Wednesday, 29 April 2009


My nasal passages have been working overtime this week as I have raided the contents of my essential oil stash and made a few toiletries, mostly in preparation - research you understand - for Christmas. I know it's not even summer yet, but I am determined not only to be prepared, but also to make all my presents again this year. For boys and girls this time (boys presents are soooo difficult to hand make don't you think?)

First up, some bath salts. I have already given a salt scrub recipe on this blog, last summer, it was one of my most popular posts. There is a link over there (eyes left) which will take you to it. This time I thought i'd make just bath salts so that I can put them in pretty drawstring bags.

I used food grade sea salt, whizzed it up in the food processor just to make the grains a little smaller, and added a blend of essential oils which included lavender, vanilla, patchouli and geranium. It sounds an odd mix but it smells absolutely gorgeous!

Second, some more chocolate soap. I was disappointed with my last batch because it didn't smell so this time I added a lovely blend of vanilla, ylang and patchouli to scent the soap with and it smells very creamy and lovely mingled in with a faint chocolaty smell. As it cures over the next few weeks, the colour will intensify as a result of the vanilla extract in it and the smell will develop. I used an empty Pringles tin for the mould and am very pleased with the resulting round 'rolls' of soap.

Next on my soap project list is shaving soap in mugs. A bit like candles in cups (which I am also going to try).
I started studying aromatherapy and investigating the possibility of applying this to the production of my own creams and lotions a long time ago, before the internet existed and therefore at a time when quality ingredients were not easy to come by or readily available in small quantities. Armed with my first book on the subject by Tisserand, all I managed to come up with then were some rather greasy ointments which weren't much good to me and so I gave up and surrendered to a skin which was prone to allergic reactions and break outs. My interest in the subject never waned though and I continued to research herbal properties and collect books on the subject of home skincare preparations. With little or no practice and life getting in the way of life as it does, I got no further in practice until this week when a wonderful help was at hand as BillieJane who is an expert on skincare and ingredients, offered to show me how to make some really good lotions and potions using pure and natural quality oils, waxes and essences. We spent the morning making pineapple body butter, sandalwood moisturising lotion and a healing balm made from calendula oil and beeswax. Everything we made was better and more luxurious than anything you can buy in shops and much less expensive. It was a revelation! And so with huge thanks to Jane, my many books have been dusted down once again, now that I finally have time to get stuck into some proper experimentation.

If you think it sounds difficult, Jane also showed me a very simple way of making a nourishing balm from just two ingredients; shea butter and essential oil. All you do is use a spoon to mash a little pure shea butter with a few drops of essential oil. Good for patches of really dry skin and cuticles.

Beauty tip: Moisturising your cuticles with a rich oil or butter will help your fingernails grow strong and long. It works by nourishing the nail plate which is formed just under your cuticle, making it more flexible and therefore lessening the threat of dry splitty nails prone to breaking. If you don't have shea butter, you can use olive oil or almond oil. Do it while you watch the tv of an evening. Talking of things to watch ...

this book makes interesting and shocking reading!

There are many reasons why I don't buy or use commercial beauty products, save for essentials like shampoo which I get from Lush. I haven't for a very long time, infact since the days of "Cosmetics to Go" (does anyone remember them?). After using those products I could never quite get used to synthetic smells and textures and even though the original CtG soon morphed into Lush and B Never to Busy to be Beautiful, the products are different, harsher, stronger, not as nice, so I mostly went without and spent alot of time wondering just how much we actually 'need' all these so called beauty 'necessities' which apart from anything else, had sent my weekly shopping bill somewhere up into the stratosphere.

A splash of almond oil in the bath, scented with essential oils is much nicer and better for you than a slug of Radox which is nothing more than expensive Fairy Liquid and which, despite claims on the label of "moisturising" properties, will still have you reaching for the body lotion afterwards to replenish the natural oils which have been stripped out by the detergent! It's the same with shampoo and conditioner. A vicious circle where the need for one product is created by the use of another. I have a long held belief therefore, that most cosmetics are the result of cynical marketing plans and campaigns devised only to dupe the consumer into lining the pockets of large conglomerates, and in many cases despite UK law dictating otherwise, many of these products and ingredients are still tested on animals.

Now just when I thought there was no more room for a rant on this blog, one happens! I could write a whole essay on this, and infact did quite a few years ago. There is a link to it on the left.

So making my own preparations is a real treat for me. Not only do I get to use top quality ingredients, I can tailor them exactly to my own requirements and needs. There will be no waste, no unnecessary packaging, no weird ingredients, no adverse reactions, no bald rabbits, or blind kittens, and no false promises.

If you want to try some yourself, here is a list of helpful resources where you will find ingredients, recipes and inspiration. Thank goodness for the internet!

Aromantic - Ethically sourced supplies for lotions, balms, and glycerine soaps. A host of hints, tips and articles.
The Soap Kitchen - A range of raw materials for making soap, bath bombs, lotions and other potions, candles. Lots of recipes and advice.
Soap Centre - More bathtime recipes than you can shake a sponge at including bath salts, bath bombs, scrubs and bubbles
Soap Naturally - A UK online resource for all manner of natural skin care including soap. Lots of interesting links and articles to explore.
Aromatherapy Decoder - A useful tool if you want to experiment with different blends of essential oils. Similar to the one pictured at the top of this post.
BrambleBerry Soap Supplies - A US based website which sells everything you need to make soap and cosmetics, including mineral makeup
Soap and the Finer Things - The Brambleberry Soap blog.  Lots of tips and ideas.


Billie Jane said...

Hi Julia... glad you enjoyed making 'stuff'... I did too... :-) Great post!

Jo Power said...

Stop worrying about ranting we need more people who are willing to stand up for what they beleive in in this world.
I have just brought grow your own drugs book because me and my son suffer with dry itchy skin and can't use most beauty products just haven't been brave enough to give it a go but now I will. Thank you. xx

Fabric and Bags said...

Brilliant post and all the while I was reading I'm thinking where do we buy these ingredients from - and lo behold you provide us with all the resources too.

Wonderful, thank you

Anne x

Gina said...

Fabulous post Julia and very informative.

Wendy said...

Julia....great information again. I found your blog thru A Legacy of Stitches. I have injoyed reading all your posts. Keep them coming. Thanks

Anonymous said...

Very, beautifully interesting. The choco soap looks cute in that shape and the bath salts I'm sure smell just as great :)
The fact they come from natural sources is a thumbs up in my book.

Taz said...

Thanks for all the great links, didn't sound like a rant to me, more like a lot of very interesting information. ;)

I always struggle for handmade gifts for the males in my life too.

jennyflower said...

Good stuff girl! Will gets eczema when we bath him, so we don't! You wouldn't believe how many friends children I've 'cured' by telling them to just stop letting them have bubble bath!

dottycookie said...

Ooooh, fabulous links - thank you!

The Coffee Lady said...

this is fascinating! rant away - I'm listening...