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. 



Life in China, MsBarb

Happy Skin on the Road: Dalian

Waiting for our train from Panjin to Dalian

We mentioned a few months ago that both Sonia and I would be wicked busy during the summer due to our respective schools having summer intensive classes. So when we realised we actually had a weekend free, we took the chance to hit up the big city of Dalian, Liaoning. Dalian is a very famous port city in China with a very interesting and long history dating back to about 220BC. And over the years it has survived some very interesting occupations. The British, the Japanese and even the Russians all occupied this beautiful city at some point in its history. And what strikes my fascination with Dalian? While the Russians occupied Dalian during the turn of the 20th century, their goal was to model as as the Paris of Asia. 

Driving through downtown Dalian

Scattered throughout the city you can see architecture from the Japanese occupation from pre- revolutionary era till about the same time as World War II ended.  These buildings are surprisingly very western. Many times during my frequent trips to Dalian I have to remind myself that I am still in China and not in old Toronto or some of the more scenic parts of upstate New York. Dalian also has the beach, and a lot of seafood. Due to the fact that Dalian is considered to be an international city, the way of life is much different there than in our little “village” (as Sonia calls it) city. There is a lot of western influence in Dalian; people seem to be more aware of personal space and not trying to squeeze between your buttcheeks (they don’t actually do this, it really just feels that way as they invade my comfort zone way too much). And, people actually say please and thank yous. Most of the time. 

Part of the very active night life

Just so you know, in Chinese culture, please and thank yous are implied, and not often spoken as they believe saying them is only for strangers and people you don’t know. The closer they are to you or the closer they want to be to you, the less they will actually use these terms. As a Canadian, I still cannot help but to say my please and thank yous. Usually a few times to the same person.

IMG_7148Anyways, so we arrived into Dalian on Friday, got situated then crashed. The weather for all of China in the summer is disgusting. Hot and humid, you’re never dry for the entirety of summer. You constantly walk around with sweat pouring off of you, you change your socks a few times a day, your clothes usually always smell damp, and even your skin is not happy in the humidity after a few weeks. And the sweat truly pours off you- think of how you feel after you get out of the shower. Now, imagine getting out of the shower and putting on wet clothes. You’re damp the whole day. Your makeup falls off your face in rivers and you have no choice but to walk around like this all the time as air conditioning is bad for you and very few places or homes have it. It is very unhealthy to most traditionalists. It will cause you cancer. (My apartments temperature has been a comfortable 26.6C and between 25-40% humidity for the entire summer. Every Chinese person complains that it is too cold. While the outside temperature at the time of writing is 24C with 87% humidity, my house is too cold for Chinese people). No amount of hot water convinces them otherwise. And everyone looks the same. 

We decided early on that this weekend would be a work trip where we would be able to discuss a few things, specifically our Anniversary and Christmas line ups. I’m not able to dish to much about them, but I can tell you that, the Anniversary Edition will be a limited edition set. But I can tell you the pictures of the anniversary set will be coming soon! I’m really excited about them as this is the first draft of the label we are thinking for the set. 

Screen Shot 2017-08-11 at 9.34.20 PM.png
Possible labeling we are looking at, try 1 if you will

I was actually surprised with myself that I actually took some time to relax. I brought my computer to work, but then only work I did was look at my emails, reply to comments, and then went to bed. It was quite luxurious to finish three books this weekend!

Yeah, the sky looks gross, but I can assure you it is the windows that make the world look sickly!

Saturday saw us visiting Sam’s Club as soon as it was opened for some restocking of some very needed supplies and to oogle the Australian beef. And the beautiful coloured bell peppers. Then we hit up Metro which is kind of a cross between a Costco and Sam’s. Warehousey, but you can buy just one. They’ll happily sell you an individual bottle of Tabasco sauce, but you get an awesome discount if you buy six or more. Mostly we ended up buying lots of western food to stock up for the next few months.

The essentials.

A lot of times I get asked why don’t I just buy such things locally? And the answer is simple, they don’t sell it in our city, Panjin. And if they by chance sell something like pasta sauce, it is about six to ten times the price what we’d pay at Metro. So most foreigners who live in small cities usually do such “runs” as we call them into a nearby large city to stock up. And the way Chinese butchers prepare a cut of meat, it is perfect for the way they need meat to preapre food, but it is epically undesirable for the way foreigners like to eat meat. Chinese cook all fish with the bones. There are no fillets. The whole fish, head and all get tossed into a pot for steamed fish and even fish soup. Chicken breasts are so very cheap, but chicken feet and drums and wings are very expensive. Steaks are not a common meal, nor are pork chops. And if you meet a butcher, butter them up to be willing to get you western style cuts. And then get yourself a George Foreman. Or just a couple of Gordon’s pans. 

Gordon Ramsay is in China too! Only in the big cities though.

If you travel to almost any large or international city in China you can always spot the expats from out of town. They are the ones groaning in absolute bliss biting into a Subway sandwich, a fond but happy smile plastered on their face as they get served a salad that is not swimming in a sweet salad dressing. We are the ones who will stand in a store oogling the box of whatever as it is in English and can actually understand what the ingredients might be. We’ll be jumping and squealing that we found something like Chipolte Tabasco sauce and run around the store to brag about the find. We’re the ones who stand in front of the first refrigerator trying to figure out how to keep x- number of packages of cheese cool on the trip home only to find out there are four fridges of cheese and you actually get a choice other than cheese slices!

So now we are on our way home, feeling very hot and humid on the train, thankful that they stopped the habit of packing people onto the trains like sardines. I remember a time when you took a train and they actually sold tickets for a 34 hour train ride and there would be people standing the whole trip. And because there were so many people standing, you could fall asleep standing without worry of falling over. And I’m truly thankful smoking isn’t allowed on the fast trains too! 

I’ve attached a little slide show for you to take a gander at some sights. Enjoy! 

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