I LOVE comments, so please, if you have an opinion or would like to ask a question, do so. But do check back as I shall answer any questions in the comments of the relevant post - that way, everyone can benefit from everybody's knowledge and advice.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Hair Wash -

 To wash or not to Wash - The Natural approach to Haircare.

We all have to use a hair wash of some kind right? Or do we? I had suffered with an itchy scalp ever since I could remember. I had always had flakes fall onto my shoulders and I could never wear black tops. I had great difficulty in finding a shampoo or hair wash preparation that would fix this problem without causing me more problems. Gradually over the years I noticed that my hair was thinning and every day I would have to remove stray broken hair strands from my pillow.

I think I let the situation go on so long because everyone agreed that as you get older your hair gets thinner. This is true but it shouldn’t start to happen at age 40. Although we are all individuals and everyone is different, if you are in good health your hair should not start to show age related thinning until you are at least 60 +.

Because I had always used a hair wash for dry hair and also special conditioning treatments I had every reason to believe that what was happening to my hair was the normal degeneration that comes with age. Eventually I had to face facts I was losing the battle to keep up with the latest style, not only did my hair not look good, but my scalp was driving me mad with itching. Finally I snapped. I used to dream of being brave enough to shave my head and start again. Of course I didn’t shave my head. I’m truly not that brave. But I stopped washing it!

Yup! A whole 11 months of not washing my hair. And no, it did not smell - well not after the first 6 or 8 weeks. That's the difficult part. I am not suggesting that everyone would want to be as radical as this, but if you truly cannot find a shampoo to suit and you continue to have an accumulation of hair problems - then you may benefit from simply not washing your hair with any kind of shampoo or soap as I did.
That does not mean to say that I did nothing at all. I used a simple herbal hair washe made at home with herbs and flowers from the garden and the addition of some appropriate essential oils.

Non soap or Shampoo Hair Wash

IngredientsA large handful of fresh Rosemary
Two or three drops of an essential oils blend of your choice (optional)
1 litre fresh spring water. Use bottled water for this if you live in an area with harsh water.
2 tablespoons cider or apple vinegar.
Place the rosemary into the spring water and bring to the boil. As soon as it starts to boil turn off the heat and put a lid on the pot. Leave it to cool to hand hot temperature. Strain the rosemary water mixture into a large jug and add the essential oil if you are using it. Add the vinegar (if you do not have cider or apple vinegar then do use whichever vinegar you have to hand... it's not that important).

How to use
Brush your hair really well for about five minutes with a good natural bristle brush. See the grooming posts for more information about brushing your hair properly.

Place a large bowl in the bath and lean over so that your head is directly above it. Pass the hair wash mixture through your hair so that it falls into the bowl beneath. Rub the scalp vigorously to dislodge any scurf and transfer the mixture collected in the bowl to the jug and repeat the process about two or three times. Dry the hair with a towel and then allow to air dry. Comb with a wide toothed comb when wet. Don't worry about the smell of the vinegar it soon goes away.

To Vary For blond hair or light coloured hair, try using chamomile flowers - or a chamomile tea - in the wash instead of rosemary.

Use this hair wash once or twice a week instead of shampoo or soap. Initially, it is best to try and avoid using heat on your hair, at least until it is healthier and stronger.


I say this often, but it needs repeating, would you throw a real silk blouse into the washing machine on a very hot wash? NO you would not, so why treat your hair to very hot water and lots of rubbing and squeezing and squashing?  Be gentle!!

If you feel you absolutely MUST use a shampoo then try to find a very mild one and use only a pea sized amount on your scalp. Do not worry about washing the hair shaft with the shampoo... as you rinse your scalp the detergent will latch onto the dirt as it flows down the hair shaft. So concentrate on cleaning the scalp only.  Since the scalp is naturally slightly acidic finish with a vinegar and water rinse (just like the hair wash above but you can leave out the rosemary and essential oils if you wish) which will help flush out any remaining detergent.

The real key here is to shampoo your hair only when it is absolutely essential and to use only the smallest possible amount of shampoo at a time. As a rule of thumb once a week is plenty often enough for using shampoo and even better if you can stretch it out to once a fortnight. Try using the hair wash in between times if you feel you need to.

 How to wash your hair. If your hair is short this is fairly simple, long hair is a little more complicated. It is important to first comb the hair with a wide toothed comb to make sure that it is free from tangles. You can now use a hair brush to give the hair a really good brushing and to stimulate the scalp. Wet the hair with water at room temperature. Never have the water really hot. Your hair is as delicate as a pure silk shirt…  Do not flick your hair around as you wet it, you will only tangle it. Once it is wet apply a small amount of shampoo (or soap) to the scalp and massage it well using the balls of your fingers. Do not scrape with nails. It is not necessary to create loads of foam you are only cleansing the scalp remember. Once you have given the scalp a good massaging with the shampoo, rinse with tepid water. The shampoo detergent will naturally course down your hair removing any vestige of dust or dirt adhering to the shaft of the hair. If you feel you need to repeat the process because of excess grease then do so, but repeat it in exactly the same way… even less shampoo this time since it has already cleaned most of the dirt with the first wash.

It is a good idea not to use a preparatory conditioner to start with, at least until you see what proper washing of the hair achieves. After well rinsing you need to use a towel to dry the worst of the water from your hair. If you have short hair this is fairly straightforward. With long hair, press the hair gently between two sides of towelling to remove excess drips. Do not rough up the hair as you will just tangle it and if it is weak it will break. Now you need to use the wide toothed comb once again working from the bottom to the top to remove any tangles that have occurred during the hair wash procedure.

Ideally the hair should be left to air dry as too much heat simply encourages the hair to dry out become brittle and break. If you must use a hairdryer then try it on a cool heat setting and blow it one way only so that you are not encouraging tangles. Dry the roots and the main body of the hair but try to avoid blow drying the ends.

Do not feel that you have no alternative to shampoo. You could try using a natural soap shampoo bar.


A natural soap can be a wonderful change from using a detergent based shampoo. Choose a soap that has plenty of rich oils included, preferably a soap bar especially formulated for use as a shampoo. My favourite is a super fatted soap rich in Shea butter and Castor oil. The super fatting means that there is excess oils in the soap that will be released onto the hair or skin when you use it. If your hair is naturally very oily this may not be the best hair wash solution for you but it works a treat on dry hair. A shampoo bar can leave the hair feeling thicker and rougher with less shine - depending upon your hair's natural shine ability. But over time it certainly improves the quality and strength of your hair because it is not stripping the natural oils from your scalp. It won't give you the lustrous finish that many commercial shampoos do because it does not contain any chemicals to coat the hair shaft.
Most of us feel we have to wash our hair because it is dirty, this is not usually the case. It is the scalp that is prone to become dirty not the hair and even then it is never as dirty as we imagine it to be. If hair is brushed well and regularly it is unlikely to retain much dirt or dust. So we need to find a way to wash the scalp regularly but leave the hair longer between washes. This is actually easier than it sounds. One way is to part the hair and rub the parting with a flannel which has been soaped lightly. If you keep parting the hair at regular intervals and cleaning the scalp giving the whole head a final rinse when you are finished you will find that a full shampoo is not necessary.

To try and cut down on how much detergents you use in your hair, you will need to rely on careful and considered grooming, along with a realisation and understanding of your hair's natural state. A good hair cut that takes this into consideration can go a long way towards helping you keep your hair healthy.

Rhassoul Mud

If you are happy to try a hair wash experience without any bubbles at all you might want to use Rhassoul mud. Rhassoul comes from Morocco and has been used for many generations as a hair wash and skin cleanser. It is simply a matter of wetting the mud pieces (or granules) allowing them to swell and then massaging onto a damp scalp. The mud can then be rinsed out or left for a few minutes to work in the same way as a face pack. I found that it wasn’t necessary to leave it more than a few seconds on my hair for it to do the job well and unlike many other clay formulations it rinses very easily from the hair. Both natural soap and Rhassoul have what is commonly known as the ‘Big Hair Affect’. Leaving the hair feeling and looking much thicker than usual. But like soap it leaves the hair looking a little dull.  It is worthwhile experimenting with all of the above to find out what works for you.  And once your hair is healthy and strong there is no reason why you can't return to using the occasional bought chemical product for that special look.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Damaged Hair and What to do about it!

What causes Damaged Hair? Well, usually, we do. Poor diet is a major factor in unhealthy hair as well as incorrect brushing, (see the Grooming posts) combing, washing, styling, sun, sea, swimming pools, not to mention shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, straighteners, perms, gels, waxes and hairsprays all have a big part to play in the daily damage done to our hair. Yep, pretty much everything damages our hair.

Split ends, flakey scalp, dull and lifeless hair and excess hair loss at a young age may all be attributed to your lifestyle choices.

There are treatments that you can use to help repair and heal badly damaged hair but none of them work with only one application and many of them contain a cocktail of chemicals that add to long-term damage. In short, if you continue to inflict daily damage on your hair you are never going to get the upper hand. Therefore it is important to re-learn the basics about hair care and begin a routine to correct the damage already done, or shave your head and start again! If it seems that I am assuming that everyone has damaged hair I apologise. I know that there are women out there who do have beautiful, strong, healthy hair but I am sad to say they are in the minority and they can, of course, simply skip this post.

The Most Common Causes of Lifeless Hair

A poor diet or unhealthy lifestyle will show up as damaged hair. Other factors include, stress, hormone fluctuations, tiredness and the weather. With all of these factors conspiring to give us bad hair days s it any wonder we get overwrought about our hair?!
First and foremost it is important to step back and view the situation objectively. We all of us are envious of someone else’s hair. Few of us are happy with what nature has given us and most of us are disappointed after trying the numerous remedies that adorn the shelves of supermarket and chemist.
Stop yourself before you buy your next hair product. Look at it and ask yourself, am I buying this because I believe the girl in the advert? Am I buying this because the picture shows a beautiful person with unbelievable hair? If there is even a moment's hesitation... then perhaps it’s a good idea to just put it back on the shelf and think about it rationally before spending your money.

Healthy hair under the microscope shows that it is coated with a layer of scales that fit smoothly one slightly overlapping the other. With damaged hair these scales can become rough and raised slightly from the shaft of the hair. This kind of damage can be caused by chemicals in hair products or simply rough handling with comb or brush. If the hair is weakened by the use of chemicals then even using hair clips or ties can cause breakages and lasting damage. When enough individual hairs have been damaged in this way the overall condition of the hair looks very bad. The gland at the base of the hair secretes a special oil designed to lubricate the hair shaft and keep these scales smooth and damage free.

Unfortunately hair wash products (shampoos, which are usually made from mild detergent) will often strip all of the oil from the scalp so cleanly that the hair is starved of its natural lubricant, dries out and breaks. The scalp will then overproduce oil in order to rectify the situation giving you an oily scalp that feels greasy and unclean. You reach for the shampoo designed for greasy hair and the vicious circle begins again.

It is almost worse for those who suffer from dry hair. The hair never seems to have enough oil on it, it never appears shiny or glossy and so products that promise shine by coating the hair with silicon are used. Unfortunately these products are really only short term solutions, since the coating on your hair actually starves the hair shaft of the nutrients that it craves and causes it to further dry out. Ultimately, over time, the hair gets worse not better.

So what do I do first?

The first thing you do is read the Grooming posts. You can begin your new grooming regime right away. Incorrect grooming is often the primary cause of damaged hair. The second thing you do is read the Hair Wash post (coming next) - after this you will be able to make an informed decision about which kind of hair cleaning system you need to use.
As well as reading these posts... YOU WILL NEED PATIENCE. Fixing unhealthy hair takes time - time to improve your diet and to refine your hair care regime. At least 6 weeks of your new healthy hair care lifestyle is required before you can say definitely whether something is working or not. This is NOT A QUICK FIX. In nature there are really no quick fixes.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Good Grooming includes Styling the Hair

As part of your grooming routine you will no doubt wish to style your hair. It is best not to use heat. Of course on occasion it is important to look your best but heat is damaging to the hair and should be used sparingly, if at all. If blow-drying is absolutely necessary, try to only dry the roots and the body of the hair with the heat, leaving if possible the ends to dry naturally.

If your hair is long and you intend to use bands or clips to tie it up always look for the smoothest clips you can find. Any protruding edges or roughness will snag on the hair and can break it. Bands should be smooth and even and should never be tied tightly on the hair. You will find that healthy hair becomes very strong and can stand the abuse that a special day brings, a wedding or a grand function for example, but should not be over taxed by such rigours every day.

I have seen adverts on the tv for shampoo and conditioner that suggested that a lot of hair breakage is due to brushing. This is misleading. If your hair is healthy and you are brushing it correctly (i.e. removing tangles by combing first) then there is no reason at all that your hair would break just from brushing it. Damaged hair of course is something else. Good grooming is a little time consuming and often these rumours are circulated simply to make you feel better about skimping on your routine.
Before going to bed plait long hair loosely and tie it with a covered elastic. During the night we are prone to a lot of movement and weak hair breaks easily. Those who awake in the morning to a pillow covered with broken hair will know what I mean. Those people who have short hair but still find an excessive amount of broken hair on their pillow should sleep in a cotton night cap. This is not an item that can be bought easily nowadays but in the past ladies often went to bed with their hair in a cotton cap to protect it from breakage. If you have any sewing ability at all you can use a shower cap as a template and fashion a cotton equivalent that will do the job – I didn’t say it would be flattering so I offer an alternative, albeit more expensive – change your pillow cases to satin or silk.

I can imagine that many of my readers are laughing now. How far you take this is of course up to you...But perhaps you are beginning to see what good grooming actually means.  It is taking the time and CARE over your hair.  Lets go back to my cats here, they take a great deal of time over their grooming routine, apart from eating and sleeping it is the most important thing they do on a daily basis.  Modern products offer us convenience and speed but it is perhaps time to balance this with a little tlc .  If you are too busy to spend five or ten minutes on your hair every day then you may just have to accept whatever hair problems you have - although you could be one of those very annoying people who just simply have great hair no matter how much you neglect it!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Understanding how your hair works and what it needs.

This might be the science bit but I promise it's short and not too scientific!

The hair root grows out of a kind of bag beneath the skin. The hair strand grows about 0.35mm per day, making an average growth rate of 1cm, or half of an inch, per month. But this will vary depending upon who you are, hereditary factors as well as your diet and general health.

Healthy hair has an average lifetime of between two and six years. During the lifetime of the hair it continues to grow until it reaches the limit of its natural lifespan and then after a short rest period the hair will die and fall out. A new hair will begin to grow from the same bag almost immediately. The lifetime of your hair is determined by many factors, some hereditary, some related to your health and also your current circumstances. The lifetime of your hair will determine the maximum length of hair you can have.

Waist length hair takes about 6 years to grow out from a short hair cut. If your hair has an average life cycle of 2 years before falling out it is clear that you will never be able to grow waist length hair. There you have it folks... time to think about how quickly your hair grows and perhaps put those dreams of Lady Godiva hair behind you.

If you are very happy with what nature has given you as a starting point then you are very lucky and all you have to do is to leave well alone or perhaps just spend extra time on grooming. This I believe would be the ideal. You see nature has designed the perfect hair for each of us… and we were born with it… or it grew very soon after! Why is it that most mother’s while applying all sorts of artifice to change their own hair will rarely if ever use such things on their young children? Because your mother knows that your natural hair really is lovely and it is perfect for your face and your personality. It is what suits you best… I don’t care what is in fashion at the time, your natural hair type, colour and texture is the best you will ever have… every chemical, strong detergent or unnatural solution you apply to alter that may give you a temporary change but ultimately will affect your natural condition, usually for the worse.

While we are young many of us can use lots of chemical products and rough treatments on our hair which can be recovered from with little or no lasting damage. As we get older, or if we become unwell, recovering becomes harder and the damage to your hair may be permanent.

A Hairbrush is the key to good Grooming.

Choose your grooming implements with care and do not skimp on cost as far as these are concerned. A good quality brush and comb will last you for years. A wide toothed comb is important for combing out tangles, especially when hair is wet, choose one that is perfectly smooth with no seams or rough edges upon which your hair can catch. If your hair is long or especially thick you will not need any other comb but if you have short or fine hair then choose a smaller toothed comb for fine styling. The comb can be made of anything at all, the most important thing is that it is very very smooth.
Choosing a brush for good grooming is not as simple as it sounds. I know that there are many modern fibres that may make the use of natural bristles redundant but I have yet to find a synthetic brush that did as good a job as the well made natural bristle brush. Most natural bristle fibres are made from pig hair. Many people would prefer not to use a brush containing pig hair. In my opinion there is no synthetic substance to match and until one is invented I am happy to use the natural fibres. In an ideal world it would have come from an organic pig and perhaps one day that will be the norm – that would certainly make a big difference to the conscience side of things but until then… we are stuck with what we have.

Never brush wet hair. Wet hair stretches very easily and although healthy hair can stand a certain amount of this, damaged hair will simply break. Begin your morning hair grooming routine by combing the hair with a wide toothed comb. If your hair is long start at the end holding the hair with your free hand so as not to pull it excessively when tangles are encountered. Slowly work your way upwards towards the scalp. When you have combed the hair thoroughly take up your brush and begin at the scalp with long sweeping strokes. Think about the process as you brush, you are lifting sebum from the scalp and transporting it down the length of the hair. If your hair is very long it is likely that the ends will always be more dry than the roots as the sebum runs out before you get the brush right to the end of the hair. But even if your hair is short it is still a good idea to do the full brushing routine. Brush your hair for a good 5 minutes at least.

The old tale of 100 strokes with the hairbrush is a good one – though it isn’t necessary to count the strokes, about 5 full minutes will do it. Don’t worry about static electricity this can be easily sorted by passing your free hand along the length of your hair behind the brush.

Many modern shampoos and conditioners actually cause static in your hair and a natural bristle brush goes along way to dissipating any static build up. You should not make static the reason why you cannot follow a good grooming routine. It can be very pleasant to brush your hair thoroughly, not only does it improve the health of your hair, it massages and stimulates the scalp too. And it’s a great deal cheaper than paying for an Indian head massage. (and even better if you can get someone to brush it for you!)

If you have long hair that is not tied up during the day it may be necessary to groom again at lunch time or early evening.
If your hair is excessively dry you may wish to try a little natural conditioner at this point. The best natural conditioner is of course the scalps own sebum but sometimes a little help is required.

Jojoba oil does this very well but does not suit everyone. Coconut oil is another good choice, but in reality any vegetable oil (olive, sunflower, sweet almond) will do provided you are happy with its natural aroma. A few drops applied at regular intervals throughout the day can be very beneficial. It is important not to overload the hair. If your hair is short sprinkle a few drops of oil onto the palms of your hand and then rub them together. Massage your hands over your hair (avoid direct massage onto the scalp, try to concentrate on the hair only). It is immediately obvious when you have overdone it as the hair becomes lank and dull. If your hair is excessively dry and/or very wiry or curly, you can repeat this process until you get the desired effect.

If your hair is long then begin applying the oil to the bottom and driest portion of the hair first. Work your way up the hair shaft towards the scalp, again it is important not to overload the hair with oil. A little oil applied at regular intervals will work much better than a lot applied all in one go.

If you are using a natural moisturiser on your face in the morning and you find that you have slightly greasey fingers afterwards, simply massge in the excess onto your dry ends - it works just as well as applying neat oil.

In the next post I will talk about styling your hair naturally - and then we will tackle the subject of hair dye.  Including full instructions for using henna and other natural hair dyes.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Take the Tears out of Hair Care

Next to the appearance of our skin our haircare routine is likely to cause more tears during a lifetime than anything else! A natural approach usually advocates simply living with those 'bad hair days'. There is a solution... but it does require a little re-thinking your approach to your hair, but with better understanding you can improve the health and appearance of your hair enormously.

When I was younger it was a bit unrealistic to walk into the hairdressers and point at a photograph of some gorgeous model and say  "I want my hair like that please".  But nowadays you can buy products that will do just about anything you want, from curling straight hair, straightening curled hair and de-frizzng the fuzzy, not to mention the hair dyes!! The world of wonderful hair would seem to be truly at your fingertips. But at a price... alas for some... it is very costly! Natural hair care is the hardest to get right and since your hair is often one of the first things people judge you on, important to get it right.

The most searched for words associated with hair care are 'split ends' or 'dull and lifeless hair'. Along with Bad Hair Day. Alot of the modern products we use to try and cure these problems will ultimately only add to them. Natural hair care isn't just about looking good, it's about the health of your hair and when you have healthy hair, looking good is often achieved so much more easily.

Natural Hair Care Begins with Grooming.

Grooming could be all you need to bring the natural beauty out of your hair. If we assume you are in good health, eat and drink healthily and are still wondering how to bring the life back into your hair then you should consider this.

I have three cats and each one of them has a different type of fur. They are all common Moggies, no pedigrees here, and they all spend a great deal of time on grooming, but each one has fur that feels different to the touch. One especially has the most gorgeous silky coat while another one has a rougher type of fur that although equally soft is not as silky to the touch. The third has silky fur but not as thick or as long as the first one. These differences are the result of the genes that they have inherited from their parents and the natural predisposition of each cat. In particular the cat with the rougher fur is arguably the most handsome of my cats with a very aristocratic almost Siamese shaped face but his fur is undeniably not as pleasant to stroke as the smallest and most silky of my feline friends. No matter how long he spends on grooming his fur he is never going to have the same silky coat as Molly.

So it is with each of us. Some of you will have hair that is naturally shiny, soft and glossy, others will have hair that grows wiry and thick, thin and flyaway or coarse and heavy.

Some people have naturally weak hair no matter what they do, others seem able to mistreat their hair regularly with little damage done.

This is down to your genes and you need to accept this (no amount of grooming will change your hair type) and look for the positive in whatever nature has has given you. I do not mean that you cannot improve on what you have to start with… but just in the same way that you cannot be someone you are not… there will inevitably be some hair types and styles that you can never achieve.

Over the next few days I will be posting more about how to care for your hair naturally, including recipes that may work for you.  I know a few of my readers may be thinking 'where's the soap stuff?  This is after all supposed to be the Soap Teacher'.  Yes there will be more soap stuff coming, eventually.  I just need to get a lot of this stuff online first and then we shall be concentrating on recipes rather than the theory behind it all.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Cleopatra's Goat Milk Bath

Bathing in Goat Milk

How decadent is that? Give yourself the Cleopatra experience by mixing up your very own goat milk powder for the bath. It's easy and it helps with enumerable skin ailments. Excema is most definitely eased by gentle regular bathing in goat milk - you might like to try drinking the goat milk too if you suffer particularly badly with this. A goat milk natural soap is also a good idea, if you don't want to make your own natural soap there are a number of small hand made soap companies who specialise in goat milk products.

The fat content of goat milk is particularly high and adding it to your bath is very good for improving the texture and condition of dry or mature skin. Although it is easier kept in it's dry form you could simply pour fresh milk into the bath. Add a couple of drops of an appropriate essential oil and off you go! But you can improve on that quite a bit.

Luxury Bath Milk

Ingredients100grams Goat Milk Powder
50grams Epsom Salts
100grams Sodium Bicarbonate
2ml in total Essential Oils (or blends) of your choice. 

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl and mix very well with a wire whisk or spoon. The better you mix the better the end product will be. In fact, mix some more, you really can't mix enough. Once you feel that the essential oils have been well encorporated pop the mixture into a clean, dry apothecary jar or suitable container.

Leave it for 24 hours to let the essential oils settle and then use a couple of tablespoonfuls per normal size bath. After soaking in the bath for at least 15 minutes your skin will feel beautifully baby soft and supple.

Of all my bath powder recipes this is the one that got me the most compliments from friends and relatives... and it's so easy to do!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Bath Oils with Dispersant

Using A Dispersant with your Bath Oil

A dispersant? What is that? Well, you know when you buy a bath oil and it looks milky when you pour it into the bath and feels soft on your skin but not greasy in quite the same way as oil alone. That is because a dispersant or emulsifier has been added to the bath oil.

These emulsifiers are not 'natural straight off the tree' ingredients. They are also not natures own emulsifier - bees wax. They have been synthesised in the laboratory and can include natural ingredients but are not generally thought of as 'natural'.

As such, they tend to find favour with those people who are not so strict about using all-natural ingredients, but if they are a step too far for you, then simply stick to the bath oil recipes in my previous posts.

The dispersant that I am using here is not the only one available. There are others, suppliers are usually only too happy to recommend usage levels for their products, so you can substitute another brand - usually with successful results.

The dispersant (liquid emulsifier) that I am going to use is called Polysorbate 80. It is not a totally natural ingredient. It's constituents are sorbitol, ethylene oxide & oleic acid (polyoxyethylene-20 sorbitan monooleate). Only the oleic acid is derived from vegetable oil.
Now don't be frightened by the chemical names... everything in nature has a chemical name... after all if I said it was oleic acid you would wonder what on earth that was wouldn't you? Oleic acid is a constituent of some vegetable oils.  Do not assume that because it contains synthetic ingredients, they are bad for you... similarly you shouldn't assume that all natural ingredients are good for you.  I do intend to do a post at some stage about the most commonly found cosmetic ingredients and how they fall into the natural or not category... but you will have to bear with me... these things take time!

The dispersant (polysorbate 80) helps the oil to combine with the bath water. It 'disperses' the oil  evenly through the water which helps it to reach all the parts of your body. The water looks milky and when you come out of the bath and pat your skin dry you do get the lovely soft feel of the oil but you don't get the heavy or tacky drag of neat oil on your skin.

The choice to use this ingredient is, I suppose down to where you personally draw the line.

Rose Geranium & Melissa Dispersant Bath Oil

Ingredients200 ml Avocado Oil
10ml Polysorbate 80 (you may need to Google for a supplier
near you)
1ml Vitamin E
3ml Rose Geranium Essential Oil
2ml Melissa Essential Oil

In a clean sterilised glass container mix together the avocado oil and the polysorbate 80. The polysorbate 80 does not dissolve into the oil so it needs to be very well mixed through - even though you may not see it because it is the same colour as your oil. Next add the essential oils and again mix very thoroughly. The trick to successful outcomes is always in the mixing. Finally add the vitamin E. You may find using a disposable syringe for the vitamin e a good idea as often it is very gloopy and can be difficult to measure. I use disposable syringes for measuring nearly all my small ingredients by volume... of course if you are measuring by weight... you need a very accurate small set of scales... try jewelry scales... they work really well.  Plastic disposable syringes are available online from some pharmaceutical companies.

Decant the mixture into a nice bottle and label it carefully, let it rest for 24 hours before using for the first time. To use: give it a shake (just in case any of the mixture has separated... remember you may not be able to see the polysorbate because it is the same colour as the oil, before pouring a couple of teasponfuls into an average size bath. Get in and enjoy! Provided you do not get any water into the bath oil bottle you should not need to use a preservative in this mixture.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Bath Oils

Make your own Luxury Bath Oil

Making your own bath oil is easy. Very easy. At it's most basic, a bath oil is simply a small quantity of oil poured into your bath. Done!
Yes, I know, as soon as you get in, all the oil sticks to the edge of the bath and stays there! Well we can do something about that... but lets keep it basic for the moment and then move on from there.

If you have chronic dry skin, there is nothing more wonderful than an oily bath. The combination of the warm water and the oil is amazing. If you keep massaging the oily water over your skin while in the bath, when you step out (carefully of course because the bath is slippery) your skin glistens. It's lovely! And it's so simple.

And don't think that you need to spend a lot of money on special oils. Sunflower oil from the cooking oils section of the supermarket will work perfectly well and so will rapeseed. Add a little lavender essential oil to it and you have a product as good as any you can buy. It really can be as simple as that.

Lets take the simple oil one step further. What if you want to infuse a medicinal herb in the oil first? Yep you can do that. Make sure that you know exactly which herb you are going to use and remember that it is important to correctly identify the herb since mother nature gives us nasty stuff as well as nice. Directions for macerating herbs in oil will be find in my previous posts under the herbs label.

If you choose an aromatic herb or flower to macerate you will get some scent in your bath oil too. But it is usually very delicate - which is fine but if you want a little more of an impact then combine your macerated oil with a complimentary essential oil blend. It is very important to make sure that you dry the herb or flower prior to macerating. Otherwise the water content in the plant ends up in your bath oil where it can start to breed germs and bacteria. Not good.

Here are a couple of basic bath oil recipes to get you started:

Rose Geranium & Ylang Ylang
250ml Sunflower Oil
3ml Rose Geranium Essential Oil
2ml Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

One pretty bottle (can be recycled if you wash well and sterilise first - either boiling for 5 minutes or use Milton baby sterilising tablets. Make sure it is perfectly dry before decanting the oil.

In a clean glass jug or bowl mix the oil and essential oils together. Pour into a clean bottle and label. Leave for at least 24 hours before using. A teaspoonful or two is enough for an average sized bath. Don't forget to clean the bath really well when you are finished as essential oils (in any product, not just this one) can discolour your bath over time.

To Vary
Choose a different blend of essential oils. There are suggestions for essential oil blends here in some of my previous posts.

Grapefruit and Lavender Bath Oil

250 ml Sweet Almond Oil
2 ml Grapefruit Essential Oil
3 ml Lavender Essential Oil

One pretty bottle (can be recycled if you wash well and sterilise first - either boiling for 5 minutes or use Milton baby sterilising tablets. Make sure it is perfectly dry before decanting the oil)

In a clean glass jug or bowl mix the oil and essential oils together. Pour into a clean bottle and label. Leave for at least 24 hours before using. A teaspoonful or two is enough for an average sized bath. Don't forget to clean the bath really well when you are finished as essential oils (in any product, not just this one) can discolour your bath over time.  Decorate your bottle with a spray of lavender tied with raffia and you have a wonderfully unique gift.

To Vary
Choose a different blend of essential oils. Choose a different vegetable oil.

Next Post:  Using a dispersant to blend your bath oil - no more oil stuck to the sides of the bath.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Shea Butter for the Bath

Shea Butter Bath Soak for Dry Skin

This is truly the height of luxury and extravagance as well as being the most glorious gourmet feast for dry, parched skin!
100g Organic Shea Butter (the shea butter should be a pale cream to white colour and smell slightly nutty as well as being pliable or crumbly in texture)

250g Sea Salt Flakes (if you can only buy the salt in large chunks then you will need to whizz it for a while in a food processor or liquidiser in order to grind it a little finer)

5ml Rose Otto Essential Oil

1 tsp of dried rose petals ground to a powder (combine them with the sea salt in the food processor or use a pestle and morter to get the petals as fine as possible). This is optional

Using a metal spoon begin by creaming the shea butter in a bowl until it is very creamy in texture. Add the salt a little at a time along with the rose otto essential oil. Continue to cream it together until all of the salt and shea butter are combined. Decant into a jar and allow to rest for at least 24 hours before use. Don't forget to include the ingredients on the label along with instructions for use. i.e.  Crumble a teaspoon or two under a running tap into a normal size bath of warm water. Soak for at least 15 minutes and then pat the skin dry. Be careful on exiting the bath as the shea butter could make it slippery.

To Vary  Any type of salt or combination of salts could be used and any essential oil or blend of essential oil. For suggestions of blends of essential oils go to the Aromatherapy and related pages.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Detox Bath Salts

The detoxifying effect of epsom salts is truly amazing - although to work really well you need to use very large quantities of epsom salt (and this should not be done if you suffer from high blood pressure), even a small amount used regularly seems to have a cumulative effect.
500g Epsom Salts
zest of one unwaxed lemon (optional)
5ml Rose Geranium essential oil
5ml Lemon essential oil
1 tsp of Calendula petals (Pot Marigold petals) (optional)

Mix the zest of the lemon into the epsom salts in a glass or china bowl. Add the calendula petals if you are using these. Combine the essential oils and mix with a wire whisk into the salt. Mix really well - the art of good bath salt making is in the mixing.

Decant the salts into a jar or container and decorate and label. Don't forget to put the ingredients on the label and the directions for use: 1 tablespoon of salts poured under running water in an average size bath is sufficient.

To Vary
10ml of Vegetable oil or Liquid Glycerine can be added to this recipe. It makes the salts slightly sticky and less free-flowing but don't let that put you off. If you have dry skin choose a suitable oil from the skincare oils post and allow the salts to dry on greaseproof paper for 24 hours before putting them into the jar.   Or

Use the zest of an orange and combine with sweet orange essential oil.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Bath Salts as Gifts

Whichever type of salts you decide to use as your base ingredient for your bath salts recipe - this has got to be the easiest and most effective homemade beauty recipe on this website! All you need is a fancy jar to put them in and a little ribbon or lace and you have a delightfully aromatic gift. Don't know what to give your child's teacher at the end of term? Well look no further...

Basic Lavender Bath Salts

Ingredients200g Coarse Sea Salt
200g Epsom Salts
100g Dead Sea Salt
5ml liquid Glycerine (optional)
10ml Lavender Essential Oil

Combine the salts together in a glass or china bowl or jug. Do not use plastic bowls or spoons since the essential oils can discolour these. (And always remember to clean the bath thoroughly after using the salts since prolonged use of essential oils can discolour your bath too!)

Sprinkle on the lavender essential oil and liquid glycerine if using. With a wire whisk carefully mix the ingredients until everything is well combined. Mix really well. The better you mix the better the end product. If you have used liquid glycerine the salts mixture may feel a bit wet or sticky. If so, you can dry them by spreading them onto greaseproof paper and leave for 24 hours.

Pack the salts into a fancy apothecary jar or container and label it. Include ingredients on your label in case the person you are giving them to is allergic to anything and directions for use. i.e. A tablespoon of scented bath salts poured under running water is plenty for an average bath.

A single sprig of fresh lavender can be inserted into the jar for decoration. I tend not to include actual lavender buds in any of my recipes since they do not look nice once they are floating on the top of the bathwater, however if you like this sort of thing, remember less is better... you don't want it to look like a swarm of ants in your bath!

Leave the salts in the jar for at least 24 hours to allow the essential oil to settle down before using in the bath.

To Vary
Absolutely any pleasant smelling essential oil or blend of essential oils can be used in this recipe. Just be guided by your nose... if it is a very strong smelling essential oil then you may wish to use slightly less than the recommended 10ml.

The liquid glycerine can be replaced with a similar quantity of vegetable oil - choose one that suits your skintype.There are plenty of suggested essential oil blends in one of my earlier posts (just click on essential oils on the label cloud above) and more information about vegetable and plant oils for use in skincare... again look for the label that applies and click.

Coming up next a recipe for detox bathsalts.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Epsom Salts

 A Miracle Cure that Seems to Work!

Epsom salts or more accurately Magnesium Sulphate is the second-most abundant element in human cells and the fourth-most important positively charged ion in the body, so it's little wonder this low-profile mineral is so vital to good health and well being. Magnesium, the major component of Epsom Salts, also helps to regulate the activity of more than 325 enzymes and performs a vital role in orchestrating many bodily functions, from muscle control and electrical impulses to energy production and the elimination of harmful toxins.
Believe it or not but you can increase your magnesium levels from soaking in a bath enriched with magnesium sulphate crystals, commonly known as Epsom Salt. Information obtained from The Epsom Salts Council.

Finding epsom salts in reasonably large quantities is often tricky, the chemist usually sells it in 50g to 100g quantities, which is really too small for bath salt making.You should try Googling for a mail order company that sells it in 2kg packs or more - anything less is really not useful.

When I was a child, Epsom Salts were used in my home as a cure for the common cold. A very hot bath laced with a large handful of Salts was prepared, the idea being to immerse in it for as long as it was possible, with top-ups of very hot water to ensure that the temperature of the body was kept high. Copious sweating is the result. After a while the sick person is dried off and wrapped in thick blankets and put to bed with a warm bedpan for company and hot toddy (whisky, lemon and hot water... if you were an adult), the sweating no doubt continues and upon waking in the morning the cold has miraculously disappeared. 

We now know that extremely hot water is not good for the skin, it accelerates the aging process and should be avoided if at all possible. But certainly Epsom salts dissolved in the bath in large quantities will make you sweat copiously and I know in our house many a cold was cured in this way. (NB. It is not a good idea to use very heavy doses of salts in your bath if you suffer from high blood pressure or a heart condition, if in doubt check with your doctor). 

While increasing your magnesium levels, Epsom Salt also delivers sulphates, which are extremely difficult to get through food but which are readily absorbed through the skin. Sulphates serve a wide variety of functions in the body, playing a vital role in the formation of brain tissue, joint proteins and the mucin proteins that line the walls of the digestive tract. Sulphates also stimulate the pancreas to generate digestive enzymes and are believed to help detoxify the body's residue of medicines and environmental contaminants.

A variety of factors contributes to a magnesium deficiency. Intensive farming practices deplete magnesium from the soil, and magnesium is not a standard component in most fertilizers. Therefore, a diet that would have supplied enough magnesium a century ago may not supply enough today.

Of course it isn't simply the salts that work their magic on you. Full immersion of the body in water at least once a week is, in my opinion, a necessity for continuing good health. There are documented health benefits to full immersion (hence the continuing popularity of spa’s and resorts like the dead sea) however few of us have access to a bath large enough for this in our own homes. Discounting any medical benefits, bathing is mentally calming and restorative, a bath before bed helps aid restful sleep and promotes a feeling of well being. For more information on water and it's benefits take a look at the post on toning the skin.

It may be a tall tale that Archimedes leapt out of the bath shouting eureka ‘I’ve found it!’, but it is very understandable. How many really good ideas surface while lounging in a warm bath? It is a truly meditative environment which can effect not only the health of the body but also the soul – and sometimes it’s the only place to get any peace from our busy lives.

I do not agree with taking the mobile phone into the bathroom, I also do not think you should be able to see a television from the bathtub! A little restful music, or even thought provoking radio will not interrupt or spoil the occasion in any way and adding a beneficial substance to the water can only enhance the experience.

Use Epsom salts alone or mixed with appropriate essential oils to help with jetlag, vdu stress and general overwork and tiredness. Although the amount required is actually quite large. I have found that even very small amounts taken in a regular daily bath will have a cumulative effect. If you have any health concerns at all do check with your health professional.

Monday, 22 November 2010

The Mustard Bath

Among the Victorian guaranteed cures for many ailments was the mustard bath. It worked in a similar way to epsom salts by producing heat and sweat which helps to detoxify the body. Certainly if you are feeling cold and unwell a warm bath can be most welcome, the water need not be too hot, since the mustard draws the blood to the surface of the skin generating heat as it does so.

If a little eucalyptus essential oil is added it will also act as a decongestant for natural relief from that bunged up feeling. For some the mustard can be a touch irritating so if you have particularly sensitive skin I would avoid it. I also would not recommend it be used for children.

Mustard Bath Recipe

8 ounces Epsom Salts or common kitchen salt3 ounces Mustard Seed crushed to powder
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger infused in a small cup of warm water for 20 minutes.
5 drops of eucalyptus essential oil

Pound the mustard seed until reduced to a powder. Combine the mustard seed powder with the mineral salts and stir well. Add the eucalyptus essential oil to the warm water with the ginger and then mix in the dried ingredients.

Draw a warm bath and add the mustard mixture and stir well. Soak for a minimum of 15 minutes.
In general the heat from this type of bath will very quickly destroy any health benefits from essential oils but you may still find that the addition of something like eucalyptus or peppermint will help clear the nasal passages (albeit briefly) or simply use something that you enjoy to try and make the experience a little more pleasant.

After your bath it is essential to wrap up warm and take a hot drink with you to bed - and perhaps even a hot water bottle. you are supposed to feel very warm and even better if you are sweating. More often than not it is the raised temperature that kills off all the germs. As always.. if you are not otherwise in very good health do check with a qualified health practitioner before using the mustard bath recipe. If you are suffering with a really bad cold you have several options to help clear it out of your system quickly. A steam bath or Sauna is worth a try or you could give an Epsom Salts Bath a go. That's an easy recipe which I shall give you in the next post.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Bathing without Bubbles!

Bathing without Bubbles for the Health of your Skin

You may think that the old fashioned once a week bathing routine has gone by the wayside. No, no, no! Well perhaps it has in your house. Nowadays we mostly shower once a day using shower gel or soap and think of a bath as an occasional aid to de-stressing. It is great for de-stressing but should not be left for the occasional pamper session. The once a week bath needs to make a come-back and establish itself firmly into your skincare routine.

This post is called bathing without bubbles... what have I got against bubbles you may ask? Well in general nothing, but in particular, substances called sodium laureth sulphate or SLS or SLES can be very drying for the skin.    These chemicals can be synthesised from natural sources such as plants and vegetables, but have undergone a great deal of 'jiggery pokery' in the lab. This can make them fall into the grey area between natural and non natural - it's down to your definition of what natural means to you.
Indeed you can get some very mild surfactants nowadays that cause much less skin problems than Sodium Laureth Sulphate - but it is up to you to decide whether ethically you wish to use it, and how often to use it, depending upon it's effects on your skin.

 If you suffer from very dry skin and your usual product of choice in the daily shower is something containing sodium laureth sulphate, then you would benefit from changing to a natural soap. I have known people stop using body lotions altogether simply because they changed to a natural soap and found their skin simply did not need moisturising to the same degree. It only takes a two week trial to discover if it works for you. What have you got to lose?

For your once a week pamper session you have many choices, again depending upon your skin type or your preference.

Bath salts are considered a little old-fashioned, but like many old-fashioned things - they really do work.
It is very simple to make your own bath salts and very easy to tailor the ingredients to suit your skintype.

Bath Oil is very much back in favour due I think to the increase in dry skin - following on from the use of too many soap-detergents like shower gels. It is very easy to make yourself and need not break the bank. Bath Tea This is perhaps the oldest additive you can add to your bath. The choice of herbs and flowers is vast so you are only hindered by your knowledge. Easy to follow instructions to make bath tea coming soon.

Bath Fizzies Sometimes called bath bombs or fairy dust, these fun bath products are among the simplest to make and can be made from the most natural of ingredients. 

Mustard Bath Get rid of those cold and wet wintertime blues with the ultimate in kick starting your personal central heating. The mustard bath is alive and well... but only in winter!

Bath Milk You don't have to be Cleopatra to discover the amazing benefits of bathing in milk - and if you use powdered milk you don't need to worry about it going off either!

Bath Melts Perhaps less well known than bath bombs but just as easy to make.

More recipes for bathing without bubbles coming soon!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Bath Melt Recipe

Making a Bath Melt Could Not Be Easier!

A bath melt is definitely one of the easiest toiletry recipes to make at home. They are solid at room temperature and so can be stored in the bathroom cabinet ready to use. The principle is the same for all the recipes - you may find that only the base oil and essential oils change.

Use a cookie mould (mold) to set the melt or any other container that you think will give you the correct size. Some moulds intended for melt and pour soap also make good containers for melts.

Remember when you use the melt, the bath will become slippery so you should always exercise caution when getting in or out - and if you use essential oils do clean your bath thoroughly afterwards as they can discolour the bath!

Pam's Lavender Cocoa Butter & Honey Bath Melt

This was the very first bath melt recipe I invented. The lady it was created for worked with me at the time and suffered from chronic dry skin. She was delighted with the resultsIngredients
85g Cocoa Butter
5g Sweet Almond Oil
5g Honey
5g Powdered oatmeal
2ml Lavender Essential Oil  

Place all ingredients except the essential oils into a bain marie over a low heat until melted. A bain marie is a pot of water on the cooker top with another pot inside. You place the ingredients into the smaller pot and allow the heat from the water in the pot below to melt them. In this way the ingredients do not come into contact with direct heat.

Once the mixture has melted remove it from the heat and allow to cool until thick before adding the essential oils. Stir well and then pour into patty tins or something suitable for use as a mould. Cup cake papers can be nice too! Place the melts into the refrigerator to go hard. These bath melts do not set totally solid because of the honey, they were a bit like soft fudge.  If you prefer a harder product then simply leave out the honey from the recipe.To use
Crumble a small amount into the warm bath. It is not necessary to use the whole thing in one go (although you can if you want to!) In this way it will last for as many as three or four baths.

The above recipe is quite a small amount, but it is best to trial a small quantity first to make sure that you like it. If you do, you can always increase the recipe size for the next time!
To Vary Use different essential oils (check out the blends suggested in my more recent posts) or change the sweet almond oil for something more suited to your skin type.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Useful Essential Oils by Skin type and Recipes for Blending

 Aromatherapy Recipes

Quantities to Use

All recipes are given in 'parts'... i.e. one part lavender to two parts patchouli etc... in this way you can scale up or down the size of your recipe to suit your own needs. You will find that most soap recipes contain between 1% and 3% (of the base oils) essential oil along with most other wash-off products such as shampoo or shower gels or bath oils. Products that will sit on the skin for long periods of time and/or be absorbed in total contain much less - usually 1% or less. Be guided by smell on this too. Strong smelling concoctions are used in smaller quantities than more delicate smelling ones, though neither should exceed the recommended dose.Aromatherapists work with so many drops per mls of base product. Some of the recipes reflect this, other's are brazenly simply for scent and will be used up to the maximum allowed by law.

Hint make up a very small quantity of the mixture and allow it to settle for 24 hours and then smell it. Now you can decide if you like it well enough to use in your product.

The Most Common Essential Oils and their uses (in brief)

1. LAVENDER Lavendula angustifoliaSuits all skintypes, acne, burns, inflammations, athletes foot, insect bites and stings, sunburn, wounds, depression, headache and stress-related conditions.
2. ROSE OTTO Rosa damascena
Thread veins, dry skin, eczema, poor circulation, depression and stress-related conditions.
3. BERGAMOT Citrus bergamia
Anxiety, depression, uplifting emotions. Caution: not to be used prior to exposure to sunlight, unless you purchase Bergamot FCF which is bergaptene free.
4. BLACK PEPPER Piper nigrum
Muscular aches and pains, poor circulation, mental fatigue. Caution: Avoid if you have sensitive skin
5. CEDARWOOD Cedrus atlantica
Acne, exzema, psoriasis, oily skin and hair, hair loss, dandruff, nervous tension and stress-related disorders. Caution: Not to be used during pregnancy
6. CYPRESS Cupressus sempervirens
Oily skin conditions, excessive perspiration, vricose veins, wounds, fluid retention.
7. EUCALYPTUS Eucalyptus globulus
Skin infections and wounds, muscular aches, colds and flu, hedaches, mental fatigue.
8. FRANKINCENSE Boswelliaa carteri
Mature skin, scars, wounds, anxiety and stress.
9. GALBANUM Ferula galbaniflua
Acne, scars, wounds, inflamed skin, muscular aches, nervouus tension and stress-related disorders. Caution: Not to be used during pregnancy
10. GERANIUM Pelargonium graveolens
Congested skin, poor circulation, dermatitus, eczema, burns, head lice, cellulite, nervous tension.
11. GRAPEFRUIT Citrus X paradisi
Cellulite, depression, nervous exhaustion, colds and flu. Caution: Do not use prior to exposure to sunlight
12. JASMINE Jasminum officinale
Nervous exhaustion, mature skin, depression, stress-related conditions.

13.JUNIPER Juniperus communisAcne, eczema, oily skin conditions, cellulite, hair loss. Caution: Not to be used during pregnancy
14.LEMON Citrus limonum
Oily skin conditions, cellulite, poor circulation, colds and flu, depression. Caution: Do not use prior to exposure to sunlight
15. MANDARIN Citrus reticulata
Stretch marks, cellulite, digestive problems, insomnia.Caution: Do not use prior to exposure to sunlight
16. MARJORAM Origanum marjorana
Bruises, muscular aches, pms, migraine, colds and flu. Caution: Not to be used during pregnancy
17. MYRRH Comminphora myrrha
Athletes foot, maature skin, wounds, respiratory disorders, nervous tension. Caution: Not to be used during pregnancy
18. NEROLI Citrus aurantium var amara
Most skin types, stretch marks, poor circulation, anxiety, stress-related disorders.
19. PALMAROSA Cymbopogon martinii var. martinii
Acne, minor skin infections, scars, nervous exhaustion.
20. PATCHOULI Pogostemon cablin
Acne, athletes foot & fungal infections, dndruff.
21. PEPPERMINT Mentha piperita
Cold and flu, fainting, headache, migraine, mental fatigue. Caution: May irritate sensitive skin.
22. PETITGRAIN Citrus aurantium var. amara
Oily skin conditions, stress-related disorders.
23. ROSEMARY Rosmarinus officinalis
Dandruff, oily skin and hair, head lice, muscular aches, nervous exhaustion and mental fatigue. Caution: to be avoided if you suffer from epilepsy.
24. SANDALWOOD Santalum album
Dry skin conditions, Oily skin conditions, acne, depression, insomnia.
25. VETIVER Vetiveria zizanoides
Acne, oily skin conditions, wounds, muscular aches.
26. YLANG YLANG Cananga odorta var. genuina
Promotes hair growth, high blood pressure, palpitations, nervous tension.
27. CHAMOMILE ROMAN Anthemis nobilis
Acne, allergies, eczema, inflamed skin, burns, stress-related conditions.
28. GINGER Zingiber officinale
Aches and pains, poor circulation, nausea, travel sickness, nervous exhaustion.

This is most definitely not an exhaustive list of essential oils. But the 28 listed are more than enough for any amateur cosmetic formulator. If, however you wish to go on to developing aromatherapy recipes or perfumes you my find you need a few more. For increasing your aromatherapy knowledge with a view to alternative therapy you would be advised to seek out further in-depth information or go on a college course.

 Useful Essential Oils by Skintype

Dry Skin Roman Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, Patchouli, Rose Otto.Oily Skin Cedarwood, Lemon, Ylang Ylang, Lavender.
Mature Skin Clary Sage, Frankincense, Rose Otto, Lavender.
Anti-Aging Clary Sage, Frankincense, Lemon, Rose Otto, Lavender.
Sensitive Skin Rose Otto, Lavender, Roman Chamomile.
Hair Care Cedarwood, Clary Sage, Rosemary, Lavender, Lemon, Juniper, Ylang Ylang, Tea Tree, Peppermint.
Nail Care Geranium, Lavender, Tea Tree, Lavender, Tea Tree.

The following Aromatherapy Recipes have been formulated primarily for their skincare benefit.

Aromatherapy Recipes for Normal SkinRoman Chamomile = 1 part
Geranium = 1 part
Lavender = 3 parts
Lavender = 3 parts
Neroli = 2 parts
Aromatherapy Recipes for Dry Skin
Rose Otto = 1 part
Sandalwood = 3 parts
Roman chamomile = 1 part
Lavender = 4 parts
Aromatherapy Recipes for Oily Skin
Frankincense = 2 parts
Cedarwood = 3 parts
Patchouli = 1 part
Frankincense = 1 part
Lavender = 2 parts
Aromatherapy Recipes for Combination Skin
Frankincense = 1 part
Lavender = 2 parts
Geranium = 1 part
Roman Chamomile = 2 parts
Geranium = 2 parts
Aromatherapy Recipes for Sensitive Skin
Rose Otto = 1 part
Lavender = 1 part
Aromatherapy Recipes for Thread Veins
Roman Chamomile = 1 part
Neroli = 1 part
Gernium = 1 part
Cypress = 2 parts
Frankincense = 1 part
Aromatherapy Recipes for Anti-aging
Sandalwood = 4 parts
Frankincense = 2 parts
Myrrh = 1 part
Rose Otto = 1 part
Neroli = 2 parts
Geranium = 1 part
Myrrh = 1 part

The combinations of essential oils to make aromatherapy recipes are pretty much boundless. Especially if you are unconcerned with the therapy side of things and want to concentrate on making a delightful scent - which in itself will have beneficial results simply because of being enjoyable.

So... why don't we start using some of these recipes.  How about a Bath Melt?  Don't know what that is?  Well you better come back for the next post then!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Essential Oils? Are they really Essential?

What are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are chemically very complicated. The substance is not really an oil at all. It is a volatile extraction from organic matter. If you spill some sweet almond oil onto your best blouse, you are going to have an oil stain... and it could be difficult to get it out in the wash. If you spill essential oil, it evaporates into the air leaving no sign that it was there. Mind you some of them are very dark coloured and I haven't actually tested those, in theory it should be the same, but certainly a lavender or a rose simply evaporates into the air leaving no stain whatsoever.

Essential oils contain within them the 'essence' of the plant from which they were extracted. Mother Nature has so cleverly provided us with, not only the illness, but the cure too, and sometimes both are combined in the same plant. The skill of the aromatherapist, as with the herbalist, is in understanding which plants and flowers do what.

Many of our modern day medicines were originally synthesised from plants, aspirin for example is found in the bark of the willow tree, nowadays of course aspirin is synthesised in the laboratory... but in it's natural form, it is much more complex and it's effects upon the body perhaps more subtle. Plants are a very complex concoction of chemicals which in their entirety we are unable to reproduce synthetically, so we tend to isolate the chemicals that we believe hold the cures... and concentrate on making our modern drugs from these. Where aromatherapy wins out over modern medicine is in harnessing the therapeutic value of the WHOLE plant. However... the extent of the therapeutic value is still not fully understood - and little in the way of serious research is done into this field - apart from studies by aromatherapists themselves, science and modern medicine is so hung up on the synthetic that almost no serious scientific study has been done.  Exceptions to the rule are evident in the form Mme Tisserand but I speak in relative terms when you compare with the amount of research done on conventional medicines.

The most important thing to remember, if you are not an aromatherapist, is that not all natural things are GOOD for you. You would not wish to play fast and loose with a Belladonna tea. You should therefore not be Gung Ho with the essential oils of plants and flowers.

If we are still a little in the dark about the full extent of these oils therapeutic values then how do we know...

How (and if) Essential Oils Work?

At first thought how essential oils work is a bit of a mystery. But then if you think back to your own experiences involving smell you will very soon see how it is possible. Have you ever smelled something that instantly took you away to a time in the past or a place you have visited and forgotten all about? The memory becomes very powerful when evoked by a smell. Or perhaps you have comforting feelings when you smell the perfume your granny wore... or home baked bread. Equally smells that you dislike can make you feel anxious or nervous... the smell of the dentists perhaps, or hospitals.
Smells work in this way by stimulating the olfactory nerves at the back of the nose which send messages to the olfactory centre of your brain. This particular area of the brain is responsible for our basic drives such as sex, hunger and thirst. It is also where the pituitary gland and hypothalmus are sited. These two regulate hormone release - which is connected with the control of many bodily functions along with emotions and memories. This is the short and simple guide to how aromatherapy (the inhalation of organic essences) can have a direct affect on our physical well being. When massaging with essential oils they are absorbed directly into the body and into the bloodstream. Likewise if you have used them in a homemade beauty recipe, a moisturiser for example, you are introducing small quantities of essential plant extract into your body - perhaps on a daily basis. It is important therefore to get it right... or at least...not to get it wrong.

Aromatherapy Soap?

I have certainly used this term myself when selling natural soap which included essential oils. I was however always quick to point out that there was no proof that essential oils in soap will have any therapeutic value at all. Why? Well firstly, soap is a wash off product. We are basically waterproof anyway and the whole function of the soap is that it will latch onto the dirt and oil on our bodies and whip it away down the drain.
Secondly, the soap making process is very harsh. We are using Sodium Hydroxide and quite high temperatures - over which we may not have any control... especially if your soap gels in the mould.

If the essential oil does not burn off during the initial soap making process (and this is why we use such large quantities in soap making - sometimes up to 3%), sometimes the finished smell is not quite what you expected. It has been altered by the process. If it is going to have any therapy value it will be in the smell - but I can't be sure that it the end result is what an aromatherapist would expect from that particular oil.
So, for soap making I always choose cheaper essential oils. This does not mean that my soap is a lesser product. It's a question of raw ingredients fit for purpose rather than of quality. Similarly if I am making a night cream for my mother-in-law I will always use an organic essential oil from a reputable supplier.

And this brings me to the essential oils suppliers. It is very easy for us to be fobbed off by poor quality oils sold at premium prices and not to know the difference. How would we know the difference? I have known aromatherapists rave about a particular oil until they smelled the same oil from another supplier... and even then... plants are natural things... what they do one year, they may not the next. Each batch of oil will be subtly different from the last. And the difference between lavender from different suppliers can be astounding! You need to find an essential oil supplier whom you trust and be guided by his/her advice as to purchasing the correct product... i.e. tell them that you are making soap, or that you are wanting to use it in a massage bar (Oooh yes, massage bars - recipes coming soon!) and they will be better placed to advise you which grade of oil to buy. Hint If you are unsure, order a very small quantity, the smallest you can and then be guided by your nose, if you like it... ask for a bigger quantity from the same batch.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Water Water Everywhere...


Knowledge about hydrosols and flower waters is overshadowed by that of essential oils, yet their contribution to our skincare cabinet should not be underestimated. A hydrosol or flower water is simply the water extracted from the plant or flower during steam distillation to produce the essential oil. The water smells quite strongly of the plant - sometimes more so than the essential oil.
The chemical make up of the flower water is often remarkably different from the essential oil and the therapy value is not always the same as the oil either. Sometimes it could be argued that the therapy value of the water is more.
"Since the chemical make up of the human body is quite definitely a large percentage of water it is often felt that there is a resonance within the body to using an appropriate water for healing purposes."
The French use flower and plant waters and tinctures internally for health and well being - a practice that used to be common in western medicine over a hundred years ago but which has fallen out of favour in preference to more synthetic chemical-based medicines.
Yet it is obvious to everyone the difference in the quality of water that you use, not only for drinking, but bathing and washing your hair, has on your appearance. Some areas of the world are famed specifically for their water. It is often the first thing we notice when travelling to another area, the water will taste different, feel softer or harsher from what we are used to back home.

The art of bathing has been lost in many western cultures and this is a shame. Immersing your entire body in water is very therapeutic and as part of a holistic approach to curing illness called phytotherapy. Here we are not so much intent on curing illness as in maintaining health... the health of your skin. And I would very much recommend the regular use of hydrosols as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Hydrosols or flower waters can be bought from most essential oil suppliers. You can find Rose water in the supermarket but you will usually find that it contains a preservative of some kind... it's your choice  whether you want to use this or not, the preservative is considered safe for inclusion in food but it's a personal choice.

The range of hydrosols available in the UK is quite limited in comparason to the amount of essential oils but in other countries such as France hydrosols are much more common, and taken internally for health benefits too.

Types of Flower Water suitable for use as a Toner

Chamaemelum nobile - Roman ChamomileRoman chamomile is the number one choice for use with children and babycare. It can even be used straight from birth - which I do not advise for essential oils or soap (even if natural) or any other preparatory products whether you have made them yourself or bought them. Achamomile hydrosol sprinkled into baby's first bath water is a wonderful welcome to the world. But I digress... as a toner it is great for calming rashes, for sufferers of acne, rosacea, heat rashes or general redness of the skin.
Do not use it undiluted if you have a tendency to very dry skin or for wind burns - due to it's acidity it can exacerbate these conditions - however you could dilute it with spring water.

Citrus aurantium var.amara - Neroli/Orange Blossom
This flower water is perfect for a combination of oily and sensitive skins. Can be useful for acne sufferers or combined with rhassoul mud for a perfect teenage face mask.  Since it is very astringent Do not use on very dry or mature skins unless you dilute it with spring water or lavender or rose flower water.

Hamamelis virginiana - Witch Hazel
Do not be tempted by the witch hazel sold in the chemists shop... these are usually laced with alcohol and are extremely drying to the skin. The real witch hazel is amazing stuff, and not so harsh. It reduces swellings, itching, rashes and scaling of the skin. It is very good for soothing excema and psoriasis and will heal cracked or blistered skin. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  Witch hazel is very good for mature and dry skins and is considered one of the most useful waters in the fight against signs of aging.

Lavendula angustifolia - Lavender
Good for all skintypes and gentle enough to be used undiluted. Use it with damaged or fragile skin and can be used alone as a light cleanser. Reduces inflammation associated with shaving if sprayed onto the skin both before and after the shave. Can be used with children and I find it a perfect re-fresher for long plane journeys as well as quick first aid for bites or stings.

Melaleuca alternifolia - Tea Tree
Tea Tree hydrosols are antiseptic, anti-fungal and antibacterial. It's a great weapon to have in the first aid box for cleansing wounds (always dilute it), scrapes and fungal problems such as athletes foot or fungal nail disease. It has been suggested that it could be used for acne but I consider it to be too harsh, however if you have a tendency to infected pimples then you could dilute it with spring water - everyone is different and if lavender water is not strong enough for your needs then tea tree may well do the job.

Mentha piperita - Peppermint
Peppermint water is very refreshing and stimulating to use. It is also very useful for inflamed acne or helping to keep the scalp free of lice (but not a sure-fire cure). It is also effective for calming allergic reactions and sunburn. It was often used in France to enhance the bustline... (? oh those French!!) simply spritz regularly (apparently).

Rosa damascena - Rose
Good to use for any skin type, and smells wonderful - provided you find a good supplier. Especially good for mature or dry skin types as it is a humectant, attracting moisture to the skin. Only mildly astringent. Is very good added to face masks for mature or dry skin. I would suggest that you don't confuse the hydrosol with the rose water available in the supermarket... the two are very different.

There should be hydrosols for every essential oil, however it is very unlikely that you will find them. The therapeutic effects of the hydrosol are not always the same as those attributed to the essential oil. If you are interested in hydrosols or flower waters and phytotherapy then I can recommend the book Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty

Friday, 5 November 2010

Toning the Skin

Toning is vitally important yet...

...for some reason toning has fallen out of fashion, most of us tend to forget about it and go straight from cleansing to moisturising!

It is important NOT to forget this small, yet vital step. It's purpose is firstly to remove any traces of cleanser remaining on your skin, to redress the balance of the skin (especially if you have used soap), close the pores (thereby protecting your complexion from build up of dirt or grime that may cause pimples), and promote a healthy 'texture' of the skin.

Making your own products to do this is also probably the easiest of all the natural beauty recipes provided on this site, and is a good place to begin if you are new to making your own toiletries.

Using plain, good quality water, flower waters or hydrosols and essential oils is the most inexpensive way of making a luxury toning product.

With a little knowledge and understanding of your skin type and using the most appropriate ingredients you can make an enormous difference to the appearance of your skin. It need not cost the earth. There are options to suit everyone whether your purse be large or small.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you go on holiday your skin or your hair looks better? Or worse? There is a very simple explanation for this. Its the quality of the water. Water can make a huge difference.
Even if you cannot afford expensive flower waters or essential oils do not underestimate the power of simple infusions. My next couple of posts will be covering the power of water specifically.

Herbs such as rosemary or thyme can be very powerful for certain skintypes, and for a few pennies can be cultivated in your garden or on a windowsill. The list of herbs in my last post about nature's skin peel is a very good place to start.  Simply make a herbal tea, let it cool and then use it as a toner.  Watch out for some recipes later in the post.

Astringent 'vinegar' waters used to be all the rage - in fact girls were more prone to greasy skin (shiny noses) in Victorian times than they are today. The reason? Probably our central heating has a lot to answer for. A very astringent or alcohol based toner is is not very good for your complexion, even if you have very oily skin, it is a quick, temporary fix for a problem that can be better regulated with the careful use of essential oils or flower waters.

For closing the pores, the necessity and method used is determined by the method of cleansing.
After soap and water it may not be necessary to use any special preparation at all. A final splash of tepid water may be sufficient.

Whatever you use, it should be as gentle as possible.
After a cleansing cream or lotion or even milk Plain water is perfectly adequate for closing the pores, if a little boring. The use of a suitable flower water can improve the texture and quality of the skin over time. Complicated concoctions are unnecessary even though I shall provide a recipe or two of these!  
After using an oil you may find that a little more astringent flower water or plain water or tea with a drop of cider vinegar (1 pint tea to 1 teaspoonful vinegar)will do the trick. The thing to remember is your skintype and to choose a toner accordingly - it is also a good idea to vary what you use from time to time, as this gives the skin a boost.

Make Your Own Flower Water/Toner

The end result of this can in no way be compared to a true flower water or hydrosol, however it can be fun to do and will utilise whatever herbs or flowers you have in the garden. Be sure to use only plants that have NEVER been sprayed with pesticides.Rose petals are a good one to start with.
Equipment Required
A large stockpot with lid.
Household brick or bowl that fits into the bottom of the stockpot
Smaller Bowl
Bag of ice.
Several Handfulls of plant material e.g. Rose Petals or Rosemary Stalks etc... (Make sure that your plant is clean and has been grown without the use of pesticides).
Place the brick in the stockpot and put the bowl on top of the brick (or place a small bowl upside down in the bottom of the pot and place your larger bowl on top). Fill the stockpot with water to the level of the top of the brick or small upturned bowl. Use bottled spring water, or de-ionised water if you can afford it. Bruise the plants slightly and place them into the water (not in the bowl). Place the pot on the heat and bring the water to a slow boil. Invert the lid of the stockpot and place on top of the pot. Place the bag of ice on the upturned lid.

As the steam from the boiling water (carrying aromatic substances from the plant material) condenses on the cold lid it drips into the bowl. Keep an eye on the water level, topping up if required. The longer you do this for, the more flower water you get, likewise the more plant material you have in the pot the stronger the flower water will be. Once the flower water has cooled it can be used in cosmetic preparations. Remember it will have a limited shelf life and will need to be kept in the fridge.

This very basic flower water can be used as is for toning the skin, especially if you have mature or very dry skin - but if you have oily skin or suffer from teenage acne  then add a teaspoonful of cider or apple vinegar to one pint of flower water, bottle and use after your normal cleanser.  Keep it in the fridge, decanting only a small amount to keep beside the basin for use each day. This is a good tip, especially if like me, you can't bear to use really cold substances straight from the fridge on your face!