Monday, August 29, 2005

Solar Cooking (Environmental News)

My sister has posted an interesting entry on her blog about solar cooking. Check it out!

Marine mammal species extinction article (Environmental News)

This article on marine mammal species extinctions appeared in the Washington Post a few days ago (Wednesday, August 24, 2005). It is definitely worth a read, if you haven't read it already. In the last thirty-four years, sixteen mammal marine species have become globally extinct, and more are being threatened every day. One hundred and twelve marine mammals have become extinct in certain areas. And that's just the marine mammals--not counting other ocean and land critters. Very informative aritcle, touching base on extinction, changing scientific views, and human impacts on the environment.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Gas prices in Britain (Environmental News)

I just saw an interesting news report on NBC news* (6 pm, Washington D.C. area, Channel 4) on gas prices in England.
If you think gas prices in the U.S. are outrageous, they are a whooping $6.50/gallon in London. Things that Londoners and other Brits are doing to deal with soaring gas prices: building and driving smaller, more fuel efficient cars, using public transportion more often (especially buses), riding a bike, or walking. As the anchorman on NBC noted, we (Americans) could learn a lot from the British.

*The story isn't online yet (6 pm news just ended) but I'll try to post the new link if they post the story online.
*Update: I've been looking for the link on their website, but haven't been able to find it. I guess they only post certain stories online.

Sunday, August 21, 2005 (Poetry and Politics blog and site)

"If beauty really is in the eye of the beholder,
Then a dream must be in the mind of the dreamer..."
~From 'Mind of a Dreamer' by Edward Garcia is a wonderful website and blog on poetry, politics, and pop culture by Edward Garcia, a well-known New York City SLAM artist, and incidentally my sister's boyfriend, and my friend. He received a fellowship from The New York Foundation For The Arts in Poetry in 2003. I recommend checking out the poems and audio sections on his site. The quote above is from one of his poems that I've actually had the opportunity to hear him perform--very intense, moving, and thought provoking. (Eco-friendly online directory)

One of the best search engines/online directories for eco-friendly products and services is This directory is HUGE, and you can search by city. Categories include Food Coops & Health food stores, Farmers Markets, Vegetarian Restaurants, Non-profit Organizations, Vacation & Travel Camp/Retreat, Beauty & Hair & Skin care products, Hemp & Recycling & Organic Cotton, and more! Definitely one of the first places I check when I need to find something.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Simple Body Scrubs: Brown and white sugar, and salt (Skin care/essential and carrier oil information)

One natural cosmetic that I love making is the basic body scrub. It is typically made with brown sugar, white sugar, or salt in a base of carrier (vegetable or nut) oil, and it is usually scented with essential oils. When I go into health food and beauty stores I often see them selling for a huge amount of money--anywhere from $15 to $30 for an 8 to 23 oz jar. The prices always make me balk (and go on a rant with whoever I'm shopping with ;) ) because they are not only really easy to make, but the ingredients aren't that expensive. For the price of ONE of the jars you see at the store, you could buy a few boxes of sugar or salt, a decent sized bottle of oil, and an essential oil, and make at least FIVE to TEN similar sized containers of scrub, plus still have plenty of essential oil left over to use in other products**.

Ingredient list:

A nice glass jar
A spoon or chopstick for mixing
Your choice of brown sugar, white sugar, or salt (or a combination)
A good carrier oil
Your favorite essential oils
Vitamin E


Pour or lightly spoon the sugar or salt into the jar (leave an inch or two for the oil). Pour in the oil, just covering the sugar or salt. Mix. Add the vitamin E. Mix again. Add 3-6 drops of essential oil per ounce (about 2 Tablespoons) of scrub. Mix thoroughly to incorporate the essential oils evenly.

It's that simple.

I didn't give exact measurements for the sugar/salt to oil ratio, since the amounts you can use are really subjective. I've seen recipes where the amount of sugar/salt to oil is 1:1, other recipes where the ratio is 2 parts sugar/salt to 1 part oil, and even one recipe where the ratio was 5:1. Some people like using less oil, and some people prefer more.  It also depends on which carrier oil you choose (they vary in weight and texture). Try experimenting to find the ratio that works right for you!

Here are some more tips and notes for each ingredient and step.

Jar: Make sure it is glass, preferably colored. Essential oils degrade more quickly when exposed to sunlight and they eventually eat through most types of plastic. If you choose to reuse an old jar, make sure it is very, very clean and sanitized (to prevent mold and bacteria growth).  If you choose to use plastic, use PET #1 plastic since it is thought that PET plastic doesn't react to essential oils.

Mixing: I usually mix right in the jar, but some people may prefer to use a bowl, and then transfer it to a jar. Which is very useful if you are making a big batch for gifts, and want to scent each one with a different essential oil.

Brown sugar, white sugar, or salt: Salt usually makes a slightly more grittier product than the sugars, and it may be a bit drying for those with dry skin. Since it is so gritty, I would not recommend using a salt scrub for the face. The sugar scrubs are excellent choices for the facial skin, unless your skin is very oily, extremely sensitive, or if you have acne or broken capillaries.

Carrier oils: Many people can use a wide range of oils on their body skin. But if you are making a scrub for your face or if your (body) skin is extremely sensitive, you may want to use carrier oils for a specific skin type.

Dry: Olive (some people with normal skin love this too), avocado (very thick and rich; you may want to combine this with a lighter oil), rosehip seed (a bit expensive, combine with other oils if desired).

Normal: almond (also a good light-medium oil for dry skin), apricot (same as almond), macadamia nut (also great for mature, dry skin)

Oily: grapeseed (well absorbed into the skin, be sure to get cold pressed), hazelnut (astringent, make sure it is cold pressed), and jojoba (similar to sebum; many people with dry and normal skin love this too; this liquid wax is a bit pricy)

Essential oil safety: Though many essential oils are relatively safe (when used properly), take some caution when using them. Always dilute them before use, NEVER apply them neat (undiluted) to the skin. I recommend adding only up to 3-6 drops per ounce, a 0.5% to 1% concentration. If you feel truly feel that the smell isn't strong enough, you could use up to 12 drops of essential oils per ounce (a 2% concentration) but I wouldn't use more. If you are pregnant or making scrubs for a child, don't use more than 6 drops of essential oils per ounce (better to use 1-3 drops).  There are a lot of essential oils that should not be used on young kids and pregnant women. If you have medical health issues, consult a doctor familiar with aromatic medicine, or a well qualified, professional aromatherapist before using specific oils; some essential oils may interact with medications or are not suitable for certain health issues. For more about essential oil safety and essential oil profiles check Aromaweb. Many essential oils are also antibacterial.

Vitamin E: This ingredients is optional, but it helps prevent rancidity (it is an antioxidant). Vitamin E can be found in the beauty aisle of most supermarkets.  The concentration of vitamin E varies by brand, so for some brands you may only need to use a small drop for a large batch, while others you may need to use 1/4 teaspoon or more.  Check with the company you bought it from for the recommended minimum and maximum concentrations.

Extras: you can add dried, coarsely ground herbs for extra decoration and grit (especially nice for the salt scrub) or add honey or aloe for extra cleansing and emollience.  If you add aloe or honey, shelf life is reduced, so use it up quickly.

Note: If you find that your skin is too oily after you use these scrubs, I suggest either reducing the amount of oil you use, using honey or aloe instead of the carrier oil, or cleansing your body with soap after using the scrub.

This post has been edited:  I first edited this post many years ago to add the ratios.  And I just edited it on August 4, 2014 to add a little more information (for vitamin E etc), take out some information (since I haven't used grapefruit seed extract--an antioxidant--for years), and just a slight, general edit.  The post is basically the same, as when first written; just slightly tweaked.

**Note: when I first wrote this post many years ago, I wasn't a skin care business owner, so I didn't understand everything that went into product pricing.  So depending on the essential oils and other ingredients used, $15-30 for a large sized salt or sugar might be a good price or it could very well be overpriced.  But it is true that making your own sugar and salt scrubs are super easy, high quality (because you control the ingredients), and costs much less than buying them!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

American Apparel (Clothing)

Though I used to be a shop-a-holic, over the years I've cut back a lot of what I'm consuming (my one true weakness being books!). I only try to buy products that I know I'll use (cuts back on clutter and saves money, not to mention better for the planet :) ). I'm more into buying less, high quality products, than consuming more, low quality things. And if the company also practices some sustainable methods or is all natural, all so much the better!

Here is one clothing company that fits the bill. American Apparel is a t-shirt company from downtown LA that is rapidly becoming a quick favorite. And no wonder! These tees are completely made in the U.S.A., ensuring high quality without exploitation of workers. I love them because they come a a slew of colors, fit well, are durable, and are made with high quality dyes that last. I recently brought one of their tees, in a similar style that my sister has, and when we compared them, we were surprised how well the color remained true (hers was two or three years old!). They also sell long-sleeved tees, tanks, hoodies, bras, underwear, and organic tees, made with 100% USDA Certified Organic Cotton.

Scar, bruise, undereye circles, and wrinkle help: Rosehip oil and Helichrysum essential oil (Aromatherapy/skin care)

My favorite natural remedy for scars is rosehip seed oil (aka Rosa Mosquita or Rosa Mosqueta oil; latin name: Rosa rubiginosa) mixed with Helichrysum essential oil (also called Italian Everlasting, Everlast, and Immortelle; latin name: Helichrysum italicum). It has been seen in several studies that Rosehip Seed Oil can greatly reduce the appearence of scars (Hampton, 1990*). Helichrysum is used to treat acne, bruises, and scars.
Per 1 oz of rosehip seed oil (that is 2 tablespoons), add 12 drops (no more) of Helichrysum essential oil (this makes about a 2% concentration). Mix gently.

Rosehip and Helichrysum are also great for bruises and undereye circles (helps get rid of them fast!) and wrinkles (helps diminish fine lines)!

For scars and wrinkles, you could use the rosehip seed oil alone, if you like, or add carrot seed (latin: Daucus carota), lavender (latin: Lavendula angustifolia aka L. officianalis aka L. vera), or neroli (orange flower oil; latin name: Citrus aurantium) essential oils instead of the Helichrysum (use only a total of 12 drops of essential oil, if you decide to use a combination of several oils). For bruises and undereye circles stick with the original formula.

Use daily a couple times a day for several months. You should see some improvement within 3-6 months (and a lot of improvement within a year). For bruises, you should notice great improvement within a couple of days.

Though you could find the lavender essential oil in a health food store, the other essential oils and rosehip seed oil are a little harder to find in a retail store. I recommend buying them online at either Mountain Rose Herbs, Nature's Gift , or check out the other sites I've plugged (see below).

*Hampton, A. 1990. Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care. Organica Press, Fl.

Where to find information on and where to buy essential oils (Aromatherapy/essential oil information)

One of the best places to find information on the usage of essential oils (aside from books or a class!) is Aromaweb. This website has profiles of many essential and carrier oils, recipes, and provides a listing of businesses that sell essential oils.

Hands down, my favorite place to get affordable, high quality essential oils is Mountain Rose Herbs. They sell e.oils, herbs, books, some natural cosmetics, and all kinds of natural ingredients to make your own cosmetics, like carrier oils, hydrosols, and clay. Many of their products are also organic, and, even with shipping charges, their prices are great! Their prices on rose essential oil (rose attar) are a steal (usually pure rose essential oil can cost $1-2 a drop, but MRH is less expensive). I recommend the rose sampler kit which has rose attar from three different countries (China, Bulgaria, and Turkey).

Another fantastic company is Nature's Gift. They sell e.oils, hydrosols, floral waxes, and more. They have a lot of great tips on their site for e.oil uses. They also have some of the CO2 extracted essential oils. Prices are pretty good, and you can get free samples (plus shipping).

Aromaland is also not bad. They have some organic oils.

I haven't tried the following, but they are owned by well known American Aromatherapists:

Original Swiss Aromatics is supposed to be one of the best (often sited as THE source to get essential oils in many aromatherapy books). It is the company of Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt of the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy. Lots of difficult to find oils, but a bit a pricier due to its extremely high quality.

Jeanne Rose has some nice kits. I think they are a bit expensive, but since she is considered one of the grand dames of aromatherapy, they are probably high quality.

Another noted aromatherapist, Victoria Edwards, is the owner of Leydet that has many hard to find, rare essential oils, but their server currently is down. Her site has several recipes though.

For those who are also interested in taking aromatherapy courses, check out the above three links.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Essential Oil Perfume Concentrations (Aromatherapy)

I've only been making natural cosmetics for 5 years, but it's only been recently that I've gotten into making perfumes. All natural perfumes are made of essential oils and carrier (vegetable or nut) oil or alcohol. In an oil based perfume, jojoba oil is preferred due to its long shelf life, because it will not go rancid. In an alcohol based perfume, vodka is recommended since it is scentless and easier to attain than perfumer's alcohol (if I am not mistaken, you need a lisense to purchase it). Whether natural or synthetic, all alcohol based perfumes also contain distilled water.

For a summary of perfume strength concentrations, see below. (From Valerie Ann Worwood's The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy) .
If you are making an oil based perfume, just ignore the information about alcohol and water.

Perfume is the strongest concentration, comprising of 15-30% essential oils (or in most commercial brands they use synthetic fragrances plus essential oils). The remaining 85 to 70% of the blend contains 90 to 95% alcohol and 10 to 5% water.

Eau de Perfume: 8-15% essential oils (or synthetic fragrances), 80-90% alcohol.

Eau de Toilette: 4-8% e.oils, and 80-90% alcohol

Eau de Cologne: 3-5% e.oils, and 70% alcohol

Splash Cologne: 1-3% e.oils, and 80% alcohol.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Bexnlog; It's all about the food. (Food blog link)

For an awesome resource on great restaurants and all things vegetarian, check out my sister's food blog, bexnlog! Whether you are looking for a great place to eat in New York City, or are just craving delicious vegetarian goodies or recipes, this is the site to see! From time to time, she also posts information on food companies, food festivals, and restaurants in other places, like the D.C. area, Pennsylvania, and China.

Collapse!!! (Book review/environmental)

I have been reading Jared Diamond's book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed for the past month (for a grad school class; summer seminar). Diamond argues that the failure of many (though not all) past and present societies is caused by environmental degradation. Though at times it seemed like he was a bit repetitive, I really liked this book (and the class too!) for several reasons. First, he writes in a friendly, easy to understand yet intelligent manner. I think he does a good job in reaching the public with his message, without using complex environmental concepts. I liked the fact that he researched societies from all over the world--from the Maya to pre-modern Japan to Rwanda to Australia--instead of just focusing on one area. He also makes it a point to note that while we tend to think of past civilizations of being 'pristine stewards' of the earth, environmental problems have plagued human kind since the beginning of civilization; it's just we're faced with issues on a greater, more global scale.

A couple things bothered me though, and it's partially because I am a bit nitpicky when it comes to writing and researching since they are my passions. I found it slightly annoying that although he included a 'further reading section' at the back of the book, he did not footnote any of the information in the book. I realize that this is a novel for the general public, and not a research article, but it would have been nice to know all of his sources. I point this out, because in class I was required to do presentations on some of the subjects, and when doing extra research often found figures that were slightly different than what he used (only slightly though, nothing too drastic). Furthermore, although I think he is generally a good writer, occasionally his grammar was horrible! Not that my grammar is 100% correct all the time, but I am not a novelist (not yet anyhow ;) ) and do not have an editor to double check my work! Aside from these slight issues, I definitely think that this book is worth checking out!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Welcome to Solarkat's Eco blog!

Hi, welcome to my blog. I've been interested in environmental issues for almost 13 years (half my life!), and I've been learning about aromatherapy and natural cosmetics since 2001. I hope to provide readers with reliable and useful information on environmental issues, reviews on eco-friendly products, and recipes on aromatherapy/natural skin care. I'll also post reviews on aromatherapy and natural beauty books and information on all sorts of crafts--basically anything that interests me at the moment :). Check back soon for all sorts of environmental-friendly information! ~Solarkat