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.

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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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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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Natural ways to colour soap

In this post, I want to share some of the natural colorants I’ve used over the time, all with fantastic added properties that will make for a great soap. If you don’t know how to make soap, I recommend that you start here: How to make natural soap.

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.

Methods to color soap

First, I’ll go through different methods of coloring soap. Let me list them out:

  • Powder – by powdering a number of herbs, algae, roots, flowers, spices, and others, you can color your soap at trace
  • Oil infusing – by infusing some of the above in oil over typically 3-6 weeks, you can color the oil as well as add extra properties to it. Keep in mind it isn’t all herbs etc., that will give off color when infused
  • Liquid – by adding or completely substituting the water with another liquid, before adding the lye to it, you can color your soap without much extra work
  • Oils – by adding certain colored oils or essential oils, you can add a color naturally. I’ve only come across a few that really added color, but never the less I will be mentioning some of them

Now let’s get to the specifics.

Turmeric/Haldi

Turmeric has been used for centuries in the traditional Indian medicine known as Ayurveda, because of its strong anti-oxidant and anti=inflammatory properties. Today, besides its uses in cooking, its still used for preventing and fighting disease as well as in traditional beauty regimes and remedies. Most common uses in beauty are by applying it in a paste to the face and body, for clear and bright skin. Actually, a Turmeric paste is often applied to the skin of a bride to be in traditional Indian weddings, and some places in South India it is used by women as a face powder. Needless to say, it is a great additive to soap and makes for a variety of yellow shades. When adding it to your soap, be aware that the color will look much darker right after being added, as it will when the soap has cured. Also, an excess will make the soap ‘bleed’ yellow. I typically add between 1-4 tablespoon fulls per kg of oil.

Juice and Puree

Both Fruit and Vegetable juices and purees can be used as the base liquid for your soap, giving a beautiful color as well as extra properties. The same way nutrients in juices can nurture us from the inside, they can do the same from the outside. I prefer to press the juice myself, but it is also possible to use store-bought stuff. Again, the color will always be the brightest right after the soap has been made, so to ensure you get a bright color you can add powder of same shade. For example, add Turmeric with Carrot juice or Spirulina powder with Avocado Puree.

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Switching the water with Carrot juice gives a lovely yellow color

Neem oil

Neem is in itself an amazing oil, also a found in Ayurveda. It has a deep yellow color, making it ideal to use for coloring soaps yellow. Even though it has a very strong smell, it fades as the soap cures if not added in two high amounts. Neem oil is also known to be an unstable oil, so I usually don’t add it above 10% of the complete amount of oils. Besides the added color, Neem is also one of the most healing oils you can find. It’s ideal for troubled skin and can help treat a number of issues such as eczema, acne, rashes and irritations, fungus and infections as well as smaller cuts.

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5 % Neem oil in a Coconut soap

Multani Mitti and other clays

Also known as Bentonite clay or Fullers Earth this clay makes for an amazing additive. To read more about its amazing properties, you can start by reading Uses of Indian Healing Clay. There are a number of wonderful clays that can add color to your soap – but for environmental reasons, I prefer those found here in India. Though in the picture I’ve added a French Green clay soap, just because it looks so damn pretty. Doesn’t it? So, if you wanna go for it, french clay also includes Red and Pink clay, both giving beautiful looks to the soap. Another Indian clay is Karolin clay, that gives a light cream or whitish color. Additionally, to the beautiful look, clay also helps scents stay in the soap longer, and gives a creamy lightly scrubby feel to it.

Spirulina & Activated Charcoal

This soap was actually a mistake. I wanted one part to be green and the other to be black, swirling it in a pattern. In the end, I had to mix it, and this is what came. Unfortunately, you can’t really see the color Spirulina gives, but it’s one of the best green colorants I’ve found. Will be sure to upload a picture, as soon as I make one where the color is more clear. I ended up loving this soap and called it soap ‘Starry night’. Activated Charcoal, besides its intense black color, also cleans the skin by absorbing impurities and pollutants. This makes it a very popular additive in commercial products, but why not use it without all the chemicals?

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Coffee grounds

I’ve written on this before, so won’t say much about it. If you want to read more on the uses and properties of coffee grounds you can read it here: Reusing your coffee grounds. Actually, I just wanted another excuse to display this beautiful picture. So here it is, enjoy!

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Alkanet Root

Alkanet is a herb, whereof the roots are commonly used in dyes for red and purple color. This root can also be used to color soap and other natural cosmetics in these shades. In the pictures below, the bigger picture is from grinding the root and adding it as a powder. The top small one is from infusing the oil over a couple of weeks and adding between 10% to 30% of the infused oil to a batch of soap, When infusing it I use the full root without grinding it. The last picture is from adding shavings of an Alkanet colored purple soap to a coconut shampoo bar. So three fun ways to give a purple color!

Henna/Mehendi

Last but not least, I’ve used Heena as a colorant for green or brown color. In India, this plant is mainly used for coloring hair and skin, but it is also a very strong anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Now, because Heena colors the skin and hair if left as a paste, adding it to soap is a great way to use the wonderful properties of Henna without the stain. Henna does come in different variants, but you can see the color of the one I’ve used.

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And the rest…

The list of colorants is eternal. Here are a few I’ve come across:

  • Moringa, Alfalfa leaf, and Stevia for green
  • Red Sandalwood and Saffron for red
  • Arrowroot powder for white
  • Annatto seed for yellow
  • Cinnamon and Cacao powder for brown

This was all I had for now. I’m sure there will be more posts on coloring soaps as I find new ways. As I have said in earlier posts, only your imagination limits the possibilities of artworks you can make out of your soap.

Do let me know if you have any colorants that should be added to this list.

//Louise

Uses of Indian healing clay (Multani Mitti)

I first heard of Multani Mitti when I was looking for a way to make a face mask (or face pack if you’re based in India) with all natural ingredients. Now, it’s not that I hadn’t tried making natural face masks before, but only from things such as yogurt and avocado, and honestly, I always ended up making a mess with those. I wanted to find something that I could wear on my face, without having to lay completely still, and even then dripping down the sides of my face. Is it just me?? So now you must have guessed the first use.

For Skin

Multani Mitti has great cleansing properties, absorbs oils and impurities and is a natural antiseptic, making the name Indian Healing Clay very fitting. It can be used to treat a number of skin ailments such as acne and other skin irritations like small cuts, burns and insect bites. This is done by applying the clay as a paste to the affected area, leaving it to dry and then wash it off. Though, you can also use it, in general, to keep your skin clean and healthy. Once I asked a woman I worked with here in India what her grandmother used to clean her skin with and one of the answers was ‘Multani Mitti’.

I’ve not used Multani Mitti as a general body cleaner, but regular use it to make a cleansing Face mask. I simply add few spoons of clay to water or other liquids depending on what I feel like my skin needs at the time.

  • Water for normal skin
  • Honey or Rosewater for sensitive skin
  • Apple Cider vinegar for Acne Prone skin

It’s a good idea to test this on your skin before going for a full mask, to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation. Other ingredients I sometimes add includes Turmeric and Activated Charcoal.

For Soap

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Swirl from Multani Mitti & Activated Charcoal

I use Multani Mitti in soap on a regular basis, because it gives a smooth lather and adds the properties of the clay to the soap. Its ideal for shaving soaps because the lather becomes very dense and silk-like, making it similar to shaving foam (minus the toxins :)).  Clays also help the scent of essential oil stay in the soap, and then, of course, add the earthy brown color.

For Teeth

Yes, I brush my teeth with it, and I must admit I love it. Would never go back to using conventional toothpaste. I’ve written an earlier post on my dental routine, including how I make toothpowder. You can find the whole post here. I will give the recipe here as well. It is as follows –

  • 2 tablespoons Multani Mitti – gentle detoxifying cleanser, rich in minerals 
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda – mild abrasive polish that removes stains from teeth 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves – – for flavor and gum health 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon – for flavor and gum health
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon steviato sweeten the taste 
  • 3/4 teaspoon activated charcoal to whiten the teeth 
  • 5-10 drops peppermint or spearmint essential oilfor minty fresh breath

Gather all the ingredients in a bowl and mix it. Keep in a glass jar, and simply wet your toothbrush and dip it in the powder when you want to brush your teeth.

For Detox

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Multani Mitti can detox the insides as well as the outsides. When getting in contact with liquid, Multani Mitti gets the ability to bind toxins. It can, therefore, be used as a natural remedy for a number of stomach ailments such as constipation, bloating, diarrhea, vomiting, gas etc.  Simply add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of clay to your water, and drink it a few times a day. I suggest you start with one class and wait to see the effect. This can also be used for pets with tummy issues, by adding 1/4 cup of clay or less to their water.

Another way to use it as detox is to add it to your bathtub. Add 1/4 cup of clay to your bath, and lay back to relax. I’ve used this to help recover from the flu, but can also be to simply relax and stay healthy.

Other Uses

There is a number of other uses of Multani Mitti I have not yet explored. Though I thought I would still put them down for anyone that would like to try it out:

  • As baby powder for irritated baby bums
  • As an alternative clothes whitener 
  • A natural remedy for morning sickness when pregnant
  • For a general daily health boost 

Now that was all. Do you know any more uses? Would love to hear them in the comment section.

//Louise

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How to reuse your coffee grounds

I love coffee. In fact I’m drinking coffee right now, at almost 11 pm. Safe to say I accumulate a lot of coffee grounds. I separate all my trash in the house, to recycle it – so if I’m not in the mood to put my grounds to better use, I compost it using Smart Bin Composter. Though, I have found a number of other more creative uses, that I would like to share.

Coconut/Coffee scrubby cubes

Coffee is known to be a great exfoliant, and can be used all over the body to scrub off dead skin cells. Many even say it can help lessen the appearance of cellulite, because it stimulates blood flow and tightens the skin. I will not commit to that outcome, since I don’t have any experience with it, but I still thought I should include it. Now, mixed with coconut oil, coffee grounds makes for the most skin loving body scrub – with the added bonus of being anti-microbial, because of the coconut oil.

How to make it:

  1. Take a ice cube tray
  2. Fill the bottom with your grounds, filling approximately 1/3 of the tray
  3. Pour coconut oil over the grounds
  4. Freeze, or leave out – depending on the temperature
  5. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge

How to use it: 

  • When showering take a cube out, and use it to scrub your body. It has to be used after using soap, since the coconut oil will be left on your body. The coconut oils will melt in your hand while scrubbing. It will leave your skin baby smooth and soft.

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Wash your hair in it

Now this might sound a little odd, but stay with me. Coffee exfoliates the scalp, stimulating hair growth and keeping it healthy. The grounds also softens the hair, and leaves it shiny. Trust me, I’ve tried it.

How to use it:

  • Take a small handful and scrub it into your scalp, after wetting your hair. Keep at it until you covered the whole scalp. Wash with shampoo, and rinse until all the grounds have been washed out. That simple!

Mix it in your soap

If you’re into making soap, be it melt and pour or cold process, adding coffee grounds can make for a great scrubby soap. Use it like any other soap additive. If you are new to soap making, you can start here. I love making one side scrubby and the other smooth like the picture underneath.

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Boost plant health

Coffee grounds make for a great plant health booster, because it releases Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus and other minerals. It also helps in keeping pest like ants, snails, and slugs away from your plants.

I keep an airtight jar in my kitchen where I put my remaining coffee grounds. When it’s full, I sprinkle them on my house plants, and leave it to mix with the soil. When my compost has turned to soil, I also mix it with coffee grounds for the perfect plant loving mixture.

I hope you found this useful, and do comment if you have some great uses for coffee grounds.

//Louise

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How to form a solid soap recipe

When I first started making cold process soap I was determined to make soap from Indian sourced oils, but I very fast realised that this would pose some challenges. Soap resources online are majorly American/European based, where Olive oil is a stable in soap recipes. That Olive oil is so common has a lot of good reasons – since it makes a hard, moisturising bar and can be used in high amounts of the total amount of oils. Though, this did pose me with a challenge, but hey, challenge excepted.

But I was determined! So I started learning how to form my own recipes, and after a lot (A LOT) of trial and error I have found some general principals to use when making a recipe. Whether you use Olive oil or not, you should be able to use my experiences to shape your own recipe. I will focus on the base recipe, meaning the Carrier oils, and not the additional additives (essential oils etc.). If you’re new to Soap making start by reading How to make natural soap to understand the basic content and process of making soap.

Choosing the purpose 

There is a few things to decide when you want to make your soap recipe. Some basic questions you should ask yourself is:

  • What do you want to use the soap for? Hair and body bars are different in structure, but it’s also possible to make a ‘universal’ soap bar that can be used all over the body.
  • What kind of properties do you want your soap to have? Soaps can be customized to treat a certain skin issue such as acne prone skin, dry skin or sensitive skin, but also just to your own personal preferences.
  • For the ones that sell soap for business, I would add – What do you want to emphasize about your soap? – when buyers look for soaps they tend to focus on a specific ingredient or abilities of the soap, with a certain ‘flair’ to it. This can also be a certain oil and it’s abilities you want to emphasize. It takes some understanding of your audience, and this mostly comes with experiences. An option is to seek out soapers groups on Facebook or other forums, to ask more experienced soapers for their evaluation of the market etc.

After some thought on these questions, you’re ready to go on choosing the oils you want to include in the recipe. Now, this takes some basic understanding of carrier oils, their structure, and abilities and how they behave in soap. I’ve included some of the most common soaping oils to the list (that are found in India).

Choosing your oils

Each oil has its own structure, and with that comes a set of abilities in soap. Certain oils like coconut make a super hard soap bar, with a thick lather that is very cleansing while other oils add moisturizing properties but also makes the soap soft. To keep this as simple as possible, I will not go into the specifics of the oil structure but go through the properties different oils add and what percentage is recommended to use it at out of your total amount of oils.

Hardness and cleanse

Coconut oil – use up 50% of oils: a stable in most soap recipes because of it’s incredible cleansing properties, as well as contributing to the hardness and lather of the soap. It’s possible to use coconut in higher percentages if the soap is superfatted accordingly. My rule of thumb is – used at 30%/superfat 7%, used at 50%/superfat 10-15% and used at 100%/superfat 20-30%. If you want to read more on making pure coconut soap read 2 coconut soaps – for face, body and clothes. Additional to hardness, cleanse and thick lather coconut soap is known to add antibacterial and antimicrobial properties to the soap.

Butters – use between 10-30% of oils: butters are mostly a luxury to add in higher quantities in soap because it’s on the pricy side. I use Kokum butter and Mango butter on a regular basis, but there is a long list of butter available today. Besides great moisturizing and healing properties, butters add to the hardness of the soap and give a creamy lather. One thing I’ve noticed is that by adding 15% of butters with 30% of coconut, I can un-mold much faster, and get a hard bar of soap. Because I tend to avoid Olive oil and Palm oil, which both contribute to the hardness of the soap, this has been one of my go-to methods to make my bars harder. Different butter has different recommended amounts – Mango Butter/up to 30%, Kokum Butter/up to 10% and Cocoa butter/up to 15%.

Other hard oils I choose not to use: Olive oil (up to 100%), Palm oil (up to 40%), Shea Butter (up to 25%)

Moisture

Castor oil – use between 5-10%: castor is in a league for itself when it comes to adding moisturizing abilities to soap. It can’t be used in too high amounts because it will make the soap soft and sticky. Though in the right amount, it’s also a stable oil in all my recipes.

Cheap oils (filler oils)

Sunflower – use up to 15%: sunflower is relatively cheap oil, but also a very moisturizing oil. Prices of oils are mostly set according to the cost of extraction, not how healthy or good it is. Reasons for not using too much Sunflower is that it will take away from the hardness of the soap, but in combo with hard oils, it works great.

Safflower- used up to 20%: similarly to Sunflower, this oils is relatively cheap, and can, therefore, be used as a ‘filler’ oil to bring down the cost of the soap. This oil is also very conditioning.

Sesame – used up to 10%: I use this oil in almost every recipe since it a cheap and moisturizing oil.

Other Filler oils I choose not to use: Canola (up to 40%), Soya bean oil (up to 15%)

Healing Oils

Neem – used at 10%: now it might just be me because I’ve heard of soapers that use it at higher quantities. What I’ve experienced is that it can cause the soap batch to expel oil when used in higher quantities. Also, it makes the soap trace very fast so be aware when using it. You barely need a stick blender. On the other hand, it is a strong medicinal oil, that can help treat and heal acne, eczema and other skin conditions. It also adds a yellow color to the soap. Now, the oil has a very strong smell, but my experience is that the smell goes out of the soap after curing a few days. I’ve used it as a colorant together with coconut oil soaps, to give a beautiful yellow color.

Luxury oils

Sweet Almond – used up to 20%: a very light oil, that contributes rich lather. Because it is a humectant (it attracts moisture), it adds moisture to your soap. It also helps soothe dry and troubled skin such as rashes and eczema. It is on the more expensive side, so I tend to use it at around 5-10%.

Avocado – used up to 20%: a very nutritious oil, with great regenerative and moisturizing properties. It also helps treat dry and irritated skin, but because of it’s the price I also use it in amounts between 5-10%.

Rule of thumb

Now, you can find endless info on the recommended usage of other oils, as well as their properties. What is important to understand is that any soap recipe needs to be balanced, between some basic properties most would find essential – hardness, lather, moisture, cleanse and price. I use some basic formula’s to ensure this, for body bars. For shampoo bars, I exclusively make pure coconut soap bars, so this is for body bars only. Rule of thumb: 40-50% hard oils or butter, 30% filler oils, 10% Castor & 10-20% Luxury, Healing, Other oils. Here are two examples:

Recipe 1: 

  • 30% Coconut
  • 15% Butter – Mango Butter, Kokum butter
  • 30% Filler oils – Sunflower, Safflower
  • 10% Sesame
  • 10% Castor
  • 5% Luxury oil – Sweet Almond oil, Avocado
  • Superfat: 5%

Recipe 2:

  • 50% Coconut
  • 25% Filler oils – Sunflower, Safflower, Sesame
  • 10% Castor
  • 10% Neem
  • 5% Luxury oil
  • Superfat: 10%

This was all I had for now. I really hoped it gave you enough to start making your own recipes. It gives a lot of freedom and Creativity to the soap making process. Let me know if there are some Indian oils I’ve missed (preferably available organic – Soya bean for examples is available in India, but not organically grown).

//Louise