New Year Ideas

Thinking about what new to do in 2017, the carry-over to-do list includes:

  • varicose vein / thread vein cream / gel
  • psoriasis cream
  • face masks
  • spot zapper
  • another lip balm
  • dry oil body spray

I also want to experiment with Birch and go further into the hedgerow. And make luscious Herbal bath salt mixes.. with Magnesium, Himalayan salt, unusual flowers and herbs.

I’ve enjoyed where 2016 has taken me, making more and more and establishing my range. Completing the Formulation Course with the School of Natural Skincare has boosted my confidence in what I was already doing and given me a few more ideas. Making soaps has been great fun, hugely satisfying and I’m been really enjoying using the products myself so I’m quietly excited that others will discover them soon enough!

2016 was a great year for Calendula, Plantain and Chickweed. Not too great for Linden or Elderflower, and definitely bad for Elderberry! I’ve gained a soft spot for Zinc oxide as a cure-all for skin problems, as it has repeatedly worked wonders instead of fulfilling prescriptions for anti-fungal and steroidal creams!

foraged 1

And of course my little helper is learning more and more. She helps me collect herbs and places Calendula every so carefully on brown paper to dry, she helps pour the oil over them, mixes the bath bombs mix and sticks on the occasional label. She also does lots of ‘pretend’ work sorting out orders, adding them up etc… wp_20161213_15_59_53_pro

I hope all this and more continues in 2017…

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Natural Deodorant

So after silly season (aka Christmas markets) it’s time to take stock (literally and metaphysically) and consider how to move forward. And since I ran out of shop-bought deodorant a few months ago I’ve been testing out different formulae of natural deodorant on myself, friends and client-testers. What has amazed me is that ALL (I had 5 different variations) of the different types were liked!

One friend: “your deodorant is AMAZING!!! I walked to and around and back from the zoo, went to the forest, ran around today – all while on my period. Have been sweaty and gross every day but NOT SMELLED AT ALL! Can’t believe it.. you are really onto something!”

The main reason for my delay in launching is I had wanted to put it in compostable, paperboard tubes. But I’ve given up on sourcing them for now and even given up on the idea of making my own, although I do like the prototypes they don’t have lids/covers. So for now it’s in plastic. But I CAN RE-USE them if you bring them back. WP_20160203_10_38_12_ProStarting with 2 varieties: Grapefruit and Lavender. Tell me what smells you want for future products. See facebook page for more info or contact me directly to buy.

https://www.facebook.com/Caros-Creams-877000128989593/

Happy sweet smelling!

Busy season

BS4 market 2

The run up to Christmas started in September, when at a harvest market I had people buying “for Christmas presents”! Since then the level of sales, and number of markets, is steadily increasing. Luckily, I had a bit of a panic forage in August when I realised that the medicinal qualities and indeed growth of many herbs and flowers was almost over for the year. So stocked up on calendula, comfrey, lavender and chickweed, using come fresh herbs to make infused oils in the last of the summer sun, and drying others to use this winter.

Calendula oil making 4foraged 1

I want to stay true to my ideal of foraging wild herbs (which I both love doing and believe to be stronger), however as we get into the Christmas season proper now I’m not sure I’ll have enough infused oils made from foraged herbs to make all the products I need to make. And there are no new herbs until March next year, and that’s only for the first hardy herbs… calendula, comfrey and lavender are only available round here from June or July onwards.  As this is my first full year of herbal cream and salve making, I guess I’m learning in an entirely natural way how to respect the seasons and the cycles of nature!

In this industry, Christmas comes as a good time though.. after the abundance of spring and summer have allowed fresh harvesting of herbs, and making of plenty of oils on which to based the products. As I far prefer to make infused oils from wilted herbs (rather than fully fresh or fully dry), for me they need to be in season to make the oils. And as oils really only last for a year, I’ve got to somehow estimate how much I’ll need until the first harvests, next year. And even then, due to infusing the oils twice over with freshly wilted herbs and using a solar cooker, each infused oil takes between one week and a month to prepare – or lead time ( in business speak).

Working with the seasons and within nature can be highly satisfying. Farmers for centuries have been working this way. However it can also be hugely frustrating.. if we get a bad summer, or too much rain, things can spoil or not ripen, or go mouldy. I hope that wild herbs will be strongly resistant to this, as they will only grow when the conditions are right and so the seeds will “seek out” those conditions to grow in. It might mean that I need to rummage around a bit further in fields and hedgerows, as patches from previous years may well move around. It’s good to know “my store cupboard” will be moving around.. I didn’t want a standard job any more and it certainly keeps  things varied!

Banish aches and pains

… and make way for “Comfrey salve”!

I am actually stunned! I knew Comfrey helped with pain and inflammation but I didn’t think it would be that dramatic (I know I should believe more by now but I am by nature sceptical). I have neck, shoulder and various places in my back ache, had a bit before the little one was born and now due to being a single, hands-on (can’t keep my hands off!) mummy have had it BAD since. I get massages, see a chiropractor from time to time, use ice packs, hot water bottles and microwave heat pads very regularly, and when it gets really painful ibuprofen gel… BUT NO MORE!! I rubbed some newly made Comfrey salve on it and the pain and aches instantly went away! No-one is more stunned than me! Here was this “weed” in my garden all along, and I was using it as compost feed for the plants. 20 minutes later and it was still pain free, I could move normally and moreover behave normally (as pain doesn’t half make me grouchy).

How did I make it? I first pick some perfect Comfrey leaves..comfrey small, medium and large, but all dark green and intact. comfrey 2

I lay them out on brown paper, out of direct sunlight and let them wilt for 24-48hrs to get most of the moisture out.

comfrey infusing 1

Tcomfrey infusing 2hen I chop them finely and put in a heatproof jar, and cover with Extra Virgin Organic Olive Oil (I prefer Zaytoun, the Palestinian fair-trade brand). Then comes the “magic”.. I cook it in my solar cooker!

solar 3

Obviously it needs to be warm and ideally a bit sunny to get the temperature up, but it can stay very warm for hours in the cooker even without direct sunlight. I place the solar cooker in a sunny spot in my south facing back garden and on a fine day, the oil can be infused in a morning or afternoon (mid-summer I do have to keep an eye on the temperature so it doesn’t start to fry). Two great things about my solar cooker are that it makes the most beautiful infused oil, as the temperature is nice and hot without being too hot, for hours on end, and, of course, that it uses no fossil fuels (apart from the few recycled, and renewable resources it took to make it). I can also make several oils at once and heat up water for making creams and salves at the same time.

The day I put my first infusion of oil batches in the solar cooker is also generally the day I pick some more of the same herb – in this case Comfrey, for a second infusion a day or two later. I try to pick herbs in the morning, after the dew has dried off, but before the midday sun. So they are then laid out to wilt, while the oil is brewing.

At the end of that first day, I let the oil cool down then strain it (through a sieve at this point as it’s ok to leave bits in). comfrey 1Then on the next fine or sunny day, I repeat the process with the newly wilted Comfrey leaves and the once-infused oil to get a rich, dark green, double Comfrey infused oil.

This oil them forms the basis of the salve. I heat up the oil (on the stove this time – in a bain marie/double boiler) with organic beeswax pellets (11-12% of total weight) which melt at around 70 degrees C. Once it’s all melted I take off the heat and mix thoroughly.

When it cools to under 40 degrees, I add a few drops of organic essential oil (optional, depends if you like the smell of Comfrey) – I tend to go for sympathetic and calming EOs, as I figure if you have pain that’s what you need. In the batch I’ve just made I’ve used Lemongrass, which is also good for aches and pains, as well as uplifting for the spirit. Lavender would be another good option, which is great for skin and calming.

Then before it starts to solidify, it’s time to pour into clean jars. Once it’s cool, it gets a lid on and labels. And it’s ready to use! comfrey salve 2 comfrey back

Rainy days mean stock-taking, mentally and physically

Apart from laying out my stall at Buddhafield recently,

WP_20150719_12_55_58_ProI have spent time picking myself up from the floor, dusting myself off and assessing where I am, after feeling knocked back by EU regulations. Although back on track and progressing again, I has rained a lot recently and with the solar cooker out of action it was time to take stock.. is there anything else I’m desperate to make? (yes, a varicose and thread vein cream but need to find an unpoluted horse chestnut tree for that).. so maybe time to step back from making more lines and look at selling a few.

I’ve put together a brochure, which explains a bit about each of them, and got a card printed. Just a few more tweaks and I’m happy to roll with that as “publicity”.

I’m also starting to wonder if and when I might ever make any money from this venture!? My accounts aren’t up to date but I can tell you now I’m definitely down. That’s to be expected in the first year of setting up a new venture, so I’m not too dispirited. It’s just that with few other sources of income and the latest UK budget clanging the bell of doom, I need to “diversify my portfolio”.. or in other words, get a job! So since I’m trained and experienced, I’m considering setting up as a counsellor again, and doing that alongside my Creams business.

I guess I never came into the Creams world to make my fortune, I came to help people, and primarily share the success I’ve had with the eczema cream for the little one. That is happening! And I’m also now helping people (including myself) put much nicer, healthier things on their skin on their faces and bodies in general. But sometimes I want to SHOUT about it… GET THIS STUFF! IT REALLY WORKS! But doesn’t everyone who makes a product they believe in?!

I’m very driven and self-motivated when there is something I want to do, so I just hope this stays as something I want to do, despite having to jump through regulatory hoops from time to time.

(creams also provide learning opportunities for building towers for toddlers!)WP_20150630_19_22_13_Pro

Regulations, red tape, health & safety … and a product that works!

Yawn! If you have got this far, then well done! I should have guessed as much, but the cosmetics industry is HIGHLY regulated. Sure it’s important to be safe with what we put on our skin… but when you, and others you know, have had the experience of getting creams prescribed by doctors that are supposed to specifically help say eczema, or hives, or just dry red itchy patches.. and then make it 10 times worse.. and then you read on the label that this was a possible side effect due to it containing ingredients that can (are highly likely to) cause allergic reactions .. you have to wonder who all this is benefiting.. the consumer or the pharma-cosmetics industry?

Surely better to make products that don’t have so many allergens in them? Surely better to use more natural ingredients? Oooh but not actual herbs collected in the wild… they don’t come with a product code… or a supplier name and address .. are how pure are they? I mean they haven’t been through a laboratory, or a mixing vat, or an extraction process to render them completely foreign to the original herb.

So, I’m going into this at 2 speeds, in 2 frames or mind.. one part saying sure, yes you can test my product for safety, and I’ll pay £2-300 for the privilege (per product!)… but I KNOW they are doing good, people tell me every day.. and I’m not going to change my ingredients to suit the red tape, as it’s important to me that the product works and is as natural as possible. I’ve decided to use a preservative as I don’t think it’s fair to sell a product that can go off within 2 months of selling it, but that’s as far as I go on additives. And it’s Preservative Eco from Aromantic, which is a “broad spectrum preservation system that can be included in natural and organic skin and hair care products.”

So this is the big experiment.. will my Calm-it-down cream, which works in getting rid of my little one and many other friend’s kids’ eczema … get the thumbs up from the H&S regulations? Will chickweed, foraged on the Bristol to Bath cycle path, pass the EU Directive’s tests? Watch this space (but don’t hold your breath as it can take a few months to get the results back)…

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No more eczema – it used to flare up badly on the backs of her knees – but after just 3 days of using the calm-it-down cream it had almost disappeared for the first time since weaning!

Busy day… making labels!

It takes as long to make the labels as it does to make the creams!

Don’t know if that’s right but that’s just what is happening.

I enjoy making the labels and since I’m still tweaking product ingredients and developing new lines it’s the only way for now. However today had the added fun of trying out some waterproofing techniques as well as some of the labels are running, and they will especially with creamy salve-y hands. So far I’ve tried PVA, in various thicknesses and Yacht varnish (used for outside papier mache apparently).. no sure I’ve happy with any of the results so far so I’ve ordered something fancy from the ‘net to try out next week.

Yesterday, however was a GOOD cream making day.. made more suncream SPF 20+, more Ezcema cream (currently the best-seller) and some Argan and Chamomile face lotion. Which reminded me I hadn’t posted up my last cream, which I am happily using myself, the Avocado Rose cream – so that went live today – check it out at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Caros-Creams/877000128989593

I’m also infusing the first Calendula flowers from the allotment in sweet almond oil – all taking place in the solar cooker as the sun is out.

Midsummer has seen the emergence of a couple of useful herbs in the garden – self heal …self heal in pot 1

and borage flowers.borage 1..So I’m looking forward to making some infusions with both of those.

It looks like I’m getting closer to a product range I’m happy to go to the wider market with too..all 1