General News, MsBarb, Starting your own cosmetic business, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Learning Curves: buying new stuff

By now, you have seen this….

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And you know my time here in China is limited! And because I know where I am going and what I’ll be doing, I can begin planning my future inventory. And because I too can pretend to be clever? I know I won’t be a whackadoo and buy every little new oil and ingredient that I coo over. I also know that it will actually be cheaper to buy 2g of that fancy anti-aging powder to start rather than the 10g bag in the long run.

Marie over at HumbleBee&Me wrote a brilliant article about throwing things away and I do agree with her on most everything she wrote. But that article doesn’t really help those of us starting over quite literally and not figuratively from scratch. None of the products I have made here (like the almost 500 bars of soap) can go with me to Europe. None of the ingredients I bought here in China can be used to sell products in Europe. It means, when I move, anything I bring with me must be for my personal use. I’m looking at you AVC! And my sea buckthorn oils. And my moringa oils.

Everything else, must be bought.

That means, all the soaping ingredients I want to soap with must be bought. All the stuff to make lip products, must be bought. All the stuff to make anything I want to sell, has to be bought. And not just bought from the EU, but from a reputable supplier that will supply me with things such as the MSDS reports, Certificates (of batch) Analysis, Sensitizer reports… and, I have to have a very accurate and official inventory tracking system set in place. How neat is that!

In a way, I am very happy about this! With starting from scratch it means I get a chance to do everything right the very first time setting up my stock/store room and setting up an inventory supply. Oh yeah. Inventory. A proper and established inventory!

It also means, that since I’ve gone through the, “Hey! This is a new hobby! I must try everything!!!!”, “oh a shiny” phase (and survived!), I’m not going to be tempted by seeing 1kg of coffee butter go on a 75% sale and need to buy it. It’s actually been kind of funny, I’m buying some stuff already for The Move and it’s funny to look at my shopping carts. It’s no longer, “oh look! I bought 10mL of this essential oil, but I bought 100mL of this essential oil. I need to buy both bottles in 100mL just in case I like them and so they look better in my essential oil box!” It’s now, “Well, I am not sure if I like this essential oil in this blend, so I’ll get 10mL of each, but I know I’ll be using this essential oil a fair bit in various products to sell and for personal use, so I’ll get it in 30mL. If I use it quickly, then next time I will get the 100mL. After all, it will be cheaper to buy another bottle later when I use this up rather than toss it out because it expired!”.

For the fact that everything in my house must go, it’s actually been neat to clear out things! The hardest part is what am I going to do with 450mL of Apricot Oil (and all the other oils back there, and packaging, and shelves, and and and and and and and and and and) that still has eight months left on it’s shelf life? And if you say make soap, what will I do with those bars of soap?


MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Initial Impressions: Formula Botanica- Diploma in Organic Skincare

Happy New Year!

It was a really difficult choice to choose what kind of post to write for New Years. I really wanted to do a five product post (product promotion BOOYAH!), or three things I learnt, or or or or… but I just did that in October for the anniversary review. Christmas was a story. I wanted something educational, informative. Something, helpful. Start the New Year off the right way. Helping people make a choice!

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For a number of years, I’ve wanted to take a Formula Botanica Course, where I could learn from the professionals how to do things. Just how do I get them the money for the course? Transferring money or buying things not in China that don’t have Alipay, or WeChat Wallet are very difficult! Almost near impossible really. Then when Sonia and I decided to go to Ireland, we were actually contacted by Formula Botanica and they helped us to make it all happen! They were amazing in helping us out!

So I got to go back to school! And I’m excited! And it has been an exciting learning process!

Have you noticed all the small changes in the way I’ve been writing up the DIY blog posts over the past few months? Have you noticed some of the recipes are back to some basics of experimenting (and there are so many more to come!)?  All these improvements are because of Formula Botanica.

This post, is a review on the Diploma in Organic Skincare Formulation offered by Formula Botanica.IMG_3013

“Before we begin, it’s important to understand your ingredients and how a formulation is created. We do this so that you will become a proficient formulator and not just someone who follows recipes. This is what will mark you out as a professional rather than a hobbyist. It is our sincere mission to help you become an expert formulator in your own right. After all, following his recipe book does not make you Jamie Oliver!”

-Formula Botanica, DOSF2001-Course Notes page 2

Working in China, I get paid in Chinese currancy. Now if you look at exchange rates and all that, my money does not go all that far. Sure, things are cheap here, but when you go to buy something like a kilo of cocoa butter… holy jumping poodles! It’s about 17€ which is 132rmb (my money). Which is almost double the price what I pay with express delivery! So this gives you a little bit of an idea of what I’m about to say next. I saved hard because I knew I’d be moving soon. So paying for the program now that it was actually a possibility, was going to be a tough choice. I began to ask around, and everyone said yes, the program was good. The program was excellent. That it was a lot of hard work and and and. The folks on Facebook all agreed, I heard no bad things about the program. And that scared me a little. A whole program with nothing tiny or negative said towards it?

The view from my kitchen window last year, Panjin, Liaoning

Come on. I’ve been a teacher and a student for almost my entire life. It drives me bananas when there is nothing negative posted anywhere about a course. And after living in China where they want everything bright, shiny and lollipop landish… yeah. my spidey senses were tingling. The only negative comment I could find online about Formula Botanica was that the course materials were given to you in stages. So once you completed a module/unit, you were able to look at the material for the following module/unit.

No one really had the answers I was looking for. That I needed. I wanted to know if the whole program was going to go against my #isurvivedgreenbeauty new idea of life. You’ve read my post about my face’s adventure, there was no way I wanted to go back there. I needed to know that in trying to better myself, would I have to give up the things I had come to value because they worked. I knew Formula Botanica was a “natural” company who promoted “green” beauty, who supported “green” beauty bloggers and promoted “green” graduate companies. So their whole ethos of the term natural… did my head in when I asked. I was just told that each person has their own idea of what natural and green beauty is and I would have to define it for myself.

Not much of an answer, and more frustration on my part. But honestly, a fantastic answer in the long run.

IMG_6093.jpgAnd I like synthetics. I like things made in a lab. I like ingredients I can get my hands on. I like exotic ingredients. Sure I like natural too, and processed oils and butters, and parabens. I prefer to use fragrance oils instead of essential oils. And cetyl alcohol as my thickening agent. And my glorious selection of ewaxes instead of just sticking to one (don’t get me wrong, my face is currently having a hardcore love affair with Olivem 1000, but due to the cost of Olivem 1000, I can’t justify that on the rest of my body).

So would Formula Botanica and I be a good match?

Citrus Burst Face Line 2In the end, I decided that it really didn’t matter. I needed this program under my belt if I was really serious about taking this business abroad. If I was really serious about making my future business a success. And since I am not from the EU, I needed the regulations section of the program and the good manufacturing practices under my belt. And I needed to make sure I would be kept in the loop about regulation changes in the future. So at the end of the day, my worries about the cost and my worry about moving backwards in my way of thinking… well, practicality won out. Not to mention, I have no professional background in skincare science. What kind of a leg would I be standing on if a customer threw that in my face in the future? Sure I’ve almost a decade of self-learning under my belt, but as you saw, many of those years were spent trying to fix my own skins issues.

Formula Botanica would provide me with the piece of paper I needed to back up what I know. And in this day and age? That’s kind of important.

So, I began learning.

Everything I had learnt up until this point was self taught. How I cleaned my workspace, how I cleaned up afterwards, how I prepared my water baths, everything. Even the way I thought about how to do things was self taught. This course has taught me to be more conscientious in my note taking. I developed a better system of recording my notes than just writing them on a wall, taking a picture and recording them in my files. It was actually kind of interesting how I began to notice the little changes to the way I did things.

IMG_6876.jpgI developed a better way of explaining my phases than before and better labeling of my containers both ingredients and finished products. I am also finding that when dealing with customers I am better able to express my words. Remember? I’ve been living in China. So talking about this part of my life, is actually something that is new for me to talk about. Instead of me constantly getting tongue tied, forgetting words, not knowing words (I buy an ingredient, and some of the ingredients I buy don’t even have a translation. For the longest time my translation software kept on telling me that the translation of peppermint essential oil was snow essential oil. So using the right words and phrases was never that important for me as it was just me making for me. And I was making for me and for gifting so it didn’t really matter I didn’t know the proper names. That white powder on the second shelf in the green Ikea bag, had to become, “Silica Microspheres.” With now it being everyone else I am making for as a potential job and DIY blogger, I need to be able to explain myself and my ingredients to you all. Most of my former suppliers became former suppliers for they had no idea what an INCI name was) And this is where Formula Botanic has helped me the most.

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Taking notes, and writing things in their phases, making things more presentable

Our team is driven by a desire to teach our students to push the boundaries of organic formulation by using innovative ingredients and techniques. We are educating the organic beauty entrepreneurs of tomorrow. 

-Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica, 2017 Yearbook 

And, I love love love that Formula Botanica uses things like surfactants, gums, preservatives, emulsifiers… they do use a lot of man made ingredients (I call them man made whilst other might call them naturally derived) which are very high performing! And with you needing to create your own recipes in each module, it leaves a lot of wiggle room to bridge synthetics and naturally derived ingredients together, which suits my needs perfectly!

Fine print: You know me and my thoughts that naturally derived does not make it “natural” I mean, a cloned seed/sheep is naturally derived too! 

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How awesome is this answer? This is just the Ask the Tutor reply I was reading just as I thought about reviewing this section

Formula Botanica also has a big community of students and former students that each current and former student has access too. You can pop onto Facebook, ask a question, see what your classmates are working on, offer feedback, support, or just lurk (I lurk a lot by the way there is so much info there! ). I would have to say that one of my favourite parts is the Ask the Tutor section of the site. I really like and appreciate how patient the tutors are in answering students questions. There is a plethora of information there!

I really like how each module has a couple recipes to experiment with, AND ratios to play with. Talk about heaven! One of the best parts I think of the Formula Botanica courses, is that it forces you to dabble and create your own recipes. Try them out and go back to the drawing board to tweak them and try again. Which is awesome fun!!! And they actively encourage you to use preservatives!

Enchanted Nights Featured Image.jpgOne of the con’s I have about this course is from a more sciencey interest, is I wish they would explain more into the science side of things, like chemical structures! For example: in Module 4 (DOSF4001 Cream Cleansers), there is a cream cleanser. I made it, it’s neat! But… why? Why can I only use Olivem1000? The notes say that it has the “unique ability to create oil-free emulsions”. I get that as a student I have to do some leg work when it comes to learning, but it’d be nice to have some things like this and others backed up a little with explanations. What makes it unique? Maybe a little section in each module that explains the science in detail? Or why by leaving your clay mask for 20 minutes “activates” it? Is the clay when you buy it dormant? (I found my masks got kind of sponge like when I left them for 20 minutes) In Formula Botanica’s defence, they do have awesome blog posts where they cover some of the sciencey side of things where a lot of the information is there free to the public.

I do firmly believe that the natural/green/organic beauty industry is going to peek soon, and blogs like LabMuffinPoint of Interest , Realize Beauty, I think are the way the pendulum is going to swing. They deal with more of the science aspect of cosmetics and skincare. It’s usually where the DIY crowds go when they have have had enough of the “green bloggers”. With so many people trying to sell handcrafted sunscreen at weekend markets, selling unpreserved products, photosensitive products, when people learn that organic produce still gets sprayed, that GMO’s aren’t the devil… I think (and secretly hope) that people will wake up and realise that natural/green/organic isn’t the be all and end all. And I think government bodies will be the ones to begin enforcing this.

The Carrier Oil Handbook, doesn’t really have a lot of information on the oils they list. There is no recommended usage rate, which phase to include which oil. I understand a lot of learning should be self taught, but as a resource, a handbook on carrier oils, I was kind of hoping that this would be a resource to have a lot of information in one place that I could get bound and printed and use as a reference guide.

IMG_2474.jpgThe coursebooks. They really suck when you want to print them! You are stuck at your computer and printer for almost an hour to print each module and notes. I’d like to see an option to buy a textbook, or a way to print the whole module/unit notes with the click of a button. The way the printed coursebooks look once printed, get kind of dog eared and aren’t very presentable. So instead of proudly being able to display the books, they are going to be hidden if and when I open a shop.

IMG_8350 2.jpgMy pro’s vastly outweigh my con’s. And my con’s really are kind of silly in the grand scheme of things. Printing, doing some research, and wanting more information.  Now that I’ve done a longerish review of Formula Botanica’s Diploma in Organic Skincare, is it right for you? Should you take it?

  • 100% for sure yes to anyone just starting out looking to learn the basics of making their own skin care products. I’d also say yes to those who have some experience in making their own products, but not much more than say simple emulsions. If you’re keen to learn how ingredients work together, this course will help you.
  • 100% for sure I would suggest this course to anyone who follows the various DIY blogs (HumbleBee&Me comes to mind here), but is hesitant to create your own recipes.
  • I’d also 100% recommend it to anyone who is looking for a certificate/diploma/credentials to put in their shop or on their internet platform store to give their customers a sense of safety and security. And to provide you with a leg up over other sellers out there.

IMG_6600.jpgThese are my personal thoughts on the Diploma in Organic Skincare Program. I’m currently on Module 5 (DOSF5002) scrubs, spas and masques! I might take the Module 5 exam today. Module 5 is all about Spa Stuff! Face and Body Masques (Why yes! There will be a post about a Body Masque soon! They are awesome!) Next up is Essential Oils, but I am so very keen to get to Module 7 and 8. Branding, Marketing, Organic Certification, Labelling & Claims, Global Regulations. Then my Final Course Project. Once I am finished the Diploma in Organic Skincare Program, I’ll be back to review everything once I’ve completed the Program.

I’ve also signed up for the Advanced Diploma Program, and will review that as I go along as well! I’m told that in the Advanced Program they deal more with the sciencey stuff I’m after so I’m soooooo excited!

So there you have it! If you’ve any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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I wonder where they buy their gloves from? The green ones are so swanky!!!




MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

The DIY story of Barb's Face

Merry Christmas from China!

This post is going to be my gift to you. I’m sitting here in my classroom on December 23, 2017 and have been thinking all day of various things to write for this Christmas post.

There were many things I really wanted to post for the Christmas post of ScrubMeDown- Happy Skin. But at the end of the day, I thought that the present present I’d be able to give, is a wee story*.

Chinese White.jpgMany years ago, I went to the only department store in the city I was living in, searching for some body wash that didn’t have any whitening products in it. In fact, my very first Chinese characters I learnt to recognize was “white” on packages. This was actually how I got into reading labels! So went searching for a face and body wash that wouldn’t cause me to disappear into paper.

After a time, and a mini-fortune later of trying out products and having issues from said various products, I decided it had to be easier and cheaper to make my own things as after all, hundreds of years ago they had all these wonderful things and they didn’t even have electricity. So it really couldn’t be all that hard!

So that is what had me on the path of making my own things. I began like everyone did, making lotion bars, lip stuff, basic soaps (yeah, those first soaps were better than commercial grade beauty bars/soaps), and eventually I began playing with essential oils in my soaps and essential oils and exotic oils in various serums. It was all amazing! All that creativity was awesome! 

But for me, pure oil serums and lotion bars just didn’t work for my skin. They just didn’t provide enough hydration and moisture for me. I was living in the desert, and my skin was wicked oily, but VERY dehydrated. When I realized this fact, and found I was constantly getting acne not just because I have acne prone skin, but because my skin was dehydrated (too bad it took me years to learn this lesson! Hind sight and all that….).

IMG_0079 2But according to every single DIY site out there that I could get my hands on, all the “crunchy”, “green beauty”, “organic” and all that fun stuff, they all guaranteed it would work to heal and fix my acne. They promised.

And…… they lied.

Maybe lied is too strong a term. It just didn’t work for me.

I was so angry! I had spent a small fortune buying various ingredients for those Babe’s and Mama’s and Doctor Quack’s promised they would work. It wasn’t till I had enough that I realized that baking soda on the skin just wasn’t a good idea. That olive oil was not all it was cracked up to be. Coconut oil wasn’t a miracle. That vinegar can burn the skin! I had boxes of oils that I just couldn’t use because they were the ones causing my skin issues. And because of being isolated in China, no one to pass them off on.

I can’t remember where I got the idea around this time of making emulsified products so I can’t link you to the original recipe I used.  It might have been some blog? Website? All I know is this person also said applying a crushed tablet of Vitamin C dissolved in water and painted on the face was a good idea. So you can kind of get an idea of where I was getting my information from.

What can I say? I thought I was smart.

But… I would no longer be natural making an emulsified product or crushing a Vitamin C tablet on my face (because it was processed! ack!). I could no longer be natural. I’d be needing an emulsification system! And ewaxes… there is really nothing natural about them. They were chemicals! Ewwwwwww!!!!

A recent emulsified face lotion I made

I had spent years no longer buying things that came in packages, I stopped buying things that couldn’t go bad, I was at the point truly of the belief that if I couldn’t eat it, it would not go on my skin. For I believed that my skin absorbed anything I put on it for I had read so many blogs and these people I had come to trust. My skin was like a second stomach, so all those gross and horrible chemicals I was going to have to put on my skin, would end up in my livers.

I was using CP soap and an avc rinse in my hair and my hair looked gross. It looked like wet straw. My hair was oily, greasy, a mess. My face- remember this is how I saw myself- looked like a giant pustule of red inflamed gross stuff. I was a mess.

But natural was best. It was the only way. Somehow even living in China it seemed as if I was on the nose end of the rocket of societies extreme “green” idea.

And I had fallen, hook line and sinker. And I looked disgusting for it. While all the natural bloggers I was following looked great! I had given the natural, process free, all hand made, chemical free, green, natural beauty at this point maybe four years of my life?

Look at all those processed chemicals! Glorious preservatives, vitamins, extracts, vegetable glycerines… even water!!!! 

I couldn’t take it. I had to do something about it. I had to stop that itch. I had to stop all the scabs and acne flare ups I was getting. I had to get my nice soft and shiny hair back! I needed to look and feel good again. So I reintroduced commercial grade shampoo and conditioner.

I had to bend my rules a little. But goodness gracious! I looked a million times better! My hair was so shiny again after one try! And soft!!! And it stopped falling out and breaking so much! So… if commercial grade shampoo and conditioner made my hair feel so wonderful, how could it really be so bad?  So I bought some ewax.

And began experimenting.

I gave in and made a face lotion. But I refused to use a preservative. Because preservatives were still the devil. They were evil. They killed…. snowmen and sugar plum fairies. And I love snowmen, sugar plum fairies not so much! But still! They killed snowmen! So I went for months making face and body lotions every month, and keeping it in my fridge between uses and trying my best to only use it with clean flingers. But, I mean, contamination does happen. How often do you clean your fridge handle? Go on. Think about it. When was the last time you wiped down your fridge handle with  bleach solution? Or the door handle to your bathroom? the bridge of your glasses? The arm of your glasses? I used a hand towel that was in my bathroom. Fecal matter in the air even with closing the toilet set lid.

Contamination is a bitch. Bacteria and fungi are everywhere. They want to see you fail. They want to take you down. Mold grew, I just scraped it off like I would cheese. But, I began making lotions and body products every week. And sure enough? Mold still grew. So I began making batches every three days. Then every day… but because 100g is the only real amount you can play with and mix properly, I was throwing out a lot of product. And that was stupidly expensive. And I couldn’t afford to do that!

So I gave in. I finally bought a preservative. Because my skin was looking better than it had in years! But, I didn’t have the time to make new things everyday.

Good things come to those who experiment! 

I felt like such a traitor. Seriously. I went through such a dark period at that point in my life all because I couldn’t hack it as a “natural” DIY’er. My whole belief system was shaken. I was promised and I believed that if if I changed my diet and my way of life I’d have great skin. I was basically a vegetarian and I was living in the BBQ capitol of the country! I was spending almost 1Euro on a red or yellow pepper. I stopped eating all red meats, gave up salt, all oils, I was only eating raw foods and beans and all in the quest for perfect skin.

And it still eluded me. My skin was a little improved, it felt a whole lot better, but I still got all the gross spots going on.

So when I decided to buy a preservative, you can imagine my hesitation.

what it was…. 

I finally took the plunge and began using my new products with preservatives. Holy sweet mother of goodness gracious iguanas. Within a week my skin stopped feeling like lizards skin. The patch of dry skin on my cheek bones and between my eyes went away.

Within ten days, no more new acne popped up. Within two months, all the acne I had on my face had cleared up! And I was finally acne free first the first time in forever!

what it is (I am not wearing any sort of foundation or blush or powder on my face). Stay tuned for the lipstick recipe! 

Three years later, I usually have a flare up the week before my period, I’ve acne prone skin afterall, which means hormones are a pain in the backside! But once my period starts, I get my skin back! I’ve corrected the dehydrated skin by using what works, not what a group of random people on the internet say people should be using. I use what works

Sure over this time, I have played with various oils, some were successful, some not so much. I still got the occasional flare up when using something new and strange (I’m looking at you hemp oil!) in my new face creams, but for the most part, my acne was gone.

It only took how many years?

And during this time, I learnt that terms like, “natural”, “green”, “organic”, don’t really mean jack squat. I began making handcrafted, handmade, high performance, luxury skin care products using the best ingredients I could get my hands on. And because of this, I have been fortunate enough to pass my knowledge on to you and all our customers by using my skin

I do hope you have enjoyed this story into the personal history of my face.

Merry Christmas!


What about you? What is your skin journey?


* fine print:

all the idea’s in this post are purely my own opinions and experiences. 



DIY Intermediate, Hands & Feet, MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

DIY: Foot & Ankle Massage Gel

The more you know about oil to wax ratios the more your mind spins and spins with all the various ideas you can come up with. Lip glosses, lip glosses, lip glosses and more lip glosses, knock off type of vapour rub, lip glosses, a weird sorts of goo and lip glosses. Did I mention lip glosses?

By adding your shea and cocoa butter to your liquid oil after the beeswax has melted and off the heat source can help you to prevent “crystals” from forming.

This idea came to me years and years ago one day while I was getting a foot wash. However; I never acted on this thought till a few weeks ago. Now a foot wash in China is fantastic. You pay a few kuai (our version of quid or buck) and you get your toes washed, all the dead skin is removed and then you get a foot massage. How awesome is that! And, to make it even more awesome? It is socially acceptable for social activity for men and women to do together. Just if a Chinese man says a foot wash at a hotel? Run away. It means more than just a foot wash.


Continue stirring until your shea and cocoa butter are melted. If you find that you need to reheat, grand. Place into your warm water bath and don’t turn on the heat.

For any sort of massage oil, you want to make sure that your base is not going to be absorbed by the skin all that quick. You want to make sure that the oils stay on the skin and are slowly absorbed. You also want to make sure that friction doesn’t present a problem, that hands can glide and slip over your skin. You also want to make sure that the oils are good oils for their intended purpose. And that it smells delightful! I also really hate it when I spend all that money on a pretty bottle and spend my time figuring out which liquid oils and fragrance oils to add only to have the bottle ruined because people can’t pour without spillage! So a massage oil based sort of gel like product was born! It is a clean mess. In a pot. I was also looking to make a product that is solid in the tin, but melts almost immediately in contact with the skin.

One of my new favourite photos!

For this here Foot & Ankle Massage Gel, we are using sweet orange essential oil only because I want to use up our essential oil stock. So feel free to sub in any fragrance oil you like or another essential oil and be sure to check out the recommended safety amounts. Clove is an awesome essential oil as is cinnamon, but good golly, a .5% usage of either has the potential to BURN. And speaking of orange essential oil, I truly and madly love the way it smells. I’d love to live in an orange and have that scent around me the whole day. Orange or red grapefruit. I’d never be sad again! The world would always be a bright and cheery place!

img_8602.jpgSo to make a “gel” based concoction from oils, butters, and waxes, it’s important to know your ingredients and how they interact and work together. If we have too much liquid oil, we just have a thick liquid. If we have too many butters and waxes, we have a balm. We want to dance on that perfect amount for what we want. AND we want to dance the jig. Knowing your weather is also an important for this type of recipe and also how warm or cool where you will store it. So this product is awesome, but very tricky.

IMG_8645We’ve used sweet almond oil in this recipe for it meets all our guidelines for what we are looking for. It is great for the skin, and according to my massage lady, the skin seems to absorb sweet almond oil on its own a little too quickly for her liking. Which is part of the reason I am trying this new massage goop so I can keep her happy. Almond oil does contain emollient properties which is why many use it to improve skin tone. And emollient is usually an oil that softens the skin by filling in the spaces between the skin flakes and creating a smoother skin surface. It is also said that almond oil can help hydrate the skin and that many massage therapists prefer to use almond oil for giving massages as it meets the criteria they look for in that it provides great glide for your hands, and doesn’t sink in so quickly that you have to reapply often. But then again, my massage lady claims otherwise. So once again in this wonderful age of information at my fingertips, I’m going to have to side with her.

Shea butter is another one of those oils that is slowly peeking it’s head more often in things I make in The Scrub Me Down Kitchen. I stayed far away from the “shea crazy” when I first started DIY’ing as everyone and their knees used it in everything. And I wanted to try lots of other things. Like macadamia nut oil. Sigh. Moringa oil how I love you! And sea buckthorn oil, you’ve been my super skin secret for years long before the western world really knew about you. But I digress.

What I think I like most about this blogging thing? Is I can always be the first one to stick my finger into a product.

Shea is great in this recipe. I find shea butter has a much heavier feel than cocoa butter and since this is for a massage gel, we are using both the shea and the cocoa butter to impart their awesome higher melt point to help keep this as a gel and not a liquid. Shea butter melts at about 40-45C and cocoa butter at 34-38C. BUT I hear you. “Barb, you’ve added cocoa butter, shea butter AND beeswax! How will this gel you speak of be possible!” And to that I say dance said jig I told you about before! When you play with the ratios of solids to liquids in an anhydrous product (anhydrous= without water), you can then control the consistency of your final product. Like magic. Take that Harry Potter!

I wanted this to be a gel. So I made it a gel. To make a balm, usually you would add 80ish% liquid and about 20% wax to make yourself a nice solid body balm, but I wanted a gel. So rather than using all wax, I used a hard butter (cocoa) and a soft butter (shea) and decided to drastically reduced the beeswax to help it maintain some form.

Solid on the finger, melting on the skin. SUCCESS!

If you live in a cooler climate or are approaching winter, this is a very good recipe. If you live in a warmer climate, I’d suggest first upping the beeswax to 8-10%, while reducing the sweet almond oil.

I dragged Sonia to the massage place across the way and we got ourselves some massages. The massage ladies were bombarded by questions asking about how they liked it, how they found it glided and slipped over skin. We also asked if they had a choice which would they prefer to use to massage their customers, all agreed this recipe was bangarang. They loved the way it sank in once they stopped massaging so that made their clean up easier, they liked the way that this gel didn’t need to be reapplied for the whole hour long massage. They also thought it wonderful how much use they’d get out of one 50g tin. They estimated that they would get ten back or ten foot massages from this size of tin.

How neat is that!

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  1. Prepare your water bath/double boiler, keeping your water at a barely there simmer.
  2. Weigh out your sweet almond oil and beeswax into a heat resistant beaker or glass measuring cup and place in your water bath and wait until the beeswax is melted
  3. Weigh out your cocoa butter and shea butter into a separate container.
  4. Remove the melted beeswax and almond oil beaker from the water bath.
  5. Add in your cocoa butter and shea butter and stir to melt.
  6. If you need to, place your beaker back into the water bath to continue melting.
  7. Once your beaker has reached hand temperature ( you can wrap and hold your hand around the base of the beaker without it feeling uncomfortable), measure in your fragrance or essential oils.
  8. Stir and decant into a 100g pot.
  9. Allow to cool. Cap and then run away for a massage!

Because this product contains no water, you do not need a preservative, but don’t go sticking your wet or dirty fingers into this!

Shelf life will be the life of your shortest lifespan oil or butter used.

Yup. I love me my farmers tan.
Do you see where I am going with this?

Now my pretties! Get your tender tootsies rubbed and tell me how it goes!

DIY Beginners, Lips, MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

DIY: Winter Nights Lip Balm

I know. I know. This recipe has been done everywhere. It’s been done on Humblebee&Me to Instructables, to slightly different versions on countless blogs and sites. I first heard of this recipe ages ago from my coconut dealer down in Hainan (I know you are not familiar with Chinese geography; so think of a southern tropical province in China on the ocean, overrun by tourists from China and around the world). I bought a boat load of virgin coconut oil from him for soaping (and I hear you all cringe at the thought of that price. Way back then it was the only way to get coconut oil in China), he sent me a free tube of lip chap that I really liked and found worked well in China’s harsh winters. I inquired about the ingredients, then looked into the ingredients, and discovered it was purely awesome! And pretty easy to make.

Beeswax, you beautiful thing you! 

At the start of cold weather, I’ve one of these tubes scattered in almost every room in the house. I apply it as soon as I wake, after my shower and before I go to sleep. It has saved me more times than I can count. It’s wicked easy to make, and lasts for about a year or more if you stash them in the fridge.

This balm is a VERY tacky balm. It is not all glossy and shiny, it is tacky. Really tacky. You are basically applying beeswax to your lips here.

So yeah. Rub, rub, rub, and draaaaaaag.

IMG_8581Beeswax has been used for ages upon ages to help create designs on fabrics in ancient times, used as sealing wax for documents and cosmetics for ages! It’s been used and is still used as a highly effective waterproof sealant for canvas, still used by woodworkers too as a wood sealant and wood protector. So if it is used as a waterproof sealant, can you imagine how awesome this will be for your lips? Lock that moisture in! Beeswax is of a lot of interest to number of researchers who are currently looking into the antimicrobial properties.

Beeswax in most lip balm recipes is used to prevent meltage and to give your product a longer lifespan. You really don’t want to be putting a tube of lip balm into your pocket and have it melt? Right? That’d just be a little on the embarrassing side. Beeswax is a pain in the arse to melt down as it has a melting point of about 62-65C so that means you are constantly standing there and stirring or just walk away and do your laundry. Clean the bathroom. Write up the corresponding blog post and add pictures later…. You know. You’ve got lots of time. It took about 22 minutes for the beeswax to melt for this recipe.

I find getting a group of ten tubes, elastic around them is the perfect way to decant my tubes. Then I always know exactly how many tubes I’ve made just by a glance. 

In this recipe I used raw beeswax that I actually melted, and separated myself! We had a local hive here where I used to get all my bee stash from, but they moved to… you guessed it. Sunny tropical Hainan and didn’t take me with them. They took their bees. Not me. So sad. But, you can use beeswax pellets or even white beeswax if that’s what you have. Raw beeswax smells powerfully of warm honey, which is VERY noticeable in the finished product and one of my favourite scents!

Mmmmm… pure beeswax candles.

I’ve tried everything from a spoon, a funnel, a syringe, an actual product designed to help with lip balm pouring… the only thing I get consistent results with and little to no spillage is a beaker. I waste much less product this way. 

Beeswax is in my personal opinion the star ingredient to stop chapped or dry lips from happening. It acts like a humectant by drawing moisture from the air and depositing it onto your lips. It traps moisture in your lips and prevents moisture from evaporating.

Next up, coconut oil. For this recipe you want to make sure that you are using virgin coconut oil. The same coconut oil that you would eat or use to cook with. It smells awesome but I find coconut oil alone has a disgusting texture. Gross. Anyways, I find that in lip care where we use coconut oil the smell does not survive. Which is sad. We’re really just using coconut in this recipe to help the beeswax glide over your lips. As I mentioned above, beeswax is tacky and does cause a lot of grief trying to spread just beeswax over your skin.

Even if you don’t have any spills, polish up your tubes so your labels stay better.

There are way too many websites out there today that tell you how wonderful coconut oil is for your skin, and well… who knows. I can’t really find a lot of science to say much one way or another, but in this recipe? As I said, I am using it to help the beeswax to slide more easily over your lips. And that’s the only reason why I am using it here. You can use other carrier oils (sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, sunflower oil to name a few) in its place.

All our Winter Nights Lip Balm all in a row, aren’t they pretty! 

I’ve also decided to get everyone back on the peppermint essential oil train in lip products. I miss my mint! I love applying it and feeling that cool tingle dancing over my lips.

So tuck on in, roll up your sleeves and let’s get creating!

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  1. Prepare your double boiler/water bath and set it on a barely there simmer you want to see bubbles form in the bottom of your pan, but you don’t want to see them float to the surface.
  2. Gather all your ingredients, equipment and tools. Prepare your lip balm tubes or pots.
  3. Weigh out your beeswax and virgin coconut oil into your beaker or heat resistant glass measuring cup and place into your double boiler.
  4. Wait until your beeswax has melted completely before removing it from the water bath. Be sure to wipe off the outside of your beaker or glass measuring cup!
  5. Stir with a stir rod or chopstick well.
  6. Once your beaker or measuring cup is cool to the touch, I’m sorry, but you will have to work very very fast. Add in your Vitamin E and peppermint essential oil and stir well.
  7. Decant your balm into your prepared balm tubes or pots and allow to cool.
  8. Use a tissue to clean up any spills, cap, label and enjoy!

Ready for a BONUS post??? 

Clean up is a pain in the backside when you are working with lip balms and what not. And to make your life easier, here are some simple steps. Use your spatula to scrape as much product out of your measuring cup or beaker as possible. Take a tissue or a paper towel, and wipe out your beaker or measuring cup. Then toss it in hot soapy water and wash. This is truly the only method I’ve found that works.


DIY Intermediate, Lips, MsBarb, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

DIY: Crimson Ribbon Lip Gloss

If you are interested in making your own cosmetics (like actual foundation and powders and eye shadows) check out this book. I always refer to it for colour help and the recipes in it are my guides for my creations for things like lip care. I refuse to buy store bought lip products to see how they feel when applied. That’s what “Make it Up” recipes are for!

If you are following the news, Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin is going to be a year old. And if you know about that wicked news, you will know that we have made an Enchanted Nights Limited Edition Gift Set and smells as one customer who was lucky enough to get an advanced smell spoke about it how it makes her think about Cleopatra and ancient Egypt and the pyramids. Which led me to think about creating a complementing lip gloss. But since I really and truly suck at getting colours just right, this became a whole different blog post than what I was originally planning to do. You’ll see a couple of of these lip glosses in the next month or so, where the colour is just a smidge different, but it’s not quite right! They’ll all have started out in my head to be an Enchanted Nights Lip Gloss, but will quickly become a Christmas Lip Gloss! But Christmas needs its own stash of stuff, so that fine by me! So let’s tuck in and get to it!

IMG_8191Since I have a ton of carmine that will probably last me for the rest of my life, I’ve a 250g bag of the powder and about 40mL left of the stuff dispersed in castor oil. As long as you keep the air and moisture out of the powdered stuff, it will last a very very very long time. Now, one amazing thing when you make things, is you can learn from other people’s experience… if you so choose. I’ve watched a few bloggers spend a lot of time and effort and oodles of money on trying various powders and colourants to get a bold red, but only carmine works. I’ve watched their products go from a beautiful shade of red to dull grey. Pretty neat to watch, but when you are looking at well over 250rmb for 10g of beetroot powder, I can do without that experimenting.

Sonia has told me I should make mention that carmine is actually ground up beetle. It is a pretty pricey ingredient, but if you want some fancy colouring that is bright red, you need it. Or are already wearing it.

When it comes to me making any sort of red tint, or something more than just a light barely there hint of red, I always add in a wee spec of blue. The blue is not noticeable in the finished product at all, but I find that blue gives the red a wee bit of depth. I’m telling you, when it comes to making something with colour, this is where I utterly fail as a formulator. The product will be fantastic, but the colour will make you go eeeek. See the picture that lead you to this blog? I took my final recipe from below, and then added in some red iron oxide and some greeny-gold mica, and my product turned red green. Beautiful for a Christmas Elf, but not for me. I added in some silver to see what would happen and that’s the results I got. So then I just made the recipe again, and followed it!


Anyways, let get cracking here.

The base. In the past I was all about using raw beeswax to make things as I thought it would be a selling feature. Turns out, I was so wrong. These days I am more about performance as that is what our customers desire. So in your recipe you can use either raw beeswax, refined beeswax or white beeswax. I’ll be using the white beeswax as it is easier to colour I find. If you are using the yellowish beeswax, you might need to add a few drops extra of carmine to get the colour you are looking for. I’m using beeswax here to be the “glue” that holds everything together. In the wrong ratio, your gloss will be too liquidy or, will be too thick resulting in a lip “stick”. Beeswax will also be giving us that wee bit of tack and staying power that I desire in a gloss. I mean if you are going to apply a gloss or a lippy, you want it to stay there for more than half an hour.

I’m going to be adding in some coconut oil here as I find coconut oil and lips to be a worthwhile pairing. And oh the shine! In this recipe you don’t want to be using your soaping coconut oil, you want to be using the same coconut oil you use to eat. So look for the virgin or the cold pressed- just make sure it is pure coconut oil and you can eat it. Alas, you might be thinking, oh wow the sweet warm scent of honey through the beeswax, mix that with the yummy deliciousness of coconut oil? Heaven on my lips! Umm… no. For some reason I find the coconut scent+taste and that awesome honey scent doesn’t survive in lip products for some reason.

IMG_8167Castor Oil. Oh the stories I could tell about you about this oil. It’s got a nice long history and is a very good oil for the skin, and I use it many cleansers, but that is not why we are using it here. We are using it for it’s thick and viscous and oh the shine! Shine on castor oil in all your thick gooeiness! This is a gloss right? I need more shine. I need. More. Shine. And castor oil is a good one for this!

Next up, I’m going to use sweet almond oil in this lippy as I want to keep the cost down a little. But, if you have jojoba, that’s a nice wax to use in here. You can also use a combination of sweet almond to jojoba if you’d like. We all know the wondrous ability of both these oils, they are told to us almost constantly. But, yeah. I’ve used other oils in lip stuff to test them out, and honestly? Rice bran, wheat germ, apricot, I don’t really notice all that big a difference other than colour. I am using  sweet almond oil as mine seems to be a lighter colour than jojoba and I want the colour to be easy to work with. If you are thinking about making this to gift me (or someone else for that matter), make it with jojoba oil. Everyone will go ga ga for jojoba.

IMG_8181Vitamin E. Now many people seem to be under the impression that vitamin E is a preservative. It is 100% NOT a preservative. I am using it in this recipe because our winters here in northern China are dry, whatever you are thinking, think more dry than that. And windy. Think more wind. Lips need all the oomph in the oomph department they can get so I am adding in Vitamin E to help them out AND to help extend the lifespan of the oils. Vitamin E is an antioxidant so adding it into some of our oil based creations can help them survive a little bit longer.

So we weigh, toss them all together, smoosh and stir it all up, and pour into lip gloss tubes or applicators, allow to cool then go crazy painting your lips red.

IMG_8209Let’s create!

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  1. remove all the lids and set up your lip gloss tubes or wands so when it comes time to pour, they are all ready to go. This recipe makes 20g, so about 4x5g lip gloss tubes
  2. In a small heat resistant measuring cup or beaker, measure out your ingredients and place into your water bath on a barely there simmer.
  3. Allow your recipe to melt and wait an extra minute or two gently stirring to make sure the beaker or measuring cup heats up.
  4. Remove from the water bath, wipe off the sides and begin adding in your liquid carmine.
  5. Be sure to stir well. I usually place the measuring cup or beaker back into the water bath and stir some more just to make sure that everything is mixed well.
  6. Remove from heat once again, wipe off the water from the outside, then decant into your lip gloss tubes.
  7. Allow to cool, then cap and get all excited for your just made some Crimson Ribbon Lip Gloss! And it’s ready to use!


Remember to take notes about the exact amount of carmine you used so you can replicate or alter your recipe at a later time!
I actually think I did very well matching my lips to the ribbon!
MsBarb, Starting your own cosmetic business, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Learning Curves: Inventory

Oh no. No. No. No. No. No.

I know that is what you are thinking right now. RUN FOR THE HILLS! And I’ll be right there behind you all. I’ve kind of sort of have tried to make an inventory up a few times, I did one for most of the items when Sonia officially became part of Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin, but that was like doing physics in a sandstorm. I think? Maybe? Possibly I did it right? I am hoping I did!

But I have to admit, I’ve never set up an inventory so getting around to making one has been a pain in my backside. (Yeah, we’ll talk about accounting later, that’s like a boil on the head of boils on a severely broken toe then squeezing that foot into two sizes too small of a shoe) As I said, I’ve tried a few times, but because it’s not that important here in China, we’ve kind of let it slide a little. But, since our move date is getting any further away, and we are slowly getting bigger, we really need to work on an inventory tracking system that’s better than just,

Barb: “oh hey, I realised I am out of Allantoin. Do you think they can get some here by Friday? I don’t know, let me WeChat the ingredient dealer and find out.” text text text, “Nope. Earliest is Monday. Crap.”

Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 10.57.56 AM.pngI’ve begun a new template of tracking ingredients used (as pictures above, not a great recipe by the way, needs more liquid oils, I am thinking to try 7g jojoba oil next), as I’ve always been pretty good at getting good pours, but I’m human and sometimes I over pour. And then have to think drats! Recalculate the recipe! STAT! Which I hope with this new method of tracking ingredients will help in some way, shape or form with inventory.

We’ve invited an actual business lady to come up to my house for a couple of days to see what we are doing and help us keep our stock better organised and possibly, if there is time, help us set up an inventory system. And we’ll do accounting with her the next time.

So Learning Curves for you all. If you are getting into the craft of making your own products, start early. Get into the habit of keeping records of your inventory! Get into the habit of keeping your stock room organised. It will help you in the future.

China may not be strict about keeping track of inventories, but I know western countries are. We are doing this now, so we can get into better manufacturing practices and save money on ordering. Even in China the cost of delivery is horrible, abroad, there is the potential of international fees too. Having a good inventory tracking system can help with ordering, storage, space, taxes, it can also help you to figure out what to make when.

So… off I go to write up a list of oils. If you don’t hear from me by Monday, the lard ate me.