Tag Archives: tea tree

Job’s Tears and Calendula Soaps

As much as I enjoy making soaps with fragrance oils and pigments, my first and true love has always been natural, therapeutic soaps. I get really excited discovering and experimenting with new ingredients that may offer any kind of skin benefit.

I have been soaping like crazy since I came back from Taipei two weeks ago. I made mostly fragrance oil-scented soaps, but I managed to make two all-natural ones using some of the ingredients I stuffed my suitcase with.

With so many choices, it was hard to pick which ingredient to use first. I finally settled on calendula, a very popular herb among soap makers, but it was my first time to use it.

Dried Calendula Petals

Dried Calendula Petals

Instead of steeping the petals in oil, I made a concentrated tea and let it steep overnight. Since we don’t have calendula in the Philippines (maybe we do, but I am not aware of it), I didn’t want to throw away the petals.  I wanted to use everything so I separated most of the liquid and proceeded to blitz the remaining calendula with reconstituted goat’s milk powder.  I mixed all the liquid with the blended petals into my oils – coconut, olive, palm, rice bran and cocoa butter – before adding my master-batched 50% lye solution.

To intensify the yellow color, I used 2 parts blood orange e.o. and 1 part litsea cubeba, totalling 4.2% of my oils. Next time I will increase the essential oils to at least 5% because at 4.2%, the scent is barely there. I wanted to add some interest so I tried doing a pencil line for the first time. I really like the effect but I think I was a bit heavy handed with the activated charcoal.

Calendula 2

Calendula and Goat's Milk Soap

Calendula and Goat’s Milk Soap

The second ingredient I decided to use was Job’s Tears powder (coix lacryma jobi). It is also known as Chinese pearl barley, but it has nothing to do with the common pearl barley that most of us are familiar with.  In China, Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, it is eaten as a grain or cooked into a drink.  It is also used in traditional Chinese medicine for its cooling and anti-cancer properties, and for its stimulating action on the spleen, kidneys and lungs. Beauty-wise, it is reputed to remove blemishes and make the skin softer. (Click here to read more on the benefits of Job’s Tears)

Job's Tears powder

Job’s Tears powder

Job's Tears in Chinese

Job’s Tears in Chinese

I still have some lard that I carefully rendered with salt and water a few months ago. I plan to just finish what I have and no longer use it in the future. It is just too tedious to make and I don’t think it would appeal to people even though it makes for a gentle and hard bar of soap.

I needed the extra hardness for the facial soap I had in mind, so I incorporated a little bit of lard into my recipe containing coconut, olive, avocado, rice bran, pili and castor oils.  I also added 2% salt and 1.5% sodium lactate, less than what I used for my Charcoal Neem Soap.  For a richer and creamier soap, I used coconut cream, and to keep it all natural, I used essential oils of blood orange, rosemary and tea tree. I mixed the essential oils with Job’s Tears powder along with kaolin clay and turmeric powder to anchor the scent, before adding everything into the soap batter at light trace.

Job's Tears & Coconut Cream

Job's Tears 2

Job's Tears 5

Job’s Tears & Coconut Cream Soap

I love that the soap is completely ash-free and the texture is so smooth and creamy.  I think the powders, partly acting as anchors for the essential oils, worked, because I could smell the blood orange amidst the strong tea tree. I hope the scent stays after cure!

Charcoal Neem Soap

Before I discovered the world of fun fragrant soaps, I was preoccupied with searching for oils and additives with therapeutic values.  Along the way, I read about neem which sounded like some kind of wonder oil, except for its smell that many find off putting. I was really curious about it so i placed an order last July, which finally arrived at my Philippine doorstep two weeks ago.

Neem oil is said to be good for the hair and skin, and may alleviate conditions such as dandruff, acne, psoriasis, eczema, and fungal infections. It is also used as a pesticide to deter ticks and fleas, and to repel insects and pests. (Click here and here to read more about neem’s benefits) We’ve been getting a lot of black ants from the plants and trees outside, so we smeared some neem oil around our windows and doors ways. So far it seems to be working.

I was a little bit apprehensive though about soaping with neem because seriously,  it stinks like fermenting onions!  But after reading Moj Sapun‘s neem soap which Gordana fondly calls “Happy Pampkin“, I got the push I needed.

I used 10% neem oil along with coconut, olive, avocado, pili and castor oils for their supporting skin benefits. I also used activated charcoal for its detoxifying properties, and essential oils of tea tree, peppermint and lavender for their healing qualities and to mask the strong odor. For a harder bar of soap, I added 3% salt and 3% sodium lactate.

neem 2

neem 1

When I removed the cover of my log mold, I was horrified to see crystal droplets on the soap surface.  My immediate thought was “lye heavy!”  I wanted to take pictures but I was too anxious to check the inside for lye pockets and other telltale signs of too much lye.  I touched the crystals and I felt no sting.  I brushed it away with a pastry brush and it turned into dust.  When I cut into the soap, to my pleasant surprise, the texture was perfectly smooth and creamy! The edges were a bit brittle/crumbly, but it may have been the salt and sodium lactate combination or too much of either one? My guess is that it was salt condensation that I saw on the surface, but does anyone have a similar experience or know exactly what it was? I tried the zap test for the first time ever this morning, and I all I got was a soapy anise-like taste!

As for the smell, the tea tree was plenty strong but there was also a distinct putrid egg smell when I unmolded it.  However, after a day, the odor had mellowed down, leaving the tea tree and peppermint to shine (I could not pick up the lavender scent).  I would say it smells medicinal but nothing offensive.