Introduction to the 'How to make … ' series

This is a new series of ebooklets on how to make your own … well … anything.

I started about 16 years ago making my own toiletries because I got a skin reaction from the commercial types no matter how much or how little I spent on the products. I tested Chanel including Clinique and Clarins and still I had problems. I tried Dermalogica and even sold the product for a while in my salon until I had a bad reaction.

My main ingredient was Olive Oil and it still is today. I use it as a furniture polish as well as in my spanish tortillas. But mainly I use it to wash with and as a moisturiser and sunscreen.

What makes soap and shampoo soapy?

The reaction of an ingredient called sodium hydroxide or caustic soda with a fat. The sodium hydroxide or Lye can be found naturally in nature when rain water trickles through the ashes from a bonfire of wood. The resulting goo is highly corrosive and is called Lye. See this website for further info about Lye. Nowadays sodium hydroxide can be made from other sources.

Some plants give off saponification (bubbly, foamy, soapy) when in the water and this can be seen in rivers when there are many bubbles or foamy appearance near where the plants are growing. One such is soapwort and this is used in some shampoos.

Olive oil is saponified using a Lye and when I was living in Spain my friend’s Mum used caustic soda to create the reaction to make the oil soapy.

For ease of use I buy an olive oil soap but soapwort can be used instead for a real herbal soap base. Lye may be ‘natural’ but it is very, very corrosive and I wouldn’t want to create it myself with water butts, burning wood and collecting it.

Over the coming weeks you will find articles in this section on

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