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, 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.


Information, MsBarb, Questions, The Scrub Me Down Kitchen

Question: What do I need to know before I begin on a DIY journey?

A quick note before you continue, I have no professional background in science or chemistry. This post is meant to assist you in being able to make the most informed ingredient decisions you can by looking at the facts.

All substances are poisonous; there is none that is not a poison. The right dose differentiates between a poison and a remedy.  Paracelsus (1493-1541)

Lately in the DIY community, there have been quite a number  of blog posts about how chemicals and chemically sounding words that no one but a Latin major can understand can say, can actually be good for you. And yes, there will be a blog post about it all once I figure out how I want to say what I want to say.

But todays blog post is not about that. It is about a journey into DIY. When most people get into the DIY hobby, they do it because they want to ditch the chemicals, the parabens, the preservatives, the sulfates and all those “fun” things.

So you turn to Google and the blogging world and the black hole that is Pinterest, that tells you “all you need is coconut oil or olive oil” or “the best products are in your kitchen”! “Here! Try this “burning” face mask” made with so much cinnamon you are actually at risk for a chemical burn! But “here I’ve got a pore reducing face mask for you”, Elmers Glue and activated charcoal. Spirulina as a lovely green eyeshadow that really stays! Clove powder as a blush/eyeshadow! Or you go to the “green” beauty bloggers, mama bloggers, who actually really seem use scare tactics on their readers. OH OH OH! Or the “expert” doctors out there that talk about magical ingredients or again use scare tactics by giving the tiniest amount of facts, then BAM! Preach at you with fear.

While yes, a kitchen and house does have many amazing things that one can use to obtain amazing skin, a lot of people don’t realise that a lot of these kitchen ingredients need actual safe usage levels that are not the same for food and cosmetics. One also needs to use their brain and research the ingredients and how to use them, the possible interactions of using them if you have any allergies, sensitivities, the possible reactions of using them- just because some random yahoo with a few thousand (or millions) followers doesn’t always mean they know what they are talking about. Do your research. Be safe. Be skin safe!

So what’s the problem? I like wickedly spicy food. And that is good for me! But some people can’t handle the wickedly spicy vindaloo dishes that make you cry. So why do people assume your skin is going to be like someone else’s? What works for one person, might not work for another. My face loves loves loves coconut oil, but there are people out there that put it near their face, and their pores get blocked! And just for clarification? I didn’t always have a brain either. I do speak from experience on using various and questionable ingredients in my skin care routine. I tried everything to get rid of my acne short of sandblasting. I spent years and a lot of money on essential oils, exotic oils, various commercial products, imported from all over the planet. And nothing worked. I discovered soaping, and spent a fortune trying to make this or that recipe work. I tried tea tree, lavender and discovered my skin doesn’t like either. But was assured if I only kept at it, my acne would go away.

And all through this time I was referring to the natural bloggers and the mama’s and the babe’s and the Dr. Quacks out there that tried to tell me that practically anything made in a lab was terrible for me and causing me to have this or that problem. Thin hair? You must have leaky gut! Your nose is big! You need to eat more probiotic rich superfoods! Oh, you’ve got BO? Well look no further! Rub a pickle on your pits!

So what does this all mean to you? Let me take you on an example of what I mean. It’s a little on the lengthly side, but bear with me.

Here is one example of possibly millions. Propylene Glycol and a Jackass- let’s refer to him as Dr. Dumbass.

While I was doing some research for this post to make sure I had all my ducks in a row and my facts straight, I came across Dr Dumbass’s page about propylene glycol. And reading the page, he is really not necessarily wrong in what he is saying about propylene glycol and its various albeit possible health risks: possible skin irritant, potentially toxic to the kidneys and liver, potential heart issues.. and (airquote) potentially (air quote) so on. And my favourite? The whole antifreeze hype: “When propylene glycol is used in antifreeze products in place of ethylene glycol, it’s considered “non-toxic antifreeze.””

Which amounts is he referring too? These?

FDA has approved its use at concentrations as high as 98% in topical drugs and 92% in oral solutions.

And since he brought up the EU further along in the article, take a gander:

In 1994, the Cosmetics Industry Safety Panel (of CTFA, Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, known today as “The Personal Care Products Council”) confirmed propylene glycol to be safe for use in cosmetic articles, and at higher concentrations than those actually used in consumer products.

It’s also safe to say, that if you want propylene glycol free cosmetic products, you should stop eating ice creams and ice lollies as it is usually one of the ingredients.

Now let’s take a look at some sciencey sites:

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From the website (I have some issues with Skindeep, but that is for another day, this blog post is already way too long!)
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From: ToxNet

And for you lucky ladies with lovely curls, here is a link you might find familiar:

So you kind of understand what I am saying? That lots of people out there are going to do anything to get your traffic to their site with whacky titles about ingredients in this companies food also are also used as an additive to make yoga mats. Or don’t drink this because there is so much sugar in it! (But there is about the same amount of sugar in this beverage as in a more common one). Or this ingredient is used in antifreeze why would you want to put it on your face/body? If you stop eating this, your skin will be perfect! And you read a couple more blogs about the same topic, then you read some silly doctor man’s website about how yes! It is true! If you stop rubbing that pickle on your pits, your grandchildren will get ingrown toenails.

There are different grades of ingredients. But that doesn’t mean that they are the same. Surfactants are a good example here. We use surfactants in body washes, shampoos, toothpastes and such. Sound safe? Yes! That’s the cosmetic grade for surfactants. 100% perfectly safe for its intended purpose. Now if I were a mama, babe or a Dr. Dumbass, I would scream and tell you NO! Surfactants are not safe and bad for you because they are an ingredient in…. Round Up Mix! Do you want to be eating the same ingredient used in something to kill weeds and pests? But if you do the research, you will see that they use a different grade.  And the surfactant is used to adhere the adhere the chemical to the plant and that’s its job.

When you set out to forumlate your own products, begin DIY, want to become ingredient savvy, or read someones blog to get an idea of a recipe to make your own products, look for facts. Take each and every ingredient and check it out from a science point of view. Not some random babe’s blog, or a mama blog, or a blog that tells you you can mix oils and water and not use a preservative.

March for Science April 2017

Over the past few years, we seem to have turned our backs on science based facts and welcomingly embraced idiots who preach to us with their own agenda. When it comes to your body and your skin, do the fact based research and not the oh my sisters husbands friends kids cousins brothers dog doesn’t like this so I shouldn’t like it either. Or I read on this person’s blog that the dust ball under my bed would make a good ear plug. And yes, this is now my platform too and yes, we have our own agenda. But at the end of the day, science is what will be left behind. The more you hear something, the more our brains want to beleive it is true. Just because one person is doing it, doesn’t mean it is right. If everyone were to jump off a building, would you?

In case you were wondering, Proplyene Glycol is a humectant. Humectants are very important in the cosmetics and skin care industry. They are a material that pair with water molecules and  boosts the water content in the skin. Humectants draw moisture to the skin in two ways. They can take moisture from the air and drops it onto the skin, and they promote water absorption from the outer layers of skin. Now while I don’t personally use Proplyene Glycol in Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin products, I wouldn’t say no to using it. It’s just not available to us in China, so we use vegetable glycerine as our humectant.

And now for a little something extra:

Dr Jackass goes on in his post to talk about how in the US cosmetics do not have to have their ingredients listed- wait. Let me show you what he said:

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From Dr. Axe

I call bullshite. I call massive bullshite. We just told you the other day we are thinking of moving from China to another country and opening a shop in a few years. And guess what? One of those countries is America. So we’ve been studying FDA Cosmetic Labelling Regulations which state VERY clearly on the FDA website:

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From the FDA website on cosmetic labelling

The FDA has very precise and I’m talking precise, down to the font ratio for rules for labelling of skin care/cosmetic products. Ingredients MUST be listed and there is a very strict and precise rule for how you can list your ingredients too and where your ingredient list must be placed both on the container and on the packaging.

Need another link to help understand the labelling or just want a company to make yours?

And here are a few links to some great sites that help to understand various ingredients:

Personal Care– Information Based on Sciencific Facts

Skin Deep– ingredient sheet checker

An now for some laughs from around the web:

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(sarcastic) I love to rub bacteria, yeasts and fungi all over my body! Which is what will happen when you mix water and oils with no preservative. And no, beeswax is not a suitable alternative for ewax.
“FDA does not have the legal authority to approve cosmetics before they go on the market FDA.” (that is a quote from the FDA) Essential oils are usually the “natural” ingredients which actually have little to no scientific backing. Essential oils, coconut oil and other similar ingredients are not “natural” as they have been chemically, mechanically, or processed in some way, and have a lovely places on the periodic table of elements making them…. chemicals. Other chemicals that are dangerous if not properly tested: water, peppermint essential oil, cinnamon powder, turmeric, nutmeg, ginger, olive oil, talc, and everything under the sun.
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The molecular structure of coconut oil. Isn’t it pretty? Guess what? It’s been processed (even if you make it yourself!), making it not natural. And it has a chemical structure.

And lastly, TheOatmeal comic on why we do what we do. It’s cute!

Information, MsBarb, Questions, Soap

Learning Curves- Soap Questions

I have a mad love affair with soap. It is so addictive! I love the choosing of ingredients, and I love the whole thought process that goes into making them. And then! choosing the additives and extras, and then thinking of the colours, and then the swirls or design!

And each and every time I make a new batch of soap, I learn something new.

I never used to use fancy colours or fragrance oils and hardly ever used essential oils as they were just too gosh darn expensive to put in there and the scent faded anyways. And since I was just giving away soap to people, I didn’t and couldn’t take on that much added cost. But once I started selling them, like properly selling them (and not just the “hey Barb, got any soap? Yeah, here, 60rmb” type of selling, but the we want to make this an actual business lets set standard prices), we learnt some things. And some of them were not pretty or easy to swallow learning curves.

A sampling of Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin All Natural Soaps, some of these are over five years old! Look! Can you see the rose extract swirl? (Coffee Cream, Orange Zest, Tiger Tail (rose extract swirl) and Neem II
  1. Both Sonia and I think Natural Soaps are actually quite pretty. They are rustic. We both don’t really care what it looks like as long as it does the job. The colour profiles are usually quite muted if natural colour additives were used, or if natural extracts (like bamboo, rose, green tea etc..) were used, they will generally always fade to brown within a few days. There were rough edges and sometimes way too scratchy if herbs were tossed in. Or looked like mouse poo if flower buds were added. But it was soap. And it did the job.
  2. Natural Soaps smell like…. well, soap. And can possibly be a little smelly/funky depending on the ingredients. If you have never held onto or used a bar of real soap (and Zest, Dove, Irish Springs commercially bought are Beauty Bars NOT soap) with no fragrance oil or essential oils, you will know what I mean. It didn’t matter as it was doing the job it was designed for.
  3. Bars were not always even, cut straight and were cut free handed. But again, it did the job.

So this is what we thought about natural and mostly organic soaps.  And we thought, people will love it when they use it! It’s natural and a great product! Which is true, but we learnt very quickly, that most people don’t actually want “natural” soap, they want, “natural PLUS some some chemicals to make it smell like a favourite fruit or flower or food and colour additives to make it look pretty too”. So we had to go back to the drawing board and rethink our additives, extras and spend a fortune on fragrance oils. To make our soaps more pretty. We also aded in more vibrant colours, began using much more difficult swirl techniques, invested in better cutting tools and learnt various and better ways to cut soaps.

Soaps May 2017
Some soaps made in the past month using the “natural PLUS” method

It hasn’t been easy, but thankfully soap is a very forgiving mistress when it comes to swirls and pours. But when it comes to a new and strange and horror story filled past with no one in China that I can ask for help or guidance on a new ingredient like fragrance oils in soap, that’s when grey hair begins. And the worry creeps in. It took a few batches to learn how to use them, and after almost 7 or 8 years of making soaps, I’m finally using fragrance oils and colourants in my soap making with a pretty good success rate and with confidence. My house reeks of grapefruit, bamboo & teak, lemon and lime, strawberries, ocean rain and plenty more! And it is not a bad thing!

A serious concern we have, is some scents that are very popular give me a mighty migraine. So something that we have to think about is, do we make that soap that we are pretty sure will sell well and suffer the few week migraine? Or where can I store it while it cures so it doesn’t affect me? Then there is, how to deal with the space issue of soap cure time (depending on the water content, usually 4 weeks to 8 weeks and that also depends on the weather conditions too)?

And then the question of, When do we start advertising the soap? I love to share my creations when I make them! But soap needs to cure. So do I wait till they are finished curing before posting pictures of things we’ve made? Provide little teasers? Little games of guess what I made today?

There are many things that we have to figure out when it comes to this soap making business. And at the moment, we’ve more questions than answers. These questions thankfully, are only on the business side of things and not the actual product side of things.

A sampling of soaps from the cure room. Which would you rather buy?

Now I know this is a fresh out of the gate blog, and not everyone reading it is an aspiring soap maker or seller. I can tell you one word of advice from the business side of soap making that I never wanted to believe or follow and I wish I did follow it much earlier. The number one way to figure out if you are hobby soap maker or out to make this a business is look at the number of recipes you have. If you have more than three base recipes, you are a hobbyist (or a hardcore soap seller in this business for years and years). If you have one to three base recipes and only your colours/fragrances/top changes, you are serious about turning your soaping into a business.