Half the battle

If you’re like me, and you use shampoo bars, you’re familiar with acidic rinses. The most common one is apple cider vinegar and water, with or without a few drops of essential oils to offset the vinegary smell. Thankfully the smell doesn’t linger after you rinse the vinegar out, and your hair ends up shiny and soft. However, after realizing I was never going to get the hang of bath bombs, I had 5 lbs of citric acid to make use of. I decided to create a hair rinse that would add shine and softness to my hair, by brewing a tea of hair healthy herbs and adding citric acid to make my acidic rinse. I change up the essential oils periodically, but the basics for the rinse itself remains the same. 

Somehow I failed to get the marshmallow root in this picture, but it’s a critical part of the tea because of the polysaccharide chains it has in it that add strength to your hair shaft and make it detangle. Bamboo and horsetail are natural occurring sources of silica, which makes your hair slippery, and silky. In store products, silica is introduced in chemicals like dimethicone and cyclomethicone, but here we are avoiding these synthetics and getting our silica naturally. It still works great at leaving your hair silky and smooth. 

I mix up about 20 oz at a time-enough that we will be using a preservative. I like to make a month’s worth and not have to worry about it. My bamboo comes in the form of tea bags, my horsetail in capsules, and the marshmallow root comes in bulk. How you’re able to find these things may differ. 

I allow the tea to brew overnight, on the counter, then the next day when it’s at room temperature, I strain it, add preservative, essential oils, and (optional) polysorbate 80. The polysorbate suspends the essential oils in the tea so that only a gentle shake is needed before each use. If you want a solubilizer that isn’t polysorbate, you can try red turkey oil, just a 1/2 tsp. That should be enough to suspend your essential oils without being so much that it makes your hair look greasy. 

Finally, per 8 oz of tea, add 1 tsp of citric acid so you have an acidic rinse to neutralize the pH of your hair after using an alkaline shampoo bar. The combination of citric acid, which will smooth the keratin scales on your hair shaft, bamboo and horsetail, which will add slip to your hair, and marshmallow root, which will add shine, should make for a great rinse. I’ve been using this rinse for over a year and can’t recommend it enough. 

Here’s the recipe:

For the tea:

4 bamboo tea bags or 4 tsp bamboo 

8 capsules horsetail or 4 tsp whitetail

4 tsp marshmallow root

20 oz boiling water. 

Pour water over herbs and allow to come to room temperature. Steep several hours or overnight. Strain. 


2 1/2 tsp citric acid

Preservative of choice, used at manufacturer recommended rate

I prefer Liquid Germall Plus, at 0.5%

My essential oil blend lately has been: 

10 drops bergamot

10 drops michelia alba

5 drops helichrysum

1 tsp polysorbate 80

I store my rinse in a repurposed pop top bottle, because I can direct exactly where I want the rinse to go. Avoid the roots of your hair, as it will look greasy faster, it will stay clean longer if you only apply rinse to the ends of your hair and avoid your scalp. Let sit about 3 min then rinse with cool water. 

The rinse isn’t pretty, it’s definitely very much like herbal tea. 

My favorite lip balm

I think I’ve shared the base of this recipe before, but this new essential oil blend I have for it makes it so divine it bears repeating. 

A “London Fog” tea is a strong cup of Earl Grey, to which sugar, vanilla extract, and cream has been added. It’s absolutely divine. I’ve attempted to recreate the scent here by adding benzoin, with it’s strong vanilla notes, palmarosa, which is decidedly tea like, and bergatapene free bergamot (I’m using the bergatapene free version so my lips won’t sunburn, as citrus essential oils like bergamot are photo toxic-best to be safe). 

This really smells good. When I added the essential oils my husband called out from the living room, “What are you making? It smells great!” I explained it was lip balm and he thought this would make a great lotion (I actually got the idea off a website that made a London Fog lotion, so he’s probably right). He’s a dedicated fan of bergamot, though. We both are. It’s versatile and unisex, refreshing and cheery with it’s sunny citrus notes. 

The lip balm recipe itself is probably my absolute favorite because it doesn’t use coconut oil. Coconut oil is so good for so many things, but in lip balm, which goes through a lot of temperature changes (your warm pocket, hot or cold car, reasonable house, etc.) it can become grainy. This doesn’t affect the quality of the lip balm at all but it makes it unattractive. To some degree, shea butter can do it, too, but I’ve had less trouble with this shea-rich recipe that’s intensively moisturizing and luscious. I especially love this during the dry times and end up with tubes or pots stashed everywhere. Making London Fog flavor was a stroke of genius second only to when I came up with chai spice. 

Here’s the recipe: 

(Makes 4-5. You can easily double it, I always do!)

5g beeswax

5g shea butter

3g cocoa butter

5g avocado oil

3g castor oil

5 drops Vitamin E

2 blobs benzoin essential oil (benzoin is a sticky resin, so set the bottle in hot water to thin it for a few minutes before you try to pour it. It’s still blobs instead of drops)

4 drops palmarosa essential oil

4 drops bergatapene free version bergamot essential oil

Have fun! Be sure to get the bergatapene free version of bergamot or take care not to use this lip balm if you’ll be outside or risk burns on your lips outside. That would be truly horrific. Don’t risk it. Substitute something like litsea cubeba or lemongrass. 

Quick and Easy Sugar Scrub

Normally I make emulsified sugar scrubs, which contain emulsifying wax and other emulsifiers like stearic acid and cetyl alcohol to thicken the scrub and suspend the oil. It makes the oil, shea butter, and sugar turn into creamy lotion in your hands as soon as you get a little water in your hands and also rinses clean in your bathtub, taking all the oils down the drain instead of leaving an oil slick behind that’s potentially dangerous as a fall hazard. With all those benefits, why would I go back to a basic coconut oil scrub? 

Well, some people don’t have emulsifiers and don’t want to invest in them but still want to make DIY projects. And, with a few simple precautions it’s easy to safely make a fun sugar scrub. 

Coconut Oil Sugar Scrub

1 cup coconut oil- room temperature soft, but not melted

1/2 c brown sugar

1/2 c white sugar

2 tbsp Castile soap (like Dr Bronners)

30-40 drops essential oils of your choice 

Using a hand mixer, beat the coconut oil, essential oils, Castile soap, together. Start beating in the sugar until it’s like wet sand. Store in an water proof container like a Rubbermaid or Gladware container. 

To avoid having to use a preservative and to avoid contamination of the entire container, just scoop out what you will use for one shower into a plastic bowl and take that bowl into the shower with you. Never take the master container in the shower with you and dip into it with wet fingers. That can cause your container to become moldy. Do not scoop a small amount into a glass container like a glass bowl or Mason jar and take that into the shower with you. If glass breaks in the shower, it can be very dangerous. 

To use, rub together in your hands and rub over your body where you have dry skin (your legs, your hands, your elbows, etc…it’s even safe to use on your face as long as you only rub gently). Rinse with warm water and wash with soap if you feel overly oily from the coconut oil. I tried this before shaving and found that my legs were so dry they soaked up the coconut oil and only needed to be rinsed, but my face needed to be washed with face wash. It’s different for everyone. 

Because there are no emulsifiers you have to be cautious that this will make the bottom of your tub slick. Be careful! I don’t want anyone to slip and fall! 

Let me know how this recipe works for you and if you modify it! I’m interested in any changes you creatively come up with! 

Easy three ingredient make up remover

This one is inspired by Marie at Humblebee & Me, although her version is slightly different and calls for Olivem 3000 instead of Polysorbate 80  ( although she does mention the polysorbate as a possible workaround). I didn’t have Olivem 3000, but I did have a bachelorette and two weddings in one week to attend and was in need of a way to get off the eye make up that goes along with those kinds of shenanigans and events. This works genius. I also use witch hazel in mine, where she does not. 

Here’s the recipe:

For a 1 oz bottle (which will last awhile unless you wear tons of eye make up daily), mix 

6g fractionated coconut oil

6g polysorbate 80 

12g witch hazel 

That’s it! You can measure directly into the bottle with a funnel if you tare between items and shake well once it’s capped. I use waterproof eyeliner from MAC and mascara I make myself or my waterproof Benefit brand and it came off with very little scrubbing in any case. Shake well before every use, and you will probably want to wash and moisturize your face after using. 

Happy making! 

Skin in the game

Have you ever wondered what your skin is made of? Keep reading! 

Somebody was commenting recently about how your skin is your largest organ (true) and how you have to be careful what you put on it because it absorbs everything and that’s why we are all so sick nowadays (um, less true…your skin is an amazing and effective barrier that keeps out toxins and bad stuff, keeping you safe). So I decided to research the physiology of skin structure and post information here so you can learn about how your skin works and what the different layers and structures in your skin do. Please click on the links and go educate yourself! 

First up is Point of Interest. On Susan’s blog, as always, she’s done a tremendous job of being scientific without being so technical that it’s over your head. There’s a whole set of blog entries here on the skin and I suggest you read them all, you’ll be so much more informed about how your skin works afterwards! You can find her blog and the main page on skin chemistry HERE.

 Second is a brief overview of skin structures and anatomy, very brief and somewhat technical but very informative. I enjoyed it. You can find that page HERE.

 And finally we turn to Wikipedia. You can bash wiki all you want, but it’s still a great source of information at times. Search “epidermis”  and then, later, stratum corneum, and the other layers of skin individually, to get more detailed results. Here is the link for “epidermis”. I admit, the Wiki is much more technical than say, Susan’s writing, and less friendly, but there’s valuable information there, too. 

So there you have it. If you can only choose one, read the Point of Interest blog. It’s the most comprehensive and still manages to be entertaining. The others are definitely more dry and a little boring, but have good information so I included them. And if you read the Point of Interest blog, realize there are many entries linked on the same topic, so you may want to take advantage of the search box in the top left hand corner and search for “skin anatomy” or ” skin chemistry ” and see what pops up. See what your skin is made out of! 

Pour some sugar on me

I love emulsified sugar scrubs. I often make mine with a dash of a powdered surfactant like SCI or SLSa (or both) so that the scrub has some bubbles as well. I have been tweaking this scrub recipe for about a year now and I think I have it at a good place. It uses a lot of moisturizing shea butter and less liquid oils than some recipes, and I suggest you go with rich oils for your liquid oils like olive and sunflower. 

You can add micas to this to make it pretty and don’t worry; they won’t stain your skin in small quantities. You should also consider using a preservative if you’re going to store this in the bathroom, double dip in the container, or reach into it with wet hands. These things can introduce water and pathogens or mold spores to the batch and cause mold or germs to grow in the container. So definitely add the recommended amount of preservative.  I think I have Phenonip listed in the recipe but you should read up on what other preservatives safely work in anhydrous concoctions. I believe it’s Optiphen ND and Germaben II, but seriously, double check that. I’m sure the Phenonip works. I would have to research the other two to be safe but that’s where I would start if I didn’t want to use Phenonip. Personally, despite my dislike of parabens, I still find them more attractive than mold or pathogens. The usage rate is 1%. I’m willing to use 7g of Phenonip in this recipe which is a very small amount, to ward off mold and bacteria. 

Here’s the recipe and instructions. Please note: you can substitute salt for the sugar and make a salt scrub, and varying coarseness of salt will make different scrubbiness. I suggest 50/50 sea salt and a coarser salt for a foot scrub, and not going any further than that as it gets really abrasive and leaves micro tears in your skin that can lead to further injury and infection. Scrubs should be somewhat gentle. Stick with sugar for the body, and consider pulsing your sugar through the blender if making a face scrub so you are using microfine sugar. You don’t want to damage your skin, only exfoliate it. 

Sugar Scrub with Shea Butter

 Emulsified Sugar Scrub 

64g Olive Oil

62g sunflower oil

70g coconut oil

100g Emulsifying Wax- 50g each BTMS and Emulsifying Wax NF is what I used because I ran out of Emulsifying Wax NF. 

62g Stearic Acid

62g Cetyl Alcohol

100g Shea butter 

285g White Granulated Sugar (10 Oz) 

30g SCI (optional)

30g SLSa (optional, you can also use 60g of one or the other if you only have one-I left the surfactants out of this batch accidentally!)

2 Tsp Colorant (mica, or a few drops food coloring)  

7g Phenonip (add before dividing up to color and swirl) 

16g Of Essential Oil Or Fragrance Oil (4g per 8 oz jar)

Weigh the 100g of Emulsifing Wax and 62g. of Stearic Acid and 62g of Cetyl alcohol and place in stainless steel pan. 
Weigh the 100g. of Shea Butter and add to pot with waxes.

Place over low heat on stove until just melted.

Weigh 64g of Olive Oil, 62g of sunflower seed Oil, And 70g Of Melted Coconut Oil. Mix So Oils Stay Liquid. 

Add to the melted wax/butter mixture, stir gently and remove from stove. Pour melted mixture into liquid oils in separate bowl. With whisk or hand mixer, blend on low until ingredients have emulsified.

Let product cool down and thicken up. Keep mixing with whisk or hand mixer or stick blender. Honestly, I just use a whisk for all of this. 

Add 10 oz/285g of white granulated sugar and whisk in gently to incorporate.

Add 1/2-1 tsp of mica of your choice gradually until you achieve the desired color. There are micas and liquid colors that are available that are skin safe and tub safe. Pay attention when you order.   

Add 7g of Phenonip  and 16g. of the Fragrance Oil or Essentials and mix well. 

Chill For 15-30 Minutes For best results 

Blend with hand mixer until product gets fluffy and smooth.

Place product into jars, filling each to approximately 3/4 full. If more product remains divide up evenly.

Product will thicken up once it has completely cooled.

Place lids on the jars and label accordingly.

To Use: Scoop out a small amount of scrub and add a small amount of warm water. Mix together in your hand and then apply to wet skin. Rinse thoroughly, then pat dry.I

Ideally you don’t take the entire jar in the shower each time but scoop out what you will use into a separate container and use that, preventing water from getting into the main container as much as possible. Your product will last longer and be less likely to go bad this way (even with a preservative). Just to be safe it’s best to educate your customers to use the sugar scrub in this manner. 

This recipe makes 2- 16 oz jars or 4- 8 oz jars of sugar scrub. This last time I scented one jar with blueberry and benzoin upon request and the other jar with Jasmine, lavender, and sandalwood. They both smell great but totally different. One has purple mica; one has purple and blue mica to look more like blueberry. They are 16 oz “soup” take out containers that I have found are perfect for sugar scrubs. 

Super Shea Butter Lip Balm

So this is my FAVORITE lip balm. It works in a tube, or in a small pot (my preference). It’s rich and creamy and stays solid even after a day in a hot car or your pocket. I still love using lavender essential oil and cardamom essential oil for it with a pinch of stevia or Splenda, although rumor is you can even use a gram or two of honey and it will emulsify-but I haven’t tried that. I’m worried the honey will settle at the bottom. You can always use the flavored lip balm oils. I think they have a weird aftertaste but my granddaughter says they are fine, particular strawberry, so there’s that. 

Ultra Moisturizing Shea Butter Lip Balm

Makes 4-5 lip balms or small pots (5g)

4g beeswax

5g Shea Butter (raw or refined)

4g cocoa butter

4g calendula infused olive oil (one time I used infused coconut oil here and the results were fabulous)

4g avocado oil (or skip the olive oil and use 8g avocado oil)

5 drops Vitamin E oil

5-10 drops essential oils (I use lavender and cardamom but you could use spearmint or peppermint-I would only use 5 drops)

Weigh the oils and butters into a pyrex or other heat resistant measuring cup or double boiler. Melt and bring water to simmer; heat and hold 20 minutes to prevent future graininess. Add beeswax and melt through. Add vit E oil. Remove from heat add essential oil and pinch sweeter if desired. Warning: sweetner may make lip balm slightly gritty. 

Pour the melted lip balm into 4-5 tubes or pots and let cool.