I find resins fascinating, more so than any other plant material and I seem to have an affinity to frankincense and myrrh, I think this is probably something to do with my family often burning frankincense resin in our home.  I also really like infusing resins, it’s very easy to do and you get great results every time.

Oil infusions or macerations are a well known and ancient method of extraction.  They involve steeping a botanical- be that the blossom, bark, root or resin – in an oil based solvent or menstruum.  Over time this will draw out all of the oil soluble material from the medium.    Oil maceration was one of  the first means of essential oil extraction before distillation was invented, and before we used concentrated essential oils as we know them today. One aspect of using oil infusions is that you get a more rounded extract, one that allows for all or most of the plant oils to be extracted.  This is particularly good in the case of frankincense where valuable but less volatile oils, like boswellic acid, would be left behind in the distillation process.

The extract took me about an hour in total as it involved heating the  extracts in oil for 45 minutes.  I used the quick method though there are other more lengthy ways to make an extract.

This  super concentrated serum contains the oil extract of Royal Hojari frankincense and Indian Bdellium.  After the extraction process  I added a three drops of Rosa damascena essential oil.

Royal Hojari Frankincense

This is probably the most expensive frankincense you can find. It is translucent golden yellow, amber-green in colour. It’s botanical name boswellia sacra or boswellia carterii and is native to Oman, Yemen and Somalia. It has a lemony, spicy scent and is often used in perfumery and aromatherapy.  Frankincense has been used for millennia by the Abrahamic (Christians, Jews, Muslims) religions in spiritual practices and for meditation.

Frankincense sacra/carterii has high levels of boswellic acidsBoswellic acids are ‘heavy’ terpenes that are thought to have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects.  It is thought to fade scars, help with wound healing and to treat acne.  However, boswellic acids can not be extracted during distillation due to their low volatility.

Indian Bdellium (Commiphora Mukul)

Myrrh is a type of gum resin that comes from the Commiphora tree.  It is widely believed to be a powerful antiseptic and as a result is often used in mouthwashes and toothpastes to treat gum problems.  In herbal medicine it is claimed to be a remedy for indigestion, colds, ulcers, lung problems, arthritis and cancer.

Mukul is a type of myrrh rich in  guggulsterones, phytosterols thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Studies have found that it increases collagen production as well as inhibiting elastase, the enzyme that breaks down proteins in the skin. Due to this it is thought to be a promising anti-wrinkle ingredient. Some studies have suggested it may have some anti-cancer effects in mice.

Rose damascena Essential Oil

Rose is used extensively in aromatherapy as it is thought to be helpful for depression and for beautifying the skin. It is thought to be anti-bacterial and helpful for treating acne.  Anecdotally it is great for promoting a youthful complexion, evening out skin tone and promoting elasticity.

Fractionated Coconut

For the solvent I used caprylic/capric triglyceride as it is a light oil with a ridiculously long shelf life. It is not particularly heat sensitive.  If you want, you can use  stable plant oil  such as jojoba, meadowfoam seed oil or moringa oil. Some people like to use virgin olive oil.  You can use a combination of oils or even combine with a small amount of butters; as long as you can keep the oil fluid at room temperature, it shouldn’t be a problem.

The Formula

Ingredient INCIGrams %
Fractionated CoconutCaprylic/Capric Triglycerides8088.40
Myrrh Guggul Commiphora mukul55.5
Hojari Frankincense Boswellia carterii/sacra55.5
Rose absoluteRosa damascena 3 drops0.6

Process for Making the Oil Infusion of Frankincense and Myrrh

  1.  Grind the frankincense and myrrh in a pestle and mortar.  Some people find that freezing the resins for 24 hours makes is much easier to grind as the resin can be quite sticky.   I  didn’t on this occasion and you can see the larger specs of myrrh as a result.
  2. Place the ground resin in a heat proof bowl and then place in a water bath.
  3. Allow to steep in boiling water for 45 minutes to an hour.
  4. Remove from heat and leave to cool. Let to rest for a further 24 hours for the sediment to settle.  This will      make filtering easier.
  5. Strain with a coffee filter or cheese cloth, I used the latter. You can help the filtering process along by gently stirring and pushing the oil though your filter but you can always just leave it and come back to it after an hour.  You can filter again, however I have noticed that you will still get some solid matter sinking to the bottom even after filtering.
  6. Add your Rose essential oil and stir so that everything is combined; decant into a clean bottle or jar.

Although I infused both frankincense and myrrh, you can use this method with a single resin.  From my research you can use a ratio of between 1:2 – 1:8 resin to oil depending on the strength you want the extract, but really there isn’t a hard and fast rule.

Use your infusion anywhere and everywhere. The scent is strong despite only being a quick infusion.  You can even add it to creams or dilute into face and body oils to add a fresh lemony and resinous note to your product without additional essential oils.

I must say, I love this oil, it is a slightly viscous, milky mustardy colour and smells absolutely glorious – with an earthy lemon and a light floral note from the rose. Since making it I have used it every day in the hope that it will help fade some scaring I have on my arms and sometimes I have massaged some onto my face, just because I find the scent so uplifting.



The authors claim Modern Cosmetics is “The world’s most comprehensive book about cosmetic ingredients of natural origin. Written by scientists.”

The book comes as a hardback, in A4 format, and around 500 pages long.

So what is in it?

The first chapter is  ‘Natural Cosmetics – What there is to know.’ Here they deal with definitions of cosmetics and discuss what natural and organic means.  They also touch on European legislation and give a good overview of the different certifying bodies for natural and organic cosmetics in Europe. Its a good overview but doesn’t go into too much detail, which is not a problem, as when it comes to certification, pointers are enough and often certifying bodies update their policies or guidance annually anyway.

modern cosmetics book review

The second Chapter deals with the skin, its structure and function as well as the different skin types: oily, dry, combination, sensitive and mature.

No book on cosmetic products should be without a section on the skin.

The third chapter looks at the types of delivery systems used in skincare: emulsions, gels, solutions to name a few. It goes into the benefits of each system and when to appropriately use each type of product. For instance the book talks about liposomes, their benefits, and their actions on the skin.

Chapter 4 gives monographs for some 60 different oils and butters.  Each oil has details on the scientific names, common names and the INCI as well as the part of the plant it is extracted from.  It gives information on its general characteristics including the fatty acid composition. What is very helpful is that they give the mechanisms of action and use for the skin based on both anecdotal and traditional  evidence and scientific literature. This is invaluable for selecting oils for different skin types or skin problems.  Pay attention to information given in a lighter text, often some very good advice is given on synergies with different oils, ideal skin types and interactions with other ingredients.  I really loved these nuggets of information.

Chapter 5 is all about emollients and occlusives. Here they take a closer look at various plant and floral waxes, ceramides and sterols. Again they talk about , melt point , plant origins, process of extraction and the mechanism of action. For instance, in the case of sterols they state, ‘Sterols are used as emollients for the repair of an impaired barrier function as concentrations ranging from 0.1-1%. Cholesterol is also used as a (co) emulsifier in w/o emulsions.’

Chapter 6: EMULSIFIERS AND SURFACTANTS FOR HAIR AND SKIN CLEANSING is a small chapter as the authors assert wholly natural emulsifiers are ‘extremely limited.’  This has information on wool alcohol, lecithin and saponins.

Chapter 7 is all about thickeners, namely those that will thicken the water phase of a product such as gums, pectins and mucilages. I have a particular interest in water-based thickeners so I enjoyed flicking through this chapter. It gives hints and tips on how to add polysaccharides so to get the most out of them, but also what to look out for in terms of compatibility with other ingredients.  Since polysaccharides are one of the most important ingredients when it comes to formulating, this is an invaluable chapter.

Chapter 8 looks at moisturisers and humectants with monographs for such things are hyaluronic acid, different proteins from both animal and vegetal sources, UREA, sea salt, PCA and the most common one: glycerine.  There are a few others and it covers most bases.  There are good nuggets of information, even for me, such as sorbitols tendency to create a translucent appearance if used in high quantities. I have used sorbitol once in my formulating life so this information was new to me.  I also didn’t realise it was less sticky than glycerin and it is nice to know i have another alternative to the ingredients I normally use.

Chapter 9 is a relatively small chapter on acids for pH adjustment.  I tend to use lactic acid and citric acid to adjust pH for most of my projects and this has given me some ideas in terms of broadening my horizons; one day I might try using tartaric acid!

Chapters 10 and 11 look at antioxidants and vitamins for the skin, respectively.  The intro to ‘Antioxidants’ goes into some detail explaining what oxidation and oxidative stress is, and although it does not go into depth, the main ideas are covered.  They also make  good connections with chelators and their benefits to the skin and the cosmetic product.  Under ‘Vitamins’ they have monographs for the main ones used in skincare and they also discuss their effects when taken internally.

Chapters 12 to 18 look at ‘cosmetically active ingredients’ and their particular ‘activity.’  So the focus is on choosing a certain ingredient for a particular function whether that be something that acts as a tonic, antimicrobial (these are essentially preservatives that are marketed as having another function), anti-inflammatory, improving skin circulation( things like arginine, camphor, capsaicin, menthol and so on), skin lightening and self tanning. These chapters come in handy if you are looking to make a product targeted at a particular skin complaint or function and you are at odds as to what to include.

Chapter 19 is about sunscreens, it doesn’t go into depth and only mentions a few sunscreens allowed in natural cosmetics and they talk briefly about the importance of sun protection.  Chapter 20, is about exfoliation, in particular chemical peels.  They do not go into detail regarding how to formulate with chemical peels like glycolic acid, bromelain lactic acid etc, but they do touch on the safety issues and the restrictions on formulating these types of products.  It would be good if they gave more thorough detail.  All the usual subjects were discussed and there were one or two ingredients I had never heard of before.

The penultimate chapter is about natural colourants, plant, mineral and animal derived.  I have been looking at natural pigments recently and thought I knew most of them, seems I have a lot to learn.  It never occured to me that litmus paper is named as such due to the Litmus otherwise known as roccella lichen.

The final chapter, and probably the one of least interest to me is the chapter on sweeteners, those things you might use to sweeten oral care products.  It has all the -itols and stevioside. I am sure that if I am making toothpaste, this chapter will come into use.

What I enjoy about the book is that you can tackle your research in a number of ways. They arrange the book  to allow you to either research a particular ingredient or look at it from a skin issue or formulation point of view. If you want to find out about a particular common oil or butter, you will get info on the ideal skin type; similarly you can look at the action or skin problem you want to solve and tackle your inquiry from that angle.  It would be good if they had a quick look chart so you can easily find oils and actives for skin type or skin complaint.

There are lots of gems of wisdom throughout the book.  Because it is fundamentally a reference book for natural ingredients it will not show you how to formulate; it will give tips and pointers when it comes to selecting and handling those ingredients.  The last few months I have indeed dipped in and out of this book and have found it valuable as a quick reference guide to natural ingredients.

You can buy your own copy from the Modern Cosmethics website.

Have you read this book?  What do you like about it and what would you improve?




We have had some inquiries about where to get the main ingredients for the shampoo bars in our book Make Your Own Naturally Balanced Shampoo Bars.

Please read our blog post  Pro Tips for Pro Shampoo Bars  about working with different forms of surfactant in your solid shampoo.

EU/UK Suppliers

SCI – Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate

Forbury Direct – Large noodles which you may need to break down

Skin Chakra – Comes in large noodle form

SCS – Sodium Coco Sulphate

Alexmo Cosmetics  – Sometimes in noodle form and sometimes in pearl form

Les utiles de Zinette  – Sells in noodle form

Aromazone, France – Small pearl form similar to the ones used in my shampoo bars

Forbury Direct – comes in noodle/needle form

Emulsense – conditioning emulsifier

Skin Chakra

Bay House Aromatics

Varisoft EQ 65



Varisoft EQ 65


Formulator Sample Shop

Sodium Coco Sulphate

American Soap Supplies – for noodles

Wholesale Supplies Plus

Save on Citric – for the noodles

Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate

American Soap Supplies

Wholesale Supplies Plus

Emulsense HC

I couldn’t find a supplier in North America however you should be able to swap this for Varisoft or BTMS 50 in the formulas.

Other Ingredients

You will easily be able to get the herbs  and other ingredients from the above sellers for your shampoo bars, your usual resellers or by googling.  For the vinegar, you will probably find them either in your local supermarket or from an online store.

To Buy the book just follow the link below:



Thanaka is a new ingredient for me.  I came across it when browsing instagram and became instantly intrigued.  But what is this powder and where did it originate?

What is Thanaka Powder?

Thanaka, or Limonia acidissima or Hesperethusa crenulata is a common tree in Southeast Asia and is used for its medicinal purposes throughout the region.  It is commonly known as the sandalwood, applewood and monkey fruit tree. It is indigenous to Myanmar and has been used as a cosmetic product by the Myanmaris for over 2000 years, as a sun protectant, for skin decoration and also to cool the skin.   The fruit is very high in protein as well as vitamins and minerals and is used to make a local beverage.  Concoctions are made from the fruit to treat digestive problems as well as other ailments.

thanaka powder

The powder comes from the bark of the tree which is ground into a fine powder.  When used it is mixed into an opaque yellow paste with a small amount of water and is used as an astringent, antiseptic, antifungal, anti-aging, cosmetic and sun protectectant and to prevent acne.  As with many traditionally used medicinal plants, Thanaka’s chemical properties have been studied.  Thanaka contains two active ingredients:  coumarin and marmesin.  The presence of coumarin explains it’s anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which make it good for treating acne and other skin conditions.    Interestingly, it is used predominantly as a sun protectant.  Seiverling et al found that presence of marmesin made it a pretty efficient UVA absorber when compared with titanium dioxide. It has also been found to have skin brightening properties which are attributed to arbutin, also found in the bark powder.

What is it like?

Thanaka powder mixed with water.


I had mine shipped all the way from Thailand.  I mixed it with a small amount of water and applied it to my face. It made a very smooth, creamy yellowish paste.  On application, it did have a very cooling effect and even when it dried, it did not feel particularly uncomfortable to wear.  It is supposed to have a fragrance but I found it to be neutral in scent.

Surprisingly, it washed off very easily once it had dried, unlike clay masks that take an age to remove if left on too long.  I can’t say I noticed anything particularly different about my skin afterwards, except that it did not feel taught and my skin wasn’t pink after application, as is normally the case with clay masks. I think I might need to use the mask for a while before making my final judgement but from first use, I would probably say this would be the perfect mask for sensitive skin.

Here is another easy mask formula you could try:

Thanaka and Honey Soothing and Hydrating Mask

To make enough for one application follow the ‘grams’ column.
Thanaka Powder924.5
Simply weigh and mix together in a bowl and apply.  Leave it on until it dries.  Its not like a clay mask, it can be left on over 10 minutes as it is not likely to cause any irritation or discomfort. I left mine on for far too long as I forgot it was there 🙂

That’s me wearing the Thanaka powder mask.



Wangthong S1, Palaga T, Rengpipat S, Wanichwecharungruang SP, Chanchaisak P, Heinrich M, Biological activities and safety of Thanaka (Hesperethusa crenulata) stem bark., J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Nov 11;132(2):466-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.08.046. Epub 2010 Sep 6.


Anne Goldsberry MD MBA,a Alan Dinner PhD, and C. William Hanke MD MPHa, Thanaka: Traditional Burmese Sun Protection, March 2014 | Volume 13 | Issue 3 | Original Article | 306 | Copyright © 2014
Elizabeth V. Seiverling, MD1, Alyssa M. Klein MD1, Lindsay C. Bacik BS1, Christoph Gelsdorf MD2and Hadjh Ahrns MD3, Sun protection and other uses of Thanakha in Myanmar

A few weeks ago I showed you my Lush inspired Herbal Cleanser.  It has given me ideas for a few other products which will fall into the category of what I gave coined The Cleansing Putty or Cleansing Putties. After I made the Herbal Cleanser I discovered coconut vinegar at the local independent supermarket. I also found some maize flour and polenta and thought I might try my hand at making face and body scrubs using these ingredients.

The Coconut Scrub Putties

So, in this scrub I made a solid paste of maize flour, kaolin clay, kewra water, glycerin, coconut vinegar and coconut essence for a coconut scent. I rolled the putty in generous amounts of cocoa powder.

Coconut vinegar is made from the sap (or tuba) of the coconut palm.  Once extracted it is allowed to ferment into alcohol and then further into acetic acid.  The smell is milder than white or rice vinegar. It contains approximately 4% acetic acid. Coconut vinegar is gluten free, if this is something important to you.

I also used kewra water which is a fragrant water distilled from the  flowers of Pandanus tectorius.  It is, like rosewater, a favoured  flavour in Indian Cuisine, and has similar beautifying properties.

Generous amounts of maise flour gives a high level of scrubbiness without being harsh on the skin.

To make this you will need the following equipment:

  • A few bowls for mixing
  • A few spoons for mixing and measuring
  • A butter knife
  • A container

The Formulation

1Maize flour40.50
2Kaolin Clay19.00
3Kewra water9.00
5Coconut vinegar6.5
6Coconut extract0.5
7Cocoa powderQS


  1. Weigh and combine stages 1 and 2 in a bowl and set aside
  2. Weigh and combine stages 3-6 and mix well
  3. Mix 1 and 2 together using a dinner knife
  4. You should have a wet doughy consistency that doesn’t leave any of the mixture on your hands.
  5. Roll out onto a table and set aside
  6. Sprinkle a generous amount of cocoa powder on the table and gently roll the putty onto it until it is covered in cocoa powder.
  7. Cut and put in a pot


You will notice that over the next few hours the putty will absorb all of the liquid ingredients so that it is crumbly.  This is completely normal. I wasn’t sure if I liked it when I first noticed this change however I used it in the shower and loved it so much I used practically the whole pot.  If you prefer it to be wetter then you can make a solution of water, glycerin and vinegar and add it to the putty. You might also just want to add glycerin? Make sure you calculate exactly how much you used so then you can recreate the putty again.  To increase the shelf life of this product and to make it softer you can increase the glycols – you could possibly use penylene glycol at 3% and reduce the water and vinegar or you could increase the glycerin so that there is twice as much glycerin in comparison to the water and the vinegar combined.

How to use

Break off some putty in your hands and mix with water. It breaks down into a gritty paste almost instantly. Massage onto wet skin and rinse with warm water.


Foaming Polenta Putty

This one is more like real putty but it foams due to the coco glucoside and exfoliates due to the polenta.   I made it a light pink colour and rolled it in nettle leaves which is optional but it is a nice contrast to the pale pinkness.  The coconut vinegar reduces the pH which would be quite high due to the clay and the surfactant.

The Formulation




  1. Combine all of phase A into one pot.
  2. Combine phase B in a separate pot.
  3. Add phase B to phase A and stir with a strong instrument
  4. Roll in nettle and put into a container


You will notice that this will get thicker over time.  So you need to watch what happens to it over the next few weeks.   If you want to make it more ‘wet’ use additional glycerin and vinegar to ‘loosen’ the putty formula.  Make a series of them with different levels of liquid ingredients.

To use:

Break a small amount of putty and mix with water until you get a foam. Massage onto wet skin and rinse with clean warm water.


Note on Shelf Life

I don’t know the shelf life but expect they will last quite a few months at least.  This can’t be guaranteed as I really don’t know your habits 🙂  There is a lot of glycerin in all of these cleansing putties to be able to preserve them.  If in doubt,  make small batches and use them quickly!  If you want to use a preservative please do, but this won’t necessarily guarantee they are less likely to spoil due to the large amounts of starches.





I was inspired by Lush’s Herbalism when formulating this one.  Herbalism is one of their ‘fresh face masks’ which means that you will find it in their cold section.  It has a use by date of around 4 months from manufacture, after which it is likely to start going off.  So keep that in mind when you make this version.

The original cleanser uses a large amount of ground almonds, kaolin clay and glycerin. They also use rice vinegar and a  decoction of rosemary and nettle, a combination, which cleanses and brightens the skin.  The vinegar would have a low pH, being an acid, and will gently exfoliate the skin.   If you squeeze the cleanser you can extract the oil from the almonds between your fingers, however, there is no oily residue when rinsing.  It also has rice bran which they say helps give gentle mechanical exfoliation. The bright green colour comes from chlorophyll water extracted from alfalfa. To scent they used a combination of blue chamomile, rose and sage essential oils and gardenia extract.

I have used Herbalism before, but that was a while ago, so I used my memory and looked at the texture and how it functions from images online and vlogger videos.  These demonstrated how it was used and the general texture when wet and dry.  From observation, I noticed that it needed some manipulation to make it into a paste and when wet had a milky and grainy texture.  I think the milkiness comes from the clay and the oils in the almonds. One vlogger said they didn’t appreciate the strong vinegar scent, which lead me to believe there was a notable amount of vinegar in the formulation.

So, how did I make it?

I didn’t want to go out and buy additional ingredients so I used ingredients I already had in my pantry and work-space. I had most of the ingredients except the chlorophyll liquid so I used chlorella powder which has a high level of chlorophyll; about 3-4%.  I also didn’t have gardenia extract so I left it out.

You will need:

2-3 bowls or containers


Spoons or things for stirring

Dinner/butter knife for stirring

The Formulation

1Ground almonds57.00
2Kaolin Clay15.00
3Ground Rice2.00
4Chlorella Powder4.00
5Rosemary and nettle decoction5
7Rice vinegar4.5
8Rose essential oil0.1
9Chamomile essential oil 0.2
10Sage essential oil0.2


I started by making a decoction.  A decoction is like a herbal tea. I used 2.5g dried rosemary leaves and 2.5g dry nettle leaves and popped them in a tea bag.  I let it steep in 95g of water and left to simmer in a double boiler for 20 minutes. I let the tea cool to room temperature.


  1. Combine stages 1-3, stir with a spoon and set aside
  2. Combine stages 4-10 in another container and stir the liquid well
  3. Mix stage 3 and 4 and stir

At the latter stages of stirring I used a strong dinner knife as it is a thick paste and hard to blend together.  Next, roll it out, cut it and put it in a container.

How to use

Simply break off a piece of the paste and roll it in your hand.  Add a small amount of water until it is a soft to loose paste and mix with your hands until the consistency is as above (far right). Massage onto wet skin and rinse with clean, warm water.

Note on shelf life

I don’t know how long this will last. I expect a few months at least due to the high levels of glycerin and vinegar, but I can not guarantee the shelf life as I haven’t tested it or observed it for any length of time. But it was a fun thing to make and has given me plenty of ideas for future projects.


Coffee scrubs are all the rage.  People can not get enough of them, but what is so special?  It is thought that coffee’s  many chemical compounds including caffeine, can be good for soothing and detoxifying the skin. It’s believed to be good for dark circles around the eyes as well as to even out the complexion.   Though, it has to be said the research into the effects of caffeine is mixed.

Probably one of the most popular coffee scrubs on the market is by Frank Cosmetics.  It is a combination of ground coffee beans, sweet almond oil, soy bean oil, sugar, salt and orange essential oil. It’s a pretty simple formulation, so I thought I would try and make one.

For this interpretation, fresh coffee grounds were used, but you can use ‘spent’ ones that have fully dried. Doing the latter allows for the smell of the fragrance or essential oils to come through, but the downside is there are going to be less of the chemical constituents that are supposed to be beneficial for the skin.  What is really nice about this scrub is the  oil content. There only needs to be a small amount to coat the coffee grains and when used it leaves a light film on the skin and little in the shower or bath tub.  A moisuriser is not needed after and the risk of slipping is relatively low in comparison to other scrubs. However,  it is a bit messy to use – coffee tends to get everywhere – and there is a risk that over time it could block the drain.  Despite this, it seems to be a hit for a lot of people.


Almond oil 45g 30%
Sugar 22.5 15%
Salt 22.5 15%
Coffee 58.5 39%
Orange Essential oil 1.5 1%




Simply mix all of the ingredients together and pop them into a container.  I used foil pouches to keep mine in as it looks like something coffee would be in.  Feel free to play around with this one, try adjusting the levels of all the ingredients to suit your own preference.

Rebecca xx

I have wanted to make soap from ghee for quite a while but didn’t know what the SAP value was, until it was pointed out ghee is listed in soap calc.  I also wanted to do something a bit different and drawing on the ghee, make this a bit more Indian themed.  Ghee is traditionally used in Indian cooking and adds great flavour to food. Luckily my local Indian cash and carry has many fantastic herbs and spices that I could choose from and they also carry ghee.

What is ghee? In short it is clarified butter made from buffalo or cow.  Clarified butter is ‘milk fat rendered from butter to separate the milk solids and water from the butterfat. Typically, it is produced by melting butter and allowing the components to separate by density.’ (Wiki) It is in no way suitable if you are a vegan or if you have a problem using milk in natural cosmetic product’s.

The only time I have made clarified butter is when I had a thing for Eggs Benedict and that called for Hollandaise Sauce. That fetish went on for a while, but that’s another story.

Going back to Ghee; it is supposed to be a great moisuriser when used on its own and in soap. The SAP value of ghee is 0.162.  At room temperature it’s pretty hard, this is due to its fatty acid content: (approximately) 28% palmitic, 12% stearic, 19%  oleic  and 4% lauric acid.  Ghee has a very nice scent – it is sweet and well, buttery.  However, from investigating online, people reported  an unfortunate scent to their soap when enough of it is used.  Based on this information I used only 10% in my trial in the hope that it will give a nice creamy bar, and minimal smell.  I am not using any fragrance in these soaps.

Tumeric Brightening Bar

Along with the ghee, I used coconut oil for cleansing and bubbles, and olive oil for moisturisation.  I try not to deviate too much from my normal base recipe when I try something new, so then I can see what value it brings to the end product. The following, is as usual, a very simple formulation for ghee soap, with the addition of some other ingredients that are commonly used in the Indian kitchen. I chose food grade tumeric powder, nigella or black cumin seeds and crushed coriander seeds.   Coming from a mixed background, with an Indian grandfather, I am also quite partial to using these spices in my food. I also like using blackseed oil in my own product range, for its healing properties. None of the bars contain fragrance or essential oils.

I did use Kewra water, in the hope that it might add some perfume or another quality to the soap.  For anyone unfamiliar, Kewra water is is an extract distilled from the flower of the pandanus plant.  It features a lot in Southern Asian cooking.  I think it smells a lot like rose water but with lightly more earthy and fruity undertones.

Healing Blackseed Bar

The Soap Base (makes 500g)



Ghee, Bovine (10%) 50g

Coconut Oiil (25%) 125g

Olive Oil (65) 325g

Water 190g

Sodium Hydroxide 69.77



Coriander Scrubby Soap


To approximately 100g of soap batter I added the following:

Soap 1: 8g crushed coriander

Soap 2: 7g Ground nigella sativa (Blackseed)

Soap3: 1g Tumeric powder

Soap 4: Plain

I would unmould after 2 days and  leave these to cure for 6 weeks.


The Verdict:

I thoroughly enjoyed making these soaps which are creamy and luxurious. Halfway through the curing I did smell them.  The plain one (shown on the right) did have a slight eau de vomit, if I am completely honest. The blackseed bar was the best, as the peppery scent of the black cumin seems to have a deodorising effect. In short they do smell a little bit but I think the scent is so light it can be disguised with the right kind of essential oil or fragrance blend.

Also, to add, the plain one has discolouration and went from being a creamy white to a pinkish hue.


When I formulated the Gentle Honey Cleanser I was in no doubt that it was self preserving and stable. I had been researching preservation for a very long blog post at the time, focusing on various strategies for maintaining a fresh and clean product.

I had also been reading about honey and how it is used in cosmetic products, primarily because I wanted to copy Lush’s  ‘Fair Trade Honey’, one of my favourite products of all time.    Looking at the ingredients list for this product, it seemed like a faff and would include heating the product or some of the ingredients.  That didn’t appeal to me.  However, a combination of researching preservation and honey created a light bulb moment where it was possible to create a similar product that would be cold processed, super simple, and self preserving.  The theory was that if all the ingredients are self preserving and included at the right level (or ratio), then the end product would be too.

I put the formulation on the market.  It has been a best seller for me. However it has been controversial.  Straight away I had questions about preservation.  People, including those that bought the product, questioned the lack of preservative.  Some people publicly challenged the formulation and implied that it was ‘unsafe’.

There is also a lot of misinformation about the use of a preservatives.  There are many people that use the ‘just in case’  method where they use a conventional preservative in a product that  does not need one, this can be due to limited knowledge, lack of confidence or because they don’t, for whatever reason, want testing done. Over preserving can be as dangerous as under- preserving.  There are are also people that think any amount of water in a product means it needs a preservative. This is not the case.

I have always told people they need to take responsibility for their products, especially if they are bringing them to market and advise that I can not comment on their business model; if they feel the need for a preservative then they make that judgement call, they need to do their research and make a decision.  I do advise that to be safe they need the necessary testing.

Due to the misinformation and concerns raised, I decided to get a third party safety assessor to look over my formulation.  I could at last put this issue to rest. In the EU we are required to keep a Product Information File as part of the European Union Cosmetic Regulations.  A large part of this is the Cosmetic Product Safety Report (CPSR). This is a detailed analysis of the product and all the ingredients, packaging and how they are likely to interact with the end user.  The safety assessor has to be suitably qualified in their field. They also advise on whether a challenge test and stability test is needed.  They will not complete a CPSR if it needs either or both of these tests.

I sent the full formulation, including methods and packaging advice to my safety assessor and asked her whether it required a preservative and a preservative efficacy test (PET.)  Her advice was that due to the self preserving nature of the ingredients and the percentage they are in the product, it did not need a challenge test and did not need a preservative.  She would be able to do a complete CPSR on this product which would allow it to be bought to market pretty quickly.

This was just as I thought, but it was good to get an independent opinion and I wish I had done so sooner.

If there are any people who purchased the Gentle Honey Cleanser, and would like to get a CPSR to allow them to sell in the EU, please contact me and I can give you my safety assessors details.