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Sunday, 29 January 2017

Ditching the Chemicals

For the past year, after becoming increasingly concerned with the amounts of chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis, I've been making a few changes in our lives.  Some chemicals are difficult to avoid, especially environmental ones, but I thought I'd make a start with what we put on our skin on a daily basis.

Soaps, face creams, body creams, shampoo etc. are mostly riddled with chemicals which, on the surface, may seem not to be too hazardous to our health as we use them on the outside of our bodies.  However, the skin absorbs these things really easily through the pores.  We may apply them on the outside, but they soon end up on the inside.

For the last 12 months I've been using my own products : facial moisturizer, eye cream, body butter, hand cream, soap and, more recently, hair conditioner.  When I come to the end of my current shampoo, I'll look into making that too.

I haven't blogged about anything I've made so far, because I wanted to test them first to see which worked, which needed improvements, which aren't worth bothering with.  I don't think any of them come into the last category (not worth bothering with), but some are definitely better than others.

I think the most satisfying of these has to be the hand-made soaps.  I was rather nervous at first because you have to use caustic soda to make cold process soap, and I knew there were risks whilst handling this.  However, wearing goggles, face mask, long sleeves and rubber gloves makes this process much safer.  I now really enjoy making soap and can't wait to make the next one!

This is my latest one :-

This is a recipe I devised myself.  Here in France we live in a duck-producing area and my husband loves duck!  We normally buy locally, and one of the "waste products" (in inverted commas because, for most people who use it for preparing food, it isn't considered a waste product) is duck fat.  I don't use the fat for cooking, because I don't eat meat, and it doesn't take long for me to accumulate a fair amount in the fridge.  I don't like wasting things, so looked on the internet for a soap recipe using duck fat.  Couldn't find one, so I made my own!

This soap contains duck fat, coconut oil, olive oil and cocoa butter, plus the caustic soda and water needed to turn the fats and oils into soap, and essential oil to add perfume - for this I used Ylang Ylang.

I've experimented a bit with using natural colours too - paprika gives a nice subdued orange colour, cocoa powder quite a deep brown - but for this soap I bought a blue soap colorant.  Yep, I did say blue!  So why on earth did it turn pink?  It's a bluey-pink, but most definitely pink.  The other plan for this soap was that I would pour the white, uncoloured half into the mould, quickly add colour to the other half, pour this on top, then use a wooden skewer to partially mix the two, creating a sort of swirl effect. This soap mix had other ideas though.  By the time I'd managed to mix the colour into the second half of the mix, the first one had solidified too much to attempt to swirl it, so I had to be content with having a two-tone effect instead.  I actually quite like it, and will classify this one as a "happy accident"!

The hardest part of soap making is having to wait for the soap to "cure" and dry before it's usable.  Most recipes say to leave it for a month before using, but I prefer to leave it for two.  The "curing" part occurs quite quickly and after about 2 days the caustic soda will have disappeared.  But if you were to use the soap at this stage it would wash away very quickly.  It needs to harden up, and the longer the better, but by the time 2 months is up, I can't wait to use it.

Makes good gifts too!

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