Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to Take a Bath: Part 1

I know, I know.  You've been taking a bath all your life so how could I possibly teach you anything new?  Actually you would be surprised at what you can learn about the process of taking a bath.  This is actually a handout that I have available in the shop and I get tons of positive feedback from it.  So for this blog I am breaking this whole concept down into two parts.  Part 1 will be about the basics, like water, towels and such.  Part 2 will be all about incorporating products into your bath.  So let's get started....

Part One:  The Three T's

The most important thing that you can remember about taking a bath are the Three T's: Time, Temperature, and  Toweling (okay the third one is a stretch but go with me on this).  Most people don't pay attention to the little details like this, but I guarantee that by following some simple guidelines you can improve your bathing experience and the condition of your skin.


Many people don't really keep track of how much time they spend in the bath.  They soak for awhile and when the water starts to cool they either add more or get out.  However, time is very important to your skin. The magic number is really about 20 minutes.  For the first 20 minutes you are submerged in water your pores open up and you skin soaks up all the water that it can.  This is a great way to hydrate the skin.  After about 20 minutes though, your skin cells are holding about all the water they can.  This is when your skin begins to "prune" or wrinkle up.  This happens on your hands and feet because your skin is thicker there than on the rest of your body.  Your skin is so full of water it just can't hold any more.  This is really the best time to get out.  Any longer than this and your skin starts to loose some of the good stuff it needs to hang on to.


Temperature is a VERY important factor in bathing or showering.  Contrary to what a lot of people think a warm bath is really the way to go.  Taking a bath in super hot water is actually bad for your skin.  Your skin has this layer of proteins and lipids that form a barrier which keeps moisture in your skin.  Some of this is broken down during a shower or bath but not all of it.  However in very hot water this barrier is washed away, which lets moisture escape from your skin.  So if you take very hot showers or baths daily, your skin is constantly going through this cycle of stripping and losing moisture and other important things it needs to stay properly hydrated.  So basically super hot baths/showers lead to dry itchy skin.  Next time you hop in the bath or shower turn the temperature down on the water and you should start noticing a difference in your skin.


The third important factor in bathing (and the one people think about least) is how you dry your skin.  Rough toweling will actually do more harm than good.  It's a myth that rubbing your skin roughly with a towel will help to exfoliate the skin.  Leave this to face and body scrubs.  Rubbing your skin in a hard/rough manner with a towel can actually do damage to the skin cells.  This will dry your skin out and can even lead to irritation or break-outs.  When you get out of the water gently pat the surface of your skin with a towel.  This will allow water on the surface of your skin to absorb naturally.  You don't want to go through pampering your skin in the tub just to undo all that work when drying off right?  I would also like to note that I recommend a seperate hair towel, especially if you are using oils in or after your bath.  Use a super absorbent hair towel to dry your face and then wrap around your head.  Then use a separate towel for your body.  This prevents any extra oils from the bath water or bath products from getting onto your hair or face (and clogging pores).
It's a good idea to apply lotion to your skin right after you have patted it dry.  This will "seal" the skin helping to lock in moisture and keep you from drying out.

So start using the Three T's and let me know if you notice a difference in your skin.  Happy bathing!

(By the way I'm not a doctor or anything.  I've had some medical training but all of my information comes from research and years of trial and error on my own skin.  Keep in mind that this is just friendly advice and not medical advice or medical diagnosing.  Thanks!)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hello WordPress Readers!

Just wanted to say hello to all of you that have followed me over here from WordPress.  Yes, you are in the right place; this is the old blog that was at swancreeksoap.com.  I have started over here on blogger but all the posts from June until now are on here.  Welcome and thanks for stopping in!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

You Want Me to Put That Where?

I have always heard that you can tell a woman's age by looking at her neck and her hands.  Know what?  It's true!  Well, not on every woman of course.  But it is true that by looking at other people's skin, you can tell what kind of lifestyle they lead.  Go ahead, I won't tell.  If you are reading this in public take a minute to look around at other people.  Discreetly of course.  Notice the over-tanning?  The age spots?  How about that woman who's face looks great but her neck and chest are wrinkly and covered in spots?  That's what happens when we don't pay attention to all of our skin.

It's okay, we all do it.  We get so involved with our face that we forget about the rest of our skin.  But our necks, chests and hands get just as much exposure to the environment as our face does.  Make sure that your day cream for your face contains an SPF.  We really have no excuse not to wear sunscreen these days since there are tons of daily moisturizers out there that contain at least an SPF 15.  But don't be afraid to go a step further.  When applying a facial moisturizer don't stop at your jaw bone.  Keep going all the way down your neck and onto your chest.  Have some left over?  Go ahead and rub that into the backs of your hands.  Our hands go through so much through out the day that they need all the extra help they can get.

In the summer months our skin gets so hot and dried out.  If you have dry skin this makes your face dull, itchy and peel.  If you have oily skin hot conditions will actually make your skin produce more oil making you shiney and break out.  I have a couple of tips to help keep your skin cool and calm:

Number one: wear less makeup.  I know, I know.  It's hard to cut down on the stuff we love so much.  However, all that makeup clogs pores, causes irritation, and in general makes your skin worse.  I don't wear a lot of makeup to begin with, but when I do I wear bare minerals.  For those of you that have yet to switch over to mineral makeup, DO IT!  For one, it's natural.  You don't have to worry about all those odd random chemicals that go into other makeup.  You also don't have to worry about all those fragrances and dyes that are in makeup that can actually lead to further irritation of your skin.  I'm not going to push a particular brand, but I will tell you that mineral makeup sits on top of your skin, so it's lighter and your skin can actually breath.  And mineral makeup doesn't clog pores.

Number two: put it in the fridge.  Now I know this sounds odd, but putting your products in the fridge during hot summer months actually has a couple of great effects.  For one, it's refreshing!  Nothing feels better on a hot tired face like a cool cleanser or toner.  This will instantly cool off your face and improve your temperament (at least that's how it works for me lol).  A second great reason for doing this is that cold product and cool water will help to shrink your pores.  This means they look smaller and produce less oil.  I put all my products in the fridge, including cleansers, toners, makeup removers, etc.  The only products that this won't work with are oil based ones, since the chill tends to thicken up the product.

I would also recommend that you use cool or tepid water.  I'll cover more about this in my next blog post but you should never take a scalding hot shower or bath.  This will only dry out your skin further and make matters worse.

The last thing I would like to talk to you about is your lips.  Your lips are just as important as the rest of your skin.  The skin on your lips is thinner and more sensitive.  You really need to take care of your lips and keep them moisturized.  If you are going to be out in the sun for hours please try to find a lip balm that has an SPF.  Your lips can get just as much sun damage as the rest of your face.  Don't have an SPF lip balm?  When applying your day moisturizer skim over your lips with just a little bit of the product left on your fingers.  Then apply a lip balm over top to seal in moisture.  Ta-da!  Instant lip protection.  Many of the lipsticks and glosses out there dry your lips out and make them look horrible.  Make sure you apply a thin layer of lip balm   BEFORE you put on your lipstick or gloss.  This will keep your lips hydrated and not let the product you are wearing dry them out.  This also keeps your lips from feeling super sticky when wearing a heavy shiney gloss.

So go out and be safe in the sun!  Remember to think about ALL of your skin and take care of it :) And of course I have to include a shameless plug for my own products.  At Swan Creek Soap we carry a full line of Shea Butter Lotions in 16 different scents and Shea Butter Lip Balm in 10 amazing flavors.  If you are local come on in and try some!  If you're not local we offer all of our beauty products on our website at swancreeksoap.com.  Until next time!

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......