My Curly Hair Care

I came to grips some time ago that I have very wavy/somewhat curly hair – something I hadn’t dealt with before.  Living in the high country desert most of my life, my hair was thick, full and straight.  Moving to the Pacific Northwest, I found myself dealing with massive friz issues and perplexed as to why.  I blow dried it straight with heavy anti-friz products with limited results.  My hair stylist at one point told me I had curly hair and my response was an emphatic, “No, I don’t!”.  Denial.  I lived in this state of denial for 10 years.

I’m not sure what finally caused me to rethink and finally accept that curly hair verdict, but I did, and I am much happier for it.  So is my hair stylist.  Since then, I’ve researched curly hair care.  Like any topic, there is always conflicting information.  My desire for more natural hair products, and after a lot of trial and error, I’ve developed a conditioner that I really like.  I’m still perfecting it.  (Shampoo is next).  During this process, my hair was looking and feeling pretty dry and straw like and something needed to be done.  This is a summary of what I’ve learned:

  • Strip:

Remove all the product buildup from your hair using a clarifying shampoo or mix some baking soda into the shampoo you already use.  OR – you can use baking soda by itself – diluted in water (roughly 1 part soda to 3 parts water).  Your hair will feel like straw.  It’s awful and you’re sure it will never be right again.  Relax – all will be well.

  • Deep Condition:

Some say every week, but I think that’s a bit excessive.  Then again, everyone’s hair is different.  I’ve tried several deep conditioners and made up a few recipes of my own, but have discovered that – for me – a hot oil treatment works best.  Don’t go out and buy those overpriced plastic tubes – just about any oil will do, but I’ve found a combination of oils I really like – each oil imparting different qualities that I can’t get from using one alone.

For my hot oil treatment, I combine equal parts Rice Bran or Meadowfoam Oil (light and easily penetrating) , Coconut Oil (moisturizing), Avocado Oil (nutrient rich) and Castor Oil (softness & shine).  For my long thick hair, I need a couple of tablespoons to massage into my scalp and lightly coat my hair.  I typically comb it through to make sure it’s evenly distributed.  Once the hair is oiled, I wrap my hair in plastic wrap, a plastic grocery bag or a shower cap then cover with a warmed towel for roughly 30 minuets.

  • Wash (may need to repeat) & Condition your hair as normal

Full Shampoo, Low ‘Poo or No ‘Poo?

There is no one right way to care for your hair.  Everyone’s hair is different and every one has different preferences.  I have tried the Baking Soda & Vinegar ‘No-Poo’ method and it worked fine, but not the amazing results that others rave about.  I suspect that my curls require more moisture to look and feel their best.  As I stated above, I still use the BS wash before deep conditioning, but no longer on a daily basis.

  • Shampoo:  This method is the traditional shampoo method for cleaning your hair.
  • Low-‘Poo:  These shampoos do not contain the harsh detergents used in regular shampoos, are much milder and often lower sudsing than traditional shampoos.  Many color safe shampoos are low-poo.
  • No-Poo:  Just like the name implies, but that doesn’t mean you don’t clean your hair.  Many conditioners contain enough cleansing agents that they can be used to clean your hair (I’ve heard this called co-washing as well).
  • Baking Soda & Vinegar (BSV) is another No-Poo option.

Wash with the same 1:3 baking soda to water mixture described above

Rinse with 1 part apple cider vinegar into 3 or 4 parts water.  The vinegar restores acidity to your hair and smooths it, making it feel soft and manageable.  It doesn’t smell that great in the shower, but once your hair dries it’s undetectable.


Home Made Hair Gel

For my curly hair, I like to use a gel to define the curls and prevent my hair from frizzing out in a voluminous mass. I’m not fond of most of the products on the market as they are full of plasticizers and other goo I’d rather not have on my hair.

After a bit of research, I found several pages that discussed gel made from flax seeds and I eventually found a few recipes for it.  Since I don’t plan on making this for sale, I’m happy to share my personal experiences and concoction with you.


Personal Care Products & Allergies

Allergies are a big deal in our family.  Among the various members of my family, there are those with allergies or sensitivities to dairy, citrus, nuts, chocolate and gluten.

Of the above mentioned, the first four items are fairly easy to avoid, but the last, gluten, is not.  In addition to a niece, I also have a close friend with celiac disease, so I have been especially careful to learn about products and ingredients that contain gluten.

One thing that is important to know – anything labeled ‘Gluten Free’ can still contain up to 3% of trace gluten.  Also, most pharmaceuticals are prepared with gluten as a binder; capsules and gel caps are gluten based.  Caramel coloring nearly always contains gluten.  Beware also of personal care products that contain gluten: shampoo, conditioner, hair color, lotions … These items frequently contain gluten and are absorbed through the skin.

I am very cautious when formulating soaps (and eventually lotions, conditioners and shampoo) to ensure that they are 100% gluten free.  I do not plan to make any milk based soaps, and with the exception of coconut oil, I do not use nut oils, nor do I use wheat germ oils or any other gluten based grain oils.  I understand that rice bran oils originating from outside the US have been known to contain gluten.  The rice bran oil I use is produced in the Untied States and is gluten free.

I realize this limits my products, as many people are fond of goat’s milk soap and several of the oils I have chosen to exclude in my standard recipes, but feel that to best serve the widest range of people it is a good choice.  Knowing that my soap is free of certain allergens and vegan (I also have a vegetarian sister) makes them easier to gift.

With regard to the citrus and cocoa:  Citrus oils will be scenting a fair number of my soaps, as they are too popular to ignore, and cocoa butter will be a staple in my recipes, because some luxuries need to be indulged.

What Kind of Soap is It?

I have been asked several times if I add glycerin to my soaps.  Also a common question is do I make lye soap or glycerin soap.

No, I do not add glycerin to my soaps

Yes, I use lye and it is glycerin soap.

Confused?  Let me explain.

Soap is made by combining fats and oils with lye.  The lye reacts with the fatty acids in the oils and fats, resulting in soap.  When the chemical reaction is complete, there is no lye left; it has all been converted to soap.  That reaction is called saponification.  The byproduct of saponification is glycerin.

Oil & Fat + Lye = Soap + Glycerin

If it doesn’t contain lye, it’s not soap.

Modern soap makers calculate the exact amount of lye required for a given amount and type of oil or fat so that all the lye is used up in the process.  Standard practice is to ‘superfat’ the soap, essentially using more oil than required to ensure no lye remains unused in the final product.  The final result is soap that contains both excess oil and glycerin, ensuring that hand made soaps are luxurious and moisturizing.

What many refer to as ‘Glycerin Soap’ is transparent soap.  Transparent soap is a hot process soap to which additional solvents (sugar water, alcohol and more glycerin) are added in order to render the final product transparent, but the base recipe is essentially the same.  One of the reasons glycerine is added to transparent soaps is that Steric Acid is used in place of some of the hard oils.  Using a fatty acid alone makes for a very hard soap and it will not have the moisturizing glycerin byproduct.

Commercial producers often remove the glycerin for use in lotions and other products, making their soaps more drying, but what better way to encourage people to purchase more products?

Getting ready for Autumn and Winter

Fall is sort of in the air and I’m making product for upcoming festivals and Christmas sales and Courtyard gardens.  This is the first year in many that Christmas has been on my radar before November, but with a 6 week minimum cure time, I’ve got to be finishing up production by the end of the month.

I will be at Immanuel Lutheran Church for their Fall Festival on October 5th.  Proceeds support local charities.  I’m told organizations that have benefited in the past include Habitat for Humanity and similar.

I will be at the Winter Festival and the Everson Senior Center on December 6th.

I’ll post updates of other markets, festivals and bazaars as I hear about them.

Summer Festival

Summer Fest Booth

Well, the weekend came and went and the Summer Festival I spent so much time preparing for is now over.

I had planed to take the week off from work before the event in order to mix up some final product, organize and get everything ready.  Well, we know what happens to plans.  There was a snag with one of my engineering jobs that had to be taken care of without delay.  It took some time to get it all settled.  It’s really inconvenient when my real life gets in the way of my fun time.  Anyway, as a result of that fiasco, I wasn’t able to finish everything I wanted and ended up unorganized with product unlabeled.

This was my first event as a vender and I was a bit obsessive about how everything should look.  I futzed around with my display for a large part of the first day until I got nearly everything labeled and looking just how I wanted it.  My cousin, Kathy, who came up with her spinning, knitting, jewelry and other assorted crafty stuff, silently laughed and shook her head.  Though, after a while, the laughter wasn’t so silent.  No doubt the story will amuse her family, too, in the telling.

Once I felt the table was looking how I wanted it, I got out the unscented cream soap samples I had set aside for kids to scent and color for themselves.  It was a success and a disaster at the same time.  I had a gaggle of girls in no time, all wanting to do it all at the same time in the same tiny space I had set aside for the activity.  Fragrance oils were spilled and color scattered all over.  I found that monitoring the kids, cleaning up the mess and trying to sell soap at the same time was just not going to happen.  I cleaned up the final mess, with more than a little help from Kathy, and put the whole thing away.  Lesson Learned:  Do not try to sell your product and have a kid’s activity at the same time.  It. Does. Not. Work.

I did have a hand washing station for people to try out my creme soaps.  I was very popular with little girls and parents of young children.  That I will do again.  It wasn’t a big deal and I earned a lot of good will.

Saturday went much better and the table was set up and arranged to my satisfaction fairly quickly.  A few people came by before the parade and I was anxiously awaiting the post parade rush.  We waited, and waited and waited.  It got a little busy for a short stretch, but the day really started to drag on.

The crowds I expected never materialized.  I was heartened somewhat to hear others say it was a slow show – I least I knew it wasn’t me.   Another lesson learned:  The corner booth was great, but being next to the Merry-Go-Round was torture.  Everything was caked in dust by the end of the show, including us.  Despite the slow sales and perpetual dust storm from the Merry-Go-round, Kathy and I had fun.  I plan to set up again next summer and hope for both a better spot and better turn out.  I hope Kathy decides to join me again.

Addendum:  Many thanks to my husband, Andy for being our pack mule both days, and to Samantha, too, for running various errands and occasional help.

AND a big Thank You to all who stopped by and purchased my hand made soaps.  It was greatly appreciated.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

An Otion of Support!

In a previous post, I thanked all those who have provided support, encouragement and feedback during this soap odyssey I’ve embarked on, but there are three more people I need to give special thanks to.

Alicia, Karly and Ginny at Otion.  (I hope I spelled everyone’s name right.)  These women have been super supportive and have provided hours of time and their expertise answering my infinite questions over these past months as well as offering suggestions when I’ve encountered a problem or setback.  They’ve also laughed with me when faced with some of my more interesting failures.

When I say I couldn’t have done it without them, it’s not a platitude.  It’s the literal truth.

Thank you all at Otion – for everything.

Soap Lake: The Tale of the Epic Mess

Oh woe is me.  My kitchen runneth over with a greasy, oily mess.

Today, I wish to warn you of the disasters that await when you leave a crock pot full of soap unattended.

So – this is what happened.  I had a batch of soap I was not happy with, due to a mis-measurement of the fragrance oil.  I’d halved the recipe, but failed to halve the fragrance.  This mistake rendered the soap softer than desired and looking not so great (Dare I call one of my glorious soaps ugly?).  The double fragrance wasn’t that great either.  How to fix it?

The light-bulb blazed!  I know – I’ll melt the unfortunate soap mistake in the crockpot with enough oil for another batch, melt it all together then add the necessary lye for the additional oils.  Sounded reasonable to me.  I’ve found that melting/rebatching soap can take ages and it frequently turns out lumpy.  I thought with the additional oil, the soap would melt easier and be much smoother.  I would blend it all together into a soupy mass then add the lye.  Sounded reasonable to me.

I typically use the ‘Low’ setting to melt soap, so reasonably thought (or so I thought) melting this on the warm setting over night would be just the ticket.   In my mind’s eye, I envisioned a warm soap soup ready for blending in the additional lye in the morning.  What I got was this:

Soap Volcano

Andy did one of those Spock/Vulcan eyebrow lifts at me with the quip, “Mt. Baker Blend?”  A relatively calm husband with a wicked sense of humor is a true blessing at times.  My reaction was, “Ah, Crap!  What a mess.”  His response was essentially, “Yup.”  Subtext – “Have fun with that.”  Yeah, he’s a funny guy alright.

Yes, it volcanoed – all over the kitchen counter and onto the floor.  While I wait for the greasy, oily, soapy, lumpy mess to cool, I decided to caution everyone on the dangers of overnight crock pot soap.  Do Not Try This at Home comes to mind, but more accurate would be Do Not Try This – EVER.

Many Thanks!


On Top of the Fridge






I’ve spent the last couple of weeks producing mass quantities of soap in 2 1/2 pound and 5 pound batches.  Different scents, colors and swirls.  It’s been fun, sometimes frustrating and hectic as I try to get this start up off the ground and keep up with my engineering business, too.  There have been more than a few late nights and some dinners out when the kitchen was overrun with soap and soap making paraphernalia.




I want to take this opportunity to thank my family for their support and patience during these crazy times, though I must say patience is wearing a bit thin as food becomes more sparse.  I’m the primary shopper and I’ve not kept up with that job very well.  So, to Andy and Samantha – Thank you for your feedback on name and logo ideas, for being perpetual product testers, for your understanding and for not moaning too loud when dinner wasn’t done until 8:00 (or later).

With the Everson-Nooksack Summer Festival (formerly Everson Days) fast approaching, I have finished with bar soap production and will be moving on to creme soap and scrubs while the cold process soaps cure.

I’m exited to announce that my products will be available for sale at Courtyard Gardens, our local Everson florist, after the summer festival.  Cheryl has been very encouraging and supportive of my enterprise and she and her husband, BC, have been enthusiastic testers of all my products.  The feedback Cheryl has provided as well as the product packaging and logo advice she offered have been valuable beyond measure.  Thank you Cheryl and BC!

To all the other brave souls who tested soaps and provided feedback – Thank You!  Lesley, Eric, Draughn, Patricia, Karen and Nadine.  Here’s to my mother-in-law, Lynne Stone, who unbeknownst to her was a tester of sorts as well – she was too chicken to volunteer, but I sent her some anyway.  FYI – she assures me she loves them.

Many thanks to my sister, Leigh, who is shipping her old soap molds and my parents, Elwin & Alice McGrew for their feedback and encouragement as well.  I also appreciate the enthusiastic responses from my nieces, Finley and Kieren.  “They smell really good!”  It’s hard to go wrong with hearts, flowers, butterflies and stars where 9 and 6 year old girls are concerned.   DSC04511

And another heartfelt Thank You, to my sister, Lesley, for her constant encouragement, business name and logo feedback/advice and unexpected but very welcome investment.

Oh – did I forget to mention how much I LOVE my soap cutter from Bramble Berry! DSC04496

Toxins in Our Blood

I wanted to share this with you.  The number of toxins that can not be metabolized and excreted from our bodies increases every day, and is one of the reasons I began making my own all natural cleaning products, bath soaps, lotion, deodorant and more.  I hope you find the attached informative.

Moyers Moment (2001): Toxins in Our Blood

May 17, 2013

In this 2001 Moyers Moment from Bill’s documentary Trade Secrets, Bill examines the many chemicals that have been introduced into our environment over the last few decades. To find out just how pervasive these chemicals were, Bill volunteered to get his blood tested.