Tuesday, July 31, 2012

July 2012 - The Best in Soap Blogs

I'm not feeling so amazing, lovely readers.  I am doing a 9 day Isagenix Cleanse and, while I am sure it is doing my body worlds of good, the not eating much (which for me is REALLY not much, considering I don't eat much to begin with) I'm just run down.  It has been a hellacious week.

So, I amused myself by catching up on many of the blogs I follow.  ANd I found some awesome things to pay forward.  So, here you go folks...July's best soap blog information...gleaned from the vast expanse of the interwebs by yours truly.

Over at the blog for Aunt Nancy's Soap, she has shown some new soaps on the curing rack.  One of the new ones, Green Cactus looks amazing.  It isn't up on her site yet I will claim a bar as my own as soon as it is...I mean LOOK:

On another blog, I found mention of an Etsy shop that isn't soap but still has me obsessed!  Real Fruit Jewelry makes, you guessed it, jewelry out of real fruit.  For example, this pendant made from a tomato.

Coming soon to NYC's FiDi...The Clean Diva in this necklace.

I can easily think of three or four people who would love this stuff and, at $24 including the chain, so affordable.  I'm sold.

I haven't ordered from this next place but I've been meaning to do just that for quite some time.  Margarita Bloom is like a bath and body store MADE for me.  Since becoming a much thinner and healthier me, I find that embracing the curves given me by nature (not french fries) is important.  I don't want to be a skinny bitch and I am proud to be healthy.  And my natural shape has led me toward a very 1950's pin up girl style fancy.  Marilyn is my style icon with Bettie and Rita hot on her heels.  I also like to throw in a decent amount of June Cleaver for good measure.  So imagine my excitement at a home page thatincludes quotations from all of my favorites.

Sake Rose Blossom Soap anyone?  Yes, please!

A Lady in the Garden?  Only when I must be...

The soaps are made with ingredients I love such as coconut oil and goat milk.  Everything just looks so appropriate for my fantasies of being Ms. Monroe.

Brambleberry has a recipe for making candles out of actual lemons and I think they are just adorable. 

Doggy Soap is something I actually need right now.  I love my little pups and especially adore them when they smell clean.  Ta-da!  Sirona Springs has the perfect thing for my boys and I am stoked to try it out soon.  I'm no lover of liquid soaps and this will be perfect for my tiny guys.

Only sweet smelling pups en mi casa!

Next on my list is a blog written by The Nova Studio.  This awesome post talks about the different kinds of soap and why each of them have their place in our clean little community.  Read it, its worth it.

My new favorite soap selling Web site may be Amathia Soap Works only because the descriptions are so good.  I'm particularly coveting the Moxie Cucumber Jasmine (seen above) as I love jasmine and I think cucumber is a great summery refreshing fragrance.  (Have you tried Skinny Girl Cucumber Vodka...yum)  But what I love about the Web site is that they tell you everything you could ever want to know about the soap.  If you have allergies, personal issues with certain ingredients, or are just overly curious, this is your dream spot. 

Erin over at Naiad soaps did a month long soap a day project on her blog (you'll see I also ganked the real fruit Etsy store from her too) that can only be believed if seen.  My favorite was Day 20.

So sparkly and blue and I want it now!
 I like the soap options on the Bella Fresca site so much that I had to just pick one and this one made me laugh.:

This one has the scent of dirt in it...like Camp Snoopy in the summertime.  But if I put this in my shower, how will I be able to see it?
My final note from around the internetz is an article on The Natural Beauty Workshop blog.  It tells you about ingredients in things and how they can impact you.  Since I am always babbling about these things I thought it might be interesting to see someone put it more eloquently than I.

That's all I have.  Up soon when I have a chance to breathe, I have to tell you about my new digs as well as the hand soap I ordered...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Finally, a soap I won't be trying

Here's where I am conflicted. 

Lately, many of the amazing women I know have been having babies, I've mentioned this before.  And many of them have become HUGE proponents of breast feeding, which is also cool.  The US Department of Health and Human Services has given funding to form and support a National Breastfeeding Campaign designed to help the average American both understand the benefits of breast feeding and also educate people on the hows, whens and whats of breast feeding.  All good stuff.

I won't lie, I have a personal discomfort with breast feeding but I realize it is my own problem.  I won't go too much into it because I know many people who read this could defeat me with logic in a hot second.  My reaction isn't logical...La Leche League International has entire articles on how to deal with breast feeding haters, so I guess I'm not uncommon but let's move on.

I get the benefits of breast feeding and think all women who can and want to breast feed should.  But lately, all of this good feeling about breast feeding has been exhibiting itself in some new and fascinating ways.  By this, I mean the advent of products for consumption made from breast milk.  From The Icecreamists in London who, in 2011 served breast milk ice cream to patrons (it sold out) to an NYU project that resulted in making breast milk cheese and Chef David Angerer's breast milk cheese , the use of breast milk has certainly morphed and the effects are polarizing.

Chef Angerer with his wife and child.  For more on his opinion, read the blog he wrote about it.  Interesting stuff.

So, of course breast milk soap would be part of this, right?  When I first saw mention of this phenomenon on Shecky's list of "Weirdest, Most WTF Beauty Products Ever" I thought this must be something that soapers are doing in their own homes to make use of what's extra.  After all, you are what you eat, right?  So maybe this soap is better for baby that Johnson's No More Tears.

Why have that when you can have this? 

But no, I suppose it can be quite the moneymaking enterprise to sell breast milk soap.  Etsy store Cahmille sells several different scents and varities of what soap maker Jessica calls "Mother's Milk Soap."  You can even buy a really pretty sampler of scents from her here at a super reasonable proce if you are so inclined.

Another Etsy store, The Green Box, sells some REALLY unique flavors and the soaps are just gorgeous.   Take a gander at the Healing Hemp natural Mother's Milk Soap. 

If you'd like to do it yourself, there is a recipe here but I warn you to read these precautions.

I'm admittedly not a scientist but I cannot imagine that this is not without its issues.  After all, many communicable diseases are spread through breast milk.  I'm not sure I would want to buy Mother Milk soap but I think the idea is fascinating.

I'd love to hear from people from various parts of my life comment on their feelings on this matter?  Has anyone tried the soap?

Food for thought on this Monday.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Why is Hand Made Soap Superior?

I confess that I recently watched a bunch of Hulu.  It was because I got a tiny bit addicted to Smash and just couldn't stop watching the show and trying to figure out in what universe Katherine McPhee can even begin to compete vocally with Megan Hilty. 

Gee folks, which one of these ladies looks more like Marilyn and can sing her butt off? 

But what was I saying?  Oh right...soap.

One of the commercials that plays during those Hulu "limited commercial interruptions" is a Dove bar soap commercial during which two women (presumably friends) are asked to take showers using each others soap.  Putting aside the extremely interesting undercurrents of the commercial (the showers were wheeled into the room and are attached and they are clear people...clear).  I was intrigued by the selling points for Dove in the ad.  It doesn't leave a film, it is less harsh, it doesn't make your skin feel tight.  And it made me think about why I made the move to handmade a few years back. 

I've posted before about the ingredients in a bar of Dove White versus those in a typical bar of handmade soap.   And while Dove is not the worst thing in the world, many of the reasons they tout their own wonderfulness is why I don't use them.

Earlier this week I had occasion to use someone else soap and my hands felt tight all evening.  I like feeling moisturized without having to slather on something greasy (I don't like lotions...that might make another good blog).  I enjoy a unique scent or design and I love knowing that someone created it with their own hands.  I derive great pleasure out of my soapy creations. 

So I have been doing some research into why handmade soap is just so much better and I think we are all due for a refresher course.

1.  Ingredients, ingredients, ingredients.  Handmade soaps don't often require preservatives like Tetrasodium EDTA which, I am not sure I agree is a carcinogen, certainly isn't a necessary part of the shower function.   Also, many handmade soapers are sourcing amazing essential oils that come from real plants.  They are coloring their products with things like flowers and stuff or, at the most extreme, dyes that are safer.  Many soapers insist on organic ingredients.  These soapers are making smaller batches because they aren't as concerned about bulk ordering or having to outsource work.  So what you get often contains ingredients that were lovingly selected by someone who is not just working, but making art.  How awesome is that?

2.  Speaking of those soapers...when you buy soap from a small distributor on Etsy or through their web site, you may be making a real difference.  Whenever I tell friends that they MUST buy from DeShawn Marie Handmade Soap or my personal obsession, Soap Rehab, you could be helping someone feed their kids, or send a daughter to college, or even just helping them realize a dream.  I like that.  And I appreciate that when I send an email saying "Your Spiced Pear Soap makes me sniff my own arm all day long" I am likely to get a positive and friendly response.  Supporting small business and the entrepreneurial spirit is such an awesome thing.  And the fact that I get to do that AND have my soap is kind of incredible.

3.  Glycerin.  Commercial soap makers typically remove most of this wonderful by-product of soap making as it has some other uses (like those aforementioned lotions I don't love).  This article says it much better than I can but I love that the natural process of soap making is left largely intact with smaller batch hand made soaps.  Read up on what glycerin is and why you want it in your soap.  It'll have you buying soap on Etsy immediately.

4.  It smells good and looks nice. 

I think these are amazing reasons to keep me coming back for more.   But why do YOU use or make hand made soap?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Soap for Dinner

Last night I was having dinner with two incredible friends at Olla Wine Bar in Bay Ridge Brooklyn.  This place is amazing in its own right and I do love it.  Even if Olla isn't three blocks from your house, you should go there is you are ever in Brooklyn.  But that's a bit off topic.

One of my dining companions, while outside getting some air, ran into a soap maker.  After making friends with her, he brought her in to meet me.  She showed me two things.  One, a beautiful bar of soap she gave me to try.  (Please note that she was informed about this blog and the possibility of a review).  Two, she showed me some gift boxes she has put together for sale.  I don't have pictures of these but I can honestly say that this is some of the loveliest hand crafted soap I have seen.  She clearly takes great pride in her artistry.  I am trying to get some pics so I can share them with you all.  My honest statement was "well, I know what I will be getting many of the women in my life for Christmas."

Alex, the soap maker, explained that these are currently handcrafted in her home, the result of a period of listlessness and ennui in her life.  She puts argan oil in each bar.  This is great news to me as I am a huge fan or argan oil.  Found only in Morocco, lovers of this oil claim it is nearly miraculous.  I am not sure I would go that far but I can say that I have been putting it in my hair daily for the better part of a year and, in spite of constant coloring, washing, and heat processing, my hair is undamaged and silky.  So I at least believe in the moisturizing properties of argan oil.

Another thing that is amazingly cool about argan oil is that it is largely cultivated and processed by Berber women in Morocco.  And it is one industry that operates almost exclusively under fair trade practices.  There are increasing initiatives in Morocco to allow these women to have lives and families while also earning money for their work in the extraction of oil from argan trees.  How cool is that?

These are ladies hard at work extracted oil for my soap...thanks ladies!  Read more about argan oil here and here.

The soap Alex gave me also contains oatmeal in the top part of the bar.  This I also love as oatmeal is both nourishing and a great exfoliant.  I was so excited I am shocked I waited until this morning to try the soap.  Here are some pics.  These were taken a bit as an after thought as I cut the soap in half before contemplating photos...I was just so excited.

Above is the soap from the top.  It is a light brown colored glyceriney layer which holds that oatmeal I mentioned.

And there is the soap from the side.  It's not the best photo I ever took but you can see the layers and the white creamy layer on the bottom.

So I know you are wondering when I will get to the damned point and tell you what it was like?

Oh man oh man oh man.

This soap may have made me fall passionately in love with soap again.

First of all, it doesn't take a tremendous amount of water to get it working.  I like that as I have been dealing lately with commercial bars that dry out, lose their scent, and require so much water to get them going that they disintegrate sooner.  Hate that so much.

But not this soap.  I don't know if it was the much loved argan oil or something else but the lather was just so creamy.  I used it to shave my legs and it was thick and moisturizing enough for that project.  I got a great shave from it (win).  The oatmeal side provided just enough grit for me to get a good foot washing out of it.  The soap doesn't have a super strong scent.  For me, this isn't my favorite since I like to reek of scent all day but it occurs to me that this would make an amazing soap for a unisex shower, as I have yet to meet a man who likes to leave behind a cloud of roses.  (With the exception of Ronny, but that's another story).

All up, this was one of the better shower experiences I have had in quite some time.  I really want to try more from Alex.  I hope she puts up an Etsy store or the like very soon.  Stay tuned as I think I may have found the next great thing in Bay Ridge.