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!!!




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.

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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.

General News

Learning Curves: The Move 1

At some point in the next few years, both Sonia and I would like to leave China and open a Scrub Me Down- Happy Skin physical shop. Where exactly that would be, is not yet 100% decided. So one day soon, Sonia and family, and I will be opening our own little shop in another country. How friggen exciting is that!

But until then, it means lots and lots and lots of learning.

We have so many things to think about and things that have to be done before we even decide what is what and where this shop will be. One of the biggest things to think about are the rules. Europe has the EU Cosmetic Rules and Regulations, America has the FDA and Canada has Health Canada. Each of them are very different in terms of what is needed to make and sell skincare items. It seems as if North America puts more onus on the seller to follow FDA and Health Canada rules.

Whereas the EU has so many rules and inspections and assessments you have to pay to have done before you even begin to sell your product to anyone. So this means you have your ingredient lists all ready to be submitted to a chemist/toxicologist/lab to be studied and given the green light. Anything sold to be used on the body has to go through this assessment. This means, even something as simple as a three ingredient lip chap! And then register with this governing body and that one.


And then the different rules of labeling, the manufacturing process, the storage of ingredients… all these have different types of rules to follow.

What does this mean for Happy Skin? Why are we posting about rules of the EU and FDA and Health Canada you might ask? Well, we want to start off with good habits. We want to make sure we follow the highest international standard so we get into the habit of doing everything right the first time and not needing to re-learn how to do something and un-learn a bad habit.