Monday, May 28, 2007

Book Review: Natural Perfumes by Mindy Green, and Other Natural Perfume Blending Books (Aromatherapy/Essential oil Resources)

I started this entry many months ago before this book went out of print. I mentioned this book in a post several days ago and a couple people asked about it and also aromatherapy perfume blending books, so decided to post this review though this book is hard to find at a decent price. This entry also contains links to books that are still in print or at least inexpensive, as well as links to things that are out of print/hard to find/being sold at ridiculous prices but worth it. Most aromatherapy books will at least contain a couple simple aromatherapy perfume blends.

Since last fall I've been seriously experimenting with crafting all natural perfumes. I first started learning about aromatherapy sometime in 2001, and I've made dozens of simple blends that I've used as perfumes. These blends usually consisted of 2 to 4 different essential oils, which smell absolutely wonderful. But recently I've really wanted to learn more about the art of perfume making, the art of blending, and start crafting more complex combinations.

To my dismay, there aren't that many aromatherapy/essential oil/all natural perfume books out there. Most of them seem to be out of print or just contain general information. Many aromatherapy books will have at least one to a handful of recipes, but I wanted to find a whole book on the subject with recipes. There are basically only a few main books out there that are not out of print: Nancy M. Booth's Perfumes Splashes & Colognes, Mandy Aftel's Essence and Alchemy plus a couple of Aftel's other books. I've only read Booth's book, and part of Aftel's, but they aren't really what I am looking for. Like all Storey books, Booth's book is full of information and has many recipes, however, I was a bit disappointed that she included the use of several synthetic fragrance oils. In some recipes she used synthetic rose, jasmine, and vanilla, instead of the essential oils. Aside from the toxicity and allergic reactions of many synthetic fragrances, they simply do not smell as good as the real thing, or even accurately mimic the smell correctly (vanilla is probably the exception, since it does come really close, but after smelling the real thing, you can definitely tell the difference!). Aftel's book is supposed to be one of the best on perfume history and also contains tips on blending, but there are barely any recipes in the book (literally only a couple. Though I highly recommend getting it for history and blending notes, it's lacking in actual recipes).

It seems like all the books on truly natural perfumes with completely natural recipes are out of print. Noted aromatherapist Chrissie Wildwood's perfume book is also referenced a lot, but it is out of print, and the second edition now sells for anywhere from $65 to well over $100, and the first edition is nearly as pricey (totally off subject but I just got my hands on a copy of the first edition for only $24 so I am a happy camper). Arctander's book (which is supposed to be the best) is very rare and costs (if you can find it) well over $1000. I was nearly about to give up until I came across Mindy Green's Natural Perfumes. Since getting and reading it, this book just became out of print, and is currently (at the time of this writing) being sold at Amazon for $36 to $90. However, many herbal/aromatherapy shops may still be selling it at its original price (though the two I know of are currently sold out), and I got mine last year for its original price. For those that can't find it at a good price, you may be able to request it from your local interlibrary loan or find it at a used book store. Two great blending books are Valerie Worwood's Scents & Scentuality: Essential Oils & Aromatherapy for Romance, Love, and Sex and Chrissie Wildwood's Erotic Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Lovers (Note # 1: some people may not care for the pictures of the people in Wildwood's erotic aromatherapy book) (Note #2: both are either out of print or simply harder to find than both authors' other books, but used/new copies are being sold on Amazon at very low, great prices. I hopefully will post a review on these books sometime in the future).

I've read Green and Keville's Aromatherapy book, which contained a few heavenly perfume blends (I highly recommend this book as a good all over aromatherapy primer. For your own safety, please read at least three good aromatherapy books before you start using essential oils). So I was happy to get my hands on her perfume book, since Green is both an aromatherapist and an herbalist. Overall, my only real complaint is that this book is too thin! It is only 96 pages, including the bibliography, resource directory, and index, and also its dimensions are small (so smaller pages). However, it is jammed pack with information and has a ton of recipes. Yay! Perfect!

The first chapter is a couple page introduction, and the second chapter (also a few pages) explains our attraction to scent. The third chapter is (another short) chapter on aromatherapy: what essential oils are, how they're made, and natural vs. synthetic scents. The fourth chapter is about a 10 page primer on blending basics: fragrance notes, basic blending equipment, carriers, and proportions. Next is a chapter on forty essential oils, and note type and odor intensity. There's also a chapter on a blending lesson and classification. Finally she lists thirty recipes. Some of them are simple (4 to 5 essential oils), but most are more complex blends.

I think that though the book is a bit thin, Green does a good job of explaining the basic steps of crafting perfumes and understanding scents--better and more thorough than most aromatherapy authors! I've only made a few of them so far, but love the few I've crafted. I can definitely detect the faint notes of essential oils (in recipes that I used only 1-2 drops of an essential oil). A single drop in a blend definitely makes a difference! There is some information on essential oil usage and safety, so it is important to cross reference properties in other books since the profiles are simply short summaries.

My favorite recipes so far are simple delight and angel's whisper, which are both jasmine based perfumes. Green recommends not using vodka, and I only partially agree with her. It's true that essential oils will not dissolve fully in vodka (because of the water content, though some absolutes will dissolve fully in vodka), but if you can't get your hands on a more pure alcohol, it is a good sub since it is practically odorless--though your creations will definitely have to be shaken before use. (You can also use a carrier oil or perfumer's alcohol, but I am not sure of what I think about perfumer's alcohol yet).

Overall, in my opinion this is one of the best blending books out there, if not the best! If you can get your hands on it, then I highly recommend getting this book!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Burts Bee Workshop and Review in Philly (All Natural Cosmetics)

Maybe posting this a bit late for anyone in Philly (visiting my sister right now) but just came back not to long ago from a Burt's Bees skin care consultation in the Whole Foods on South Street. Though I had already previously been to a Burt's Bees workshop in VA a year or two ago, I wanted to attend this one because in the last year or so Burt's Bees has come out with a slew of new products and I wanted to learn about them. Though I mainly craft vegan products, I still buy and use products that are vegetarian and not necessarily vegan. But I got confused about the time of the workshop: the flyer had said 11:30 am but when I reserved on the phone, the Whole Foods employee who answered said that it looked like there were specific signup times but he didn't sound too sure. The one in VA had been a group workshop so I showed up at 11:30 because I thought maybe the flyer was right and the guy who answered the phone was wrong. Turns out the guy was right; it was not a group workshop but a one on one consultation (the flyer wasn't clear on this).

The Burt's Bees rep (I can't remember her name) was very nice about the mix up and consulted with me early since the person who was supposed to be at 11:30 never showed. She was very informative about their products (but refreshingly not pushy and did not try to sell me anything but only suggested stuff for me), and clearly passionate about the company and her job. We mainly talked about the new products (since I was already familiar with and have used most of the old products), and I really want to try them now! They have a new cleansing cream (with soapbark and chamomile) that is good for drier skin types, but (according to her) doesn't clog pores. They also have a peach and willowbark scrub that she said was gentle. She also told me about the new radiance creams that contain royal jelly and that are much lighter than their other creams. They also have a relatively new shampoo and conditioner with pomegranate and soy that sounded interesting.

But what was the most interesting to me was how Burt's Bees is becoming more active in being green. She told me that Burt's Bees is now a neutral carbon company, meaning that they compensate for all the carbon they produce (mainly by buying credits). Also they are working with Habitat for Humanity to build a green development in North Carolina (near Raleigh). Totally cool! :)

So what do I think about their products: overall I like their products and their company. Their older creams can be heavy (so be sure to apply only a little to very, very damp skin), but many of their formulations are very nice and contain a lot of beneficial herbals. Their newer formulations, I am not sure of them yet: they contain some of the borderline natural/synthetic ingredients that (depending on who you ask) is either natural, semi natural, or synthetic (but often naturally derived). It depends where you draw the line. For the most part (for the older formulations) the percentages that they list on their products on how natural it is are accurate; for the newer stuff (especially the shampoos) I do not think they are as accurate (or at least according to the ingredients I define as natural), but all of their formulas are (I estimate at least) 80-100% natural depending on the product (I would say most of their products are 90-100% natural). But the borderline ingredients are for the most part non-toxic, non-irritating (except for those who are allergic to synthetic fragrances), and biodegradable. (Sometimes I think I am just way too anal in defining what's natural and what's not ;) ) Favorite products of mine: blemish stick, marsh mellow vanishing cream, beeswax day cream, carrot lotion, repair serum (wonderful for the under eye area), almond milk cream (this smells so good)

Just saw their website; it looks like they also have new sunscreens and a lip balm with pomegranate oil in it (sounds yummy). According to the rep, they are coming out with new products every six months.

At the end of our talk, the rep gave me a sampler of the Burts Bees products (a natural weaved bag filled with their older, much loved products). Totally awesome! So if you are in Philly, you may still be able to catch her today! :) If you are elsewhere, ask your local natural food store if they are coming soon, or check their website to see where workshops are being held. To learn more about new products you can sign up for their email newsletter on the website.

Note: the lip shimmers are not vegetarian (contains carmine, a red colorant from beetles), and also they are going to discontinue their vanishing facial tissues (I need to stock up on these)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Li's crafting thoughts 5-22-07

What I've been crafting recently: eye shadows, vegan lip balm.

Eye shadows:
I've been working on several new shades. I crafted a few of the usual: super pigmented/intense, multifacated sparkles and sheens. So far I've created over 30 colors, the majority of them being greens and golds, but I have crafted some blues and purples too. Also a couple pinkish shades that I've been using in lip glosses or as blush. Need to work on mattes, semi mattes, and also more lippie colors!

Vegan lip balm: crafted yet another one, this time for slightly dry lips. This was a remake of my original lip balm in a tin vegetarian one, but now I've made it vegan and it now comes in a tube. It took me three tries to get this right (to convert it to vegan); as much as I love cold pressed grapeseed it was throwing off this recipe, so I switched back to solvent extracted (most grapeseed oil on the market is solvent extracted, it is very hard to find cold pressed). I'll save the cold pressed for serums! :)

I am currently in Philly visiting my sister so while I still have access to a computer, won't be crafting as much for a few weeks (unless she actually lets me raid her garden!) ;P

Friday, May 18, 2007

Soapnuts, Soapwort, Yucca: Skin Cleansers and All Natural/Eco-friendly Cleaning (Environmental Cleaning Information, All Natural Cosmetics)

Since I've recently discussed microfiber, I decided to blog about herbs that are be used to cleanse the skin, and also clean the house and laundry.

I've already blogged about soapwort (including a recipe), which is used in museums to clean ancient, delicate fabrics, is an awesome, very gentle skin cleanser, and can also be used to wash the hair.

So here are a couple of other great herbs and eco-friendly choices:

I just got this herb recently. Apparently it can be used not only as a skin cleanser, but it has also become the environmental rage as a natural laundry detergent. I've only tried it as a facial cleanser (added a pinch to water, but may try a decoction in the near future) and will try to use it to clean my laundry (though I have the powder and not the whole nuts so not sure if that would make a mess or not. I think a decoction would be better rather than adding the nuts to my laundry as recommended by some web sites).

Yucca root:
prepared similar to soapwort, but you have to crush the roots more before adding the water. But I do not believe the decoction has as long as a shelf life as soapwort decoction (only a few days, refrigerated). In the past, it was used to clean skin and hair by some Native American peoples. I am not sure about using it for the laundry but I may experiment with this. I've used this to wash my hair and it seems to do a pretty good job (but I love my soap based shampoos more).

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Microfiber: Environmental House Cleaning and also Cosmetic Exfoliant! (Environmental Information/House Cleaning and Cosmetic Information)

One thing I have to blog about is microfiber. I've been hearing so much about it from many delphi forum members for a while, and also a few months ago from my sister. I finally used some and decided to blog about it because it has great cosmetic and environmental cleaning uses (so combining many of my interests) :)

How they work: the fibers of these seemingly soft cloths are textured, and the special fibers gently remove dirt and other substances from a variety of surfaces (the fibers are not treated with chemicals). They feel gentle to the touch but are tough on cleaning power, and you can use them dry or wet with only water--no chemicals or any cleansers! :) According to my sister: use wet for cleaning hard surfaces, dry to wipe stuff.

To clean them: Regular machine wash, but line dry them (or at least Costco brand).

Cosmetic use: many people have been using microfiber to exfoliate. This deceptively soft cloth effectively removes flaky skin, revealing smoother skin underneath. Several people on the delphi forums claim that the ones that are sold for the face are similar to the ones sold in the automobile section of stores, but others have claimed they are different grades and the auto ones shouldn't be used on the face. I've only use an auto one on my skin once, and even though I scrubbed gently and barely used it, I think it did too good of a job. I will probably try one of the ones made for the face sometime in the future, just to compare. But if you use microfiber facial cloths be careful: I've heard horror stories of people using them and scrubbing too hard that they ended up removing too much skin (which was why I was so cautious when using it) but personally I think my skin is just too sensitive for it, or at least the brand/kind that I used.

Cleaning uses: this was originally a best kept secret of hotels (in europe)--how to clean surfaces quickly and effectively without harsh chemicals. I personally think the cleaning uses are much more impressive than the cosmetic uses. I am an advocate of using more earth-friendly, more natural cleansers, and have even concocted some of my own recipes over the years, but microfiber is the ultimate environmental cleaner because you clean with only the cloth and water and maybe a little elbow grease! Microfiber works better on harder surfaces like counter and stove tops, floors, and faucets than more porous things such as walls.
Though it removes tough grime, it is gentle, and it doesn't scratch materials. You can buy a big bag in the automobile section of your local department store.

Now though I've heard about the cosmetic use on the forums for many months, I was amazed when my sister gave me some cloths and showed me how well they cleaned. I ended up cleaning part of her house, LOL! (It was part of her evil plan ;P ) Everything looked so nice, shiny, and new--within seconds of just scrubbing.

Now does this mean I'm going to stop using my natural cleaning supplies? No, because sometimes you need to use products with essential oils/herbs that will kill germs. But this definitely will replace much of my daily cleaning--especially since everything gets very clean and looks good, and I can clean more in less time.

The brand that she used is Swift Microfiber. They are more expensive than the ones in the auto department, but they seemed to be a nicer/higher quality, and also they are a small company. She also gave me a microfiber cleaning cloth for glasses from this company (different from the cleaning/auto cloths) and it is the best glass cleaning cloth I've ever used (I have like four glass cleaning cloths in a variety of materials from other companies and none of them seem to work very well). We also got a big bag at Costco. They didn't seem quite as nice as the ones from Swift, but they still are very good quality, very inexpensive, and clean extremely well.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Li's crafting thoughts 5-13-07

Though I've done some crafting, the last few days I've been focusing more on aromatherapy/herbal research. To better understand ingredients, I've been choosing topics, and then pouring through my library and writing down every natural ingredient that works for that skin/health ailment or condition, or everything about that one ingredient that I can. I had actually started this some time ago (a year or so ago?) but never did it on a regular basis. Things I've learned are this is no easy task (especially since I have like sixty to seventy books to pour through), it's been very time consuming, and that I am probably still missing some information since many indexes of books could be better! (And some like Tisserand's awesome classic, don't even have one and I can't reread all seventy books to make sure I'm not missing anything!). I think this will definitely help my crafting, since in the end I will have a master list of all things that work for any particular topic (instead of just what I can remember off the top of my head at the moment), and then I can use those ingredients in crafting a fantastic and very effective product for it!

So list of things I've actually crafted these last few days: body oils, eye shadow, serums, herbal tinctures, herbal infused oil, clay masks

Body oils:Been making them for years, but have recently been making single scent oils made with new essential oils and carrier oils, so I can become familiar with the scents, and also the properties of the oils (how fast absorbing it is, how effective a moisture barrier, for essential oils: whether it is a relaxing oil or stimulating etc)

Eye shadows: Started to make new shades, haven't done this in a while (though I've made lippie shades/glosses in the last few weeks). I need to work on making mattes sometime in the next few months, since all I've been making are shimmers, sparkly sheens, and sheens!

Serums: working on oil based serums for particular skin types. Starting with my own skin type of course (dehydrated which is water dry but produces enough oily, occasionally with blemishes). Though I won't be using the serums for other skin types on my face, I will be using them on my body, so I can really see how they work.

Tinctures/herbal extracts: I made green tea tincture (made with a blend of six kinds of green tea. Thanks E.K. for the tea!) and also red rooibos tincture. I intend to use these in making water based serums (the only water based serums I've made so far are those with aloe, but trying to learn to make different kinds). I may use them in creams too.

Herbal infused oils: I made calendula oil, which is a great skin care ingredient. Like the tinctures, this has to infuse for several weeks until ready. So I won't get to play for a while :( (I could've made it the fast way by applying heat but I prefer to make it the slow way so I don't have to heat up the oil any more than neccesary so all the vitamins don't get destroyed!)

Clay masks: just playing around with different ingredients. I need to post those recipes on all natural beauty portal website that I promised a while back :)

I am glad I am taking this time for all this research, since I want to craft products that actually work! (Instead of just using whatever herb is popular at the moment like many companies)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Li's crafting thoughts 5-4-07

The last couple of weeks I've crated several things, and I've also been organizing all my essential oils, herbs, and oils: taking stock of what I still need to get, what I need to use up in the next few months, and also rebottled a few of my essential oils. I don't think I've ever mentioned this on this blog, but in addition to keeping essential oils out of direct light and storing them in a cool and dark place (colored glass and refrigerator storage), after you use part of the bottle, it is good to rebottle your essential oils into smaller bottles. This will help prevent oxidation (less air space equals less air in the bottle that will degrade the essential oils).

Things I've crafted recently:
body oils, butter balm, scented liquid soaps, yucca root shampoo, and complex perfume blends

Body oils: I crafted one when I was sick (with MQV/Niaouli oil) a couple weeks ago and also one to help with some of my stress related health symptoms.

Butter Balm:
I made a 100% butter balm with a mix of several different butters (only with my regular stash of butters, but I just got the sampler pack from Camden Grey, and have even more butters to play with; many kinds that I haven't worked with yet. ;P Wicked grin. The only bad thing about the CG sampler was they included a refined shea. Yuck. Though LOL I am sure some other butters I have are partially refined, and I am just being anal about the shea). Anyways there are two important things that I learned in making this butter balm:

1) Do not attempt to pour a 100% butter balm into large tubes, since they will leak (I've made big lip balms with these tubes so oils/butters plus waxes don't leak because they harden and also cool down within minutes).

2) Suprapein (a natural lab tested blend of herbal extracts used to preserve products) has a very strong scent even at the low recommended concentration. Now I like herbal smells (I think tea tree and eucalyptus smell great!) but this was even a tad too much for me! Definitely needs to be blended with essential oils. I think I need to remelt it down and add something or else I won't be able to use it!

Scented Soaps: just scented some liquid soap with some essential oils.

Yucca root shampoo:
made like soapwort decoction, except the roots need to be way more crushed, I will be using this to clean both my skin and hair. Seems to clean pretty well.

Perfumes: M. Green's book is definitely a superior blending recipe book to anything that's out there (I was writing a review for that book but never finished it, and now it's out of print! I need to blog and craft more!). I've made several of the recipes, and they all smell like heaven and all the essential oils blended beautifully together, unlike other blends in other books (when you can find perfume recipes). Though a couple other blending books are good too (for less complex blends). I can only one day hope to be as good as a master blender like Green. :)