Thursday, 26 March 2015

What's in your body products?

This is something I've been thinking about doing for a while, so this morning I grabbed the first product that came to hand and decided to take a look at exactly what's in it.

It happened it was a bottle of roll-on antiperspirant deodorant from a long-established international brand.

The ingredients in the order listed are:


Easy to identify - it's water.

Aluminium Chlorohydrate

I had a pretty good idea what this one was, but decided to try google. This is an active ingredient in many antiperspirants as it acts to slow down sweat reaching the surface of the skin. Some studies have been linked aluminium chlorohydrate to breast cancer, while others say the risk is minimal. I found a good overview here.

Isocetetin 20

This is used as an emulsifier and surfactant in many cosmetic products.

Paraffinum liquid

Liquid paraffin is a mineral oil that occurs as a by product of petroleum distillation. I came across this article which provides a clear explanation of the uses, advantages and disadvantages of liquid paraffin in cosmetics.

Butylene Glycol

This is another ingredient derived from petroleum. It's used in cosmetics (not just deodorant) as a solvent and conditioning agent. It can also be found in some foods. Some of the research I've read stated that it may cause skin irritation, but is not thought to be an environmental toxin.

Glycol Isostearate

This is a product of stearic acid. Stearic acid is a fatty acid found in both plants and animals. Glycol isostearate is used in skin and hair care products for its smoothing and softening properties. Glycol isostearate is not known to have any toxic properties. (ref: Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel).


This is a blanket term which can cover a mixture of many ingredients to create scent in a product.

Laureth 7

A synthetic compound used as an emulsifier and surfactant.


A salt derived from citric acid.

Palmitamidopropyltrimonium chloride

Is derived from palm oil this is often used in shampoos and body washes for its conditioning properties. Also used as an emulsifier. According to the Good Guide it has not found to have any adverse health effects.

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a mineral oil used in both food and cosmetics. It comes in a number of different formulations with different properties and effects. It is thought that it may cause skin irritation in some people.

If you've read all the way to the end of this thank you. The products you use are a matter of personal choice. Please make an informed choice - read the label!

If you've found this post interesting please take the time to comment, share or pin.

Background photo: <a href="">Delicate</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Strawberry Exfoliating Mask

Very quick and easy to make. The strawberry seeds act as a mild exfoliant.

To make this you will need:

  • 3 medium-sized ripe stawberries
  • 1 teaspoon of liquid honey

Mash the strawberries well, then mix in the honey. Apply to a clean dry face, avoiding the area around your eyes. Leave for 15 minutes then rinse off with warm water

Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

I link up here

Sarah Celebrates

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Plants for your natural remedies garden.

There are a number of easy to grow plants that can be used in natural remedies and skincare. These are some of the ones I use.


Calendula (sometimes known as pot marigold) is an easy to grow self-seeding annual that comes in a range of colours from vibrant orange through to a soft, pale yellow. Calendula has anti-fungal, anti-microbal, anti-inflammatory and skin healing properties which make it useful for healing cuts, scrapes, rashes and other minor skin irritations. It can be used as an infused oil or in a healing salve.


Lavender is a hardy shrub that thrives in a sunny, well drained spot. The most commonly used variety is English Lavender (lavandula augustifolia) sometimes called French or Common Lavender. The dried flowers have a purple-grey colour and a sweet aroma. Lavender is a calming herb which can be used to help with headaches and encourage sleep. It is also mildly antiseptic. You'll find some uses for lavender here


Mint is very easy to grow. Once established it is a very forgiving plant that you can as long as you remember to water it. Mint can be quite invasive so is best planted in large pot.

Varieties include spearmint, peppermint, and chocolate mint. Dried mint leaves are often used to in teas to help digestion. Peppermint essential oil is said to have a cooling effect. A few drops mixed with water and sprayed at entry points may keep spiders out of your home.


Chamomile is a daisy-like annual that likes a sunny place in the garden. The most commonly used variety is German Chamomile. The essential oil from this variety is a rich dark blue colour and is said to have both calming and healing properties.

Chamomile tea is made from the dried flower heads of Roman Chamomile. This tea may help with stress or insomnia. There's a simple recipe for Chamomile and Lavender Tea here.


If your front lawn is anything like mine you won't need to plant this one. You probably have more dandelions that you want or need!

The seventeenth century botanist and herbalist Nicholas Culpepper notes that it has cleansing qualities especially in regards to the liver and spleen. The leaves have diuretic properties and flowers are said to be mildly analgesic.

Please note that this article is an overview only. It is not intended as medical advice.

Part 2:  More plants for your natural remedies garden
Part 3: Five more plants for your natural remedies garden

Nicholas Culpeper, Complete Herbal, first published 1653 (I have a 1992 reprint)
Available online:
Photo: Chamomile Flowers by Vera Kratochvil
Photo: Mint Leaves by Lynn Greyling 
Photo:Dandelion by Craig Lucas

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

The best Shortbread recipe

Everyone has a favourite recipe. This is one I always go back to. It's never failed and so far no-one that's tried it hasn't not liked it. I cut this out of a newspaper several years ago. It's simply titled Elsie's Shortbread. 

To make this you will need:
  • 250g butter (room temperature)
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1/2 cup cornflour
Heat the oven to 150 degrees celsius. Cream the butter and icing sugar, then mix in the flour and cornflour until combined.

On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1cm thick. Cut into fingers or use a biscuit cutter for other shapes. Place on a lined oven tray and chill for 15 mins.

Bake at 150 degrees for 15-20 mins. Turn the oven down to 130 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes. You want the shortbread to be a pale golden colour - not brown. Cool on the tray. These will keep for about a week in an airtight container, but they don't usually last that long here!

Monday, 16 March 2015

How to make a simple salve for dry skin

Dry Skin Salve

Excellent for dry hands, knuckles, knees and elbows.

You will need:

  • 60mls light olive oil (you can use an infused oil if you prefer - learn how to make it here)
  • 15g beeswax
  • 15g cocoa butter
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
Place the oil, beeswax and cocoa butter in the top of a double boiler (or similar). Warm over a low heat until melted. Remove from the heat and add the essential oil. Pour into a small, clean jar and leave to cool.

Makes approx. 1/2 cup of salve

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Ten Ways to Use Lavender

1. Make Lavender Tea

Dried lavender buds can be used on their own or in combination with others dried herbs to make herbal teas. You'll find a recipe for Chamomile and Lavender Tea here.

2. Headaches

Lavender is a calming herb. A little lavender essential oil gently rubbed into the temples can help to ease a headache.

3. Make a simple dream pillow

Fill a drawstring bag with dried lavender flower heads and tuck into your pillowcase.

4. In Soap

I make four different kinds of lavender soap. The title photo above this blog is of my Lavender and Rosemary Soap

5. Lavender Infused Oil

Dried lavender infused in sweet almond oil makes a lovely bath oil. Follow the directions for making an infused oil here using sweet almond oil rather than calendula oil.

6. Lavender Shortbread

I've not made this myself, but have sampled it. You may like to try the recipe over at Foodlovers.

7. Plant it

Adding lavender to your garden is an great ways to attract bees - and it smells really good. Our dog adores lavender. We have to watch her when we're out for a walk as she loves to stick her whole head into flowering lavender bushes.

8. Make Lavender Water

In a spray bottle combine 5 drops of lavender essential oil with 150mls of distilled water. Shake well before using. This can be used to freshen a room.

9. Lavender Sachets

Fill a small muslin or organza bag with dried lavender buds. Tuck the bag into a drawer or into the linen cupboard for lavender scented towels and sheets.

10. Infuse in vinegar for cooking

Add a small handful of dried lavender buds to a litre of white wine or apple cider vinegar. Sit it in a warm, dry place for about 6 weeks. Strain the buds before using.

Another method is to place sprigs of lavender into a bottle of vinegar. This also works well with tarragon or rosemary.

Part Two: Ten More Ways to Use Lavender

Photo: Iva Brezovicova (

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Make your own Avocado Face Mask

This is a simple to make mask suitable for most skin types - and a great way to use up an avocado that getting a bit too soft.

To make this mask you will need:

  • 1/2 an avocado
  • 2 tablespoons plain yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons liquid honey

Mash the avocado until smooth and creamy. Stir in the honey and yoghurt. You want a smooth consistency that's not too runny.

Apply to clean, dry skin avoiding the area around your eyes. Leave for 10-15 minutes. Rinse off with warm water, then follow with your usual moisturiser.

This makes enough for one mask.

I link up here

For more about Avocados: 13 Health Benefits of Avocados

Wasting time?

Waste it well!

Photo source:

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The Best of Alba Rosa - a summary of this week's posts

The blog has been busy in the last few days  - I've think I've written more so far this month than in the previous six! At the start of the month I embarked on Sarah Arrow's 30 day blogging challenge. It's been interesting, frustrating, enjoyable, tough, but brilliant!

So here is a round-up of some of my recent posts:

(Click on the title to view the full post)

An explanation why handmade and mass-produced soaps are not the same.

A little bit of the history of this famous soap dating back to the 1500s.

3. Make your own Lavender Toner   

How to make a simple toner that is particularly suitable for young teenage skin.

4. Bread and Butter Pickles

Earlier in the week I made this sharp, sweet, crunchy pickle. It's one we enjoy and it's too good not to share. Here's the recipe.

5. Chamomile - a brief description with tea

A brief description of both German and Roman Chamomile and their properties. Plus a recipe for Chamomile and Lavender Tea.

Five recipes for bath soaks you can easily make and enjoy at home.

How to make soap last longer and avoid the "mush".

To keep up with new blog posts you can subscribe by email (there's a box at the top right of the page) or via blog lovin' (again to the right of the page just above the Blog Archive list).

You'll also find me here:

Monday, 9 March 2015

How to get the best out of a bar of soap

You've bought yourself a lovely bar of handmade soap. Perhaps you bought it from the soapmaker at a craft market. Perhaps online or in a retail store.

What should you do to get the best out of that handmade soap? The most important thing is drainage. Don't let the soap sit in a puddle of water - eventually even the hardest bar of soap will end up a mushy mess if left. Use a soap rack or dish that allows the water to drain away from the soap.

Allowing the soap to dry out between uses will prolong it's life. A well made, well cured bar of soap should last a few weeks. 

It can even be a good idea to have two bars of soap "on the go" and alternate them - especially if you have a busy bathroom.

Pine Soap Rack - Alba  Rosa

Back to that lovely bar of handmade soap. Don't save it because it's "too nice to use" - you can always buy more. Use it!

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Five favourite bath soaks

Detox Bath Soak

In a bowl combine 1/3 cup Epsom salts, 1/2 cup coarse sea salt, 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Add to running bath water and enjoy. Makes enough for one bath.

Lavender Chamomile Bath Soak

To make this you will need:
  • 2 cups Epsom Salt
  • 1 cup sea salt
  • 1/4 cup dried lavender
  • 1/4 dried chamomile
  • 5-10 drops lavender essential oil
  • 1 tablespoon sweet almond oil
  • muslin
Combine the salts and dried herbs in a bowl and mix well, In a small jug or cup combine the sweet almond oil and lavender essential oil. Stir to combine the oils then slowly add to the salt-herb mixture. Stir again.

Cut a muslin square approximately 16cm x 16cm. In the middle of the square place 4 tablespoons of the mix. Bring the edges together and tie securely. Pop the bag into the bath and enjoy. The remaining mix will keep in an airtight jar for up to 6 months.

Five favourite bath soaks

Milk Bath

1 cup milk powder
1/2 cup epsom salts
1/4 cup baking soda 
5-10 drops of your favourite essential oil.

Combine all the ingredients. Place in an airtight jar and leave for 24 hours. Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the mix to a warm bath.

Sore Muscle Bath Soak

Combine 1 cup Epsom salts, 3 drops of lavender essential oil and 2 tablespoons of dried lavender buds. This makes enough for one bath.

Oatmeal Milk Bath

To make this you will need:
  • 1 cup Epsom salts
  • 1/2 cup sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cornflour
  • 1 cup oatmeal (not the quick cook variety)
  • 10 drops of essential oil (I like to use sweet orange)
  • 1 cup milk powder
Place all the ingredients in a food processor and whizz until you have a medium to fine texture. Store in an airtight jar. Use up to 1 cup of mix per  bath.

I link up here.

Photo: Lynn Greyling

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Chamomile - a brief description with tea

In his Complete Herbal 17th century English botanist, herbalist and physician Nicolas Culpeper says of chamomile - "It is so well known everywhere, that it is needless to describe it."

Culpeper describes the herb as being useful for easing pain and weariness, aiding digestion and "torments of the belly", cure of pain, stitches and "all sorts of agues" and to "comfort the brain".

Chamomile is a plant with a daisy-like flower. The most commonly used variety is German Chamomile. This is dark blue essential oil that is said to be both calming and healing. It can be useful for treating sensitive or inflamed skin.

Roman Chamomile is a pale golden coloured essential oil with anti-spasmodic and calming properties. This is a low-growing plant compared to the German variety. It has a long history of use in herbal medicine. The dried flowers are often used in teas to help with stress or insomnia.

How to make a simple Chamomile & Lavender Tea

To make this you will need boiling water, 1 teaspoon of each of dried chamomile flowers and dried lavender buds, a tea strainer, and a tea cup.

Place the chamomile and lavender in the tea strainer and sit it on top of the cup. Pour in enough boiling water that the herbs are covered. Allow to infuse for about 10 minutes. By this time the tea is a drinkable temperature. You can add lemon juice or honey to taste.

If you prefer to use a small tea pot place the herbs in the pot, pour over the boiling water and leave to steep. Pour the tea into a cup through a strainer.

Chamomile Flowers

This is part of a series of articles about some of the ingredients I use in my soap and skincare products.

I link up here

Nicholas Culpeper, Complete Herbal, first published 1653 (I have a 1992 reprint)
Available online:
Photo: Chamomile Flowers by Vera Kratochvil

30 Blogging Challenge

I got asked last night why my blog has been unusually busy in the last week. When I started it just over a year ago I'd planned to write something a couple of times a month. Things didn't quite go to plan - the blog went from quiet to very quiet. It was completely dead for three months then resurrected back to quiet again in January.

I met my target of twice monthly blog posts in January and February. I joined a couple of blogging groups on Facebook, but still needed a bit of a push. So when I came across a 30 day blogging challenge I decided to give it a go. 

If you'd like to know more about the challenge here's the link: 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Bread and Butter Pickles

I like to cook and I like to eat. I have a particular fondness for cheesecake, but I also enjoy a good pickle. We have plenty of cucumbers just now, so yesterday I made a batch of Bread and Butter Pickles

To make this you will need:

  • 1.5kg telegraph cucumbers
  • 1/2 kg onions (brown or white)
  • 2 T salt (either plain or sea salt)
  • 1 litre cider vinegar
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 5 or 6 300ml jars with good lids
Slice the unpeeled cucumbers into 2mm thick slices . This is most easily done with a food processor, unless you have ninja knife skills - which I don't! Peel and halve the onions, then slice thinly.

Layer the vegetables in a collander, sprinkling the salt between layers. Sit the collander over a bowl and leave to drain for at least three hours. Rinse the vegetables under cold water and drain. Rinse and drain again.

Wash both jars and lids in hot water. Rinse, then place in a low for 20-30 minutes.

To make the pickling liquid place the vinegar, sugar and spices in large saucepan. Slowly bring to the boil while stirring. Once the vinegar mixture has come to the boil add the well-drained vegetables. Bring back to the boil while stirring. Turn off the heat.

Take the jars out of the oven. I usually put an old tea towel under the jars to stop them slipping on the bench, plus it makes for an easier clean-up. Using slotted spoon or tongs lift the vegetables out of the saucepan and into the jars. Then fill the jars to the top with the hot pickling liquid making sure that the vegetables are covered. Use a skewer to remove any air bubbles. Screw on the lids. Once cold label and store in a cool, dark place. The pickles can be eaten straight away, but they improve over time and keep well.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Make your own Lavender Toner

This is a simple to make toner that is particularly suitable for young teenage skin.

To make this you will need:

Place all the ingredients in the jar.  Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for 2 weeks to give the mix time to infuse. Shake the jar well daily.

Strain the liquid and pour into a small glass bottle. 

Apply with a cotton ball or cleansing pad, avoiding the area around your eyes. Follow with moisturiser.

Store out of direct sunlight. Use within 6 months.

Notes on witch hazel: Witch hazel in its liquid form is a blend of an alcohol based witch hazel extract and water. It acts as a very gentle astringent, but is not suitable for very dry, sensitive or sunburnt skin.

You may like to try:

Black Tea Toner for oily skin 
Almond Milk Toner for combination skin.
Rose Water Toner for dry skin

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Thank you for your support.

I link up here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

What is Castile Soap?

There are a lot of soaps available that are labelled "Castile". But what makes castile soap truly a castile?

Castile soap is said to have originated in the Castile region of Spain in the 1500s. It's likely that castile soap has origins going back to the famous Aleppo soaps made in the Levant region since at least the time of the Crusades and probably much earlier.

A traditionally made castile has only three ingredients - olive oil, water and lye (also known as sodium hydroxide) - and is usually left to cure for several months. It is hard, creamy white soap that has less lather than you may be used to, but which is very, very mild.

Modern, less traditional, castile soaps may have coconut oil added for bubbly lather, shea butter to moisturise, essential oils for fragrance.

And the answer to the question "What is a Castile soap?" Castile is an olive oil based soap, but the variations are only limited by the soap-maker's skill and imagination.

Alba Rosa Classic Castile Soap is available here.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

What makes handmade soap different?

What makes handmade soap different and why should I buy it are two questions that I get asked a lot.

Not all soaps are the same - different ingredients, shape, smell, liquid or bar, handmade or mass-produced. 

Possibly one of the biggest differences between a mass-produced bar and a handmade bar is glycerine. Glycerine is a naturally occurring by-product of cold-process soap making. Glycerine is a humectant, which means that it draws moisture to itself. Typically a bar of handmade soap is about 25% glycerine. Some mass producers remove glycerine from their soaps to use in other products. You're much less likely to get that dry, tight feeling from a glycerine-rich soap.

Go to the soap aisle at your local supermarket. Look closely and see what is labelled as soap and what isn't. Turn the packet over and look at the list of ingredients - how many do you recognise? As well as water, and lye (sodium hydroxide) you may find:
  • sodium tallowate (beef tallow) 
  • sodium cocoate (coconut oil)
  • sodium palmate (palm oil)
  • sodium laurel sulphate - a detergent derived from coconut oil that may cause skin irritation
  • waters softeners
  • preservatives
  • synthetic colours and fragrance

If you don't recognise an ingredient do some research and find out exactly what you're washing with. 

Unfortunately some of the products you find in the soap aisle are more detergent bar than soap.

A typical handmade bar may include water, lye, coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, rice bran oil, essential oils. Some soap makers use palm oil, some use animal fats, some use goats milk, some make vegan soap. I often use beeswax, tea, coffee, coconut milk, dried herbs, even craft beer in my soaps. I choose not to use synthetic ingredients.

Not all large scale production soaps are the same. Not all handmade soaps are the same. If you have the opportunity talk to the soap maker.

I hope this explains what a makes handmade soap different. Why should you buy it? That's a personal choice, but if you haven't tried a good quality handmade soap from an artisan soap maker please do.