Category Archives: The Stuff We Use To Make Your Stuff

I’m a Scent Rebel


Now, some folks have questioned me on my use of scents like patchouli, pine and herbal extracts in my soaps.  That’s cool…they certainly don’t represent the kind of thing you see in the supermarket’s soap aisle on a regular basis.  Even with an adventurous spirit, this can take some getting used to!

For the record, I’m used to it!  I’m playing with essential oils I’d never heard of before, and combining scents I would never have DREAMED of combining!

It.  Is.  Fun.

The first real confidence-booster was Rosy Cheek.  I had played it pretty safe up to that point, but I was making that soap with my friend Bridget, and I wanted something really special and unusual for her.  Plus…I was probably showing off a bit.

That soap had a blend of rose, rosemary, and a leeeetle bit of eucalyptus.  It quickly became a best seller, and yes, it is cheeky.


In talking with other soapers last week, Rosemary essential oil was discussed more than one would think.  Apparently, rosemary plays very well with others!  Soapers seem to blend rosemary with everything!  Well…I hadn’t come up with anything tremendously new in a while, so I started thinking about rosemary.  I decided that I would plunge my hand into my big box of aroma-happinesses and blend whatever came out with rosemary somehow.

What did I pull out?


I should’ve taken that out before plunging.  So I plunged again and came out with Vanilla.

Rosemary and vanilla?  Fresh/herbal/spicy combined with warm, mellow and autumnal?  “Hrmmm…,” I thought, “I sure hope they don’t cancel each other out and end up smelling like distilled water.”

Then I laughed a little because I crack myself up.

Whellll, I’d made an agreement with myself so I got to work.  I used 3 parts rosemary with 1 part vanilla, and the blended oils hit me like a ton of bricks.  Intriguing…different…yet familiar…just wonderful!  It’s invigorating and warm at the same time.

How NEAT is that??

In the finished soap at 24 hours, I got mostly that refreshing, snappy rosemary, but now, four days later, the bar gives off a comfortable undertone of vanilla.  I can’t wait until it’s fully cured so I can see what happens when it lathers up!  Here it is:


(Update: We are temporarily out of stock–go figure!)

I’ll admit, the thought of plunging in like that and just going for it was scary…and a teensy bit against my nature…after all, I, like everyone else, know what I like!  I gotta tell you though…this might not be the last time I take the plunge!

In other news, I’ve recently discovered that St. Florian is the patron saint of soapmakers (among other things)!  Perhaps he was watching out for me when I took the plunge and got this great scent blend!

St. Florian, pray for us!



Clays…Let’s Play In The Mud!


I live South of the Mason-Dixon line, so I’m no stranger to clay.  It’s all around me!  The dirt is red, and if you’ve ever tried to plant anything in it, you know what a pain in the neck (and back and arms) it can be!

What I’ve found, however, is that certain types of clay are super-great for your skin!

Clay is non-irritating, it draws toxins from your skin, it provides very gentle exfoliation and even has antibacterial properties, so it’s a must-have in many of my products.  I use two types:  Bentonite Clay and Kaolin Clay.

Bentonite is gray, Kaolin is white.

I use bentonite and kaolin in my gentle facial mix (now available here).  It’s great for everything from acne to wrinkles, and you can use it as a quick scrub or leave it on as a mask for 20 minutes or so if you want more detoxification.  I love using bentonite clay in the facial mix because it’s reported to not only prevent skin problems by clearing out the toxins, but also to heal current breakouts and improve circulation.

Kaolin clay, because it’s white, is an ingredient I use alone when color is an issue.  Soap, in my opinion, should be pretty, or at least cool-looking, so when I want the benefits of clay in something but I don’t want it to turn gray, kaolin clay’s my pick.  It’s great for facial soaps and shaving soaps especially.

Why shaving soaps?  Well, I’ve found that clay gives an added “slip” to the lather which helps the razor glide more easily and comfortably on the skin.

The clay I use is also food-grade.  That’s right…some people actually use clay internally as a detoxifier and digestive aid.  I’m not there yet myself, but I do get food-grade clay for a reason.  I use it in my tooth powder.  I’ve ditched toothpaste and I make my own tooth powder.  The clay is great for gentle scrubbing and drawing impurities from the gums, tongue and cheeks.  I’ve found that all my former tooth sensitivity is gone, and I can’t wait for my next checkup to see what the dentist thinks!  I’ll probably post my tooth powder recipe one of these days under Stuff You Can Make Yourself.  Stay tuned!

There are lots of other kinds of clay…green clay has tons of iron and magnesium,  pink, black…there’s an impressive selection of dirt out there!  So let’s add some water and play in the mud!

What the Heck is Patchouli?


This is probably the question I get most often.


Isn’t it something hippies and druggies like?


Patchouli (Pogostemon Cablin) is a tropical herb of the mint family.  It’s used extensively in making incense, thus the association with the 1960s and 1970s.

I use it for several reasons:

It smells nice!  It’s got a combination floral/herbal scent that a lot of people like, even if they can’t put their finger on exactly what it is.

It blends beautifully!  It can blend with florals, herbals, citrus, spice…just about anything you can think of.  It can temper a particularly biting scent, or pick up a rather heavy one.

It’s a scent stabilizer, too!  Some essential oils are notorious for fading over time–any type of citrus comes to mind.  Adding a little patchouli will cause the scent to hold.

Bar Shampoo! For Real!

Love your hair!
Ok, I realize that bar shampoo is a new concept for a lot of people.  Here’s a quick bar shampoo 101 for you:
First, what’s the difference between a bar of shampoo and a bar of regular natural soap?
The difference between our soaps and shampoos is mainly in the percentages of the various oils used.  For example, coconut oil is much better for the hair than olive oil, so I’ll use a higher percentage of coconut.  But it can also be drying when saponified, so I’ll go higher on natural humectant oils such as castor.  Almond, coconut, castor and jojoba are the best for shampoos, with lower percentages of necessary oils such as palm, which makes a firm, long lasting bar, with a creamy lather.  Additives are also different.  No grit or clay in shampoos, but plenty of honey, sugar, coconut milk, and things like that!  The best news is that it’s all good for the skin!
To use, wet your hair as usual, then rub the shampoo with your hands just like any other soap.  Work the lather into your hair, starting at the scalp and working through to the ends.  You might need to get another bunch on your hands if you have a lot of hair, or if you just want more lather.
Some folks even like to rub the bar right on their heads and into their hair, but I don’t find this necessary, particularly when using a coconut milk shampoo.
Bar shampoo won’t strip your hair or scalp of its natural oils, so go easy on the conditioner, if you use it at all.  I find that a simple, natural detangling solution of apple cider vinegar and warm water is sufficient for me.  I know…sounds weird.  But it works and it’s SO MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE than all those conditioners designed to put back what commercial shampoos strip out!  No, I don’t walk around smelling like a salad!
Now that you know how, wanna know why you should?
As I said up there, bar shampoo doesn’t strip your scalp of its natural oils.  When you use commercial shampoo, you strip everything out of your hair and scalp.  Seems like a good idea, but the result is that your scalp will compensate by overproducing oils.  When you switch to natural bar shampoo, it might take a few shampoos (5 to 8) for your scalp to stop overproducing oils.  Once your skin gets back to normal, what a difference you’ll see and feel!
My own experience has resulted in a number of things.  First, my hair is softer and smoother.  Second, I don’t shed nearly as much!  Third, my scalp does not itch or feel dry or irritated anymore.  I’m finally taking care of my “head skin”!!  My hair is even growing faster than it used to!  I will never use anything else!

What’s with all the Coconut? I don’t like Coconut!

Ah, coconut.
To be blunt, I’ve never liked the smell of coconut myself.  I don’t like the taste either, for that matter.
But, oh, what it does for soap!
First, what it doesn’t do:  It doesn’t make anything SMELL like coconut!  That’s probably my favorite part!
Coconut oil is one of my indispensible ingredients.  It makes a strong, bubbly lather, and is the main contributor to the cleansing properties of my soap.
Coconut milk is another wonderful substance!  It adds so much conditioning, and makes that bubbly lather even creamier and more abundant!
Whatever would I do without the coconut?
What a nut!

Why Natural Soap? What’s the Diff?

Patchouli Herbal
There are lots of differences, but the most important has to do with glycerin.  Glycerin is what gives soap its “slip” and moisture.  It’s the element in professional shaving soaps that make that lather result in a good shave.
Commercial soap companies extract the natural glycerin from their soap and sell it to lotion companies, or use it in their own lotion products if they have them.  That’s why commercial soaps are so drying.
Handmade soap retains all its natural glycerin content, so it’s never drying.  Because I use only handmade soap, my need for lotion has diminished dramatically, and I haven’t purchased shaving cream since I tested my first handmade bar.
The other differences are pretty obvious…commercial soap uses synthetic chemicals for lather, fragrance, and handmade soaps are very often all-natural or even entirely organic.
Ours are usually 100% organic, with the exception of a few natural fragrance oils which I will occasionally use instead of an organic essential oil.  Mine are also always vegan.  No animal products.
Those are the major differences.  Isn’t soap educational?