Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Essential Oils: Packaging, Blending, Company recs (Essential Oil/Aromatherapy Information)

Going through old FAQ so I am posting them (edited with additional information of course) :)

How should I package products made with essential oils (plastic or glass)? Are carrier oils okay to store in plastic or should I use glass?

For undiluted, pure essential oils, absolutes, and co2 extracts, you need to store them in colored glass (they usually come in colored glass) since many of them will eat through plastic, and it is thought by some people that toxins from plastic can leech into them (and other products/ingredients). Also it is thought that light can degrade essential oils hence the colored glass, but I know of at least one prominent essential oil company that disputes this and says uncolored glass is fine too and protects the essential oils just as well. Personally I recommend that if you are storing it in a fridge or another dark and cool place, uncolored glass would probably be fine, but if you don't, then use colored glass.

Carrier oils are fine to store and keep in plastic.

Most vendors package essential oils, absolutes, and co2 extracts in glass, if they don't, be dubious of their product, since if they are in plastic, they are probably not undiluted, but are diluted in a carrier of some sort or they are simply not the real thing. (Note: for large wholesale sizes some companies do use metal containers.  You could store them at home in lined aluminum bottles, but make sure they are lined).

But with diluted essential oils in products, it is debated whether they should be stored in plastic or glass. Personally for my own use, I usually don't package them in plastic since I've had essential oils eat through plastic before (during one of my first aromatherapy experiments over eight years ago* I had made bath salts that contained essential oils, and I had put them in a hard, plastic travel container, and it cracked the plastic in under an hour. No idea what kind of plastic it was, but it was a container made for travel). However if you dilute the essential oils very well (2% concentration or less) and use certain plastics (like PET), then short term usage (maybe only a few months) shouldn't be a problem. A lot of companies that offer shampoos and lotions and such with essential oils keep them in plastic bottles, but when I buy from other companies I always make sure I use those products up within a month or two (since many of them are also all natural and have a very short shelf life anyways).

Will mixing essential oils together in a blend (i.e. using two or more in a product) reduce their potency or 'clash' with each other?

It is thought by many aromatherapists and herbalists that combining essential oils actually improves how they work. This theory is called synergy. But keep the total essential oil content for facial formulas to 1% of under, so don't use 1% of each essential oil, but use a total of 1% or less of all the essential oils. And that's just a general rule, some essential oils should be used at way less than 1%, especially on the delicate facial and eye area.

What are some of your favorite scented products (essential oils, hydrosols, and essences) from different companies?

From AV-AT, I love Organic Ylang Ylang Complete, Organic Cocoa Absolute, and Organic High Altitude French Lavender Essential Oil. Actually any of his essential oils are wonderful, all have been fantastic: I rank them as superior quality. Their rose essential oil and absolute is the best out of any company I've tried. They are my favorite essential oil company.

Sunrose Aromatics: Peach tree leaf absolute, Organic Chocolate Peppermint Essential Oil. Yum :)

Enfleurage: Organic Petitgrain sur Fleur Essential Oil (which is distilled branches and flowers of the bitter orange tree, so kind of like a combo of petitgrain and neroli, yum!). Carries many unusual essential oils, they also have a store in New York City.

A Little Ol' Factory: Organic Bulgarian Rose alba (white rose) hydrosol (from an award winning distillery)

Nature's Gift: another superior quality company. I especially like all of their jasmine absolutes (they have three species). I've smelled jasmine from other (good to excellent) companies and while they are nice, they don't have all the notes and subtle yet complex over and under tones of the jasmines that Marge (or another superior essential oil company) carries. Offers some of the rarer essential oils.

Eden Botanicals: I have tried many of their essential oils over the years, and I love them all.  I especially like their jasmine and rose aromatics; they have several different kinds of each.  They offer superior quality products and many of the more unusual aromatics.

Samara Botane I like their rose gallica, which is a species of rose not usually used in aromatherapy (which is on super onsale now). Very fragrant. A well known and respected company. They also carry some of the harder to find essential oils.

See also my few posts on reviews on essential oils companies.

Edited January 25, 2014: Did some minor edits (like a word here and there).  I also added a little more information on metal containers.  Rewrote a sentence about storing well diluted products in PET plastic. I removed the information on Eden Botanicals's crystallized amber since they no longer sell it.  They now sell 100% natural liquid amber (made with essential oils, absolutes, etc in a carrier oil) but I have not tried them yet (since I make my own amber bases for perfumes). Since I deleted that,  I added some information about some of my favorite current products from their company.

*In 2014, it's now been over 13 years but at the time of the original entry it was eight years so I left it as that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Eco Living: Living green on a budget (Environmental Information)

A few days ago I finished the new Eco Living Article, which is a series of articles I write for for anb (all natural beauty) mall. This month's article is on living green on a budget. In it I've mentioned many great tips for food, clothes, and also cosmetics and soaps, as well as general green tips for how to be green (eco-friendly) while saving some green (money). Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Premium Steap (Tea company in Philadlphia)

During a previous trip to Philly my sister, Ed, and I stopped at this little tea shop called Premium Steap. They had some unusual combinations so I got a couple packages of flavored rooibos (even though my tea stash is too large and I didn't really need anymore tea). I am so glad that I did because they are some of the most delicious tea blends I've ever had!

Rooibos is probably my favorite tea. My favorite plain (nothing added) red and green rooibos teas are from a popular organic herb vendor, (Mountain Rose Herbs), whose herbs are superior quality. But most flavored rooibos teas I've tried in the past were good but not as good as plain rooibos in my opinion (not even the flavored rooibos blends from Adagio teas which I think are good to very good but not extraordinary).

But the ones from Premium Steap I have to say are the best flavored rooibos teas I have tried (and I usually get some kind of rooibos when I visit all the little tea shops in Philly or restaurants and shops in New York City). I tried their 'heaven' rooibos which tastes minty and chocolately, and also their chai rooibos which I have to say is one of the best chai blends I've had (rooibos OR decaff black tea chai).

So if you live or plan to visit Philly, and love tea, be sure to stop by this tea shop. And if you don't, check out their website for some very fine tea :)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Li's Crafting Notes 10-11-08

I've been very busy this year trying to finish my thesis (which will be done very soon and then it needs be approved by my committee and lastly I have to defend it), and over the last year and a half or so (has it really been that long? Time has really flown by!) I have been choosing old or formulating new recipes for my future business. Though I've been crafting for over eight years now, it is hard deciding what to offer, especially since I keep coming up with ideas all the time ;P . I plan to start out with only a few products, since many of the ingredients I am using are on the more expensive side like organic rose absolute and essential oil, organic jasmine absolute, organic helichrysum essential oil (these essential oils and absolutes are very pricey even at the wholesale level--when you buy these essential oils by the ounce like most hand crafters and small companies do--they are only a little less expensive than retail prices), red raspberry seed oil, organic non-deodorized cocoa butter (this smells so yummy, so chocolatey), east shea butter (one of my favorite ingredients), etc. I prefer getting organic and/or fair trade ingredients whenever possible, so I am going to be very happy :) but very broke :( by the time I open.

I hope to finally open my business sometime this fall (it keeps getting delayed but it'll be soon, promise!) but there is so much administration and general business stuff to do before that, that I have been working on slowly (in between working on my final thesis). So no set date yet. Keep reading this blog for updates! :)

List of things I've been working for a long while for my business (and a preliminary list of the types of products I am planning to offer):

Oil based serums:
I have been working on both very complex blends and very simple blends for over a year and a half. I've used simple blends for many years but sometime in the last couple of years I have been experimenting with really complex blends, focusing even more on the properties of ingredients in relation to skin type and conditions. I really love the complex blends, my skin has never looked better (and it was pretty good to begin with ;P).

Toners I have been crafting and testing many new different formulations during this year and a half, and experimenting with so many new hydrosols (I've tried over 30 hydrosols so far). I used to use only very simple toners but my skin really loves my new blends, so I am finding it hard to choose favorites: too many fantastic combinations! :) I definitely will have a rose based one since rose toners are my favorite, and great to use during the drier autumn/winter months!

Mineral Makeup I have many shimmer and frost shades done (I have been crafting shimmer and frost shades ever since I started crafting mineral makeup about three or so years ago and have so far developed over forty colors, though I will only be offering a few colors at first). But I am still working on matte shades so will only have shimmer, frost, and semi-matte ones initially. I won't be offering foundations since I need to work on formulations for them, and not sure if I even want to focus on them or not (I believe in making the skin look better, rather than covering it up; I don't wear makeup most days though when I do I love wearing a wide range of different colors and finishes). I've crafted a great lip gloss base and I have made a few colors for the lip gloss but they are all very sheer but still figuring out packaging for my glosses (I am trying to keep packaging as eco-friendly as possible).

I've been tweaking my old and developing some new recipes for cleansing oils and liquid cleansers. The cleansing oil I crafted a while back is one of the only ones I've ever used that doesn't break me out; since it cleanses without feeling too greasy. The liquid cleansers are soap based and clean without overdying; I've added a lot of extra oils/butters and herbs to them so they are super gentle.

Perfumes: I've made two lovely jasmine perfumes that I totally love (made with different species of jasmine) but may or may not offer them initially (since I am already way over budget). I will be offering a rose perfume though, and maybe a few other surprise blends :) I got a lovely ounce of organic Turkish rose absolute a few months ago from AV-AT at a very good price. The absolute is very intense and floral and very lovely. Butch (the owner of AV-AT) was very kind and sent also sent me a ton of samples of his other essential oils and absolutes, including a couple ones I previously hadn't tried yet, so now I must get my hands on an ounce or two and craft some blends with them! I am also getting his organic rose essential oil (distilled), since though I use absolutes in perfumes, I don't really use them in skin care (except for jasmine). His rose essential oils and absolutes really are the best I've tried, and they are organic too :)

Lip balm and body butters: I am totally done with the lip salve (which also doubles as a body salve) and some of the butters (scent combinations are made up but deciding which ones to offer), but I am still crafting a couple other butters. The lip salve contains awesome ingredients like organic arnica. I love this herb but this is one plant that I would never buy the wild crafted one (most of it is wild crafted), only the organic grown one--even if it is currently $72 a pound from my herb vendor--since it is vulnerable, threatened, or endangered in many places in the wild, and not all wild crafted herbs are ethically wild harvested.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Eco Living: Autumn and winter skin care (Green Living)

I have just posted my second Eco Living article for the ANB (all natural beauty) Mall. September's article is on all natural and natural autumn and winter skin care. Skin tends to get dehydrated and dry during the colder seasons, so most people need to switch their skin care. I have also included a recipe for a delcious smelling banana chocolate mask that leaves the skin soft and hydrated!

In August's article, I discussed what Eco living was and also included a few simple green living tips

October's article will be on eco living on a budget. I will probably post it on anb mall's site in a few weeks.

Hope everyone is enjoying my Eco Living articles so far!

Also be sure to check many of the excellent companies on anb mall's site. My friend Jen, owner of Camellia Rose, recently joined the list of natural stores there.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

All Natural and Natural Based Shampoo and Conditioner Recs: Part 3 (Natural Hair Care)

And here is part 3! I think I've covered all of the natural brands I've tried over the last eight years, hopefully I didn't miss one! :) If I try other lines I will post about them too in the future.

Alaffia should have been my first entry in part 1 but I forgot to include them since just started using their products a couple months ago!

Alaffia is a new brand that is from Agbanga Karite: a fair-trade shea butter company. This company works directly with African communities to attain many of their ingredients. Their shampoo is a combination of real African black soap and a mild synthetic detergent. Their conditioners are very rich in shea. I think both the shampoo and conditioner I tried are awesome, but I prefer not using them together! I like using Alaffia's super rich conditioner with my shampoo bars (from other companies see parts 1 and 2) and Alaffia's shampoo with conditioners from other companies. Other people will probably prefer using them together (I've only tried one of the shampoos and conditioners so far so don't know if I prefer mixing all of their products with other brands, or just like mixing up just the specific two I tried). I love how soft my hair is after I use the conditioner, but the formulation is so heavy in shea that the conditioner separated a little (shea butter is really thick so in conditioners, creams, and lotions, it usually mixed with liquid oils but they didn't do that, they only used the butter). Though the texture was a little thick and it had separated slightly, their conditioner is one of the best conditioners I've used in a long time. The shampoo I tried is less drying than other detergent based ones since it also has soap in it but I still can't use it every day but I've found I can use it more often than many other brands: though most other people will be able to use it regularly (daily or every other day) with no problems. It's better to lather the shampoo in your hands before applying it to the hair because of its texture. I think most of their products are vegetarian, and some are vegan (some formulas contain honey). I really love their scent combinations (they use essential oils); their products smell yummy!

Terressentials is a completely 100% natural and organic skin care line. They make a 'shampoo mud' made with clay (I know that sounds like a strange concept but some cultures have traditionally used clays to cleanse their hair). I have not used their shampoo mud yet (I make my own) but I have seen it plugged in articles and I have used some of their other products and they are excellent. They are definitely one of the purest lines out there and one of the most natural lines I have reviewed in all three hair care blog posts. I am sure all of their 'Pure Earth Hair Washes' are vegan, and all of their products are vegetarian (some contain beeswax). They are USDA NOP certified organic.

Real Purity is a brand that is sold online (through their own website and a few other vendors) and in a couple of stores. Their shampoo and conditioners are simple, basic formulations that are good for frequent use. Their products are all natural (a 'super natural' line, one of the purest/most natural). I like the light conditioning of their conditioner.

Vermont soap works is one of the biggest online natural soap vendors. I really like this soap company. They make very nice basic soap. They also make a shampoo bar but I didn't like it very much when I tried it a few years ago but others may like them better than I did (my hair is super picky). But I highly, highly recommend both their bar and liquid soaps. They also sell things like cleansers for yoga mats and pet shampoo (please do not use essential oils on Kitty). They are one of the few skin care companies that are USDA NOP certified organic. Their soaps are inexpensive, simple basic combinations: good every day bars.

Another company that has some (but not all) of their products certified by the USDA is Aubrey Organics. I forgot to mention that in part 1.

Because of the natural preservatives in the lines above they have a much shorter shelf life than something preserved with synthetic preservatives (months as opposed to years) so be sure to use up quickly and not over buy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

All Natural and Natural Based Shampoo and Conditioner Recs: Part 2 (Natural Hair Care)

And here is part 2! Part 3 will be posted in a few days.

Please note: since most (but not all) of these brands are only preserved with mixes of alcohol (an extremely effective natural preservative if used in the correct concentration), herbal extracts (which contain alcohol) and essential oils (anti-bacterial ability depends on the plant, and will only preserve against certain bacteria and fungi), the shelf life of most of these products is much shorter than products preserved with synthetic preservatives: only a few months. A couple of these brands use synthetic/naturally derived preservatives (meaning that some people call these preservatives 'natural' because they are derived from a natural substance, but I personally consider them synthetic since they are not completely natural since they are altered. However they are relatively benign so I use products with them) so shelf life for those products is at least a year. I don't recommend storing most natural products in the bathroom since that reduces shelf life (the only products that you can leave in your bathroom are soaps and small amounts of soap based liquid cleansers, small amounts of shampoos, and powdered mineral makeup made only with minerals and pigments).

Giovanni makes some nice shampoos and conditioners. I like their products but don't love them. They are available online and in stores. Their products range from nearly all natural to natural based (depends on the formula). Their shampoos and conditioners contain a nice assortment of herbs that are good for the hair. Light conditioning, very basic products for frequent use. Inexpensive.

Heart of Iowa Soapworks. I've plugged this company on my blog before. For a few years they were my favorite shampoo bars (though now Chagrin Valley is, see part 1). Before I tried Karla's (the owner) shampoo bars I hated shampoo bars because other brands left my hair feeling dry and greasy. Karla's shampoo bars clean well without over stripping. I like her aloe fresh shampoo bar the best. Her facial bars are also very nice (a few years ago her shea special bar was one of the few soaps I could use on my face that didn't dry out my skin--though thankfully I now have found several other companies I can use on my face now). The shea special bar is awesome, rich in shea and smells very yummy! She makes 100% natural and nearly all natural (some have fragrance oils) soaps. Most are vegetarian or vegan but there are a couple that are not vegetarian. They are available online, through a few different vendors that I have posted about previously before. The link above is to her own site.

Kiss My Face Organics. I don't care for their regular line (which is not natural enough for me ;P and contains ingredients I don't recommend using though I admit their regular line is much better than many conventional lines) but their organic line is all natural or nearly all natural or natural based (depends on the product). I haven't used their shampoo in years so I don't really remember what it's like, but I have used their conditioner lately. Nice, light conditioning, which is better for oily hair because of the herbs used in the product. Basic care. In stores or online. Inexpensive.

Miessence is a very nice nearly all natural organic cosmetic company from Australia. Most of their products are all natural and organic, except for their shampoos (which use an extremely mild sugar based naturally derived synthetic detergent) and conditioners (depends on how you personally define certain emulsifiers). Miessence is one of the purest lines out there. Very gentle and lots of herbs that beneficial the hair. I like both their shampoos and conditioners (but of course can't use either very often since their shampoo is detergent based and their conditioner has apple cider vinegar in it. Most people love sugar based detergents since they are so mild, and also the majority of people who have tried apple cider vinegar in rinses or conditioners love it, but as I mentioned my hair and facial skin are very picky!) Very nice formulations.

Paul Penders. I love Paul Pender's products. They are originally a European company but I think are ship out of Asia now (but shipping is NOT expensive even though it is international; but they have currently have a minimal order of $50). Definitely also one of the purest lines out there. They do a lot of environmental work too. They use a very complex blend of amazing and beneficial herbs in most of their formulas: over 20 different herbs. Most of their product line is all natural or nearly all natural. Their shampoos and conditioners are natural (except for of course the detergent and the emulsifiers depending on your own definition of natural). I haven't used them in a couple years but I remember I really loved their conditioner: for a while it was my favorite conditioner. However they reformulated many of their products within the last few years and I have not tried them since (sadly they have started to add apple cider vinegar to most of their conditioners which works for nearly everyone, but not me! But they still have at least one without). I remember I really liked their shampoos, which I found I could use more often than most other brands even though it's detergent based because I think it's because herbs are their first ingredient and they don't add a lot of detergents to their shampoos: in fact they now have a medium and also a low suds formula. Time for me to try them again! :)

Samara Botane is a well respected essential oil company with an ecological conscious. They have a lovely natural (and very inexpensive) herbal conditioner. They also have a shampoo base ( but I have not used it since I don't formulate with detergents but I may try it in the future). Their conditioner is one of my favorites. Their product is somewhere between nearly all natural or natural (depending on definition of the emulsifiers). This is what I am currently using. Excellent formulation, contains herbs that actually do something for your hair :) I have to mention I love their essential oils: extremely high quality and very fragrant.

Friday, August 08, 2008

New all natural beauty website and environmental articles: anb Mall and Eco Living articles (Environmental Products and Information on Green Living)

I am pleased to announce the opening of my friend Sharon's (owner of all natural beauty website, SharAmbrosia, anb forum, and anb Portal) newest all natural beauty related website called the anb Mall! Not sure where to get truly natural beauty products (or products from small businesses, and many women and family owned businesses)? This is the place to look! Links to many fantastic truly natural brands including several I haven't tried yet (I guess this means I have to try them now, LOL! :) ). This is as natural as it gets!

It is a double pleasure to let everyone know about her newest project because I am the anb Mall's Eco Living writer! :) I am so honored that Sharon has asked me to write eco living related articles for her site and I hope that everyone finds all of my environmental friendly tips helpful! In this month's issue (click here) I have defined what eco living is and provided a few very simple green tips. So once a month check out the Eco Living section for even more awesome tips on green living! And be sure to check out all of the other great sections of the anb Mall for cool deals, articles, and all natural beauty related news!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Support Small Cosmetic Businesses and Suppliers!

A few weeks ago I posted about the FDA Globalization Act of 2008, click here for the entry. If you haven't already I urge you to please support small cosmetic businesses and suppliers and sign the petition against this legislation. There is no doubt in my mind that it will pass since the vast majority of the proposed legislation is a food bill (only a few small sections on the cosmetic industry is tucked in the bill). However the cosmetic sections of it can greatly impact the small cosmetic industry, and by signing the petition and writing to congress and voicing our concerns, it can be amended before it is passed to take into consideration the situation of small cosmetic businesses and suppliers.

This proposed legislation may change the all natural beauty cosmetic industry, natural based cosmetics industry, hand crafted businesses, environmental/socially responsible cosmetic companies, family owned and women owned businesses as we know it: namely most of the companies that I have blogged about over the last few years may either disappear or will have to raise prices drastically if this is passed. The passing of this bill may cause many small companies to close, less choices to buy all natural/natural based cosmetics, and huge increases in prices (from those that do stay in business).

Please read my previous entry on this issue and sign the petition and write to congress by August 5th!

Sharon of all natural beauty website and portal has compiled a list of who to contact in congress.

Please support small cosmetic businesses and suppliers!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

All Natural and Natural Based Shampoo and Conditioner Recs: Part 1 (Natural Hair Care)

In my opinion, finding truly natural hair care is harder than finding all natural skin care, since it can be difficult to formulate completely natural hair care products (concerns that formulators deal with: cleaning or conditioning ability, rinsability, convenience of product, buildup, choosing whether to craft products that customers are familiar with or creating products not typically used by the majority of people, etc). Below are many all natural, nearly all natural, and natural based companies and products that I have tried.

Note: I've put these products into three categories based on my personal definitions of ingredients. People have different definitions on what constitutes a 'natural' ingredient. I nearly always use only 100% natural products, but occasionally will use nearly all natural or natural based products, as long as the synthetic ingredients in them are safe, non-toxic, and relatively benign.

I am (of course) very biased ;P but I thought I should mention that I will be offering some hair care products in my future business (which will open this fall (2008). Keep checking this blog for more information on when my grand opening is!). Initially I am only offering hair oils (a great 100% natural deep hair conditioning treatment) but in the future I hope to also offer herbal hair rinses, liquid shampoo (soap based), and shampoo soap bars.

This is part 1 of my reviews. Coming soon, part 2!


Aubrey Organics has an extensive line of many shampoos and conditioners. I highly recommend trying their shampoos and conditioners from several different categories since they all act on the hair differently. There is also no need to use the corresponding shampoo with its conditioner. I've found that it is better for me to alternate products between several different shampoos and conditioners that are made for different hair types. Most of the conditions are very rich so better for dry hair. If you find them too heavy, try the ones in the oily hair type category (even if you have normal, dehydrated, or dry hair) which are lighter. If you have very oily hair use the conditioners sparingly. They are sold in stores and online, and their hair products range from nearly all natural to natural based (depends on how a person defines certain ingredients).

Aubrey Organics used to be my favorite shampoo brand, until they reformulated all of their shampoos and conditioners a few years ago. I'm sensitive to an herb combination they began to put in many (but not all of their) hair products. I am pretty sure (but not 100% positive) that they are now using a detergent instead of a real soap like they used to though they still call it a soap (my friend Jen aka Camellia Rose pointed out to me a few months ago that their cosmetic dictionary now says under their 'coconut-corn soap' entry that it is a "natural" detergent made from sugar and coconut/palm fatty alcohols similar to plant saponins. Very strange since they still have real soap bars and use real liquid castille soap in many of their shower and bath products). Though most people can use gentle naturally derived synthetic detergents on a regular basis, I can't use them daily or often because they dry my hair and skin out too much. I only use Aubrey Organics shampoo and conditioners occasionally now, but I still love the ones I use! Great for most hair types (unless you have very strange hair like me!). Mostly vegan, some vegetarian, but also a couple are not vegetarian/vegan.

Burts Bees: I still like many of their products but even before Clorox bought them out, more 'borderline natural/synthetic' ingredients that I personally consider synthetic began to crop into their products (but most of these ingredients so far are relatively benign and non-toxic). I am not really sure how I feel about Clorox owning them now (I have not bought much from them in months because of this). Their liquid shampoos and conditioners are not as natural as they state but they are still a pretty good formulation. The shampoos clean pretty well (but I personally can't use them too often since they are detergent based, though they use a mix of the gentler ones. But they would work fine for most other people). I like their conditioners (very light conditioning) better than I like their shampoos. Overall, though I like their hair care products I can't say I love them. In my opinion, they are very basic and good to use if you don't have too many hair issues. They also have a shampoo bar, which personally I didn't like at all, but some others may. Their products are vegetarian but not vegan (contains honey). The shampoo bar is vegan though. They are sold in stores and online.

Chagrin Valley Soap and Craft Company. They make my absolutely favorite shampoo bars EVER. Actually they make my favorite shampoo (whether bar or liquid) AND soaps EVER. I think the soap maker, Ida, is a true artist, and I really respect her ability to craft. I have never seen another soap maker use ingredients quite in the same way she uses: she uses combinations of ingredients that I have not seen in other soap lines (and I've sampled a lot of natural soaps since I am a soap fiend!).

But I think she is underselling herself because she uses a lot of the more expensive ingredients, and when you consider all the other business costs that go into running a business, she still charges the same per ounce or in many cases less than other soap makers (and believe me, most other small soap makers are not overcharging or making huge profits).

Her shampoo soap bars are amazing. The combination of ingredients she uses makes rich, lush, non-drying soaps, that are simply divine. I highly suggest that people try samples of several different kinds, as all of the bars are different (unlike many other companies who use only one base for all their soaps, her soaps are made with different ingredients so each bar acts differently upon the hair and the skin than other bars). I tried about twelve different shampoo bars so far: they are all fantastic. Nearly all worked for my hair though I love some more than others, and I use certain ones when my hair feels oily and others when my hair feels dry. My favorites are the cafe moreno, summer sunshine, rosemary lavender, and nettle shampoo bars :) For face/body soaps are fantastic too! :)

The samples are huge (so big I was able to split them up and send them to a friend, and though I wash my hair nearly every day, more than 7 months after I first got them I am still using the remnants of my last two samples). It says on their website the sizes of their samples are about 1.5 ounces but several of mine weighed more than that (the samples are odds and end pieces so irregular in shape, though they do sell gift samples that look nicer). Another great thing about them, if they don't work for your hair, you can use them for your face, body, or hands since they are (real) soap! The full size bars are huge too: anywhere from 5.5 to 7.2 ounces (depends on if she used her old or new soap molds). Vegetarian and many are vegan too.

When first switching to shampoo soap bars, you'll need to use some sort of rinse (either diluted apple cider vinegar or--my favorite--herbal rinses). After your hair gets used to them you won't need to use them as often.

Garden of Wisdom: I am also slightly biased ;P in mentioning them (since the owner Markey is a friend and I am also one of the moderators of her forum, but I don't work for them). She has a couple of conditioning serums, but I have never used them because they aren't vegetarian. She also sells a lot of ingredients and bases, including liquid castille soap, detergents, and ingredients like soapnuts (a saponin rich herb) so you can make your own (in the past, Garden of Wisdom was mostly an ingredient vendor, but that has been changing. Markey has been coming out with a ton of skin care products!). Products range from all natural to nearly all natural to natural based. Great prices and customer service! Online. Drop by the forum if you want to chat! :)

Part 2 will be posted in a few days.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Very Important! FDA Globalization Act of 2008 (Natural Cosmetics and Small Business News)

Please read about and sign a petition against the FDA Globalization Act of 2008. If passed, this legislation would mandate huge annual registration fees (at least $2000) and import fees (at least $10,000), which would greatly affect many existing and new small cosmetic businesses and suppliers (This legislation could cause many small businesses to go out of business. Many companies would not be able to afford the yearly fees. Also the majority of natural ingredients like essential oils, carrier oils, hydrosols, and herbs are grown/made in other countries, which would affect many suppliers). It would also affect consumers who love hand crafted products and who like supporting small businesses (less of a choice of natural and hand crafted cosmetics, and also huge increases in prices since small business companies and suppliers who pay the fees would have to increase prices to stay in business).

This is an issue that I am really concerned with as a long time crafter, a new small business owner, and a supporter of small businesses (many of which are usually family or woman owned or that are usually more ecological and social conscious, or that focus on natural cosmetics). Most of my favorite companies and suppliers are small businesses. Though I support more regulation of the cosmetic industry to increase safety in cosmetics, and support some (but not all) of the proposals in this legislation (like required registration of companies and listing of all ingredients in a product or following good manufacturer practices, which many small companies already do) I do not support the annual fees since they do not take into consideration the situation of or affect it will have on small cosmetic businesses and suppliers, especially the all natural and natural based cosmetic industries.

For more information on the issue or what you can do, check out Indie Beauty’s business blog and forum below (the owner of Indie Beauty Network, Donna Maria, is a well known natural cosmetics author and was a D.C. attorney). Sign their petition on the blog and also write to congress (the House, especially to the representatives on the energy and commerce committee) and tell them what you think! Read Indie Beauty’s forum for in depth discussion of the issue, and viewpoints of cosmetic owners and suppliers.

Indie Business Blog

Indie Business Forum

To read the draft of the proposed law, here is the link to the House’s Energy and Commerce committee.

the House's Energy and Commerce committee, FDA Globalization Act 2008

Thanks for reading, and please support small cosmetic businesses and suppliers!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Natural Sunscreen Recommendations (All Natural Cosmetics and Skin Care)

I have been getting a lot of questions on sunscreens recently so I decided to write an entry on my favorite all natural or nearly all natural sunscreens. Most on this list also double as a cream or balm (except for the spray sunscreens). None of the sunscreens on this list have a 'chemical' smell; most are scented with natural essential oils and smell very nice.

Aubrey Organics makes a wide range of all natural to nearly all natural (depends how a person classifies some of the ingredients) sunscreens. Some sunscreens contain only a naturally derived source of PABA esters (PABA can be an irritant to some but I've never had a problem with it and my skin is fairly sensitive. PABA used to be classified as a B vitamin, but is no longer considered a vitamin), and most contain a combination of PABA and titanium dioxide. I especially like the green tea spf 25 one (which is suitable for adults as well as children). It smells fantastic like jasmine and chamomile. It absorbs pretty quickly, but the consistency of each bottle may vary (sometimes it is a little thick so you may have to apply to damp skin. But with all natural/nearly all natural products that are crafted in small batches, sometimes variations in product texture happens, so changes in texture are a given). I also like the saving face spray (spf 10) since sometimes I prefer a spray product instead of a lotion/cream type product. Their sunscreens can usually be found in all health food stores or their website online. Good for nearly all skin types. Their sunscreens are my second favorite.

Badger Balm's sunscreen is 100% natural. They call it a cream but it is really a balm (it contains no water) so it is a bit thicker and takes a lot longer to absorb into the skin. I recommend applying to damp skin (which helps with absorption). Good for very dry skin, dry skin, normal, combination dry, and some people with dehydrated skin; I think it is better for the body rather than the face unless your facial skin is on the dry to normal side. It's found in some health food stores or online.

Burt's Bees also has one, but I haven't tried it yet (Personally I've been feeling mixed about Burt's Bees products recently; not sure what I feel about the direction the company is moving in but still like many of their products and their previous eco-work). All health food stores, some other retail and book stores, and online.

Dr Hauschka's sunscreens have a very nice non-greasy texture. They offer a couple different formulas and just came out with a spray (that I now have to try!). I would recommend their sunscreens for all skin types except for very dehydrated and very dry skin. It is preserved with natural alcohol (which tends to be less drying than synthetic alcohols but may still be a tad drying for very dehydrated and dry skin), but it is a wonderful formulation for most other skin types, and I think would be okay to use on most mildly dehydrated and mildly dry skin types. Their products can be found in most health food stores or online.

Lavera. This is my favorite sunscreen :). Probably the nicest, lightest, non greasy formula I've found. But if your skin is very dry, it can be drying (like Dr Hauschka's products, Lavera products contains natural alcohol to preserve, but I find Lavera is not as drying as Dr Hauschka's products. My skin is very dehydrated and I can use Lavera most of the time; I usually just add more a couple drops of oil based serums or a tad of shea butter and use plenty of hydrosols to keep my skin soft and hydrated when using this sunscreen). They can be found in some health food stores or online.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Green Guide To Go's Greendex (Environmental Information/Eco calculator)

National Geographic's Green Guide just released its new eco-impact calculator a week or so ago called Greendex which is a survey of sustainability. (I've plugged about another eco-calculator here before). I did my calculation and was very surprised how high I scored (the higher the score, the more 'green' your life style is supposed to be or, in other words, the more your consumption patterns and behaviors are environmental sustainable). I am an environmentalist and I implement many green practices in my life but I know there is always more I can do :) and we (the U.S.) live a very consumption based society so I thought my score would be higher than the U.S. average, but not as high as it was! My score was a 57. The US (out of the 14 countries surveyed) has the lowest score of all: 44.9. The highest scores are Brazil and India (60 points), China (56.1 points), and Mexico (54.3 points). The countries in the survey are the ones that consumed most (75%) of the world's energies in 2007 so of course many countries NOT on the list consume less (and in that sense are probably more sustainable). African countries were not included in the Greendex results (which were based on online surveys), but they did survey some people in face-to-face interviews from Nigeria and Egypt so do have some data collected from Africa. This website also has a knowledge quiz and much other eco-related information on their website. A great new resource, so definitely worth checking out!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Ingredient profile: Vanilla oleoresin (Aromatherapy/crafting information)

I have decided to review different raw natural ingredients (like essential oils, carrier oils, and butters) that I think are fantastic ingredients!

I thought I'd start with vanilla oleoresin.

I love vanilla. To my knowledge, there isn't a vanilla essential oil available, but there is a vanilla absolute, C02 extract, and oleoresin (which are used as 'essential oils' but are extracted differently, and they all have different chemical compositions from each other). And of course there is an herbal tincture aka vanilla extract available (which if I am not mistaken, the vanilla oleoresin is made from) . I've tried vanilla absolute and the extract before, but I've only tried vanilla oleoresin from one supplier (Garden of Wisdom) so far.

First I love the oleoresin because of the smell. It is a very intense, rich smooth vanilla scent, much stronger than many absolutes I've smelled; absolutely divine!

The oleoresin is water soluble (unlike many essential oils and CO2s) so it's easy to add to water based products. Vanilla absolute is soluble in alcohol but you can still add it to a carrier oil, you'll have to shake well before each use since it won't really mix. I have not tried the CO2 yet but I have read on a vendor's site that it is soluble in oil :)

Aromatherapy/skin properties: vanilla has been used and shown in scientific studies to have a calming effect on people. It is also used as an aphrodisiac. Aside from those two uses (and scent) there aren't too many other aromatherapy uses that I am aware of.

How to use the oleoresin: add a couple drops per ounce of water based product to scent. Since the kind I bought is a 20 fold oil (meaning the scent is concentrated 20 times), this vanilla is very strong so you will not need to use that much. I am not sure if all vanilla oleoresin are 20 fold or not (if that is the standard), but the one I tried was.

Notes for uses of all types of vanilla based products: use the oleoresin for water or also alcohol based products, absolute for alcohol based perfumes, CO2 for massage/body/bath oils or other oil based products, and the extract for cooking. Side note: the extract also makes a wonderful perfume or perfume base.

Places to buy:

Oleoresin: I got mine from Garden of Wisdom (GOW). Vanilla oleoresin is very inexpensive compared to the absolute and C02. The one from GOW is a large size (1/4 ounce, which is a pretty large amount for the home crafter since like an essential oil or absolute, you use oleoresins at a very low concentration, diluted). Most vanilla absolutes or C02s cost a lot more.

Absolute: Mountain Rose Herbs (excellent absolute, very sweet). Wonderful in alcohol based perfumes. AV-AT also has vanilla absolute back in stock (I haven't tried it yet, but I am going to receive a sample of this soon, so will know soon how it is. But knowing the quality of Butch Owen's other essential oils and absolutes, I am quite sure it is very high quality). I think Samara Botane has it too. I just recently tried this company and I love their essential oils (related note: I just adore their gallica rose essential oil, I haven't seen this rose species anywhere else, and right now (May 2, 2008) it is super on sale!)

I haven't tried the C02 yet but Nature's Gift carries it (and Marge's other essential oils etc are very high quality). Eden Botanicals also carries it (I haven't tried any of their essential oils yet but their amber essences--amber is a combination of different scented ingredients--are so delicious smelling! Side note: their crystallized amber is vegetarian but not vegan as it contains beeswax)

Extract: a while Edward gave me vanilla extract from somewhere in Latin America and it was excellent. It was alcohol free (so I am assuming in some sort of glycerine base). I think Mountain Rose Herbs sells vanilla extract (I haven't tried theirs yet but all of their products are superior quality and they are the place I buy nearly all of my herbs from). I like the vanilla extract from Simply Organic aka Frontier Co-op. I also just bought vanilla beans a couple months ago and plan to make my own sometime!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Li's Crafting Thoughts 4-03-08

Been working on this entry on and off for many, many days, so here it is! :)

I haven't been crafting as much in March as I did in February (due to my thesis) but I have been crafting and tweaking some products for my future business, and jotting down ideas, as well as making a lot of kitchen cosmetics (cosmetics made with fresh ingredients that I have been making for my own personal use).

Toners and water based serums: I have been working on a lot of toners. I've been researching hydrosol properties for quite a while (expanding on my overall understanding of them) and more importantly using a lot of hydrosols that I have never used before to really understand their properties and how they react on the skin. I am really loving frankincense hydrosol (great for dry skin, anti-aging, but rare/not offered everywhere). For serums, I have been studying more herbalism, and experimenting with herbs that I haven't used yet. Also I have been coming up with a lot of ideas of crafting water based serums (I usually only craft oil based serums).

Oil Based Serums:I have totally shifted my focus entirely to tweaking about four of them (instead of the original sixteen), and experimenting with different blends of ingredients, especially essential oil blends. I am working hard to craft blends that will really help specific conditions.

Mineral makeup: Made a few gorgeous shades of brown, and a totally awesome vegan lip gloss! I nailed the texture/glide/slip on my first time crafting it (after over seven years of crafting, most of the time I nail it on the first try, but the artist and scientist in me is always tweaking a formula). My lips are so soft after I use it!

Creams: Been working on a preservative system for creams. I am still considering whether or not to offer creams/lotions in my business because of the short shelf life when using natural preservatives. Though I think most people would understand using the products up quickly if it's explained it's a must, I think some people really wouldn't understand. I have made some nice waterless balms/salves for the face and they have the most melt-on-your skin texture and leave the skin really soft so will be offering those at least.

Though I've blogged about natural preservatives a lot, here is a quick summary again :)

Creams and lotions are a tricky product to craft for a business, simply because of the preservative issue. No matter what some people say or think, there are benefits and disadvantages to using both natural or synthetic preservatives. On the issue there seems to be two extremes: there are people who are absolutely convinced natural preservatives do not work at all, and others that believe any natural herb is a good preservative against all kinds of bacteria and that an all natural product lasts as long as one preserved with synthetic preservatives. My personal thought on this :) they are both misinformed. Natural preservatives can be very effective but you have to realize the limitations of using them. Products preserved with natural preservatives simply will not last as long as a product preserved with a synthetic preservative. On general, depending on which natural preservatives you use, shelf life for creams and lotions will be anywhere from one month to three months, maybe (stress the maybe) up to five months for some formulations (ones with alcohol and a blend of certain--not random and not just one--herbs/essential oils, and packaged in a specific container). Also though many herbs and essential oils are antiseptic, they are antiseptic to various degrees, and different herbs/essential oils will kill different bacteria. To be effective, it's really important to use a combination of natural preservatives (and not just one or two ingredients) but shelf life will still be very short. Other things to consider: container style (airless pumps are a good idea), and (if you are selling) antibacterial and antifungal tests and (if you can afford it) challenge testing are a must. Or you may want to consider waterless products, which are less prone to bacterial contamination.

(It is a good thing I am a scientist/environmental biologist and know how to properly do antibacterial and antifungal tests).

I am considering offering only waterless creams (so technically salves/balms), or offering an all natural cream (and stress the short shelf life), or maybe offer an all natural version plus a version with one of the few synthetic preservatives I'll actually use. I am still deciding.

Kitchen Cosmetics:For kitchen or fresh cosmetics I've been making a lot of fresh scrubs and masks for personal use (revisiting old recipes and concocting many new ones) (Note: shelf life is only a couple days and it must be stored in the fridge if there is any left over). Though I craft vegan for my business, for kitchen cosmetics I will use vegetarian (but not vegan) ingredients like yogurt (I'm only veggie and not vegan, though some of the food I eat is vegan). I've also been using a lot of fresh organic fruit in masks (which contain natural forms of acids, that are gentler than the concentrated derived acids typically found in products) recently and my skin has been glowing!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Everyday Minerals Review (Mineral Makeup/Eco-friendly Cosmetics)

I realized I never wrote a review of Everyday Minerals on my blog! (Though I have mentioned it a couple of times). Since I love their products I decided to write a full review.

Foundation:Their foundation is my holy grail! Not only is the color a perfect match for my skin but the finish is amazing! Since I started wearing mineral makeup five or so years ago, I've found many good/great matches (I thought all of them were perfect matches until I sampled more and found better and better matches: anything is an improvement from conventional makeup that is typically pink and peach tones!). Everyday Minerals is high in mica so its coverage for most of its formulas is light to medium, though it is very buildable, and they also have an intensive formula, which is medium to heavy coverage. I usually don't use their intensive formula (anything too heavy dries out my skin) but I love their matte and semi matte formulas. Many women also like their original glow formula, though some people say it's too shiny and others say it's perfect. I just got a sample of the original glow, I've only used it once but I thought it was too shiny for me. I love their matte and semi-matte formulas because it doesn't dry out my dehydrated skin yet controls oil. I don't really wear makeup for coverage or to hide flaws but I wear it to keep my dry yet oily skin in check, and also for some sunscreen, so I usually don't wear foundation most days but when I do I usually reach for this one. Note: because their formulas are higher in mica, and lower in titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, it would stand to reason the sunscreen properties of this line is lower than other mmu lines that use titanium dioxide or zinc oxide as their first ingredients.

Foundation color I wear: I am of Chinese descent and my skin is light-medium strong yellow with a lot of golden tones and a hint (and I really do mean a hint!) of olive. The color I wear is: winged butter. It is usually hard for me to find an exact match because I don't have the lightest skin, but my skin is not medium either, but falls in between. But this color is perfect for me :)

Blush:I am not really a blush person but as I've gotten a few free sample blushes, I've tried them. I like their product because the colors are very wearable, light in pigmentation, and blendable. Very nice formulation.

Eye shadows: Most of the time I wear my own (eye shadows are the color cosmetics I use the most), but I was pleasantly surprised at their eye shadows. I've heard from other women on some forums that they usually are not pigmented enough but I found this not to be true with their two newest colors (I have no idea on how pigmented their other colors are though). I like how the colors stayed put and the pigmentation was very rich. I've only tried two colors so far (which were free, but they were full size!) but they were very beautiful.

Concealers:I don't use concealers most of the time but ended up with some samples from the sample kit (see below). Usually I can not wear concealers because most concealers are too heavy in coverage so dry me out and settle into my pores (I have very fine textured skin). But this is one of the only lines in which I've been able to wear their concealer without it settling. Sunlight is nice for those days when I don't get enough sleep and don't want to wear a full foundation.

I've only tried one lippie so far. I really love how it glides on my lips and the texture. It leaves the lips plump and also shiny (but not too shiny)! The color I got was cherry fizz. It is a medium pink color, but this lippie doesn't have too much pigmentation--perfect for a day look. My lips are very naturally pink so it didn't give my lips much color but made them a little shiny. A good natural look with a little oomph! Love the formula so next time will choose a color that's not that close to my lip color! Note:I just read on a forum and also checked their site to be sure, but they have reformulated their lippies. They are supposed to be more pigmented now and the texture is supposed to be different too. More pigmentation=great, but I'll have to try their new formula now to see if I like the texture and glide or not!

A very simple, waterless cream (so technically a balm not a cream). I like using this all over. For the face, I think it would be better for those with dry and normal skin; it may benefit some people with oily skin but others it will be too heavy. (Be sure to apply to damp skin/dampen skin with toner). Great on the hands and neck area! Smiled when I saw hydrogenated vegetable oil as an ingredient, ha!

I highly recommend people getting either their samples to start out with. They offer a free sample kit (you just pay shipping) in which you get
full 3 gram jars of three foundations, a concealer, and a blush/face color (your choice). They say on their website it's only enough for 3-6 applications but honestly it's really enough for a lot more! I apply makeup with a very light hand (one light coat) and if I wear it every day, their samples last me about a month or more. Most people wear more foundation, so this will usually last others at least a week or two (I don't think I've ever met anyone yet, or talked to anyone on the forums that applies as little foundation as I do). I like to use them when I travel.

They also offer many great kits, which end up being a lot less expensive than buying the product individually--and they are inexpensive to begin with! I just got their custom kit for $32.00, in which you can choose your own products--so I got 3 vegan brushes, 2 full size foundations, and the cherry fizz lippie. In addition they were having a weekly special when I bought from them a couple months ago so I also got a lot of free specials: 3 other brushes and two beautiful full size eye shadows. Be sure to check their website for weekly specials!

I will be reviewing the brushes in another entry, but they are fantastic: very nice!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Greed in the name of green article (Environmental News)

I just read a really interesting article in the Washington Post's style section called "Greed in the name of green" by Monica Hesse which I thought brought up a lot of good points about environmentalism and consumerism. But I am not sure if most people would truly get the article since it was very sarcastic in tone, and its tone may inadvertly dissuade people from buying green products when needed, instead of driving the article's main point home that to truly be green it is better to consume less. But I think it's worth a read since I think the author brought up a very important ecological topic, and the title and writing style really caught my attention.

I plug a lot of green companies on this blog and though I've mentioned in a couple entries that less consumption of products is always best for the environment, this article made me realize that perhaps I haven't emphasized it enough. In the last several years I've really tried to buy less; I'm the kind of person that will use something until it breaks (I had a CD diskman for 15 years and did not get an ipod until it died--and I got my ipod as a very nice birthday present, didn't buy it myself. When I got a new cell phone in the winter of 2006, the employees at Best Buy were so shocked that my old phone was like five years old--I had used it until it literally fell apart). But at the same time I have a weakness for books (my library is huge) and, of course, herbs and aromatherapy (but aromatherapy and herbalism are fast becoming my livelihood).

I think the article brought up a very good point: that the problem and point of being environmental is not buying just green products instead of conventional/less eco-friendly products (though that is a good thing too). The problem is that people consume too much, and think that if they can replace everything they consume now with a greener equivalent, and keep consuming the same amount they do, that will solve the problem. Well that would make it a little better, but many people don't realize that overconsumption in general is a huge problem: to be truly green it is better to consume less, and use what you have long term (not be caught up in consumerism and the need to have the newest gizmo or fad). The author also mentions in her article a few other good points (but I think they got buried under her sarcastic tone, and because of that some people may not get it and see this article as an 'anti-green product' article though it isn't): when you do need to get something buying green is a good alternative, since it is more eco-friendly, and the plethora of green products on the market shows that people are realizing that environmental problems are truly real and they are serious.

I personally think the best way to be eco-friendly is to buy less, and only buy what you need (and when you need to buy, try a green alternative). Quality over quantity.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ecological, Aromatherapy, Herbalism, and Natural Cosmetics Blogs and Resources Part 1 (Aromatherapy, Herbalism, and Environmental Information)

Here is a quick run down of some of my favorite ecological, aromatherapy, herbalism, and natural cosmetics resources that haven't been blogged about in detail yet.

Herbs Oils Etc:

This is a yahoo group that I joined a while ago. There is so much wonderful information on this list from people from a wide range of backgrounds: herbal and aromatherapy and crafting amateurs, herbal/aromatherapy students, herbalists, aromatherapists, and herbal vendors. Great place to learn about new ingredients, herbalism, aromatherapy, and also tips on crafting herbal products. An authentic resource (there are many fake aromatherapy and herbal resources and products out there)

Soapdish forum:

I've been a member for over a year. A rich resource for the home and also business crafter (cosmetic crafts of all kinds, not just soap). The archives are one of the best resources online for any questions that you may have about crafting. New posters may want to do a search for information before asking questions.


One of the best plant conservation/economical botany/ethnobotany (botanical uses of people) focused websites out there. If you are interested in hearing about ecological issues related to crops/plants or environmental threats to commercially used plants, this is the resource to check. Very well researched and each article has references. (Also check the aromaconnection blog--see my previous blog entry on that--and Wildwood's website below)

Chrissie Wildwood:

This British aromatherapist is one of my favorite aromatherapy authors. She is not only a well known aromatherapist, but active in educating the public about endangered plant species and plant conservation issues. Her aromatherapy books are among the best researched out there, in my opinion. Her perfume book is one of the best aromatherapy perfume books available (but it's out of print so very expensive and kind of hard to find).

Camellia Rose's blog:

My friend Jen's blog. Jen is the host of Garden of Wisdom's forum (which I also help moderate) and also the owner of a skin care company called Camellia Rose. I've mentioned Jen and her company on my blog before and have already posted her shop in my links section. But I don't think I've posted about her blog before. Jen knows a lot about crafting and loves to research about cosmetic ingredients as much as I do! :) Just a side note, her online store will only be open from time to time since she just had a baby girl a few months ago! :) Be sure to try her green tea shea soap!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I love lavender essential oil! (Aromatherapy/Essential Oil Information)

I am a lavender fanatic. I currently have over seventy essential oils but lavender is still one of my favorites since it has so many medicinal and cosmetic uses. And it smells wonderful!

I recently posted about some of my favorite lavenders from around the world on a forum so thought I'd post the information here too (with added information of course :) ). The species I am discussing is Lavandula angustifolia, but any essential oil fanatic will tell you the scent and chemical composition of any essential oil can vary greatly by region, season, climate, weather, processing/distilling methods, altitude, etc. So even if it's from the same species, essential oils from different areas and seasons will smell different from each other. They are like fine wines in that regard! :)

My favorite lavender is high altitude wild grown French. My second favorite is Bulgarian lavender. If you want to try the French, you have to be careful where you buy it, since according to Jeanne Rose (personal communication during a class in October 2007) much of what is listed as French is really Bulgarian (the French will import Bulgarian and then repackage and then call it French). Both the French and Bulgarian are more floral and have no hint of camphor than other varieties I have smelled. The French has a sweeter and very floral scent in my opinion, but it is also very fruity too. Both are used by perfumers in perfume, especially the high altitude wild grown French.

I also like English lavender (which I think is more herbal and green than the French or Bulgarian) but I also love lavender from California (which is woody and green). California lavender is high in borneol which is considered an immune stimulate. It is a nice and smooth smelling lavender. The lavender from Hungary is very mild and not as intense as some other countries.

I personally don't like Lavender 40-20, it always smells 'off' too me; too artificial. I always thought that even before I knew what 40-20 was, before I learned that it was partially synthetic. Basically since the scent of essential oils can vary greatly from each batch (even if it's the same species, grown in the same area) many producers/manufacturers will add Linalool and Linalyl acetate (which are two chemical components naturally found in lavender) to make sure each batch smells the same. Some perfumers and crafters love 40-20 for this reason, but I don't. Some people claim that it is completely natural (since the Linalool and Linalyl acetate are essential oil components. Though it's true they are naturally found in lavender essential oil, to my knowledge--and I could be wrong about this--what is most often added is lab created Linalool and Linalyl acetate, and not naturally plant derived Linalool and Linalyl acetate. Though a few companies may actually add plant dervied Linalool and Linalyl acetate, I do not know for sure). 40-20 is less expensive, and each batch smells consistent (there are no variations). (A related story on how good my 'nose' is, I remember a few years ago I was raving about a skincare line to my sister in a store since previously they used only pure rose essential oil in their line, asked her to smell their product, and when she said it just smelled okay, I smelled it and said immediately that I thought they added some synthetic rosy scent to it. I looked at the ingredients and I was right: while they were still using essential oils, they had begun to add 'essential oil components' like Linalool to their products).

Lavendin tends to be cheaper too (it is a hybrid of a couple different species of lavender) but it has much more/strong camphor notes in it.

There was a question asking about the difference in prices and whether it mattered in crafting which lavender was used. And my answer was:

Honestly though there a few people (like me) who would care about which one is used and can tell the difference between lavenders, I think most people won't be able to tell the difference, so you should just sample different lavenders and choose the one you like the best. :)

Many vendors offer free samples that contain a few drops, probably not enough to craft with but enough to smell and compare between samples, others offer larger samples for a couple bucks.

The French, Bulgarian, and English are available at AV-AT, and are organic except for the French which is ethically wild harvested (no pesticides though since it's high altitude, no pollution in the area). CA is available from Jeanne Rose (who also sells a lavender kit that contains 6 lavenders from around the world. I haven't tried the kit yet so don't know from what areas but her essential oils are some of the best I've tried). Not sure if the CA is organic but I think it's grown as part of the Aromatic Plant Project so most likely it is organic (may or may not be certified). The Hungary lavender can be found at Garden of Wisdom.
Not sure if it's organic either but many of Markey's (GOW's owner) essential oils are organic or at least ethically wild harvested (but they aren't labeled as such) so there's a good chance it is. Conventional 40-20 can be found at Mountain Rose Herbs, who also sells a nice organic Bulgarian lavender. I haven't used Lavendin in a while and forgot where I initially tried it but Nature's Gift sells it, and many other different kinds of lavender including Bulgarian and French. Though I haven't tried their lavender they sell superior quality essential oils and I am sure they smell great! They also sell a CO2 extract of lavender and a lavender from the Himalayans that I've been eyeing. Some of their lavenders are organic, and some are wild harvested from high altitude areas.

Another question: Why does my bulgarian lavender smell different from last time? I got it at the same place.

Many things can greatly affect the scent of essential oils: season, climate, weather, distillation methods, storage conditions, altitude, etc.

I haven't gotten bulgarian lavender recently but I know that last year's bulgarian and turkey rose crops failed due to the weather, so it is my guess that the climate/weather has affected all types of plants grown in the area.

If you want floral, try a high altitude French (but be careful as many lavenders labeled as French are really Bulgarian so buy from a company you trust) (also French does smell floral but it leans more toward fruity in addition to floral)

Some companies like Av-at, Nature's Gift, Sun Rose Aromatics, etc you can request free samples before you buy. Not really enough to craft with (unless you get from SRA but enough to smell to make sure it's what you want).

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).