Wednesday, January 27, 2010

\'grēn 'ha(ə)r\

If my first post wasn’t a clue, you will soon learn:
I’m a D-I-Y greener.
I will provide recipes on bath, beauty, and beyond—with, of course, food here and there. I will always provide the names of stores or websites that provide suitable alternatives to the homemade kind, because not everybody has time, and that’s okay.

Today’s post is dedicated to everyone’s mane event. I figured since I spotlighted solid shampoo in yesterday’s post, I should teach you how to make it. But first, let’s cover why choosing a green shampoo is so important and why the one sitting in your shower probably isn’t.

Most people associate washing their hair with luxurious bubbles and intoxicating smells. All around, it’s expected to be a very sensual experience. The problem is: that foam of bubbles is created by sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS). These ingredients can be absorbed through the skin and can cause ocular degeneration (blindness)—that’s why they tell you to avoid contact with eyes. If that’s not enough to scare you, consider this: they damage the hair follicle by stripping your hair and scalp of natural oils that your body produces to repair your hair! And the strip away the colour of your hair, leaving it limp, lifeless, and dull! But never fear, the same companies that provide you with these shampoos are ready and standing by with volumizing formulas and shine serums.
Sounds suspicious to me.
They also contain silicone. (This will appear on your bottle as anything that ends in –icone.) Silicone does provide and instant shine, but it coats the hair and weighs it down—resulting in the need for even more of their volumizing formulas.
That can lead to quite the build up!

So, what can you do?

This links back to yesterday’s post about becoming an informed consumer, and doing your homework. You can endlessly read bottles, or you can make your own…

Solid Shampoo Bars

• 16 oz Coconut 76 Oil
• 16 oz Olive Oil
• 4 oz Wheat Germ Oil
• 4 oz Castor Oil
• 5.9 oz Caustic Soda *
• 15 oz Distilled Water
• 2 oz Any Fragrance or Essential Oil **
* Caustic Soda may be sold under the name ‘lye’, although this term is only true when the soda has been dissolved in water.
** We’ll touch on appropriate additions based on hair colour and needs near the end.

Equipment you’ll need
• Two plastic pitchers, 2-3 qt. size
• Scale that weighs in pounds and ounces
• Large one-gal. stainless steel or enamel pot
• Safety goggles
• Two kitchen thermometers
• Hand stick blender (optional but recommended)
• Freezer paper or plastic garbage bags
• Rubber gloves *
• One large plastic or wooden soap mold with lid or smaller soap molds with cardboard for a covering
• Two wooden or plastic spoons (one for the lye and one for the oils. Use these spoons only for shampoo making)
* Lye is caustic! It will burn.

Find a clean and clutter free working space to make your solid shampoo bars. A kitchen counter near the sink is your best bet, but a kitchen table will also do. Cover your work space with a plastic garbage bag and a few layers of newspaper to protect the surface from spills.
Step 1 Next gather all your ingredients together, double checking that your have everything that you will need ready and at hand.
Step 2 Put on your safety gear, including long sleeves and long pants, shoes, eye protection and gloves.
Step 3 Now weigh out your caustic soda using your scale and place the lye into a plastic container.
Step 4 Weigh your water and place that into another plastic container.
Step 5 Now very slowly and carefully pour the caustic soda into the water (never the water into the soda!) and mix thoroughly until the soda is completely dissolved. It has now become lye.
Try to avoid splashes as the lye is caustic and will burn anything it comes into contact with. If your skin comes into contact with the lye mixture, immediately rinse with cool water. Surface spills should be wiped up immediately.
Step 6 Now place the lye and water mixture aside. It will have become very warm and will need to cool to between 90 and 100 degrees before using. Place one of the thermometers in the mixture to monitor the temperature.
Step 7 You will now be melting and mixing your oils. Weigh out your coconut, olive, caster and wheat germ oils (not the essential oils) and place them into your large pot which is placed on the stove. Heat until the coconut oil is just melted. You will want your oil mixture and your lye mixture to be the same temperature (between 90 and 100 degrees) before blending. Place the other thermometer into the oil mixture to monitor temperature. If need be you can adjust one or the other's temperature by placing them in a sink filled with cool water until the desired temperature is met.
Step 8 While you are waiting for the two mixtures' temperatures to regulate, you can ready your essential or fragrance oils and soap molds. Weigh out your essential or fragrance oil and have it ready to go. If you are using one large wooden soap mold for your solid shampoo bars, line the mold with wax paper for easier shampoo bar removal later on. If you are using individual molds for your solid shampoo, double check that they are clean and free of any debris.
Step 9 Once the lye mixture and oil mixture have reached the desired temperatures, slowly and very carefully pour the lye mixture into the oils, stirring continuously. Continue stirring using a wooden spoon or stick blender until the mixture has thickened (a stick blender will speed up the process) and you see "tracks" where you have just stirred. This is called reaching "trace" and you must achieve this stage before continuing with your solid shampoo bars.
Step 10 Now that you are at the "trace" stage you can add your essential or fragrance oils and colorant. Pour in your fragrance and colorant and continue to stir thoroughly.2
Step 11 Your solid shampoo bar mixture is now ready for the mold. Carefully pour the mixture into your mold(s) and cover either with the mold's lid or wax paper and a piece of heavy cardboard.
Step 12 Wrap your molded shampoo bars in a thick blanket and store, undisturbed, for 18 hours.
Step 13 After the 18 hour time period is up remove the blanket and lid and allow the solid shampoo bars to sit for another 12 hours.
Step 14 Your shampoo bars are now ready to be removed from the mold(s) and cut (if necessary). Put on rubber gloves (the soap is still somewhat caustic) and place an old towel onto your kitchen counter and carefully place the mold(s) face down on the towel. Tap gently a few times to remove the shampoo bars. If they don't come out easily, place the mold(s) in the freezer for about an hour and try again.
Step 15 Once you have your soaps removed from the mold they are ready to be cut (if the shampoo bar is one big block). Use a sharp knife to carefully cut small, hand sized bars of the solid shampoo.
Step 16 Your solid shampoo bars now need to cure for a minimum of two weeks before using. Place the shampoo bars on a drying rack or in a large box, making sure the soaps do not touch one another.

After two weeks your solid shampoo bars are ready to be used, but leaving them longer will make them milder and harder (which means they will last longer) If you can, aim for a month. Store your solid shampoo bars in a cool, dry place until ready to use.

Essential Oils
Always remember to spot test your essential oils for skin irritation. Place a single drop on the inside of your arm and leave it for 24 hours. It no irritation arises, feel free to use them.
Dandruff Sandalwood, lavender, bergamot, and tea tree oil
Dark Hair Rosemary
Light Hair Chamomile
Dull Hair Kelp and beech tree extract, jojoba and carrot oil
If you shower in the morning, experiment will invigorating scents like peppermint, if at night, try something calming like lavender.

And if you simply don’t have time, or would like to try out solid shampoos before investing is their creation, see the beautiful people at Lush Cosmetics or Susan Soaps.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

\'grēn 'līf\

Let’s face it: there’s a global push to go green. Everyday, we learn about new ways, but often see them as bothersome. Well, there are ways to unleash your inner green and still live like a diva.

The Simple Rules of Green Life

Don’t do it over night. The greenest thing is the thing you didn’t buy, so learn how to rock what you already have! You’ll be surprised. Going green is a life choice and takes time and dedication. The only green reason to go out and buy something new is if it’s continued use will harm either you, or the planet. Regardless of its material or origin, use what you have until it has significantly filled its use, when it is truly time to replace it, choose a more eco-friendly alternative.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We’re all familiar with the 3 R’s, but there’s even a green way to approach them. Here are a few:
• Buy a bike. (yes, I just gave you the license to purchase) If you’re not convinced you need one, keep a diary of the car trips you make. This will help you where you can reduce or omit car trips, thereby lightening your carbon footprint on the planet.
• If you can: walk, or bike to shop for groceries. If this is not possible, do your groceries on the way home from work—and preferably on the way. This will further alleviate your carbon footprint. If you bike or walk, consider buying less, but more often. Part of being green is taking care of your body. You can buy fresh when you do this, which is more nutritious, and the omission of frozen foods from your diet not only benefits you, but also the environment, because you can retire your freezer!
• Reduce the amount of things you have to recycle. Read the paper online to reduce your paper waste. Buy bar soaps to eliminate packaging, and check out solid shampoo bars, available through the brilliant people at Lush Cosmetics.
• Reuse things! Bring a cute mug to work, and carry metal utensils. Some takeout restaurants will let you bring in your own containers. It never hurts to ask!
Don’t like the potentially hideous portable mugs for sale? Check out the cute and brilliant (and decorate-able!) reusable porcelain and silicone mug at:;14;15&productID=763
Knit a sleeve, paint, and decorate to your heart’s content.
• Share. Ladies, listen up: especially you fashionistas. Yes, I’m talking directly to you. You want to retire your purse, but it’s still good? Ask around and pass it on. Just because it no longer fits your style, doesn’t mean one of your friends doesn’t secretly love it. The purse you pass on is one less purse that needs to be purchased.
And finally:
• Up-cycle. Sometimes, the things we own just need a little pick-me-up. Consider changing the buttons on a coat rather than buying new. Something that’s getting old and tired may benefit for a re-assignment. Use the material from an article of clothing you can no longer wear to make a purse.

Be brilliant. Do your research and know what you’re buying. Become a conscious consumer. Look for products containing natural substances—and avoid products that claim to be natural under the claim of ‘minerals’! The minerals used in mineral makeup are naturally occurring—in gasoline.
Also, try to buy products that were not tested on animals. Humans react differently to ingredients than animals do. Animal testing is essentially useless with finer-grade allergens, not to mention cruel.

Don’t just be it, wear it. We’ve all heard the famous saying you are what you eat, but the fact of the matter is that your skin is your largest organ. Once you’re brilliantly educated about the contents of what you’re putting on your skin, ask yourself if you would put said product directly on your liver? If the answer is no, then it shouldn’t go on your skin.
I hear the universal cry of what do I do now? Hush! I would never leave you high and dry. Here are some natural (and easy) swaps to be made:
• Swap your conventional body moisturizer for organic coconut oil. Coconut oil is not only green, and cheaper, but it’s better for you too! Containing naturally occurring vitamins like vitamin E (the anti-free-radical vitamin) in its natural state—which is the easiest way for your body to absorb it—it also boasts a natural spf value, meaning you can go easier on the sunscreen, if not forgo it all together. Coconut oil is solid up until 24 degrees Celsius, making it a mess-free application if you leave it out of the shower and apply it when you first turn off the water. Summer months will take more care to be mess-free.
• Facial moisturizers can be swapped for organic grape-seed oil, which, like coconut oil, boasts many of the naturally occurring vitamins that your skin needs, but in a lighter formula. The amount you apply to your whole face and neck should be smaller than a dime.
The only thing closer to the composition of your skin’s natural oils is jojoba oil, but it comes with a larger price tag and is more difficult to find.

Be kind to your mane asset. Hair dye is toxic as are silicone based shampoos. I, however, understand that we are especially vain creatures, so if you find you must change the colour of your tresses, opt for a henna based dye (also available from the wonderful people at Lush Cosmetics). Henna is a natural conditioner, making your hair healthy and shinny and nourishing it with anti-oxidants. Henna, I must warn you, does not agree with the chemicals used to perm hair, so it is one or the other.
Set down the blow-dryer—you’re damaging your main asset. Hair cannot withstand the torture of being cooked everyday. Comb your hair while wet with a wide toothed comb and allow to air dry. Never pull on wet hair, as it is fragile, and may break. Work out tangles from the bottom up.

And always remember: Tomorrow is another day to be one step greener.
Green is a journey.