The Skincare Chef

One of the benefits of owning a soap business, and having bulk ingredients at home is the ability to make anything, in a pinch.


It’s the equivalent of cooking, vs. takeout. Cooking is not a lost art, it’s a familiar skill to many of us. But the stuff we squeeze out of tubes and spray on our skin is some mysterious chemical panopoly. Just like junk food, it often has impossible-to-pronounce ingredients, and mysterious colors and shapes. If this is food, cooking is an impossibility, without an industrial plant and vats of dye and 50-gallon drums of flavoring. Of course, there are better foods to be had at home. And home-cooked meals are hard to package and make shelf-stable. In fact, in their freshness lies most of the appeal.

I’ve come to see that bodycare products as akin to cooking. With the right ingredients on hand–coconut oil, baking soda, jojoba oil, maybe witch hazel and essential oils, the possibilities are endless. IF you have the right recipes. And once you have the basic principles down, recipes are easy to improvise on the fly.

And given the amount of preservatives, plastics and chemicals we dump on our skin and hair, just from simply not knowing how to make our own, fresh concoctions, this is a lost art that’s worth recovering.

Although I sell soaps, bath salts, candles and other products, I know firsthand the rewards of making a lip balm, or a face mask, or candles. I’ll share recipes here, and encourage everyone to try making your own products. No, the first few times you make something, it won’t be the same as store-bought. Might feel strange in texture or just be a complete failure. But like cooking, it’s a skill that improves with practice. Feel free to contact me if you have any requests or questions.

Miter Boxes and Making Do

Miter boxThis is a picture of the miter box I use to slice my soaps. I slide the long cylinder of soapĀ  into the box, and cut each bar by hand with a wire cutter that slides in the groove on the short side.

A completely unremarkable construction, except for the fact that it’s remarkably ugly. It’s spattered, bent and…is a thing dirty if it’s covered in soap?

Except there’s this: I built this box more than a decade ago. I had been slicing my soaps with a sharp knife, and the pressure I needed to use was hurting my wrists. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time. I used a hacksaw and wood scraps from the shop, some leftover screws.

I created this funny little box on a sunny day, hanging out outside with my daughter and my neighbor Erika, while my son was napping. I had no idea what I was doing, only an image in my mind and whatever tools and bits I could pull together.

I still have no carpentry skills, and I don’t usually pay any attention to the box. It sits on the shelf in my soap shop, ready to do its job whenever I need it. It’s held thousands of bars of soap. It still functions perfectly.

I don’t have a warm homily about tools, or the lasting nature of things, or how we don’t need to be experts in order to create something with lasting value. I was just remembering that day, and trying to calculate how many soaps I must have sliced, how many wire tools I’ve gone through (they always fray and break at Christmas, right after my printer freezes up or I realize I’m out of labels).

I make my soaps on the countertop of an old Beauty Queen metal cabinet unit. It’s not a fancy set-up, but I love it and I’m grateful.

Summer Recipe: Coconut Oil After-Shower Moisturizer


There is no better summer moisturizer than coconut oil. If you rub it on after a shower, but BEFORE drying off, it is softening and soothing. Moisturizing with Coconut Oil, mixed with a little olive oil, cleared up those annoying bumps on the back of my arms.
Try this:
1/4 c. Coconut Oil , melted

1 T. olive oil
1 T. Jojoba Oil

Combine and store in a small glass jar. For an out of this world hair treatment, add 1 T. Argan Oil, apply to your ends, leave in 10 min. and rinse out, shampoo as usual.

Using simple oils and butters to moisturize after showering or bathing means that the oil will mix with water on your skin, and form an instant lotion, bypassing the problem of preservatives. When you mix oil and water, as in a lotion (which is usually 70% water), bottle it and put it on a shelf, it incubates mold and bacteria. The normal solution: add chemicals to the mix, then rub it on your skin!

Not all preservative systems are bad, but it’s an easy problem to bypass–use 100% oil mixes for all-over moisturizing, instead of lotion. Make your own and freshness is guaranteed.

At some point, skincare will get it’s own Paleo/Primal movement, and Revlon’s Colorstay lipstick will seem just as incomprehensible as the McLean Deluxe,. Until then, try this and if you create a better variation, share it in the comments!

Note:If you are in a hotter climate, you can add beeswax (start with a teaspoon), to create a firmer texture.