Friday, January 25, 2008

Li's crafting thoughts 01-25-08

I have been crafting so much in the last few months: making gifts for my family and friends, sending samples to friends that I promised quite a long time ago, and crafting for my future business.

Lip Balm:
I made my most healing lip balm to date that included many healing herbs and essential oils, including calendula. Calendula is antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory so a great ingredient to use in all types of oils, balms, and creams. This lip balm was extremely time consuming to make, as I had to infuse nearly every herb in oil (so I did it the fast way and not the slow traditional way). Probably the nicest lip balm (texture, glide, and healing wise) I've made to date.

Whipped Shea: I actually made this twice. The first time it came out nice and fluffy, but then I rewhipped some of it (I didn't scent it enough initially) and while some of the fluffiness disappeared it turned more creamy. I need to buy a Kitchen Aid eventually because it's too time consuming making it with regular beaters, but since stand mixers are so expensive, that will have to wait a bit.

Mineral Makeup eyeshadow:
Made three new colors. Two of them were very unusual ones. I am still only making shimmers. ;P I need to do some semi-matte or matte because I think most people wear those during the day more than the shimmer. I am the complete opposite; I tend to wear shimmer but I like my eye color intense when I actually do wear makeup; I'm strange in that regard since most days I don't even wear any.

I've made three new creams so far. One that is totally awesome and contains organic immortelle essential oil from corsica (which is now selling for about the same price as rose absolute, one of the most expensive absolutes), one that is rich but absorbs easily but the texture was a bit off (too much butters?), another (that for the first time in many years) that completely bombed. It was my first attempt at making a cream with a high amount of an herbal extract/alcohol to preserve and to scent (I am experimenting with blends of natural preservatives now). It smells good and absorbs into the skin okay but the texture is 'blah'. Back to the drawing board for the last two.

Eye balm: I made the most melt-on-your-skin, non-greasy, fast absorbing fantastic eye balm. It contains some of my most favorite oils and butters including sea buckthorn so the color is very orange! I seem to be on a roll with making balms as of late! I need to work on an essential oil blend for this though.

Soaps:I've been working on both bar and liquid soaps. One liquid soap I absolutely love, the other liquid soap I like very much--probably great for normal to oily skin (which is what I designed it for). One bar soap was a total bomb (don't ask) and the other is heaven on earth. I need to work on the essential oil blends of the soaps (and actually on all of my products).

Perfumes/essential oil combos:Have been hard at work on many essential oil combinations for all types of products; I've been combing through seven years of recipes and notes for my favorite combos, as well as creating many new combinations. Some of the ones I made in the aromatherapy class I took in October may be used too :) All of my products will be scented with essential oils (some like for the serums will be complex, others will be simple combinations) but a true perfume will probably be offered a little later than I thought (since perfumes are made with such a high concentration of the more expensive essential oils). It is so hard choosing my favorites that I think others will enjoy too (I love them all! I think out of the dozens of combos I've done I've only had 2 or 3 that bombed).

Serums: Still working on my skin serums. They are nearly ready but I had to pared down my line from sixteen serums to maybe four or five (since I am crafting with such a wide range of costly ingredients, and had to choose only a few to offer). I hope to offer all of them one day! :)

Been working on products with hydrosols and for the last several months I've been reading everything I can find about them; there aren't that many books out there (but the ones I managed to find are amazing!), and though I know most of the general properties of the common ones like rose, I've been learning all of the properties of more unusual hydrosols or ones I haven't used yet, like rosemary. I now have a little hydrosol stash of many 1 to 4 oz sizes that I have been working with :)

Bad news though. I think I am allergic to the natural vitamin E I am using. In very small dilutions I don't react at all, but if it makes up a certain percentage of a formula then I've been having allergic reactions. The funny thing is I've been using this vitamin E from the same company for seven years. But the vitamin E content used to be a lot lower but over the years has risen. The last time I bought it was a couple years ago (and I didn't react to that one) but the new higher content one I am allergic to (unless highly diluted), and it is derived from different plants now. It is fine for me to use in lotions but for products that require a higher amount of vitamin E, I've been reacting to it :( . I don't like crafting anything (and don't intend to sell anything) unless I love it and use it myself, so now need to now find a new vitamin E oil (natural preferably or may use synthetic which I am not allergic to), or may just use a different antioxidant. Or just learn to use less! ;P

Future crafting:

I am going to work on two other bar soaps, and hopefully finally finish the serums. I still have to work on matte colors for eye shadows too (which are a tad different than crafting shimmers). I am also working on a couple toners.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Organic Cloth Menstrual Pads: Lunapads (Women Issues, Eco-friendly products)

I realized I never reviewed Lunapads! Lunapads are one of the most popular and well known menstrual reusable cloth pads, which are made in Canada. I bought three of the organic cloth menstrual pads about five months ago (when I first bought cloth pads to try).

What I liked about them:

They are really soft (but not as soft as my beloved organic bamboo, hemp, or bamboo-cotton, or hemp-cotton fabrics from other companies. But much softer than the cotton flannel from Gladrags).

The backing is a very effective leak proof cotton canvas material.

When I first got them I liked the idea that you could just change the top liner layer and didn't have to change the whole pad.

Excellent customer service and shipping.

What could be improved:

They were thick (much thicker than my all-in one pads from other companies, though not as thick as the Gladrags). I may just start using them without a liner.

I thought the design was a bit strange. The pad consists of the canvas backing, and then is topped with a couple layers of a cottony soft flannel, and then you can place a liner on top of the whole thing (there are straps to hold the liner in place). But the flaps/'wings' of the organic cotton flannel were not attached to the wings of the backing, so when you snap the backing's wings around the panties, the cottony flannel wings just kind of stick out. Kind of a bulky design. But though it felt a little bulky, the bulkiness can not be seen through clothes. I just looked on the site, and it looks as if maybe they redesigned them, so if you use a wingless liner, maybe you won't have the problem with the wings sticking out like I do. When I bought them many months ago, they were onsale and the organic kind so maybe an older design. I haven't tried a non-organic one so don't know if they are the same design as the organic ones (the pictures on the website are of the non-organic ones and the design looks different than what I have). For the non-organic ones, it looks like there is now only one snap instead of the few snaps I have on mine (the multiple snaps are kind of annoying, so I am glad it looks like they changed it).

The wingless liners just aren't wide enough. I am a small framed woman and have a light-medium flow, but because they aren't wide enough, I end up changing the whole pad instead of the liner, which defeats the whole purpose of the liner concept. I guess I could get the liners with wings, but then would have the wing problem. But for the most part the liners stay put and the pad is comfortable. Though they are not my personal favorites, others may prefer them. I just saw on their site, they now have wider maxis available (and as mentioned above may have redesigned their pads) so I may give them another try sometime in the future.

Other things to consider:

They are a tad pricier than some of the other brands, but when they have sales on their site, they are very good deals.

The organics only come in cream/uncolored. So be sure to add oxyclean to your soak bin so they won't stain.

Overall I think Lunapads are okay. I tend to usually use them at night because of the design though. I'm interested in trying their all-in-one panty liners (so no problems with the wings sticking out!), and maybe another maxi since they may have redesigned them (or at least that's what it looks like from the pictures). They also have luna cups and lunapanties, I haven't used these but other women I've talked to have and love them.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Places To Buy Essential Oils: Part 3 (Aromatherapy Information)

Yet more places to buy essential oils (Can you tell I am addicted? :) ) There will be a part 4 of 'Places To Buy Essential Oils'.

Aura Cacia: This is the brand that is sold in health food stores. In my opinion they are not the best essential oils I've tried but they are good quality. The lavender is very nice (this is the kind my sister gets so I use it a lot when I visit her), but it is not one of my favorites (I think maybe it has a little too much of a camphor note compared to my favorites). The essential oils I would skip are the citrus scents since citrus (with the exception of bergamot) have a short shelf life (there is no way to know for sure how long it's been sitting on the shelf). I once got the organic orange from them and it was pretty good, but the scent just did not 'sparkle' as much as some of the organic orange essential oils I've tried from companies with higher turnover rates. This is a good line to start out with (and to help a beginner familiarize themselves with each scent since most stores have testers). Good pricing too. Not all stores carry their organic line though (most stores just carry their conventional/regular line). Also most of their pricier essential oils and absolutes (jasmine, rose) are diluted in a carrier oil (usually jojoba). I am not sure at what concentration though, so even if the 'precious' essential oils are diluted already they probably should be diluted even further before use.

Jeanne Rose: I admit I am a tad biased in reviewing Jeanne's essential oils because I'm now a student of hers (for those of you that aren't familiar with Jeanne, she is one of the pioneers in the fields of aromatherapy, herbalism, and natural cosmetics, that has been practicing for over forty years). But I got to try forty-three of her essential oils (from two excellent essential oil vendors) in her October blending class and they are some of the best essential oils I've ever used: the quality of each essential oil was superb. I liked them so much that I bought a few of them from her (and plan to buy more). If you are seriously into blending (either for remedies or perfumes) I highly recommend getting her Basic 7 kit to teach yourself and to train your nose on the seven basic aromatherapy/perfume notes (floral, fruit, citrus, green/vegetative, herbal/camphorous, woody, spicy). She also sells different species of lavender and chemotypes of rosemary that I haven't seen available from other vendors. I just received california lavender (high in borneol, which is considered to be an immune stimulant) and rosemary pyramidalis (high in pinene. This chemotype of rosemary essential oil is thought to be good for sinus problems), as well as Christmas Fir from her. Smells wonderful! I am not sure if all her essential oils are organic or ethically wild harvested or not, but since she supports local, small distilleries (many of which are organic but just not certified), and also the two essential oil companies that she recommends (and that supply her classes with essential oils) have many organic or ethically wild harvested essential oils, I am guessing most of her essential oils probably are too (just not labeled as such). Shipping can be a little high, but if you get a kit, most of the kits are really good deals. Also recommend her books, especially the ones that aren't easily available (all the self-published booklets). All of her kits come in a nice little pouch/bag. Be sure to either keep the essential oils in the bag or in the fridge since she packages in clear glass.

Nature's Alchemy: This company is found in health food stores too. I only tried them once but it was the absolutely first essential oil I ever bought (peppermint) :) From what I remember the peppermint was strong and lovely, and potent. Never bought more for same reason as below (see One Planet's paragraph).

Nature's Gift: The owner Marge is one of the most respected essential oil vendors out there. Incredible quality of essential oils and service. Excellent selection, her company offers many of the rarer essential oils and hydrosols available. Wide selection of organic essential oils. Some of the essential oils may be a tad more expensive than other companies I've reviewed, but it is well worth the investment (you get what you pay for). With Nature's Gift you can be assured you are getting the real thing and the best and highest quality (unadulterated essential oils. Many other companies, including maybe a couple that I've written about, you can't be 100% sure sometimes, but with Marge's essential oils you can). Her site is also a wealth of information. Free samples available (a sample consists of a few drops, enough to sniff).

One Planet: I think this was one of the first companies I've ever tried, but I've only bought from them once. This was many years ago when I first started learning about aromatherapy but from what I remember service was good and so were the essential oils; they were very inexpensive too. I remember the only thing that kind of bothered me was that I had ordered 5 ml of some essential oils, and they came in 10 ml bottles (so lots of air space; the more air space, the higher chance of essential oils oxidizing). But the main reason I never bought from them again didn't have anything to do with their service or products but because soon after I decided to try buying more organic or ethically wild harvested essential oils. Not sure if after all this time One Planet is the same, and what the quality of their essential oils are currently like, but it's still worth a look!

Sun Rose Aromatics:Extremely high quality, and excellent selection of rare, harder to find essential oils, some of which I haven't seen in other places. They do charge a handling fee in addition to shipping, but you can request free samples of essential oils. The samples are very generous (much more so than other companies I've tired) so the samples kind of offset the handling cost. Some of the rare essential oils and absolutes include: organic chocolate peppermint, peach leaf absolute (if someone had told me that there was a natural peach scent a few years ago, I would have thought they were either using a synthetic scent, severely misinformed, or maybe using one of those fruit extracts they usually use in foods. Peach leaf absolute is lovely stuff that is, to my knowledge, new on the market), and green tea absolute (same reasoning as the peach absolute).