It has been a busy month here making lots of soaps to stock up for a lot of markets coming up. I have only been attending one monthly market but I have booked in extra 'special' markets in the lead up to Christmas. As well as soaps I have made another large batch of lip balms - these were great sellers in the winter, and although I wasn't expecting them to move as fast at this time of year, I sold 12 as soon as I listed them! I really like the natural ingredients in these, a far cry from the cheap vaseliney type in supermarkets. I repeated my previous varieties of spearmint and lavender as they both were winners! I had thought of a citrus orange/mandarin lip balm as well, however some essential oils can react on the skin in sunlight, causing sensitivity, and that's the last thing we want so will leave the orange and mandarin for other uses :-)
I have intended to make another balm for a while now - a larger skin balm. I have many customers with eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, or just suffering from dry, itchy, easily irritated skin. They usually buy my Castile soap (plain olive oil) but some have asked for a skin cream or balm to use too. The choice was obvious to me - a simple calendula balm.
Calendula officinalis has amazing skin healing properties. It has been used for centuries for skin conditions, long before our modern pharmaceuticals and steroid creams. It has a much gentler anti-inflammatory action and works to soothe and regenerate skin cells. It is usually infused in oil or other liquid to extract the benefits from the petals (although I often include whole petals as well when I use in calendula soaps). To make a balm - or salve, or ointment - the infused oil is generally mixed with a melted wax to form a thicker, spreadable product when it sets. I used beeswax for mine as it also has skin nourishing properties which are perfect for this skin balm.
We have been using this recipe in our family since I made my first tin as a trial at the start of this year. Considering my children have had many scrapes and scratches, dry skin in winter and the occasional eczema breakout as well as dipping into it for dry knees and elbows, and a lip balm, I am surprised how little goes such a long way! We have used approx. half of our 100g pot in 9 months.
As with everything I make, the price I set for selling is based on my ingredient costs+packaging+(cheap!) labour. I had a look around at similar balms in health food stores and online and I was shocked how much they were and usually much smaller! I guess I am not paying shop rental costs and huge advertising/marketing costs, which helps me keep my prices down.
The Calendula Balm is for sale now on The Natural Soap Emporium facebook page for $12.50 for 100g tin, while stock lasts.... I think it could be a popular one!
Since making my 'trial' shampoo bars last month I have had lots of willing volunteers raise their hands to try them out, with very encouraging results! It is early days, but around 15 people have come back to me with very positive feedback.
All of the volunteers so far have been happy with the lathering and cleaning ability, the moisture level and the way it leaves their hair feeling and looking. Some have used their regular conditioner afterward, a couple tried the vinegar rinse and some have been surprised to find they didn't need anything at all following the shampoo bar wash. One lovely person who had been suffering skin reactions to chemical shampoos even wrote on my Facebook page:-
"Thank You Sooooo very much Lisa, 3 days in to using shampoo bar and olive oil soap and absolutely NO sign of dermatitis on my face for first time in what seems like forever. I'm officially hooked!!!" (Mel, NSW)
In fact there is only one person who wasn't 100% happy with the shampoo bar ..... ME! Now I must admit I am a pretty tough self-critic (!) and part of the reason for doing a free trial was to get as many opinions as I could, as I just couldn't understand why my hair didn't feel 'right' when everyone else in my family loved it. After much research it seems some people's hair takes more adjusting to than others, and they may have a period of their hair feeling very different to normal - I guess that's me! I must admit, it really didn't look any different to anyone else, it just didn't feel quite 'right' to me. I think this is probably due my previous heavy use of oil-stripping detergent type shampoos, followed by silicone-heavy conditioners, as well as the damage done by years of colouring..... like most new routines, it will take a little getting used to. But I will persevere! The benefit of not using chemical-laden detergents on my hair will be worth the time I need to get used to it.
Ultimately, I have enough positive feedback and encouragement from others that I WILL be addding shampoo bars to my range of natural soap products. I still welcome ongoing feedback of course, as I do with any of my products. The basic shampoo bar recipe will be unchanged for now, and I will add some gentle essential oils to lightly scent them, and they will be suitable for all hair types and vegan friendly. Full size bars will be ready and available for sale by the end of the month!