Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mixing Hydrosols - A Softer Solution

Since my recent discovery of a new supplier of hydrosols and the wide selection they offer, I've been having a grand old time mixing and matching them for what will eventually be a new series of skin drenches and tonics.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Behold The Birth of Bare Basic

I have had several occasions as of late to develop products for people with extremely sensitive, allergenic or dry skin. To keep the ingredients list as short as possible (always a good idea when making a product for extra-sensitive skin), I have reworked a few tried and true formulas, paring back to the basics. What to name these new products? Bare Basic came as a natural extension.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Mineral Oil - No Do's, Just Don'ts

Fact: The skin is the body's largest organ. It is permeable. It needs to be permeable in order to function properly (like breathe and perspire).
Fact: Paraffin (INCI: paraffinum liquidum) blocks pores and acts as a barrier, suppressing normal skin functions.
Fact: Mineral Oil (INCI: petrolatum) blocks pores and acts as a barrier, suppressing normal skin functions. 
Yet a disturbingly high number of cosmetics labels lists one of the abovementioned as ingredient number 2. Read: that's what there is second most of in that product.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Joys of Geranium

The essential oil is
made from the leaves.
Aside from smelling like a wonderfully warm summer day in the garden, Geranium (also Rose Geranium – INCI: pelargonium graveolens) has several properties that makes it one of my absolute favorites and the essential oil a staple in my stock. I have used it in face oils and serums, as a middle note in different scent combinations (for creams or lotions), and as the star ingredient in a hair and body wash.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cleaning with Clay

Who says you need soap to wash your face?
When I started out making my own cosmetics, one of the first products I wanted to create was a face cleanser that didn't dry out my skin. I was tired of it feeling 'tight' every time I washed my face. I had been through quite a few brands, and although I would on occasion find one that did a decent job of cleansing, it would inevitably have some other flaw (a texture, scent, undesirable ingredient, etc.) that caused me to continue searching.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Europe Leads The Way

But There's Still a Long Way To Go!
It's not often Europe gets to boast of being ahead of the US in anything, but when it comes to  safe(r) ingredients in cosmetics, apparantly we are. I ran across an article about the safety of cosmetics products in Scientific American just recently. Admittedly this article over a year old now, but I can't imagine things having changed dramatically on this front in the US since May of last year.

One of the more disturbing quotes from it is made by Lisa Archer, National Coordinator of the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics: "We're operating in a vacuum in terms of safety. The FDA doesn't even define what 'safe' is, so it's totally up to the discretion of the cosmetics companies."

That's downright disturbing. The entire article can be found here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sedimentary, My Dear

at the bottom
Throughout this past summer I have been struggling with the occasional appearance of sediment in my skin tonics. It has been so fine and slight that it wouldn't appear until standing, undisturbed, overnight. The slightest agitation and it would quickly dissapate – only to reappear again after having time to settle. Seeing a brownish substance on the bottom of a freshly-made tonic really kills the buzz of using the product for me. Unacceptable! The detective in me was awakened.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Goodbye to Ethyl and Methyl Paraben

Ethyl and Methyl Paraben
Because of my recent propylparaben discovery, I find myself reluctantly having to jump on the "no-parabens" bandwagon. I am therefore reworking my Bath and Body Wash formulas (the only products I make that contain any parabens at all). This despite poor Ethyl- and Methylparaben still being on the OK list. Parabens are usually grouped when used as preservatives, and I am at this time unfortunately unable to source a paraben mix containing only these 2. I feel a bit bad leaving these 2 innocents behind, and truly hope to get back to them. They are efficient, tried-and-true preservatives that have been a pleasure to work with. Hang in there, girls!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Meet the Mask

It is most definitely not often enough I get around to doing a face mask. Every time I do, my skin feels so great I promise myself I'm going to make this a weekly thing. Truth be told, I get around to it every month or so.
At one point I was working on developing masks for sale, but the more I worked on the different ingredients and combinations, the more convinced I became that a freshly-made mask offers the best result by far. I shall therefore pass on my experiences with masks, starting with how to make and apply a basic face mask.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Squalane - Animal or Vegetable?

Squalane is a component of human sebum (that's Latin for fat or tallow). It is also a wonderfully useful ingredient in face creams, lotions and serums. Squalane helps increase spreadability (making your cream feel more luxurious going on) and is quickly absorbed by the skin (making it an ideal 'transporter' of active ingredients to the deeper layers of the skin). It's an efficient, skin-protecting moisturizer that is categorized as a non-irritant for cosmetics use.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Nose Knows

Although I am not a trained aromatherapist, I have waded through what I would label 'a healthy amount' of research on the main tools of the aromatherapist's trade: essential oils. My initial interest in essential oils was to create scents for my products using all natural, chemical-free, plant-based ingredients.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tea Tree Oil - Very Essential

Tea Tree Oil (INCI: Melaleuca alternifolia) is so multifunctional and beneficial that it is a must for 'essential oil beginners'. Native to Australia, tea tree oil is one of very few essential oils that can boast of being antiseptic, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It's very close to being a complete drugstore in a bottle! It is definitely among my favorites – I always have it in stock.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Perfect Texture - About Emulsifiers

Texture is everything. You can have the greatest combination of ingredients that smell and look right, but just don't 'go on' well - reducing the entire experience of applying a new cream to a disappointment. To make a cream or lotion, you need an emulsifier. Mixing oil and water is just not possible without it.  If you insist on working with organic plant-based ingredients, there are but a handful of officially qualified emulsifiers on the market today. In my constant quest for the perfect texture, I have tried (and continue to use) every one of them in any number of different combinations.

What Do Pigs Have to Do With It?
The emulsifiers most common to the commercial industry are not plant-based, but produced from pig fats. And yes, your skin will readily absorb them.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Votes Are In

My little poll showed that a majority of you would like to learn more about ingredients. This gave me the idea to start an INCI Dictionary that I will continue to add to as I write about different ingredients. Thanks for taking the poll, commenting, and rating the different articles. I appreciate your input and am flattered to see a growing audience to these pages.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Take Your Vitamin A - Topically!

There is more than one good reason to take your vitamins, several of which are particularly beneficial to the skin.  A-vitamin (INCI: Retinol Palmitate) has over the years racked up a list of promising phrases from the scientific community such as "may be good for" and "shows promise in helping" and "appears to function well for" when mentioned in connection with skin care.

The Whitest White

If you've ever swallowed a pill, put on make-up, painted a wall, drunk a glass of skimmed milk, put on sunscreen, brushed your teeth, or gotten a tattoo, you've most likely been in contact with titanium dioxide. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Rosemary Rumours

They say rosemary (INCI: Rosmarinus Officinalis*) has magical powers. Aromatherapists will tell you that the essential oil is mentally stimulating and aids in detoxifying the body as well as aiding in the regeneration of aging skin. They even claim it will help balance the nervous system without having a sedating effect.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Go Ahead, Rate Away!

I've added a little feature at the end of each posting so you can voice your opinion. Please feel free to tick a box and rate any posting as you see fit. Your comments are also welcome (også på dansk!).

Propylparaben - Another One Bites The Dust

Well, color me corrected! There are more than 2 parabens under observation for possible hormonal interference. Propylparaben (which I proclaimed in an earlier posting as being among the innocents) is indeed on the 'needs further study' list. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

That Feeling of Luxury

I admit I'm a fan of 'the luxury factor' of cosmetics and make-up. I like the fancy bottles and jars with the appealing labels, the beautifully designed informational folder - the whole package. When you're doing made-to-order products, it's a no-brainer that you have to do your best to deliver that luxury feeling with every product you make.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Make-up Meeting

Yesterday I was visited by a good friend and her daughter. Linda and Sofia were interested in having a closer look at my products, and Sofia had expressed an interest in seeing my make-up.

It was Linda who asked me a few weeks ago "you mean it's possible to actually make your own creams? deoderant? Even make-up?"
"Yes, even make-up"
"Foundation? Powder? Eyeshadow? Mascara?"
"Yes, all of these and lipstick and eye pencils too."
"I gotta see this! And Sofia will want to see it too!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Heavenly Himalaya Salt

When I first heard about Himalayan Crystal Salt I thought the name sounded like something out of a fairy tale. Seeing the appealing, subtly pink color and quartz-like surface underlined my first impression. 'How could salt be pink?' I thought. But it was. Mined in the foothills of the Himalayas, the salt is said to contain up to 87 beneficial minerals (although a Bavarian consumer protection agency could only find a total of 10 minerals in a 2003 test). It is also said to be untouched by pollution (I have no further info on whether or not this is true). The crystals have been formed under gazillions of years (there are widely varying accounts of the number of millions) of tectonic pressure, creating the rock salt we see on the market today.

There are 
 a lot of stories about the benefits of Himalayan Crystal salt – for both internal and external use.  I have not studied them all in depth because my main interest in this product has been for external use. My experience with it has been that it is surprisingly beneficial to my skin, taking care of such things as itching and dryness (even persistent dry patches).

Purveyors of the product recommend immersing oneself into a "sol-bath" where the salts are dissolved in a bathtub (particularly beneficial for sufferers of psoriasis). Living in a tub-less home, I was pleased to discover the Salt Bar, which offers the same properties in a shower-friendly format. (also, it's a darn sight quicker to use).

Here's how to use it

After showering (while skin is still dripping wet), 
moisten the Salt Bar and rub between your hands. The salt will dissolve slightly, creating a skin-balancing solution.
Apply this solution all over your body. You'll need to moisten the bar several times. For example, start with one leg, moisten again for the other leg, etc. For best results, don't towel dry your skin, but allow it to air dry. (You can use the time and your towel to wipe down the shower area if you get bored waiting.)
Being the hydrosol fan I am, I always moisten the bar with a Skin Drench or hydrosol mix that I am testing. I find this combination sufficient as a body lotion during the summer months.

Note: as this is rock salt, it will break if dropped and can shatter with sharp edges. If this happens, you can still use the pieces, but to avoid scratching your skin, be sure to "file" down the sharp edges by dissolving them (easiest if you rub on a wet shower floor).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Oil is oil.. and so much more

Fats and oils in cosmetics have multiple functions -  one of which is to serve as a carrier of active ingredients into the deeper layers of the skin. (Function 1: a means of transportation).  Plant-based oils are ideal as carriers because the molecules in plant-based oils are tiny enough to penetrate the skin. This is the direct opposite of mineral-based oils which have annoyingly large molecules - too big to penetrate the skin. Mineral oil molecules basically just sit around on top of the skin, clogging the pores until the poor old things can't handle any more and enlarge, resulting in visibly larger pores and sagging skin. Guess what: changing to plant-based oils will actually reverse the enlarged pore condition - apparantly no matter how old you are. I speak from personal experience as well as feedback from folks that have tested my products. Among them: my mom (who is over 80 years).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Loofah Love

This is one of my favorite skin care regimens and a great way to start the day. Dry brush your entire body before showering/bathing. Dry brushing removes dead skin cells and is stimulating for your skin, encouraging blood flow and cell regeneration. The classic Loofah is great for dry-brushing. I find it has just enough of a rough edge to feel like it's doing something, but not so rough as to scratch the skin.
Start with lower legs, then thighs and abdomen, always working your way towards the heart. Use circular movements. Your skin should feel tingly and 'alive' afterwards. If it hurts, you are being too rough on yourself.

PS: If your brand new loofah is flat like this one, be sure to wet it thoroughly so it regains it's natural form, then let it dry before using it.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Latin and Labels

One of the things that got me started researching cosmetic ingredients was a curiousity about what exactly I was (willingly!) paying for and putting on my face/body/hair. I started studying the ingredients list on the labels. Because I have had some Spanish in school, I understood what seemed to be ingredient number 1 in everything: aqua = water. Everything else looked pretty foreign to me. Turns out, it was Latin.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Butters That Be

One of the main advantages of working with formulas containing only butters, fats and oils is that you don't need to add preservatives (bacteria needs a water-based environment to grow). There are other things to pay attention to (for example trying to work with incompatible melting points), but l do enjoy having to list fewer ingredients with understandable names for the label and packaging. Ok, if you want to get really technical, it's still required by law to list the INCI name, but I will, where possible, also add the common name. Example: butyrospermum parkii (shea butter).