Monday, 16 June 2014

Hanger Swirl Soap Challenge Club

I've been on the mailing list for Amy Warden's Soap Challenge Club since practically the beginning, but this is the first time that I have actually participated in the challenge. I'm not sure why it took me so long to sign up, but I'm glad that I finally took the plunge.

This time around, the challenge was to produce a soap using the hanger swirl technique, in which a clothes hanger is dragged up and down and side to side to create beautiful swirls and designs. Prior to the challenge, I had used this technique a few times, but hadn't ventured beyond layering colours one on top of the other and dragging the hanger up and down through those layers. Though I love this look, for the challenge, I wanted to attempt something a bit different.

I chose an earthy blend of fragrance oils for my soap, including patchouli, cedarwood, bayberry and vanilla oak, and a natural palette of clays and botanicals to match. I also used more liquid oils than normal in order to keep the soap workable.

I wasn't really sure what the design should be, so I poured the different colours in a random order and then used the hanger to swirl circles and moved the hanger up, down, side to side and every which way.

I love slicing into a log of soap when you don't know what you're going to get, and this soap was definitely a surprise. I was afraid that I got a bit carried away and created a muddy mess, but thankfully the swirls were distinct. And I enjoyed making the challenge soap so much that I decided to try again a few days later, this time using a light and fruity fragrance of orange and guava. This time I layered the different colours, went up and down with the hanger, and then side to side. I don't like this one as much, but it was fun to try.

Thanks for organizing this event Amy!

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Toner for Oily Skin

I have oily/acne-prone skin with occasional dry patches, and one of the products that I've been wanting to make is a toner for my skin type. Though toner isn't something that I normally use, Susan from Point of Interest! has written a lot about how toners are great for providing moisturization without oils, which sounds perfect for my combination skin.

For my first toner, I've adapted Susan's recipe for an acne-prone skin toner. I had most but not all of the ingredients on hand, so my recipe is slightly different than Susan's recipe. My first batch is small (50g) so that I won't have wasted any ingredients if my skin breaks out.

HEATED PHASE (heat and hold for 20 minutes at 70°C)

64% water
25% lavender hydrosol
2% sodium lactate
2% hydrolized protein
3% honeyquat
0.5% allantoin

COOL DOWN PHASE (added once heated phased has cooled to 45°C)
2% panthenol
0.5% powdered chamomile extract
0.5% powdered aloe vera extract
0.5% Geogard (preservative)

The toner smells lovely, with a hint of lavender from the hydrosol. I had considered adding a small amount of lavender essential oil (with an equal part of polysorbate 20 to incorporate it) to increase the therapeutic value, but I think that the hydrosol is enough.

I'll post an update once I've used the toner for a week or so.

UPDATE (May 10, 2014): It's now been one week since I first started using this toner. So far, I'm very pleased with the results. I've noticed an overall improvement in skin tone and clarity. My skin also feels smoother, and I wonder if this is due to the sodium lactate in the toner, which I believe acts as a mild exfoliant. Given the results, I intend to keep using the toner and I will re-evaluate the results in 3 weeks time.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Wax Tarts + Wasabi FO

Last winter, I noticed beautiful Christmas-themed wax tarts popping up in the Facebook soap groups that I belong to. From what I learned, wax tarts are like candles without a flame. Instead of burning a wick, a piece of scented wax (the wax tart) is placed on a warming device and melted to release the scent into the air. This sounded like a nice project, so I decided to make my own wax tarts.

After a bit of reading, I ordered soy pillar wax and a wax tart mold and got to work. The process is relatively simple: melt the wax until it's liquid, add the fragrance or essential oil (I use 10% of the weight of the wax), stir and pour into the mold. In a few hours, the wax tarts are hard and can be popped out of the mold. Colour can also be added to the wax, but I like to keep them white.

This batch is scented with Wasabi fragrance oil. It's a Brambleberry fragrance that I ordered from Creations from Eden here in Canada. Despite this fragrance's name, the dominant scent that my nose picks up is ginger. It's fresh and green and I really like it. I'd like to try it in a lotion or cold process soap next.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Recent Soaps

Though I've been silent the past few months, I've probably made a dozen or so batches of soap since the New Year, playing around with design and ingredients:

Lavender EO & Tangerine FO, coloured with graduated layers of sunflower oil infused with alkanet powder and lines of smokey plum mica. 
Bonsai & Citrus Ginger FO, made with homemade oat milk that seriously accelerated trace. I barely had time to complete the design, which is a Taiwan swirl in a slab mold.
A soleseife brine cupcake soap, made with 100% coconut oil and a 20% super fat. The bottom layer scented with cocoa puffs FO and vanilla cream FO, and the top with Japanese peppermint EO. This was my first soap cupcake, and while they look pretty, I don't find them very practical. 
Lavender EO, made with Ariane Arsenault's tilted layers chopstick swirl.
Made with Boysenberry FO and Citron FO, I'm calling this one Berries & Cream. It has goat's milk powder and whipping cream, and smells fruity and fresh for spring. The little dots on the top and in a portion of the soap are cranberry seeds. 
This final soap is a shampoo soap, scented with a blend of Lavender EO, Lemongrass EO, Tea Tree EO and Patchouli EO. It contains lots of extras, including local beer, goat's milk powder, oat protein and silk.
As my soap shelves are overflowing, I've decided to spend some time focused on other body care products. I already make bottled conditioner, but I've ordered a few additional ingredients so that I can try my hand at solid conditioner bars. I've also ordered some Polysorbate 20 so that I can attempt a toner and a body spray. Stay tuned :)

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Winter Hand Cream

Canadian winters can be hard on skin, even in rainy Vancouver. For me, colder weather means painful, itchy and cracked skin on my knuckles. Using my own soap has helped decrease the frequency and severity of this affliction, but I still tend to suffer from it when the temperature drops to near freezing.

Because of this issue, I have made a lotion that I hope will help my skin this year when the frost arrives. I set out to create a thick, emollient lotion - really more of a body butter in texture - with lots of nice oils, butters and film formers. I also wanted to include ingredients that are specifically known to help dry, cracked skin.

The result is a lotion that is very thick, containing 25% oils and butters (including lanolin, which creates a protective barrier on the skin, sunflower and olive oils, and cocoa and shea butters). I also included hydrolized oat protein, panthenol, a humectant (sodium lactate) and 0.5% powdered wheatgrass extract, which contains a variety of vitamins, minerals and trace elements. This ingredient is purported to soothe, moisturize and revitalize the appearance of dry, cracked or raw skin. And for a relaxing touch, the lotion is lightly scented with lavender essential oil.

The lanolin and wheatgrass extract are new ingredients to me, so I made a very small test batch to see how the resulting lotion works. The small batch also seemed like a good idea as my understanding is that some powdered extracts can be hard to very preserve. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a lot of info on this particular extract, so I used the maximum amount of preservative and I was extra careful in sterilizing the utensils, and heating and holding the ingredients. Fingers crossed that this lotion stays preserved!

The texture of this lotion is like whipped icing and it feels wonderful on the skin. There is an ever so slight stickiness that I think is probably from the lanolin, but it doesn't bother me because I intend to use this lotion mostly at bedtime.

Here's to healthy, moisturized skin this winter :)

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Orange Spice

As the autumn weather begins to roll onto the West Coast, I've been looking forward to making and using a few seasonal soaps. Along with pumpkin pie scented soap, one of my favourites is orange spice. This soap is scented with essential oils, and I love how the warm, spicy undertones contrast with the note of bright citrus from the orange.

The essential oils in this soap include cinnamon leaf, orange 5 fold, and a touch each of anise seed, clove and nutmeg. I also steeped a vanilla pod in the warm oils; as expected, the scent doesn't really come through, but I love the speckled look of the vanilla beans throughout the soap.

I also used coconut water for the liquid portion, which I had never tried before, and included tussah silk in the lye water. I coloured the top portion of the soap with cinnamon powder, and left the bottom portion uncoloured. I had intended to do a nice fluid swirl, but the soap thickened incredibly quickly (I didn't even have a chance to use the stick blender), so I did a quick swirl with a spoon to incorporate the two colours together. The result isn't quite what I had in mind, but I like the simplicity of the design.

Happy seasonal soaping everyone!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Shampoo Bars & Back to Basics

I have a serious love affair with shampoo bars. However, not any old soap will do. I like to use lots of conditioning oils, tussah silk and a nice scent. Moreover, I omit coconut oil from my shampoo bars, as I find that my hair stays fresh and non-greasy for longer.

Recently, I set about to make a new batch of shampoo bars. Though I have always used essential oils in my shampoo bars, I decided to mix things up and try a new fragrance oil, called blackberry jam. I used this fragrance oil at 3% of the weight of the base oils as the supplier had advised that no more than 3.3% should be used in soap. The fragrance soaped beautifully and a few days later, I unmolded the soap. To my surprise, there were pockets of fragrance oil seeping out of the bars. I have no idea why this happened as the fragrance oil was fully emulsified into the soap batter (in fact, I added the fragrance oil to the base oils before the lye water and stick-blended to ensure that it was fully incorporated). 

I must admit that this occurrence has tempered my previous excitement about fragrance oils. I found this experience to be discouraging and frustrating, mostly because the reviews for this particular fragrance were good and my usage rate was below that advised by the supplier.  As a result, I have scaled back my plans to make a selection of Christmasy fragranced soaps this holiday season. For now at least, I intend to focus on soaps scented with essential oils, which I'm much more familiar with.

Since moving back to basics, I have made a few soaps that I'm quite happy with. First up is a batch called "Botanicals". It is scented with an equal blend of lavender and peppermint essential oils, and naturally coloured with swirls of kelp powder and calendula blossoms. It also contains a good helping of coconut milk. The overall effect is quite delicate and pretty, and I like it a lot. 

Next up is a soap made for my grandmother, who loves oatmeal soap. It contains lots of ground oats, and goat milk powder and honey as well. It is very lightly scented with cinnamon bark essential oil and benzoin resin for a sweet scent that is reminiscent of oatmeal cookies.

Finally, my favourite new soap is called "Detox". It is scented with lavender and citrus essential oils, and naturally coloured with activated charcoal, white kaolin clay and cranberry seeds.

And because I still needed shampoo bars, I made a new batch today that is scented with citrus and mint essential oils. I feel calmer already :)