Is a $25 slow cooker any good for melting cosmetic waxes?

Worried that your cosmetics will give you cancer???? Well inhaling smoking hot fat is most probably a gazillion times more risky than rubbing a little paraben preserved cream on your hot little hands and so when you spot a 5Kg slow cooker for $25 you just HAVE to buy it!

Having had my fill of the gut wrenching aroma of burnt oils and waxes caused by leaving my brew ‘cooking’ for too long on a hot plate I was hungry to find a safer, cleaner and more sensible option. So, was it any good?

In a word NO.  Maybe it was because I was impatient to get emulsifying and my water phase was already hot, thick and ready to go.  Maybe it was just that I don’t like watching waxes slowly melt or maybe I have attention deficit disorder but man the slow cooker was slow.  Yes, I know that there was a massive clue in the name but I didn’t think that slow meant ‘no’ as in ‘no I won’t ever melt those need-to-reach-70C waxes. Ever……

Anyway, after 20 minutes I took the temp and found it to be a slightly warm 65C but not enough to cook my stuff.  After 30 minutes I’d given up, put the wax phase in a pan and had a quiet cry about my wasted $25.

Verdict:  If you are the type of person that is easily distracted when cooking up your cosmetics – ie: you have small children or pets around or your phone goes often then I’d advise you to give a slow cooker a go as there is no way on earth your oils will get burned before you remember them!

After 40 minutes my waxes had melted and looked […]

Fresh Faced – Avocado Salsa Mask

Just finished prepping this for the book and just HAD to share it!  This mask is just perfect for a lazy Sunday when all you want to do is detox and forget about another manic Monday.  Sit back and prepare to want to eat your face :

Recipe : Face Salsa
  ½ Avocado Fresh  approx     50g

   Macadamia Butter                    10g

  Rose Geranium Essential Oil  1-2 drops

    Vitamin E                                        1g

    Juice from one lemon                 10g

Equipment needed:  Mortar and pestle, measuring scales, spoon, knife for cutting fruit.
1)   Weigh the avocado then cut it into piece ready for mashing.
2)   Add the measured macadamia butter to the mortar and pestle.
3)   Grind the avocado and macadamia butter together until a paste is formed.
4)   Add the juice from one lemon and the vitamin E to the bowl and mix in with a spoon
5)   Spread onto clean skin and leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing off.
The vitamins present in the fruit along with the acidity of the lemon will dissolve grease, dislodge old skin cells and brighten the complexion while the macadamia butter ensures that your skin doesn’t dry out.  Beautiful.

This recipe will be featured in our book to be launched later on this year (2011). I look forward to being able to tell you more about it!

Bicarbonate Of Soda

What’s not to love about Bicarb?

Go to any natural living workshop and you will come away feeling like you should marry this humble and most versatile of chemicals.

Here are just a few of the things that I use it for:

It is in our toothpaste recipe where it helps to de-odourise the mouth and banish bugs.
To adjust pH upwards (make things more alkali) and make them more skin friendly – things like our soap nut cleanser which has a low pH of around 4 which can sting eyes.
To remove the smell from fusty old shoes.
As a deodorant active in our natural under-arm recipe
As a softener for water – having a bath in a bicarb solution makes skin feel soft and lovely

Although bicarbonate of soda is  a naturally occurring mineral the stuff used in cosmetics is manufactured using an industrial process so it is classified as ‘nature identical’ rather than natural.  More recipes and information are found on the McKenzie website (who don’t sponsor me BTW).

What do you use yours for (and don’t say making cakes :))

Calendula Petals

The petals of Calendula Officinalis  are a beautiful addition to any cosmetic kitchen because of their bright, life-affirming colour and their beautiful rich green floral aroma (their fragrance is definately floral but it has a strong herbalness to it giving it a green rather than flowery heart).  Ancient apothecaries cite Calendula as a treatment for many conditions of  ill health  including wound healing, suppression of muscular cramps,  managing infection and repairing of  chapped skin.  However, we just love the fact that it makes our bath bags smell and look great!

Cocoa Butter

At Realize Beauty HQ we get to work with some wonderful ingredients and this, natural coco butter has to be one of my favourite base ingredients as it looks good enough to eat! 

Cocoa butter comes from the cacao bean and is often seen on cosmetic labels as theobroma cacao.  It is often used as part of the oil phase of a product as its rich, creamy and slightly waxy nature give it a protective and nourishing skin feel. It is also prized for its naturally high antioxidant properties meaning that it is unlikely to cause many problems with regard to formula stability.

The melting point of around 38C makes it a safe wax for curious kids to experiment making lip balms and creams with – many such as beeswax don’t melt until around 65C and that’s why we’ve started using it in our Cosmetic Kitchen workshops (which are as scientific as they are fun)!

Finally this good-enough-to-eat butter comes with a beautiful milky chocolate aroma which blends well with either vanilla oleoresin, sandalwood or benzoin resin to give your finished product the most wonderful natural aroma.

We get ours from New Directions who stock an organic and a standard version. I believe that you can also get this as fair trade certified so what’s stopping you?   There is some more information on how cocoa butter is grown and harvested here.

Behind the Brand – Elysium Bath and Balm

Today I had a cup of tea and chat with the Skye owner of Elysium Bath and Balm. She makes the most wonderful soaps including the almost edible cup cake range,  the visually enticing luxury range and some heavenly scented bath salts and fizzers.

Skye from Elysium Bath and BalmSkye got into the soap making business  almost by default when looking for a fun business idea to fit around family commitments. She has now built up a successful brand that prides it’s self on being hand-made and high quality.  If you are in the Sydney area you can catch Sue at the Mosman markets or check out her website for contract manufacturing of wholesale enquiries.
You’ve gotta love soap art!

Crafty Saturday Soap Pictures

Check out my little fruity soaps. I am in love with the simplicity of this recipe – the soap needs to simmer for quite a while to get rid of the meths smell but after that the results are just great! You can have a go too by following this link.  If you are after more eco-friendly soap I would try soap nuts – we tried them out and loved them. If you just want to find out how soap works, try reading this article on saponification.   The moulds that I use are just ice-cube trays. These make cute little soaps that can be used as party favours – just tell your guests not to eat them!

For those of you in the Sydney area we run Cosmetic Kitchen birthday parties for kids aged between 7-107 and SOAP is on the menu.  These parties can be booked through our partners – Fizzics Education, they are great for winter birthdays as we are busy cooking up bath treats inside.

Homebake – Coconut Soap

This easy recipe needs a little care as it uses a very strong alkali – Sodium Hydroxide! You can prepare your lye as per the instructions here and then use that in your soap making.  Just be very careful with your hands, eyes and worktops when preparing this as it is pretty fierce and NOT something that kids should use.

You can customise this soap recipe in many ways. The amount of Lye you need will depend on the oil or oil blend that you use.  Too much lye will give you a very hard and harsh soap and too little will lead to a wet, sloppy soap.  I found this website useful when calculating how much lye to use.

The Home Bake – Ten Tips For Cosmetic Success.

Creating your own cosmetics is a great way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon  but to ensure that you don’t suffer for your art there are a few things to consider. Respect the art and  your safety!

1) Cleanliness rules. Just like when you are cooking for your family, make sure you start off with a fresh and clean workspace, with clean utensils AND clean packaging. Insure that no food surrounds your preparation area!

2) Sterilize. Make sure that you wash your hands with an antibacterial solution or alcoholic wipe. You can sterilize pots and packaging in boiling water or by using a bit of baby bottle sterilizing solution.   If you start off with bugs in the system, your beautiful and natural cosmetics will soon become a bacteria playground.

3) Ingredients. Your raw materials will all have different shelf lives. These will be stated on the packs when you buy the products.  Most carrier oils (Jojoba, Macadamia etc) will last for maybe 2-3 years with careful storage, clays will last for years longer if they are kept dry but herbal extracts may only last 6 months.  Check the ingredients before you use them.

4) Cooking Tips. Are your products going to be hot?   Where will you put them to cool? How far do you have to walk with your hot oil? It may sound ridiculous but I have been caught out with boiling hot oil and a litre of slipy soap solution before and no bench space to put it! Be especially careful if you are creating products with your kids!

5) Suitability for Purpose.   Another one that sounds obvious until it catches you out.  Before starting think about what you are making and how you will use it. […]

Carnauba Wax – Good Enough To Eat!

It is this waxy little flake of an ingredient that gives those  colourful and shiny chocolates little chocolates their shine (E Number 903), makes polish glossy, enables your dental floss to catch the grime and helps your feet stick to that surfboard.  Its natural, its cost effective and its jam packed with anti-oxidants. What more could you want?

Anyway, I have been messing around with this ingredient as a way of making our lip balm recipe (for Cosmetic Kitchen) a little more glossy. Result = absolutely fabulous!

This wax comes as little dried flakes that melt at around 82C so a bit higher than beeswax (melting at around 63C) which means that when you use them, you need to be sure to melt these before adding your other ingredients to the pan.  The wax is a product of the “Tree of Life”  or Copernica Cerifera which can be found in Brazil. These trees produce this wax from their fan shaped leaves as a way of protecting them from the sun and from drying out – a natural sunscreen (for plants). The wax is harvested by mechanically grinding down the chopped lea to get a crude wax which is then sun dried before transporting off to be further processed (if required).  Each chopping results in the extraction of around 1Kg of wax which is not much but this ensures the trees ongoing health.

Chemically the wax is naturally brown through to yellow (some lipstick manufacturers would have the wax bleached so as not to affect the gloss colour). The wax is high in fatty acid esters (which is what gives it the high melting point) and also contains up to 20% of fatty acid diols. Diols are chemicals […]