On the curing rack this week - Lavender & Chamomile soaps .... smells dreamy!
Did you know that handmade soaps need to cure? Soap made using traditional methods (in this case cold process) need to cure for around 4 weeks minimum. This ensures the bar is mild and because water evaporates from it, the bars will last longer and not wash away quickly once you start using them. These are my latest bars made earlier this week and now in the soap room curing, they should be ready to buy and use end Sept.
And a little insight into my soapy world... this is the 'slab' of soap just before cutting!
I use a variety of soap moulds to make different shapes and sizes, this one was poured into a large lined bamboo tray. I wanted to make large bars that have a greater surface area so I could swoosh up the tops a little ('swoosh up' being one of those technical soapmakers terms!) and then sprinkle with lavender buds :-)
Once the soap is set (usually 24 hours after pouring) I hand cut each bar. This does mean that no two bars are exactly the same, but most people like that in handmade soap. After all, if you want perfectly uniform, mass produced soaps, there is always the supermarket aisle! I do however try to keep the bars a similar size and weight, so all buyers get a good deal. This size batch gave me 20 generously sized bars - on cutting they were approx 140g - 150g each, although this will drop slightly with the cure time and evaporation process. And I have the next few weeks of lavender and chamomile wafting through the air ... :-)
(... or - My quest to achieve the perfect shampoo bar!)Natural Shampoo Bars made for my trial
I have been asked a few times now whether I have any shampoo bars in my soap my range. This is something I have been interested in making for a while, both for my own use and hopefully to add to my range for sale.
Why use a Shampoo Bar?
It seems to me that for those us who choose to minimise the use of chemicals on our skin and in our bodies, it doesn't really make sense to then pour them on our heads and rub them in! And make no mistake, the average shampoo bottle is LOADED with toxic chemicals, just go and read the ingredients list, I would bet the majority of the ingredients you see are synthetic lab-made chemicals, many of which can have nasty side-effects.
Now imagine a shampoo as natural as your handmade soap - ingredients like olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, rosemary essential oil ..... ingredients you recognise, edible oils and concentrated plant extracts (and I'm not talking about those bottles that call themselves botanical but actually put in a token plant extract at no. 29 in the ingredient list after the un-pronouncables chemicals!)
Now be warned- there are a few 'solid shampoo' bars on the market from huge chains of soap places like... mmm... lets say it rhymes with Hush (!!) that still contain the same detergents found in bottled shampoo. The whole point, for me, is to move away from cheap foaming detergents like SLS and other chemicals, so I want to make them as natural as my body soaps.
Other reasons people use shampoo bars is for their convenience, less clutter when travelling or in the shower, and a lot less plastic going to landfill - zero in fact!
The Transition Period
Anyone who has used shampoo bars will know about the 'transition period' most people go through when detoxing from commercial shampoo and conditioner. Years of the same routine, frequent washing/ stripping hair of natural oils and replacing them with articificial silicones is going to take some adjusting to return hair to its natural healthy state. Often a diluted vinegar rinse is used to close the hair cuticle and neutralise ph, although this isn't always necessary. Apparently the transition period usually takes from 1 day to 2 weeks.
My Shampoo Bar Trial (initally known as 'The Weird Hair Days'!)
So... I have been experimenting with shampoo bars this past week. Of course, no animal testing here, all human testing only (and by that, of course, I mean me!) Just as one piece from every soap batch is tested before I sell it, so with the 'Great Shampoo Bar Experiment'. Yes, it's a tough job!
Now I will be the first to admit, my hair freaked out quite a bit for the first couple of days. Quite a lot actually! It felt thick and dull and oddly unclean, although admitedly it actually looked ok to the casual observer. No-one seemed horrifed at my 'new do' when I ventured outside. In fact, no one noticed any difference at all! I guess that shows how much I have become accustomed to the 'feel' of commercial products. And it is getting better.
I am currently at the end of my first week of the trial, with a breakthrough yesterday in a new bar I made. It is fairly rough and rustic looking, as I am looking to get the basics balanced first and this batch is just for my use. This bar has a very high percentage of castor oil, which provides a great lather and allows you to feel like you are giving your hair a good clean. Other oils are coconut for cleansing, olive and ricebran for moisturising, and sustainable palm for bar hardness and stability. I added a small amount of rosemary and lavender essential oils too. I have fairly oily hair normally, so this one is quite a cleansing bar. Once my hair is stabilised, I will probably look at adding shea butter for a more moisturising bar. I am hoping to ditch the daily hair wash too, at least to every 2nd day would be good.
I probably should add here that my husband has been using my normal range of natural soaps as a hair wash for about 7 months now. Nothing wrong with that at all, and his hair really looks great, but he has short hair, and let's face it - men are generally not so fussy when it comes to hair! My long, thick hair which has been coloured in the past is in need of a little more TLC, and so the quest continues for a great shampoo bar. :-)
I will report back here soon with my progress. If you have any experience of natural shampoo bars I'd love to hear it - the challenges and the outcomes! I really hope to have a good product I am happy to share within a couple of months.
Well hello! I am so happy to finally be here, up and running... well, almost! It has taken me quite some time to get this website together and so it feels like quite an achievement to finally hit that 'publish' button.
I am hoping that this blog will allow us to 'connect' a little more. Websites can often appear great and loaded with info and photos, but they can become a 'one-way street' with only information and a shop, and little feedback or few comments from customers or those browsing the site. In this age where social media is all around us, Facebook is a fantastic vehicle for instant chat and feedback, and while I really value Facebook for my business, I also want to be able to share insights with you right here on this blog, perhaps a story or two, you may even get to see work in progress occasionally! (and actually there are still some people out there who are not on Facebook!) I would love to hear back from you too- your questions or thoughts about handmade soap, natural skincare, feedback on my products, even what you would like to see more of or know more about ....
I do still have some updates and tweaking to do to get my website fully operational. I need to figure out how to load my shop without allowing you to buy an infinite number of soaps for example :-) And no doubt I will fine tune things along the way.
But for now, thank you for stopping by, taking the time to read my ramblings, and I hope you will stick around to be part of this journey. Two-way streets are far more interesting, don't you think?