Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Shampoo making!

Excited? I am!! :) I can talk a lot about natural beauty, what goes into each product and why it's good... But what can be better than actually seeing the process?

Shampoo making technology is the same as soap making. But there are few extra steps and add-ons, recipe formulation is also different - no "hair heavy" oils, extra conditioning, hair therapy, and so on.. Here are some of the steps of shampoo-making process:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

About solid shampoo

I have been receiving lots of questions about the solid shampoos lately. And I totally understand where the questions are coming from!...So... I thought of writing a brief overview.   

It's natural product, there is no need to preserve it (since there is no water present in the final product), it doesn't contain harsh chemicals like SLS (that strips natural hair oils) nor silicones. It has vegetable oils (coconut oi, castor, safflower, grapeseed, sweet almond to name a few), herbal infusions and essential oils so you can enjoy the full benefits of natural care.  

* "Shampoo = liquid" idea is quite strong so it takes time to get used to the look of a "hair bar". But did you know that up to 80% of liquid commercial shampoo is water?... Think of it this way - just on the "how it looks" factor alone you can get rid of 2 plastic bottles each time you purchase your regular hair products - one for the shampoo and another one for the conditioner (with solid shampoo you don't need to use hair conditioner most of the times, but if you do there are ingredients readily available at your home, just read on for the tips). It is environmentally friendly from many aspects. 

* You might need to give shampoo bar a chance. You hair needs time to get used to all-natural treatment, at first it just washes off the residues of your old shampoo, then you will feel the difference. Adjustment usually takes between one to four weeks depending on your hair type. Also solid shampoo can be quite individual - you need to keep in mind your hair type when choosing the right one. 

* When I feel the need I do a home-made hair conditioner - dissolve 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 1 litre of water and do one rinse with this solution. It totally depends on your hair type, length and conditions weather you need this rinse or not. I do it once or twice a week. I also like to experiment with various hair treatments - mix some hair oils, do clay masks, etc. But that will be the topic for another post:) 

Hope I could answer some of the most common questions, please let me know if you are interested in finding out more!

P.S. Don't miss the next post on what's going on behind the scenes of shampoo making! 

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Petroleum on my skin? No, thank you!

How often do you read these vague names on your labels: Mineral Oil, Liquid Paraffin, Paraffinum Liquidum, White Oil, Liquid Petroleum... Let me answer for you - too often!! And these are the names of the same product - liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum-based products from crude oil. Wait a minute! From what? Yes, liquid that is used as a main ingredient in baby products (oils, lotions), body oils and Vaseline (to name few) is actually made of crude oil!!

When applied mineral oil creates a thin layer on your skin and blocks the pores, so ultimately it doesn't allow skin to breath and eliminate toxins (normal healthy "exchange" process). So it leads to skin dryness and premature aging. It's used so unbelievably widely because of its cheap price and availability (it's just a by-product). Most of the baby oils are 100% mineral oil or mineral oil is listed as the first ingredient - meaning that mineral oil is its main component (just pick up any baby oil or baby lotion bottle and see for yourself).

Skin is our largest organ and let's treat is nicely. Explore the beauty of natural creations - those wonderful apricot, avocado, sweet almond, olive oils (mostly available in pharmacies and supermarkets)... There are so many to choose from - they are great for the skin, safe for humans (most importantly for our little ones!) and environment, they are packed with vitamins and antioxidants. What's not to love? 

See, it's really easy to make the switch towards the healthier lifestyle, just need to be aware :)
Love as always,

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Natural colorants

One thing I really like experimenting with is color. There are hundreds of man-made colors out there - bright, pastel, anything ... But as you know - here at 7 Elements we just love working with all-natural ingredients instead. So here is what we use:

1. Clays. Clays have wonderful properties and are great for the skin, body and health! And what's not to like about the idea of having the coloring element that actually helps taking care of various skin conditions.

Pictures: Blue and Red Argiletz clays. 

Here is our Lavender soap with blue clay

2. Natural pigments and micas. Very shiny, bright and come in various colors! In cosmetics they are used mainly in mineral make-up to add shimmer and color

 Pictures: Emerald and Copper micas 

3. Kitchen drawer colors. Yes, there is lots of of hidden "spice" in 7 Elemets soaps - like Turmeric powder in Grand Bazaar; cocoa powder in Caramel soap. I always knew there was lots in common between cooking and soap-making! 

This is a very exciting area - studying properties of various spices and plants including them in products formulas in actual form (dried herbs, powdered spices) and as essential oils of course!

 Pictures: Paprika, Turmeric and Cocoa powders

4. Surprising ingredients. 

These are new comers in 7 Elements colors basket. But they are definitely not new in the world of natural skin care! How about some Spirulina - this superfood is as good in soaps as it is in your green smothies! And another dramatically_looking ingredient yet to be tested is Charcoal! 

To be honest, many times I just opt for plain - let the oils, butters and other pretty things decide how the final product is going to look like! 

This is by no means a complete list of natural colorants, just a brief overview, attempt to show that there is always an alternative. "Alternative to what?" You may ask. Well... actually in non-sustainable world it can take lots of chemicals to get a flawless white color or pleasantly looking caramel... I am not even talking about reds and blues... 

So why again should we use something that was created by man to compete with "products" that Mother Nature has been making for thousands of years?! 


Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Story of Cosmetics

Love this video - simple, clear and at the same time quite inspiring! It goes in line with what I personally believe in and asriring as 7 Elements. An absolute must if you haven't seen it already.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

New soaps!!

I know I am not going to get "The Best Blogger" award this year :) To be honest, I've been just focused on my full-time job - Mommyhood :)) and enjoying it too much!

I've been doing small batches of soaps and shampoos, but I am happy to announce that 7 Elements is now officially back! Last week we managed to do some lovely silky shampoo (by "silky" I mean with real silk!), body butters and new amazing soaps!!

Here is my personal favorite as I had lots of fun planing and making it.

It fragranced with natural essential oils - two types of mint - spearmint and peppermint, eucalyptus and lemongrass and packed with oceanic salt. This type of soap is called the SPA soap as salt is well-known for its beauty properties and helps to smooth the skin.

This raw beauty deserves a proper photo-session, for now I just wanted to share a little "preview".

Another newbie - Oatmeal, Milk and Honey

Look at this antcent beauty secret_recipe_soap :)) We used organic honey, organic oats and goats milk powder to create it - only good things for the skin! I also love the notes of bitter almond in it's scent.

Now... the hard part is... to wait!! Both soaps are curing right now, and I just can't wait!

Monday, 10 January 2011

How to read labels

Happy 2011!
Please join me in welcoming the new year and kicking the nasties out of our bathrooms!

Making informed decisions can be both exciting and frustrating - exciting because by choosing sustainable products we do a great thing for ourselves and for the environment (e.g. by opting for chemicals-free items and items containing less chemicals we reduce the carbon footprint of our shopping basket, we make sure that less waste goes into the environment and well... your body will thank you for not letting more toxins in). Why frustrating? Because when we actually stand in front of the shelves containing dozens of products we simply don't know where to start... 

While issues like labeling and misleading information are highly important, let's not talk about politics now and try to focus on actual labels-reading. I am also not a scientist, so I am not going into scientific explanation of elements. 

So, what do you think - is going natural as simple as buying the cream that says Natural? Or choosing  shampoo that claims it's made with Pure Essential Oils? Or getting that "Herbal" shower gel? Not too fast... First of all - read the back label as claims you see written in big letters might not mean much... When you get onto the ingredients list (which might look very long and very "scientific" at first) there are few very important things you need to look for. Let's start with Sodium Laureth Sulphate and Paraben. 

Sodium laureth sulphate (SLS)

How to spot? 
Go to you bathroom and you'll see "Sodium laureth sulphate" written  in the beginning of ingredients list on most of the "foamy" products - shampoos, soaps, shower gels even the toothpaste, detergents.

Its main role is to make foam, I'd say "synthetic foam" as natural products can be produced without SLS and have a nice bubbly foam. It's quite inexpensive and widely used in the great majority of products. 

Why is it bad? 
It's a very harsh chemical, that can irritate skin, eyes and hair. As studies show in the long term it can be linked to serious diseases like cancer. You might wonder how long is that "long term", but just imagine how many times you washed your hair with SLS-loaded shampoo last year, scrubbed your body with that "SLS-shower gel", washed your dishes with super-foamy detergent, etc... And by the way, many of those tests were performed on animals - another argument against using products containing SLS... 

Is there an alternative? 
Yes! Use SLS-free products! To know for sure - read your labels.


How to spot? 
Paraben has many cousins - Butylparaban, ethylparaben, methylparaben and other, key combination is "-paraben". Today it is the most used and available preservative, so chances that your beauty products contain paraben are quite high. It can be found in items that contain water (or "aqua" as it might be written on ingredients list) - moisturizers, shampoos, etc

If a product contain water and is intended to have a long life it needs to be preserved to avoid bacterial growth. Just imagine leaving your soup on the counter for a few days and you'll get an idea of what I am talking about.

Why is it bad? 
Parabens are the most widely used preservatives, they've been on the market for a long time and the truth is that they do what they are supposed to do. However similarly to SLS, parabens have a controvertial reputation. They can be harsh and nasty on skin, especially in the amounts they are used in the commercially produced beauty products. If you google "paraben" you'll get all sorts of contradictory information - some claim that parabens are currently the best available preservatives; others say that paraben have been linked to serious diseases including breast cancer. It's only fair to add that those claims have not been proved or disproved.

Is there an alternative?
First, if you are choosing paraben-free but water-based products, keep in mind couple of things:
- if it's a trully natural product without preservatives it has a shorter shelf life, so you need to make sure you are using it as fresh as possible and follow sellers usage recommendations
- check for other nasty preservatives ("no parabens" does not equal "no chemicals") - popular ones are Phenoxyethanol and Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate...
Second, you can switch to the waterless alternatives - use soap instead of shower gel, oil and butter-based lotions and moisturizers, solid deodorants, etc. Generally oils do not need to be preserved, but as usual - always consult the labels to make sure threre is no paraben in your soap bar.

Hope this information was useful! We'll be back with more soon.