It’s in our genes

Genetics is a quirky sort of thing.  We love it…and we hate it.  We cannot avoid it.  We can’t be inoculated against the things that are passed down through them, we are often pretty miserable living with them, and yet they do have some redeeming features. All in all, I’m pretty satisfied with my genetic makeup.  Even to the point that I live with my allergies and was ecstatic to read how much Irish I had in my DNA.  No trying to desensitize or hide away that report from 23andMe.  I love my heritage.

Well.  let me amend that statement that “I’m pretty satisfied” statement.  I’m pretty satisfied – for the most part – with what I’ve inherited from my ancestors with one exception.  The migraines I progressed into from neuralgia in childhood.  The pediatrician warned my mother, based on her own experiences with the problem, that those blinding pains I’d feel in one area of my head which could occur at any given time and be in any place around my head would eventually lead to migraines. That prediction bore out over the years.  The one thing she didn’t warn us about was that the neuralgia could recur along with the migraines.  That’s really a bit too much sometimes to have them both at the same time.

Sinus problems from allergies or weather related (high barometric pressure) have been increasingly bad this year though not entirely sure why this year more so than others.  The one thing that works sometimes is Advil Sinus Congestion and Pain with an Excedrin Migraine.  Those two will work about 75% of the time. For those other times, it’s a matter of sleeping it off or just being very still in a dimly lit room with no noise.  It’s miserable for at least one full day though there have been some really doozies that ran for 3 days straight.  Others fade at night then return like a bad relative the next day. Yet again, it can be the reverse of this.  I’ve wondered if it might be worth it to be scanned but not sure I could handle the results.  There are so many health issues cropping up now I don’t like to ponder too deeply what the next year will bring.  There are many health issues that several of the five sisters in my generation have inherited that are medication controlled now, which really scares me.  The one sister most like me in health issues has not found anything in any scans to indicate there’s anything other than just migraines that will occur at times and it’s a ‘deal with it’ type of thing most of the time with behavioral changes and as a last resort, medication.

I have Imitrex in generic form (insert long multi-syllabic name here) but frankly the side effects are terrifying so I’ve never felt any headache was bad enough to resort to it.  But I know it’s there.  If ever a day comes that I cannot stand to move, talk, breathe, I know it’s there.

Ah, genetics.  You just can’t fight them, can you.  Still I love my DNA. It makes me me and sets me apart from everyone else in so many ways.  I’m similar but not exactly like my siblings because we’re only one fourth similar in our genetic makeup.  I’m only half of my mother, half of my father.  But I’m all me.  100%.  That 100% is content with my creative life, the kids I’ve raised, the Little’s they’ve gifted me with to be their grandmother and call me Neecy.  Life is good because genetics made it so.


Hurricane Season’s Byproduct

Most folks along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts will embrace the end of the hurricane season this year with open arms and tired, aching backs, mainly over Harvey, Irma, Jose & Marie.  Although we in the central portion of North Carolina weren’t dealt the major blows that Texas, Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and Florida received, we have had a history of feeling their effects and know the problems many felt for these last two months.  It’s an ongoing task to recover, back-breaking, soul-wrenching, budget-busting work and my heart goes out and hat’s off to all those still trying to get back onto dry ground  once again.

After the waters recede, the real problems will begin on a deeper level.  You know what I mean.  Mold.  In most homes & businesses, black mold sprouts up as far as the waters reached, causing serious health risks.  It’s costly to remove, time consuming and eats away at what little money you have left after trying to get back into a routine again. Many will have to replace their cars as well since once a car is submerged in water, it’s of no use anymore.  It’s a rough time of the year for the Atlantic and Gulf states but we love where we live and wouldn’t move (well most of us anyway) despite the risks.  It’s home.

Further along down the road from the hurricane season is the propagation of the ragweed.  Massive growths of ragweed that now can spring up everywhere now that the trees are gone, no longer blocking the sunlight from their shoots and they thrive like they were wanted here.  Like feathers floating with the breeze, the thread-like bits of fluff float along until they can find a place to land and thrive, spreading their allergens beyond their current boundaries.

The bane of my existence right now is ragweed.  With a pounding head from the sneezing fits, red, raw nose from trying to stop it from running away like a freight train without brakes, itchy watery eyes, I’m sitting here quietly typing instead of creating something for the holiday shopping season that’s virtually around the corner.  Because of  the hurricane season’s by-product. Ragweed.

Allergy pill, my bed with three pillows and mystery book, you will comfort me tonight.  Sleep well and breath deep all! We will try again tomorrow.

Trying Out Ingredients & Shampoo Formulations

I’ve been doing liquid soap for a very long time already but have wanted to do a shampoo for ages.  Many soap makers offer shampoo bars but I like a good liquid form that will do the job without the possibility of becoming covered in hair. You know how it is.  Shower then shampoo with a bar and hairs get stuck on the bar, drying onto it between uses.  It’s gross,  Just. Gross.

I dug out the reference materials for best oils to use, infused a couple of botanicals – rosemary into part of the oils, and hibiscus petals into the other, then built a recipe that cleans without too much drying out and not a large superfat percentage, right around 2%.

I used Silk Amino Acids as well instead of the usual silk fibre dissolved in the lye solution.  I tend to use the liquid amino acids when making liquid formulations such as lotions or body washes so shampoo was treated the same way. I like the luxurious feel these lend to lotions and liquid soaps.

Silk Amino Acids

Another item I’ve begun using is Leucidal Liquid as an anti-microbial.  It’s a ferment that’s extremely effective against most known contaminants that can lead to mold growth on hydrous formulations.  (Formulator Sample Shop also has an anti-microbial for anhydrous formulations made from elderberries. Find it here.)

Leucidal Liquid SF.jpg

A new ingredient just added to the roster is one that acts as a thickener.  I wanted something as natural as possible as that is high on my list of priorities when it comes to crafting a product that’s good for hair or skin cleansing or smoothing.


SiliGel gives a silky glide and a thicker density to liquid soaps if you want something that’s more gel-like.  We all know how think hand crafted body wash, or for that matter, any liquid soap, can be.  Store-boughts are thick from synthetic ingredients that read  like a lab experiment.  I aim for a more natural approach when making a liquid soap and the same can be said for the shampoo I tried out.  SiliGel is made from Xanthan gum so I felt very comfortable with using this product.  Used at 0.5% to 2%, it’s best dissolved into a liquid and blended to emulsion with a stick blender.  Simply stirring does not properly distribute the light powder into the liquid.  I tried it as a direct addition to a bit of the shampoo after it was fully diluted and ready for bottling as well as mixing into distilled water, stick blended for at least 2-3 minutes at medium speed then adding to the shampoo and found either works well though I feel the thickening worked ideally at its best with the direct addition.  Stick blending to the shampoo did not add as many bubbles as you’d think.

Speaking of bubbles, I also tried out the addition of a bubbling agent.  Poly Suga Quat L-1010P added at the recommended rate. it boost the bubbliness of liquid soaps and the initial impression after the first use (without the addition of the thickener as yet) was exactly what I was looking for in the bubbliness of a body wash.  I try to get the bubbles to the customer’s preferred level, but the trouble with that is it often is from a higher than normal amount of coconut oil, which can dry out your skin too much, leaving you itchy and uncomfortable.  If I add SugaQuat to a body wash with a more reasonable amount of coconut oil, it’s still wonderfully bubbly and is exactly what the customers prefer.  It’s ‘green’, created from sugars, which many soap makers use to boost the bubbles in their bar soaps. It can increase the heat if you add a sugar to a bar soap, but this product does not do that.  It’s added to liquid soap here so no additional heat is experienced.  I add it during the dilution phase.

Poly Suga Quat L-1010P

While you might wonder why I’d want to add all of these extras into a testing batch as it only makes things costing more to produce, it’s more important to me that a product do not only a good job of cleansing, but also do it without stripping away the good oils our skin and hair naturally have in constant production all day, every day.  Those oils are vital to the overall health of our skin and ultimately our whole-body health.  It’s a holistic approach to health maintenance, really, when it’s looked at thoroughly.

If your skin is healthy, clean without being stripped, it keeps you healthy inside and out.  After all, as you’ve heard so many times before, our skin the largest organ of our body.  it’s also very vulnerable 24/7 from external events that are hostile to its good, healthy condition.  Our environment is bombarding us with contaminants, toxins, chemicals, pollutants, and radiation that are damaging in the short- and long-term.  Some damage is not going to be seen until many years later and by then it’s too late to correct it.

The same is said for our hair as well as it’s just as vulnerable to our hostile environment, too.  What’s worse is that we also add insult to injury by blow drying our hair, using hair dyes, chemicals to straighten or to curl our hair, leave it in the sun unprotected, burning it with flat-irons and curling irons.  It needs all the pampering it can get so why not make something that spoils it just a bit more than usual.   I love a shampoo that does great things for my hair and hopefully gives it back that thickness I miss from my youth, gives it shine and bounce that speaks volumes, so that is why I’m adding all of these things to my testing batch.  If they work as I hope they do, this product will go out to the web site, and I’ll be happy with the product I’ve made for everyone out there, myself included.  If not, well, it’s back to the drawing board…..Shampoo Batch 1032017










New twist

Time marches on, things change, kids grow up, our homes evolve, family scatters, but sometimes we can feel like we’re standing still while the world marches past, moving inexorably forward.  Shouting down the marchers does no good.

That was more or less how I felt for a while. Clicking along, merrily, perhaps a bit cocky and overly confident in the day-to-day workings I’d churn out online in formulations, label production, graphic design, blog posts, Instagram & Twitter moments then Bam! It all came to a screeching halt.

Windows 10 ran an update,(cue ominous music) which did not play well with others.  My computer lost sight of several things – first, our network settings, so trying to get that back caused us to lose our sound card codec settings.  Trying to get those back, we then lost the ability to save custom settings for region, date and time of day.

The forced updates Windows began doing with its roll-out of 10 was a complete disaster to the desktop.  The laptop fared far better and still clicks along just fine.  I suppose in part because it’s newer.  It began life here on 8, which we could hardly wait to leave in the dust to upgrade to 10.

10 worked fine for a while on the desktop that began life here on 7, but then suddenly we could not get any wi-fi signal, so YouTube buffered constantly before dropping out completely. Being a huge fan of Hulu, Netflix, YouTube and streaming online at various channels’ websites, that’s like being denied air.  Unsustainable.

The fixes to all of those issues did nothing to repair the situation.  There was no going back as another of the casualties was the ability to set aside a custom portion of our drive to rollback dates.  It wouldn’t go back beyond the date of the fatal update so all hope and hardware was lost.

The time had come.  My desktop was going to have to be retired from full time operations.  It’s still a great computer, but the internet connectivity is unreliable.  Still a lot of my files are on there and I need them daily.  So, it will still be used for offline work mostly, though it does still connect to some ghostlike form of someone’s network.  Don’t know whose network it’s latched onto since none are listed.  My 20 year era of faithful dedication to PCs had ended.

Welcome to the wonderful world of iMac!  It’s a brave new world and so far I’m loving this and wondering now why I waited so darn long.  Yes, a couple of my programs aren’t Mac compatible, but the PC still can serve that purpose.  I’m fine with that.  Now to learn how to find everything I typically use all the time and quit scrolling on a wheel mouse in the wrong direction. My iMac is an older model, but new to me.  Has plenty of power, lots of memory, runs on Sierra, updated to the latest iTunes so this chick is a happy camper.  Everything seamlessly syncs if you want it to.  It never fails to ask first and I like that!  So here’s to another long & happy relationship with Apple computers and the bright, shiny world of iMac!

Well, here it is again…

….the end of yet another summer and I have to say I’m rather disappointed in this one.  Too much cloud cover, too many rainy days, not enough sunshine for my thin blooded self, but i’m sure the green things love it.

With the end of summer and school about to begin again, we start thinking about cooler temps, leaves changing colors & falling away and all those fun (and expensive) holidays looming just over the horizon.  I start thinking about having oatmeal in the mornings with my caffeine jump-start of choice – Pepsi.  I’ve never learned to like coffee, sorry java lovers!  So with those thoughts rumbling through my brain the products to come are now coming to the forefront on my mental To Do List.

Here are a few returning scents I plan to make this year:

Cafe Mocha

Snow Witch

Ultimate Christmas – maybe.

I say maybe to that last one because it was not a huge seller last year but the scent takes you home for the holidays in such a memorable way that it’s hard not to use it in something.  I might just stick with making wax melts of the spicy scents that can discolor or seize and use the others that don’t produce gremlins in bar soaps.  Hand and body wash is also a possibility for the naughty scents since they won’t make an already made soap seize.

I would love to hear from you on what scents you know of that would be ideal for this fall/winter season of 17/18.  Comment below or email me at

Beer (or Wine)? In Soap? Why?

Fig Orange MeadFullsteam Rocket Science & Humidity Pale Ale 2


Some beer aficionados might be crying in theirs over the shocking abuse to an otherwise stellar brew, but soap makers know a little something or two about beer in a soap.

There was a time when girls used to rinse their hair in beer after the initial shampoo.  Why?  Well the answers varied about as much as the hair color, but the main one that sprang up most often was ‘shine’.  Lots and lots of shine is brought to your hair after using a beer rinse.

For a quick minute, let’s get a bit technical. Not too much though.  I’ll paraphrase and keep it simple.  What is it about beer that makes your hair shinier with it than without it? There are two main ingredients in beer – barley and hops.  Both are natural sources of proteins which hair needs for strength.  There’s also B vitamins in beer that sooth and smooth the cuticle of the hair, The cuticle is that layered outer coating of each individual hair shaft, similar to a fish’s scales.  When the cuticle is dried out or damaged, these cuticles are raised and damaged, leaving the hair feeling rough and dry.  Almost crackly.  The beer smooths those down and aids in building strength to the hair as well as the shine. The minerals and proteins found in beer are the perfect  way to bring back shiny, healthy hair we underappreciated in our youth.  Okay, technical lesson over.

Now you have a visual image to give you a deeper understanding of why I love to add beers, lagers, stouts, ale of all types, to my soaps.  Bar soaps and liquid soaps alike can benefit from the addition of these well-loved beverages as a positive additive to your next shampoo experience. offers a wide variety of boozy bars for your bathing & shampooing enjoyment.  We use pale ales, IPA, & ITA in our liquid soap and every possible type of beer/ale imaginable in our bar soaps.  Many people like to use a bar soap for their hair and while it might work for some I cannot suggest it if you have anything other than very dry hair.

Our soaps rate high on the conditioning scale with a soap making calculator. My bar soaps are aimed toward dry, sensitive or easily irritated skin.    The same can be said for our liquid soaps. However,  I do have a bit more flexibility with these in that I can formulate with more glycerin for skin and less for hair.

Golden Silk Body Wash May 2016

Superfatting one one way to pamper the skin but it doesn’t work for a shampoo bar, so shampoo bars are not superfatted to the extent that a body soap is.  We also offer coconut water and aloe juice enhanced bar soaps for those that like the benefits found in these liquid replacements/additives.

One thing that should be noted here is it’s impossible to make a 1-bar-fits-all soap. What works for you might not work at all for your neighbor.  Still with the range of bar soaps and the liquid soap we also offer, we can make most of you happy with your skin & hair again and smell good while doing it.

Making Boozy Bars and beer-based liquid soap formulations has become something of a specialty of mine and with the large, and growing, microbrewery industry in the Durham, NC area, there’s plenty of potential candidates for our soaps. I love using a boozy beverage in a soap for the boost it gives to hair, the luster, that bounce and over-all beneficial mineral & protein jump start it adds with every use.  Of course once you’ve washed your hair again, those benefits will wash away, too, so don’t stop at just one use.  Use it as a regular routine treatment for highly damaged hair and once a week for regular hair.


Images:  photography by DJGunter

Fullsteam found here

Honeygirl Meadery found here

Neecy’s Necessities found here




Phytoscents for Bath & Body

What is a phytoscent?  It’s a fragrance from the plant that contains nutrients and beneficial components in the formulation, bringing function to your bath & body care in a way that a standard fragrance or essential oil scent does not.  Formulator Sample Shop carries this line of additives to extend bath & body formulations to a whole new level.  You can find their full list here.

PhytoScent Vanilla

Solution color

I was offered a chance to try out a phytoscent in soap, knowing that I love to play mad scientist  as often as I can, I jumped at this golden opportunity.  I chose to use one that I don’t have in abundance in my regular selections of fragrances, which, as it turns out, is vanilla.  Why don’t I have that one?  Well, as many a soaper will tell you, working with a fragrance that contains vanilla, or vanillin, will discolor your soaps in varying degrees.  They will turn anywhere from a light tan to a very dark brown and if your design doesn’t have that colour in its theme, well, there goes your design.  It’s totally eclipsed by the discoloration.

Going in, I’m assuming it will darken, so I didn’t use any additional colour.  I added more to one portion of the soap batter than the other and the division of the soap wasn’t equal.  It was probably closer to 2/3 : 1/3.

I used a regular 2 lb loaf mold plus a samples silicone mold, my standard regular recipe that contains silk fiber, coconut milk but no micas.  Here are the pics in order of the creation process.  They’re are captioned within the image so you know what you’re looking at.

Oils and milk

Fragrance added
Oops, sorry about the typo – should be ‘mixed’!

Soap Batter Divided

Cut bars

I also added a bit to a small bottle of liquid soap to see what would change other than gaining a really great vanilla scent and here’s the results.  First one is right after adding it in.  the second is the next day, after filtering the solution to a fresh bottle.

Body wash with Phytoscent Vanilla added

Hazy body wash

Today I’ll be adding it into some body lotion since the point of using a phytoscent is to not only scent your product but enhance it with benefits that are far beyond just great scent. In the listing from Formulator Sample Shop’s product listing I gain the following information:

  • prevents and reduces skin damage caused by free radicals, environmental pollutants
  • reduces fine lines, wrinkles, age spots
  • excellent source of B-vitamins niacin, thiamine, B-6 and pantothenic acid

While I’m not saying anything I make and use this as an additive will offer a user this very attractive side benefit, as that would be misleading of me to state such and I’d be in trouble with the FDA if I’d said as much, I will say the scent alone is wonderful enough to enjoy any day of the year!  Of course, our lotions always make the skin find its happy place.  FSS Phytoscent Vanilla just takes it one step further!