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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

Tins

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.

Thanks!

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Relax, it’s Bathtime!

Picture the scene… You’re in the bath, it’s steaming hot, water and bubbles up to your chin, a glass of wine nearby. A gorgeously scented candle adds gentle light and soft fragrance. *Sigh* Isn’t it lovely?

Sadly, that is not the reality for many of us. My bath is so small I can’t lie down in it. If the water is up to my chin, that means my legs are out of the water. Plus, the plug is one of those that is operated by a twist handle that is situated really low down in the bath, so you can only fill it to where the handle is. And the boiler is acting up too, so it’s impossible to run a HOT bath. Sitting barely waist deep, shivering in tepid water just doesn’t have the same appeal. I’d rather skip it altogether, than have an unsatisfactory bath.

That said, I used to live in a rented house where there was no shower, so your only option was a bath. I will admit, the novelty did wear off. Except when the cat jumped in there, not realising it was full. Yeah, that was pretty funny 😊

I’d love to hear about your perfect bath time. Do you read? Watch movies? Do you like bubbles, salts, essential oils? If you use bath bombs, do you like the ones that release flower petals into the water? Either comment below, or join my facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/963144557168634/

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“Do you use caustic soda?”

“Do you use caustic soda?” is a question I get asked from time to time. Yes, is the answer – it’s the only way to make soap.

“Is there caustic soda in your soap?” is another one. The answer to that one is no.

Although that seems contradictory, both are true.

When you mix an acid and an alkali, a chemical reaction occurs, and a salt is produced. Soap is made my mixing a combination of fats – the acid – with sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as caustic soda, or lye* – the alkali. The process is called saponification, and when it is complete, the alkali is neutralised – there is no caustic chemical left in the product.

Different combinations of acids and alkalis result in different salts:

Olive oil (acid) + sodium hydroxide (alkali) = Sodium Olivate (salt)
Palm oil (acid) + sodium hydroxide (alkali) = Sodium Palmate (salt)
Coconut oil (acid) + sodium hydroxide (alkali) = Sodium Cocoate (salt)

That is why the ingredient labels on my soap list sodium-this and sodium-that, rather than olive oil, coconut oil etc. It’s a legal requirement to list them that way. When olive oil and sodium hydroxide go in, sodium olivate comes out. That’s also the reason why sodium hydroxide, or caustic soda, is not listed on the label – it doesn’t have to be, because it is not present in the finished soap.

“Ah, but you CAN make soap without lye!” is one common response. Whilst it is true that you can buy a pre-made base that you can simply melt down at home, and add whatever colours and fragrances you like, this melt-and-pour base is initially made with lye. It simply has other chemicals added, to enable it to me more easily re-melted.

So, there is really no need to be concerned about lye. You simply can’t make real soap without it.

*To clarify, sodium hydroxide, caustic soda, and lye are all the same thing. Whilst technically, “lye” refers to the liquid made from dissolving the caustic soda in water, the terms are generally used interchangeably.