I am frequently asked by customers if they can use our handcrafted soap bars for hair care. For most hair types, my answer is no. Let me explain...
Shampoo bars first came across my radar several years ago. I found it interesting that people would use a soap bar as shampoo. So, I began making them using a popular formula from the soapmaking blogs. I was disappointed that the “shampoo bar” began to dry out and damage my fine hair. I tried another formula using apple cider vinegar, this time with improvement in the dryness, but still, no cigar. Not having much luck, I put the idea of formulating shampoo bars on the shelf and went back to following the shampoo bar discussions in the background.
In the meantime, I had been studying formulation ebooks from Susan Barclay of swiftcraftymonkey.blog. I came across some interesting information that she had written discussing the importance of pH when it came to hair care products. Basically (pun intended for the science nerds), hair has an acidic pH and thrives with use of acidic products. The high pH of handmade soap (which is lovely for skin, not so much for hair) can strip the lipids or fats in hair and damage the cuticle. (Ah ha! This is why handmade soap “shampoo bars” did not work for my hair.) I also attended the Hand Crafted Soap and Cosmetic Guild’s 2019 conference and sat in on Keri Mixon’s presentation on the Objective Comparison of Shampoo Bars. Again, the importance of pH in shampoo bars was reiterated. I located articles in the International Journal of Trichology, (a branch of dermatology that studies the health of the hair and scalp, yes it’s a thing) that did not recommend the use of bar soaps for shampoo (Draelos, 2010) and that “alkaline pH may increase the negative electrical charge of the hair fiber surface and… may lead to cuticle damage and fiber breakage." We don’t want this, the cuticle protects the main body of the hair. Additionally, according to D’Souza & Rahthi (2015) shampoos must not have a pH higher than 5.5.
Now that I was geared up with this information, I was ready to reformulate my shampoo bars. As much as a love using 100% natural ingredients, for hair products this is a difficult task. The best comprise for me was to use plant derived synthetic ingredients. I am so happy that I did! I was able to formulate a shampoo bar that I can use without drying out my hair. And….. shampoo bars can last a long time, approximately 3 bottles worth of shampoo depending on your hair length and frequency of hair washing. In fact, the main reason I decided to revisit shampoo bars was after walking into my daughters’ bathroom and seeing the 4 large bottles of shampoo and conditioner - they like an assortment. It really hit home that making a small change could reduce plastic waste. Using concentrated, solid shampoo and conditioner bars eliminates those plastic bottles that comes with liquid shampoo.
Now, not everyone has the same hair type, that’s why there is a multitude of hair care products on the store shelves. And, there have been a handful of case studies that showed some hair types that did not have damage after using a high pH product. So, what may work for my hair might not work for yours. But, if you are passionate about low or zero waste products, shampoo bars may be for you.
Live at ease,
Barclay, S (2018). Adventures in cosmetic chemistry shampoo bars you will love: Creating pH balanced bars. https://www.swiftcraftymonkey.blog/product/shampoo-bars-you-will-love-creating-ph-balanced-bars/
Draelos ZD (2010). Essentials of hair care often neglected: Hair cleansing. Int J Trichol (2) 24-29.
D’Souza P & Rathi S, (2015). Shampoo and conditioners: What a dermatologist should know? Indian J Dermatol 60 (3) 28-254.
Gavazzoni Dias MR, de Almedia AM, Cecato P, Adriano AR, Pichler J. (2014). The shampoo pH can affect the hair: Myth or Reality? Int J Trichol 6 (3) 95-99.
Mixon, K (2019). Objective Comparison of Shampoo Bars. HSCG Annual Conference. Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center. Dallas Texas. May 2019. Lecture.
It’s that time of the year, when the cooler weather is causing our skin to lose water and natural oils resulting in itchy, dry and cracked skin. As humidity drops, our skin loses moisture faster, coupled with indoor heating it can be a double whammy for dry skin conditions. As a nurse practitioner, my hands take a beating at work with multiple washings and the use of hand sanitizer. I also work with yarn, having picked up a crocheting habit which further removes moisture from my hands. I have found that in addition to using handmade soap that contains glycerin (this is a natural occurrence when you make soap by hand), a rich moisturizer or lotion, and a lotion bar can be an effective dry skincare routine. Plus, hydrate, hydrate, hydrate as we do lose water through our skin, more on that below.
One main difference between lotion bars and lotions or creams is that they do not contain water; also known as an anhydrous product. So, you won’t get added moisture in the form of a lotion bar, but you will get a nice occlusive barrier to prevent transepidermal water loss (TEWL). TEWL, the amount of water in the skin that evaporates into the external environment on average can be 300-400 ml/day, well over a cup a day. So, lotion bars can be helpful in preventing TEWL. Another benefit is that they do not contain a preservative for those who may have a sensitivity to those ingredients.
I have noted that If I apply a lotion or cream and, then, wash my hands, it feels as if it is easily rinsed off in between washings and quickly wicked away from the skin when working with yarn. Whereas, if I use a lotion bar or hand salve it seems as if I still have a bit of protection that lasts longer with less frequent application. I also don't need to apply as much product with a lotion bar.
If you are not a fan of the feeling of a lotion bar or salve – they can be thick and take a few minutes to sink in, apply it at night before going to bed. You can even apply it over your moisturizer to help lock in the water in the lotion or cream.
You can easily make a lotion bar at home with a few simple ingredients! Here is a basic formula to get you started.
You can play with this natural beauty formula based on your individual skin care needs. For example, thick oils like olive, rice bran, or avocado for super dry skin. Or, for a silkier application, fractionated coconut oil, almond oil, or grapeseed oil. If available, cold pressed organic oils make for a high quality natural and organic skincare product.
The basic formula is:
Beeswax 30% (for vegans use 20% candelilla wax and increase soft oils to 50%)
28% hard butters (shea butter or mango butter)
40% oils (your choice or a combo of oils to equal 40% such as olive, sunflower, rice bran, avocado, etc….)
1% lavender essential oil
1% vitamin E
Keeping the math simple, we’ll use 100g. This will make 3.5 oz, so plan for your mold appropriately. You’ll need a kitchen scale, a double boiler or candy melter, a mold – an ice cube tray will be fine (will make about 3 cubes), and formula ingredients as below:
30 grams beeswax
28 grams shea butter
40 grams sunflower oil (or your choice of oils to equal 40 grams)
1 gram lavender essential oil
1 gram vitamin E
After weighing the ingredients with a kitchen scale, combine the wax, butter, and oil and place into a double boiler or a candy melter on low. Allow the ingredients to melt completely and stir with a clean or sanitized spoon to combine thoroughly.
Next, remove from heat and add the lavender oil and vitamin E when the mixture is below 156 degrees fahrenheit.
Pour into molds and place into the refrigerator to reduce the graininess that can occur when shea butter cools slowly.
Once they have solidified, this may take 30 minutes or an hour for larger molds, remove from mold and enjoy. Hold the bar in the palm of your hands to let your body heat start to melt the lotion bar and massage onto dry areas.
You can also find our lotion stick under the Body section of our website, it is a lotion bar in a roll up tube for convenience.
I was so thrilled to learn that Amy Warden was bringing back the Soap Challenge Club this Fall. Participating in these challenges has allowed me to learn new techniques and grow as a soap maker. I love seeing everyone's soaps at the conclusion of the contest, there is such a wide variety of talent. For the November 2019 challenge, we were tasked with creating a soap using a straight line method. For the advanced category, we were to pour the soap using a thin trace over a skewer into a slab mold to produce thin lines. My first attempt turned out well, but not after I first panicked as the lines looked wavy. So, I aborted using the skewer and poured the soap from a squeeze bottle free hand. This worked well, but wasn't within the guidelines of pouring over the skewer. First attempt below with Fall colors:
My second attempt used much brighter colors and was poured over a very thin bamboo skewer, this produced wavy lines. I was about to stop here because I didn't much mind the wavy lines. I appreciated the design; however, I wanted to make one more attempt to get those straight lines. I filmed this soap making session and will have a link to the video when it is ready. Attempt number two below:
For the final attempt, I used almost the same color scheme but lightened up the green and pink accent colors to produce greater visual interest. I also went with a larger skewer, this was actually the piece of wood that comes with a new pair of shoes, it is approximately 5 mm in across, so there is a bit more space for pouring the soap. That being said, I had better results when pouring slightly off center of the "skewer". This was fragranced with Loving Spell from Nature's Garden Wholesale Candle & Soap Making Supplies, which worked well without any acceleration or discoloration of the batter. For this challenge I also modified my tried and true slow moving soap formula. I had fabulous results working at room temperature, with 55% soft/slow moving oils and 45% hard oils (coconut & palm). So whether I win or lose, I had a great time with this challenge and hope every one enjoyed it!
Thanks for reading,
One of my favorite facial products is a coconut & honey face mask. My not so favorite part is the cost; at about $40 for less than 1.5 ounces, it can break the bank. So, off to formulate this hydrating treat myself.
The combination of coconut oil and honey is a super combo as they both contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and hydrating components that benefit the skin. For this DIY production, you will need just a few things: coconut oil (Virgin coconut oil is recommended--more on this in a minute), honey, beeswax (If you don't have any beeswax on hand, don’t sweat it; you can leave this out), a small whisk, and microwave-safe containers (or a double boiler if you have it).
Why Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO)? Well, regular coconut oil is pressed from the dried coconut kernel while VCO is from the fresh meat of the coconut, and it is unrefined. VCO has seven times the amount of polyphenols (superb antioxidants that fight oxidative stress and may prevent premature aging). VCO also has a genuine coconut fragrance. The main fatty acids in VCO are 47.5% lauric acid, 18.1% mystic acid, 5-10% oleic acid, and 8.8% palmitic acid. Lauric acid is the main fatty acid here. Fun fact, lauric acid has demonstrated antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity against P. acnes, which is the bacterium proposed to contribute to inflammatory acne. Although, overall, VCO is moderately comedogenic (can clog pores). So, this mask is for me. My teenagers prefer the rose clay facial mask. As a side note, fractionated coconut oil is different from VCO and regular coconut oil as the long-chain fatty acids have been removed, including most of the lauric acid, so that it remains in a liquid state.
Honey is not just a sweet treat; it contains a powerhouse of antioxidants and also antimicrobial activity. Honey is a humectant; it draws moisture to skin. There have been some studies showing that Manuka honey can eradicate biofilms (slimy layer of bacteria that adheres to surfaces) and accelerate wound healing. I didn’t use Manuka honey in this recipe, but you could substitute some of it in. Manuka honey comes with a higher price tag. If you use it, let me know how it went.
Beeswax is the last ingredient. I wasn’t going to add it to the product as many people don’t have beeswax readily on-hand, but it made a smoother and more homogeneous product. It was a texture thing for me; however, you will still get the benefits of the VCO and honey without the beeswax.
Step 1: Measure honey into a clean container.
Step 2: Melt the 2 ½ Tablespoons of VCO in the microwave, if needed (If it is hot outside, it may already be melted) start with 10-20 seconds intervals.
Step 3: Combine VCO with honey and mix with small whisk until combined. (It may be grainy if you are not adding beeswax.)
Step 4: Melt beeswax in a double boiler, preferably. I was in a hurry and used a microwave on high for 3 minutes. Beeswax melts slowly.
Step 5: Mix beeswax into honey and VCO. Place in refrigerator to set up. I checked on mine in 5 minutes and had to re-whisk as the coconut oil had set up on top. Leave in refrigerator for 5-10 more minutes, whisking until combined.
VCO has a shelf life of 18-24 months and honey is indefinite, so this should last you a long time.
For application, first wash face with mild cleanser. We have two facial soaps available that do a wonderful job of gently cleansing the skin: Dead Sea Mud Facial Soap & Oatmeal & Milk Facial Soap.
If you have time, place a warm washcloth onto the face to open up the pores. Next, apply a quarter size amount to face and relax for about 10-15 minutes. Remove product with a warm, wet washcloth, and enjoy your glowing skin.
As a side benefit, you could also put this on your toast ;) It tastes yummy.
I estimated that this cost me less than $2 to make--that’s $37 in savings, and more with shipping.
We love creating handmade products and we want you to love them too. Check out our products at www.latheringlotus.com
Live at ease like the lotus in the muddy waters,
Jamie & Andra
*Reposted from 2/12/2018
My soap making began with a desire for less in my skincare products. Less chemical preservatives, less synthetic fragrances, and less substances that I couldn’t readily identify in the ingredient list. So, the best way to be sure that I knew exactly what was in my skincare products, was to make it.
So, my sister and I took a local soap making class, and the adventure began.
We continued to make and experiment with soap making, which eventually led to the founding of Lathering Lotus. While I was focused on soap making, I decided to “green” up my facial skincare regimen, since making facial lotions wasn't on my radar yet. I researched organic ("green") skincare companies that used plant-based oils (preferably organic), rather than mysterious synthetic ingredients. Many of these companies use lovely essential oil blends for targeted treatments (think anti-aging and acne) and to replace fragrances.
I was happy with the products and companies that I was using and felt good that I found a way to avoid synthetics. I continued making soaps with the plan to eventually make my own lotions, but nearly 6 months into my soap making and green beauty facial regimen, I developed severe contact dermatitis. It began with eye eczema then developed into swollen, sore, scaly eyes that I woke up to every morning—contact dermatitis with eczema.
After a visit with my dermatologist, I had patch testing to help find the culprit. The first patch testing was basic (38 or so chemicals). The results showed that I had allergies to fragrances and bronopol. My dermatologist recommended that I get extensive patch testing that could conclude the specific types or chemical components of fragrance that I was reacting to.
Four months and nearly 200 chemicals later, I learned I was allergic to the basic components in essential oils and fragrances including bronopol, cinnamon, and eugenol. I never reacted to essential oils before, so I was surprised and disappointed that I now had to avoid limonene, linalool, and isoeugenol—components in most all essential oils AND fragrances. And, yes, fragrances are not a solitary substance; they contain thousands of chemicals including essential oils (Tisserand & Young, 2014). I was also told of the similarity of fragrances and essential oils by a chemist at a soap maker’s gathering and learned firsthand through my dermatologist as well as reading research texts from aromatherapy.
I left the dermatologist with an 80+ page “safe list” that included all the skincare products that I could safely use. Most of these “safe” products, in my opinion, were not as safe as I would have liked. The products were safe in the sense that they didn’t contain allergenic ingredients, but they were not green, which was my ultimate goal. Reluctantly, I used the dermatologist recommended products until I could get my skin to calm down, and it worked. No more eczema flare ups or swollen, sore, scaly eyes. But, I still struggled with the knowledge that the products that I was using contained ingredients that were not green.
With a new understanding of my allergenic and sensitive skin and the desire to have minimal to no synthetics, we made soap to replace the dermatologist recommended soap. Soap with natural ingredients: free of fragrances, essential oils, and synthetics. Soap with skin-loving plant oils that I feel good using and won't irritate my sensitive and allergenic skin called Simply Soap.
While the actual pathophysiologic mechanism that causes eczema or sensitive skin is uncertain, modern medicine generally agrees that there is a disruption in skin barrier function (Kim, 2017). Consequently, once the protective skin barrier is broken, that leaves the skin vulnerable to irritations and flare ups. This leads the way for essential oils, fragrances, and other substances to become irritants.
The National Eczema Association has a list of common irritants on their website at https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/causes-and-triggers-of-eczema/.
If you have reactive skin, you should check in with your healthcare provider and also identify what causes the flare ups and avoid those irritants like the plague.
If you’re currently struggling with contact dermatitis or eczema, the road to getting clear won’t happen overnight. When I was at the peak of my reactions, everything, even products I wasn’t allergic to and that were formulated for sensitive skin, burned. My skin barrier was broken and skin so irritated that even my own sweat burned. It was through consistently avoiding allergenic products or ones that contained fragrances and even essential oils that I was eventually able to wake up without swollen eyelids and eczema patches.
The revelation that fragrances and essential oils were causing my skin to become inflamed led to our creation of a few products that are free of those chemical components. Currently those products are Simply Soap & the natural Lotus Lip Balm. We can also customize soap to be free of any essential oils or fragrances.
Live at ease like the lotus in the muddy waters,
Andra & Jamie
*Reposted from August 28, 2017
Kim, B.S. (2017, April 6). Atopic dermatitis. Retrieved August 28, 2017 from
National Eczema Association (2017). Eczema causes and triggers. Retrieved
August 28, 2017 from
Tisserand, R & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety: A guide for health care
professionals. (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Churchill.
So, what is a bath bomb? And, why would you want to use one anyway? If you google “who created the bath bomb,” you will be directed to a famous cosmetic retail company that starts with the letter “L”. (Sadly, it’s not Lathering Lotus.) “L” declares that their co-founder created the bath bomb. If you dig deeper – a lot deeper, you can find references in the Merck Report, a practical journal of pharmacy as a profession and a business, to effervescent bath tablets being formulated as far back as 1902. The formula in the Merck report is even replete with a blend of natural fragrances. Pretty cool, right? Soaking in a bath in the early 1900s was a luxury and, consequently, I can see why the trend did not catch on at that time.
Fast forward 115 years, and the bath bomb has been perfected to provide a relaxing and aromatic bathing experience; sometimes the vibrant colors and effervescent fizzing and foaming create a work of art in the bath tub.
The basic composition of a bath bomb is pretty simple. It is a 2:1 ratio of baking soda to citric acid; this combination reacts when placed in water and produces sodium citrate and carbon dioxide when it hits the water – voilá, fizzing ensues. Manufacturers can include a myriad of other ingredients, but, generally speaking, they include: butters, oils, salts, foaming agents, emulsifiers, colorants, and fragrances. Once dissolved, these additional ingredients are released into the bath water.
Why use one of these fizzy delights? Well, in addition to just plain enjoyment, they can include skin-enhancing ingredients such as butters, oils, salts, and essential oils. After soaking in the tub with a dissolved bath bomb, you may discover that your skin feels replenished.
Are there any risks with using a bath bomb? Risks are pretty low, but keep in mind that you can have a sensitivity to just about anything. The culprits in bath bombs that could lead to skin irritation are typically citric acid, fragrances, essential oils, or foaming agents. Also, these are not for use on open cuts or wounds. And, freshly shaved legs are open wounds. It is also a good idea to use caution when exiting the tub as surfaces can get slippery due to oil residue. We use polysorbate 80 as an emulsifier to help with dispersion of oils, minimize tub staining, and help reduce slimy surfaces. You should still give the tub a rinse or scrub after using a bath bomb.
You can find bath bombs in a variety of colors, fragrances, and packed with skin-loving ingredients. Just pop one in the tub and relax as you enjoy its effervescent qualities, aromatherapy, and skin-nourishing benefits. And, really, they are just plain fun!
*reposted from 8/2/2017
Weicker, T. (Ed.). (1902). Merck’s report a practical journal of pharmacy as a profession and a business. New York, NY: Merck. Retrieved from https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015084678351;view=1up;seq=9
Jamie & Andra are two soap savvy sisters. After learning about the benefits of handmade soaps, Lathering Lotus was born. Between the two of them they are: an Educator, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, yoga instructor, runner, & lovers of clean beauty. Plus, moms, wives, and animals lovers.