How this all started

I made my first batch of soap about a year ago. 

You see, back then, I was a coconut oil fanatic. I was convinced it cured everything. Dry skin? Rub coconut oil on it? Hair frizzy? Coconut oil. You’ve seen those memes about people and coconut oil? Yeah, they are talking about the old me. These days I know a lot more about fatty acids and what they do for your hair and skin, so I’m more likely to recommend a specific oil like argan or rosehip for your face, grapeseed for a light body oil, avocado for a richer body oil, and (still) coconut, castor, or broccoli seed for hair. Coconut oil penetrates the hair shaft making it unique among oils, castor oil gives hair unbelievable softness and shine, and broccoli seed oil has naturally occurring silicones which make it great for hair and skin, especially if you avoid synthetic ones. 

But back to my story. I was sold on coconut oil about a year ago. Didn’t travel without it. Had a jar in the bathroom and a jar in the kitchen, and a little container by my bed to use as lotion. Then I stumbled across a pretty simple set of instructions explaining how to make coconut oil soap in your crock pot. It looked like fun so I thought I would do it. 

It was a failure. Total failure at first.  My soap siezed. I didn’t know what to do, so I added a little water so I could stir it longer and even though it never passed the zap test I pushed it into a loaf pan. After 24 hours it still zapped me, and I knew something was seriously wrong. I cut that soap up into chunks, grated it, and cooked it in the crock pot a second time for several hours with a little more water and a little more coconut oil. After this, it didn’t zap me, and I got it into the loaf pan again, but it was sure ugly soap. I didn’t know, I thought it was fine. I sliced it up and left it to cure a week. It was super bubbly soap that was supposed to work as a shampoo bar, but I never could get those 100% coconut bars to work as shampoo for my hair. Other people had better results. My ex-mother in law loves it. 

I actually used that soap and found it was pretty awesome. The next batch I made was a lot easier, and was so cool I decided to expand what all I could make and try selling some of it. I cut up both sets of soap and gave them away as tester bars. The picture above is of the very last tester I have from the first soap I ever made. I may keep it forever. 

Now, I rarely make cooked soap in the crock pot unless it’s base for liquid soap. Making cold process soap results in a smoother, more attractive bar and you can do more with colorants and fun techniques. Recently I did make hot process peppermint soap. I was even able to add a colorful stripe in the center without too much trouble, so maybe it’s possible to do fancy patterns in cooked soap. I’ve seen it especially with colored clays, and it makes a very pretty rustic soap. 

I’d love to make the mermaid soap that Marie has up over at Humblebee & Me. I’m intrigued by the gradual color change and shimmery top, and I want to make more shampoo bars. This would give me a chance to keep developing a shampoo for oily hair, too. However, before I do that, I need to focus on building stock of the product lines I plan to carry all the time.Still, it’s on my to do list. 

But that’s how I got started soaping. Learning about cosmetics, skin care, lotions, beard care, hair care, etc…. Well, that just followed along as I researched how to make the best soap and I started making bath and body products as well.  The second big thing I developed and made was an arnica pain relief bar which has helped a few people I know.which give the initial cooling sensation and pain relief. Lately I’ve been making more makeup and playing with that. 

My next things to learn more about are:

1)  a face moisturizer that’s a light, skin loving lotion and not just pure oils

2) lip glosses-seem easy enough, now it’s a matter of time

3) pressed powders (this should be fun, because I’ve tried pressed powders with oil as a binder and it’s been a mess so next time I’m considering trying high proof alcohol and maybe a few drops of glycerine)

4)under eye gels for puffiness and dark circles- still learning about carbomers

5) hair smoothing serum and detangler-I have an idea, I just need to tweak it. 

6) a lip balm that incorporates a touch of glycerin or honey to attract moisture to the lips as well as good stuff like cocoa butter, shea butter, beeswax, and maybe a drop of lecithin to help emulsify it all. Some essential oils could be nice here or just let the honey taste come through.

7) Finally, because everyone I know is having babies, I’m making extra gentle, coconut derived surfactant based baby bath wash, baby lotion that’s filled with nourishing, extra gentle, oils and butters, and tweaking my baby booty balm to work in cold and warm weather (swapping the beeswax for Ecomulse so it’s not too hard, but not so soft that it’s a liquid mess in the heat of the summer; I had this idea after I remembered that I do this with the solid perfumes I make and they have been the right consistency). 

Back to soap for a minute; I’m proud I’ve gotten to a point where I have two or three “go to” fool proof soap recipes that make good, hard, pretty soaps that I can be proud of. It’s taken me almost a year and many batches of soap to develop the one I call “the soap”, but it’s a damn good soap. 

The things I like least about all this are making labels, bookkeeping, and handling shipping. If I could get someone else to do that part while I just make stuff, that would be swell (Office Space reference, lol). Nobody wants to do the business stuff in their business. Everyone wants to just create. But it’s gotta be done. And it gets done. Eventually, reluctantly, painfully, but it gets done. 

And it all started with coconut oil. 



Surfactant Facial Cleanser

I’ve been taking an online class offered through Point of Interest, which comes out every Tuesday (and often continues with posts throughout the week as Susan is able), and the topic of the class this month is surfactants. I went over what surfactants are and what they do a little last week. 

We will be making:

Facial Cleanser (did that last week)

Micellar Water (I have made this but I love getting another perspective on it!)

Creamy cleanser, like a lotion (I have a formula for this developed, but haven’t tried it, so I’m wildly curious to see how close my idea and hers are)

Moisturizer (I’ve made exactly two of these. One I use all the time but don’t care for, the other was a failure so I’m definitely curious to get some tips!)

Toner (phhhsst. I got this. But still. The science behind it should be fun)

Gels of all kinds, like eye serum (squee!)

Serums, including spot treatment (more interested in anti aging for personal use, but all kinds are great for the shop).

As for the cleaners and everything else, the idea is to make a working base then add fancy things like humectants or extracts, vitamins, and so on. 

The Facial Cleanser I made came together in a flash with very little “cooking” and while it took quite a bit of time, that was all down time waiting for bubbles to subside. Here’s the recipe and I’ll explain. 

Perstephanie’s Version of Facial Cleanser 

Initial Water phase

Boil approximately 75g water for 20 min. and allow to come to room temperature.

Surfactant phase

 15g disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (DLS)

7g Sodium lauryl 

sulfoacetate (SLSa)

13g coco betaine 

7g glycerin 

0.5g Liquid Germall Plus 

Water Phase

 10 g aloe vera liquid (or equal amount water and equivalent aloe x 100 or x200)

72g boiled distilled water, that’s cooled off. Don’t burn yourself! 

3g hydrolyzed wheat protein 

.5 g silk peptides 

10-20 drops EO of choice. I used petitgrain because I wanted something that was both citrus and floral. It’s very nice, I think it needs a little something else but I can’t pin point want and it’s a wash off product so I’m not fussed. 

This adds to approximately 125g or 4 oz. The original recipe called for 1-3g of Crothix, added and stirred one g at a time and that’s absolutely possible if you want a thicker product or you can take the water down to 52g and just make 100g and a thicker product that way. I stirred all the surfactants together carefully in a container, then added the aloe, glycerin and water, and gently stirred to minimize bubbles. Even so, I had to leave it overnight and come back to let the bubbles settle. Then I tried it and it was OK. I added a little more glycerin (from 3g to 7g), and the hydrolyzed wheat protein, the silk, and the essential oil. I tried it while I was waiting for the bubbles to settle and loved the feel of it. It’s not drying at all, it rinses clean but leaves your skin soft and hydrated. It might be too hydrating if you have very oily skin but for normal, dry, or sensitive skin it should work great. 

If you are concerned about these surfactants and the fact that they are chemicals, I advise you to look them up on EWG’s Skin Deep. The biggest problem with SLSa is that it’s a powder that can be inhaled (I use a dust mask, promise!) and the other two have excellent safety ratings as far as I can see. Better than many things that are considered natural, which doesn’t always mean safe. Arsenic is natural, after all. So keep a cool head and research your coconut based surfactants before you judge them all as evil and bad. 

Thanks for DIY’ING with me! 

Aftershave, 2.0

I took what I had learned after I made J’s Bay Rum after shave and applied it towards making a sandalwood aftershave for one of my favorite friends. This version has a touch of glycerin to act as a humectant, which will counteract all the drying alcohol by drawing moisture to the skin. The alcohol definitely deserves a purpose and it’s necessary, but being able to soothe the skin and replace lost moisture-without being sticky, tacky, or oily- is a great thing. In addition, this version has alum, which serves as a styptic in case of nicks and cuts. And I left out the magnesium, which we suspected caused a wind burned sensation on J in his aftershave. 

The essential oil blend here is fantastic. There’s a lot, and I mean a lot, of plain old sandalwood because I didn’t want to cover that smell, only enhance it. I deepened it with a little rosewood and a touch of vetiver, and for middle notes added clary sage and black pepper. Finally, there’s the fresh top notes of lime and petitgrain, which is just enough like orange to compliment the sandalwood and just different enough to be interesting. All in all, it smells fantastic, and I wasn’t unhappy when I ended up with some on my hands and had to smell it for about an hour. It’s more masculine than plain old sandalwood, and more interesting, too. I could sniff this on someone for awhile-I’ll have to make J a sandalwood blend of some kind eventually-and I hope my friend has luck with the other women in his life wanting to smell it. 😉 

Levelling Up! 

A few of the things I believe firmly in are that you should try to keep an open mind about most everything, and that you should definitely never stop learning. As a result, when I saw that Susan Barclay-Nichols was offering a great new series on her “Newbie Tuesdays” part of her blog, I got excited. She’s not only giving recipes for things like surfactant based cleanser for all skin types, but also exfoliating cleanser, miceller water, and many other awesome things, but she’s also delving into the science behind how your skin works, how the ingredients work, and how it all works together. She’s amazing. And did I mention these classes are free? Her blog is called Swift Crafty Monkey and you can find this week’s Newbie Tuesday here!

Meanwhile, I went to my other favorite place for fabulous recipes and saw that Marie Rayma has been developing new formulas with surfactants as well. I’m eager to try out my own versions of Creamy Lavender Cardamon Cleansing Lotion and Meadowfoam Mango Creamy Facial Cleanser. The second one will take some definite modification as I don’t have meadowfoam oil or mango butter, but Marie suggests jojoba oil instead for the meadowfoam oil, and I have a large quantity of shea butter right now to utilize. For oily skin, using hazelnut oil might also be a great substitution, I think, and of course a simple oil like avocado or sunflower would be acceptable for someone with dry skin or you could use coconut oil. 

While this was a short, picture free, boring post, the next one should be an in depth review of the making of a new facial product, with pictures and a write up! Good times!