The best hand washing soap (with recipe)

There is a lot of misinformation out there on what it takes to keep your hands clean (and soft) – at least if you ask me. I’m not a professional in neither biology or any other science, so if I ever find sufficient (trustworthy) evidence to prove the contrary I will be the first to admit I was wrong. Though until then, I will insist that the very best thing to wash your hands with is plain old fashioned handmade soap! Actually I intentionally try to avoid any stronger stuff, such as commercial antibacterial soaps like Dettol. If you want to explore this topic further you can start by reading: Dangers of Antibacterial Soap (Dettol) and Commercial vs. Handmade soaps. This post though will focus on my own alternative to products like antibacterial soaps, including the recipe I use, so that you can make your own. If you have never made soap before you can read about the process here: How to make natural soap.

The soap I prefer to wash my hands with (and the star of this post) is pure coconut soap. First of all, using 100% coconut oil makes a rock solid bar of soap, which can withstand the moist environment in many bathrooms. Additionally coconut oil is a strong cleanser, perfect for hand washing. A very common misconception about coconut soap is that it dries out the skin, but there’s a very basic trick to solve this: super fat! Super fat is a soapers term describing leaving some of the oil in the soap, , without being saponified (made into soap). This adds extra moisture to the soap. A normal batch of soap will have a super fat of between 5% and 7%, since more might make the soap too soft, but since coconut oil makes a rock solid bar of soap it can have a super fat up to 30%.

The second secret to great hand soap is essential oils. Essential oils doesn’t only add scent to a soap, but also different properties, depending on the essential oil you use. Tea tree, cinnamon and sweet orange essential oil, amongst others have antibacterial properties, making them great ingridients for hand soap. In this soap I’ve added lemongrass and sweet essential oil – which also smells divine.

My mold is 900 grams, so this is the recipe I’ve used:

  • 900 grams of coconut oil
  • 342 grams of Water
  • 140 grams sodium hydroxide
  • 40 ml Lemon grass essential oil (optional)
  • 50 ml Sweet orange essential oil (optional)
  • 1 spoon Aloe vera gel (optional) – added in the lye

Super fat is at 15%

The last three ingredients are optional and can be exchanged or completely left out. I prefer to keep the essential oils at 10 ml per 100 grams of base oils (carrier oils), but many use less than that. If you want to make less or more than this recipe, simply run it through your preferred soap calculator,

//Louise

5 ways to use oil (for health & beauty)

I have a closet full oils at home, and truth be told, I regularly have to buy more of them. I think one of the first things I discovered when I came to India, was that almost all women used oil in their hair – which was not something I had never seen before – but non the less something we didn’t do much in Denmark. Since most women I see here have shiny, beautiful, long, lustrous hair I figured it was worth a try, and I’ve never regretted trying it out! With time I found a number of other uses for oil, and I’d like to share a few of them with you in this post.

1. Oil pulling

Oil pulling has been practiced in a number of indigenous cultures, including in India, for centuries. Oil pulling is the practice of keeping oil in your mouth for 15-20 min., allowing the oil to ‘pull’ out toxins from the gums and thereby leaving them and your body healthier. I was never one to get too much into the science of such methods, but in general go with my gut feeling on whether it sounds credible or not. I have a lot of faith in practices that have survived generations, but make sure to keep a balance according to the seriousness of the situation. Meaning I uses natural methods to prevent illness, but never take the chance if I get seriously ill.

What oil pulling can have an effect on is:

  • Whitening the teeth
  • Preventing bad breath
  • Reducing tooth decay and improving health of gums
  • Detoxifying the body and reducing inflammation
  • Relieving headaches and hangovers
  • Clearing sinuses
  • Improving sleep
  • Clearing troubled skin such as acne and eczema
  • Improving hormonal balance

How to ‘oil pull’

  1. Choose an oil – I use whatever is handy, and taste all right. I have used coconut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and olive oil. Coconut oil, with it’s antibacterial properties and pleasant taste, is a clear favorite.
  2. Take a spoon full of oil, and put it in your mouth. Preferably on an empty stomach. Try to fit it into a routine, such as when you are preparing breakfast. You might feel uncomfortable at first keeping the oil in your mouth, but give it some minutes to see if it settles in. You can take small amounts the first couple of times to get used to it.
  3. Keep it in your mouth, swirling it around occasionally, for 10 to 15 min.
  4. Spit the oil out in the sink. Don’t swallow it.
  5. Brush your teeth like you normally would.

Voila, easy peasy! It’s good to make it a routine over a longer period of time. I believe nothing will fix anything if only done once or twice. Give it a try over a couple of weeks, and see for yourself if you feel any differences.

2. The oil cleansing method

Unlike ‘oil pulling’, this method might give you more visible results faster. This is a method to clean your skin, using only oil, warm water and a wash cloth. Over the last years I’ve had a lot of issues with blemishes and irritated skin, and this method has really helped calm my skin when it was particularly inflamed. I’ve used a number of different oils, and haven’t seen a major difference in result, so I usually just use what I have at hand. Some possible choices are: almond oil, flax seed oil, olive oil and coconut oil.

How to use the oil cleansing method

  1. Apply oil on your face in a generous amount
  2. Either let the hot tap run until the water is really hot or keep a pot of hot water aside before starting
  3. Soak your wash cloth in the hot water. It’s a little tricky to get the water hot enough to steam, but not so hot you burn your fingers, but practice makes perfect
  4. Place the steaming wash cloth over your face
  5. Repeat once or twice

The steam in combination with the oil, cleans out the pores, and leaves your skin moist at the same time. I usually don’t need to use a moisturizer after I use this method, since some of the oil is left on the skin.

3. Face & Body oil

There was a time when I used to make body butters to use on my skin, and I still occasionally do so, but I generally just use oil straight on my skin now. If you want to try making body butter, you can read how to here: Whipped Body Butter (with 2 to 4 ingredients). Well, there isn’t much of a trick in using oil on your skin, except for the fact that you can. I think many, including my former self, have a feeling that oil will make your skin oily and maybe even cause it to break out. Though in my experience, once your skin gets used to it, the oils soaks in within a minute and leaves the skin soft and moist. I try to use oils that are more light in texture such as sweet almond oil, flax seed oil and avocado oil, especially on sweaty summer days. In winters I sometimes use heavier oils, such as neem oil and a bit of castor oil, which are both much thicker in texture. To choose an oil that suits your skin, you can research the different properties of oils you have at hand, or just experiment. Personally I use oil after my morning shower and after cleaning my face in the evening.

4. Natural hair conditioner

A few years back I started questioning whether commercial products, was really as healthy as most of them claimed to be. Once I started reading up on the labels, and decoding the many ingredients that goes into for example shampoo or conditioner, I concluded that most of the same was if not unhealthy then at least unnecessary. I figured that had to be a simpler and more natural way to clean my body. When it came to conditioner, I turned to a traditionally practice of India, namely the one of ‘oiling’ hair. Oiling hair is as simple as it sounds, to apply oil to the scalp and hair before washing it, to make it soft and manageable. For me it has worked like a charm, and is also a very enjoyable tradition I share with some of my indian friends. To read more on how to oil you hair you can read: How to oil your hair (natural conditioner).

5. Toothpaste

When I started out making my own products, toothpaste was of course one of the products I got around to making. At first I was a bit doubtful on whether natural ingredients would be able to clean my teeth as well as a commercial toothpaste, but three years later and still no cavities, I’m not in doubt anymore. The first natural toothpaste I made was oil based, but I have later gone over to using tooth powder – which you can read about here: Trashy Toothbrushes. Though I wanted to include the oil based version in this post, in case some might prefer it over the tooth powder.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 10-20 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil (optional)

How to make it:

  • Depending on where you are, and the temperature there, your coconut oil might be fluid or solid. If needed, put the coconut oil in a water bath to melt it
  • Put the two tsp coconut oil in the container you want to store your toothpaste
  • Mix baking soda in and stir
  • Drop the essential oils in, and taste to determine how much you want to add

How to use it:

  • If the paste is too solid, you can keep under hot water for 30 sec, and if it’s too fluid you can put in the freezer for a little while. Mostly I don’t fuss, and have just used it as it was
  • Dip your toothbrush to add a little and brush as you normally would

That was it for now. Hope it gave you some inspiration! This is just a fraction of how many different uses oil has, with tons of info online just waiting to be discovered.

//Louise

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Neem, Ghee and Coconut butter (the last 3 soaps I made)

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!

Use the code CORNER25 and get 25% discount at Moksha Lifestyle Products, to shop the ingredients. Moksha is a leading wholesale supplier of 100% Pure, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils and other materials around the world.

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 the 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 relatively cheap oil. That, besides its 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 mold 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 realized – 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 adds soothing and calming properties of Calendula. Ghee is supposed to be a great moisturizer 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%

Super fat: 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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3 easy DIY projects (for natural beauty products)

I always loved making things myself. 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 softener (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

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How to make Whipped Body Butter (with Recipes)

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.

Use the code CORNER25 and get 25% discount at Moksha Lifestyle Products, to shop the ingredients. Moksha is a leading wholesale supplier of 100% Pure, Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils and other materials around the world.

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

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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 none 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 like 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 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.

Two Coconut Soaps – for Beauty and Cleaning

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 two different recipes of pure Coconut soap, using the same method (cold process), but creating soap bars for two different uses:

  • As a Face & Body bar
  • As Cleaning incl. dishes, clothes and around the house

If you are new to soap making, you can start by reading How to make natural soap from scratch (cold process)How to form a solid soap recipe and Natural ways to colour 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.

2 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 Cleaning 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.

TIP: you can easily make this into liquid soap, by melting it into water. Read How to make liquid soap, the easy way! (out of solid soap).

20-30% 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 20-30% 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

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Two different recipes for pure coconut soap, using the same method (cold process), but creating soap bars for two different uses - beauty and cleaning.png

 

The dangers of antibacterial soap (Dettol)

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 principle, 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. Let’s 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 moisturizing bar.

Sodium Palm Kernelate – saponified palm kernel oil

Aqua – water

Glycerin – what they sometimes refer to as added moisturizer. 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

Linalool – fragrance compound

Palm Acid – a byproduct 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 anyway 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 its 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 play 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 lives. 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 keep us healthy, being exposed to bad bacteria is essential for our body to build up our immune system. Essentially that’s what vaccines do – 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 don’t distinguish between the good and bad bacteria. It 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 the 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.

Superbugs 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 favorable 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 favorable 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 a 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 the 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 a dangerous disease in half. Wash your hands and body in good old, natural soap. As for Hand sanitizers, 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 sanitizer.

Until then.

//Louise

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Handmade vs. commercial soap (Dove)

For most of my life I had a sore spot for beauty products. I knew nothing better than to go down to our local beauty shop, and use my pocket money on a new nail polish, face mask or shampoo. For the last three years, I haven’t bought a product that wasn’t handmade, by either myself or a company that I trust. The reason is simple: I know what commercial products contain, and most of it is highly toxic and harmful for both earth and everything living including humans. I would like to share with you what I have learned about the ‘soap’ that is sold commercially today, with the example of Dove, to illustrate just one example of this. Let’s get down to business.

The illusion of ‘Soap’

In my post: How to make natural soap I’ve written what soap is. To sum up –

Soap consist of liquid, fats and sodium hydroxide (lye), mixed together causing a process called saponification. If done in the right measurements there is only soap left once completely saponified.

Now this is an important point, because if you look at the back of most commercial soaps you will find about 35 additional ingredients – and at times sodium hydroxide won’t even be one of them. So if soap is liquid, oil and lye, then what are what are these bars if not soap? The answer is detergent and chemicals. If you pay attention to the names of such bars, it’s often not soap – but body bar, face bar, beauty bar or cream bar. The reasons for not selling natural soaps that I’ve been able to deduct are the following:

  1. Natural soap can’t be mass produced – the process of natural and/or handmade soap is such that it can’t be easily mass produced. Detergent on the other hand can.
  2. Detergents are cheaper – natural soap needs oil, and most oils don’t come cheap. This is also due to the fact that many cheap oils can’t be used in high quantities, because they will make a soft or sticky bar. Soya oil for example, that is a very cheap oil, can’t be made into a soap bar without adding other oils.
  3. Detergent makes for a ‘better’ bar – when I say better, I mean that they hit some desired points that is not easy or cheap to replicate in natural soap. This is for example stable and abundant lather, eternal shelf-life, strong scent and uniform look.

Now some might think, what is the problem if the bar cleans my body? The problem is simple. Detergent bars work against the body, not with it. Our bodies are made to keep it’s natural balance, and can regulate a number of the disturbances brought on by exposures we come in contact with during the day (harsh weather, dust, pollution etc.). Though if exposed regularly to something as strong as detergent, that drains the natural moisture and nutrients from the skin, the body gets thrown off balance. This means that it can no longer regulate itself, and a number of problems will start to appear – such as oily skin, dry skin, pimples etc. Now it might sound strange that you can get oily skin from a very cleansing bar, but its true – if you continuously deplete the moisture from your skin, your body will respond by secreting more oil to try to get back in balance.

Glorious Glycerine

Glycerine is a natural bi-product of the soap making process. You might have heard the term ‘Glycerine soap’, which is somewhat misleading, because all soap contains glycerine. Glycerine is a natural moisturizer because it attracts moisture from the air to your skin, and is therefore a very valuable commodity. This means that its often removed from soap and added to other and more expensive products such as face and body creams. Without the glycerine, the soap bar will most likely dry out the skin, even though it might clean it. One thing I have noticed after using handmade soap, is that I don’t need to use moisturizer as much as I did before. Actually I only rarely use moisturizer on my body, and my skin only rarely feels dry, and that living in New Delhi – where I’m exposed to a lot of pollution every day.

Smells like chemicals

Dove has won a lot of market here in India, as well as world wide, and it’s likely that a lot of you reading this has a Dove bar in your bathroom. So I realize I might be stepping on some toes to make this popular bar the center of my point – since ‘information is power’, I’m gonna take my chances. When Dove advertises that ‘it doesn’t dry out the skin like ordinary soap’, it’s important to understand two things: 1. Ordinary soap doesn’t dry out the skin if it’s made naturally and with the right oils 2. Even if it a Dove bar doesn’t dry out the skin, it contains a number of questionable chemicals that you might want to be aware of. Lets look at the ingredients of the Dove White Beauty bar:

Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate, Stearic Acid, Sodium Tallowate Or Sodium Palmitate, Lauric Acid, Sodium Isethionate, Water, Sodium Stearate, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Sodium Cocoate Or Sodium Palm Kernelate, Fragrance, Sodium Chloride, Tetrasodium EDTA, Tetrasodium Etidronate, Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891). (2)

  • Sodium Lauroyl Isethionate – is a detergent
  • Stearic Acid – a hardening agent made from plant or animal fats
  • Sodium Tallowate Or Sodium Palmitate – this is actually quite misguiding since these are two different ingredients but are listed together. Sodium Tallowate is derived from Animal fats or Tallow. Now this might be important information to the many vegetarians in India, that wouldn’t want to use animal products. Sodium Palmitate on the other hand is Palm oil, which even though it is a wonderful oil, has a number of environmental concerns because it’s cultivation and harvesting ruins natural habitats causing major harm the nature and animals living there.
  • Lauric Acid – a lathering and hardening agent
  • Sodium Isethionate – also a detergent
  • Sodium Stearate – also a hardening agent
  • Cocamidopropyl Betaine – a synthetic agent added to increase lather, associated with irritation and allergic reactions such as eczema. According to some studies its often contaminated with nitrosamines, which is linked to cancer.
  • Sodium Cocoate Or Sodium Palm Kernelate – Saponified coconut oil and saponified palm kernel oil
  • Fragrance – again quite misleading, because manufacturing a scent actually 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 disruptions. Many of them are still untested for possible harm.
  • 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.
  • Tetrasodium Etidronate – added to prevent changes in colour, texture and fragrance
  • Titanium Dioxide (Ci 77891) – a whitening agent

Now, first of all, on their website it says each bar has 1/4 moisturizing cream, which is what makes it less drying than soap. I cannot figure out which of these should be the moisturizing cream. Second of all, there is not a lot of these ingredients that actually has any known positive effects on skin. Most are added to let the bar last longer, look uniform, have abundant later and maintain a strong smell. This is just one example – there are many more dangerous chemicals to add to the list if we start exploring commercial shampoos, creams, lip balms etc.

The Environment down the drain

When using soap, most of us don’t think about what happened before and what happens after we use a bar of soap. I am no exception. It has taken me years to start thinking along the lines I am about to write. For me it’s simple now, if something shouldn’t go on my body, then it shouldn’t go into nature. Many detergents and other chemicals are as toxic to the flora and fauna as it is to us, and after it runs down the drain it finds its way to the earth and water. Additionally, or maybe even more importantly, the chemicals used in many commercial bars are made from unsustainable practices that pollutes and depletes nature of its natural resources. With the enormous boom of consumerism of commercial items, the consequences are now becoming more and more serious. So what does one soap bar change? Nothing. But if one bar becomes to millions, I believe that it will make a difference.

All this is my personal opinions from my own experiences, observations and research. I am always looking to broaden my horizon and always acknowledge I can be wrong. For now though, this is what I think.

//Louise

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3 natural ways to wash your hair

Believe it or not, but the word shampoo entered the English language from India during the colonial era. The word was derived from the Hindi word Chāmpo, taking its origin in the Sanskrit root Chapayati, meaning to press, knead or soothe. At this point in time,  a mixture of herbs and their extracts had been used to clean the hair since the ancient times. Most commonly the mixtures included Reetha also known as Soapberries or Soapnuts, that naturally contains Saponins, which is a natural cleanser. It was often mixed with other herbs such Arappu, Shikakai and Amla (Indian Gooseberry). When the colonialist returned back to Europe they introduced this new habit of massaging hair treatment into the scalp and hair, which they called ‘shampoo’.

Today shampoo has come to refer to a completely different mix of ingredients, though with the same purpose – to clean and soften the hair. That being said, shampoos today will promise you much more than that – to stop hair fall, fight dandruff, give volume, straighten or curl and much more. I’ve used commercial shampoos for around 26 years of my life, and my own homemade for around 2 years. From pure experience I can say that 2 issues I had the first 26 years have completely stopped in the last 2.

1. I’ve stopped loosing my hair:

I have an abundance of hair, so hair fall was never a big worry for me. That being said I always had a lot of hair fall, and used to find my hair left behind everywhere i would go. Hair fall is a major worry of many women, and if you don’t have a lions mane like mine, it’s completely understandable. Since I’ve treated my hair naturally with different methods, I’ve stopped losing my hair, till the stage where I barely find a strand of hair on my hairbrush.

2. My hair has stopped tangling:

I used to hate brushing my hair, because it took forever and left me with a sore scalp. The only way to make it manageable was to use half a bottle of conditioner, and in student days, that was a luxury I didn’t always want to pay for. Today I can go for days without brushing it, and it will still only tangle minimally.

Now, that being said – there is a certain flow that some commercial shampoos can give your hair, that I haven’t experienced with my own homemade. I love the way my hair feels now, so I’m not bothered by it, but I’m always experimenting with new ways to keep my hair healthy, soft and shiny.

What is shampoo today

Everyone has once upon a time tried to crack the code of list of ingredients on the back on the shampoo bottle, and many probably failed. Most shampoos are mostly a combinations of detergents and chemicals, that not only strips your hair of it’s natural moisture, but also carries a number of serious health concerns. At the same time commercials tend to focus on the few naturals ingredients the shampoo actually does contains, so this is what I started to wonder some years back – why shouldn’t a shampoo consist mostly the stuff we find good enough to promote?

Getting into the list of health hazards of commercial shampoo is a post in itself, so instead I will give some options of washing your hair naturally, cheap and easy. I would like to note that there are options of Organic, natural shampoos on the market today. I choose to make it myself, because it’s cheaper and gives me greater control of what it contains.

3 ways to wash your hair naturally

It the last years, natural ways of cleaning the hair and body has won a lot of popularity world wide. Though here in India, like mentioned, these traditions goes back centuries. When I started out I had a lot of trial and error, and some of these methods have not worked for me, but that is not to say the wont work for you. Lets start with my own favorite.

Coconut shampoo bar

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Coconut oil has a number of potent medicinal properties, as well as being a very strong cleanser. Because of it’s cleansing properties, it is commonly not used at higher rates of 25 % of the total oils in handmade soap. Though by simply superfatting the soap 10%, meaning leaving 10% of the coconut oil unsaponified, you will get a cleansing though moisturising shampoo bar. For dry hair you can superfat up to 12%. I usually add Lavender or Sweet Orange essential oil, but you can add any off your favourite essential oils. What I love about this shampoo is that it lathers just as much as normal shampoo, which most other methods doesn’t. Additionally It doesn’t take any preparation other than making it once, and can easily be used as a face and body bar as well. If you would like to try this out, but have never made soap before, start here: How to make natural soap.

Soapnuts – Reetha

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Soapnuts, more commonly known as Reetha here in India, grows on the tree Sapindus. The word Sap meaning soap and Indus referring to India, perfectly summing up the essence of this tree. Because the soapnuts doesn’t taste good to insects, the tree has no need for fertilisers or pesticides, making it naturally organic. Soapnuts contain something called saponin, a natural cleanser, which is why it has been used for centuries to clean hair, skin, clothes and even homes. I’ve several times heard people here in India say – “ah, we used to wash our hair in that, in my native place when I was a child”, but I have only very few times actually seen people use it. I’ve not used it much to wash my own hair, but frequently use it to wash my clothes, but let me get back to that in another post. You can get soapnuts in it’s whole form, and as a powder. Though a word on buying powders – its not unknown that vendors mix fillers in powders, at least here in India. So buying the full nut makes it 100% sure its pure soapnut. To wash your hair with whole soapnuts, simply do the following:

  • Put 5-7 soapnuts in a cotton string bag or directly in 3 Cups of water
  • Boil over heat and let simmer for 20 min
  • Add 1 more cup of water and continue simmering for 10 min
  • Take off heat, and squeeze the bag until it suds
  • Rinse with water and continue squeezing
  • Keep the bottle in the fridge and massage into hair like you normally would when you want to wash your hair.

Would can also go for making powder of your soapnuts, and use as a paste instead, alone or mixed with some of the following.

Arappu, Shikakai and Amla

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Left middle – Arappu – Up – Shikakai – right middle – Reetha – down – Amla

While you can wash your hair individually with Reetha, you can also add any of these three ingredients. Though this is not the only mixture you can try out.

Arappu is often used on its own to clean and soften hair. Made from the leaves of the Arappu tree, it’s a natural conditioner and leaves your hair incredibly soft. Simple make a paste of the green powder with water and massage into hair and scalp. Rinse like normal, and feel the soft result.

Shikakai or Acacia is a tree native to Asia, whereof the bark is used to make Shikakai powder. Shikakai literally meaning fruit for hair, like Reetha contains saponins making it a great cleanser. Shikakai is not often used on it’s own but in mixture with Arappu, Amla or Reetha so that it doesn’t dry out the hair.

Amla or Indian Gooseberry is the fruit of the Amla tree. It’s often eaten and drunk as a juice because of it’s great health benefits, and is equally healthy for your hair. Amla has strong antioxidant and antimicrobial properties, that strengthens your hair and scalp. It can be added to any of the three above, or on it’s own as a hair pack.

To sum up – use Arappu alone – Arappu with Shikakai – Shikakai with Amla – Amla with Arappu – Arappu with Reetha – Reetha with Shikakai – or just all of them in a mix. You can even add any of these to your coconut shampoo bar!

That was all for now. Feel free to comment, if you have your own favorite combination to add to the list.

//Louise.

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