Lavender and Olive’s Original Shampoo Bar Recipe

Ever since Agree-brand hair products disappeared from the drugstore shelves many, many years ago (Do you remember them? They were wonderful!), I have never found a shampoo and conditioner that I can fall in love with. Then, about five years ago, I discovered Basin, a Lush-like shop that sells natural soaps, and its shampoo bars and I was back in love again. I like the shampoo bars more than the mainstream ones for several reasons. One, because it cuts down the plastic consumption to, well, zero, because the soap comes in a solid form. Also, because it leaves my hair clean but conditioned, even without using a conditioner. And last but not least, they last forever! It is wonderful to travel with it too since you can toss it in your carry-on luggage without having a TSA agent come running after you.

The only downside about the shampoo bars is that they are a little pricey. For a 65 gram bar, it costs $8, plus shipping since I get mine online. It’s much cheaper than  other bottle shampoos but still, that’s a lot of money. So, I’ve been looking to formulate my own recipe for the best shampoo bars that I can make at home.

After trying many, many, many recipes – some that I found in books and online, as well as my original concoction – I finally found the one that I absolutely fell in love with. I made a small test batch a few months ago, and I finally took the bar out for a test run last week … and I was amazed at how shiny and healthy my hair really got. I’m not kidding! After using this shampoo bar on my hair every day for the last five days, my hair has never felt or looked better. I think it’s the castor oil and molasses that work so well for my dark mane.

It’s a little embarrassing to plaster my face here, but here’s a picture of my hair. Before this shampoo bar, I had to use gel to control my hair before blow drying it but not any more! I didn’t have to use any hair products and my hair behaved just fine!

Here’s the recipe. Please follow the basic cold-process soap-making instruction before proceeding.

Lavender and Olive’s Original Shampoo Bars (for Dark Hair)

A little disclaimer here.  A kind blog reader informed me that she tried this recipe and found that the batch was too soft to remove from the mold, even after a week of curing.  I’m not sure what caused this but I’m determined to get to the bottom of this, so I’m making this batch again to troubleshoot what went wrong!  Stay tuned!  And thanks, Waterlily, for taking the time to bring this up! 

This is for 650 gram which is like a size of a regular milk carton. It makes about 7 x 4 oz bars.  FYI, Lavender and Olive is my Etsy shop name. 🙂

130 g Castor Oil (20%)
130 g Macadamia Nuts Oil (20%)
65 g Hazelnut Oil (10%)
65 g Avocado Oil (10%)
65 g Olive Oil (10%)
65 g Shea Butter (10%)
65 g Palm Oil (10%)
65 g Coconut Oil (10%)
253 g Distilled water
78 g Lye (85% discount)

Mix them in right before you pour the mixture in to the mold

¼ cup Molasses
30 drops Lavender Essential Oil
30 drops Rosemary Essential Oil
20 drops Bergamot Essential Oil

Just a quick disclaimer here. Please consult with your physician if you have special conditions or are not sure if you have any allergies to any of the listed ingredients here. While the ingredients used are often suitable for babies and young children, I found that it really hurts when the soap gets in the eyes. It is probably best not to use the bar to wash their hair. Also, please feel free to double check the lye content with Lye Calculator.

If you use this recipe to create shampoo bars at home, I would love to hear your feedback. I hope you love them as much I do!

Oh, and I don’t use regular conditioner after I wash my hair with the shampoo bar.  I usually rinse my hair with a vinegar and glycerin mixture.  I know, you might be thinking … eeeew, vinegar!?$?@?  But trust me, with a little dash of your favorite Essential or Fragrance Oils, it doesn’t smell bad at all.  More on the hair rinse talk next time.

Homemade Massage Bar to Fight Blue Monday

Some British study dubs the last Monday of January to be the “most depressing day of the year.” I guess there is even a formula that calculates it, by taking in factors like weather, time since Christmas, time since failing on new year’s resolutions, low motivational level, and a feeling of need to take action. I’m not too sure about the whole formula thing (and today’s not even that day), but the lack of motivation is definitely in the air here in my apartment.

I haven’t had the energy to do anything much since the holidays, except to shop online – which can be trouble. I spent hours stalking shops like Sephora and Lush last night, putting everything I want in the shopping carts. When the total hit triple digit, I knew that I had to walk away from the computer slowly, with both hands in the air, so that I won’t accidentally push “proceed to checkout.” My shopping urges were around cosmetics and body care products so I knew that I had to go in the kitchen and make my own, before I make a serious dent in my wallet.

I found this great recipe for Massage Bar online. I actually didn’t know what Massage Bar was for a long time until I found out that it’s a solid form of a lotion, where one can rub the bar on any dry areas of a body and use it to moisturize and massage (Duh). I decided to give this recipe a whirl, to tame my uncontrollable shopping urges!

Massage Bar
Adapted from a post by elle110 on iVillage Garden Web
It makes about 4 cupcake-size bars

Note: I doubled the recipe from the original and eliminated the Cocoa Butter and substitute it with more Shea Butter (I am not a fan of the Cocoa Butter smell).

You can get most of the ingredients at a supermarket or a health food store, like Whole Foods. I got all my ingredients from Brambleberry.

2 oz. Sweet Almond Oil
2 oz. Bees Wax
2 oz. Shea Butter
1 teaspoon Jojoba Oil
Fragrance Oil or Essential Oil of your choice (I used about 1/4 teaspoon of Yuzu FO)


1. Melt all the ingredients together (except for Fragrance or Essential Oils) in a double boiler. Make sure to stir as they are melting. Once everything melts, remove from the double boiler.

2. Add Fragrance or Essential Oils of your choice. Stir well.

3. Pour the mixture in a muffin tin lined with baking cups. I used Sili-Cups, cups made out of sillicone.

4. Let the bar cool for a few hours (quicker if you pop them in a refrigerator). Peel off the cup and it’s ready for use. Rub it on your legs, arms, stomach, or anywhere on your body for silky moisture! Store in a cool place.

It turned out that this is an amazing bar! I am so in love it! It’s not too greasy or too hard – with just a perfect consistency. I am afraid that the bar will melt during the hot summer months but since it’s still relatively cold outside, I’ll have no problem storing it in my bathroom or even a bedroom. If you are suffering from dry skin this winter, this can be your answer to a silky, moisture skin! And these bars go for about $10 for one 2 once bar at Lush, so it’s a bargain to make them at home. Maybe with the money you save, you can save yourself from Blue Monday!

Happy pampering!

Laziness Has Its Benefit: Homemade Toothpaste

I sometime get so lazy that I don’t go out to a grocery store, even if the refrigerator is completely empty and there is absolutely nothing to eat in the house (I know I can survive on spaghetti with olive oil for a week). I sometime choose not to go to a nearby drugstore (and there is one literally right across the street from my place) even if I were short on shampoo or other grooming necessitates (I can totally live without washing my hair for a day or two). There are, however, things that are so vital to one’s existence that even I have to get my lazy butt off the couch to go get them. Those items include a roll of toilet paper, Skinny Cow ice cream sandwich, and a tube of toothpaste.

Having squeezed the life out of the only tube of toothpaste I had left last night, I knew that I had no choice but to get myself a new tube this morning but, boy, I was lazy … so instead, I came up with a clever idea of making my own out of ingredients I already had around the house! What was that idiom … “necessity (or in my case, laziness) is the mother of invention”? This was exactly that!

I was a little skeptical at first though. I mean, I have to admit that, although I was comfortable with making soaps, lotions and other skincare products, it was a little scary to make something that I would actually put in my mouth. I didn’t even know how baking soda and liquid glycerin would taste like (what if they were super bitter?). But I put the fear aside and decided to go for it … and I’m glad I did!

I was so impressed with this homemade toothpaste that I couldn’t help but to share the recipe with you! Mind you, the consistency of this paste is very different from the commercial kind and there are no bubbles of any sort but my teeth came out squeaky clean and my entire mouth super refreshed! This is so inexpensive to make, all natural, and simply a wonderful product. You can get the ingredients at a local grocery store, or any natural food store, like Whole Foods and Henry’s.  I got my glycerin from Bramble Berry.  I hope you give it a try!

Homemade Mint Toothpaste
Adapted from “Ofuro no Tanoshimi” by Kyoko Maeda

1-1/2 tablespoons Baking Soda
1 tablespoon Liquid Glycerin
5 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil

Mix the baking soda and liquid glycerin well in a small container (I used a measuring cup). Add drops of Essential Oil and mix well. Put the paste in a clean jar (I used the jar from Trader Joe’s capers).  To use, put a teaspoon of the paste on a toothbrush with a small spoon, and brush teeth as usual. Keep it in a cool place.

I didn’t know this until now but liquid glycerin is naturally sweet!  The sweetness balances out the slightly salty flavor of baking soda, making the entire thing taste much like a regular toothpaste you pick up at a grocery store!  And I really love the refreshing feel of Peppermint Essential Oil.

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.


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.”


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!


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. 🙂