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What Does “Small Keys” Mean?

Small Keys Square pic

Generally when new people walk up to my shop, they look a little confused for a minute as they try to put together what the name “Small Keys” has to do with the products they see in front of them.. I thought I’d just take a moment to explain how I came up with the name Small Keys and why I’m always so obsessed with keys.

I’m not positive where the key obsession initially started, but for as long as I can remember I’ve loved the symbolism of keys and doorways (as in, new beginnings). I’ve collected a variety of keys over the years and some of my keys are more memorable than others. One of my favorites is a beautiful diamond key necklace symbolizing the birth of my daughter and that new door in my life. I even have a key tattooed on the back of my neck symbolizing another new door to my life a few years ago. So this was part of the story of my name, a new door for me in opening this new company, but the meaning goes much deeper.

A couple of years ago, I started reading up on what was in products and studying labels and began making some of my own products, I became obsessed with what I was putting on my body and in my home. I started throwing things away and buying ingredients. The more I read, the more overwhelmed I became. If I really wanted to do what was healthiest for me and my daughter, I needed to get rid of every single thing we used on a daily basis…and I needed to throw out our food and all the plastic, and then I started reading about the chemicals sprayed on furniture and the dyes in clothes, and it went on and on and on. I started to become overwhelmed and then…

I GOT PISSED OFF…I feel like we, as consumers are assumed to be ignorant. We believe the hype surrounding beauty claims, we don’t read our labels, and most of the time we feel like we don’t even have a choice on what we put in and on our bodies…limited by finances, ignorant of ingredients and exhausted trying to keep up.

So I took matters into my own hands, started educating myself, starting throwing out the horrible toxins, stopped listening to the ads and started doing my own research. Then my home full of concoctions began to interest those around me, and that was the beginning… the beginning of small steps, small keys, tiny changes that are leading through much bigger doors.


  • Because the marketing moguls assume we are ignorant and can be convinced that glossy ads = miracle results
  • Because we are poisoning our bodies and our children’s bodies daily through the foods we eat, the air we breathe and the products we use on a daily basis.
  • Because every small step makes a difference in my well being and my daughter’s future.
  • Because the more I know, the more I am morally required to share my findings. I can’t sit idly by and watch my friends filling their kids and homes with toxic substances.
  • Because my friends, family and now customers are starting to look at labels and ask questions instead of merely saying I’ve lost my mind.

Small Keys is all about taking baby steps…baby steps towards a less toxic lifestyle. Sometimes I don’t make the healthiest choices, but I don’t beat myself up. I know that I’m doing better than I was a year ago. Every piece of knowledge is power.

You are probably like me; you want to live in a non-toxic environment. You want more sustainable life, but you are busy, overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

I strive to educate others about the toxic substances in our household, beauty and bath products. Through education, we begin the process of change…through Small Steps!

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The Top 10 Questions I Get Asked About Handmade Soap

DSC_1411I have become quite obsessed with handmade soaps over the past few months. I originally planned to try my hand at soap making just to take one more store-bought item off my shelves.  Then I made a couple of batches, and the addiction started.

Making soaps has become my creative outlet in recent days. I’m not naturally artistic, but I am mathematically minded so the measuring and mixing of oils gives me much satisfaction. Each batch of handmade soap is completely different from the last. Each oil and butter brings something new to the equation. In addition to making them, I adore using my soaps and trying out other handmade soaps. I will never buy a store-bought soap again. As I give away and sell my creations, many friends and family agree that store-bought soaps are a thing of the past.

As I’ve been selling my soaps, I have noticed the same questions coming up again and again. I thought it would be nice to address some of the top questions in one place as a resource for anyone new to the idea of handmade soaps.



#10: What is the difference between handmade soaps & commercial bar soaps?

The two biggest differences are the glycerin in handmade soaps and the lack of detergents.

Glycerin is naturally produced during saponification. It’s a humectant which means it draws moisture from the air to your skin so it leaves your skin soft and moisturized. Commercial soaps remove the glycerin and sell it separately and/or use glycerin in more profitable products like moisturizers.

Detergents are synthetic often petroleum based cleansers whereas soap is simply oils and butters saponified with lye. I won’t get into the whole issue of polluting our water supply with detergents or my issues with petroleum byproducts. Detergents strip your skin, leaving it dry whereas soap cleanses without stripping.

Another issue with detergent based soaps is that the preservatives required to keep these acidic soaps from growing bacteria are toxic and drying as well. A well formulated handmade soap will outshine a detergent based bar soap any day!

If you are new to handmade soaps, you are in for a huge treat because they leave your skin feeling completely different than commercial soaps. I superfat all my soaps by about 5%, which means that I leave 5% extra oils/butters that doesn’t get turned into soap. Those extra oils/butters leave your skin moisturized.

#9: Why is the labeling on bar soaps so confusing? What do many of those ingredients on store bought soaps start with sodium? Why do I not see lye as an ingredient on many soaps?

I really enjoy deciphering labels on commercial soaps now that I am making soap myself. It can be very confusing simply because here in the US we do not have regulations on how the soaps need to be labeled. So sometimes you will buy handmade soaps that have no labels, and store-bought soaps are not all labeled the same. Here are some basic guidelines:

Sodium hydroxide is lye. Some soapmakers list what goes into their soaps and some list what the product is. So, for instance a bar that only contains olive oil, lye and water may have those three ingredients listed or may say “sodium olivate” as a single ingredient. Sodium olivate is the saponified version of olive oil. I like to list mine in the common names so it’s easier to understand for the majority of consumers. So I list all my oils and butters as saponified oils of… because I think customers understand “saponified olive oil” more easily than “sodium olivate”.

My biggest issue with soap labels is the term “fragrance”. If you are a big “natural foodie”, you can equate this general term to the term “natural flavor” on food labels. It’s a catch-all word that could mean many things. Fragrance oils are synthetic replications of actual scents, and those are proprietary blends so companies aren’t going to list out the breakdown of ingredients in a “fragrance”. The other issue with “fragrance” is that a buyer may have sensitivities or allergies and need to know what is in a product.

“Natural” ingredients can also be irritating and activate allergies, but at least if you know what exactly is in your products you can steer clear of items that irritate your skin. Since I only use essential oils as scent, I simply list those specific oils out on my labels. There are certain essential oils that aren’t recommended if you are pregnant, and if you have allergies, you want to be sure and read the labels carefully.

Another confusing thing that you will find on commercial soaps is fragrance added to soaps that are “unscented”. Kirks Castile is a soap I used to use that has fragrance in the unscented version. They add fragrance to cover the scent of the natural oils/butters. The issue with that is that people with sensitive skin could have reactions to synthetic fragrances, and buy unscented soap thinking they are getting no fragrance. Read your labels!

One of my  “unscented” bars of soap will still have somewhat of a fragrance because the oils and butters have their own scent.

#8: What does curing a soap mean? Why does that take 4-6 weeks?

Curing the soaps simply means I slice it and place the slices on a rack that allows good air flow turning the soaps occasionally. Most soaps take 4-6 weeks to cure, although any soaps that are mostly olive oil or all olive oil take 6 months to cure.

The cure time allows two things to happen. First, the water in the bar slowly evaporates which causes the bar to become hard. A hard bar will last much longer than a soft bar that hasn’t cured long enough. Secondly, curing allows the bar to become more gentle. I always test my bars immediately after cutting them to get a good idea of lather. That initial test makes my skin a little itchy and irritated. Every week that bar cures adds a whole new level of gentleness. Since I have the opportunity to test the bars out throughout those weeks, I can attest to the fact that they really do change a lot during that cure time.

#7: What is the difference between cold process, hot process, milled and melt & pour soap?

Most of us handmade soap makers speak up about the fact that our soaps are cold or hot processed because we worked hard to make these soaps and want people to know we didn’t just use a base pre-made soap.

“Cold process” refers to the fact that no heat was added to the soaping process. You mix an exact amount of lye water with whatever oils & butters you are using, then your mixture naturally heats up on it’s own. You let it process in a mold, then cut and cure the soap for 4-6 weeks (or longer for some soaps).

“Hot process ” refers to making the soap in the same way except adding heat to the process to speed up saponification. That usually occurs by putting the fresh soap in a crock pot. Hot process soaps work the same way as cold process, but hot process soaps have more of a rough texture usually. Cold process soap is similar to cake batter when it’s poured into molds, whereas hot process is more like a really thick, clumpy pudding.  Hot process gets the soap to a usable state faster, but cold process allows you to swirl colors and other creative flair.

Milled soap/French milled soap/rebatched soap is soap that was originally created through the hot or cold process. The soap is shredded, a little liquid added, and then it’s cooked and molded. This is a great way to redo soap that didn’t turn out pretty and it’s a great way to add fragrance that sticks around since the saponification has already occurred.


Melt & Pour “Glycerin” Soap

Melt and pour soap is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s a base soap that you purchase pre-made. You don’t have to worry with mixing lye because the soap is already made. You can add colors and scents and easily melt and pour the mixture into molds. Most melt and pour doesn’t meet my qualifications for “natural”, but I did find a natural base made by a company called SFIC that I am happy with.


Peppermint mustache melt & pour soaps

I use the melt and pour for cute kid soaps with embedded items or other cute shapes. Melt and pour is great if you want to make some soaps with your kids or you need to make soaps that will be immediately ready to use. Many elaborately designed soaps that you find in stores are melt and pour. These are often called glycerin soaps and many have a transparent look. Melt and pour soaps are a great way begin the soaping addiction.


#6: Why do you specify that some of your soaps are palm free and the ones with palm state that they are made with sustainable palm? What is wrong with palm oil?

Palm oil is generally used in place of tallow or lard in vegetable based soaps for hardness. You can make a bar of hard soap without palm, but it will usually take longer than 4-6 weeks to cure. The issue with palm oil is that rain-forests are being destroyed and orangutans endangered by profit driven companies. Palm oil is used in many food products as well as soaps.

With the growing concerns over the sourcing of palm oil, I am committed to only purchasing through sustain-ably produced companies. There are plenty of consumers who do not want to purchase items with palm oil at all which is why I create some soaps that have no palm oil.

#5: Why do you specify that some of your soaps are vegan?

This is one I find interesting because there are many people who don’t ever really think about what is in their soap. One day recently a lady asked me if other soaps contain meat since many of mine are, “Vegan”. No, most soaps do not contain meat, but most traditional soaps contain animal fats – lard, tallow…Personally, I have no issue with animal fats in soap. I do however want to be sure that anyone who buys my soaps knows what they are getting. I also want to educate people so they know how to read store labels.

I do make milk soaps and honey soaps with vegetable oils and butters so those are vegetarian, but not vegan. I always list ingredients and specify Vegan or Vegetarian. In the future I may create some soaps with animal fats, but those would be clearly labeled and I would use separate utensils for those so there is no cross-contamination.

#4: Can I use these soaps on my face?

I am formulating some bars that are specifically for washing your face, but many of the bars I currently have could be used on your face. Your face is more sensitive generally than your body, so the essential oils and butters/oils that may work well on your body, could be irritating on your face. Typically, my regular soaps will be a little too drying for your face. I do like to use the plain goat milk soap on my face sometimes, but I moisturize well after.

#3: I can’t use store-bought bar soap because they irritate my skin. Can I use your homemade soaps?

Well, maybe…I don’t know your skin issues nor do I try to diagnose skin problems (even though people are constantly showing me their rashes and skin problems while asking for advice). What I do know is that many people are allergic to the detergents in storebought soaps. Those detergents can leave your skin dry and irritated. Many people do find that their skin reacts very well to natural handmade soaps. I am happy to give you a sample to try out!

#2 I really love the smell of (insert common store bought scents)…can you make a soap with that fragrance?

Personally, I have made the decision to not use any fragrance oils/synthetic fragrances in my soaps and other products. That means there are certain scents that I simply can’t replicate.

For instance, vanilla. Vanilla beans make a great exfoliant and my vanilla infused body oil has a heavenly natural vanilla smell, but the vanilla scent doesn’t make it through the lye process in soap making. I can’t make soaps with a strong vanilla smell because I don’t use vanilla fragrance oil. That’s just one example of a fragrance I can’t replicate.


There are also many fragrances that would be very expensive to make with essential oils. You can replicate the rose scent with fragrance oils (although it won’t truly replicate that smell), but if you are looking to have rose soap you will be disappointed in the price. Bulgarian Rose Essential Oil currently costs $356.50 for 1/2 oz (Mountain Rose Herbs).  Soap requires between 1/2 – 1 oz of essential oil per pound. Basically, a bar of soap with only rose essential oil could cost you $200+. I use Palmarosa essential oil often as a replacement for rose so there are options, but there are definitely some scents that can’t be economically achieved with essential oils. Jasmine is another scent that would be expensive to replicate.

If you have a fragrance you are interested in, feel free to ask me if it’s one I can make with essential oils.

#1 Is there lye in your soap?

Safety first when working with lye:)

Safety first when working with lye:)

There is no lye in the finished soap, but you CAN’T have bar soap that didn’t have lye in the process. Lye is what makes the soap, soap. Lye reacts with the oils and butters through a chemical process called saponification and the end result is soap. Each oil and butter requires a specific amount of lye to saponify so measurements have to be very exact.

Some older people remember a time when soaps were marketed as “lye soap”. Typically those soaps were a basic lard soap or tallow soap. I often have people tell me they have bought soaps from elsewhere that didn’t have lye in them. Bar soap isn’t soap unless it was made with lye by the very definition of bar soap.

Liquid soap uses potassium hydroxide instead of sodium hydroxide. If you tried to make “soap” without lye, you would simply have a bunch of oils and butters mixed together. You wouldn’t have soap.


***Interesting lye fact – If you eat bagels or pretzels, you are eating a product that required lye. I use food grade lye in my soaps which is the exact same lye used to make bagels & pretzels. Lye is dangerous, but once it goes through the chemical reaction, as long as you used the correct amount of additions, the result is safe.

***Interesting lye fact – lick your soap to see if it’s lye heavy. My daughter loves to tell everyone that I lick the soaps. If you are a soap maker, this is not odd, but to the rest of the world it seems a little crazy. If soap has not finished with saponification or if you put too much lye in the soap, touching your tongue to the soap will cause a zap. It’s a similar feeling to putting your tongue on a 9 volt battery. Doing a quick zap test lets a soap maker know that the soap is safe and has saponified. It still needs to cure, but you know that it’s not lye heavy and that you did a good job of mixing the lye with the oils.


I’m sure other questions will come up along the way, but these have been the ones I hear most. Come visit me at The 7th Street Public Market in Charlotte, NC to check out my current soaps. I also list some of my soaps in my Etsy shop, and I’m happy to take custom orders as well!

Interested in making soaps? Here are a few of my favorite resources:

Soap Queen & Soap Queen TV - Anne-Marie represents Brambleberry which is a company that sells soap making supplies. She has a whole series of videos on cold process soap making that were super helpful to me starting out.

Soaping 101 & Soaping 101 on YouTube - This is my current “go to” for soaping ideas and is a fantastic starting point once you move past the beginner stage. This is where I got the idea on how to make dog soap, pine tar soap and several other ideas that I’ve tried out recently. There is also a Soaping 101 group on Facebook which is an unbelievable group of helpful people. Anytime I have a soaping question or issue, that’s where I get advice.

Humblebee & Me - A blog with a variety of DIY projects including soap, cooking and other beauty recipes.

The Nerdy Farm Wife - This is another favorite blogger who writes about soapmaking in addition to other great DIY beauty projects.



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What is Zinc Oxide and Why is it in my Diaper Rash Cream?

Diaper Rash Cream

So you may be wondering why I use a synthetic substance, zinc oxide, in my products if I’m trying to be all natural. You may not even know exactly what zinc oxide is. I definitely didn’t until doing some extensive research as I started creating baby products.

As soon as I started down this crunchy path creating my own beauty and household products, I decided that I wanted to be as knowledgeable as possible on every substance I put in or on my body. I stay away from processed foods, synthetically produced substances and toxic chemicals. The very core of my values related to my product line is to keep it natural. That’s why I want to explain what zinc oxide is and why I’m using it in the diaper rash cream.


What is Zinc Oxide?

Zinc oxide is a fine white powder that is insoluble in water. That simply means that if you dump a little zinc oxide into a cup of hot water and stir it around, you’ll just end up with powder and water. Zinc oxide can occur naturally as the mineral zincite but most zinc oxide is synthetically produced. (see wikipedia) You’ll find zinc oxide in a lot of products as an additive, and in the beauty world you will see it in diaper rash cream and in sunscreen.

Why Zinc Oxide Works Like Magic in Diaper Rash Creams

When you mix zinc oxide with hot emollients, butters, and oils the end result is a thick white cream. While the cream is still hot, you can see the powdery zinc oxide as a separate substance but as it cools the cream becomes a normal consistency and the powder dissolves.

Rub the zinc oxide cream on your skin and water droplets will sit on top of the cream. Wash your zinc oxide hands in warm water and you’ll still have beading water. The zinc oxide repels the water and keeps it away from your skin. This is exactly what it does on your baby’s body as well. Wet diapers won’t cause diaper rash because your baby has a layer of zinc oxide cream on that repels the wetness. It’s the best substance to use in diaper rash creams because it works so well at repelling moisture.

Zinc Oxide Percentages in Other Diaper Rash Creams

Zinc oxide can be found in most “natural” diaper rash creams as well as most mainstream store bought creams. It is the active substance in all these creams which means it’s what makes the cream work. Here are a few common creams that contain zinc oxide and the percentage that they contain:

Desitin Maximum Strength Original Paste (Owned by Johnson & Johnson) – 40% (highest percentage of zinc oxide you can get without a prescription)

Booty Goo – 25%

Desitin Rapid Relief Cream (Owned by Johnson & Johnson)- 19%

Penaten Medicated Creme (A German based company owned by Johnson & Johnson)- 18%

Bourdreaux’s Butt Paste – 16%

New Penaten Creamy Diaper Rash Treatment (A German based company owned by Johnson & Johnson) - 13%

Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Diaper Rash Cream – 13%

Triple Paste -12.8%

Weleda Calendula Diaper Rash Cream – 12%

Arbonne Herbal Diaper Rash Cream - 12%

California Baby Super Sensitive Diaper Rash Cream & Calming Diaper Rash Cream - 12%

Balmex Diaper Rash Cream with ActivGuard – 11.3%

Doctor Smith’s Premium Blend Diaper Ointment – 10%

Mustela Vitamin Barrier Cream - 10%

A & D Zinc Oxide Treatment Ointment - 10 %

Lansinoh Diaper Rash Ointment (Owned by Pigeon – an international company) – 5.5%

Burt’s Bees Baby Bee Diaper Ointment (Owned by Clorox) – ???% This is the only diaper rash cream without the percentage of zinc oxide listed on the label. Zinc oxide is the second ingredient on the label. (Ingredients are listed in order by how much  of each ingredient is in the recipe so the first ingredients are the largest portions.)

Zinc Oxide and Cloth Diapers

The downside is that it’s tough to get the cream off hands, bodies and clothes because zinc oxide repels water. There are many zinc oxide rash creams that say they are diaper safe. Apparently fish oils are the really pesky ingredient in diaper rash creams that just won’t wash out such as cod liver oil.

If you are using cloth diapers, I would definitely suggest using a liner with my diaper rash cream. If you are using natural fiber diapers, the zinc oxide should wash out fine but a liner is a good idea. With synthetic cloth diapers such as pocket diapers, you need to stay away from zinc oxide creams so my baby balm would be a better choice as a diaper rash cream.

Read here to find further info about cloth diapering.


What are nanoparticles and are they bad?

Nano-particles in zinc oxide have become controversial in recent years. Basically, in non-scientific terms, a nanoparticle is a super tiny version of a substance. Initially, products with zinc oxide touted nanoparticles as a feature because zinc oxide with nano-particles were absorbed into your skin so the nanoparticles wouldn’t leave a white residue on your skin. It seemed like a good feature until further research was done. The problem with nanoparticles is that the structure of a substance can change.

It’s a controversial subject, and I choose to simply use the non nano-particle zinc oxide as a safety precaution. Many companies have changed their sunscreens and diaper rash creams to non-nanoparticles as well.

Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles


Further Information – DIY Diaper Rash Cream

Diaper rash causes, preventions and treatments

Make your own diaper rash cream

7 Natural Baby Care Recipes




* All information is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


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Make Your Own Luxurious Lotion Bars

Valentines Lotion Bars

What are Lotion Bars?

Lotion bars are a perfect concoction if you are looking for an easy project that’s one step up from making salt and sugar scrubs. If you aren’t familiar with these wonderful creations, they are simply a hard version of lotion. They contain beeswax which makes them solid and also helps hold the moisture on your skin. If you are vegan, you can replace the beeswax with soy, candelilla or carnuba wax.

Lotion bars are a perfect transportable lotion option, and though they are hard, they quickly liquefy when rubbed between your hands. I like to keep a lotion bar in my purse, and some in a dish by my sink. If you make them correctly, they are very moisturizing but not oily. You can use them on cuticles, hands, body and even as a lip balm. Plus they can be made in lots of cute shapes, and you can add whatever scents you like to them.

One thing to note about lotion bars is that they will melt in warm temperatures. The melting point depends on the ingredients, but basically if you leave them in your car or carry them around on a hot day, they will melt. They will still be completely usable, but could be messy.




  • 1 part Beeswax
  • 1 part Coconut Oil
  • 1 part Shea Butter OR 3/4 part Cocoa Butter
  • Double Boiler or Makeshift Double Boiler – A pot and Pyrex measuring cup is perfect


  • Essential Oils (Add after heating)

The recipe above allows you to make whatever size batch you would like. For instance, you could make a reasonable size batch with 1/3 cup each of beeswax, coconut oil, and shea butter. That’s going to give you 1 cup/8 fluid oz of product.

double boilerINSTRUCTIONS

First, pull out the molds that you are going to use and have them ready because you will have to move quickly once your mixture is melted. Cake pans, muffin tins, silicone molds, candy molds, and even small bowls are all just perfect for lotion bars. Basically whatever you have around the house that can withstand hot liquid. Don’t use plastic containers though; stick with metal, silicone or glass.

Place all three ingredients in your Pyrex glass and heat over medium/medium high heat until the mixture is completely melted. Shea butter is temperamental and can have a gritty texture if you heat it too quickly.

Once your mixture is completely melted pull it off the heat, wipe down the water from the outside of your glass so you don’t accidentally get water in your bars. Then add essential oils (see below for ideas) and pour into your molds.

Let the molds sit or pop in the freezer for a few minutes. Pop the bars out of their molds and try them out. If they are too hard, throw them back in the double boiler and add a little coconut oil. If they are too soft, add more beeswax. Then just re-melt completely and add more essential oil.


You can add essential oil before you pour into molds or add it individually in each little mold and stir with a toothpick. You don’t want to add the essential oils into the mixture while it’s still on the stove or they will just evaporate and you will change the structure of the oils by heating. 10-20 drops of essential oil per 1/2 cup of mixture is a good starting point.

If you use cocoa butter in your recipe (which is what I use in my lotion bars), you will end up with bars that smell like cocoa butter (chocolaty) so you will want to leave out fragrance or be sure to add fragrance that is strong enough to be detected with the cocoa. My lotion bars have a light lavender smell. I also like to make them with peppermint, rose, neroli, and ylang ylang essential oils. Those fragrances all go together well.


You can also replace the different ingredients with other butters and waxes, but the recipe is going to change a little depending on how firm the butters and waxes are. Coconut oil is solid at room temp so if you replace it with a different oil, you will end up with oily bars that may not solidify. I made some lip lotion bars today by adding a little sweet almond oil in addition to the coconut oil, cocoa butter and beeswax. They are solid bars, but the sweet almond oil leaves your lips glossy.


Rub the bar between your hands to warm and liquefy, then rub into your skin.

Your skin will be left feeling moisturized but not oily.


I package my lotion bars in small plastic bags (because I have a few hundred of those on hand). Once I go through those, I’ll probably package them in a small tin. For your personal bars, a glass jar makes a great container for these or a small glass bowl with a few in it will scent your bathroom nicely.

You can easily re-purpose glass containers of your own, but you will want to replace the lids. I like to re-use spaghetti sauce jars, pickle jars and other similar containers. Just wash the container then boil in water to sterilize. Be sure the container is completely dry before putting any other products in it.



How to Make Lotion Bars

Nutty Butt Butter: Your Little Cellulite Secret

Moisturizing Bath Candy (Similar to lotion bars but for the bathtub!)

MadeOn Skin Care Products Make your own hard lotion kits and watch the great instructional video about halfway down the page.

Soapnuts Recipes


Check out my current lotion bars for sale or make your own and tell me about it in the comments!


* All information is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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How to Make Your Own Salt & Sugar Scrubs

regenerating salt scrubAs I mentioned in my post What’s the Big Deal with Bath Salts?, we have been sold the idea that we can only get awesome beauty benefits with store bought products. The real truth is that there are many bath and beauty products we can make ourselves with very simple ingredients.

Salt and sugar scrubs are no exception. They are one of the easiest beauty products to make yourself and you can probably throw some together with items in your kitchen right now! Salt or sugar scrubs make a great easy handmade gift. Simply buy some canning jars and create handmade labels and you have an easy luxurious gift.

I think of these scrubs as the ultimate in luxurious home body treatments. I once got an all over salt scrub at a local spa and it was a phenomenal experience. Now I can do them myself at home anytime I like.

How Salt & Sugar Scrubs Work

Basically the salt or sugar is exfoliating and whatever oil you include is moisturizing. Salt is rougher so it makes a wonderful foot scrub or scalp scrub. I use Epsom salt as a base for my salt foot scrubs because of it’s wonderful beneficial properties. Sugar is finer so it works well as a body scrub, and any sugar will do. I stay away from processed sugars in my food, but I use them regularly in my sugar scrubs. You can also mix salt and sugars together for a nice scrub with different textures.

Facial Scrubs

Your face is very sensitive, so be careful using scrubs on this delicate area. You could definitely use a sugar scrub on your face but rub gently and be sure the carrier oil and essential oils are all safe for use on your face. Stay away from any broken skin.

Carrier Oils

There are many great carrier oils out there. Extra virgin olive oil and grapeseed oil are probably the least expensive and easiest to find, but both have a distinctive smell. I like to use grapeseed in my foot scrubs because it contains antioxidants. Grapeseed is a great shaving oil as well because it’s not too thick.

Jojoba is my favorite face or body oil because it’s the closest to our own body’s oil so it absorbs very easily into your skin. Jojoba is more expensive than some of the other carrier oils, so I like to use it mainly in my face oils.

Sweet almond oil is also a great body or face oil that doesn’t leave an oily feeling behind. Since it is a nut byproduct, it can activate allergies. Sweet almond is great for baby massage oil, but I discontinued using it in baby products for fear of activating allergies.

Coconut oil also makes a fantastic body oil, but it is solid at room temperature. Simply put the coconut oil in a bowl of warm water or put it in a double boiler on very low heat to get it into a liquid form before adding to your scrubs. Coconut oil is what I primarily use as a hair oil and body moisturizer. I use it in scrubs to add depth and texture.

There are several other great carrier oils that can be used in salt or sugar scrubs. Avocado, apricot kernel, macadamia nut, sunflower, safflower, palm and hazelnut are a few other commonly used oils.

Essential Oils in Your Scrubs

Essential oils are a wonderful addition to your scrubs because they mask the scent of the carrier oils and they add a nice aroma. Many essential oils can be irritating to your skin, so do a little homework and start with small amounts.

Lavender is a good essential oil that is safe for most people. I’d definitely recommend it as a staple in your essential oil collection. I like to use peppermint in many of my handmade products. Peppermint has a nice fragrance and gives your skin a tingly feeling. It’s invigorating! Rosemary is another nice invigorating oil.

There are also some wonderful citrus scents (such as lime, lemon, sweet orange, orange, bergamot, grapefruit) that are not expensive and add a nice smell to handmade scrubs. Please be careful with citrus oils though, because they do cause your skin to be photosensitive (overly sensitive to the sun). I love citrus oils, but often use them in foot scrubs or hand scrubs rather than body scrubs for that reason.


purifying sugar scrubDIY SUGAR OR SALT SCRUBS


1 cup of Salt or Sugar

4 TBSP of Carrier Oil (See above suggestions)



Essential Oil (10-20 drops)

Ground Dried Flowers (Approximately 1 tsp – messy but nice) – I like to match up my flowers with my essential oils

Coffee or Cocoa Powder (1tsp) – This can get a little messy but both coffee and cocoa powder are a great additive in scrubs, and they add a nice smell.

Colors/Dyes - Many store-bought scrubs contain artificial dyes which I stay away from. I use natural dyes for my products whether for personal use or to sell. I love using fine Himalayan pink salt in my salt scrubs for the texture as well as the pink color. I also use approximately 1/2 tsp beet root powder in my Christmas and Valentine’s Day salt/sugar scrubs to add color.

Honey – Honey is a great additive in homemade scrubs. It’s wonderfully soothing to skin and highly antibacterial.

Extracts – Extracts are a good way to add scent without breaking the bank. Vanilla essential oil is quite pricey so I like to make brown sugar vanilla scrub with a mixture of vanilla essential oil as well as vanilla extract.



*NOTE: Water is alive, so if you get water into your scrubs, you are creating a breeding ground for bacteria. You can also use fresh flowers and fresh juices if you are using your scrubs immediately, but any fresh ingredients will rot so keep that in mind.



Smooth onto feet or body in a circular motion, focusing on rough areas. Rinse thoroughly with warm water.

Your skin will be left feeling soft and moisturized. Your tub will be left slippery so be sure to clean it out well!


I purchase most of my containers from Sunburst Bottle. Most companies that sell glass bottles require large minimum purchases, but Sunburst does not. Their shipping prices for me (from West to East coast of US) are very high (sometimes shipping is as much or more than my orders), but even with the added cost of shipping their prices still beat anywhere local.

You can easily re-purpose glass containers of your own, but you will want to replace the lids. I like to re-use spaghetti sauce jars, pickle jars and other similar containers. Just wash the container then boil in water to sterilize. Be sure the container is completely dry before putting any other products in it.

Check out my current sugar scrubs and salt scrubs for sale or make your own and tell me about it in the comments!


* All information is for educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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