Wednesday, 23 July 2014

No soap without lye

If you follow my Facebook page then you may well have read an early version of this post. When I make my soap (and in my skincare range) I choose to only use natural ingredients. This means no synthetic colours or fragrances.

Every so often I get the question “if your soap is made with only natural ingredients why does it have sodium hydroxide in it?”

The short answer is that you can’t make soap without sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) – it binds the oil and water together during the soap making process. This same process, and the curing time afterwards, neutralises the lye.

Back when our great-great-grandmothers made their own soap the process wasn’t radically different from today. Soap was made by mixing animal fat with water that had been passed through wood ash from the fire. When water is filtered through ash the end result is lye. The big difference between now and then is that great-granny couldn't be totally sure how strong her lye was and could end up with soap that could be quite harsh, very gentle, or somewhere in-between.

We now have the advantage of being able access lye knowing exactly how strong it is and can then tailor soap recipes to create the perfect bar of soap with a range of vegetable oils and butters, herbs and spices.

So while it may sound “chemical” lye is the result of blending to naturally occurring ingredients – ash and water.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Spoil Yourself! - DIY Skincare (Part 2)

Here's a few more skincare recipes that I've accumulated. Most of these use ingredients you'll probably already have in the kitchen at home.

Hope you find something you like.


For oily skin. In a clean, lidded jar or other container combine 4 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice with 4 tablespoons of plain yoghurt. Apply to you face and neck, the gently wipe off with a cotton pad. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.


In a clean jar combine 3 tablespoons of chopped mint leaves with 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar. Cover with the lid and leave to steep in a warm place for a week. Strain, then add 1 cup of water to the vinegar infusion. Use as you would your usual toner. Store in the fridge.


In a small basin (big enough to pop your feet in) combine about 10 cups of warm water, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and 1/2 a cup of sea salt. Stir well then add the juice from two lemons to the bowl. Pop you feet in and relax for 10-15 minutes.


In a small bowl combine 4 teaspoons of finely ground oatmeal with 5 teaspoon of milk or buttermilk. Allow the mixture to thicken for a few minutes, then stir to remove any lumps. You want a consistency that is firm enough that it won't slide off your skin, but not so thick that you've got porridge. Add more oats or milk as required. Using your fingers spread over your face an neck. Leave for about 20 minutes then rinse off with warm water. This makes enough for one mask. Not suitable for irritated or sunburnt skin.


This is really simple with only one ingredient and is excellent for dry skin. Mash avocado until it's smooth. Apply to your face. Leave it on for about 10 minutes then rinse of with warm water.