Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Little Shampoo Talk

I still remember the first time I quit store-bought shampoo and switched to my own shampoo bars.  I did a lot of reading beforehand (because I was unsure of the idea), I kept all my shampoo bottles (just in case!), and I was nervous yet excited to try.

The experience turned out to be an amazing eye opener.  I had no idea that something so simple could made my hair feel so light and "free".  Yes, I had this strange feeling that I just freed my hair from something I didn't even know was there in the first place.  I liked it so much that I threw away all my shampoo bottles because I knew I'd never go back to them!

I'v shared with my friends this new found secret to healthier hair and scalp, and those who are brave enough to take the plunge all love it.  But I usually tell them a little bit about shampoo bars first so that they understand why it feels a certain way and know what to expect.

So this is what I share with my friends before they try my shampoo bars:

square_16.gif  Instructions to using a shampoo bar:  

      1.  Rinse your hair thoroughly with water.  
      2.  Rub the soap bar on your hair until it lathers enough to your liking.
      3.  Rinse off the bubbles.
      4.  Condition your hair with acidic water of your choice (more about this later).
      5.  Rinse off acidic water.
      6.  Dry your hair.

square_16.gif   Store-bought shampoo contains SLS, a type of chemical suds booster, to create bubbles that are always thick and creamy.
    The conditioning "illusion" comes from silicon oils. The only thing they do is coat your hair so they look shiny and smooth.  By coating your hair and scalp, they also trap all the bad chemicals and dirt in there.
square_16.gif  On the other hand, shampoo bars are soaps, and soaps are meant to clean, nothing more.  All it guarantees is a clean scalp and hair.

square_16.gif  If you understand how pH level affects your hair, you'll know why your hair tangles up after you rinse off the bubbles.  Since handmade soaps are measured on the alkali half of the scale,  you have to bring the pH level down so your hair returns to its natural pH state. 

square_16.gif The easiest way to do that is rinse your hair with acidic water.  
   Apple cider vinegar has always been recommended as an all natural hair conditioner, and some people prefer lemon juice.  
   Depending on the length of your hair and the hardness of your local water, you might need a different water-to-vinegar ratio, but start with 1 part vinegar and 10 parts water.  I have shoulder length hair, and it takes about 150ml each time to thoroughly rinse my hair.

square_16.gif Some people experience itchy scalps after they switch to handmade shampoo bars.  I call this the "detox stage".  I have no scientific proof to it, but I think it's because the cleaning effects of shampoo bars allow accumulated chemicals a chance to come out.  The itchiness will go away in a week or two.

Give it a try, I'm sure you'll never look at your hair the same way again!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Evolution of Swiss Rolls

Hubby's co-worker is expecting a baby girl in four months, and what gift is better than 100% olive oil handmade soap?  

Since I've been planning on making swiss roll soaps, I figured that I could give it a try.  It should be easy, right?  After all, it's just rolling up CP soap.    

Oh I couldn't be more wrong!

This is my first attempt.  My original plan is simply to make 2 layers and roll them up - one with cocoa powder ("chocolate cake") and one with pink clay ("raspberry cream").   But they're both too thick for rolling, and the end result doesn't look like a swiss roll at all.  Rather, it looks like ... I can't even describe what it looks like.

And then there's my second attempt.

I've learned my lesson: keep the layers thin and wait for the soap to set up properly before rolling.

They look a lot like swiss rolls this time, but rolling is still not easy.  I have a hard time keeping the whole thing round, and the surface is not as smooth as I'd like to see.  I'm happy with my second try though.  At least I know what I can do next time to make it even better!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

If You Love to Make Soap....

.... then you'll LOVE this book : The Art of Soap by Debbie Chialtas.

Debbie is known to the soap world for her stunning and creative works, such as her award-winning Typography Soap and these unbelievably delicious PB&J Marshmallows.  (I'm still scratching my head, "How did she do it?")  

Debbie is in the process of putting together this book that features 24 soap artisans and their wonderful soap creations.  I don't know about you, but for someone whose mind is always wondering what kind of soap to make next, I just can't wait to get my hands on it!

Ok, ok, there's another reason why I'm so excited about this book.  Just check out this update from Debbie and you'll see why. 

The Art of Soap will be available this fall.  In the meantime, subscribe to her newsletter for occasional sneak peeks and updates!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Second Attempt

I tried making cake-like soaps again.   Instead of spending hours on creating different layers to imitate cakes, I cheated a little this time by using individual cake molds.

The soaps turned out better than I expected, but they look more like flavored white chocolate.  Hmmm.... Maybe I should've swirled with cocoa powder instead.  That'd really fool people!

I put in lots of lard (one of my favorite ingredients) in to the recipe this time.  I rendered the lard a few months ago and have been keeping jars of them in the freezer.  Rendering my own lard is time consuming but well worth it.  In my opinion, the best way to render lard is the "oven method". 

Basically you cut pork fat into tiny pieces and immerse them with water in an oven-safe pot.  Leave the pot in the oven overnight at a relatively low temperature and the next morning you'll find a thick layer of pork fat floating on top of the water.  This oven method gives you really clean and white lard, but it's relatively soft compared to the hydrogenated lard you can find at regular grocery stores.

Making cake-like soaps is kind of addicting!  Up next, I'm going to create CP swiss rolls!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Chocolate Square

I love baseball.

But I'm not what you call a baseball fanatic.   I enjoy watching baseball games, but don't ask me about last Friday's game because I usually forget everything by the next morning.  But today, I find myself still replaying yesterday's game in my head.

I went to the ball park with a girlfriend yesterday.  The weather was perfect - sunny with occasional clouds, warm but not too hot.  The pitchers from both teams had a hard time keeping the bats quiet, lots of hits and lots of runs.  The final score?  17 - 11!   The home team was hitting homers left and right, and the balls were like pop corns popping from the home plate.    The long balls definitely entertained the crowd, and I had never been to a ball game with so much thrill!  By the end of the game, my hands were red from clapping too much too hard.

The soap has nothing to do with the game or baseball.  I just like to get the last bit of excitement out of me and turn it into words. ;)

The original plan for this batch was to create two smooth lines and embed squares (cut from my Chocolate Soap) between the lines.  Everything went as planned, and I even started to giggle a little by the time I finished pouring the last drop of soap when I saw the bottle of castor oil sitting quietly at the corner.  Yes, you guess it right, I forgot to put in castor oil and this beautifully molded soap was lye-heavy!!  By this time the mixture was already at heavy trace, but I forced myself to suck it up and dig everything out. I weighted the oil, remixed everything, poured again, and I was so stubborn that I had to re-create the original look.  Of course it didn't come out right, but somehow I'm happy with the look anyway.  

Maybe it's the sweetness of saving a bad batch that makes me love these soaps so much.

Olive oil, Tallow, Coconut oil, Almond oil, Corn oil, Castor oil