Making calendula….

With school right around the corner and the garden bounty to process, it’s been a crazy few weeks.  We managed to make a few batches of soap in there, one being the gorgeous Calendula soap.   Calendula flowers come from the pot marigold plant, are completely edible (make sure they are organic) and can be used as a replacement for saffron or just sprinkled on salads as they have a mild peppery flavor.  For skin care, calendula petals are infused in oil and added to lotions or creams to help soothe and calm skin.  Calendula oil has been used to treat acne, rashes, dry skin and is great on sensitive skin (read babies).    Calendula extract has been proven to be anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-genotoxic in plant pharmacological studies, and has been used traditionally to treat abdominal cramps and constipation.  (As with anything, use with caution and test for allergic reaction before using topically.)

To make our Calendula soap, we infuse dried calendula petals into olive oil using a warming method, then use that oil in place of our regular olive oil.  As calendula flowers are the only flower that is able to come through the soaping process intact, we put generous helpings of it right into the soap mixture, and add it on top.  The result is a gorgeous yellow and cream soap full of anti-inflammatory goodness.  Here are some pictures of our Calendula soap shortly after pouring:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last picture is our new cover picture on our Facebook page 🙂  The Calendula soap will be ready in 4 weeks – and we happily take pre-orders!

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Let’s talk about hemp…

Ok, so let’s get back to Beautiful’s soap line up…. how about hemp?  There seems to be some confusion about hemp products and their tie to the lovely Mary Jane – so for once and for all, hemp is not marijuana.  Hemp products will not get you high, don’t need to be kept away from children, and aren’t a taboo topic at the dinner table 🙂  In fact, hemp is one of the great Canadian success stories, and is an amazing plant for all you can do with it.  Take Manitoba Harvest for example.  Manitoba Harvest Hemp Food and Oils produces Hemp Hearts, which are an amazing protein booster for your salads, yogurts, cereals or what-have-you; a hemp beverage, Hemp Bliss which is a great alternative to rice milk, soy or almond; and a gorgeous Hemp Oil, cold pressed, full of omegas and chlorophyll – basically just great for you in any cold application you can think of for it.  Best of all for Beautiful, it is wonderful for your skin.

Adria Vasil, in her recent book Ecoholic Body (here’s a review) says that hemp oil is Canada’s great beauty oil, suitable for smoothing on anywhere from your face to your feet.  I have to agree.  Hemp is one of the few oils that is readily absorbed by the skin and doesn’t just sit on top.  That means that your skin is able to get so much of the benefits of hemp oil right down into your cells.  You can read more about the specifics of hemp oil here and  here.

This is what I personally love about hemp oil:

 

 

Isn’t it gorgeous?

Sick.

It’s a new week and summer is flying by.  I know it happens every year, but it still drives me crazy when I duck into a store mid-summer to get, oh, I don’t know – kitty litter, and I run straight into school supplies.  Everywhere.  I know some parents jump for joy when they see the school stuff coming back, but honestly as my kids get older I want to slow things down a bit and not speed them up.  It seems that in our culture we’re always anticipating the next thing to come whether it’s back to school, Halloween, Easter….

Ok, so I’m ranting.  My point does relate to soaping however, really it does.  Here’s how – if we’re always rushing ahead, anticipating the next thing, getting ready for what’s around the corner – how will we ever pay attention to what’s going on right now?  How can we stop and think about what products we’re using, what the labels are and aren’t telling us, what things really mean and how they are affecting us… all this, and of course how can we smell the roses?  The real roses, not the synthetic, neurotoxic kind 🙂

There is a real, serious story behind why I started Beautiful: The Soap Company and why we have the mission that we do. I grew up using chemicals to clean, to freshen, to disinfect.  I believed for a long time that no good thing could come from not arming yourself with bleach, Lysol and PineSol if you wanted to truly do the right thing by your children and guests.  How could you know things were truly clean otherwise?  I used all the drugstore brands for cleaning my face, my hair, my clothes…. of course they were the best, right?  TV and magazines wouldn’t lie to me, never!  Well, fast forward a few (*ahem*) years and here I am with a bad case of rosacea, spraying Febreeze around my house so you couldn’t smell that dogs lived there, slathering on tons of moisturizer because my skin was always thirsty….. and then my daughter was diagnosed with Chemical Sensitivity.  She was a young teen at the time and kept getting so sick.  Rashes, colds, flu-like symptoms, migraine headaches… you name it, she got it.  It got so bad that at one point she couldn’t go to school for more than 3 days of the week.  The rest she spent sleeping and crying into her pillow.  As her mom, I was so worried, and pressed the doctor to send her to an allergist for testing.

Finally we were able to get into see the specialist (he had to travel up from Vancouver, as we lived in Prince George at the time, more on that later) and I held my breath while he scratched her skin and placed condensed amounts of different known allergens on the scratches to see which she reacted to.  The answer was none.  I couldn’t believe it!  Then the doctor explained that he thought he knew what was going on based on the descriptions of her reactions – Chemical Sensitivity.

In short, CS is when a person’s autoimmune system is stressed by encountering chemicals in their environment, and reacts to try to get rid of them.  Different people have different chemical triggers, but in general, the more volatile the chemical (think artificial fragrances, White Out, bleach, etc.) the more it causes problems.  There is no cure for CS/MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) and the only treatment is to avoid the triggering chemicals as much as possible.  So, this is what we started doing.  I started by getting rid of all my bad cleaners and went from there.  Sounds easy, right?  Not!  There are chemicals in EVERYTHING we commonly use, from perfumes to shampoos, from foods (think MSG and food dyes) to office supplies and from new carpets to shower curtains.  This was no simple endeavor.  And the lies!  Some products hide their chemical ingredients and others don’t have to disclose them.  Sometimes we just had to learn from my daughter’s reactions to things whether they had bad stuff in them.  Luckily though, this is not 30 years ago, and there is an awakening now, a lash-back almost, about what these toxic chemicals are doing to our bodies.   It used to be that doctors would laugh at their patient’s symptoms and tell them it was all in their heads – boy, am I thankful that it is a much kinder world for CS sufferers now.

We found a lot of great alternative ways to live our lives in a much healthier way.  For some things, we found a suitable replacement product and for others we learned how to live without.  I learned to clean my house with a few simple natural ingredients, and stopped caring whether my couch smelled slightly of dog sometimes.  I learned to put vinegar in the rinse cycle as a fabric softener and which dish detergents were truly “green” and fragrance free.  But one part of our lives proved much harder – personal care products.  Cleansers, moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners, soaps, hairsprays… the list goes on and on.  And what about the alternatives?  I can’t tell you how many times I brought home a new product that claimed to be green only to find out it wasn’t.  So frustrating.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands – start at the beginning and make some soap 🙂

There is still learning to do, and as we make the transition to organic ingredients for all our products things will get even better.  I can say that things are so much easier now for my daughter – and when we run into problems, we have an arsenal of good information and ingredients to tackle it with.  David Suzuki has a great list of chemicals to avoid in our cosmetics, as does Adria Vasil here.  Not sure whether your products pass the test?  Check them out here at the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which rates products for their toxicity – you might be surprised.

If you or anyone you know (or even if you don’t), has CS/MCS – check out this great educational website.  It’s run by a woman who has CS, so she knows her stuff.   CS/MCS sufferers aren’t the only ones who need to avoid chemicals – cancer patients, asthma sufferers, people with autoimmune disorders are just a few who need to eliminate chemicals from every day life.  But even if you don’t have any conditions requiring you to cut them out, it just makes good sense to do it anyways.  Who needs such toxic things on and in our bodies or in our environment?

We’re off to see the wizard….

Today was the day that we set up at the Portage Farmer’s Market, and the weather couldn’t have been more cooperative.  It was cool but sunny in the morning and only got a little too warm and humid near to closing time.  Here I am checking the Whipped Vanilla Shea Butter tester:

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… and above is our sign 🙂  Here are a few more shots of our table goodiesImage

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What do you think?  Would you stop and take a look?-

And back to the grind….

I agree wholeheartedly with long weekends (we just had one here in Manitoba), but there is something strange about getting back into the swing of things on a Tuesday.    I am perfectly able and willing to hate Mondays, but Tuesdays?

So this week is a little special for us as we are preparing to go to the Portage La Prairie Farmer’s Market this Saturday, which also happens to be the weekend of the Portage Potato Festival.  For those of you who don’t know, Portage is home to a few potato processing plants (think french fries) and this weekend is the time of the year for the little spud to shine 🙂  I’m a little nervous about the weather, as it’s supposed to be cloudy and rainy – but at least it won’t be hot!  I have visions of melted puddles of what once were great skin care products….  Really though, other people do it so I’m sure my nightmares are just that.

Recently I posted a couple of pictures on our FB page of our coffee soap in the molds.  So what better soap to talk about today?  Here they are cut:

 

Coffee bar and half moon soaps

 

So who doesn’t love coffee?  Even the people who don’t like to drink coffee tend to like to smell it, and our coffee soap smells like a fresh brewed cup.  The best part of putting coffee in a soap, however, is it’s amazing ability to neutralize odors.  This is a great soap to keep in the kitchen and use, say, after cutting an onion for supper 🙂

Beautiful uses Kicking Horse fair trade coffee beans, specifically the Kick Ass variety.  We believe strongly in fair trade and are really happy to be able to use Kicking Horse’s dark blend in our soap.  We use the brewed coffee right in the soap, the beans on top, and the grounds are added in as well for a bit of scrubbing goodness.  We also add a bit of coffee essential oil to buoy up the great coffee smell through the soaping process.

Our coffee soap makes a great gift for the coffee lover in your life, or just for using to get funky smells out 🙂  It uses our regular bar soap base (see previous posts) so it is very moisturizing and has great lather.

 

Manuka Honey & Scotch Oatmeal

Manuka Honey & Scotch Oatmeal bars

 

The soap to talk about today is Manuka Honey & Scotch Oatmeal – a favorite with people who have skin problems.
Manuka Honey is one of the only honeys with topical medicinal properties and it is produced in New Zealand and Southern Australia from bees who feed on the manuka trees that grow there. It is often used as a wound and burn dressing due to its’ antibacterial properties. All honey is gently moisturizing, helps with inflammation, and contains wonderful antioxidants.  Some claim it has anti-aging properties as well.  Generally speaking, the darker the honey, the more potent properties it has, and Manuka honey is a very dark, almost amber color with a strong honey smell.

Scotch Oatmeal is an unprocessed oatmeal that is mostly finely ground. Oatmeal is well known for soothing irritated skin and helping to heal rashes (adding oatmeal in a nylon to the bath will help heal diaper rash), as well as opening pores.   Oatmeal is an excellent source of fibre, omega-3 fatty acids, thiamine, iron, beta-glucan and the antioxidants known as avenathramides.  Truly a powerhouse in food and on your skin – oats are amazing.  Skip the quick oats, however, the best oats are steel cut or whole-grain, the same kind we use finely ground in our soaps.
Unlike commercially available oatmeal soaps (think Aveeno), our Manuka Honey & Scotch Oatmeal soap is all natural with no harsh detergents, artificial dyes or fragrances. All the goodness of the naturally produced glycerin (more on commercial soaps later) is left in our soap to moisturize and soothe your skin. We’ve heard nothing but wonderful things about this soap for people who battle skin conditions.

Citrus Poppyseed

Citrus Poppyseed bar and half moon soaps

 

Today’s soap is the beautiful Citrus Poppyseed! This fragrant soap is one of my favorites – and it starts with annatto infused olive oil, which makes the beautiful yellow/orange color in the finished soap. Add to that essential oils of lime, orange, grapefruit and litsea and you have one uplifting bar, perfect for waking up in the morning shower. My favorite part of this soap, however, are the added poppyseeds. Their round shape is gently exfoliating and smooth on your skin.

Citrus Poppyseed soap uses our standard soap base, which has a high proportion of food grade olive oil with added coconut oil for great lather, canola oil for extra moisturizing, and castor oil, the only plant based humectant (a substance that promotes retention of moisture). In the next while, I’ll go more into more detail about why our soaps start with good olive oils.

Welcome to Beautiful!

Welcome to Beautiful: The Soap Company’s blog!  We’re so glad you’ve decided to drop by and get to know us better.  Here at Beautiful, we aim to be a safe place for people struggling with CS and MCS (Chemical Sensitivity and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) and anyone else who needs or wants to avoid chemicals and synthetic fragrances in their skin care products.  All of our products are no or low scent, and all scented products contain therapeutic grade Essential Oils only.

Over the next while, we’ll be sharing the benefits of using natural soaps and skin care products, breaking down the hazards of commercial soaps,  sharing some of our favorite links, and going through our products and ingredients individually to give you a better idea what they are all about.  Questions and comments welcome!

We’ll start with two of our bar soaps, Citrus Poppyseed and Manuka Honey & Scotch Oatmeal – originally posted on our FB page 🙂