Acne- you spotted devil! and more

Acne- you spotted devil!

Hi All,
Long time no post, I know! Since I am way overdue I wanted to go a little off topic of my normal posting about ingredients and things that go into the products here at Soapsmiths and talk a little bit about why some products are better than others for different skin care applications.

I was recently on a forum I frequent and contributed some information to another member regarding battling adult acne. It is something that many adults deal with and it can be annoying, embarrassing, painful or all three. There are different types of acne and different reasons that people have it. Some may be easier to treat than others and some do need a medical professional to intervene and help them resolve the problem.

Let's start from the beginning. What is Acne? This is a loaded question because acne is sometimes a  product of genetics, environment (external) medications (internal), bacteria and other triggers such as hormones, stress, cosmetics and food. The exact definition as stated in Milady's Standard Esthetics Fundamentals is this: a chronic inflammatory skin disorder of the sebaceous glands that is characterized by comedones and blemishes.

As defined by the book listed above there are 4 grades of acne, these range from minor to major with the 4th category being cystic acne which does need to be treated by a dermatologist. If you are not sure, please seek the help of a physician in order to get the proper treatment.

Great, how do we fix this? Well it depends. First you have to know what is triggering your acne, not always the simplest task, I know. You can start by eliminating external triggers such as foods and cosmetics. For example, do you notice that you break out after eating or drinking something specific? Try eliminating processed foods, alcohol, over-the-counter medications, perhaps even dairy, grains and other foods that are known for causing allergic reactions. Sometimes a breakout is your body's way of telling you that it does not agree with what you are putting into it. For example, every time I get a cold and take cough medicine I completely break out all over my jaw line, literally all over, it's embarrassing. It took me awhile to figure this out but I finally put A and B together, nixed the cough medicine and no more breakouts (at least cough syrup related).

As for cosmetics, are you sanitizing your brushes after each use or better yet using disposable applicators? Are you double dipping your applicators into your cosmetics (a big culprit of bacteria related acne). Are you following the hardest rule of all and tossing those cosmetics that are past it's due date? I KNOW! It seems like throwing your hard earned money away, but your skin will thank you because you are saving it from the bacteria breeding ground that cosmetics tend to become. And really, isn't that sometimes why we buy cover-up? To cover blemishes? Less blemishes could equal less cover-up needed and more savings in the end!

Here's another one that I hear about commonly, do you wash and scrub the heck out of your face and still have acne? Well STOP! Our face skin differs from other skin on our bodies in that it is more sensitive and in some spots very thin, over rubbing, over exfoliating, and whatever else is all too much for this part of our body. There is actually a term for this, it's called acne mechanica. This type of acne can be totally avoided with a change in your skin care routine. In addition to rubbing your skin right off your face you are also rubbing all of your sebum away and most likely causing micro-tears in your skin, this presents new problems to your skin. 1- many times people exfoliate to remove dirt, grime and bacteria from their skin but OVER exfoliating also effects the sebum balance in your glands (found mainly on your jawline) causing it to produce more and faster, which leads to "oily" skin, stop rubbing start nourishing and your sebum glands will calm down. 2- Micro-tears are a by-product of using exfoliants which are not meant for your face such as a sugar scrub or something that has very sharp granules (salt, ground walnut shells etc.) If it hurts your face stop using it, your skin is telling you that it's no good! You are causing micro-tears, aggravating your skin and opening yourself up to possible bacterial infections (from those dirty make-up applicators perhaps?).

Alright so this information is great but what should I use? Well the options are endless and the type of acne and skin that you have will dictate what it the best skin care regiment overall. Remember, skin care is not just choosing one product, it's more choosing a group of products and coming up with a consistent regiment. As someone who makes products, specifically handmade soap it pains me to say that handmade soap is not appropriate for acne prone skin. Why? Because handmade soap generally has a pH of between 8-9 or so and our skin's pH is 5.5. Using a handmade soap will unbalance your face and cause it to over produce sebum in order to get back to that acidic pH of 5.5. Now the whole process of re-balancing itself generally takes no more than 20 minutes, but in that 20 minutes your skin will feel oily and who wants that after just washing their face? Not me. What do I use? Because I have acne prone AND sensitive skin I vary my selection of products but keep the regiment. For example, my process is: cleanse, tone, moisturize. I will 1-2 times per week use a gentle exfoliant and 1-2 times per month do a light (very VERY light) steam with a nourishing mask. I have information on both masks and exfoliants in previous posts for your viewing pleasure (sorry I am having trouble linking them right now).

For my trinity of skincare products I have found that my skin likes a gentle cleansing milk which is soap free, it's basically a very thin lotion, it's completely nourishing, gentle and since "like attracts like" it pulls the oils and grime from my skin and pores with ease. I make this myself, I have been formulating and testing variations of this recipe for months and I am very happy with the latest version. Since I prefer this blend to be very thin it has a high water content, in order to get some additional "yumminess" into this product I infused the water with chamomile. This cleanser smells so sweet and feels so silky. If formulating scares the pants off of you you can simply do the oil cleansing method (OCM) which is exactly what it sounds like. Olive oil is great for this since it has the same pH as our skin. Cotton ball, gently wipe your face and leave it be. I find this cleansing method to be great in the winter when my skin is super thirsty and prefer to do it before bed so I don't feel all shiny when I am out and about. Also I prefer avocado oil because my skin really drinks it up, but again, it's a matter of preference.

If you feel like getting nutty and formulating your own, I will share with you the basics of my recipe:

Phase 1
Water 80%

Phase 2
Oils (I selected 3) 14.5%
E-Wax 3%

Phase 3
Preservative (I used germaben @ .5%)
Vitamin E oil (NO this is not a preservative)
Essential oil of choice @ 1%, I prefer lavender and keep the % low since it's on my face and very near my nose. (geez of course it's near my nose! My nose is on my face, lol, I left what I originally wrote there because now it's just funny) :)

I infused the water with chamomile because it is very soothing especially for sensitive skin, in my case I found this information to be true.  There are about a gazillion herbs that you could choose from though, do your research and be creative! I went through many different oils before I found 3 that I was happy with, go ahead, play around with combinations, the old wives tale that oils clog your pores is just old wives tale and not true. Phase 3 is very important, you MUST preserve this formulation. Any product with water in it needs to be properly preserved, you are making this to help your skin, don't hurt it by leaving the preservative out. If you are unsure or nervous about preservatives, I have other posts about different ones on the site and you can also check with the manufacturer about different ones for different types of formulations.

Alright, on to toner. I have made it before but I am going to be completely honest, I cheat and purchase toner. I have only so many hours in my day and find the toners available in the store to work very well for me, why torture myself? Let's look at what toner really does. Benefits: freshener, pH balancing and astringent. Toners remove any residue which is left over from cleansing, it can temporarily make your pores appear to be smaller and should return your skin to it's normal pH as well as offer some hydration. I prefer non-oil based toners because they just make my skin feel fresher, although they should not contain alcohol, just read the label to be sure. You can apply it with a cotton ball or spritz it on.

Last moisturizer. In the winter I use either straight oil or a very heavy facial moisturizer at night, I feel that it plumps my skin while I sleep and makes it super soft, I generally prefer avocado oil, however I have recently tried just jojoba oil and find that it is also wonderful, did you know that jojoba is actually a wax and has properties that mimic our skins natural sebum?!?

In the summer I just cannot stand the thought of something heavy on my skin and opt for lighter cremes. If you are going to be in the sun get a moisturizer with sunscreen in it. It's such an easy step to take to protect yourself from sun spots, wrinkles and of course skin cancer. Think you are too young to get skin cancer? I have a list of people who are my age and younger who have already dealt with this at times disfiguring disease. This is the largest organ on your body, protect it as if your life depended on it! I digress, For those times when you just want to moisturize, I have actually been using my cleansing milk as my moisturizer, it's super light and soaks in like a dream, after all, it is just a thin lotion. Find something that you like and that feels comfortable to you and go with it. While I am sure the cremes that cost $65+ an ounce are great, I am just not interested in spending that, in fact I think it's a total rip-off! Yes, they have some superb ingredients but topically applied lotions and potions do not penetrate past the epidermis. I prefer to have something affordable that I can apply as I need to instead of worrying that I might run out and not be able to buy more because my payday has not yet arrived. Again it's a matter of preference, I have had to the good fortune to be able to try the ridiculously expensive as well as the less expensive hand made and my preference is for the less expensive.

Well, there you have it, a ridiculously long post about acne and products......I could write for days about this topic!

~Best in acne-freeness
Your Soapsmith

Disclaimer 1. This post raged out of control in terms of length and I only skimmed the surface.

Disclaimer 2. I am not qualified to give not medical advice nor do I aim to, if you have long term, serious or  painful acne or other skin conditions please stop surfing the net and please seek professional face-to-face help.


The joy of avocados

Most people already know this about me but I am obsessed with everything avocado. I love eating them on sandwiches, mashing them up into a magnificent guacamole, whipping them into a wonderful dessert, and I even use the oil in one of our favorite soaps. There are whole websites dedicated to the avocado, that in itself is noteworthy.

What is it exactly that I like about this fruit so much? Maybe it's the efficiency of it as a whole. The skin doubles as a bowl once you open and scrape the meat out, the seed doubles as an awesome massage ball and the meat itself can be incorporated into a savory dish or a delicate and sweet dish with ease. It is also  packed with vitamins and healthy fats to boot.

The below information was found on

Avocados have a long and rich history dating back to the Aztec civilization. The fruit is known to improve heart health, aid in weight loss,provide a good course of vitamins B, C and E and is safe to use in baby food and in a diabetic diet. Besides all of the internal benefits, avocados have received a well-earned reputation for keeping skin looking young, beautiful and moist. Centuries after their first discovery, avocados are making a a cosmetic comeback to fight aging and dry and acne prone skin.



The word for avocado comes from the Spanish word "aguacate" which comes from the Aztec word "ahuacatl." Agri Business Week reported in 2009 that the word "ahuacatl" translates to "testicle," probably a reference to the way the fruit hangs from the tree, and that for centuries the fruit was associated with being an aphrodisiac. Because of its sexual reputation, avocado purchases were nearly non-existent in the western world where buying one might lead to slanderous assaults. Despite the rumor, countries around the world have been using avocados in ice cream, milk shakes, as a side dish, as a dip, in soups, in salads and as an ingredient in face masks for optimal skin health.

Avocado's and skincare 

According to and, avocados reduce the appearance of age spots, help reduce signs of skin aging and heals dry skin and eczema. Large amounts of sterolins, a protein proven to reduce the appearance of age spots, scars and sun damage, are found in avocados. Avocado oil contains the highest amount of sterolins in the fruit, making it an ideal ingredient in skin moisturizers marketed to people with dry or damaged skin. Avocado oil also increases the amount of collagen found in the skin. reports that a loss of collagen in the skin occurs in the natural aging process and avocado oil helps to slow that process down. Avocados do not clog pores.

With old man winter knocking furiously at my door these days I find that my skin is feeling a bit dryer and tighter than usual. I treated my face to a little facial which ended with an avocado mask. It felt wonderful and made my skin feel great.

Avocado mask:
1/2 avocado
1tbsp avocado oil (you can substitute this for a more readily available oil)
5 drops of Clary Sage essential oil (this oil helps control oily skin problems and smells kind of nice and earthy)

Directions: (if you have a small food processor that is most helpful if not, no worries just use elbow grease.) Mash up avocado, add oil slowly and blend well, last add the drops of clary sage and then apply to your face and neck. Leave on for about 15 minutes then rinse off with warm water and soft cloth. Tone and moisturize as usual.

For an extra treat I put a little avocado oil directly on my face after my mask and my skin soaked it right up (it was very thirsty!).
Avocado's in my belly
I stumbled upon a dessert dish recently which utilizes the Avocado and wanted to share it because it's just that good!

Whipped Avocado:
Serves 4
1 Avocado
1/2 C Milk (I used my favorite, coconut milk by soy delicious)
1/4 C white sugar (could be less if you do not want this to be too sweet)
1/2 Tsp vanilla

Directions: Whip, chill, serve.....yes, it's that simple!
Well this will be my last post for 2011, I hope you have enjoyed my posts this year, I have enjoyed doing the research and writing them. Wishing all my friends/fans and wonderful customers an awesome and safe New Years Eve and a rocking new year! 
'Till next year.......
~Your Soapsmith

For additional information check out these sites:

The Pumpkin

Ahhh, the pumpkin. A squash that is easily identified and loved throughout the world. It indicated that fall is on it's way and with it comes jack-o-lanterns, trick or treating and changing foliage. Pumpkins can actually grow in many climates and can be found on every continent except Antarctica, it is a member of the winter squash family and while it can be found in many different color variations, the most recognizable color would be a shade of orange. This squash has been cultivated for over 9,000 years and is indigenous to North America, for the people of this continent it was a mainstay in their diet. Pumpkin is packed full of nutrients such as: protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins A & C, potassium, zinc and beta carotene to name a few. It is also high in fiber and low in calories.

Pumpkin can be found in many different dishes, anything from appetizers to desserts to beverages, it is the great unsung hero of the food world, I wish I could find it on more menus. The self proclaimed capital of pumpkin festivals is  located in Half Moon Bay, CA, maybe someday I will get to visit this great festival.

Pumpkins and skincare.

Now that we have established the magic that is the pumpkin in food, let's talk about it in skincare. First let's look at the components that make up a pumpkin:

1. The meat or pulp
2. The seeds
3. The oils that can be pressed from the seeds

The meat of the pumpkin is packed full of vitamins that our skin can benefit from, vitamins A and C are great, A helps to improve the skin's texture, firmness and smoothness, this vitamin is believed to be essential for the generation and function of skin cells. Vitamin C is a well known anti-oxidant when combined with vitamin E in skincare these two are a powerhouse and can effectively fight free radicals as well as repair damage from the free radicals at skin level. Zinc is great for the skin, it is sometimes referred to as a micornutrient and is believed to accelerate wound healing as well as offer protection from some types of UV rays* (use only an FDA approved sunscreen please).  Zinc plays well with vitamin's A & E and promoted collagen synthesis in the dermis, it is also an effective when used to treat acne since it can lower sebaceous secretions. Pumpkin also contains something called AHA's or alpha hydroxyacid. This is also known as a "fruit acid." Depending on the concentration and pH of a formula containing AHA's they can help many different skin types and conditions. Some of the benefits include: reduction of fine lines and wrinkles, lightening of surface pigmentation, softer more supple skin with improved hydration. AHA's also act as a natural exfoliant and can help to regulate the top layer of the epidermis by reducing it's thickness.

When using pumpkin meat in a skin care preparation, such as a mask, focus on what it will do for the top layers of your skin, it can exfoliate dead skin cells, help with moisture retention and possibly pave the way for less acne and dryness with a regular proper skin care regiment for your skin type.

Let's talk about pumpkin seeds, the easiest use of this component would be as an exfoliant. If you are creating a home pumpkin seed exfoliant be sure to grind them up so that they are very fine, your facial skin is delicate and can get micro tears if the exfoliant is too sharp, the seeds may be better suited for other parts such as arms and legs and can be mixed with other exfoliants such as sugar, ground coffee or finely ground nuts. I will include some home recipes below for a fun home spa day.

Last but not least pumpkin seed oil. This oil is cold pressed from the seeds of the pumpkin, bringing with it most (if not all) of the nutrients found in the seeds. This oil can be included in lotions, soaps, scrubs and masks too. Only a tad is needed in a formulation in order to get the nutritious benefits it can offer. It will absorb readily into your skin and is thought to help other humectants also absorb leaving your skin super moisturized and soft. Just like most vegetable based oils it will not clog your pores.

So are you ready to get all pumpkin faced? Here are some fun recipes to make in your own kitchen.

Please note that unless you are using a proper preservative make these recipes in small batches (one use) and discard the rest as it will become prime breeding ground for bacteria, yeast and molds, even if you cannot see it, it's still there, don't take the risk!

Pumpkin mask:
2 tsp pumpkin meat (can use canned puree too)
1/2 tsp honey (a great humectant)
1/4 tsp milk (I prefer buttermilk and use buttermilk powder as it is high in AHA's and will help break down dead skin cells)
Optional: I also added about 1/4 tsp of pumpkin seed oil, this mask goes on very smooth and feels creamy. There may be slight tingling due to the fruit acids. If it's too much for you or you feel uncomfortable rinse off immediately with warm water.

(Suggestion:warm the honey slightly) Mix all together and spread on face and neck, let sit for approximately 15 minutes (watch Charlie Brown's great pumpkin) then rinse with warm water, tone and moisturize as normal.

Pumpkin seed scrub:
2 tsp finely ground pumpkin seeds
1 tsp granulated white sugar (if you have another sugar preference feel free, just make sure the granules are fairly fine)

Mix the dry ingredients together and slowly add the oil until it is the consistency you prefer, I prefer my scrubs to be very dry so I usually add very little oil.

If you want to make more to use this for a body scrub about 3-4 ounces would do it for a one time use application so use your kitchen scale for better accuracy:
2 oz finely ground pumpkin seeds
1 oz granulated white sugar
1 oz vegetable oil of choice (more if you would like a "wetter" scrub.)
If you have an essential oil or fragrance oil that you want to use, add it slowly drop by drop and try to limit it to no more than 2% of the total recipe. .08 oz or 2.2 grams max.

Directions for face or body:
Rub scrub in circular motions avoiding eyes and other sensitive parts. If using in the shower be cautious as the tub may become slippery.

Pumpkin Oil Serum:
This is a great serum to use before bed, for those that prefer the OCM (oil cleansing method) this can be adapted for use in that manner as well.

For a 2 oz bottle with lid:
Quick kitchen recipe, use your kitchen scale and convert to grams for better accuracy:
1.5 oz Pumpkin seed oil
.5 oz Almond oil
1 vitamin E capsule (pierce capsule and add the vita E oil)

A little more advanced recipe for a 2 oz bottle:
1 oz Pumpkin seed oil
.5 oz almond oil (or other light vegetable oil of choice)
.25 oz fractionated coconut oil (or other light vegetable oil of choice)
.25 oz jojoba oil
1-2 drops vitamin E oil
1-2 drops of preferred essential oil (lavender is lovely as is rosemary. Tea tree has great healing properties)

Mix all ingredients well and pour into your sanitized container. To use, first cleanse and tone your face then pour a couple of drops onto your clean finger tips and smooth gently onto your face and neck in circular motions. Leave on overnight.

Because the serum is anhydrous (without water) and you will not be dipping your fingers into it you can go without a preservative and it will last longer, store in cool, dry place.

So there it is, the pumpkin is just great for you inside and out. Have a fabulous fall and enjoy the power of the pumpkin !

Until next time
~ Your Soapsmith

Let's talk about Triclosan

Triclosan is an ingredient which is found in multiple household items. It is a common ingredient in anti-bacterial soaps, body washes, toothpastes and some cosmetics as well as being incorporated into clothing, kitchenware, furniture and toys.

While this ingredient is not known to be harmful to humans there have been several new studies released and the FDA and EPA have collaborated and are re-evaluating its effects on the environment as well as humans in light of these studies.

This question is posed on the FDA web site which I found to be very interesting:

Does triclosan provide a benefit in consumer products?

For some consumer products, there is clear evidence that triclosan provides a benefit. In 1997, FDA reviewed extensive effectiveness data on triclosan in Colgate Total toothpaste. The evidence showed that triclosan in this product was effective in preventing gingivitis.

For other consumer products, FDA has not received evidence that the triclosan provides an extra benefit to health. At this time, the agency does not have evidence that triclosan in antibacterial soaps and body washes provides any benefit over washing with regular soap and water. 

There are other studies are investigating the possibility that use of triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.

According to the EPA:

Current as of March 2010

Triclosan (2,4,4’ –trichloro-2’-hydroxydiphenyl ether) is a chlorinated aromatic compound. Its functional groups include both phenols and ethers. It is used as a synthetic broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent. Triclosan was first registered as a pesticide in 1969.

Triclosan is also utilized in many industrial settings for machinery and equipment in order to prevent microbial growth.

Based on monitoring, triclosan was found in at least 36 US streams which were close to some sort of water treatment plant (sewage, sludge etc. plant) and is believed to be contributing to the occurrence of triclosan in open water. While it currently appears that fish are not affected it has been determined that aquatic plants are affected (which would lead me to believe that fish may eventually be effected via the food chain).

The EPA admits that it does not know how much triclosan is being released into the environment from industrial sites and is amending some rules and regulations as well as labeling regulations for these institutions to begin being able to monitor this pesticide better.

There are a list of "Nest Steps" listed on the EPA site about it's plans for triclosan:

Next Steps

  • Given the rapidly developing scientific database for triclosan, the Agency intends to accelerate the schedule for the registration review process for this chemical. Currently, the Agency intends to begin that process in 2013, ten years earlier than originally planned.
  • EPA and FDA are collaborating on research projects that will help both agencies to better characterize the endocrine-related effects of triclosan, including toxicological effects, human relevance, and the doses at which they occur to determine if levels of human exposure are safe or not. The Agency will pay close attention to this ongoing research and will amend the regulatory decision if the science supports such a change.
  • The Agency is also updating its 2008 assessment of triclosan exposure using the newly released 2005-2006 NHANES urinary monitoring results and will incorporate those results into the revised risk assessment.
  • The Agency will continue to participate in the Interagency Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance and evaluate information that results from that activity, and will continue its cooperative efforts with the FDA to share information on triclosan and discuss future research efforts and needs that will best meet the needs of the two agencies. 
Why am I writing about this particular ingredient? Simple, this ingredient is used in many if not most of our every day products and there are just now numerous studies coming out with information stating that this may not be the best thing since sliced bread. For starters, you really can't kill it, it kills things and therefor itself is very hard to render ineffective.

I was really surprised when I learned that it was first registered with the EPA as a pesticide and is now in my toothpaste......toothbrush fibers.....some cosmetics.....and pretty much anything labeled anti-bacterial. I saw on another site that it can stay active in your skin for up to 12 HOURS! I am still working to confirm this bit of info with a scientific based source, but if this is true it pretty much means that we all eat triclosan daily in addition to eating it when we, yuck! Just the simple fact that the EPA is moving their assessment timetable up for this ingredient by 10 years raises some red flags with me.

Anytime there is an ingredient that is used so heavily in such a variety of ways I am instantly curious and want to know more about it. Conveniently the EPA and FDA have also decided that they are curious and want to know more too so I will be keeping a close eye on this topic and report back what is published as I learn more. I always find it particularly interesting that through so many of these studies the FDA still stands behind the study that washing your hands with plain soap and water is just as effective, so it leaves me wondering why to the big corporations add the extra chemical and dump so  many millions and billions of dollars into marketing something that may not even be necessary?

Stay healthy my friends
~Your Soapsmith

My resources:


Ingredient Highlight - Neem Oil

Neem Tree
In this fascinating industry there is always something new to learn about. I heard about neem oil quite some time ago and even bought some to experiment with but somehow never got around to it until recently. There was recently a fantastic article in an online magazine I subscribe to called Saponifier on neem oil. That was my inspiration to get in gear and play around with this magical ingredient.

The neem tree is described as an evergreen which is native to India, this is a vegetable oil which is extracted from the tree as opposed to a nut oil. This oil has been used for a very long time as antibacterial, antivirul, antifungal and insecticidal. It can also soothe irritated skin and I have seen it in products which are formulated to help with acne too.

An ingredient this great should really be in more products, don't you think? Well I thought so and set off on my little adventure with the elusive neem oil. I will say this, it has a VERY distinct scent, very strong and not particularly my favorite scent for sure. But like with many things that are good for you they sometimes smell or taste not so good, broccoli comes to mind (yuck!).

I made a simple soap, small batch because I am just experimenting at this point. The article in saponifier said that it is most effective when used at a rate of 20%-40% so I went with the lower end of that and used it at a rate of about 25% to start with. Since this is such a healing oil I wanted to make sure my other oils would be very complimentary so I also added some shea butter and other totally skin loving oils and to finish it off some lavender essential oil. I was hoping the lavender would help cover some of the scent but also lavender is a wonderful and healing essential oil.

This soap got very hot in the mold and hardened fairly fast too, it was interesting. The next day I unmolded and was inspecting the soaps, they smelled faintly of.....peanut butter??? It's kind of peanut butter colored too. So strange, a few days later that scent is dissipating and I swear I can smell a tad of the lavender.

All in all it was great working with such an interesting ingredient, I look forward to sampling the soap and seeing how the scent ends up working out in it too.

The lovely neem soap

Well this soap has a few weeks to go before I can really take it for a spin, I will update once I try it out.

Until then stay bubbly my friends,
~Your Soapsmith

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