Thursday, September 27, 2018

The "Natural Deodorant" test

Ok, who is using them? Natural deodorants I mean! I have done boat loads of reading to figure out what makes a good and effective natural deodorant. I found 2 things that seemed important in making this product effective. #1 most natural deodorants contain baking soda. The pH of baking soda is 9 while the pH of the skin is 5.5. While the numbers might seem trivial that is actually a HUGE difference. The comments I kept coming across were that prolonged use of deodorants containing baking soda was causing sensitivities in some people. This makes sense to me, using a product that is not pH compatible with the body can cause issues including sensitivities. The second thing I learned was that some companies are using enzymes that are derived from fungus as an ingredient because the enzymes have the ability to "eat" the bacteria from the armpit environment.

With these two pieces of information I formulated my plan for the natural deodorant trial I wanted to do for myself. My husband ended up being interested in all this as well and so we decided to try this out together. It so happened to be fall/winter when we decided to give this a try which I thought was good because we both sweat less then anyway. After all this is deodorant and not anti-perspirant we are testing. I wanted to select a deodorant that did not contain baking soda and I wanted to find one that did contain enzymes. I chose not to formulate one myself for the trial because I wanted to see what was available on the market and then potentially formulate one at a later time.

Off to our cute little local co-op I marched with my plans in mind. I settled on 2 different ones to start with. I went big name brand with Tom's of Maine unscented and then another company which I was not familiar with but thought the pricing was reasonable (these natural deodorants can get expensive really fast!)

We kept switching back and forth between the two brands during our trial (not very scientific, I know). I would use one a couple days in a row then the other. What I realized really fast was that Tom's of Maine was completely ineffective for my body chemistry and the hubby felt the same way for his pits. It actually seemed to have the opposite effect of its intended purpose in that is made me feel

less fresh. Here are the ingredients for
deodorant #1 (Tom's): Propylene Glycol (Vegetable Derived), Water, Sodium Stearate, Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Zinc Ricinoleate, Glyceryl Laurate, Humulus Lupulus (Hops) (Extracted with Co2) Cone Extract, Organic Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Ascorbic Acid, Organic Cymbopogon Flexuosus Oil.

The container advertised 24 hours of coverage and mentioned that the zinc salts was what was making the deodorant work. So NOT the case, even with re-applying it was not effective. We ended up chucking it in the bin.

Deodorant #2 I managed to misplace in our recent move and the co-op no longer carries it, unfortunately. So I can give you details of our little trial but I am sorry to say that I can't give the name of the product at this time. Should I locate that deodorant I will update this post with name and ingredients. I selected the citrus scent and it also contained the fungus derived enzymes, it smelled amazing! It provided great coverage and I felt fresh all day. The drawback of this product was that is was super sticky. Not just right after applying either, it was sticky ALL DAY LONG! I felt that we had made progress though, it was effective, smelled great and did the job it claimed to do. Aesthetically though, my armpits did not like feeling sticky.

With this knowledge I have set out to try a third natural deodorant which arrived last week. I saw it on the site of one of my vendors and thought "sure, let's try it!" It meets my criteria of

no baking soda plus contains enzymes. The brand is "All Good" and I selected the Cedarwood and Spruce scent. Ingredients are: Propanediol, water, sodium stearate, saccharomyces ferment, organic aloe extract, organic calendula extract, organic arrowroot powder, organic cedarwood essential oil, organic spruce essential oil, and organic rosemary essential oil.
Both the hubby and myself have been using it daily. It is fall here and the weather has started to cool off but we both tend to do a good amount of manual labor either at home or (in my case) at my job. This deodorant is awesome! It has a lovely subtle scent when being applied but is not overpowering and actually fades away rather fast. It feels a tad wet when applied but dried quickly and feels like nothing. I have not needed to re-apply this deodorant even once yet which is so cool because I worked up a storm the other day then went out after work for family dinner and no one fell off their chair due to me being a little stink bomb (lol). So far this is a huge win for both of us, we will continue to use it and are both curious to see how it will hold up when the weather turns warm (and worse....humid!)

Additionally another great vendor I use has a natural deodorant

base available which contains enzymes, I really like that idea because I can customize it with whatever scent I want. I plan to order some next time I place an order with them. You can read about that HERE if you are interested.

So what are some natural deodorants you have tried? Tell me about your successes or failures. Have you tried to make deodorant and how did that go for you? Let's start our own little review right here!

Yours in aromatic pits


Thursday, September 20, 2018

What’s Curing?

Available January 2019 locations to be announced.

Ingredients: Saponified oils of olive, coconut, palm kernel and castor. Also contains sodium lactate, essential or fragrance oils and colorant. (see below for specifics.)

Lemongrass, grapefruit and basil essential oils,
green chrome oxide and nettle leaf powder.

Spearmint, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils,
pearly white mica, ultramarine blue and vita burst beads.

Ylang ylang, patchouli essential oils,
vita burst beads and chamomile powder.

Coconut lime fragrance oil,
green chrome oxide and nettle leaf powder.

Lemon and lavender essential oils, no colorants added.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

So you wanna make soap......

Well that's positively awesome! I want to share the tips and tricks
(and links) I have found along the way to help you discover your soap making process. If you are just now stumbling across this blog, let me give you the reader's digest version of, well, me. I have been formulating soaps and other body products for the past decade. I used to have a pretty successful soap making business but decided to become smaller so that it is more of a hobby than a labor intensive job. I like it better this way, I went back to making small artisanal batches that are delicious and sized in a way that I can have fun experimenting with new colorants, scents, oils and whatever else comes to mind. So do I still make and sell soap? I do, but it's a hobby now so any money made from it just goes back into supplies. My real passion in life is teaching people things. I get to do lots of educational projects where I work (at a zoo) so I wanted to extend that to this blog. Why not? I am good at making soap and am happy to share knowledge. 

Currently curing in the studio
So let's get rolling kids....LET'S MAKE SOAP! At the bottom of this post I will put all the resource links  I can think of for your convenience. First of all if you are reading this I assume it is because you were doing the google on how to make soap. The type of soap I make is called cold process soap. There are many other styles of soap making, this happens to be the one I enjoy making the most and the one I make most often. I have tried my hand at liquid soap making (too long of a process, and not enough room for creativity for me). I tried hot process.....too ugly.....and I have tried melt and pour which I find to be a lot of fun especially for making cute holiday soaps. 

Melt and Pour Soaps
Melt and pour is super fun, incredibly safe (all the ingredients are mixed together, no lye to mess with), leaves loads of room for creativity and there is no waiting around for the soap to cure! In fact some of my prettiest soaps have been from melt and pour bases. It's also great if you are looking for a cool project to do with small children.

But I digress, back to cold process (CP) soaping. Let's skip the long version of the history lesson. Long story short, many different countries claim to be the home of soap making, it typically involves a hill (conveniently named Sapo hill), an animal sacrifice and the fats from said animal being washed down said hill into a creek/river/etc. where women just happened to be washing clothes and bubbles formed or something like you feel like a better soaper now that you know the very dodgy history of it all? Lol.....history is funny.

Cold process soap involves three basic components: Lye (sodium hydroxide), water or a liquid to dissolve the lye into and oils or fats as some people call it. That's it. That is what makes the most basic of soaps. As you get better you can play around with essential or fragrance oils, an endless amount of colorants, both natural and synthetic and other additives. 

Ok sounds easy right? I mean.....when you break it down into small steps and do things methodically it can be easy. You just need to pay attention to what you are doing because you are working with a caustic chemical. Wear your proper protective gear, double check your measurements before you pour and make sure you are pouring the correct ingredient. Work clean and try to avoid interruptions during this process, this is the best advice I can give. 

Ok, let's talk supplies. I do recommend having supplies that are for soap making only, don't use your kitchen supplies. I find that the essential and fragrance oils can linger which is unappetizing. Many of my supplies came from the dollar store hardware store, I added to my stock slowly as I needed something. Now I am pretty well set. The only metal you should use is stainless steel, other metals can react with the lye in a bad way. You can also use heavy duty plastic, silicone and heat proof glass. I have a dedicated stainless steel bowl (that I bought at a garage sale for $0.50 cents) that I use for my lye mixture, I also use a stainless steel spoon to stir it. I use plastic bowls to measure and mix my oils into and I use either glass or a little stainless steel measuring cup to measure out my scents. Oh, also, silicon spatulas, I have a bunch from the dollar store so I don't have to stop and clean it off each time I have to mix something different. You will also need some sort of mold to pour your soap in to. My very first mold was a milk carton, you know, the paper ones coated in that waxy plasticy stuff. You can also use plastic take out containers, those are great. I also keep popsicle sticks handy for my mica colorants and what have you. You will also need an accurate digital scale, soap is measured by weight, not volume and some things only require a small amount so it needs to be able to measure very small amounts (less than an oz.). Last, you should have a hand or stick blender. Now, of course you can just stir the absolute hell out of it by hand but a stick blender gets you to trace faster and creates a consistently mixed product so you can feel confident that there are no lye pockets in the batch. Just get a $20 stick blender and move on with your life. I have had the same one since I started soaping, it's worth every penny.

Ok we have basics on supplies now let's talk about a soaping space.
Soapsmith's studio, check out that throwback wood paneling!
Until we moved into our house a few months ago I never had a dedicated soaping space and I was able to make do. I will say, if you can dedicate a corner to soaping do it, you will be happy you did. I used to soap in the kitchen, it wasn't s perfect solution but it was the best place for  it because I needed access to water and lots of surface space for molds and ingredients. I did not have an efficient way to lock my animals out which was not great but after they realized that I was not making food they usually disappeared anyway. Ideally you will be able to soap in a space that is clean and clear of debris, and contaminants that could find their way in to your batch, it will be free of distractions (children, a hungry partner, a cat set on tripping you, etc.) and it will have adequate ventilation. <<<< THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT! 

Another important thing to know is what protective gear you should have. Here is what is recommended: Goggles, gloves, long sleeve shirt and pants and wear shoes, some people find the lye fumes to be a bit much and also use some sort of respirator mask. What I like to use is a full face mask and gloves. I almost never wear shoes and in the summer I am NOT going to wear long anything. As a beginner I absolutely wore all the proper PPE, as I figured out my specific process I tweaked things to fit my needs, you will probably do that too. 

Ok, now the fun stuff. The ingredients! Let's talk oils/fats. A really good bar of soap typically uses a combination of hard and soft oils. You can choose to use all vegetable based oils,  you can use rendered animal fats or a combination of both. I have used both but tend toward vegetable oils. It's a matter of preference for you and if you ever end up selling it will be a matter of preference for your customers too. My basic 4 oil bar contains olive oil, coconut oil, palm kernel flakes (sustainably sourced, of course) and castor oil. I have spent many years tweaking this very basic recipe to become the amazing bar of soap it is. Other favorite oils that I use in other recipes are almond, avocado, shea butter and cocoa butter, they all have their own benefits and purpose in a soap. Try to stick to oils that have a long shelf life. Oils, like everything else in life can go bad, they go rancid and smell awful. Also don't waste your money on really expensive exotic oils for soaping. While they may catch someone's eye and create great marketing potential they really aren't going to do much for the skin or impart any of the benefits you would think because soap is a wash off product, save the expensive stuff for lip balms and lotions. 

Other ingredients can be added but work on formulating a really great basic recipe before you throw everything including the kitchen sink into a recipe. To this day I limit my colorants to no more than 2, my scent to no more than 3 essential oils blended together or one fragrance oil and my additives to no more than one per batch. Why? Because restraint is beautiful. There is no need to show your whole bag of tricks in one bar of soap. Plus, when I am testing new ingredients I need to know which ones were successful and which ones are better left out of soap, I can't do that if I have a ton of extras in the recipe.

Alright so how do you come up with your very own recipe? Let's
take a step back and get you on track here. Use someone else's basic soaping recipe, someone who has been doing this for awhile and knows the ins and outs of formulating. When I started out I was NOT formulating my own recipes, I was just trying to remember to put all the ingredients in and not get lye splashed in my face. I bought a lot of books which were incredibly helpful, I still have those books and love lending them out to people hoping to learn the process. My very first book was "The Everything Soapmaking Book" by Alicia Grosso. It is a fantastic book and very easy to understand. She has a bunch of great beginner recipes. My all time favorite book is "Smart Soapmaking" by Anne L. Watson, It's a smallish book that is a really easy read and very to the point. There are other great authors out there too but these are my favorite ones to refer to and share. 

After you have a few batches under your belt and have learned about the qualities that different oils impart on a recipe go ahead and take a stab at formulating your own recipe. It's fun and super cool to make a soap that you came up with all on your own. You will need to run the recipe through a lye calculator, this will help you to know that the correct amount of lye is being used to saponify the oils. I use THIS calculator, I like it because it also gives a number quantification of how the oils will play together in a recipe. I take it with a grain of salt though because other items that you may add outside the calculators abilities can affect the final product. 

Alright, so there you have it, the basics of soap making. It's an awesome journey to take and such a great creative outlet. The possibilities of what you can create are limited only by your imagination. 

What are some other cool things you like to make? 

~Your Soapsmith

The Everything Soapmaking Book
Smart Soapmaking
Milk Soapmaking
The natural soap book
The soapmakers companion

Bramble berry < my very first suppplies came from here. She also has fantastic tutorials and videos.
Wholesale Supplies Plus
Soapers Choice
Camden Grey
Mountain Rose Herbs

Tutorials and web thingy's:
Soap Queen TV(this is made by bramble berry) 
Teach Soap
Soap Calc
Try to find local classes if possible, as a visual learner I found them to be endlessly helpful and I made some really cool friends too!

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Ingredient Highlight- Palm Oil

I am going to write about an ingredient that has fallen out of favor
Palm tree and fruit
in the past decade or so due to not being sustainably sourced. The ingredient is, of course, palm oil. This is one of those oils that is found in pretty much EVERYTHING anymore, it is the most commonly used vegetable oil in the world at the moment. You can find it in packaged foods, cosmetic products, soaps and it is even used industrially. Other countries use it commonly for a frying oil and some even use it as an industrial lubricant. While the palm tree is native to Africa, both Malaysia and Indonesia started to clear cut their own forests in order to plant palm tree farms to capitalize on this versatile product. The problem in doing that is that they are taking away the only habitat that many animals, including the Sumatran Orangutan live in. This animal is presently critically endangered. In our lifetime this species could go extinct because of something that humans have done, that's just heartbreaking...

Sumatran Orangutan
When I initially learned about all this many years ago I thought "well that's it, no more palm oil"......right.....that's when I learned that it is in so many different products. Ok, so what next? How do I try to be a good conservationist and be good to the earth when I can't just eliminate this ingredient from my life? Enter the RSPO or Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil. This group of people has come together to try to work with the palm oil growers and come to an agreement on how to make this product more sustainable. (Yahoo!). They have made great strides in the past 10 years but still have very far to go. What I have to remind myself is that the answer is not to just stop palm oil production or boycott palm oil, it is to try to work within the confines of the industry and to help educate the farmers growing it and the governments that are clear cutting their own lands. This is someone's livelihood after all, it's got to be a 2 way street if it's to be successful.

So how can you help? Spread the word about palm oil and sustainable palm oil and aim to buy products that use sustainable palm oil. Let your dollars be your voice! Be the voice for those who have none (like the Sumatran Orangutan).

Resource #1 is on the world wildlife fund page. Resource #2 is the UK based page which is put together by the Chester Zoo.  With more digging I was able to find on the RSPO site a page that lists companies which are members but it's rather cumbersome and not very helpful in a shopping scenario. They also have an app which I am downloading at the moment. (edit to add) AHA! Upon further searching there are quite a few apps which you can use to scan products to see if they are "Orangutan friendly" as the one app states. Check out this site, they have information on the apps and other great information. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo also has an app which I just used on some items in my fridge, it was pretty neat.

Take this journey with me. Let's work together to become better conservationists for a more sustainable future. Typically I feel that since I am just one little person I cannot make a difference with something that is just so big but today I am feeling plucky, today I feel that I CAN make a difference and I am going to try to. So.....palm oil challenge???

These and many more animals are affected by the palm oil industry

Stay tuned my friends
~Your Soapsmith

PS- Upon checking with my soap ingredient vendors I am ecstatic and relieved to find that the palm oil and palm kernel flakes I use in my soaps ARE sustainably sourced! It's a small step but it is my step.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

What's curing?

I have some soaps-a-curing. It feels good to be making lots and lots of soap again, I really missed it. I
mean I still made between 7-10 lbs per year for family and as gifts but it doesn't compare to planning out really large batches or a bunch of smaller artisanal batches and just taking the day to soap. I few weeks ago I started to get down to it. My hubby helped me to build a really sweet art space in our new house and I wanted to break it in right with some soap!

I made 5 batches right away. I am working to focus more on natural colorants, additives and scents, but sometimes I like to throw caution to the wind and make that coconut lime verbena scented soap that I love so much. My batches were all made with the same base ingredients and I just changed out the scents and colors. Why you may ask? Because the recipe is a good one, it saponifies consistently and creates a bar of soap that it quite lovely. I have been using and perfecting this recipe for years at this point and I feel that it creates a great and consistent product. Also once you find that perfect recipe that makes a great bar of soap you can also cut out a lot of other expenses and streamline ordering which makes good business sense.

The pictures I took were not great this evening, I am still working on better lighting for the studio, I will take new pics and put them into this post....really though, it's smell-a-vision that is needed. They do smell good! I made a few classic scents like lemon/lavender and the coconut lime verbena that I love as well as some newer ones like "Happy Hippy" which is patchouli and ylang ylang then colored with chamomile powder. There is also a "Citrus Sunshine" bar which has various citrus scents and a "Cold Snap" bar which has delicious winter scents such as eucalyptus, peppermint and spearmint.

My house smells divine!

Ta for now,
~Your Soapsmith