Product Testing

Natural Colorants

First off, this is not intended to be a comprehensive assembly of all natural colorants that exist – its is merely the short list of those which are used regularly at Apothecary Muse in soap making. Whenever we source a new material, we research the safety of use during manufacturing as well as topically in skin care products on the Environmental Working Group website. If we change distributors, we ask questions about their sources, maintain records of the material safety data sheets for our batches and perform testing in product samples before releasing to the public.

What is different about soap colorants?

Because our methods include cold process which require extensive weeks of curing, many herbal extracts will fade and/or provide minimal herbal benefits after this time, especially if they are stored in direct sunlight. However, these can be used in combination with some essential oil and/or clay combinations that do not fade quite as readily:

Alkanet Root

Annato Seed

Calendula Flowers

Chamomile Flowers

Lemon Balm Leaves

Nettle Leaves

Powdered herbs or clays can be used at about 1 tsp per pound of soap.

Chlorella Powder

Hawaiian Salt

Indigo Powder

Kale Powder

Kudzu Root Powder

Pink Himilayan Salt

Spirulina Powder

Tomato Powder

Natural, mineral ingredients used on average 1/4 tsp per pound of soap.

Activated Charcoal

Bentonite Clay

Morrocan Clay

Mica (natural, not synthetic)

Titanium Dioxide (we practice safe handling during manufacturing)

Chromium Oxides (we practice safe handling during manufacturing)

Ultra Marine (from Lapis Lazuli)

Sometimes you get lucky!

As mentioned in a previous post, the natural deodorant pursuit has been a long, educational one. Just when I think I’ve gotten it figured out, a client brings up a new challenge or in this case, a shortage of paperboard tubes in the size I have been using forced me to readdress my packaging.  Fortunately, I was able to find another version in the same quality which fits my existing labels (although I have to handcut a perforated line in them) and secures the tops more easily.  This solves a BUNCH of issues I’d been ignoring: 1) shoppers sometimes open the sealed deodorant tubes, tearing the custom washi tape, and the larger perforated label is much stronger 2) the pricepoint is reduced to $10, making it more accessible to folks who want to start using a natural deodorant, and reduce their impact on the environment at the same time 3) I can make more product in the batch sizes I’d recently reformulated, although that is balanced out with increased labor and packaging.  So, ultimately the profit is the same per unit, the labor is more, but I expect more quantity of sales.  If I can keep using these and purchase an even larger quantity of packaging, I can afford the increase in labor.  Yes, I know.  I’m a one-woman show – but I got bills to pay like everyone else and once I can secure my own living wage, I’m inching closer to creating meaningful work for someone else.  I am crossing my fingers that this is a step towards more growth and my luck continues!

NEW FORMULATION! Deodorant goes from 8 to 12 hour efficiency

Picking out the best deodorant available can be confusing, but it shouldn’t be.  The number one question I get from customers, is “But does it actually work?” Which is totally a loaded question.  As far as deodorizing, yes, most certainly it works.  If used correctly – AND the clothing and skin is clean from the start.

gentle unscented vegan deodorant paperboard tube Everyday spruce grapefruit natural deodorant

 

But, everybody’s body chemistry varies, even from day to day.  Indeed, the type of sweat you produce for different activities may call for a different approach.  AND, a lot of folks have gotten accustomed to the “antiperspirant” qualities in many commercial deodorant brands which classify the product as a drug.  Antiperspirants claim to changes the body’s natural systems – and I don’t want to do that nor make such claims.  Further, some antiperspirants create more problems than they solve, and I seek to create something that is safe for the environment and people. If you’re running a marathon and sweating profusely, chances are high that the sweat mostly consists of water, situated for cooling and is classified as an eccrine type of sweat.  If you’re speaking in front of a large audience, asking for a raise or just stressed out about something at the moment, it is likely that your body is producing a different chemical caused by an oily substance containing a greater amount of apocrine sweat.  Because of these differences in secretions, and how oil repels water, I have come up with essential oil blends that can withstand the demands of either type of sweat, or a little of both.  If a blend is matched with the correct type of sweat, it achieves the deodorizing effect sought.  The longer lasting formulas are marked with an asterisk*, below:

three styles natural deodorant paperboard tubes

Green Circle/Gentle Care – Wise Lemongrass and the Naked Hippie* (Unscented) is formulated for copious, water-based eccrine sweat.

Blue Circle/Everyday Care – Trail Blazer and Awaken Adventure* are formulated for some eccrine and some apocrine sweat.

Black Diamond/Advanced Care – Righteous Rebel is formulated for the funky, stressed out and oily apocrine sweat.

 

These also provide some benefit of adding absorption along with the deodorizing properties.  After extensive testing, I have come up with a formula based on the success of my original formula and essential oil blends for varying types of sweat, but adds the longer-lasting deodorizing control of non-nano particle zinc.  What is that nano business, you ask?  It simply means that the particles in the powder are not so small that they clog your pores to prevent you from sweating or building up bacteria right next to your lymph nodes.  Without making any drug claims, I’ll let you search the world wide web to determine why those lymph nodes need to be clear of toxins and blockage.  It can also be determined that zinc operates similarly to silver in deodorizing and sun protection products, so one could feasibly use their deodorant for some sun protection thereby reducing the number of products to carry when traveling or venturing into the backcountry.

As with many of my products, I offer at least 3 aroma blends to suit the type of activity/sweat.

 

Still not sure what is causing your super funk?  Take off that shirt and compare the smell of it to your armpits directly.   There’s a good chance that some of your clothes may have already built up a level of bacteria in them.  Hello, bike jerseys, gym bags and yellow armpit stains! Addressing this issue first and foremost will increase your odds at establishing a bacteria balance.  To that end, I have created an unscented Stain Stick that optimizes the lifting power of coconut oil and combines it with super lathery soap nut extract and extra deodorizing baking soda to give you a fresh start with your favorite athletic gear, undershirts and general stains.  There is also a lavender, lemon and sandalwood essential oil scented Stain Stick which I find particularly nice for bike gloves, socks, undershirts and clothes from trail days.  All you have to do is dampen the section of affected fabric, rub the stick on it until it lathers and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before washing with your regular laundry.  You can also safely add this to an overnight soak with hydrogen peroxide for an oxygen “bleach”, for restoring bright white sheets and towels.  Because it is so effective at lifting, the Stain Sticks are not recommended to use on silk or wool products.  Lastly, since they are mostly comprised of coconut oil, they would pull too much oil from your skin – use only on clothing!

Are the Outdoors endangered because we are not inclusive enough?

For 2018, Apothecary Muse seeks to sponsor Ambassadors who identify as and empower underrepresented classes (race, gender, economic class, ability and more), in the outdoors.  For many years working in the outdoor industry, I’ve experienced some and observed more exclusion and the opportunity loss is real. Just like in nature, we need the bees to pollinate the flowers for our food and the food for the soil to grow trees to provide oxygen and oxygen for us to breathe. Just like our ecosystem, we need diversity in our everyday lives to survive.  I am of the opinion that the outdoors and its qualities also have a delicate balance needing representation, and it is a good practice to include exposure and education with it to the general public if we expect it to stick around for future generations. If we continue only marketing to the status quo, we will continue to have limited results.  It is through diversity that we can become a stronger and sustainable force, lift up each other and the importance of outdoors, open space access and environmental concerns.  I’d like to make a difference with the only thing I have of value, my business.  It may be a small drop in the bucket, but it’s a start.

 

sustainable triple bottom line people planet profit

I understand not all may agree with my broad effort to include minorities with this sponsorship, but I hope it is understood that I seek to ADD to the equation by creating this opportunity and not take away from it.  I am sacrificing potential profit by emphasizing diversity with this opportunity, which would simply not exist if diverse representation weren’t needed.  I understand also, that my experiences will vary from others’ lived experiences and do not seek to speak on another person’s behalf.  I will however, listen and do what I can to ensure an unspoken stakeholder has a place at the table of outdoor advocacy. Folks who do not identify as minorities may also apply and will be considered based on external factors such as their involvement with actions and programs that support diversity and inclusion.

 

Interested?  Find out more about the Apothecary Muse Ambassador Program and Apply here.

FAQ: Balm or Salve?

Craft shows and farmers markets are often full of people exposed to natural, handmade skincare for the first time. People often ask for “Chapstick” instead of lip balm, not realizing that is a specific brand name, like Kleenex instead of tissue. Since I only sell what I make, myself, I don’t resell other brands of product.  I try not to come across as if I correcting them, because they may have an association with their choice of words differently than I do and instead I seek to open up the discussion about my process. After all, talking in person with the maker of a product can be quite informative.woodsy warrior salve in tin

The jury is definitely still out on all the similarities and differences between balm and salve – because they overlap in so many ways. My exposure to both is through the world of retail and herbalism, but I took a quick tour in the internet and saw nothing consistent in the examples. Yet, I’d like to suggest there ARE some commonalities not already mentioned. Of course, these are my observation and not indicative of an attempt to rewrite anyone else’s definition. There might still be items in the world that do not fit this definition but are labeled as such. For the most part, they seem consistent in this regard, though:unscented lip balm vegan paperboard tube texture

In a nutshell, it seems that most people would agree that balms sit on top of the skin while salves absorb into skin. Salves generally seem to be softer than balms, and are applied with the fingertip.  Yet, they are firmer than an ointment or lotion, which share similar functions and ingredients albeit different ratios. Any of the above may have herbal infusion or essential oils, while salves specifically seem to utilize more herbs and balms use more aroma, not necessarily essential oils and sometime even flavor – a different kind of extract. Both salves and balms may be functional; however, salves primarily exist to support healing, while balms seem to exist to prevent damage. Balms, being more firm, tend to be formulated in stick form and have a “slip” factor to glide the product from an applicator tube instead of fingertips, versatile for travel and everyday use. Conversely, Salves tend to hang out in first aid kits or medicine cabinets until they are needed and have a variety of consistency. I know mine vary greatly depending upon the season.

In the field… er… mountains: Product Testing!

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail report, finishing a thru-hike and product testing.

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