Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Shea Butter

Shea is a wonderful natural butter that has been used for ages in Africa to help with exzema, dry skin, for soap making, cooking and much more. Its traditional uses and extraction are very much apart of the African Culture.

Shea Butter comes from trees in the West Savannah of Africa, these trees are wild and not propagated, irrigated or fertilized. In fact in Africa these trees do not propagate well. These trees are a highly substainable crop because of this, and a very enviromentally positive crop.Traditionally when it comes time to gather the crop many people will walk miles to where the trees grow wild to collect the nuts. They then remove the butter in a cooking and stirring process over hours and days. This process is done by the women as it has been done for ages.

More recently the times have changed and after the nuts are gathered they are sold off to European Middlemen for much lower prices. These nuts are taken to have the butter chemically extracted. Then the butter is sold for a profit for the middleman.

The Traditional method makes sure that the people of Africa (typically poor women) get fair prices for their product while creating a higher quality product. It is more time consuming and expensive, but it is worth it for the positive effect it has on the enviroment and the local people. This Type of Shea Butter is sold as Fair Trade.

Shea Butter is wonderful for many skin conditions and can be used in place of a lotion or as an additive to many bath and beauty products, including soap.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lets not Lye

While I know that I touched on this in what is soap I continue to find false statements being made by so many soap makers about lye, so I felt it needed it's own seperate blog.

What is Lye? Lye is a a caustic alkaline also know as sodium hydroxide or potassium Hydroxide. It is a true base which makes it caustic to the skin in its natural state. But don't let this scare you, as it is a common ingredient in many products you use every day from soap, to glass making and even food preparation.

The most common way to get Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) is from the chlorakali process, a form of desalanization of sea water. But in the past it was created by using wood ash this created a slightly different version of Lye but it was still the same strong base, this Potassium Hydroxide can still be made at home today http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Lye.

The difference between Sodium Hydroxide and Potassium Hydroxide is the salt in each mixture that helps to create two unique forms of soap, Sodium Hydroxide is used to make bar soap while Potassium Hydroxide is used to make soft soaps.

Lye because of its alkalinity when mixed with a fat causes the chemical structure to break up and change the properties of the ingredients. The by-product is glycerin and soap.

Since glycerin is a very sought after byproduct some large companies remove it from their bar soaps and re-sell it as a single product or in the form of glycerin soap.

Lye might sound scary and while it does require extra care in it's natural form it is not dangerous or bad in a high quality soap, in fact, because of the process of saponication (the term for the chemical reaction between the fats and lye) if done correctly the Lye no longer chemically remains in the final soap.

Don't let some people scare you -- Lye is a great ingredient that has gotten a bum wrap. Also know that without it you can not have soap, instead you only have a detergent bar. Now enjoy some homemade, well crafted soap in the knowledge that this great product is a part of our history.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

What is Soap? Part Two

In my first part, I described the history of soap and some of the processes by which soap is made. In this second part, I will go into further details in the soap making process by explaining three (3) different types of soap making processes: cold process, hot process and “melt and pour” (commonly called glycerin soap).

Cold process and hot process are both traditional ways of making soap. These two types of soap making are very similar in how the ingredients are used and mixed, but the curing process is much different. Both of these types of soap making would be recognizable to people from the past as they have changed little.

To begin, you need to choose your fats. These days, most fats are from some form of plant oils, such as olive, soybean or coconut oils. Each kind of fat has a “saponifiable rating” -- how much of the fat will turn to soap in the process. Some oils have what are called “unsaponifiables” – some parts of that fat will not change to soap in the process. You would typically use oils with unsaponifiables to superfat the recipe. Superfatting, as you will recall from my prior article, means that these oils will stay behind to moisturize the skin. Most soap makers work between 5%-10% superfatting when making modern soap.

After you have designed the oil balance of your soap, to create the desired, hardness, conditioning, foaming and more, a calculator is used to determine the amount of Lye needed for the mixture. Again soap makers work from either a mixture of 100% soap (a even balance of fats to lye) or a superfatted soap that would put the soap as lower then 100% to the fats, to add to the moisturizing properties of the soap.

A liquid is added to help start the processing of the lye and this liquid can be just about anything. Some liquids require extra preparation before being ready to use, such as alcohols (wine and beer, etc.). Most commonly used liquids are water, tea, or various milk products.

After the ingredients are gathered, they are mixed together. At this point, cold and hot processing begin to diverge. Lye, when mixed with liquid, produces a large amount of heat. In hot process, the soap maker mixes and works with the lye in this superhot state and cold process makers let the mixture sit out and cool to a more reasonable temperature. The mixture is blended by hand (or with a stick blender) until it reaches a stage called “trace”. This is the point in the process when the lye and fats start to change into soap.

A hot process maker puts the mixture into the oven to begin the curing process. Curing in an oven (which is why it is known as hot process) can be finished in as little as 45 minutes. The soap can be heated in the mold or placed in molds after the process is finished. Typically scents and additives are added as the soap is molded. The great part of Hot Process soap is that it is ready to us as soon as it is removed from the oven, it also typically requires less fragrance then cold process, but is not usually as “pretty” as cold process soaps. Crock Pot soap making is done in a very similar manner.

Once the trace stage happens for a cold process maker, the mixture is placed into the molds directly. This is when cold process makers add their additives and fragrances (and many soap makers also like to add color additives and do a process called swirling that leaves colored streaks throughout the soap). The soap is left to process in the covered mold for several weeks. The hot process uses heat to accelerate the curing process – the cold process maker lets the natural heat build over time to finish the curing process. During this stage for cold makers, the soap is not safe to handle without protection. Once it is done curing, the soap is safe and ready to cut and use. Cold Process is tough for those who are impatient as it takes time to have a finished product, but when finished it is a very attractive, well scented, bar of homemade soap.

Melt and Pour also know as Glycerin soap is a completely different process than hot and cold process. It is typically done to create a certain look, quickly and easily. It is called melt and pour because the soap is designed to be heated and poured into molds after any additives, colors, and fragrances are added to the base.

It is called Glycerin soap since the most common additive is Glycerin, which helps to add to the texture, melt-ability and to help add conditioning properties to the soap base. An interesting fact is that most mass-produced soaps have their natural glycerin squeezed out of it and then the large soap makers sell the resulting glycerin to make melt and pour soap.

The base typically is a mixture of soap, most common Coconut oil or Palm Oil which are known for their hardness and nice lather they add to a bar of soap. In some bases additives are added such as Glycerin, Sodium Stearate, Sorbitol, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Stearic Acid, Lauric Acid, and Sodium Chloride most of these ingredients are added to preserve, add longer lasting lather, to make the soap clear and to help it re-melt in the beautiful way only melt and pour can. These ingredients vary depending on who makes the base.

Some bases are also called detergent bars as they contain no “soap”, instead detergents such as Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), are mixed with other ingredients for a product that works just like soap but contains no naturally occurring Glycerin, just the Glycerin typically added to the base.

How to tell if the base you are using is “soap” or “detergent” is simple -- look for the word saponificated oils, the saponified names of oils such as Sodium Palmate (Palm Oil), Sodium Cocoate (coconut oil) or Sodium Tallowate (Tallow or Animal Fat) and or sodium hydroxide/potassium hydroxide. If you see any of these terms you are using a soap based product. If you do not, it is a detergent bar.

Melt and Pour has become very popular recently as it is very simple to work with and so attractive to use. Unlike standard soaps, it is easy to create very bright colors, wild designs and to imbed items such as ducks, balls, toys and more, since you can see through the soaps. This makes it a fun soap for kids. The downside is some blends can be very harsh to dry skin and people with some skin conditions, users should research the ingredients in each bar to make sure they will work for you, each blend is different so not all work for everyone and this type of soap dissolves much faster then Hot or Cold Processed soaps.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

What is Soap? Part One

In my two part article, I will give some details as to the history of soap, the soap making process and how soap is made today.

The first part will be what it takes to make soap, the different types of soap and how soap is being made today. The second part will be discussing the differences between melt and pour, hot process and cold process soap making.

The history of soap, and soap making, goes back as early as pre-historic times. It is believed that soap was originally discovered when animal fats were cooked in pots over large fires. Ash from the fire would get into the cooking pots as the contents were cooked and stirred. Then, when water was used to rinse the pots, strange foam would appear that left the pots cleaner. Records of soap used to clean wool and cotton for textile making can be found with the Babylonians around 2800 BCE and the Phoenicians around 600 BCE. Personal washing with soap did not become popular until the Roman Era.

Early soaps were made of animal fats and wood ash. Many plants and wood, when burned, naturally create a form of potassium hydroxide (KOH). This, when mixed with fats, creates a very soft soap in comparison to what we use today. This was the standard recipe for years in most areas of the world. The Egyptians and Spanish used a local sodium alkali from deposits of soda or burned seaweed. Nicolas Leblanc changed the soap making process drastically in the first part of the 19th by implementing the procedure for creating sodium hydroxide from a brine solution in factories. This process was so important that it still bears his name – the Leblanc process.

Bar soap is still made to this day with this solution of Sodium Hydroxide. Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda or lye, is a strong base created from electrolysis of brine sea water as a co-product of chlorine. Sodium Hydroxide can be dangerous as it is a strong caustic material in its base state; however, when mixed with fats in the proper proportions, its chemical properties are changed and soap is the result.

Soap is created when there a reaction occurs between triglycerides (fats), water and a base (lye, with its high pH, works well). In a process known as saponification, the fats break down (hydrolyzed) and, among other things, glycerin is left behind.

A balanced mixture will chemically change all the fats and lye to soap and glycerin with neither fat nor lye left behind. It is more common with today’s homemade soap makers to do what is called superfatting. Superfatting is when more fats are mixed with the lye in order to leave part of the fats behind. Correctly made soap never has lye left behind and is, therefore, completely safe for the skin.

Soft or Liquid soaps of today are created much the same way but use the earlier mixture of Potassium Hydroxide as it creates a much softer soap. Other ingredients can also be added for texture, foaming, and clarity.

Many products purchased in the grocery store today are actually not soap, most are what is called a detergent bar. They may or may not contain actual soap but most of the ingredients are actually a mix of detergents, foaming agents and other ingredients.

True soap always includes the same basic ingredients, fats from some animal or plant source, sodium hydroxide/potassium hydroxide and liquid. Though many, many combinations of fats, liquids, additives and scents exist, the basic recipe will always be the same. In the next article we will discuss the differences that make soap unique and how different soaps are made.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grapeseed Oil

We are proud to introduce our guest writer program great articles on bath and body written by my fellow B&B makers.

This week we have Stephanie from Spoiled Rotten http://BathAndBodyBoutique.etsy.com

Why do I love Natural Plant Oils? Let me count the ways…

Grape Seed Oil is called a vegetable oil, but it is actually oil that comes from the seeds of grapes; a byproduct of wine making. It has many uses and benefits, but my favorites are those related to skin health.

Grape Seed Oil contains antioxidants, which are known for protecting healthy skin cells from free radicals, (molecules that cause cell damage); vitamins c, e, d, beta-carotene, and fatty acids, (all of which benefit our skin).

Grape Seed Oil is said to reduce stretch marks, repair sun damage and heal wounds. It is very easily absorbed by our skin and is therefore incredibly hydrating and moisturizing without leaving any greasy residue behind.

Grape Seed Oil is considered a mild astringent, which means it tightens and tones the skin. It reduces bacteria, viruses, and inflammation of the skin. It is noncomedogenic, which means that it will not clog skin pores. For these reasons grape seed oil is acceptable for the acne prone.

Look for Grape Seed Oil (Vitis Vinifera) in your bath and body products and let your skin drink it up.

Check out this great lotion with Grapeseed Oil from Natural Body Spa

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Terminology of Bath and Body

There are so many words just thrown around in bath and body and many people are confused about what they mean. This is a look at what some of those terms mean and what effect they have on what you are buying.

One of the most misunderstood and misused words in the market. When you go into any store from the grocery store to high-end specialty stores you will see this tagline on many, many products. What does it mean? Nothing. Natural is a word that has no regulation whatsoever and can mean whatever the seller deems it to mean.

Organic is a term that, unlike “natural,” has set regulations. In order to call any product in the US Organic the USDA and AMS has to approve the grower and producer.

“Organic food is produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. Organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy products come from animals that are given no antibiotics or growth hormones. Organic food is produced without using most conventional pesticides; fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge; bioengineering; or ionizing radiation. Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food before it gets to your local supermarket or restaurant must be certified, too.”

In order to be labeled “Organic” a product must contain 95% organic ingredients (not including water or salt which can not be labeled Organic). No added sulfites and no more then 5% of:

a. Non-organically produced agricultural ingredients which are not commercially available in organic form; and/or

b. other substances allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

To be labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients” (or similar) a product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (not including water or salt), no added sulfites and may contain up to 30% of:

a. non-organically produced agricultural ingredients; and/or

b. other substances, including yeast (this is mostly for wine production), allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

To claim your product has “Some Organic Ingredients” it can contain less the 70% of organic ingredients and 30% or more of

a. non-organically produced agricultural ingredients; and/or

b. other substances, including yeast (this is mostly for wine production), allowed by 7 CFR 205.605.

Information provided from the USDA and AMS:

Wild Harvested-
Is another term that does not have set regulations but tends to apply to any and all herbs, plants or barks harvested from plants that are growing wild. Very often these plants are raised naturally with out synthetics or chemicals, but only the quality of the source can prove this.

Fair Trade-
Is a movement based on treating people from other countries in a fair and equal manner by paying a fair and standard price for products.

Definition from PBS (www.pbs.com)-
“ A term used to describe a social-responsibility movement demanding that farmers receive fair prices for their products; also describes products that are produced by these farmers.”

Because this is a movement and not based on laws you must trust your supplier to make sure that ingredients are from true fair trade sources.

Is a term for a type of vegetarian who does not use or consume products that come from a animal source, this also includes byproducts such as gelatin (from cartilage and bone), beeswax, honey, wool, leather, dairy, and, in many cases, white sugar, which is processed using bone. Raw Sugar is ok as the process is done without bone.

Essential Oils-
Is the process of removing natural essence from plants, flowers, fruits, herbs, spices and some resin. The natural oils and scent are removed in several different processes. Some naturals like citrus can create large amounts of oils for use cheaply, others like rose take large amounts of flowers in order to create just a small portion of essential. This is why essential oil costs vary so much.

Essential oils are great for their natural aromatherapy, healing properties, clean fragrance and predictability for those with allergies and sensitivities.

The downside of Essentials is the cost of some oils and the limit to scents as not all naturals can be made into essentials. Certain oils also have allergens and side effects for some people such as diabetics and pregnant women.

Fragrance Oils-
Are synthetics created with man made ingredients to create a cheaper and more consistent product, in many scents that are unable to be made from naturals. The downside to Fragrance Oils is the lack of Aromatherapy and healing properties and allergies for some with sensitivities.

These are just some of the terms you might just see on the labels of your bath and body products. My next piece is going to be on Soap.

My new series!

Ok I decided that when talking to friends that so many people really don't understand why we use certain products in bath and body. I also see some confusion in the market about what does what. This series is going to discuss the traditional and modern ways some ingredients are used, how they come about and information about the effect of the ingredient on the worlds people and environment.

The posts will be from me as well as outside shops. I hope to get as close to everyday for these posts as I can, so please check them out, and if there is any ingredient you are curious about please let me know.

The first part of the series will be completely on what do the terms mean on your bath and body labels and what is soap.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Sometimes I swear I just walked on to the internet

Ok I think this shows my inexperience with Blogs, I never can figure out were the keys are to do stuff I want to do. I mean I am not stupid or new to the internet, heck I have even had blogs before, but admitedly I start them and they tend to dwindle in content rather quickly. I hate to say I think this blog has the most posts of any previous blog.

But back to the point, how the heck do I make some one my friend?? Will you be my friend and explain it too me??? No this is not a ploy to get you to visit me, I really hate to admit this in public as it is, but I can't figure this feature out!

But I am proud of my pretty links and pictures though:)

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Getting a few things tidyed up before I go

Yup this weekend we will be out of town celebrating our belated Valentine's Day weekend. Sadly between my car accident and getting sick we had to put everything off, then when Johnny found out about the big Food and Wine festival in Solvang we decided to go this weekend. I am very happy I love good wine and food.

So before the weekend I am trying to get some more jewelry made up and possibly some buckles. I also hope to get some of the listed as well, but we will have to see how that all works out hahaha!

I also plan on taking my cameras this weekend, Solvang is so pretty and we will be driving up the Santa Barbara coast which I just adore. I hope to be adding some more pictures here and on Etsy.

So keep an eye out for new goodies and I am now off to pack, Later!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Working on a few things

Wow there is so much going on! We have CyberIndustries up and running one Etsy and will be adding some new pieces over the next couple days. Some of the new pieces will be made of memory, scsi ports, hard drives and more. Most are pendants and bracelets but we have plans for earrings and belt buckles as well, in the very near future.

Our baby Fairycat proudly has 50 sales over at Etsy and we couldn't be happier! I have officially introduced our new Tat. Cream for healing and reviving tattoos, something I have been working on and testing for a while now. I might be biased but I have to say I love it! I also am listing our fabulous lip balms on line for a short time (we won't do online sales of it during to the summer due to the heat) so check them out now!

I have plans to do the Renaissance faire circuit again this year our third year and will have a co-show with CyberIndustries at Bat's Day Pre-Event again this year. We hope to see you guys out there. If you aren't in our area don't worry we still will keep our Etsy shop full so you won't miss out on any of the fun!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hello and Welcome!

Ok I decided that I am not up to hosting two seperate blogs so I hope you guys like to see both of my worlds!

First "fairycat", this is a business that I have been working with for some time, we do all natural bath and shower treats, with a special focus on those with sensitivities and allergies liek myself. This will be our third season doing small renaissance faires in Southern California as well as Bat's Day Pre-event.

CyberIndustries is also a name that came from a earlier project that my husband started some time ago. One Day my husband came out with a piece of old memory and after I looked at it I just realized that would make some great jewelry! I love having the chance to help the enviroment by recycling these old parts, instead of turning into trash they are turned into fun wearable art!

Thanks for checking us out!