Au Naturel Essence

All natural treats for body and soul

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New Year’s Resolutions

Like many, I take time at the end of each year to take stock of the year that is finishing and make some plans for the upcoming year.

2011 was an exciting year for me.  It was my third year of learning how to make my own skin care products.  I started the year by tackling liquid soap.  By December, I had added liquid soap, melt and pour soaps, lotion, serums, lip gloss and night oil to my repertoire of products!  It was such a lot of fun learning and experimenting with different ingredients all through the year.  Much of that experimentation was focused on natural hair care, a front that I’m still working on.  Not only have I managed to get rid of many potentially harmful ingredients that were in my household and daily routine, I have also been able to share this with friends and family.

All Natural Treats for Body and SoulIt was particularly exciting to start Au Naturel Essence and to set up this blog, which I did mid-year.   Through this blog, I have connected with others who I would never have met otherwise and I’ve also found a way to share my journey with you all.  It also allowed me to take my first set of orders for Christmas this year.

Truly, 2011 was an exciting year and I’m so grateful for all of the things I was able to accomplish.

As always, I’m excited for the new year.  I can’t wait to continue my experiments and expand my line of products further.  Look for more soaps of all kinds, a return of the hand balm, and more bath products.  I know there will be even more that I haven’t even contemplated yet.  I’ll be sure to share it with you when I get there!

Best wishes you all for the new year!


Christmas Gift Bags

Each year for the past three years, I put together a gift bag of handmade products for the majority of the Christmas gifts that we give to our friends and family.  This year was no exception.  In fact, it was slightly challenging since I had a number of different products to choose from!  Honestly, it was a great problem to have.

This year, I started planning out the gift bags in October.  I wanted to ensure that I gave myself enough time to make all of the different pieces.  I started putting everything together in November and into the beginning of December.  I attended my first Christmas party for the season on November 18th.  There’s nothing like an early holiday party to be a good kick in the butt!

Here’s what I chose for most of the gift bags:

  1.  Foaming Soap.  I made this soap from scratch, so I know it’s full of great ingredients.  I love fresh scents in soap, so most of the bottles were scented with orange, lemongrass and other citrus scents.
  2. Two bars of melt and pour soap.  I made several bars of soap in preparation for this year’s gift bags.  I used Goat’s Milk and Coconut M&P soap as a base.  I added charcoal, green clay and pink clay to them.  In the end, each bag got two bars of soap.
  3. Lip Lube.  I made my own special recipe for these lip balms.  Mine are all made from scratch and they are soft enough that they can be used on the coldest winter days.  There’s nothing worse than a lip balm that won’t slide on.  I experimented quite a bit this year to land on just the right combination of oils and wax.
  4. Smoothing Serum.  This is one of my favourite concoctions.  It’s a gel that you can use to help tighten those fine lines.  It’s good for men and women and feels great when you put it on.
  5. Ultra Moisturizing Lotion.  I included a small sample of lotion in the gift bags.  I have used lotion all my life and this is the best one I’ve ever used.  Seriously – I’m not just saying that because I made it!  It’s highly moisturizing without being greasy.  I love it.

Inevitably, I also get a few last minute requests for gifts to give out and of course, I usually don’t have quite enough to made complete gift bags.  Fortunately, I’ve learned a few great staples to make that I was able to use to put together some extra gifts at the last minute.  More about those to come…

Merry Christmas!


Making Liquid Soap From Scratch

For the past few months, I have been trying to make a liquid soap from scratch.  I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been very successful.

The first batch was based on a recipe I made up myself, with the help of a soap calculator.  I doubt I’ll ever know what went wrong with that batch.  It thickened quite quickly and I thought I had achieved trace.  I cooked it for a long time.  However, it was just a grey sludge after all of those hours.

The second batch was an exact replica of the recipe that we used in the Liquid Soap workshop at Soap and More – The Learning Center.  However, I let the temperature rise too high and it basically erupted out of the bowl.  I probably spent more time cleaning that batch up than making it!

The third batch was anything but charmed.  Once again, it thickened nicely, but never formed the beautiful clear amber paste.

As it turned out, batch number four was the lucky one.  It worked out differently from the rest.  I followed a recipe out of Catherine Failor’s book Liquid Soap.  Within 20 minutes of mixing the lye and oils, I achieved trace.  About ten minutes after that, it was too thick to stir with the blender.  Over the next several hours, I cooked the mixture in my slow cooker and it turned a beautiful transparent amber color.  Yippee!!  I ended up with a pail of amber soap paste.

I diluted a cup of that paste with two cups of water.  I added a bit of citric acid to correct the pH level.  Then, I bottled it and let it sit for two weeks.  At the end of those two weeks, I tested the pH again to confirm it was OK and put it into a bottle and finally, after many months of painstaking experimentation, I had a bottle of homemade, natural, liquid soap that I made from scratch!

Making liquid soap has been the most challenging natural product to make so far.  I’m just ecstatic to have finally made a batch successfully!


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Natural Face Care

I attended a workshop on Total Face Care at Soap & More – The Learning Center on the long weekend.  As always, the workshop was lots of fun.  It was especially enjoyable this time because my mom and one of best friends came with me!  It was just great to share my new-found hobby with them both.

During the workshop, we made 5 different products.  We started with aFace Care Regime basic facial foaming cleanser.  I love foaming soap, so I was quite pleased to be making one in this workshop!  Next, we then made a toner.  Everyone made a toner that was customized a certain skin type.  I chose to make one for combination skin.  I’ve never really used toner.  I have found that they tend to dry out my skin.  However, the toner we made in the workshop did not have any alcohol or other drying agents.  I’m looking forward to trying it out.

Next, we made a face moisturizer.  This was a similar process to making lotion, so I was comfortable with the process.  We added a small amount of glycolic acid to this cream.  To counter any effect it might have with making the skin more susceptible to the sun, we also added some titanium dioxide.  The cream came out beautifully and feels very light on the skin.

We mixed up a night oil with one of my favourite oils, argan oil.  As with toner, oil is not something I typically use on my face at night.  Normally, I opt for a moisturizer.  I know there are many who swear by a dab of oil at night.  It’s just enough to moisturize the skin without leading to excess oil.  Since the workshop, I’ve been using it every night and so far, so good.

The final gem we made was a serum.  By far, this was the highlight of the class for me.  We each made a small bottle of serum that can be used to tighten up the skin.  I brushed this on under my eyes.  It was cooling and I felt my skin tighten a wee bit.  I really love this product!

With all five products, I came home armed with a whole new face care regime!

GoodiesAnd finally, any visit to Soap & More, whether it’s for a workshop or not, must be topped off with a bit of shopping.  I bought a few more goodies to add to my growing collection. I can’t wait to try those out too!


Soap vs. Detergent

There are lots of products that are labelled as cleansers and soap that are somewhat removed from that actual process of making soap.  These products are often closer to a detergent.  Both soaps and detergents are used for cleaning.  While they serve the same purpose, they differ in their structure and ingredient list.

So, what are these differences?

Detergents are made from petroleum products.  They use chemicals to create foam and they usually have a strong undesirable smell.  Therefore, these products are scented with strong, often artificial, fragrance.  These products usually also have preservatives, such as parabens.

Soap is from a mixture of lye and oils or fats.  The lye is most often made from potassium for liquid soap and from sodium for hard soap.  The best soap is made from naturally occurring oils, such as coconut oil, castor oil, or olive oil.  Soap will have an alkaline pH of about 9 to 10, making it a great cleansing agent.  With natural soap, there is no need for preservatives, such as those used in detergents.  The best natural soaps retain the glycerin, rather than removing it and selling it in bulk, like many large manufacturers.

Some detergents, often called cleansing bars, or facial cleansers, market a balanced pH level.  In other words, they have created a product that has a pH of about 7.  This tends to be less effective at cleaning the skin.  To compensate, harsher stripping ingredients are used to penetrate the skin.

Even when the detergent hasn’t marketed a balanced pH level, if you ever get that feeling of tight skin after you have washed your face of skin, you have probably used a product that penetrated into the deep layers of your skin and stripped the moisture away.

Since I started using a natural soap, I have eliminated the need for a moisturizer!  I’ve always thought that I had dry skin and consequently, have always used a moisturizer.  Imagine my surprise when I skipped the moisturizer step of my routine and didn’t even miss it!

Have a look at the ingredient list on your list of skin care products.  It’s worth knowing what exactly you’re rubbing all over your skin every day.


On the soap front…

I`ve been away from my blog for a little while, but it’s all been for a good cause!

I just finished seven bars of sandalwood charcoal soap for friends of mine.  After trying the four samples of different soaps I made a few weeks ago, they requested more charcoal.  That was officially my first sale!  Woo hoo!

That was the good news.

On the liquid soap front, I have now attempted to make it on two different occasions.  On the first try, despite following the recipe as closely as possible, I ended up with a grey sludge, as opposed to a lovely soap paste.  I suspect the sludge result was due in part to the types of oil I used.  Not to be discouraged, I tried again last weekend and had a wee bit of a mistake on the temperature.  I realized too late that the temperature had risen too high and watched the soap mixture erupt in the bowl.  It was both horrifying and fascinating at the same time.  Alas, I was not able to save it.  While unfortunate, both tries were good learning experiences and have made me more determined than ever to master the art of crafting liquid soap from scratch.

If you’re dying to try my soap bars, let me know and I’ll fix you up.

As for the liquid soap, I’ll have samples ready as soon as I make a decent batch

Stay tuned!