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More Lotion Experiments

This lavender day cream was one of the projects in the Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation, which I’m studying with Formula Botanica.

Lavender day cream ready for stability testing.

I want to see how the cream performs under different conditions. One pot will stay in my soap room, as a control specimen. It’s reasonably cool in there, with no big temperature fluctuations. One pot will go in the fridge, and the third will go in my insanely hot car. I’ll monitor the three pots over the course of a couple of week, and note any changes or observations.

Will it grow mould? If it does, I know that the preservative I’ve used isn’t suitable, or is insufficient. Will the cream separate, or split? If it does, I know that there’s an issue with the emulsifier. Or, will it just generally “go weird” in some way? If that happens, I need to do more research into the ingredients, and how they interact with each other.

Of course, maybe none of those things will happen, and the cream will be fine, in which case I know that I’m heading in the right direction, and all I need to work on is the fragrance. In this cream I used an organic lavender hydrosol. Unfortunately it smells horrible. 😫

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My First Attempt at Lotion.

Lotion bottle

I confess, I used to be a bit of a hand cream addict. In fact, it was this that got me started making soap, indirectly. I used to use cheapo liquid soap and then follow it up with loads of cream, because my hands were so dry. I tried soap making just for something to do, really, and it was only when I started using the soap, and realised I didn’t need so much hand cream, that the obsession was born. These days, I rarely use any at all, but there is the odd time when I use it.

With all this enforced time at home, I decided to look through the ingredients I’ve hoarded carefully chosen, to see what I could make. I bought some ingredients for trying creams and lotions a while back, and thought it would be a good time to have a go.

Lotions (as I’ll refer to them – meaning all types of hand / face / foot / body / night / day creams) are generally made from oils and water, emulsifier (to make the oil and water be friends), preservatives (to make sure harmful bacteria can’t grow in it), and sometimes other ingredients to enhance the feel of the lotion on skin, and normally some kind of fragrance. What makes a lighter, quickly absorbed moisturiser different from a thicker cream suitable for night time, or for very dry skin, is simply the choice of oils used, and the amount of water added.

My first attempt included rice bran oil and shea butter as the oil component, as that’s what I happened to have available. Rice bran oil is considered a medium weight oil, so it probably wouldn’t be ideal if you wanted a really light, quickly absorbed cream, but as it’s my first try (and I don’t have much else that’s suitable) I went with it. Next time I order ingredients, I’ll order something lighter, and then try again – if I keep the rest of the recipe the same, it will be interesting to compare. Shea butter is obviously much thicker, being solid at room temperature, but is loaded with Vitamin E and anti-oxidants, and helps reinforce the skin’s moisture barrier, which is what gets damaged by harsh handwashing products. For fragrance, I added an almond scent. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know, but I’m making it for me, so I can please myself 😀

Double boiler

The actual making of the product was surprisingly easy. I fashioned a sort of double-boiler out of a saucepan and some clean jam jars, as the oils and water need to be heated to the same temperature. The oils and emulsifier went in the larger jar, and the water went in the smaller one. Once the oils were melted, I kept the temperature above 70°C for twenty minutes, to kill off any nasties that might be lurking. Then the water gets poured into the oils, I mix, and the emulsifier works its magic. The other ingredients (preservative, fragrance etc) are heat-sensitive, so I had to wait for the mixture to cool before I could add those. If the mixture was too hot, it could compromise the effectiveness of the preservative, and the fragrance would simply evaporate. A bit of mixing and cooling, and once it was at room temperature I put it into a pump bottle, and hey presto! I made lotion!

I was able to test the lotion as soon as it was cool. So, to review my own product: It leaves a slightly greasy feeling for a minute or two after using. Initially I thought it might be too much as a hand cream, but it goes after a minute, and leaves the hands feeling really nice. If your hands are very dry, it might be perfect. I tried it on my face too, and whilst for me it’s too greasy for daytime, it was good as a night cream. It was also nice as a foot cream, applied last thing at night. Baby soft feet by the morning!

Lotion on spatula

My plan is to try a few more batches with different oils, and see what I like best. The testing and refining process is a long one, as I want to see how this performs over time. I want to see how it looks, feels and smells, when it has been sitting on my bedside table for a couple of months, or when I’ve left it in my bag straight over a radiator – in short, test it in real-life situations. So I can’t say when this will be ready for putting into production, but I enjoyed the process and am looking forward to making more. I’m really pleased with how it came out.

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Strange and scary times / Covid-19

At time of writing, the Isle of Man has two confirmed cases of Coronavirus / Covid-19. Social distancing is encouraged, as the best way to minimise the spread of the virus.

To be honest, social distancing looks a lot like normal life for me – staying at home, not seeing people, communicating via social media and text message. Not a problem. I’m an introvert, I like being at home, I like my own company. If anything, I’m more likely to suffer from the lack of alone time. I work from home anyway, so being stuck in the house does not prevent me from working.

I am massively worried about the ongoing economic effects of Covid-19. Everywhere I turn, there are people worrying about how they’ll make ends meet. The TT has been cancelled this year, and that’s a huge proportion of the Island’s income. Many visitors book their travel and accommodation a full year ahead, so the Island’s B&Bs and guesthouses would have already had lots of bookings in place – they’re all cancelled now. There is also the TT Homestay scheme, where homeowners can rent out spare bedrooms for the duration of the TT, which is a very welcome boost to people’s income. That’s all cancelled too. Whilst pubs, bars and restaurants haven’t officially been told to close, many are doing. Childminders are unable to take children, meaning their parents can’t work. Tradesmen can’t go into people’s homes. I was told yesterday that a local department store (what we’d consider “big” in Island terms) has laid off 20 staff. I just can’t even imagine how terrifying it must be to lose your job at a time like this. Everyone is just thinking “What on Earth are we going to do?”

I am in the fortunate, and possibly unique position of knowing exactly what I’m going to do. I’m going to make soap. And when I’ve done that, and wrapped it, and labelled it, and sent it out to the shops who can get it to the people who need it, I’ll make some more. By coincidence, I had just taken delivery of a large order of ingredients, when the virus arrived in the UK, so when I’m worrying about my friends and family, I’ll make soap. When I’m concerned about our finances, I’ll make soap. When I’m scared, I’ll make soap. And when I’m thankful that I can, in some teeny, tiny way, do something that might help, I’ll make soap. It’s all I can think of to do.

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Shampoo Bar Considerations


I’m planning on introducing shampoo bars to my range, and I need your opinions on containers. Round or not round? Tin or re-useable plastic? Push-on lid, or screw cap?

Any other considerations? I’d be very grateful for your input, either in the comments below, or on the facebook thread.


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Shaving soap

Wet shave bowl

Normality is gradually returning, the kids will soon be back at school, and I can get busy making soap again. January is normally quiet, and I’m looking forward to testing new recipes, fragrances, and trying new products.

That strange twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, when you have no clue what day it is, and you’re subsisting on bizarre combinations of snack foods, actually ended up being quite productive, for me. In a sitting-down-and-not-moving-much sort of way. I started reading about shaving soap, and found an absolute goldmine of information, so spent a huge amount of time researching different ingredients, and the qualities they bring.

Old Spice Mug
Vintage Old Spice shaving mug

My experience of mens’ shaving accoutrements was quite limited. My dad used to have an Old Spice shaving mug like this one, and a brush, but mostly used an electric shaver. My grandad liked a wet shave every day, I remember him answering the door fully lathered up, but I don’t recall what else he used. Other shavers in my life over the years have used a can of shave gel and whatever branded multi-blade razor was available from the supermarket. My husband just lathers up whatever soap is in the bathroom, and shaves with that – currently my Enchanted Isle soap. Not really connoiseurs, any of them.

I knew that there are people out there who are really serious about the whole thing, collecting favourite brushes, bowls, mugs, etc, but really, I had absolutely no idea of the true scale of the thing, and how much time, effort, and consideration goes into it! Vintage razors, blade preferences, Silvertip badger hair brushes, straight razors… I’d never heard of a kamisori – a Japanese razor not intended for use by oneself but designed to be used by a barber to shave someone else. (It looks terrifying.)

Shaving brush and scuttle

Some like to lather up the soap in their hands, some directly on the face, others like to collect some soap on a brush and then lather it up in a scuttle: a special bowl or mug which keeps the lather warm, ready for multiple passes with the razor.  Of course, if you regularly shave your face, you’ll probably know all this, and have your own preferred tools and techniques, but to me, it’s all new, and quite fascinating!

I bought my husband some “fancy” shaving soap a while back, and I thought I’d go and lather it up, and see what it looked and felt like. I did that, and to be honest, I was underwhelmed, considering what I’d paid for it! So I went on YouTube, to see if I could find some reviews for this particular soap. Seriously, I never anticipated that one day I’d be searching for YouTube videos of men shaving. But I did find one, and the man got a really good lather from the same soap, but he spent aaaaaages swirling the brush round, lathering it up. I realised I’d been doing it wrong. I’m not sure I’d have the patience, to be honest. But then I used it to shave my legs, and, I can’t lie, they felt amazing afterwards!

Anyway, after my somewhat sedentary period of reading and researching (and finishing up the remaining snackery), I can’t wait to get started making shaving soap! I’ll be trialling a couple of recipes, and will take pics and compare when they’re ready.

Tell me about your shaving preferences? Extra points if you include pics of your favourite tools! Comment below, or head over to facebook and comment on the thread there.