The last three soaps I made (Neem, Ghee & Coconut butter)

I’ve reached a point in my soaping adventure, where I always try to add something new to my creations, just to keep things interesting. Honestly it isn’t that hard to find new things to add to soap, or new ways of making it – because the possibilities are really endless. I’ve recently been fascinated with Calendula flower in soap and using atypical oils and fats. I thought it would be fun to make a post with the last three soaps I made, for some inspiration!

If you are not familiar with the soap making process you can start by reading How to make natural soapHow to form a soap recipe & Coloring soap naturally to get started.

Neem soap for troubled skin

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Neem oil is known for it’s ability to treat and soothe troubled skin, such as acne, eczema and other skin irritations. I’ve had a complicated relationship with Neem oil in soap making, because it somehow always seems to go wrong when I use it in over 10% of my total oils. Originally I wanted to use Neem oil in higher quantities because it makes a super hard bar, and is a relatively cheap oil. That, besides it’s amazing properties. I was re-inspired to give it another try, after reading another soaper that used it over 20%. So I gave it a try with hot process – and voila, it worked. Therefore I conclude Neem soap should be made by hot process, since it’s more unlikely it will go wrong. The soap batter did actually separate (water and oil seemed to separate, which has often happened to me in the mould when making it by cold process), but after cooking it for half an hour it became the right consistency. Now, Neem does smell quite strong, so I didn’t even gonna try to make it smell great. I just want to make a soap bar for my troubled skin, for which I added Tea Tree oil – one of the most commonly used essential oils, to help treat acne. The recipe was the following:

  • 27% Coconut oil
  • 27% Olive oil (I had some organic olive from Denmark)
  • 19% Neem
  • 9% Castor oil
  • 9% Sesame oil
  • 9% Mango butter

Alternatively: Exchange sesame and mango butter for olive oil – 

Superfat: 7%

Additives: Calendula water (I boiled dried calendula in water for 20 min, and used it for liquid) and Tea Tree essential oil.

Method: Hot process

Ghee soap for dry and irritated skin

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This really happened by accident, because I didn’t have enough oil to complete my recipe and I was walking around my kitchen and then suddenly realised – Ghee is fat! Ended up loving the soap I made so much that I think I will definitely make it again. In this soap I also used Calendula infused Coconut oil, which gives a yellow hue to the soap as well as add soothing and calming properties of Calendula. Ghee is supposed to be a great moisturiser and I’ve heard of women here in India using it directly on the skin.

  • 30% Calendula infused Coconut oil (infused for 3 weeks)
  • 15% Mango butter
  • 10% Castor
  • 10% Sesame
  • 10% Neem
  • 15% Sunflower
  • 10% Ghee

Alternatively: exchange Mango butter, Sesame and Neem with Olive oil – 35%

Superfat: 7%

Additives: Calendula petals and Essential oils of choice

Method: cold or hot process (this one was hot process)

Coconut butter soap to add a little luxury

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I was in Rishikesh over Dussehra (Indian holiday), and found some Coconut butter. Seems it’s really not used much in soap because couldn’t find any soap calculator with the option of coconut butter. After asking on a soap making forum on Facebook, I decided to use the recommendation to put it in place of Cocoa butter. Though if you would like to give it a try,  SAP value for Coconut butter is between 225 to 235, and SAP value for NaOH is 0.164. You can calculate the recipe. To keep the amount of hard oils up, I added 20% Kokum butter, but that could be substituted for Olive oil, or raise the Coconut oil to 37% and superfat 10-15%. Hot process does give the top a much more messy appearance, but I’ve decided to embrace it.

  • 17% Coconut oil
  • 13% Coconut butter
  • 10% Castor
  • 10% Sesame
  • 15% safflower
  • 15% Sunflower
  • 20% Kokum butter

Superfat: 7%

Additives: Calendula infused water and activated charcoal. Citronella, Bergamot and Sweet Orange essential oil.

Method: cold or hot process

I hope this inspired you for some new soap experiments. Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions or input.

//Louise

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How to make natural liquid soap

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Disclaimer: I personally don’t use preservatives because I only use this on myself, so I therefore don’t know enough about it to write about. So please do your research on how to use preservatives in liquid soap, and add at diluting stage. If you chose not to use any like me, be sure to ONLY to use it on yourself, and let it be on own risk. If never had any issues but better safe than sorry no?

Making liquid soap making can seem a bit intimidating to some people, but once you get down to understanding the process, it really isn’t much different than cooking a meal. Though online there is definitely a lot less resources writing about liquid soap making than solid soap making, so when I first started off exploring liquid soap I was left with a lot of questions. Still there’s some open ends I have not yet completely closed, so this post will probably have some follow ups as I discover more aspects of making liquid soap. For the sake of understanding, I made a batch of liquid soap I will guide you through. I will assume that if you’re reading this you have a basic understanding of what soap is and the process of making it (even if you only have experience with making bar soap), but if you don’t, please start by reading the post How to make natural soap.

Whats the difference between solid and liquid soap

Liquid soap like solid soap consists of three elements: fats/oils, water and lye. The difference is that instead of using Sodium Hydroxide, you use Potassium Hydroxide. When adding the three you will get a thick mass of soap, that then is further diluted with water to make it liquid. There are some basic things I would like to note on the way I  personally make natural liquid soap:

  • Natural liquid soap doesn’t feel like the soap most of us are used to from commercial companies. It is a lot thinner and doesn’t have the same creamy consistency. There are ways to thicken natural soap, but I won’t be exploring any of them, since those methods mostly involve adding extra chemicals.
  • I will be using the hot process method, but are exploring the theory that it’s possible to do it by the cold process also. Since cold process needs to cure a few weeks, I will keep you updated on my findings in a few weeks (I have put a little of the soap aside without cooking it, and will measure the PH in some weeks).
  • Like its important for most solid soap makers to make a hard bar of soap, its important for most liquid soap makers to make a clear (non cloudy) liquid soap. This is about aesthetics, and doesn’t make the soap better. A common method to do this is to put excess lye, and then neutralise the soap after its cooked. I won’t be doing that.

Now lets get started from the start. Even though solid soap and liquid soap is quite similar in it’s process, there are some differences in making the recipes. Let me explain.

How to make a liquid soap recipe

Again I will assume you have some basic knowledge of making soap recipes, but if not please start by reading How to form a soap recipe. Making a liquid soap recipe is a bit different than making one for bar soap. The basic differences and guidelines are this:

  • Liquid soap usually have a rather higher percentage of Coconut oil (unless its Castile soap which is pure Olive oil), to ensure the soap foams properly and doesnt become sticky. I once made a liquid soap with only 14% Coconut and it barely lathered at all. You can use up to 90% Coconut oil in your liquid soap, but I prefer using around 50%.
  • In solid soap recipes it’s important to use oils that will make the soap bar hard, but since thats not necessary in liquid soap, you can use higher percentages of oils like Castor, Safflower and Sunflower that is usually limited in bar soap. Which is great, because they are much cheaper!
  • Liquid soap recipes are mostly made of oils with less un-saponifiables. What it means is that some oils have fats that can’t be made into soap. If an oils has high percentage of un-saponifiables it will make the liquid soap cloudy. For that reason Palm, Tallow and Cocoa butter is usually avoided in liquid soap formulations or added in very small amount, while Coconut, Castor, Safflower and Olive oil are frequently used. I take this lightly because I don’t care if my soap is cloudy.
  • Superfatting liquid soap is pointless, because the excess oil will float on top of the soap once diluted since oil it not water soluble. You can though superfat with Vegetable glycerin at 1% of the full recipe.

I chose to follow the following basic recipe:

  • 50% Coconut oil
  • 25% Safflower – can be exchanged with Sunflower or Rice bran oil
  • 20% Castor
  • 5% Butter like Mango Butter or Kokum butter

or

  • 50% Coconut oil
  • 20% Safflower – can be exchanged with Sunflower or Rice bran oil
  • 20% Castor
  • 10% luxury oil like Sweet Almond oil or Avocado

I chose to use the first recipe in my example soap, and used beer instead of water. For superfatting I added Glycerin and then finally some natural colourant i got from Moksha Lifestyle Products and Peppermint and Sweet Orange essential oil.

The method

The method of Hot process liquid soap making is similar to cold process soap making, until the point where you would normally pour the soap into the mould. If you need a detailed list of instruction please refer to the link how to make natural soap.  The basic instructions are the following:

1. Calculate the recipe:

Unlike solid soap, your final amount of liquid soap will be at least double of you’re amount of oils, since the soap mass is diluted with water. So before you calculate you’re recipe you need to take into consideration how big your double boiler is, and then use the percentages above to calculate each oil amount. This is my recipe in the app Saponify:

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Instead of NaOH (Sodium hydroxide) I put KOH which is Potassium Hydroxide and then Superfat by 0%.
2. Measure the oils and melt, measure lye and water and mix
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I measured out my oils. Since I had Mango butter I heated the oils straight in my double boiler until completely melted. Then measured the lye and beer and missed it. 
2. Mixing the lye water with the oils and blending till trace:
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When the lye water was ready I added it to my oils. I blended until it reached trace and then put it on the stove on medium heat. Don’t worry if it looks like its splitting, it will settle down as it’s getting cooked.
3. Cook the soap mass on medium heat, stir lightly
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Cooking the soap mass it actually quite relaxed. Many might feel like stirring the mass all the time, but it won’t burn if you don’t. Actually it’s better to put a lid on the pot and let it heat. Check once in 30 min. to see what stage the soap has reached. Stir lightly.
4. Keep cooking for 2 hour to 2.5
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The soap mass will start getting more solid and waxy. Continue heating and stirring lightly from time to time. 
5. Reaching the final phase

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Once it reaches this stage is when I start checking if my soap is done. The stage is something like gel phase, that some might know from solid soap making. The mass is sort of elastic, and doesn’t clump anymore. There are different options for checking if the soap is done – personally I use a PH meter and wait for the soap to reach PH between 9-10. Though I’ve heard of people using PH strips, or the chemical phenophtalein which changes colour if the soap is not done. Others use the method called the ‘zap’ method – where you put some soap on your finger, and touch it to your tongue. If it feels like a small electric current, it’s not done. Though honestly I don’t use this method, because I can’t feel the difference enough to trust it. 

6. Start diluting the soap
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When you are sure your soap is finished, you can either dilute it straight away, or keep the soap mass for diluting later. Different soap miss have different diluting points, which means some might need more water than others to turn liquid. Coconut soap for example have a low diluting point, which means it needs less water to mix with the water. 
7. Dilute completely or leave over night
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So how do you figure out how much water to use? I really just take it as it comes, and dilute slowly to make sure I don’t pour too much water. Start adding 1:1 (As much water as your oil weight) and let me mass simmer, while you mix from time to time. Then add 1/4 water of total oils until it’s diluted. Now I actually added 1:1 to my batch, turned off the heat and let it stand over night. In the morning I added two times 100 ml over an hour and then it was diluted. It just makes the process a little shorter if it gets to stand on its own over some time. 
8. Add your essential oils and colourants if any
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At this stage you can add you’re essential oils and colourants. I’m a bit untraditional when it comes to essential oils, and I tend to add a lot. For 400 grams oils I added 25 ml of Peppermint and Sweet Orange.  You can use bramble berries fragrance calculator that gives recommended amounts – or my favourite method, add until you feel like it’s enough. Ive actually occasionally reheated a soap and added extra essential oil, and it’s worked well for me. 

9. Voila! Look at it and feel happy
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My final soap – in the sun light it looks red, but otherwise it has a brownish colour. Since natural soap is a lot more liquid than commercial soap, it’s perfect to keep in a soap pump or foam dispenser.

This was all I had for now on liquid soap. Do let me know if there’s any stages of the process that should be more thoroughly explained – either in the write up or in additional posts. Leave a comment if you have any questions or corrections – no matter how long I do this, I still have a lot to learn!

//Louise

Easy natural products with only 2 to 4 ingredients

I always loved making things myself. I loved it so much that until the age of 25 I’ve never bought gifts for my family, but always made them myself. Now that I’m making soaps, needless to say that thats what I gift everyone! Luckily my family and friends doesn’t mind. I am a passionate soaper, which means I end up writing a lot about it, but I have a lot of additional experience with making other Natural products because I make all my own products. So I thought I would put together a list of easy DIY Natural products that can be made with 2 to 4 ingredients, for own personal use or to gift in the upcoming  Indian holiday season. Lets face it, nothing beats homemade gifts. So here we go.

Lip Balms for super soft lips
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Use lip balm tubes or small containers like this. Makes a very cute gift

Lip balms are some of the easiest products you can make. Again, I’m super lazy when it comes to personal care, so I’ve narrowed it down to the most basic thing I can use on my lips – butter! I just take some Mango butter and use it as lip balm. Though as a gift it’s nice to fancy it up a bit. There’s only one thing you need to keep in mind when making your lip balms:

Some essential oils are phototoxic, which means that they react to exposure to sunlight, in a way that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Phototoxic essential oils are mostly citrus scents such as Lime, Orange, Mandarin, Bergamot and Lemon. So don’t use these in the Lip balms. Actually they should never be added in product used when going outside during the day. Otherwise you can switch up any part of the recipe – Shea butter, Cocoa butter, Sal butter and Mowrah butter can be substituted for the butters, and any Carrier oil or essential oil depending on availability and preference.

Mango Lavender Lip (Vegan):

This makes a softer, more butter like lip balm. Almost like a lip butter. I prefer this because it’s easier to apply in a round container. For a lip balm tube it won’t work because it’s not hard enough. This is also an option for vegans that don’t want any animal products in their products.

  • 50% Mango butter
  • 50% Sweet Almond oil
  • Lavender essential oil

Kokum Coconut Care:

I personally love peppermint in my lip balms. It gives a tingling sensation when you apply it and just smells like a dream. This works well in both a container and a lip balm tube. Beeswax protects the skin and tend to make the lip balm feel fresh on the lips a little longer. This might get a little hard in winters, so its possible to add a little extra oil if you like it softer.

  • 50% Coconut oil
  • 25% Kokum
  • 25% Beeswax
  • Peppermint or Spearmint essential oil
How to make it
  1. Measure out your ingredients on a scale according to the size of your containers
  2. Gather oils/butters/beeswax in a double boiler and melt
  3. Add essential oils (I would add a few drops per 30 grams)
  4. Pour into your containers and let it harden
Face packs for beautiful skin
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You can mix up the ingredients. This is Bentonite and Turmeric.

Face packs or Face masks (depending on where in the world you are) is another thing that is super easy and still feels really really luxurious. I prefer to keep my Face packs pretty simple, and always use clay as my base. Besides being fantastic for the skin, clay also gives the mask a very smooth feel and makes it easy to apply. Depending on your preferences you can use any clay – I’ve chosen Bentonite Clay and Karolin Clay.

Activated Charcoal & Karolin Clay

Activated Charcoal is a fantastic skin cleaner, because it absorbs impurities without drying the skin. Karolin clay is a great clay for more sensitive skin, because its a very gentle cleaner that moisturises. This mask is perfect for dry, sensitive and troubled skin.

  • 75% Karolin Clay
  • 25% Activated Charcoal

Turmeric & Bentonite Clay

This mask is not for sensitive skin. If you want to make it more mild, you can switch Bentonite for Karolin Clay. Though Bentonite Clay is super cleansing, and perfect for skin that needs some extra detoxifying. When coming in contact with liquid the clay gets the ability to absorb toxins and impurities. Turmeric is an ancient Ayuvedic ingredient in Indian skin care, that is used to give a beautiful natural glow and is said to be help lighten dark spots. If you’re very light skinned, it might give a yellow glow for some time after its used. You can removed it by applying oil on your skin, and remove it with a warm washcloth.

  • 85% Bentonite Clay
  • 15% Turmeric

Note: you can add any favourite ingredient to the mix such as for example Red Sandalwood or fruit powders

How to make it
  1. Measure out your ingredients on a scale according to the size of your containers
  2. Gather, mix and voila!
  3. The mixes can be used mixed with water, honey or rosewater. If you’re gifting it you can make a small instruction to go with it.
Hair pack for lustrous hair

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I’ve not used hair packs much, but when a friend showed me a hair pack she wanted (and I saw the price of it) I told her I could make it for her. After using it once, she declared every dying love to it and made me promise to order the ingredients for it right away. So for so much love I thought that should make the list. Now hair packs can be combined in any combinations of the ingredients I list, so feel free to get creative. Actually you can even stuff all of them in one hair pack!

Hair cleanser and softer (south indian style) 

Soap nut is traditionally used to clean hair in India, and can actually be a substitute for shampoo. If you want to read more on natural shampoo you can read Chāmpo चाँपो / Shampoo. Arappu is made from a leaf and is mostly used in southern India to clean and soften hair. It’s a natural conditioner, so it will leave your hair super soft.

  • 25 % Reetha (soap nut) powder
  • 75 % Arappu powder

Optional adds: Amla for shine

Hair cleanser and shine 

Shikakai like soap nut is also a natural cleaner, and help strengthen the hair roots. Amla nourishes the hair all around, and gives beautiful shine.

  • Amla powder
  • Shikakai powder

Optional adds: Arappu for extra soft hair

Hairfall hair pack

Neem and Fenugreek are superior when it comes to help treat hair fall, while Amla and Moringa nourishes and stimulates hair growth. Even if you’re not struggling with hair fall it’s still a super hair pack that will give overall healthy hair and scalp.

  • Amla powder
  • Moringa powder
  • Neem powder
  • Fenugreek powder

Optional adds: Reetha or Shikakai for Cleanse

How to make it
  • Measure out your ingredients on a scale according to the size of your containers
  • Gather, mix and voila!
  • The mixes can be used mixed with water or yogurt to be applied on hair. If you’re gifting it you can make a small instruction to go with it.
Other ideas

Another easy idea for a personalised gift is to make body butter. If you want to give it a try you can read Whipped Body Butter (with 2 to 4 ingredients). If you’re more adventurous you can go for learning how to make soap here – How to make natural soap. Though I warn you, soap making is highly addictive. One day you find yourself counting the days since you made your last batch of soap. Sigh, 2 weeks. I hope this was useful! Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for more easy DIY.

//Louise

Whipped Body Butter (with 2 to 4 ingredients)

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Body butter with Mango Butter, Coconut oil and Sweet Almond oil. So smooth!

I am very lazy when it comes to personal care, so I have slowly and steadily made my beauty routine as simply as possible. So for moisturiser I have come down to the most simple ingredient I possibly could – oil! The other day though, I felt inspired and whipped up a batch of Mango and Kokum whipped body butter, and it did feel just a little more pampering than my usual oil routine. It is also insanely easy to make, so I thought I would give you a little post on how to make your own custom body butter.

What is Body Butter

Body butter is a mix of butters and oils. Butters are usually solid or soft with a very smooth feel on the skin. In India Mango Butter and Kokum butter are probably the most commonly known butters, but there are also less known butters such as Sal Butter and Mowrah Butter. Internationally Shea butter and Cocoa butter are widely used in a wide range of personal care product. Oils added to body butter can be divided into two categories – soft oils and semi-hard oils. Soft oils are oils that are liquid at all times, and semi hard oils will turn solid at certain temperatures. The most common semi-hard oil is Coconut oil, but Palm as well turns solid at some temperatures. Typically I mix 1-2 butters with 1 soft oil and 1 semi-hard oil, and then play around with the quantities according to the season. Let me explain.

The recipe

The trick in making body butter in India (or any place with large changes in temperature), is to take the seasons into consideration. In winters you need less butter and semi hard oil to make a beautiful whipped body butter, and in summers you need more. This ensures your butter stays fluffy rather than stone hard or super soft. So I follow these guidelines to make my body butter:

Medium – early and late summer: 

  • 25% Semi-hard oil
  • 25% soft oil
  • 50% butter

Warm – summer: 

  • 75% butter
  • 25% soft oil or Semi-hard oil (at this temperature it won’t make a difference if its soft or semi hard)

Cold – winter: 

  • 50% butter
  • 50% soft oil

Or 

  • 25% butter
  • 25% semi-hard oil
  • 50% soft oil

When you decided you’re quantities, its time to decide what you want to put inside. I will write some basic recipes for inspiration, where you can switch up whatever you feel like to make it your own. 4 parts represents 25% each.

Mango-licious Body Butter

  • 2 part Mango butter
  • 1 part Coconut oil
  • 1 part Sweet almond oil
  • Grapefruit & Peppermint essential oil

Koko-tastic Body Butter

  • 1 part Kokum butter
  • 1 part Mango butter
  • 1 part Alkanet infused Coconut oil
  • 1 part Safflower oil
  • Lavender essential oil
How to make it
  1. Measure your ingredients out in grams, and gather them in a double boiler.

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2. When everything is melted, set it apart and let it harden. You can speed up the process by putting it in the fridge.

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3. When it has hardened, whip it with a whisk like you would whipped cream. It will soften and then start becoming fluffy. Add your essential oils until it has the scent you want. Now voila!

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Keep in a jar in a cool place. I don’t usually keep mine in the fridge but it’s an option, if you’d like your body butter to last longer. Since this is for personal use I don’t put any preservatives, and have never needed it as long as its used within a few months time. Though, I recommend that If you’re intending to sell you should do your research on preservatives and stabilisers to taken an informed call on this.

Note: Shea and Cocoa butter makes excellent body butters. My selection is purely about local availability.

//Louise

How to oil your hair (natural conditioner)

Note: this post is modified from something I wrote some years back BUT thought it was still just as relevant today.  

Anyone Indian will probably look at this post, and think – TELL ME SOMETHING NEW! But non the less, this is something I only really discovered after I came to India. So, let me just say, it doesn’t take much time here in India for a woman (or this woman at least) to start wondering how all the woman here have such beautiful, long, silky, shiny hair. HOW?! Considering that I need to pour at least half a conditioner in my hair to give it the same look as them, I thought ‘there must be another trick to it’. The trick is so simple – oil, oil and oil! It is not that I haven’t heard of hair oil, but at home in Denmark it was at least 5 times the price of a conditioner, and mostly going under exotic names with a page long ingredients list, that made it seem impossible to replicate it on my own.

Man, was I wrong – making your hair oil is as easy as buying an oil. Many oils can actually be used on their own, or in a two to three oil combination. In the South of India Coconut oil is used for almost anything, including as a hair oil. A friend of mine once told me that when women in the South of India are out of oil, they just squeeze some oil from their hair on the pan! Oiling your hair is cost effective but can also help prevent hair fall, treat dandruff and fungal infections, stimulate hair growth, treat split ends and overall keep your hair strong and healthy.

How to choose oils

There are a number of oils I use in my hair oil, alone or in combinations. For me I follow a few criteria when I choose my oils – the oils should be:

  1. Indian sourced – I follow this mainly for Environmental reasons, but there’s a lot of social benefits attached to this as well. Sourcing oils that are native to your country, and even better to you’re local community both lessens the carbon footprint (because of less transport) and supports the local economy, which you can amplify by supporting small scale businesses. For this reason I do not use Olive oils, even though it is supposed to make for a wonderful hair oil. I don’t think though I’m missing out much since there’s a number of equally wonderful oils I can choose from.
  2. Cold pressed – This has several benefits; cold pressed oils are only minimally heated (mainly from the friction when pressed), which best retains the nutrients of the oil. Other processes of extracting oils involves extensive heating of the oils, resulting in loss of nutrients. What is known as ‘Refined’ oils additionally treats the oils with a number of processes that damages the oil, and thereby making it less healthy.
  3. Organic – The boom in use of Pesticides has been immense in this Century. Many don’t think about the fact that buying natural products, doesn’t mean there’s no toxins in them. Pesticides are carried in the produce it’s applied to, and oil is no exception.
  4. Cost effective – The prices of oils are often set according to the cost of the process of extraction, not how nutritious it is. Many super cheap oils are super healthy and nutritious.
  5. Targeting the problem area – Everyone is different, and that applies to our hair too. Using super moisturising oils on already oily hair might make the problem worse. So it’s important to choose an oil that will serve the purpose you’re looking for. This mainly comes from trial and error in my experience.

Keeping these in mind, I use a mixture of the following oils. I’ve made two categories 1) thick oils that has to be ‘diluted’ with other oils 2) Light oils to be used alone or mixed with a thick oil.

Thick oils

Castor oil

Castor oil is one of the most conditioning oils available as well as having antibacterial and anti fungal properties. I’ve come across quite a few articles that swears by Castor oils ability to promote hair growth, because it accelerates blood circulation to the scalp. I won’t swear by its abilities to speed up hair growth, but it does make my hair feel healthy, strong and look beautiful. Besides that, it is one of the cheapest oils of such qualities. Because of it’s thickness though it has to be ‘diluted’ with another oil.

Butters 

Butters is another option, and something I’m only recently started exploring. Butters like Mango butter or Kokum butter are extremely nutritious, and known to make for fantastic personal care products. The only hassle is that butters need to be melted, but that makes for a great opportunity to take your oiling to the next level – hot oil! Anyone that has tried a hot oil head massage knows that its one of the most relaxing and soothing activities possible. Even better if you convince a friend or loved one to apply it for you.

Light oils

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a very popular oil in Southern India, and is also a popular oil for hair. As an oil Coconut is super nutritious, conditioning and strongly antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti fungal. This makes it a great oil to treat dandruff or irritations on the scalp, as well as for general moisturising. It has a very light feel and sweet scent, which makes it comfortable to apply on the hair and keep over night. Thicker oils like Castor can feel a little sticky to keep in too long, even when mixed with another oil. Coconut can be used with a thick oil or on its own.

Neem oil

Some dont like this oil because it has a very strong smell. Though Neem has strong medicinal properties, as well as being a very moisturizing oil. Its also quite a cheap oil, which is a bonus. It has strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties and is an analgesic (painkiller) that can bring relief to discomfort from eczema and other skin ailments. Additionally it treats dandruff, is a natural remedy and prevention for lice  and promotes hair growth. Be aware it might stain since it has a yellow colour. Can be used alone or added in smaller quantities to a mix of three oils, to avoid the strong smell.

Sweet almond oil

Personally I like sweet almond because it is a super light oil. It makes it a great oil to add on days when you don’t feel like having to wash your hair several times to get the oil out, or just as a leave in on dry ends. Its on the expensive side so when using it I usually mix it with castor or simple use very small amounts. An interesting thing I’ve read is that it’s a sealant and hair protector, meaning it penetrates the hair and seals in the moisture, while also protecting it against damage. Which means it can be used before straightening, blowdrying and other treatments where the hair needs some extra protection.

Mix, Use, Wash .. Repeat!

Now once you’ve narrowed down your oil mixture, you simple gather it in a bowl. I would use 1/4 of a thick oil, and 3/4 light oil. You can add your favorite essential oils, to add extra properties to the mix. I use Lavender, sweet orange and peppermint regularly. Now this is how to go about applying it:

In the evening..

  1. Get out your oil of choice, a comb and a towel (if you want to protect your clothes)
  2. Part your hair and apply a little oil to the parting, massaging it in thoroughly to ensure it reaches your scalp.
  3. Keep parting your hair, applying the oil to the scalp, massaging it.
  4. Once you’ve covered the whole scalp massage it gently until yoiu feel like its evenly divided over the whole surface.
  5. Now start applying the oil to the rest of your hair, ending up combing your hair back in a braid.

The morning after.. 

  1. Wash your hair thoroughly. You will experience that the oil will  keep your shampoo from lathering like it would normally, and I always wash my hair twice or thrice to ensure all the oils is out.

Now, enjoy your Loré-oily moment!

//Louise.

3 Coconut Soaps – for hair, body and clothes

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My soaping adventure has taken me through a number of different experiments with soap, but till date one of my favourites is to make pure Coconut soap. In this post I will go through three different recipes of pure Coconut soap, using the same method (cold process), but creating soap bars for three different uses:

  • As a Shampoo bar
  • As a Face & Body bar
  • As a Clothes Washing bar (for hand wash and machine wash)

If you are new to soap making, you can start by reading How to make natural soap to understand the basics of Cold Process soap making and Coloring soap naturally to learn how you use natural colourants in soap.

Why Coconut Soap?

I originally started making Coconut Soap because I was struggling to find a combination of oils in my soaps, that reached my four criteria 1) they should be Indian sourced 2) They should be Organic 3) They shouldn’t be too expensive 4) They should make a hard, cleansing and moisturising bar of soap. Three oils in particular are known to make very hard, balanced and moisturising soap bars – namely Olive oil, Palm oil and Coconut oil. Since Olive oil can’t be sourced from India, and Palm oil isn’t available from Organic and sustainable sources, I was left to find other alternatives. Even though I found many different combinations, I couldn’t really get the soap bars as hard as I wanted them, without doubling the price of my materials. Then one day I came across a post on making pure Coconut soap bars, something I had never even thought about. Today I have probably made more pure Coconut soap, than of other recipes, and I’ve found a number of up benefits and a few downsides to it:

Benefits:

  • It makes a super hard bar of soap that doesn’t get soft after use
  • It has great thick creamy lather
  • It is super cleansing and moisturising (if superfatted properly)
  • Its versatile – can be used for hair, body and clothes
  • It has a beautiful white colour if no colour is added, and gets a very rustic look if it is added
  • Its naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial
  • Its relatively cost effective since Coconut oil is a medium priced oil (here in India)

Downsides: 

  • It does have a very rustic look, and leaves a white coating on top of the soap that hides the colorant used – and is thereby not very suitable for making soaps with colours, patterns and swirls
  • It does disappear relatively fast, maybe because of its great lathering

All in all I think the upsides outweigh the downsides.

3 Coconut soaps – for hair, body and clothes

Because Coconut Soap is very cleansing, making a bar without superfatting it will make it very drying. Though by controlling the superfat % you can also modify it to serve the purpose you have in mind.

Superfat is the amount of oil left in the soap that isn’t saponified. It’s calculated in percentage, and will in most soaps vary from 5 to 7 percentage.

0% Superfat for a Clothes Washing bar 

Pure Coconut soap without any superfat makes the perfect clothes washing bar, because it is very cleansing. Make your soap like you normally would, with or without essential oils. You can cut them as bars to use for hand washing, or follow this Washing powder recipe for Machine wash:

What you need:

  • A bar of Coconut soap
  • 1/2 Washing Soda
  • Essential oil of choice (apply by drops until it smells like you want it to

How to make it:

  • Shred the Coconut soap with a normal kitchen shredder
  • Mix the soap shreds with the Washing Soda
  • Drop your essential oils until it has the desired smell
  • Optional: mix with a few power turns in a mixer grinder.

10% Superfat for Shampoo bar (12% for dry hair) 

Coconut soap makes for a great shampoo bar because it lathers a lot, giving you the same feeling as using regular shampoo. When making you’re recipe superfat by 10% for normal hair, and 12% if you’re hair is dry. Make your soap like you normally would and add your favourite essential oils to leave your hair smelling fantastic. You can also add softening or cleansing powders such as Amla, Shikakai, Soapnut or Arappu. Make sure to cure the bars (leave them to rest) for minimum 6 weeks after making them. Only use additives that will help soften or clean the hair – such as Soap nut, Amla, Hibiscus, Shikakai etc.

20% Superfat for a Face and body bar

For face and body you need some extra moisturising  to make sure it doesn’t dry out the skin. Superfat by 20% and otherwise customise the soap according to your wishes. There’s is mostly not much difference between a face and a body bar, unless you’re trying to solve an issue you’re having on a specific part of your body – like acne, dryness etc. When superfatted this much it will take the soap a little longer to harden in the mould, but since Coconut already hardens pretty fast it won’t take very long (1 day max).

I hope this was useful. Do let me know if you give it a try, or have more know more ways of making or using Coconut soap.

//Louise

 

 

Dangers of Antibacterial Soap (Dettol)

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Coconut soap is naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial

Disclaimer: this post is inspired by one of Wellness mama (whom I’m a big fan of), also describing the dangers of antibacterial soaps. I have used the same studies as her, but tried to see it from the perspective of India. 

Dettol soap is probably the most popular hand washing soap here in India. At least you can’t go long without either hearing their commercials or coming across one of their soap. A Scandinavian colleague of mine always puts an additional piece of soap in the office bathroom, because she says she’s ‘not gonna use that toxic stuff’. She’s referring to the Dettol soap. I don’t use commercials soap by principal, because I don’t trust their transparency and sincerity, but after looking a little closer at Dettol, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague’s choice of words – toxic stuff. Let me walk you through it.

What’s inside a Dettol soap

To understand what’s so bad about Dettol soap, we need to understand what it contains. Later I will only focus on a few of the ingredients, but if you want to read more on the toxic ingredients found in many commercial soaps, you can start by reading Commercial vs. Handmade soaps. Lets look at a typical Dettol soap:

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Sodium Palmate – saponified palm oil. Like I’ve mentioned in my earlier post, commercially derived Palm oil is very damaging to the environment and destroys the habitats it’s harvested from. It’s used in soap because it’s cheap and makes a super hard and moisturising bar.

Sodium Palm Kernelate – saponified palm kernel oil

Aqua – water

Glycerin – what they sometimes refer to as added moisturiser. Note that Glycerin wouldn’t need to be added if it had been handmade soap, because real soap contains glycerin naturally

Perfume – manufacturing a scent takes up to 3000 different chemical compounds. Most of these are made from synthetic compounds derived from Petroleum, whereof many are known toxins linked to a number of serious health issues and hormonal disruptions. Many of them are still untested for possible harm

Benzyl Salicylate – a chemical compound that helps scent last longer. Can cause irritation on the skin. Listed as an allergenic by European Cosmetic Directive

Butylphenyl  methylpropinal – fragrance compound

Citronellol – a natural scent additive to add citrus or floral notes. Occurs naturally

Geraniol – fragrance compound, that also occurs naturally

Hexyl Cinnamal –  fragrance compound

Coumarin –  fragrance compound associated with allergy and contact dermatitis

Linaloo – fragrance compound

Palm Acid – biproduct of palm oil

Sodium Chloride – salt

Tetrasodium EDTA – is a preservative and a known carcinogen (agent known to cause cancer), and is also a penetration enhancer – which means it breaks down the skins natural barrier, making it easier for harmful chemicals to penetrate the tissue and even enter the blood

Ethidronic Acid – an inorganic acid used as a binding agent

Triclocarban – antibacterial agent

Titanium Dioxide – added for the white color

Sodium Carbonate – also known as ‘Washing soda’. Its similar to Baking soda  in composition, but is caustic and used as a cleaning agent.

Sodium Sulfate – sodium salt often used in detergents

There’s a number of ingredients on this list that is of concern. I will focus on Triclocarban (in solid soap) or Triclosan (in liquid soap), which is supposed to be the antibacterial component in Dettol. Before we get deeper into that, it’s important to understand something much more basic – there is no proof available that Antibacterial soap is any way is more effective than normal soap, or even natural handmade soap.

Antibacterial vs. Normal soap

The biggest selling point of Dettol soap is that it’s antibacterial – like it says, it kills 99.9 % of bacteria! We are made to believe that it’s superior to normal soap, and will protect us better against disease and infections. Though this doesn’t seem to be the case. Last year the FDA (US Food and Drug Association) released it’s final ruling on the effectiveness and safety of Antibacterial soap:

Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.

Data suggested that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.

This highlights two important points: 1) there’s no proof Antibacterial soap will protect you better than normal soap 2) even if it did, health concerns linked to ingredients such as Triclosan or Triclosaban might outweigh the benefits. If you want to read the final ruling of FDA, you can find it here. Though, this is not the only points to keep in mind. Let me explain.

There’s clean and there’s too clean 

Bacteria might be associated by many as something bad, but we are becoming only more aware of how incredibly important bacteria is for us to stay healthy. Especially the gut bacteria plays a crucial role in keeping the body’s systems in balance. In recent years studies have shown that people with less varied gut bacteria are much more prone to getting sick. We receive this bacteria through a number of ways throughout our life. For bonus info I can tell you that one of them is through birth, which ultimately means that children born by C-section often lack this gut bacteria diversity. Though, we also obtain these bacterias through our life, by the different exposures we come in contact with (food, environment etc.). Now, it’s important to understand that while it is the good bacteria that keeps us healthy, being exposed to bad bacteria is essential for our body to build up our immune system. Essentially that’s what vaccines does – they expose us to a tiny amount of the disease, to make our own body produce antibodies to protect us against future exposure.

So what happens when we use antibacterial agents? Just like when we use antibiotics, strong antibacterial agents doesn’t distinguish between the good and bad bacteria. It’s simply wipes out all of it – good and bad. I absolutely agree that there can be situations where this is necessary (for example after visiting a hospital or other places where dangerous bacteria might occur or in the case of using antibiotics to fight dangerous disease), but if used on a daily basis we diminish the natural exposure we need to grow a strong immune response and bacterial diversity to stay healthy. This post for example shows some of the research done, linking use of Antibacterial agents to immune related sensitivities:

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a study in the 2012 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology where they found that children with high levels of triclosan, a common component in everything from cleaning products and toothpaste to pizza cutters and countertops—anywhere “antibacterial” properties are marketed), were at significantly higher risk for developing seasonal allergies, food, drug, and insect allergies, hay fever, and other immune-related sensitivities.

Super bugs and drug resistance

Again it’s important to understand what happens inside our bodies. Most diseases occur when an imbalance in the body in combination with exposure to a virus or bacteria, makes a favourable environment for a bad bacteria or virus to go into overgrowth. For example, a yeast infection that many women might have experienced, happens when the balance of the natural bacteria is disturbed, causing overgrowth of yeast (which occurs naturally). This can happen when using harsh soap that removes all the bacterias, or overuse of Anti-biotics that essentially does the same. Now this is important to understand, because by using antibacterial agents, we might be making a favourable environment for so called “superbug” to develop, and in combination with the growing drug resistance (caused by overexposure to for example antibiotics) we are looking at nothing less than a health emergency. Recent news report  on ABC new explains:

Indeed, recent research suggests these products may encourage the growth of “superbugs” resistant to antimicrobial agents, a problem when these bacteria run rampant, turning into a dangerous infection that cannot be treated with available medication.

Similar growth of drug-resistant strains has already occurred with antibiotics. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to several drug-resistant microbes, such as streptococcus pneumonia and strains of E. coli.

Dr. Stuart Levy, president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and a professor of molecular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, believes antibacterial soaps are dangerous.

“Triclosan creates an environment where the resistant, mutated bacteria are more likely to survive,” says Levy, who published a study on the germicide two years ago in the journal Nature.

Charles Rock, a researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hosptial in Memphis, Tenn., also published work in Nature last month supporting the resistance theory.

“The use of triclosan in these products will lead to the emergence of resistance,” he predicts. “There is no strong rationale for [its] use.”

Increased risk of infection

Oh the irony, but some studies show that use of Triclosan causes build up of Staph aureus bacteria in nasal passages and other parts of the body, which leads to higher risk of infection. Read the full study here,

Triclosan, a chemical found in the majority of anti-bacterial hand and dish soaps, was picked up in the nasal passages of 41 percent of the adults sampled by researchers at the University of Michigan. Those with triclosan in their noses were more likely to also have colonies of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (commonly referred to as “staph”).

Most importantly though, was that researchers found a potential link between the two: Triclosan appears to help the staph bacteria grab hold and bind to proteins in the nose.

“I think we have been seeing a lot of this over the past few years, that perhaps these antimicrobial soaps are doing more harm than good,” said Dr. Melissa Osborn, an infectious disease specialist with MetroHealth Medical Center. “We know that one of the reasons that staph aureus colonizes some people’s noses is that it adheres to some of the proteins in the nose. Triclosan actually promoted that adhesion.”

Having staph aureus in your nose — which is the case for about 30 percent of people — is not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but is a risk factor for getting other infections such as surgical site infections, boils, catheter site infections in people on dialysis and diabetic foot ulcers.

Additionally..

This is just a fraction of the research emerging on the dangers linked with use of antibacterial soaps, gels, cleaning products etc. Studies also show that chemicals like Triclosan disrupts hormones as well as is of major environmental concern. So what should we go? For me it’s simple. Soap is not the issue – washing your hands with normal soap is proven to cut a number of dangerous disease in half. Wash your hands and body in good old, natural soap. As for Hand sanitisers, where water is not available, there is a number of DIY natural versions out there. The other day I saw my colleague squeeze a lemon into his hand, which in fact is also antibacterial. I will be sure to follow this post up with one on how to make you’re very own, safe antibacterial hand sanitiser.

Until then.

//Louise