Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Should You Use Bath Salts?

     This is an interesting question.  Every week I have customers that come into the shop and ask me all kinds of questions about bath salts.  The truth is, just like most other products, bath salts work differently for everyone.  So what your neighbor or your sister says is the best thing she's ever tried might not work all that great for you.  Or bath salts might be the best thing you've come across in a long time.  Let's talk about some general bath salt knowledge.

     Bath salts have been around for thousands of years in different forms. The Chinese and the ancient Greeks all had different recipes and ways of healing using salt.  Poultices, salves, scrubs, packing, and submerging body parts or the whole body in salt water were all pretty common practices.  The Dead Sea has long been a destination for people looking for ailments for various conditions and diseases. Users of bath salts claim that salts can be used to ease swelling, improve skin condition, help with eczema and psoriasis, act as a water softener, act as a relaxant or even a sedative, and more.  
     Research claims that bath salts change the osmotic balance of your bath water; basically this means that it allows your skin to absorb less water, thereby reducing the amount of "pruning" or wrinkling of your skin.  Research also suggests that salts act as a water softener, allowing your cleaning products and bubble baths to foam better and get you cleaner.  It is true that products do lather better in soft water as opposed to hard water.  
     There are tons of different kinds of bath salts out there, and they all have different mixes of ingredients.  A general list of the most common kinds of salts used in bath products:  
  • Magnesium Sulfate - Epsom salt
  • Sodium Chloride - Table salt
  • Sodium Bicarbonate - Baking soda
  • Sodium Hexametaphosphate - Calgon
  • Sodium Sesquicarbonate - needle like crystals
  • Borax
Usually baking soda and Borax are used to give products an effervescent reaction and to gently cleanse the skin.  Table salt is usually used for the above mentioned reasons of water softening and changing the osmotic balance of bath water.  Epsom salts and the main ingredient in Calgon are a little different.  These are specifically marketed as soaks and there are many claims made about these ingredients.  
    Let's talk about what Epsom salts can do for you.  Now, I'm not a doctor so I won't get into all the technical jargon and what magnesium and sulfates do in your body once they are absorbed from the Epsom salts.  I will just say that many claim Epsom salts can help with many skin conditions like eczema,psoriasis, and athlete's foot.  They also claim that Epsom salts can help relieve things like muscle pain and tenderness, swelling, helps with arthritis pain, softens calluses, opens pores and makes your skin softer.  Some research suggests that using these products could help lower blood pressure and improve cardiovascular health (although this hasn't been definitively proven).   
     Salts can also be used in body scrubs.  Many people use salt on it's own or add it to a shower gel or some other type of cleanser; then they exfoliate their skin with the salt rub for a few minutes using circular motions before rinsing it away.  Salts can also be used to simply carry a fragrance or other product.  Fragrance oils or mild detergents are added to medium or fine grain salt.  When poured into warm bath water, the salt dissolves leaving the fragrance or detergent behind in the bath water.   
     In the end it is really about whether or not bath salts work for you.  Since salt cannot really hurt you why not try some different products and see what the effects are?  You can add 2 cups of Epsom salts to a warm bath, or 1/2 cup to a large pan of warm water for a foot soak.  Add 1/2 cup to 1 cup regular bath salts to a warm bath and let them dissolve.  If you would like to use salt as a body scrub mix 1/2 cup fine grain salt  to 2 to 3 tablespoons to your favorite cleanser.  Scrub in gentle circular motions in the direction of the heart, paying special attention to elbows, knees, and the bottoms of feet.  For a foot scrub combine 1/4 cup fine grain salt with 1 to 2 tablespoons of your favorite cleanser and scrub bottoms and sides of feet paying special attention to calluses, rough spots or dry skin.  If you have any questions please feel free to comment here or come into the shop if you are local and take a look at different sized grinds of salts and different products that carry.  Good luck!
    Our fine sea salt with dried lavender and a mix of our fine and medium grind sea salts...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Masks and Scrubs for all Skin Types

Okay let's talk skin*.  Deep in the layers of your skin new skin cells are being made all the time.  The newest cells push the older ones further and further away from the water and nutrients they need so the old cells begin to die. These older dead/dying cells make up the 5-7 layers of your outer skin.  These old cells are also what make your skin look not so great: they clog pores, dry out and flake, or just make your skin look dull.  This is why we use things like cleansers, scrubs, masks and peels to help exfoliate these dead cells away.  Okay the boring technical part is over.  Now lets talk about some scrubs and masks that you can make at home.

For All Skin Types

Exfoliate: Combine 1 tsp honey and 1 tsp olive oil. Separately, prepare a serving of plain oatmeal (minus the salt) using less water than called for so it forms a thick paste. Next, add the honey and olive oil mixture to the cooked oatmeal. Apply as a scrub, gently rubbing it in small circles over your skin, avoiding the eye area. Rinse off with warm water and pat dry. This mask can be done twice weekly. The oatmeal in this scrub exfoliates, while the honey and olive oil moisturize.

Cleanse: Combine 1 Tbs plain Greek yogurt with 2 tsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp lemon oil (not to be confused with lemon juice; lemon oil is an essential oil that can be found at health food stores). The mixture should be a little bit runny but not easily poured out. Massage it over skin, then immediately wipe it off with a washcloth soaked in tepid water. This can be done daily. You want to use good-quality oil.  Be careful around the eye area the mixture tends to be very sticky.

For Oil and blemish prone skin

Lift & Tighten: Combine 2 Tbs plain yogurt with 1 Tbs fresh lemon juice and apply to your cleansed face and neck. Let it dry for 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll feel the mask tighten on your face and neck, which creates a lifting and firming effect. Leave it on longer (up to one hour) for even more face-lifting effects. Once done, rinse with tepid water followed by a cool rinse. This mask can be done two to three times a week or whenever you need a face lift. This mask helps fade age-spots, acne scars and even helps keep blemishes and acne in check. It also gets rid of uneven-looking skin tone.

For Dry skin

Soothe: Combine 2 Tbs honey with 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Apply to your clean face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse with tepid water followed by a cool rinse. This can be done three times a week. This mask helps to heal, moisturize and balance the pH of the skin.

Moisturize: Oatmeal and fennel will help moisturize dry skin. Grind 1 Tbs oatmeal in a blender and set aside. Add 1 Tbs fennel seeds to 1/2 cup boiling water to make a tea. Allow the seeds to steep for 10 minutes; strain the tea then discard the seeds. Let it cool to room temperature and then combine 1 Tbs of the fennel tea with 1 Tbs ground oatmeal and 1 Tbs honey. Apply the mixture to your clean face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse with tepid water followed by a cool rinse. This mask can be done twice weekly.

Brighten: Combine 2 Tbs sour cream with 2 Tbs honey and 1 Tbs apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Apply to your cleansed face and leave on for 20 minutes. Rinse with tepid water followed by a cool rinse. This mask can be done twice a week. 

Go ahead and try some of these at home and tell me how they work for you!  Try to use the best quality ingredients that you can find.  Products that are all natural/organic will not contain many of the chemicals found in the more processed stuff out there.  Also, when a recipe calls for oats, use rolled oats never steel cut.  Steel cut oats have sharp edges that can scratch your skin.  Good luck!

*I'm not a doctor or anything.  I've had some medical training/education, but I mostly know this stuff because I've studied and I've used it myself.  This is not medical advice but home remedies that you can try at your own risk.  Thank you.

Friday, June 3, 2011

why I do what I do....

I guess I should start out by explaining why it is I do what I do. I've always been somewhat of an environmentalist.  I try to recycle, compost, garden and buy organic.  Yes, I've been to a rally or two.  I went to college in the Ann Arbor area of Michigan; it's very liberal and if you care about the environment you can always find a cause, movement, or event to go to.  Then a few years ago I moved to a small town in West Texas and married my husband.  What I noticed is that people down here are a lot different than what I'm used to.  They are all good people, don't get me wrong.  However, if you try to talk to them about recycling programs, community gardening, or heaven forbid pesticide use (this is cotton country after all) they look at you like you've grown a second head.  So I thought to myself, "what can I do to change perceptions and promote better living?"  This is what I came up with.

One of my passions has aways been beauty and bath products.  I'm like every American woman; trying every new product, amassing a bathroom full of different shampoos, conditioners, masks, gels, lotions and more.  Then I got to looking at some of the ingredient lists on these products.  How is it that the ingredient list takes up half the bottle, and why is most of it unpronounceable?  Why is it that I care so much about what goes into my husband's dinner but not about the 20 different products that we cover ourselves with every day?  So after a few days of research I was astounded to discover the beauty industry's dirty secret.  Lots of the chemicals/substances that are in the products that we use every day do serious harm to us.  Most of these chemicals do things like cause cancer, organ toxicity, skin sensitivity, reproductive problems, and more.  Some of these ingredients have even been banned in other countries like Japan and the UK because of their harmful effects.  This totally freaked me out.  Now I know a lot of people are going to say to themselves "it's no big deal, conditioner is only on my hair for two minutes.  That can't give me cancer".  What people don't understand is that you are applying these products daily.  Some of this stuff sits on your skin long enough to absorb; what about all the stuff that is left behind?  What are the effects of these trace amounts building up in your system over time?  What about lotions, skin creams, lip balms, cosmetics and more that sit on your skin all day?

A few years ago I made some soap as a fundraiser for Relay For Life, a major fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.  So I got to thinking why can't I do this on a larger scale?  Why can't I make products that people can feel good about using?  That is how Swan Creek Soap was born.  I started selling through my website in 2009 and haven't looked back since.  My products are all natural/plant based and although I'll be honest and say that no product is without some fault (they can all be improved upon) I'm very proud of what I have accomplished.  Not only do my customers buy products they can feel good about but they also get an education  on what is going on in the world and what they can do in their own lives to be healthier and happier.  Now with a brick and mortar store I can bring those ideas to West Texas.  I believe that by using natural products along with scents and colors we can make huge differences in our lives.  More about that next time......