Sunday, 10 November 2013

Shampoo Bars - Experimenting with Citric Acid

As a follow up, I just want to let you know that after 5 weeks of curing, the pH of this soap/ shampoo bar, is no different than my other bars without Citric Acid.   It has not brought the pH level down.
The shampoo bar is okay, but I actually prefer my bars without it!
It was an interesting experiment, although I have so many other things to experiment with... so will probably not be focussing on this right now.  I remind myself that I am not that concerned with lowering the pH in my soap bars as I am okay with where they are.
Has anyone else out there tried this?  With what results?

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Essential Oils in Soap & Skincare – Therapeutic Properties Versus Scent

So many choices and decisions to make when soaping - size, shape, properties, colour, scent, packaging etc. etc.

So, for those of you who use exclusively essential oils in your soaps and skincare products, do you create your blends based on how it smells or what it will do for your skin?
(My latest Potpourri Soap - with Lavender, Lemongrass, Fennel and Ylang Ylang Essential oils, a blend I created for the scent...)
I usually aim for therapeutic value…. But try to blend nice scents.  For example, our oily skin soap has a nice blend of Tea Tree with Eucalyptus.  Our sensitive skin soap has my favourite blend – Patchouli, Geranium and Lavender.
Sometimes it is more difficult… so many things to think about.  In creating our Rose Hip facial serum, as we are aiming this product at mature skin, I had a blend in my mind before ever smelling one of the essential oils I wanted in it… Then it arrived… I opened the bottle with so much anticipation (I am like a kid in a candy store with new essential oils!!), and YUCK.  Have you ever smelled Carrot Seed Essential Oil?  Well, it smells like DIRT.  I knew I didn’t want any citrus essential oils in a product specifically for the face because of photo-sensitivity and was sure I wanted Frankincense in it… so I finally came up with a blend that is loaded with therapeutic value for the skin, and has a pleasant but not a Wow scent.
Me, at our stand at the Artisan trade fair we did this past weekend in Murcia
Maybe I will grow to like Carrot Seed Oil?  That has happened to me with several oils in the past.  Oh how I love essential oils… blending… sniffing… inhaling… some are love at first sniff… the passion develops slowly for others… like patchouli (which I couldn’t stand at first but now love it but only in blends), and like my new obsession – Vetiver.  What a change from supplier to supplier… I recently opened my vetiver essential oil from a new, local, supplier and WOW!  Previously Vetiver was simply smokey campfire to me… unique but basic.  Had never created a blend I loved with it… but now?  I can’t get enough.  Alone, blended, whatever… the oil from this new supplier is incredible… it is more than smokey campfire, it is bewitching, lingering, enticing, sensual, reminiscent, luring, addicting, playful yet calming, up & down, feet-on-the-ground yet magic-carpet ride… I am in love.  
Questions for you:

1)      What are your favourite Essential Oil blends for soap and for other skincare products? Why?

2)      Does anyone out there like the scent of Carrot Seed Essential oil?  What do you blend it with?

3)      What are your favourite Frankincense blends?

4)      Can you contribute any soapy essential oil blends with Vetiver? 

5)      As the scent of essential oils changes during the soaping process, I have had certain blends turn out beautifully in soap, but then haven’t been able to achieve the same scent in a non-soap product! Like patchouli, geranium and lavender… I have been trying to duplicate my soap scent for one of my moisturizing creams… I have attempted so many different versions but it never comes out smelling like the soap.  Any tips?
Please feel free to share any thoughts on Essential Oils!
Happy Soaping!
xo Jen

Friday, 18 October 2013

Christmas Soap Experiments

The cut soap from the other day (scoop glob)... turned out okay.
 I tried a new one.  Used up some cut offs from my super accelerated wine soap and experimented with Titanium Dioxide... surprisingly pleased with Titanium Dioxide!
Happy Soaping Soapers!!

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Scoop-Glob Tecnique - Handmade Soap

My ideas for a Christmas spoon-swirl soap did not go as planned this morning...
Romantic visions of a fulfilling soap-flinging soap-making session this morning were thwarted.... and I had to resort to scoop-glob...
I have a re-found respect for you soap swirlers out there!!
Happy Soaping all!!

Friday, 11 October 2013

New Red Wine Soap

The answer to the guessing game was guessed by Mika at
I was making soap with Wine and it accelerated too fast.

(New batch of Red Wine Soap - I am so pleased with this one!!)
I am still trying to come up with something to do with that big batch of wrecked wine soap I made earlier this week... i will most likely be cutting or grating it up for a potpourri Christmas soap.... then if there are left overs, I grate it into my laundry soap but onto the happier story....
I continued with wine soap and bravely made another batch that turned out wonderfully.  I used to make wine soap but in smaller batches and had no problem, did not need to boil the wine down as seems to be recommended.  This is a private label soap, that I had been making for a local Winery.   I tweaked the recipe slightly this time, adding a little silk, and new essential oils.
Curiously, upping the batch size, changed everything.  heat heat heat.  So, I made a new batch, this time using red wine that I boiled down and reduced first.
It still accelerated, but was managable.  This time trace took 5 minutes instead of the distaster batch, which didn't even let me get the stick blender into it before hardening in Globs.
The scent?  I added a blend of Essential Oils of Cedarwood, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, May Chang and Vetiver... but it still smells more like wine than of Essential Oils.
This batch also got ash on the top and this is a first for me. I always thought that ash came from sunflower oil soaps and as I don't use sunflower oil, I had never had it before..  But this appeared out of nowhere and I like it.  I know that sometimes ash is undesirable, but I like the way this top turned out - kind of romantic.  
So pleased with my new wine soap.  So pleased that I am sorry to be handing this entire lot over to the winery.... I think I will be making another batch to sell in the shop!!
Happy Soaping!!!!!!
xo   Jen 

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Guessing Game.... Again...!

Another guessing game for you....
What do you guess I was experimenting with in this soap?
What do you think happened?
The game is on!!

Friday, 4 October 2013

More Shampoo Bar Experimenting - Sodium Lactate

I am so excited to be experimenting again after a summer focussed on producing and sales.  I feel like a mad scientist with my lab coat on!
This time I didn't use Citric Acid, but tried Sodium Lactate for the very first time.  Again, strange streaking... unusual looking.  I believe the Sodium Lactate didn't mix in properly for some reason.
Can't wait to see how these bars differ from my normal bars after the cure period!
Happy Experimenting!! xo Jen

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

pH in handmade soap – Shampoo bars – Citric Acid

Although I am okay with the pH in my handmade soap bars as it is , I am still experimenting with bringing it down in my shampoo bars.  I read a very interesting post recently on Soap Queen
claiming that they achieved a pH of 7 in a shampoo bar recipe using Citric Acid, so I decided to try it.  I am not sure if the quantity I used was correct but I got some strange seeping…
won’t know for another 6 weeks about the pH!  Will update!
Xoxoxo Jen

Friday, 27 September 2013

Two Recent Bumps / Business lessons?

Bump and Business Lesson 1
Feeling disillusioned with a “the biggies”… finally got into a shop I have been admiring for some time, a quickly growing Spanish company, beautiful concept, beautiful packaging, all products made with olive oil including "natural" skincare… and found out that their concept of “natural” ingredients wasn’t the same as mine. Some of the ingredients were even potentially harmful, and on David Suzuki’s dirty dozen list…
Am I supposed to simply accept that green-washing or lying is business?  In business, can we do it authentically and make a profit?  I still like to think so. 
Naturalmente Mediterraneo is a small, family run business with the 4 following core values:
1)      Love what we do
2)      Use ONLY natural ingredients, from this area whenever possible
3)      Support the local community and economy
4)      Treat the environment well
I don’t want to have to lower the quality of my ingredients to make more profit… so I won’t. For example, even though I know I can get Sweet Almond Oil cheaper, made with Almonds from California, I choose to use oil with Almonds grown in Spain. I don’t want to have to lie or “green-wash” in my marketing in order to compete... so I won’t make false claims.  I don’t want to have to purchase packaging from China in order to bring costs down, when I know our hand-made soap bags create work locally… so I won’t.  
How can I turn this “bump” into something positive?  What can I learn from this? Although it made me mad that a company can lie, not have visible consequences for it and seem to be growing successfully, it reinforces even more our core values. It reinforces what I don’t want to become.  It reminds me that green-washing happens, in companies that may be more interested in profit than providing an authentic, quality product. It reinforces that, although profit is needed in order to stay in business, our focus is on providing an authentic, quality product with only natural ingredients and I believe that is possible without lying. I may need to incorporate the word “authentic” into my core values somehow.  Maybe number 2 - "Create and provide authentic, quality products with only natural ingredients, from this area whenever possible".
Business Lesson?  Believe in and stick to your core values no matter what others are doing.  Be authentic.
Bump and Business Lesson 2
Just this week, I discovered someone else has started a natural skincare company with a very similar company name to mine, simply changed to English.  Although I am not able to find out much information about them or where they are based, it seems the person who runs the show may even have the same first name as I do as well? Coincidence or Intention? My main worry is that clients may think we are the same company...
Copying someone else’s company name and concept?  Not something I would ever be interested in doing. It is pathetic really, and I feel sorry for someone who has so little creativity that they need to blatantly copy others.  However, I acknowledge that I have to accept these things happen. In hindsight, I should have purchased that domain name.
If this can help anyone out there with their small businesses somehow, protect it well.
Business lesson?   I remind myself of that quote - “Expect the best, but prepare for the worst”. 
Now, I need to protect what I am able to, and move forward positively.
I am going to focus on the good stuff, because there is so much good stuff going on.
(one of our personalized hotel/ retreat soaps)
We had an exciting spring, with a trade fair in Malaga, releasing new products - Liquid Soap and Facial Serum.
(Malaga trade fair)
We got wonderful, long-awaited, new labels for our creams and salves.

We had a great, hard-working summer, our busiest sales season and it is just coming to an end with October starting. Now we are moving into production, creation and trade fair season!  Yippee!! 
(our night market stand)
I have several new products in the works which I am so excited about, happy to have my evenings free again after my summer night market every night, and excited to begin travelling a little to trade shows.  We did one in Marbella this past weekend which was great. 
(Stand in Marbella)

Hope you are all soaping away, happily experimenting and I look foward to reading about your next soaping adventures.  I also hope that my business lessons maybe help to some of you small business owners out there.
xo Jen

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Same Soap… Same Oil… Different oil batch

This is one of the private label soaps we do and the main oil in it is Olive Oil which the client gives me, pressed from the olives of their own trees.  The last batch they gave me had a lot of olive “sludge”…  the browny/ black thick mass that settles on the bottom of olive oil.  In discussions with the owners at the usual Olive Oil Mill I get my oil from, they tell me that it is fabulous for soap-making as it is the fattiest.
With the private client’s approval, this time I experimented and didn’t strain it out.  We both like the unusual colour and brown flecks… and will test to see if there is any performance difference… but will probably go back to straining it out for more consistency.
I love being surprised and learning… see how a slight oil change effects natural colour in soap?
So much more to write about… so little time…
Hope you are all having a super summer full of smiles, adventure, passion and surprises!!
Happy soaping!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Guessing Game - Answers

Answers:  Lye Heavy,  Alkanet/ Ratanjot for colouring. 
Here's what happened....  I wanted to
- use up some of my soap shavings that I have been collecting.
- throw together a new scent, maybe using up some of the Essential Oils that I need to use up before their due by date! 
-  try out some new mould lining paper. 
-  work with Alkanet/ Ratanjot in something new to see how it would come out this time... I love how it surprises me...
Soap Shavings - As for the soap shaving part, that was the easiest and most successful.  No problems, except when I was pouring into 3 moulds I had lined and it only filed 2?  What the ((!!))?  Could I have mis-measured........?
New Scent - Awesome.  Pink Grapefruit, Ho Wood and Vetiver..... nicer than I could have imagined and oh-so-intense becuase of mis-measuring....
Mould lining paper - found a fabulous new paper for lining the moulds!   Recently the supplier of my previous mould lining paper changed their sizes and it made it twice as hard to work with.  So I have been looking for another option for some time.   I have even been looking for silicone liners (my dream) but am not prepared to buy ready made wooden moulds with fitted silicone liners as I don't want to change the size of my soaps.  If anyone knows of who I can get custom silicone liners from, please pass on details!!   Then i found this awesome post:  and my husband hunted down similar looking paper.  Didn't really know what contact paper was in Spanish, so he brought back 3 different types.  I lined 3 moulds, each one with a different new mould lining paper.   One of them came out perfect!!!  And the beauty of it is that the paper is so sturdy, I don't even have to use tape.  It just stands up itself!! So thank you Inner Earth for the tip!!
(Here - my old paper in the background and new paper in the foreground)
Alkanet/ Ratanjot - As the pink grapefruit oil is so orange, it must have reacted with the alkanet to produc green-blue.... now turned army green.   It is also the olive oil I work with.... I just can't get a pretty purple any more because of the deep colour of the organic extra-virgin olive oil I soap with.  Oh well...I kind of already new that.
So I picked up a great new scent, a wonderful new lining paper and reinforced what I already knew about Alkanet/ Ratanjot.
The only real disappointing thing about this batch was that I won't be able to use it as soap as I mismeasured...  I looked at the 1-mould column when I was measuring some of the oils instead of the 3-mould column...  so VERY LYE HEAVY. 
What will I do now with it?  Grate it into laundry soap.
Happy soaping, Happy experimenting everyone!!
xo Jen

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Guessing Game Day 2

Someone guessed correctly about what happened to this soap... Brighid's Witch (link?) - lye heavy, but no one has guessed correctly about the natural colour yet.  Once all is revealed, I will publish more about the experiment, the mistake, and the things I have learned...
Todays Clue:   I have worked with this natural colour before but NEVER with results anything like this.  This is not the usual colour that results.  I also need to mention that is has evolved and is turning greener...
So far the guesses for colour (none correct) have been:
Cambrian blue clay
Woad, guessed
Methylen blue
Keep the guesses coming!!

Friday, 14 June 2013

Another Guessing Game...

What do you think this is?
What natural colour do you think I may have been experimenting with?
What do you think may possibly have not gone as intented?
Trying to breath some life into this blog as it used to be so much more interactive... hoping for some great guesses!!
Happy Soaping!!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Soap Production

200 soaps (192 to be exact)…. Incubating cozy warm…
This is the most soap I have made in 1 day.  We made 96 before 10am and another 96 after 8:30pm.  Since I have an open shop… I have to produce outside of shop hours!
 Some simple trays we got out carpinters to make, to carry soaps around.
Then I had a productive working day in between.  Supposing I had more moulds, and the shop was closed for the day, I wonder how many I could make…? Maybe 400 or 500 if I was really pushing it…
Soaps on our new trays...
I remember reading on someone’s blog, it may have been Patti Flynn’s… that she can produce 2000 soaps in a day????? Wow!
What is the maximum amount of soaps you have produced in one day?  
xoxo Jen

Sunday, 5 May 2013

PH - Handmade Cold Process Soap and Liquid Soap – Continued

After being very surprised with the differences between my own pH testing of my bar soaps, and the lab results from the batch analysis, I continue to experiment.  I have also purchased a digital pH metre which has become necessary for developing great liquid soap.
I went into the studio today just to do some pH testing and unfortunately the pharmacist/chemist/technical advisor that works with me sometimes, was not with me today.  She would have been a great help.  We have done some testing together but not since I got my pH metre.
Important to note:
-          My results in testing bar soap can’t be that exact as I am testing a solution of distilled water with soap bits mashed up in it.  (Liquid soap testing is much more exact.)
-          I am not a chemist and am learning from experience and experimenting, not from exact studies.
-          I am not really obsessed with the pH in my bar soap. As long as it tests between 9 and 10, and even sometimes slightly over 10, I am fine with it.  They are wonderful for the skin. I know that.  I have heard of some soapers claiming they achieve as low as a 7.  That is not something I am aiming for.  I work together with the lab who advise me what is okay and not okay in my results.
Let’s look at the testing for some of my different soaps.   First I tried a Castille soap (only olive oil and water).  On the right, the soap is 5 months old.  On the left the soap is one month old.  I only saw a slight pH difference between these two soaps, which struck me as strange and they also seemed to test high all around.  For the phenol (Phenolphthalein) test, from the pink, we can see they are over 8, but don't look over 10.  Do they possibly look around 9?  On the far paper strips, the older soap looks around a 7.5?  And the younger soap looks around an 8.5?  On the closer paper strips, they both look around a 9?  With the digital ph metre, they both tested slightly over 10.   I don’t have the lab results back yet.
Orange Poppyseed soap on left. Lemon Sea Salt on right.  Both finished 8 week curing period.  Phenol makes the pH look quite low, the orange one around 8 or 8.5 and the lemon sea salt soap looks below 8!  On the paper strips you can see on the far strips, the lemon salt soap looks around 7 and the orange poppyseed soap looks around 8.  On the other paper strips, they both look the exact same around 8 or 9. 
Then the pH tests the lemon sea salt soap in at 9.78! and the orange poppyseed soap over 10 – which surprised me because both of these citrus soaps are usually the ones that test lowest on pH from the lab (still always over 9).
So, I calibrated the pH metre again in the 7 and 10 buffer fluids just to make sure everything was right.
Here is my Green Clay-Aloe Vera soap that was made last August.  You can see the results here.  Phenol looks around 8.5? Both pH strips look around 8 and digital pH reading is 9.69.
Now for making liquid soap, it seems like more of an exact science because I can lower the pH to exactly what I want. As you can see here, from the phenol, it looks like the pH is lower than 8, the paper strips look around 7 and the digital meter reading is 9.29.  It first came in over 10, so I lowered it to 9.29 which is right around where I want it.
Conclusions so far from my own testing:
-          The various home-pH-testing methods produce wide differences in results
-          PH results vary even between different testing-papers
-          PH-testing-papers produce falsely low results
-          Phenol seems to be the most difficult to deduce an exact pH
-          The digital pH-metre tests even higher than the lab results, but the closest to the real pH (assuming the lab results are real)
-          In my own testing I only trust the pH metre
-          In reality, I only trust the lab results
Ever had your soap tested by a lab for pH and free lye?  All of the batches that I sell have to be tested.  The results are fascinating and I learn a lot from them.
Questions to you – What pH are you aiming for in your bar soap?  Liquid soap?  Do you try to lower the pH in your bar soap and with what methods?  Anything else you can contribute to help soapers all over would be awesome!!
Happy soaping and pH testing!!
xo Jen