighter moisturizer works better in the summer and a little bit of a heaver one helps in the winter.  Don't mistake oily skin for moisturized skin though and don't skip moisturizer in the summer just because your skin gets oily.

Moisturizer


There are always additional steps that can be done to further improve your skin and keep it looking young and healthy.  These things would not be done on a daily basis, maybe a couple of times per week but you will have to listen to your skin and its needs to really know.

They are:

Exfoliate

Steam

Mask

All of which can be done at home periodically which we can discuss in another post.

Bubble on my friends
~Your Soapsmith