How to make Soap, Hot Press Style – Workshop Notes

These notes are designed to follow on from my Soap Making Workshops. If you have not attended a workshop you can still read through the notes, then follow the recipe and instructions to make your own soap. Make sure you follow the recipe exactly, so all the caustic soda/ lye is used up and your soap is safe to use on your skin. Feel free to ask any questions if you’re unsure about anything.

Equipment
• Slow cooker or ‘crock pot’.

• Scales
• Bucket/suitable container for mixing.
• Measuring jugs
• A stick blender (immersion blender)
• Spatula
• Baking parchment paper
• Loaf tin or jelly moulds for soap shapes – silicone moulds are great.
• Optional Extras – essential oils to fragrance and flowers to decorate

Safety
• Wear professional safety equipment, to protect yourself when the sodium hydroxide is used – goggles, gloves and a mask are essential once you begin using the sodium hydroxide.
• Use solid stainless steel or polypropylene for mixing sodium hydroxide in.
• Ensure you are in a well ventilated space so you are not breathing in the fumes from the sodium hydroxide.
• Make the soap at a time where you will not be distracted and there are no children or pets around.
• Use the exact amounts in the recipe to ensure all the sodium hydroxide is used up when the soap is complete and ready to use (see below for how to tweak the recipe)*

Soap Recipe

  • Spring Water – 380g (do not use tap water)
  • Sodium hydroxide (caustic soda/ lye) – 137.40g
  • Olive oil – 650g (do not use pomice olive oil)
  • Shea butter – 80g (for creaminess)
  • Coconut oil (not fractionated) – 270g (for bubbles in your soap)
  • Orange essential oil – 30g
  • Calendula (marigold) petals – hand full.

Instructions
• Prepare the loaf tin or container by lining it with parchment paper – if you are using silicon moulds they won’t need lining.
• Weigh all the ingredients out.

• Put the oils & shea butter in the slow cooker first on a low heat so they gently melt.
• At this point make sure all your safety gear is on and there are no distractions, then in a separate container, add sodium hydroxide (caustic soda/ lye) to water, this causes an exothermic reaction, making the mixture heat up very quickly. Never add water to sodium hydroxide as it will be too concentrated initially and could bubble up. Because of the fumes that are produced, at this point, I often do it outside if there is a safe and suitable space. DO NOT GET THE MIXTURE ONTO YOU!
• Stir the sodium hydroxide and water, initially it appears cloudy, wait for it to become clear and then add it to the oils & shea butter in the slow cooker.
• Use the stick blender to blend everything until it leaves a ‘trace’. This means, when you drip the mixture you can still see the impression it leaves behind in the mixture.

This is the point that you would pour the soap if you were making cold pressed soap.

For hot pressed soap, you leave the mixture in the slow cooker, on a low heat with the lid on for 15-20 minutes.

Set a timer so you remember to return and check the mix.

When you return, the mixture looks like the fat has separated from the liquid. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to mix everything together again, and then leave it for another 15-20 minutes.

When you return this time, the mix looks like vaseline or apple sauce, and will have lots of air through it. Stir everything together again.

The mixture is still very hot so take care.

Turn off the heat on the slow cooker.

• You can now add in the essential oil** and blend  it evenly through the mixture (optional).
• Sprinkle calendula petals into the mixture and stir through evenly (optional) (calendula / marigold petals keep their colour when added to the mix, others usually turn brown).
• Pour into the loaf tin/ soap moulds. Decorate with dried petals (optional).
• Leave for 24 – 48 hours to allow the soap to set before cutting into slices or whatever shapes you want. If you have used silicon moulds pop the soap out.
• The soap is now ready to use.

The Science bit – the ingredients go through a chemical process called saponification to turn into soap. The acid (in this case the oils) mix with the sodium hydroxide. This usually takes between 24-48 hours but the hot process method speeds this up by keeping the mix heated and it is not necessary to cure for weeks, it is usually ready to use in 24 hours. During the saponification process glycerol is released from the fatty acids allowing them to combine with the hydroxide ions creating soap. The release of glycerol results in glycerin in the finished soap.

**Essential oils do not usually hold their therapeutic benefits in the soap making process, but they are a natural way to bring a fragrance to the soap. I usually use citrus or lavender essential oils in mine. Click to check out this interview with Robert Tisserand on what happens to essential oils in soap making.

*Recipe adjustments
If you want to adjust the recipe or design your own, then I recommend using the online tool:  Soap Calc** – this is because each ingredient has it’s own saponification value which means it will need a specific amount of sodium hydroxide in the soap. You can enter your recipe into the tool and it works out for you the correct ratio of ingredients to ensure all the sodium hydroxide is used up during the soap making process. For example if you want to replace the olive oil for apricot oil in the recipe above everything else will need adjusting to make sure the final product is safe for your skin.

Super Fat – if you hear this term, it means there is more fats and oils in the recipe than will be used in the saponification process, which means the final product leaves your skin feeling nourished and moisturised. This recipe has a super fat value, and you should notice that the soap does not dry your skin or leave it feeling stripped.

**Click here to check out this YouTube video on using the tool Soapcalc.

How to make Soap, Cold Press Style – Workshop Notes

These notes are designed to follow on from my Soap Making Workshops. If you have not attended a workshop you can still read through the notes, then follow the recipe and instructions to make your own soap. Make sure you follow the recipe exactly, so all the caustic soda/ lye is used up and your soap is safe to use on your skin. Feel free to ask any questions if you’re unsure about anything. Please note that using the cold press method means you will have to wait 6 weeks for your soap to be ready to use. Click here for the Hot Press method which means you can use your soap within 48 hours.

Equipment
• Scales
• Bucket
• Measuring jugs
• A stick blender (immersion blender)
• Spatula
• Baking parchment paper.
• Loaf tin or jelly moulds for soap shapes – silicone moulds are great.
• Optional Extras – essential oils and flowers to decorate

Safety
• Wear professional safety equipment, to protect yourself when the sodium hydroxide (caustic soda/ lye)  is used – goggles, gloves and a mask are essential once you begin using the sodium hydroxide.
• Use solid stainless steel or polypropylene for mixing sodium hydroxide in.
• Ensure you are in a well ventilated space so you are not breathing in the fumes from the sodium hydroxide.
• Make the soap at a time where you will not be distracted and there are no children or pets around.
• Use the exact amounts in the recipe to ensure all the sodium hydroxide is used up when the soap is complete and ready to use (see below for how to tweak the recipe)*

Soap Recipe Ingredients (use exact measurements shown):

  • Spring Water – 397g (do not use tap water)
  • Sodium hydroxide (caustic soda/ lye) – 166g
  • Olive oil – 775g (do not use pomice olive oil)
  • Shea butter – 75g (for creaminess)
  • Coconut oil (not fractionated) – 350g (for bubbles in your soap)
  • Orange essential oil – 22g
  • Calendula (marigold) petals – hand full.

Instructions:
• Prepare the loaf tin or container by lining it with parchment paper – if you are using silicone moulds they won’t need lining.
• Weigh all the ingredients out.
• Mix the oil and butter ingredients first (melt the coconut & shea butter in a double boiler first, this means a separate pan with the butters in, on top of a pan of water, so that they are heated very gently by the steam from the water, rather than directly on the heat).
• At this point make sure all your safety gear is on and there are no distractions, then add sodium hydroxide to water and stir, this causes an exothermic reaction, making the mixture heat up very quickly. Never add water to sodium hydroxide as it will be too concentrated initially and could bubble up. Because of the fumes that are produced, at this point, I often do it outside if there is a safe and suitable space. DO NOT GET THE MIXTURE ONTO YOU!
• Initially the mix of sodium hydroxide and water is cloudy, wait for about 5 minutes for it to become clear and then combine it with the oils & shea butter.
• Blend with the stick blender to blend everything until it leaves a ‘trace’. This means, when you drip the mixture you can still see the impression it leaves behind in the mixture. Ensure you dunk the blender fully into the mix, so it doesn’t splash anywhere.
• At this point add in the essential oil** and blend a little more (optional).
• Sprinkle calendula petals into the mixture and stir through evenly (optional) (calendula / marigold petals keep their colour when added to the mix, others usually turn brown).
• Pour into the loaf tin/ soap moulds. Decorate with dried flower petals (optional).
• Leave for 24 – 48 hours to allow the soap to set before cutting into slices or whatever shapes you want. If you have used silicone moulds pop the soap out.
• Store the soap in a cool, dark, well ventilated place so it is exposed to the air and wait for 6 weeks before using. Use the Hot Press Soap Making Notes to make a soap that is ready to use in 24 hours.

The Science bit – the ingredients go through a chemical process called saponification to turn into soap. The acid (in this case the oils) mix with the sodium hydroxide. This usually takes between 24-48 hours. During the saponification process glycerol is released from the fatty acids allowing them to combine with the hydroxide ions creating soap. The release of glycerol results in glycerin in the finished soap. The soap is then left for 6 weeks to ‘cure’.

**Essential oils do not usually hold their therapeutic benefits in the soap making process, but they are a natural way to bring a fragrance to the soap. I usually use citrus or lavender essential oils in mine.

*Recipe adjustments:
If you want to adjust the recipe or design your own, then I recommend using the online tool:  Soap Calc*** – this is because each ingredient has its own saponification value which means it will need a specific amount of sodium hydroxide in the soap. You can enter your recipe into the tool and it works out for you the correct ratio of ingredients to ensure all the sodium hydroxide is used up during the soap making process. For example if you want to replace the olive oil for apricot oil in the recipe above, everything else will need adjusting to make sure the final product is safe for your skin.

Super Fat – if you hear this term, it means there is more fats and oils in the recipe than will be used in the saponification process, which means the final product leaves your skin feeling nourished and moisturised. This recipe has a super fat value, and you should notice that the soap does not dry your skin or leave it feeling stripped.

Click here to check my events page to view up and coming workshops, or get in touch to request a new workshop.

***Click here to check out this YouTube video on using the tool Soapcalc.

Essential Oils, Nature and Education – Fields Studies Council Projects

My workshops involve making aromatherapy and skincare products using essential oils and other plant derived ingredients. I choose to run them in settings that have a connection to nature, preferably with plants that yield essential oils. I feel it is important to know where the ingredients come from, who looks after them and how. This in itself can tell you a lot about the plants properties, qualities and help understand why it might be useful for supporting health and wellbeing. It also highlights how precious the plants are, when you realise the quantity of plant material needed and the huge amount of work that goes into providing a tiny little bottle of essential oil, you cannot help but respect it and the way you use it more deeply. A lot goes into every single drop and it makes a difference if what goes into it is love, care and consideration for the all including the environment!

I have been running courses and workshops in association with the Field Studies Council since 2019, this is an organisation who have been providing outdoor education since 1943 and are dedicated to taking care of our natural environment.

I feel honoured to be working with them and highly recommend visiting any of their stunning sites which are situated in areas of natural beauty all over the United Kingdom. In most cases you can stay onsite, with meals provided and they offer a huge range of natural history and art and craft courses. It is a gorgeous opportunity to go away for a weekend and connect with nature. My workshops are part of a new initiative focusing on health and wellbeing and will be offered at a variety of centres and also online from 2021:

Orielton Field Studies Centre, Pembrokeshire

FSC Orielton, in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Weekend workshops take place at their impressive Georgian mansion secluded in 120 hectares of diverse habitats including woodland, grassland, meadows and freshwater.

Millport Fields Studies Centre, Isle of Cumbrae

FSC Millport, located on the Isle of Cumbrae on the Firth of Clyde in Scotland. You will need to take a ferry to get here, but it’s well worth the adventure, as the nature surrounding this island is spectacular.

Flatford Mill Field Centre, Suffolk

FSC Flatford Mill, set amidst the quintessentially English countryside of the Dedham Vale in Suffolk, commonly referred to as Constable Country. These are usually arranged as individual day workshops, but set consecutively so you can join all events on offer and stay on site to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre, Devon

FSC Slapton Ley on the coast of South Devon – an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, located on a nature reserve and a short walk to the beach.

Click here to see the full course schedule on my website.

When you can’t see the Roses for the Weeds – Appreciation is the Key!

Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of working at Hever Castle, in Kent, during their summer event: ‘Hever In Bloom’ -it’s a week in their calendar when the gardens are in full bloom and I gave daily talks and ran workshops for visitors about essential oils.

I can not help but appreciate my surroundings here and each day I enjoyed walking around the walled rose garden that smells so heavenly in the warm sunshine. And here I am reminded of an anecdote on the importance of appreciation that Natalie Benhayon shared previously at a presentation for women, it goes something like this…

You have the most beautiful rose garden, you’ve put lots of work into it leading up to the summer and there is an entire rainbow of coloured flowers on show, delicious scents that make you swoon and an abundance of wild life enjoying the full blooms in all their glory. It’s a stunning sight and everyone that passes by is impressed and can’t help but enjoy it.

But – there has to be a ‘but’ – and that ‘but’ is a very small patch of weeds, tiny infact, just a few sprouts, but they’re really annoying you, so when anyone pays you a compliment about how beautiful your rose garden is, you respond with “Oh, but look at those weeds, I really need to get on top of them”, and when the person responds with “What weeds? I hadn’t noticed any.” all you can do is remain focused on the weeds: “Oh they’re all over the place, those darn weeds!”. And, yet, the garden is breath takingly beautiful. Yes, there are a few weeds to deal with, and if they were ignored they may begin to affect the beauty in the rose garden, but by bringing all the focus to them, you miss out on the beauty and joy in the garden – When you can’t see the roses for the weeds, it seems even a few weeds have taken over the show…

It’s worth considering how much we bring appreciation into our daily life. How often do we bat away a compliment by playing it down, ignoring it, completely denying it, or possibly admitting it with a ‘Yes, but…’ deflection. What would happen if we actually accepted that compliment and realised the importance of showing and sharing our natural, unique and lovely qualities? We are taught to not blow our own trumpet, but what if the more we blow our own trumpet, the more others will realise it’s ok to blow theirs and before long we’ll have a full blowing orchestra of people shining. The music is then enjoyed by many, just as the beauty of the rose garden is, and we too can enjoy and cherish ourselves with out holding back or playing small.

If it feels a little awkward to accept a compliment and enjoy the rose garden in full (while still taking care of the weeds) then we can start to bring appreciation into our daily life. This can be as simple as taking a moment in between the day’s tasks and recognising the completion before rushing onto the next task. We can easily get caught in the overwhelm of ‘things to do’ but if we were to appreciate each little step along the way, then the whole day doesn’t need to pass by under the pressure of trying to get a ‘to do’ list done, with a view to only appreciating and feeling satisfied if we complete it -which never happens as the ‘to do’ list is always never ending!

Appreciation can then begin to really bloom, with our rose garden showing the depth of the beauty that resides in us naturally, what ever kind of day we are having.

‘A rose by any other name would smell as sweet’, but there is no trying to be sweet, the sweetness is just there, so take a moment to stop and enjoy it.

If you feel like you would like more time to stop and smell the roses, you might like to join ‘A Rose Retreat’ in beautiful Bulgaria, beneath the Balkan mountains, in the rose valley – an opportunity to deepen your understanding of appreciation in a place that will constantly reflect this. Click here for more details.

 

Plant to Perfume – Natural Perfume and Aromatherapy Workshops

Natural Perfume Making Workshops, make your own unique & completely natural, organic roll-on oil perfume, with the finest quality essential oils.

Stop, breathe gently, smile and appreciate.

There are so many beautiful scents in the air to appreciate, especially in summer, walking down the street or through the park, the air is perfumed every now and then by some flower or other coming into bloom. It always makes me stop, breathe gently, smile and connect back to my body and how I’m feeling… nature has such a sweet way of reminding us of simplicity, joy and bringing us back to the present moment.

This is one of the many reasons I love to run my events at beautiful, nature filled venues, so that participants get to appreciate the magic of the plants that yield the essential oils we then use in perfume making, and the perfumes more likely to support in the same way nature does.

Some of the amazing places I run workshops, courses and retreats are as follows:

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Scotland, an absolutely stunning venue in the centre of Glasgow. The workshops usually take place inside the South Wing of Kibble Palace glass house which has a ‘Canary Island’ theme, so the temperature is kept at 18 degrees. I find it gets too hot in Summer and too cold in Winter, so workshops are usually in Spring or Autumn, although there is an indoor venue on site too which can be used. The Botanic Gardens are free to enter all year round. For more details on the beautiful venue see the website: www.glasgowbotanicgardens.com

Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Gardens, currently I run workshops at RHS Rosemoor in Devon and at RHS Wisley in Surrey. They are usually day workshops, which include lunch and refreshments, and allow you some time to enjoy the exquisite gardens. I usually run them in July, when the rose gardens are still in full bloom.

Upper Vobster Farmin Somerset – Plant to Perfume is part of the weekend retreat I run at this heavenly space in North Somerset. It is possible to come for the morning of the retreat for this workshop only, but I would recommend giving yourself the whole weekend to enjoy the alchemy on offer. Upper Vobster Farm is a beautiful country property lovingly restored and created to help you take a rest from the stresses of life, somewhere where you can allow yourself to have a moment to be yourself again. They have 60 acres of land, including a 6 acre wood, which is a nature conservation area and preservation area for birds of prey. Nature, the woods and the sounds of the birds will make you stop in your tracks and feel the magic around. As well as the buzzards you may well see the resident kingfishers on the stream or by one of the ponds, or hear the woodpecker at work in the ancient oak tree. Tricia Nicholson, the owner of the farm with her husband Michael, has a fondness for roses, as do I, so this retreat takes place early in July, to catch the final bloom of the many roses planted all over the farm. In fact, this event was set to offer an alternative to the Rose Retreat I run in Bulgaria, as I know not everyone is able to travel or make that investment.

Lavender Perfume Workshop

Mayfield Lavender Farm, in Surrey, just outside London. The scent at this venue will be obvious before you even arrive at the farm, as the fresh, floral smell is carried in the air beyond the field. You will also be blessed with the truly stunning sight of the iridescent lavender as well as the gentle humming sound of bees. It is a truly inspiring setting for learning about essential oils and making your own unique perfumes, in the midst of the beautiful purple flowers under the gazebo featured in this image.

Seckford Hall in Suffolk – with its enchanting history & glorious gardens, a 16th-century listed country house with a unique combination of comfort & luxury, completely steeped in Tudor charm & history, located in 34 acres of Suffolk countryside. This place  is bound to bring a sense of the past into your perfume.

Borde Hill Garden in West Sussex – the workshops here have a focus on health & wellbeing and include a short walk through the gardens covering how the aromatic plants were used in Tudor times, with specific reference to the physician from Borde Hill who treated Henry VIII. As well as a stunning Italian Garden with aromatic herbs it also has rose gardens with over 750 David Austin Roses.

Kate Langdale’s Flower Studio in Brighton, Sussex – my absolute favourite florist. The reason I’m so in love with this place is because of the unusual scented varieties of many plants and flowers she supplies, many of which yield their own essential oil. Not only does she have some incredibly beautiful scented roses (quite rare in florist these days) but I’ve manage to purchase pink peppercorns, chamomile and scented geranium leaves in the past. It is a joy to be surrounded by such a gorgeous array of seasonal flowers when making our bespoke perfume blends. The flower studio is usually a venue available for workshops by request, and only during Spring, Summer and Autumn seasons at Winter can be a little chilly.

Field Studies Council – I run a series of workshops and courses all over the United Kingdom, in association with the Fields Studies Council, they have 28 centres all based in and around stunningly beautiful natural environments, some with accommodation on site. Dates for 2021 will be announced soon. There are also online courses available. Click here for more details on my work with the Fields Studies Council and workshops held at Field Study Centres around the UK including Devon and Suffolk.

Click here for full details on up and coming Plant to Perfume workshops and other Aromatherapy Events. Spaces are limited so please book early to avoid disappointment.

For more information on what happens at a Plant to Perfume workshop, read my blog post on Natural Perfume Making – it also gives you instructions on how to make your own perfume with essential oils.

I also run Plant to Perfume workshops for private groups and parties by request, they are a really lovely opportunity to be with friends, family and even colleagues while enjoying making your own beautifully scented perfume to take away. I am always happy to arrange events at new locations or suggest some in your area.

For a little inspiration on breathing gently and appreciation, check out the free meditations on Unimed Living health & wellbeing website.

How to Make Your Own Natural Oil Perfume and Aromatherapy Blend

Here are the notes from my Natural Perfume & Aromatherapy Workshop, for those of you who would like to make your own unique, natural fragrance, but are unable to make the workshop in person.

Introduction – It’s actually very simple to make your own natural perfume as there is no need to use any alcohol, fixers or preservatives, you can just use natural essential oils for the scent, and a nut or seed oil as the base. It really is that simple, and the rest is just play time.

So this workshop/ blog post is really about introducing you to the endless array of possibilities involved in making your own natural perfume and to let you experiment and get confident with the ingredients. There are so many amazing essential oils to choose from and the real beauty is that they actually have a huge array of benefits, way beyond the scent that you create -which in itself can have dramatic effects on the way you feel.

 

How to make your own natural perfume blend

Container ~you can make your perfume blend in any container you like, there are lots of lovely bottles to play with, I’m often searching for old vintage perfume bottles in antique shops, or waiting for friends to finish there branded fragrance so i can use the bottle but I find using a ‘rolette’ bottle (as pictured) is very practical. It comprises of a small glass bottle (10 or 15ml), a roller ball top (that releases a little oil across the skin when you pass it over), and a cap.

Lasting effect ~Natural perfume does not have the same staying power as an alcohol based fragrance, so you can carry these little bottles around in your handbag or pocket and retouch the scent throughout the day.

Recipe – for a 5% blend strength for 10ml bottle

  • 10ml base oil e.g. apricot or jojoba ~you can choose just one or blend as many as you like.
  • 0.5ml essential oils (10 drops) ~you can choose just one or combine as many as you like (see below for how to choose essential oils).

Essential oils are very concentrated and a 5% blend strength should be plenty strong enough. However, if you have sensitive skin or are making a blend for children or someone with fragile skin, then I would drop the percentage to 1% or 2.5% (2 or 5 drops in 10ml).

Instructions

perfume bottles

Measure the quantities of base oil (eg. olive or almond) and pour directly into the bottle, then drop approximately 10 drops of essential oils directly into the bottle, fix the roller ball cap and lid and give it a shake to disperse the oils evenly. If you’re using resinous essential oils like myrrh or benzoin, you will need give the bottle a shake each time you use it as they can sink to the bottom.

Make a label for the bottle so you don’t forget what it contains.

Ingredients

Essential oils and base oils have a multitude of health and wellbeing benefits, so you can either design your perfume with the focus completely on the fragrance you want and then check out the added health benefits, or vice versa: choose oils for their properties and let the scent come together that way.

Choosing Base oils

Apricot oil

I like to use cold pressed vegetable oils as they are more natural with more nutrients but they can have varying degrees of smell to them so I go for something with a light scent so as not to interfere too much with the fragrance. I would recommend almond, apricot or jojoba. You can use ‘refined’ oils which have usually been heat treated to high temperatures to remove the scent, in this case olive oil would be just great.

For help choosing a base oil click here for my webshop.

Choosing your blend

To make your unique fragrance, you need to choose the essential oils you want and the number of drops of each to use. Use some ‘scent tester strips‘ or unscented tissues to put a drop of the oils you like on, and then see how they smell together. To avoid wasting too many drops of precious oils, use separate strips or tissues for each oil you try and write the name of the oil on them, then put the strips together under your nose to see if you like the combination. If you add an oil that you don’t like with the others, you take out the strip, and try something else, rather than have to start again.

Now the play time really takes off, you might find that you put 3 oils together eg. rose, lavender & myrrh, you like the smell of the lavender and rose  but you can’t really smell the myrrh, in this case you could try 2 or 3 drops of myrrh as it is more subtle in scent compared to the others.
It pays to be organised here, so that when you have your perfume ready on the strips, you know which oils you want and how many drops of each to add to the bottle. Depending on your ratio you can go a couple over or a couple under the 10 drops, the drops sizes can vary anyway so it is just a guide.

If you only have one or a few essential oils to play around with, then this is not a disadvantage, start with a couple of your favourites and build from there.

Keep it simple. There are so many possibilities and different essential oils to choose from that it can feel a bit overwhelming, don’t make it complicated. Try using 3 oils to begin with and pick a top, middle & base note, this is a good formula used in perfumery to give a well rounded scent (see my previous blog for details on top middle & base notes). If you start to get confused get some fresh air, and come back to it.

Don’t aim for perfection, the magic of using these natural ingredients means the blend will change with time, different people will pick up different scent notes, and when you wear it on your skin it will unfold throughout the day, so just trust when you’ve put something together that it will be great.

The following blogs will help you to choose which essential oils to put into your fragrance:

The Art of Blending Essential Oils

A List of the most popular Essential Oils, their Uses and Cautions

Blending Essential Oils using Top, Middle and Base Notes.

 

Workshop

If you would like to attend a Natural Perfume Making Workshop in person, or arrange one for a group then click here for further details including up and coming dates.

natural perfume making workshop      IMG_4026

Recipe inspirations and practical uses for the ‘rolette’ bottle:

You can use this exact same principle to make oils for health related purposes that  still smell amazing. I have used the 5% blend strength in the recipes, but if you are using on children, people with a delicate disposition or sensitive skin I would use 2.5% (5 drops in total).

See if you can spot the top, middle & base notes in these examples:

Nail oil ~apply on the skin just before the nails begin to grow, this area supports healthy nail growth, as it is where the new nail is being formed.

nail oil

Nail oil recipe, this for a 5% blend strength (10 drops of essential oil in 10ml base oil).

Ingredients

  • 5ml organic macadamia oil*
  • 5ml organic almond oil*
  • 4 drops of myrrh essential oil (helps to heal dry, hard and cracked skin)
  • 3 drops of rose essential oil (deeply nurturing, nourishing and hydrating)
  • 3 drops of mandarin essential oil (great for the skin and gives the scent a lift)

*If you can’t use nut oils due to allergies then I would suggest using organic apricot, olive or argan oil instead.

 

Anxiety, stress, panic attacks ~with a soothing, calming blend you can roll across your wrists or even under your nose as a preventative or when you feel symptoms coming on.

Ingredients

  • 10ml organic olive oil
  • 4 drops of neroli essential oil (soothes & calms nervous system)
  • 3 drops of lavender essential oil (relaxing, clearing & calming)
  • 3 drop of frankincense essential oil (supports breathing gently)

Hay fever ~ with a soothing, calming blend you can roll across your chest or even under your nose as a preventative or when you feel symptoms.

Chamomile

Ingredients

  • 10ml organic apricot oil
  • 5 drops of benzoin essential oil (soothing, comforting)
  • 2 drops of chamomile essential oil (anti-allergy, anti-inflammatory, soothing, calming, helps with itching)
  • 3 drop of orange essential oil (to give the scent a lift)

Nausea, morning sickness ~ with a soothing, calming blend you can roll across your wrists, tummy or even under your nose as a preventative or when you feel symptoms. The recipe here is for a 2% blend strength which is suitable in pregnancy, but you can increase it to 5% if it is for perfume use.

Ingredients

  • 10ml organic apricot or olive oil
  • 2 drops of neroli essential oil (soothing, relaxing, calms nervous tension)
  • 1 drops of cardamom essential oil (refreshing, soothing, calming)
  • 1 drop of spearmint essential oil (refreshing, soothes feelings of nausea)

Colds & sinus problems ~with a blend of powerfully clearing respiratory oils you can inhale the blend or roll across your chest & neck, e.g. eucalyptus, peppermint, thyme.

IMG_4499

Ingredients

  • 10ml organic olive oil
  • 4 drops of eucalyptus essential oil (clears respiratory system, very anti-microbial)
  • 2 drops of peppermint essential oil (clearing & calming)
  • 4 drops of thyme essential oil (powerful anti-microbial, clears mucus and great for chesty coughs)

The Beauty and Simplicity of a Hand Massage

Laura and Neave hand massage 2

I decided to write this blog on hand massage as it is such a simple thing to do with friends, family and even colleagues. It can be done anywhere, at a friends house, a coffee shop, even in bed, it’s a great thing to do if visiting some one in hospital or who is bed bound, and you can take as little or as long as you like, even 2 or 3 minutes on each hand would feel lovely. Although it’s such a simple exercise, it can be deeply relaxing, connecting and supportive as well as fun. So here are some tips on how to give a hand massage: Choose a cream, balm or oil blend to use with your partner, you can use my recipes in previous blog posts to make your own cream, balm or massage oil or just use a little olive oil or hand cream, what ever you have handy. Make sure your partner likes the scent of the product you are using, if you have a few options it’s great to get them involved in the choice as smelling the oils/cream already brings them in touch with their body and what they are feeling.

Preparation: The most important thing to prepare here is you! hm

Ensure that you are in a comfortable position that supports you, and does not compromise your body, ensure your partners position is the same.  Be aware you need easy access to their hands and ideally forearms with out stretching, and remember to have your oil somewhere you can easily reach it. You might like to use cushions, move furniture around, get a table for the oil or ask your partner to adjust themselves a little for you, it’s worth taking the time to make the space supportive so you don’t feel stuck half way through with an ache (make sure you adjust if you do).  I usually place a cushion or pillow on their lap with a towel over it so they can rest their arms across it, and only the towel will get oily, but you may need to adapt depending on your partners position and movability.  It’s important to communicate with your partner, to let them know what you are doing so they feel supported and included. Just running through what you’re doing and why, so they know what to expect is enough. You may like to ask if you can remove watches or jewellery, I usually work around rings.

Hand massage workshop

Connection: I start by placing my hands as gently as I can over theirs and give them a few moments to relax. Don’t rush, even if you only have a little time, it will make all the difference if you start by being still and just take a few moments to breath gently in and out through your nose (see here for gentle breath meditation technique). If you notice your partner is very tense or holding their arms very stiff, just encourage them to let go of the tension, ask them to relax their shoulders to allow the hands to let go, if they are very stiff you can ask them to make their arms go floppy.

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Techniques: I then choose one hand to begin massaging, and apply oil to my hands and then massage the oil over the area I intend to cover (so forearm too if this is appropriate and accessible). You can massage both hands at the same time, but I like to do one so I can lift, manoeuvre and support the hand and wrist with the free hand, although I do start and finish by connecting with both hands. I start with long oval circles over the forearms to get the cream/oil applied evenly, I make the moves firm but gentle, flowing and I always make the circles anti-clockwise -a friend once described this as a releasing motion because when you loosen a screw it’s always an anti-clockwise movement, and it is clockwise to tighten it up.

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I like to massage each little finger as delicately as possible, hold their hand and do little circles with it to loosen the wrist, and press into the palm with my thumb in circles. One of my favourite moves is to sandwich the hand between my hands and to very, very slowly slide them off. There are lots of techniques to experiment with, so just do what you feel, stay focused on what you are doing, and connected with your partner. Be playful, ask them what they like and see what you like.

 

Being very gentle does not mean that the massage is less effective than pushing hard,  it feels like I’m allowing and encouraging their body to learn to relax itself, rather than forcing it to with pressure.  If the body can relax itself, then it is more likely to be able to continue this state.

Laura and Neave hand massage 1

Preciousness: As you are face to face to your partner it is easy to talk to them, but keep the conversation related to the moment, how they feel and what their body is saying.  Sometimes just the touch or eye contact is enough, in my experience they often close their eyes and become deeply relaxed. This can be a really precious time with your partner who ever it is.  In the below image I am with my niece, we were only massaging for a couple of minutes but you can tell from the shot it was a magical moment, she also started to give massage afterwards on others and followed my moves perfectly, very beautiful : )

Accessories: A little addition to the treatment that I have come up with recently to support letting the tension in the shoulders go, is using heated healing eye pillows, I just warm them up on the radiator or in a towel warmer, and place them over the persons shoulders before I begin, one on each side across the bits that get very tense and hard – they feel gorgeous! You can buy them from the Lighthouse in Frome, Somerset, UK and from Feather Light Productions website in Australia who also sell a body wrap that I’m about to try out as this will cover the entire shoulder area.  Tension across our shoulders is very common and we can all feel the release as soon as we let go of that tension, so it’s a great way to support this.

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I have been working on community projects for the last couple of years mainly involving hand massages and have had such great feedback from the clients that I have started developing workshops and bringing hand massage to many other situations including at work and home. Most of the photos were taken at a workshop I ran recently, during the time everyone one was giving hand massage (with balms they had just created themselves) the entire room felt completely still, it was absolutely gorgeous.

If you have just 5 minutes with a friend to try this out, I’m sure you will enjoy and feel the difference in your hands and how relaxed you feel. We can be very careless and rough with our hands, so it’s a great way to bring a care and attention back to a part of our body that we use so often.

With thanks to Neave, Molly, Jean, Louisa, Ellen, Kathie, Sonia, Alison, Betty, Heather & David ~ all starring in the photos above.

You might also like to read my blogs on Taking care of your hands, Essential oils in hand & nail care and Myrrh essential oil- supporting connection with my wrists.

Essential Oils on Film

Sorry film footage is no longer available to view, hope to update soon…

‘Sunday Brunch’ Channel 4 TV show appearance, Sunday 2nd November, 2014.

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On live TV, sharing with presenters, Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer, some useful information about using essential oils including:

How essential oils are made by steam distillation:

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How herb & spice oils support digestion,

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Why it’s important to enjoy the scent,

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Why rose essential oil is so expensive and how wintergreen essential oil is great for helping muscles to relax.

 

How To Make Your Own Natural Face and Body Cream

rose creamsThese are the notes from one of the workshops I regularly run, with instruction on how to make your own completely natural face & body cream, with out chemical emulsifiers or preservatives. Please ask any questions as these notes are designed to go with a practical session, but they should be clear enough for you to re-create your own version of this yummy cream yourself…

Introduction – During the workshop we will go through the process together of making your own completely  organic, natural face and body cream, without using any chemicals, emulsifiers or preservatives.

cream 3

When the cream is ready, and you have your own pot to take away, you can choose to mix in essential oils or not, and if so, you can choose one or a few different essential oils to mix in, and a blend strength that suits its intended use (up to 1% for the face, and up to 5% for the body). See blend strength chart in my previous blog for more details.

If you decide to make your own cream after the workshop, then you can follow the recipe used, but you may like to vary the ingredients a little according to your skin type, or to get a specific effect.

Just be aware that you need to keep the ratios of different types of products the same -so keep the amount of water, oil, butter and wax products used the same.  There is room for a little variation here, you just need to be aware that if you use more water products, the cream will have a thinner consistency, and if you use more solids then it will be thicker in consistency, so you can tailor this to your desire too.

The recipe we will use is for a simple cream involving no chemical emulsifier.  Most cosmetic creams will use an emulsifier of some kind -usually emulsifying wax.  This is because to make a cream, you need to mix oil and water together, two substances that don’t like to mix with each other.  An emulsifier kind of thickens the two and makes them like each other.  They are made from chemicals, and cannot be natural or organic. So this recipe is a little tricky, as it involves mixing the ingredients carefully so they don’t split.  But, with patience and care, it is possible (it is in fact similar to how mayonnaise is made).  You will need to use a fairly good blender, whereas with an emulsifying wax you can usually just whisk the ingredients. The recipe does include beeswax, and this has some naturally emulsifying properties which helps the process.

Ingredients:

  • 200g Floral Waters/ Herbal Infusions –  or blend of both.
  • 70g Butters/ Wax – I like to use 35g of Shea Butter & 35g of Coconut Oil.
  • 130g Base/Carier/Vegetable Oil – I use a blend of different oils including Olive, Apricot, Avocado, Macadamia, Rosehip (see my range of carrier oils for inspiration).
  • 10g beeswax

Optional Extras

  • Aloe vera gel or Aloe vera water –include this with the water ingredients (50ml aloe, 150 floral water).
  • 5ml vitamin E
  • Essential Oils: 0.1 – 2% blend strength for face creams and 1 – 5% blend strength for body (see blend strength chart in my blending blog for more details). For this recipe 1ml (20 drops) of essential oils would be approximately 0.25% blend strength which is usually enough.

About the ingredients:

Waters:

The water part of the cream is the problem area, when a product contains water it means it is prone to growing bacteria, as water contains oxygen, and bacteria thrive in this environment. Don’t use water from a tap, buy bottled spring water or try the following:

Floral waters

There are a few versions of floral water, you can often purchase the water that is produced during distillation of an essential oil, this is known as the by-product, but in the workshop we use a rose water that is distilled from organic roses in the Bulgarian rose valley, and the process is carried out for the sole purpose of making rose water (rather than a by product of making essential oil). This gives a much stronger scent and longer shelf life. The copper still makes a much better quality product than the more commonly used stainless steel stills. This Rose water is available to buy from my webshop. You can also use a handmade version, which is spring water mixed with an essential oil, left for a week or 2 and shaken intermittently, and then filtered.  Floral waters are similar in action to essential oils but much gentler and can be applied directly to the skin, they really enhance the cream and because they have natural anti-bacterial properties, they help to protect the cream from going off.

Infusions

An infusion is just like making a cup of herbal tea (a proper cup of herbal tea that is not made from a dried up old bag of dust).  You place your choice of herbs in a tea pot (or cup) and pour boiling water over the herbs (make sure the water is ‘spring water’ and not from the tap to avoid contaminating the cream).  One heaped teaspoon (double the amount if using fresh material rather than dried) to 175ml of water is a standard therapeutic infusion. If using a cup, make sure you cover it to keep the volatile oils from escaping with the steam. Leave to steep for 10 minutes, and strain before use (any little bits of plant material will contaminate the cream so ensure it is fine strainer).

Oils:

Carrier Oils (base oils)

These are cold pressed from the fruit nut or seed of a plant, for example olive (fruit), almond (nut) or sunflower (seed).  Make sure you use good quality organic oil that has not been refined, as the refinement process will have destroyed many of the nutritious qualities of the oil. However, you might choose to use a refined oil if the smell is not to your taste, they can be quite strong for example coconut or avocado.

These are some of my favourite base oils to use on the face:

  • Avocado ~ rich, nourishing, hydrating.
  • Rosehip ~ one of the best base oils for helping scars to heal.
  • Apricot ~ gentle & suitable for all skin types.
  • Macadamia ~ rich, nourishing –has a gorgeous nutty scent.

Macerated oils

An infused oil is carrier oil that has been ‘infused’ with the qualities of a herb or flower for example marigold/calendula or St. Johns wort. Generally the plant material is immersed into a carrier oil e.g. olive or almond oil, and either left in a warm dark cupboard over a period of weeks, or heated gently in a bain-marie for a couple of hours.  The oil absorbs many of the plants properties and the leached plant material is strained out of the oil through muslin cloth after 2-3 weeks.

Butters

Again, these have been cold pressed from part of the plant, and include Cocoa, Coconut, Mango, and Shea.  They are solid at room temperature, and bring a creamy effect to the product and have a nourishing effect on the skin, usually high in vitamins and fatty acids.

Beeswax

This is what helps the cream to emulsify, try to find a good quality and trustworthy source.  It is also an emollient, very soothing and protecting for the skin. If you are vegan and want to avoid beeswax you could try coconut wax or candelilla wax.

Vitamin E – optional

This is a great natural preservative.

Essential oils – optional

Essential oils are normally steam distilled from various parts of plants such as flower, leaves, fruit, roots and bark. With citrus oils it is usually just pressed from the peel, and for some delicate plant material (usually flowers and blossoms) will use a solvent to gently extract the oil.  They have a strong scent to them, so are a lovely way to personalise your blend, but also have very potent healing properties that affect the body on a physical level as well as the way we feel.  Even though the cream is complete on its own, the essential oils will bring another dimension to the effect and can also help to support the shelf life as they are naturally anti-bacterial to varying degrees.

These are some of my favourite essential oils to use on the face:

  • Rose ~ hydrating, nourishing and deeply nurturing.
  • Lavender ~ cleansing, clearing, gentle, antimicrobial (see my blog post on Lavender for more details).
  • Benzoin ~ protective.
  • Chamomile (Roman chamomile)~ soothing, calming, delicate, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergy, (see my blog post on chamomile for more details).
  • Myrrh ~ deeply healing, great for scars (avoid in pregnancy).
  • Mandarin ~ gentle, toning, light.
  • Geranium ~ balancing, feminine, supports hormones.
  • Neroli (orange blossom) ~ calming, gentle, soothing.

See my webshop for more essential oils that you may like to use.

Equipment

  • Scales
  • Bain marie/ double boiler
  • Measuring jug
  • A decent blender
  • Spatula
  • Pots or containers for finished product -make sure they are cleaned and sterilised by rinsing with some boiling water, and completely dry.

Instructions

Prepare the ingredient first, measure and weigh the amounts so they are ready to add in at the appropriate moment.

Melt all the solid oil base products by gently heating them in a bain marie or double boiler.  Then add the liquid oil products to this, you may need to heat it through a little more, as the cool liquids can cause the mixture to begin solidifying again.

buttery blending

When they are completely melted pour this mixture into a blender and let it cool down for a few minutes.  The melted mixture should become a little opaque in colour, but not to the point that it is beginning to solidify, see it has a buttery appearance.

Milky blending

Put the blender on a low setting and add just a little of the water based products at a time. You will see it become milky in appearance:

 

Creamed

…and eventually thickens to a cream:

Take your time when adding the water and blending, as adding too much water initially will make it difficult to emulsify and it will be more likely to split.  If the cream splatters up the sides of the blender, use the spatula to get all the mixture in the bottom each time you add more water, so the entire mixture is evenly blended.

pot of cream

If you decide to add Vitamin E and essential oils to the cream, do this at the very end as you do not want to expose them to heat.  Pour the mixture into some little pots or jars.  Ensure they are clean and dry –I usually pour some boiling water into them to sterilize them first and then dry them.  Pour the cream as soon as it’s ready, as it will become thicker as it cools, and more difficult to get out.

As in the workshop, you can add essential oils at this point too–if you have several containers and you want to create different blends for each one, then it’s ideal.  I find it quite practical to use a chop stick to stir them through.

Shelf Life

Because this cream is very natural and does not contain chemicals or preservatives, it is likely to only last 2-3months.  I would recommend keeping it in a cool dark cupboard or in the fridge if you can.  It will usually only go off if it becomes contaminated somehow and this can often be due to bacteria in the water based ingredients.  Make sure you don’t use any water from the tap if making an infusion, use spring water. Ensure all equipment being used is sterilised.

Using your cream

Having made the cream from scratch, and knowing all the wonderful ingredients that go into it, it can help me to be a little more focused on my skin care routine, to be more appreciative of this time with myself.  It’s particularly lovely to massage gently around the jaw, and to take this time to let go of any tension held in this area.  In doing this I become more aware of the tension held in other areas in the face –including cheeks and eyes!  I also use the cream on my neck across the top of my chest, massaging just under the collar bones which delicately allows me to become more open around the chest area, I can feel the difference in my whole body especially my posture, when I do this. Basically, just enjoy and appreciate using it on any part of your body.

Here are some ingredient variations for inspiration when designing your own versions:

Rich, hydrating and nourishing, for dry and mature skin

  • Rose floral water
  • Avocado, macadamia
  • Coconut, shea
  • Rose, frankincense, myrrh

Gentle and soothing, for sensitive skin

  • Neroli floral water, chamomile infusion
  • Apricot, camellia oil
  • Coconut
  • Neroli, Chamomile, Mandarin

Eczema, delicate itchy and damaged skin

  • Lavender floral water, chamomile infusion
  • Evening Primrose, starflower/borage oil
  • Coconut oil, shea butter
  • Chamomile, lavender, benzoin

Light and balancing for young, oily, combination skin

  • Geranium floral water
  • Grape seed, apricot oil
  • Coconut oil, shea butter
  • Geranium, lemon

Creams for Sale: I make versions of these natural face and body creams at regular intervals, so if you would like to buy one CLICK HERE to view the bespoke products on the webshop. Feel free to request specific ingredients, or preferred effects (eg. very hydrating or very gentle) as I am more than happy to design it to your requirements.