Caring for Your Skin: Homemade Hand Lotion

As a general rule, I don’t like processed food. Granted, I still enjoy certain food items that are pre-made and come in a package, but I try to eat as much of the food where its origin is not a mystery. I also try not to eat something where I cannot pronounce or understand the items on the ingredient list. I love beautiful, natural produces grown from the ground up with time, love and care.

The same philosophy goes for cosmetic items. I really believe that our skin is as important as our internal organs and it should be nurtured the same way we do hearts and lungs. Afterall, skin is the largest organ in our body!  The stuff that goes on our skin should also be natural and free of harsh chemicals.

I started making homemade cosmetic products in the kitchen like soaps and scrubs initially out of curiosity without really thinking about the benefits, but the more I make and use these made-from-scratch products, the more I appreciate how friendly they are to us and the environment. These soaps and other products eliminate the need for containers altogether (I simply reuse the leftover bottles and jars I have sitting around in my kitchen) thus reducing the amount of trash I accumulate every day. And because most of the ingredients used are natural and often edible, I feel comfortable knowing that they are safer when they return to the mother nature, compared to other synthetic and often poisonous chemicals.

My newest wonderful find is the recipe for homemade hand lotion from A Sonoma Garden, an organic gardening blog written beautifully by Kendra. I have been eying this recipe for some time now and I thought now would be a perfect time to try it out. While I don’t use lotion regularly, I thought having one handy to calm my sun-kissed skin would be perfect since summer is right around the corner.

You can find the recipe and the instruction here but I thought I would post it here, and add some comments.

Homemade Hand Lotion
Adapted from A Sonoma Garden
The original name of this is “Handmade Hand Lotion” but I changed it to “homemade.” I just love the word “homemade,” don’t ask me why!

1 – 1/4 cup  boiling hot water
1/4 cup emulsifying wax
1/4 cup olive oil
Essential oils of your choice

Note: After several attempts, I realized that I prefer a slightly smoother texture, so I decided to add extra 1/4 cup of hot water.  The end result is equally luscious lotion that glides easier on skin.  By adding extra hot water, the consistency is smooth enough that you can pour it in a bottle, instead of a jar.  So if you like a smoother consistency, increase the hot water to a total 1-1/2 cups.  When the mixture cools slightly, use the funnel and pour the lotion into a bottle.  It makes enough for one 8 oz and one 4 oz plastic bottles.  The rest of the instruction remains the same.

Melt the emulsifying wax and olive oil together in a microwave for about 2 minutes until every bit of the wax liquefies. Note: I tried both microwave and double boiler methods and found the microwave to be much easier. I purchased the wax from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Add essential oils of your choice.  Note: I used the mixture of lavender, orange, lemon, bergamot, and tangerine and I loved the fresh, sweet citrus-y scent of the finished product (perfect for summer). I think I put in about 50 drops of essential oils total. I wanted mine to be pretty richly scented so I put in a little more drops than the original recipe.

Once everything is mixed well, add the hot water. The second you add the hot water, the mixture will become milky white. Keep mixing for about a minute, and pour everything into a clean jar.  Let it cool before use. Note: I used the lovely Bonne Mamman jar for mine.

Okay, here’s where it gets a little tricky. The original instruction says that you let the lotion cool overnight and it’ll be ready in the morning. Unfortunately, that was not the case for mine. The oil and water separated in the jar, so the top part had a lotion with the consistency of a very thick body butter and the bottom had a very watery lotion, like below.


Thick consistency on top … baaaad!

What I ended up doing is mixing the lotion again with a spoon to break down the thick top layer and put it back in the microwave for about 2 minutes to melt the lotion again. Once everything is re-liquefies, mix every minute or so, until the lotion sets.


Airy and silky soft … good!

After you do this, your lotion should be perfect, with a silky consistency of a creamy yogurt or a luscious pudding.

I LOVE this lotion. The ingredients are very inexpensive and there is something so empowering about knowing exactly what went inside the product (it’s just wax, olive oil, water and essential oils … wow). The lotion will leave your skin incredibly soft (and not at all greasy) and even though this says hand lotion, you can use it all over like a regular body lotion. I hope you will try it! I know you’ll love it as much as I do!

Luxurious Spa at Home: Dead Sea Salt Scrub

Being out in the sun for many hours over the weekend did a number of my skin. I got a strange farmer’s tan on my arms and my face is now darker than my neck. Please, someone explain to me how that happened.

To refresh my tired skin, I concocted a sea salt scrub by mixing the salt with oils that are light and non-greasy, with little dollops of maple syrup and Vitamin E oil. The recipe is adapted from Fig and Plum, with a few little tweaks. If you’re looking for a wonderful spa experience without paying an arm and a leg, I definitely recommend this recipe. Rub the scrub gently on your hands, arms, elbows, legs, and anywhere that’s dry, and your skin will be silky soft!  I love that you won’t need to use lotion after this. The scent of essential oils will leave your skin smelling delicious too.

Homemade Dead Sea Salt Scrub
Inspired by Fig and Plum

2 cups Dead Sea Salt (I used the fine-grained salt I purchased from Brambleberry)
1/2 cup Sweet Almond Oil
1/4 cup Grapeseed Oil
1 tablespoon Vitamin E oil
2 teaspoons Maple Syrup
Essential Oils (I used bergamot, orange, lavender, and tangerine)

Mix all the ingredients well and pour the mixture in a jar.  The scrub should last a good six months.  Stir well before use.  I bought all the above ingredients online via Brambleberry but you can pick everything up at your nearby natural stores like Whole Foods and Henry’s Farmers Market.

At first application, you might think that your skin feels really greasy but don’t panic!  Simply pat dry your body with a towel and leave it alone.  In a matter of minutes, your skin will “drink” up the moisture, making your skin clean and baby soft.  Be careful when using this scrub or any other scrubs in the shower, as the oils can leave the tub very slippery!

Oh, and yes, my bathroom is pink. 🙂

How to Make Handmade Soaps: Tutorial

I’ve wanted to make handmade soaps for many months before I actually attempted my first batch. The problem wasn’t that I was too lazy to start, but rather, because the process seemed so complicated and tiring. I just wished someone had told me how simple the process is before I procrastinated for so long!

I truly think that soap making is simple. Not easy, but simple.  It can be potentially dangerous, yes, because you use a chemical called Sodium Hydroxide, also known as “lye,” which can get extremely hot and can burn your skin when mishandled, but if you pay careful attention just as you would when deep frying food, the entire process can be very safe and hassle free.

Inspirations:

There are lots of wonderful tutorials on the Web, as well as videos on Youtube if you search, “soap making,” to show how enjoyable the entire soap making process can be! The catalysts for my soap-making adventure were this Japanese blog by Ayumi (who is also the creator of one of my favorite craft blogs, Pink Penguin) and a Pasadena-based soap shop, Soap Kitchen.  I got inspires by so many of their adorable creations and thought I HAD to do this!  I hope this tutorial will help inspire you to become a soaper too someday … or at least get you to start thinking about it … (or just start buying the soaps I make if I ever open my own shop). 😆

Soap Making Basics:

Basic ingredients of soap are fat (oil) and lye, and you can decide on what kind of fats you need to use and how much, depending on what kind of soap you’re trying to make. For example, for a soap that’s gentle and truly wonderful for you skin, you can use olive oil. If you want a soap that lathers well, coconut oil will do the job. If you like a soap that can hold its shape well, palm oil is your answer. Just like cooking, you can be as creative as you wish when deciding your special “recipe.” I am still learning how to make my own personalized formula (it takes a little planning and a dash of mathematical calculations) so for now, I simply follow several recipes that I find in my favorite soapmaking books.

Where to Buy:

You can purchase anything and everything soap-related (fats and oils, essential and fragrance oils, molds, lye, etc) at Bramble Berry.  I also highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs (for high quality essential oils and additives), Cibaria Soap Supply (for oils and fat at reasonable prices), and Soap Making Resources (for acrylic and other molds).  Basic tools you need to get started are:  fats/oils of your choice (based on your recipe), lye, two glass bowls, two candy thermometers,  spoon for mixing, electric scale, pot for double boiling, mold, parchment paper for mold lining, knife to slice the soap, and a whisk (I hope I didn’t miss anything!).  By the way, the process shown here is called, “Cold Process.”

Instruction:

So, let’s get started! 🙂

① First, measure the oil(s) based on your recipe. This particular soap I made called for olive, palm, and coconut oils, so I weighed them separately.

② Melt the oils together in a double boiler. As you can see, some oils are liquid (olive oil) and some are solid (coconut oil). Once the oils melt, bring the temperature down, per your instruction.

③ While the oil mixture is adjusting its temperature, measure the lye according to your instruction. Make sure to wear a pair of gloves when handling these little flakes, as it can irritate, at best, and burn, at worst, your skin upon contact.  Make sure to keep anything that contains lye out of reach of children and/or pets!

④ Add distilled water to the measured lye. A strange-smelling gas will fume the second you add the water. Make sure that nearby windows are open for proper ventilation (I do the mixing outside). Stir until all the flakes dissolve, and bring the temperature down to the recipe’s instruction. Drizzle the lye mixture into the oil mixture slowly, and mix with a whisk. The idea here is to combine the oil and lye mixtures when they are at the same temperature.  Mix for 30 minutes, or per your instruction.

⑤ After mixing for about 30 minutes, let the mixture rest for 12-24 hours, depending on your instruction. The mixture is pretty runny at this point but it will become creamy like custard with time as it starts to develop a “trace.”

⑥ When the mixture becomes firm enough that the whisk can “pick up” the custard-like mixture, pour it into a parchment paper-lined mold. Mix essential oils and other additives well, if any, right before pouring.  I use wooden molds but you can use anything (some people put two milk cartons together to make a mold and others use Pringle’s tubes). Put the mold in a warm place, like in a box, and put a blanket over it. Keep it stored in the box for about 1-2 days, or per your instruction. After 1-2 days, remove the block from the mold (the block is still relatively soft). Make sure to wear a pair of gloves when handing the soap block, as it can still irritate your skin on contact. Let the block rest for about a day in a dry place, until it’s ready to cut.

⑦ When ready, cut the block into smaller pieces and let them dry and cure for 4-6 weeks, depending on your recipe. I know it takes all the discipline not to use these cute little soaps but be patient. Until the lye completely cures, they can be very harmful. When the soaps completely cure, you’re ready to indulge in your handmade soap! Note that the longer you dry, the harder the soaps become (and they will last longer).

Here are the pictures of my latest two batches — Marseilles soaps with Sugar Plum fragrance oil (left), and with Yuzu fragrance oil (right) for the holidays!

Resources:

Here are some online resources with lots of great information and inspiration!
Bramble Berry
Mountain Rose Herbs
Cibaria Soap Supply
Soap Making Resources
Smelly Chick’s Online Soapmaking Resources
Teach Soap
Birch Bark Handmade Soap

These are the soap shops that I adore!
Soap Kitchen
Dress Green
Countryrose Soap Company

Great Japanese sites:
Ayumi’s Soap (the reason why I’m making handmade soaps today!)
Kyoko Maeda (everything I know so far about soap making came from her books)

Happy soaping!  🙂

Peppermint Goodness: Homemade Deodorant

deodorant ingredientsI suppose I should warn you in advance that this post is not going to be about food. Instead, I am going to talk about a topic that is somewhat unappetizing, like personal hygiene and armpit issues, but I promise that I’m going to refrain from giving too much information and get right to the point. I made a homemade deodorant. 🙂

I figured it would be okay to talk about non-food related topics here, especially because making homemade beauty products like soaps and deodorants are so similar to cooking and baking. Everything can be done in a kitchen, and ingredients used are almost all edible!

deodorant mixtureI got inspired to make my own deodorant when I stumbled upon this tutorial by Soapaholic Anonymous, an adorable little blog packed with great inspiration for aspiring home chemists like myself. As soon as I realized that I already had all the necessary ingredients in the kitchen (coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch, and essential oils), nothing was holding me back from making my first deodorant.

I wanted to make four batches so I quadrupled all ingredients that were listed. As I was mixing the baking soda and cornstarch with the melted coconut oil, I noticed that the consistency of the mixture felt a little too liquid-y so I added additional 1/4 cup of each powder. The mixture was still runny but I decided to go with it and pour it into four clean containers and let them rest at room temperature until the coconut oil hardened a bit. I used lemon and peppermint essential oils to give it a refreshing scent, and I love that it smells like a Christmas candy cane!

deodorant containerWhen it came time to take this on a test run, I used a wooden popsicle stick I had to stir the mixture, put a small amount of the deodorant on my palm and rubbed it gently on my skin.

I wasn’t sure how it would turn out at first because of the access oil floating on top, but the mixture was surprisingly refreshing and not greasy at all. Once the oily paste / mixture is applied to skin, it immediately turns into a thin dry layer, absorbing all wetness. As long the skin is completely dry (I don’t recommend applying this immediately after getting out of shower as it leaves a little paste on skin) and apply it thinly, you will not see the white residual that mass-produced deodorants often leave behind. I think the key here is to apply it thinly and not to be afraid of the oil. I think oil is what makes it feel dry on skin (who knew?)

I think I’m going to try other recipes in the future like the one I found in Angry Chicken (one of the cutest craft blogs around) but I’m happy with this one for now. I gave three away to my trusted testers so let’s see what kind of feedback I receive from them. 🙂

Making Homemade Soap in the Kitchen

soap traceI’ve been in love with bar soap ever since I purchased my first Clinique facial cleanser as a teenager. Nothing made me happier than lathering up the yellow bar in a pretty green container and washing my face with it. It was heavenly. I think that was also the beginning of my fascination (and borderline crazy obsession) with cosmetics and skincare products.

But after years of wasting money on mass produced skincare products, I got interested in making my own. I really liked the idea of having control over what ingredients go into it, and I loved that I get to do it all in my own kitchen. I’ve been making my own lip balms, body scrubs and facial toners for many months now and I thought now is the perfect time for me to venture into soap making, thanks to the inspiration by books by Kyoko Maeda, who is synonymous with cold process soap making in Japan. My goal is to master, or at least be decent at this, in time for the holidays . 🙂

soap moldMaking soap is very much like baking. You pick your ingredients (oils), mix them up, add extracts and other flavoring agents (essential oils), pour the mixture into a mold, bake (in this case, letting lye and oils get chummy in a bowl), let it rest, slice, and enjoy! Both require that you have the precise measurements, which can be tricky at times, but as long as you pay extra attention to that as well as when handling lye that can get as hot as a piping oven, the process can be pretty easy and enormously enjoyable! Even the oils-lye mixture looks like a luscious and decadent cake batter (but don’t let the pretty exterior deceive you — these mixtures are still very dangerous to handle and it is certainly not for consumption)!

soap marbleI’ve seen many ways home chemists make soap, such as cooking the soap batch in a crock pot (this is called hot process), but mine is the traditional cold process method, just like what you see here (Countryrose Soap Company) and here (Birch Bark Handmade Soap tutorial). Soaps made this way take a little longer to cure but they retain more of the lovely glycerin that is wonderful for skin.

What you see here (above and right) is a batch of Premium Bar I made over the weekend using olive, sweet almond, jojoba, palm, and coconut oils. I used cinnamon to make the delicious swirl and the room is now filled with the wonderfully warm aroma, reminding me that autumn is just around the corner. I took the block out of the mold and sliced it today.

In addition, I’ve made a batch of Olive Oil Soap and Signature Marseilles Soap that are almost ready to use.

Olive Oil Soap
Ingredients: Pure olive oil, lye, distilled water, essential oils

soap olive oil

Signature Marseilles Soap
Ingredients: Pure olive oil (not extra virgin), palm oil, coconut oil, lye, distilled water, essential oils

soap marsailles

The only downside to making handmade soap is that you have to let them sit for four to six weeks, which will certainly test your patience. I have one more week for the Marseilles Soap and two more for Olive Oil Soap until these two batches of soaps become ready to use and I can’t wait.

soap

If you are interested in making your own soap, I recommend checking out Bramble Berry first!  Happy soaping! 🙂