Monday, December 30, 2019

A look back on 2019

It's been a busy year here at the studio both personally and professionally. I just re-read my 2019 goals blog and am feeling like I actually was able to accomplish what I set out to do. For the company one of my main goals is always to be as environmentally friendly as possible. I spent countless hours researching packaging options and making decisions regarding which would be the most friendly both for the environment while staying budget friendly. As a small company we sometimes have less options because we are simply not able to purchase in the quantities that large companies are able to. Also some packaging that I REALLY wanted to use required specialized equipment which made it not feasible for us. I also tried some new ideas over the summer at the markets such as a bulk filling option for lotions and scrubs AND I left all my soaps unwrapped and sold them by weight instead of by one flat price. It was a neat concept and I was excited to see how many people supported the idea but since people come to markets not expecting to purchase in bulk I ultimately was still providing the containers for filling. I DO think that people are open to this concept and would embrace it in a store if given the option. I also think that by participating in these markets I helped people to know about us as local makers which I think is also an environmentally friendly move.

So what did I end up doing about packaging? Well I offered 2 options for containers at the markets a 4oz glass jar or a 2oz PCR (post consumer recycled) plastic container. It's not virgin plastic so I felt better about using it but it's also not a perfect solution in my mind. The problem with glass is that my products sometimes end up in a shower or being held by wet hands and the glass just simply is unsafe at that point. For those reasons I do not find glass to be a great solution for bath and body products. 

As for other packaging options I looked into I love the idea of compostable packaging but as far as those container options go I really could not find any that would hold up to products like scrubs and lotions, the containers would have broken down before the product was able to be used and also the container would not have held up in wet environments making it possible for mold, yeast and bacteria to grow thereby negatively impacting the product. I did have an idea to use mini milk cartons for refills for people but those actually require special machines to fill and close the container, also the minimum buy was insanely high, it was not a feasible solution unfortunately. I did go back to shrink wrapping my soaps for now. The system I use is called Biolefin and it is a biodegradable plastic that begins to breakdown within 18 months of being used and finishes its cycle within 3-5 years. I like this because unlike compostable materials it will breakdown regardless of where it is disposed (trash, recycle bin, compost etc.) whereas some compostable materials will not break down unless properly disposed. So if the consumer is not aware or does not have access to a composting system then the compostable material simply becomes another piece of trash in a landfill. 

Packaging is complicated is really what I learned this year, there is no simple one-size-fits-all answer. As new technology comes out and as the zero waste movement pushes large manufacturers to think through these issues more critically though I think that small companies will also have more green options available to them, I will never stop looking into what the next best solution might be.

Shampoo Bar
One great product that came of all this zero waste interest was it pushed me to develop a shampoo bar. I spent the year learning about hair and proper surfactants to use on it and then got to formulating. I wanted a product that was long lasting, gentle and vegetarian. I actually formulated three different bars and had a very strong front runner from the get go. These babies have been selling like hotcakes and I couldn't be happier. For me a shampoo bar can last 3-4 months or more if my hair is fairly short. For others that have purchased them they agree with this. This replaces the plastic shampoo bottles which is a huge win! I currently have a conditioner bar in the works and hope to release it in 2020, the conditioner bars seem to last much longer thus far. 

As for personal goals we have been doing really well on our zero waste journey. I did not need to buy any plastic storage bags this year because we were able to stay in the groove of using the silicone storage pouches as well as our normal food storage containers. We also tried misfit market and really liked it, I stopped it for the summer because we support a local CSA farm share and did not need both but we will go back to misfit market now that that has stopped. It provided great variety and none of the items we got were unusable which was great! We did lots of little things which are green such as upgrade the lighting in our house to include more LED options and also have sensors on our outdoor lighting so it only comes on when needed. In my opinion every little thing counts when trying to do better.

So how was your 2019? What goals did you set and were you able to hit the mark? What will be your goals for 2020?

'Till next year (next decade!) my friends, 
~Your Soapsmiths

Monday, October 21, 2019

Ingredient Highlight: Mineral Oil

This is an ingredient which has been demonized in the bath and body products industry unjustly. I find that when I need a super healing type of lotion which happens in the cool dry winters we have where I live I always want a lotion with mineral oil as one of the ingredients. I want to take the time in this post to simply lay out the facts of what mineral oil is and why it is beneficial to many products. 
Fun facts:
1. It's a natural ingredient as it comes from the earth
2. It's also a vegetarian and vegan ingredient as it contains no animal by-products
3. It's non-comdogenic (does not clog pores)
4. It helps skin to retain moisture (which is why it is so great in winter skincare products)
5. There are different quality grades of mineral oil going all the way up to food grade
6. The mineral oil found in skin and beauty formulations is very pure, it is also regulated by the FDA to ensure these claims
7. Some of the most high end skin care products in the industry have mineral oil as an ingredient

8. It gives excellent "slip" and helps products to slide across the skin
9. It is commonly recommended as a post surgical skin protectant after procedures due to its long history of safety and effectiveness

Ok so why all the hate? 
I did a little googling to see what others are saying about it, here is what I found:
1. mineral oil is toxic
2. mineral oil "may" be carcinogenic
3. mineral oil clogs pores
4. It makes your skin look more aged than it is
5. It damages skin
6. It dries the skin out
7. It sits on top of skin creating a film and "suffocating" the skin 
8. It blocks the absorption of vitamins into the skin

This information was obtained from websites that had no scientific evidence to back it up. Some claims did have links to scientific papers that theorized that maybe, possibly these facts might be true but the research was actually done on crude mineral oil which is used in industrial capacities and not cosmetic ones. Some sites quoted estheticians who have famous movie star clients, but that doesn't make them an authority on the matter, while they probably excel at giving a rocking facial they are in no way scientists. They  just happen to have a bigger platform to influence unwitting people who find these trash articles and take them as gospel.

The above "hater" points are completely unfounded, meaning I have NO clue where the writers contriver their information so I couldn't do further research. Other points I believe have been handed down over the years and are now regarded as fact. Just know that absolutely ZERO of the above points are true or accurate. 

Here are a few reasons that mineral oil is awesome in products. 
1. It forms an occlusive barrier to help prevent TEWL (trans-epidermal water loss) Our bodies are in a constant state of water loss, to have a product available to help with this issue is pretty neat. I think of mineral oil containing products as a thin sleeve holding all the other fabulous ingredients close to my skin while they slowly sink in and work their magic.
2. It has been around since at least the 1700's and probably longer than that. The 1700's was the first time Merriam-Webster has record of the term Mineral Oil. The longer the history of use the more we have to go on as far as safety and effectiveness of an ingredient. 
3. It is inexpensive! This is actually a good thing. Even the highly refined very pure mineral oil is an excellent price. This is a great addition to a product and gives the formulator extra room in their budget to add other higher end ingredients to make your epidermis sing.
4. It ranks very low on the skin irritant scale, and if you are allergic to nuts and thereby nut oils this may be a great alternative for you

So there you have it folks, mineral oil, the forgotten hero in skin care. If you are having dry skin problems this winter give it a try and see what you think.


The "GO MINERAL OIL" articles

The nay-sayer articles:

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Reading and understanding Safety Data Sheets, aka SDS (formerly known as MSDS)

I had to learn about Safety Data Sheets (SDS) many different times throughout my schooling and then later in life in my professional career as well. It occured to me that maybe not everyone is familiar with them and I find them immensely helpful to refer to from time to time so I wanted to share what they are used for and why they may be helpful to you someday.

Safety Data Sheets were formerly known as Material Safety Data Sheets or MSDS, this terminology change was announced in 2013 and enforced in the end of 2015 to mid 2016 with the goal of making them more consistent and easier to understand across the board. They now adhere to something called the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). There are even pictograms associated with this new system which is helpful for a quick reference.

There are 16 distinct sections to an SDS sheet:
1. Identification
2. Hazard(s) Identification
3. Composition/Information on Ingredients
4. First Aid Measures
5. Fire Fighting Measures
6. Accidental Release Measures
7. Handling & Storage
8. Exposure Controls / Personal Protection
9. Physical & Chemical Properties
10. Stability and Reactivity
11. Toxicology Information
12. Ecological Information
13. Disposal Considerations
14. Transport Information
15. Regulatory Information
16. Other Information

The first 8 sections are set up for quick reference for the people transporting and handling the chemicals as well as any emergency responders should there be an issue.
Sections 9-11 handles technical and scientific data. Sections 12-15 are not actually mandatory but they are required to be GHS compliant and section 16 will contain information on the SDS itself such as revision dates and changes since last version.

Employers are responsible for making sure there is an SDS sheet for every chemical on site and they must be available for employee reference in their immediate work area. These would most likely be for any cleaning agents in the workplace however essentially ANY product or raw material (i.e. base ingredients) can have an SDS sheet. 

Even "natural" products such as Dr. Bronner's Soap has SDS sheets as well as base ingredients such as Olive Oil. I am pointing this out because I have heard misinformed people many times refer to the information on an SDS sheet of a raw material while trying to make a point about the safety of the entire product. This is always going to be inaccurate because the SDS sheet is informing about the raw material in its most concentrated form and not as the material as used within a formulation in a diluted form. I have read countless times someone who pointed out that the person handling "xyz" ingredient has to wear a respirator or hazmat suit or face mask to handle the ingredient so that must mean it's not safe. WRONG! This reasoning could not be further from the truth. I wear gloves and sometimes a respirator when mixing sodium hydroxide which is a necessary part of making handmade soap but that in no way means that the soap is dangerous or unsafe simply because sodium hydroxide was used in the making process. It simply means that in its concentrated form I am aware that it could cause me harm so I protect myself. 

So there you have it, SDS sheets in a nutshell. Links are below for further reading if you wish.

Stay wise my friends, 
~Your Soapsmith

Friday, October 11, 2019

Ingredient highlight: Aluminum

Well hello again. I've been a busy bee these past few months and have been lax on posting. But I have been thinking about topics I wanted to research and write about so here I am for a long overdue ingredient highlight on Aluminum. I have been wanting to know more about aluminum in body care ingredients for awhile. They are one of those "scary" ingredients and I wasn't completely sure why so I went on a quest. 

Let's start with the basics. What is aluminum? Aluminum (Al) is a silvery-white, soft, nonmagnetic metal. Aluminum is the third most abundant element (after oxygen and silicon), and the most abundant metal in the Earth's crust. It makes up about 8% by mass of the crust. Aluminum metal is so chemically reactive that native specimens are rare and it is usually found combined in over 270 different minerals. The chief ore of aluminum is bauxite. 

In what products is aluminum primarily found? Aluminum-containing raw materials are used safely and extensively in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and over-the-counter (OTC) drug products. In cosmetics, they function as pigments and thickening agents. Aluminum compounds also function as active ingredients in OTC drugs such as antacids and antiperspirants. Because aluminum is present in soil, most exposure comes from foods we eat and the water we drink.  Studies demonstrate a negligible potential for Aluminum salts to penetrate the skin. Any small amount absorbed from the use of cosmetic products, would be tiny in comparison to the amounts we consume in the foods we eat daily.

Next I asked the Google "How does aluminum work in anti-perspirants?" This answer popped up: Aluminium-based antiperspirants work by blocking the sweat ducts, thereby reducing the amount of sweat that reaches the skin's surface. ... When they are applied to the skin and come in contact with sweat, the pH rises causing the aluminium salts to precipitate out and form a plug over the sweat glands.

Then I navigated over to and typed in "aluminum". Have you ever been to this site? It seems good, they present information in a very neutral way which I like. On their site they first outline the claims that are going around and then they proceed to address them with facts that are backed up by scientific studies. If the studies that they reference are weak (or later disproven as it sometimes happens) they are up front about that as well, all in all I like this site. Anyway I digress back to my findings on the site about aluminum. In a nutshell through all the solid studies that have been done there is no link between aluminum and breast cancer. The information they had there was extremely insightful and there was quite a bit of it too, instead of repeating what they have written I am adding the link and encouraging you to take a look at the information there, it's a great read >

Another concern I read about was aluminum exposure and a possible link to alzheimer's or dementia. This is of particular concern and interest to me because I have older relatives that have suffered with this affliction and we really don't know what caused it. So I dug in on the site Their information was neat because it spoke of aluminum use in multiple capacities from being in the drinking water to being in anti-perspirants. At this time all research is pointing towards the fact that neither of these diseases are caused by aluminum. I am dropping the link to their site below for your reading pleasure as well.

Now I think it would be abundantly easier on society as a whole to just find that "bad" or "dangerous" ingredient that causes all the ailments what make people sick and just eliminate it but things will never be that easy. Certainly there have been recalls of products and ingredients which were believed to be safe then found later to either be unsafe or ineffective or highly allergenic or otherwise unusable to the public at large but it's not that common. Why you may ask? Well simply because before an ingredient is even available to be used in a formulation it's been tested extensively and exhaustively to know the safety data. Staple ingredients like aluminum are then placed on a list by the FDA of acceptable to use for _____ in this case I am referring to its use in antiperspirants. Aluminum is, in fact, the ONLY ingredient that the FDA has listed as approved in creating a product that acts as antiperspirants do.
You can search through product recalls here>>>

It seems that there were more issues with food or drug items being recalled due to contamination or concerns over sterility (in the case of drug manufacturing) than over an ingredient that was going to cause cancer or some other disease.

As always I encourage those in my tribe to be informed consumers and know the relevant data backed resources in which to pull information from when trying to make a decision about the health and safety of yourself and your family. There are great resources available to us in this day and age thanks to the internet. There are also terrible resources available because every "Karen" and "Chad" with an internet connection can just write whatever pleases them and some are convincing enough to sway public opinion which I think is a real shame. When I am looking for answers I turn to science and I always will. I hope that whatever resources you trust are ones that are keeping you and yours on a safe and happy path in life.

'Til next time
~Your (science nerd) Soapsmith

Thursday, July 25, 2019

We are on Pinterest!

Yahoo! We have a presence on pinterest and I have been filling it with a bunch of fun (and good) DIY bath and body recipes, eco friendly and zero waste ideas, funny animal pictures and more! 

Check us out here!

This is fun, it kind of gives me a place to put recipes that catch my eye and just another way to connect with you all. So tell me, what are some recipes you have come across that you want to try but are unsure (for whatever reason)? Feel free to submit questions and I will do my best to help you out. Also are there recipes you are looking to make but are unsure if what you are finding is worth your time? Based on what I have seen I can imagine that this is tough sometimes. I am here to help!!!

Happy pinning my friends.
~Your Soapsmith

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

A soapmakers notes from a small island

View as we arrived
Greetings from across the pond! That's right I am in the UK this month. I have loads of family still residing in both Ireland and England so it is nice to be able to come over for a visit. So far I have spent about 5 days around and about London (Wow! What a big and busy city!) size and bustle-wise it definitely rivals New York City, it even seems that it may be bigger but maybe that's just because I am not as familiar with it as I am NYC. As with any big city there is tons to see and do, the weather surprisingly has not been too rainy. We had one day of torrential downpours and all others have either been completely perfect or a tad on the warm and humid side, although nothing like New York in the summer (also much less stinky!) 

Westminster Abbey 
So far I have seen Westminster Abbey. Talk about a building full of dead folks! I literally could not walk 2 feet without being on someone's grave, it was a little unnerving at first. We did find Stephen Hawking's grave which was neat. There is also a poets corner which I rather liked.

Shri Swaminarayan Mandir
Shri Swaminarayan Mandir (the largest Hindu temple outside of India). This was an amazing off the beaten path find. It is a little outside of London and absolutely beautiful. No interior photos are allowed which is kind of nice because you have to be in the moment, enjoying the rich culture and history that is Hinduism. We walked the main "chapel" area where the gods and deities reside, I found it to be a very spiritual and special time. In the downstairs of the building is a really great exhibition that explains what Hindu is, I completely enjoyed myself. There is also an Indian restaurant and grocery store across the street so of course I had to pop in for some proper indian food (totally worth it!)

Harry Potter Walking Tour.....& RAIN
Later that day we got to go shopping at Harrods and the following day we did a Harry Potter walking tour through the city (in the pouring rain).  The walking tour was loads of fun despite the rain. Our guide was knowledgeable about HP of course but also about the city itself. Some of my favorite non-HP takeaways were seeing the Globe theater and also the Borough market a huge open air market that has been in operation since around 1020AD! 

We got to see Windsor Castle from the outside (the lines were nuts!)
Windsor Castle (the queen was in that day!)
and strolled the town of Windsor, we also visited a little village called Denham Village as that is my maiden name so of course we HAD to take a peek. (it's won awards for being the best kept village multiple years!) Sunday we were aiming for a lazy day and I thought a walk through Hyde Park would be just the ticket before heading to a small local blues fest in another park later that day. BTW soft serve ice cream here is called Mr. Whipee, HA! 

On Monday we packed up the London Flat and headed for the countryside stopping off at Stonehenge first or course, which was magnificent! There is so much more to this place than just a bunch of big stones mysteriously placed. It was built over a very long period of time and by many different groups of people, it makes me wonder what about this place is so special.

After that we headed to our cousins country house in Bristol which is just lovely. It is quiet and spacious which is a nice change from the city as always. We barely set our suitcases down and were whisked off to see our younger cousin play in a cricket match! Now- I am not sure, dear reader, if you have ever seen a cricket game but I have not. I liken it to being vaguely similar to baseball with less bases and more rules.... 

Wells Cathedral
Yesterday we met MORE cousins which was lovely and went to the town of Wells where much of the movie Hot Fuzz was filmed. It was so cool walking the streets that a movie I like has been filmed on. After a quick refresh in the pub we did a driving tour of a super hippie dippie town called Gloucester which apparently has roots in the King Arthur tales (I need to get myself back there someday). We then drove through Cheddar gulch. It was really beautiful and there are these cute little wild sheep that hop all around on the rocks and eat all the grasses. This is the home of cheddar cheese as I am told because there are many caves around the area which are perfect for ageing cheddar in. I love cheese and was sad we didn't have time to stop and sample it (all). It just gives me an excuse to stop back ;)

WHEW! Gosh that was a lot! I am a bit tired today so I vetoed doing any activities today in lieu of just lounging around (a girl needs a break!) Tomorrow we will be back on track with more fun and adventures with family so that will be nice. I leave you with a few pictures, enjoy.....

Where are everyone's summer vacations taking them this year?

TaTa for now

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Essential Oils, the series- Part 3

Howdy Soapsmith Nation! I hope all are well and enjoying their summer (winter if you are in the Southern Hemisphere of course). 

I seemed to have skipped right over part 2 of my essential oil series and dove right into the heart of part 3 so here you go. I sometimes eat dessert before This post really digs into one specific term that is often heard and very misused.

I am frequently asked what brand of essential oils I use in my products and always happy to answer the question. However I sometimes believe that the person asking is hoping I will say I use the oils of one or another of the large and well known MLM companies which have a serious foothold on the aromatherapy industry at the moment. Let me tell you something, if I used the oils from those companies my products would not be affordable. Those companies do not sell in bulk and are intended for individual use only (oh and also, they prohibit the marketing of their oils in products intended for resale.) So for many reasons I do not use their oils. 

While I assume their oils are as good as many other companies I do not believe them to be superior, I also typically find their reps to be un- or undereducated in the safe use of essential oils which ticks me off because the reps are totally passionate about their products, these companies should invest in them by properly educating them. 

That's for another post on another day though. Today I want to write about a specifically misleading marketing term. The term is Therapeutic grade. This term popped up at some point in the 90's and many companies jumped on the bandwagon stating that their oils were also therapeutic grade. There are no quality standards for authentication and no tests and determines the grades of ANY essential oils. In fact have you ever seen a grade A, B, C or D? Nope because it's not a thing. 

I am going to drop a link into the bottom of this post because the woman who wrote it was very clear and concise, I couldn't have written it any better (nor would I have written it differently so why plagerize her work?) There are a few other terms that she brings to light with really great explanations. Please take a look and expand your knowledge base. Next time someone starts spouting off about therapeutic grade (blah, blah, blah) you can smile that smile that people do when they know a really great secret  ;)

because what is cuter than this!?
The quality of essential oils 

Man we are a smart bunch of cookies today! 

TaTa my friends

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Watering down liquid soap to make it last longer

Today I am going to write about a topic that has brought me angst for ages. I have finally decided to speak up on this. All too often I will be at someone's house and need to wash my hands and spy a soap dispenser at the edge of the sink and go squirting away with the soap only to discover that it has been watered down beyond belief (like's not even soap sometimes!). Well I typically stand there and try to decide if I want to wash my hands with what is most likely bacteria laden bubble water or if I just give up and feel like a dirtball until I get home. Sometimes I reflect upon a third option.....which is to rub my hands really hard on the towel that is usually nearby, as if that will accomplish anything.

Ok let's talk about liquid hand soap that you would buy in the grocery store. I am specifically talking about the commercially made stuff which sometimes has additional ingredients to make it anti-bacterial and sometimes just cleans and moisturizes. Ultimately they all accomplish the goal of cleaning in some capacity. These products are typically created from lab made synthetics and are a balanced formula including their preservative when they go into the bottle. SOOOOOO.....when you add water to this formula you are diluting out everything including the preservation system thereby making it ineffective. 

Why does this matter? You are subjecting the thing that you bought to clean your hands to microbial growth, yes, you are effectively going to end up washing your hands with bacteria, fungus and yeast (YUCK!) Why use the soap at all I ask? This also goes for a hand made liquid soap, if you purchase it from someone and it's ready to be used then guess's a balanced formula too and will become unbalanced if you start tinkering with it. 

Well what about those nifty little soap foamer things? The soap that goes in to them is formulated to be thinner and has the appropriate amount of preservative so they can do their job and not be subject to microbial growth. Taking regular soap and adding water will still get you a bacterial filled foamer which as we now know is just gross.

What about concentrated products that say specifically to add water to them? Good question, follow the instructions on the bottle and you should end up with a safe and effective product. OR if you must over dilute it for whatever reason make sure you finish it up in one use.

The two most common argument I hear for watering down liquid soap is that it's either too expensive and this helps the pocketbook or that you will be at the store in a few days and just need to stretch it until then. Look, I hear both arguments and acknowledge that life is tough both on the pocketbook and on the freetime-o-meter. If it's too expensive, switch to bar soap, I promise you that it WILL clean your hands. If you need to stretch your soap for a few days just remember that microbial growth can start in as little as 24 hours. 

This, my smart and savvy friends is my PSA on watering down liquid soap. If you ever see me standing at a sink twitching you can pretty much assume that I am standing there wondering what to do about my dirty hands and why on earth someone else has gone and watered down a perfectly balanced product.

All the best to you in perfectly formulated bubbles
~Your Soapsmith

Thursday, July 4, 2019

The Skin

Let's talk about our largest organ. THE SKIN! 
Fun facts:

  • The skin is part of the integumentary system which comprises the hair, skin, nails, specialized glands and nerves.
  • The skin is the largest and heaviest organ- it comprises 16% of your bodies weight, (bonus fact- the liver is the second largest and heaviest).
  • The skin is a barrier, a thermostat, a sensor, a factory and a window.
  • The skin can be broken down into 3 major layers with minor layers living within those layers
    • the epidermis, dermis and hypodermis
      • The epidermis has 5 layers (stratum corneum is the top most layer with stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum and stratum basale following deeper and deeper.)
      • The has 2 layers and it's main job is to connect the epidermis to the hypodermis and provide structure and support (papillary layer and connective tissue are it's 2 layers)
      • The hypodermis has one layer it's job is to provide insulation and support.
Alright- let's break this all down! I am going to focus on the epidermis because that is the part that is most directly affected by skin care products.

The skin is a barrier. I am going to repeat this THE SKIN IS A BARRIER, it is NOT a sponge. Every time I see someone write this on FB or say it I die a little bit on the inside. If the skin were a sponge we would drown every time we took a shower or bath. 
The skin is a waterproof barrier that seals the body from losses of fluid that could lead to dehydration and death. It resists invasions by various types of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that cause infection and serious illness. The skin also blocks many chemicals and allergens from entering the body.

The skin is a thermostat. The skin has the ability to help cool you down or keep you warm, it works in conjunction with the blood vessels to do this. 

The skin is a sensor. It has millions of receptors and nerve endings. There are different types of receptors which perceive different stimuli.

The skin is a factory. The skin is the body's vitamin D production factory. We need vitamin D to build healthy bones a strong immune system which will in turn fight cancers and other diseases as well as mitigate depression and even multiple sclerosis.

The skin is a window. How you feel inside directly affects how your skin can look. If you are happy and healthy and internally balanced it will be reflected in your skin. If you are stressed, anxious, depressed or have some internal health issues it can be reflected by way of skin flare-ups, disease processes, brittle nails and hair. People with eczema and psoriasis tend to have flare-ups when they are stressed or having diet issues.* 

Let's talk epidermal layers!
Stratum corneum- contains 15-20 layers of dead skin cells that ultimately slough off.

Stratum lucidum- this layer is mainly found on thick skin like the palms of the hands and soles of feet, it contains dead keratinocytes.
Stratum granulosum- keratin and lipids that waterproof the skin are produced in this layer
Stratum spinosum- synthesis of keratin proteins begins in this layer
Stratum basale- the cells of this layer divide indefinitely to form daughter cells that rise through the epidermis. Basal cell cancers arise from this level.

Skin and skin care products. Some ingredients can absorb into the deeper layers of the epidermis, these are called active ingredients. Cosmetic chemists often talk about the penetration abilities of ingredients. This is what they are referring to. 

Other ingredients can absorb even deeper, sometimes because of the penetrative abilities and what they can accomplish on a deeper level these products fall into the category of being a drug and must be tested and approved through the FDA, by the way, sunscreen falls into this category, never buy sunscreen that is not FDA approved, you have no idea if it will actually provide the protection that it claims otherwise. On a side note, at this time, there is only one approved CBD topical that has been proven to penetrate deeply and be effective for bone and joint pain. Consider this if you are in the market for a CBD topical that you want to penetrate deeply. 

Some products sit on top of the skin and work their magic at that level, many handcrafted skin care items fall into this category. (some makers do use active ingredients and have products that penetrate deeper.) At the time of writing this post SOAPSMITHS products do not contain any actives nor do they fall into the category of a drug. 

Hard Cider Soap by Soapsmiths
When formulating products I take into consideration what I am trying to achieve. If I am making soap I need it to clean. THAT IS IT! If someone gives you a song and dance about other properties their soap has just smile and nod because you now know that it only cleans and as a wash off product it most likely does nothing else. The second someone claims any differently their soap becomes either a cosmetic or a drug and they could be up a creek without a paddle if the government folks catch wind of it.

Sugar Scrub by Soapsmiths

When formulating a scrub I want it to exfoliate those dead Stratum corneum cells so that the lotion that I will apply after can hydrate and protect the layers of skin that were under them.

Cocoa Mint Creme by Soapsmiths

When creating a lotion I want it to hydrate and protect. The best way to do this is to use a combination of oils and waxes which will both sit on top of the skin forming an occlusive barrier while also hydrating those top most layers. A product like a lotion is really the place to add special ingredients which may improve skin barrier function. The only way to really know would be to submit it for testing. Most small makers don't have the financial means to do this so we take our ingredient and formulating knowledge and build a product based on what we know. 

So there you have it. The skin is an amazing giant organ which keeps good things (like our organs and fluids) in and bad things (bacteria, yeast, fungi, etc.) out! Treat it well and you two should have a long and prosperous life together.

I also referred to the Reader's Digest Guide to Skin Care by Susan C. Taylor, M.D. and Victoria Holloway Barbosa, M.D.

Additionally I popped over to a blog called the Chemists Corner for information on the penetration of ingredients.

* Regarding my comment on eczema and psoriasis, if you are having trouble with skin conditions please seek professional medical advice, I am not trained in human medicine and do not make any claims or diagnoses with what I write.

~Yours in scientific musings

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The pH of hair, skin and products (and why it matters!)

Good morning Soapsmith Nation! I have been thinking a lot about pH lately (I think about it all the time really). At a recent market I was chatting with a customer and he asked if I made any bar soaps that were anti-bacterial. "Of course I do, actually all handmade bar soap is anti-bacterial," I explained to him, "but I don't need to add anything to make them that way." He looked puzzled until I explained that the natural pH of handmade soap is typically around 10 and in that type of alkaline environment bacteria, mold, yeast, fungus etc. do not survive. He seemed grateful for the simple explanation and told me that of all the soap vendors there that night (I was 1 of 4) not one of them had been able to articulate that information to him. I felt flattered and super nerdy (which I wear like a badge of honor) to have been able to help him out.

Let's back up a second. What is pH and why do I think about it non-stop? Simply put pH, or potential hydrogen, is a scale of acidity from 0 to 14. It tells how acidic or alkaline a substance is. More acidic solutions have lower pH of between 1-6.9. More alkaline (aka basic) solutions have higher pH at 7.1-14. Substances that aren't acidic or alkaline (that is, neutral solutions) usually have a pH of 7 (pure water has this pH). Why do I think about it non-stop? I take pH into consideration when creating products and need to decide if it is appropriate for the skin which it will be used on. Some products have a pH which may not match the pH of skin exactly so then I must further ponder if it will throw the pH too far out of balance and if I need to adjust the product to be more compatible, (see....super nerd here, ha). One last note about pH is that between 2 whole numbers are 10 fractions of a number. Example between pH 5 and pH 6 are all the fractions of 5.1, 5.2, 5.3, and so on. So when I say your skins pH is 5.5 that is 5 fractions away from pH 6 instead of a half of a fraction. pH 5 to pH 6 is 10 times the difference from one to the next and pH 4 to pH 6 is 100 times different (10 x 10)! Long story short, the distance between one whole number and the next is much longer than it appears on the surface.

The pH of our skin is 5.5 and the pH of hair is between 4.5-5.5 with virgin hair being even lower at 3.67. As we now know, the pH of handmade soap is around 10. Is this a bad thing? Well let's consider a couple of things first. The layer that we are affecting by washing, scrubbing, exfoliating and later moisturizing with lotion is called the "acid mantle" it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 14+ hours to repair itself depending on the level of damage incurred. If your skin is feeling tight your acid mantle may have been negatively impacted by something. We want this to be balanced and functioning properly because it keeps bad things like bacteria, yeast and fungi out and good things like fluids in. Some skin is thicker than other skin on the body, this is good to know when deciding what to use on your body. The skin on your face is very thin (0.5mm on your eye lids) to thicker (4mm on the soles of your feet). The different parts of your body can handle different amounts of stressors and reset faster keeping your acid mantle in check. With that being said, I will be the first person to tell you that I no longer use my handmade soap to wash my face. As I have aged I noticed more frequently that my face skin felt tight and that's not how it should feel. When I went to get a facial the esthetician told me that my skin on my face had been stripped of its natural oils and was in need of repair. I knew what that meant, it was time to switch to a pH appropriate gentle facial cleanser. My face skin is clear, bright and no longer tight (although it hurt my heart to have to stop using my own soap to wash my face.) I still use my soap on the rest of my body and don't have issues with dryness or tightness so the thicker skin seems to be able to reset in a reasonable amount of time and to keep the bad things out and good things in for me:).

While the skin can reset itself in due time the hair cannot. I NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, recommend handmade soap be used on hair. Many people claim that it works great and their hair feels good and a simple apple cider vinegar rinse is all their hair needs and that's fantastic for them but what they don't realize is that when they use handmade soap on their hair it causes the hair shaft to swell exponentially and the cuticle to lift. If you have colored hair this is even worse because it will cause your color to fade faster. Even if you do not have colored hair all those little cuticles get tangled together and can cause breakage and a frizzy appearance. Some soapmakers claim they have a special and gentle formula for hair, I am not here to debate or knock another maker but I will say that scientifically there is no way to bring the pH of handmade soap down low enough to be appropriate for hair without destabilizing the formula which in the end makes a puddle of ingredients as opposed to making a bar of soap. Even liquid soap made with KoH is alkaline and inappropriate for hair care.

I have been fascinated by shampoo and conditioner bars lately I love that they help to reduce plastic waste, they are great for travel and last for quite awhile. I have been exploring ingredients which have a more appropriate pH for the skin and hair, bring in the LAB CREATED INGREDIENTS (imagine trumpets here). Look, just because something is "natural" doesn't automatically make it safer than something made in a lab. Snake venom is natural but deadly. Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate is a coconut derived gentle surfactant with a pH of 4.5-6.5. Lab made ingredients are stable and consistent which is a huge benefit to them, also they do not deplete natural resources as some naturally derived ingredients do.

Shampoo Bars by Soapsmiths
Over the past 6 months I have developed a formula for a shampoo bar that is pH appropriate for hair and skin. I have been lovingly calling it "The everything bar" because it can be used on, well, everything! I wash my hair with it and sometimes my body, it's actually fabulous for shaving too! It leaves me feeling silky and my hair is not frizzy or tangled either. I used lab made ingredients and have been checking in with cosmetic chemists that I am familiar with to ensure that my formula is correct and appropriate. My faithful group of testers have had really positive feedback on these bars and one tester even went ahead and bought an additional 2 so she would have them! I am currently working on a conditioner bar, and hope to get it into my testers hands soon so that I can then share it with you all.

So this is the long and short of pH and why it is important. In researching this information for the post I have decided to create a post on the skin where we will dive deeper into the various layers and what they do so stay tuned for more science-y fun.

Until then, stay bubbly my friends
~Your Soapsmith

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Green "life hack"

This is off topic of soapmaking, selling or anything in-between but I thought it was a cool idea and wanted to share. I have been using this little eco friendly life hack for quite some time. 

For those that purchase the paper "milk" cartons that have the plastic pour spout you can save and reuse that plastic pour spout for so many other items. Check it out, below are the two components you need to make this happen. Save the pour spout from the milk carton and locate a couple of canning jar rings.

Next, cut the milk carton to for the size canning ring you want to use. Tip: I put the spout off to the side for easier pouring. Trace your circle and cut it out. 

Finally put it all together and enjoy your new green pour spout! Below are my sugar and coconut milk pictured with their spiffy pour spouts.

I will finish by saying that while these don't last forever for liquid items like the coconut milk they do last a very long time and add more miles to the single use plastic pour spout that is on the carton. They are quick and easy to make also and I like knowing that I am reusing something that would otherwise end up in a landfill because (at least where I live) these milk cartons and their parts are not recyclable.

What are some of your favorite green living hacks? I am always excited to learn new ways to re-use everyday items so feel free to share.

As always
~Your clean & green Soapsmith

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pop-up markets in Pittsburgh

We will be at the Garfield and Squirrel Hill night markets in Pittsburgh this summer and fall. At these markets we will be offering select items from our classic and beer soap line as well as from our new Greenline. 

The awesome little sink! YES, it works :)

To make our booth even more fun we have an awesome little sink that you can use to test products! It was a BIG HIT at the first market of the season in Garfield and we cannot wait for more people to come out and check it out. 

Reusable face scrubbies available in pink and
blue flannel with a terry cloth backing.

Additionally we are continually creating partnerships with other eco friendly makers and will have their wares available at the our booth this summer too. Our first partnership is with Paige Leigh Designs. These ladies make awesome facial scrubbies that are a soft terry cloth on one side and a wonderful flannel on the other, they fit nicely into the palm of my hand and are completely washable for many, many re-uses. We are proud to be able to offer this product to our tribe here in Pittsburgh, PA.

As we forge new relationships we will announce them and very happily make them available at the markets for all to enjoy.

See you soon!
~Your Soapsmith