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Fabulous Skin!

Our skin, with visible and hidden components, is a barometer of both internal health and emotional equilibrium. It is a protective shield as well as a self-decorating canvas and is a critical gauge in our quest for daily health and well-being. It is also the most neglected organ we have.

Many myths surround the care of our largest organ, the skin. In its protective role, our skin shields us from environmental toxins and hazards. It forms a protective barrier that seeks to minimize intrusions of foreign invaders into that sensitive inner realm: our cells and bloodstream. With such a full-time Herculean labor force, our skin requires both nutrients and water to keep itself performing at maximum efficiency. Let’s examine some of the factors in healthy skin care.


In its task of shielding our bloodstream and inner workings from toxins, our skin collects pollutants, cosmetics, dirt, bacteria and other particles throughout the day. Therefore, a good cleansing regime is critical to maintaining clear and smooth functioning skin pores and dead skin cell sloughing. The first step in a cleansing regime is soap. I don’t mean those mass market bars and liquids often unthinkingly, and mistakenly, accepted as “soap.” These products are primarily cleansers and salts, and rarely real soap. Read the packaging and you will find the label lacks the word “soap.” This is because “soap” is a specific product defined by the FDA and most, if not all, these products are detergents and cleansers. It is this little noticed fact that has led to the misconception: soap causes dry or sensitive skin. Even so called “glycerine” soap tends to contain cleansers and solidifying agents since its natural state is liquid and it possesses no cleansing qualities of its own.

Natural soap is the best cleaning agent for the skin you will ever find. And I mean REAL soap. Real soap can only be made one way: with sodium hydroxide, or lye. Even the big commercial manufacturers make soap the same way we handcrafted soap makers do, with lye. When lye joins together with the fatty acids contained in vegetable oils, the chemical reaction process known as “saponification” produces soap. Soap is naturally one-third glycerine molecules and two-thirds soap molecules. The oil blend that makes up the soap formula determines a soap’s characteristics, like large or small bubbles. As a handcrafted soap maker, I have the luxury of using nutrient-rich vegetable oils that contribute additional benefits to my soaps and hence, to the skin. When properly formulated, real soap will not dry the skin. On the contrary, handmade soap will leave your skin feeling soft and moisturized from the natural glycerine content. When used consistently, you may find that reliance on lotions noticeably diminishes, saving money and time, a savings that will allow you to indulge in your new-found bathing treat — handcrafted soap!

Handcrafted soap tends to cost more than mass-market cleansers not only because it is made by hand but also because of the nutrient content of the oils. This is an important consideration when determining benefits versus cost. It is also important to consider whether essential oils or fragrance oils scent one’s soap of choice. In addition to an emotionally soothing component, most essential oils like lavender and tea tree add additional skin care benefits to soap whereas fragrance oils merely contribute scent. The point of bathing and washing is to cleanse the skin. Where department store cleansing products are heavily perfumed and leave fragrance behind, real soap will leave your skin feeling clean, soft and smelling fresh!

Vegetable oil-based soaps bring another important dimension to skin cleansing: essential fatty acids. High quality soaps often use oils rich in essential fatty acids, especially an Omega-6 fatty acid called Gamma Linolenic Acid, also known as GLA. GLA is vital to the health of many body systems including the skin.  Frequently, acne and other skin eruptions can be traced to a lack of essential fatty acids (EFAs) rather than bacteria. Adding EFAs in the form of supplements to one’s diet can do much to bring renegade skin conditions into balance.

Hormone fluctuations also influence how the skin appears and EFAs, along with stronger nails and healthy hair, contribute to hormone health and balance as well. In aromatherapy, tea tree oil is said to release emotional trauma and hence, its association with external skin health under its anti-bacterial umbrella. From a holistic standpoint, when it is said something “got under one’s skin,” tea tree oil soap would be the blend of choice. Nonetheless, when someone comes to me with acne or other skin issue, my first suggestion is usually soap enriched with a GLA-heavy oil like evening primrose, borage or black currant. I usually reserve tea tree oil soap suggestions for those prone to emotional distress, especially those who are reserved about discussing such intimate feelings.

Water is another important ingredient in healthy skin. When the body’s detoxification systems like the kidneys and liver are overloaded for one reason or another, the skin becomes the primary detox mechanism.  Drink plenty of spring water everyday so that organs like the kidneys can effectively perform their detoxification functions and allow the skin to focus on its protective role.

Herbs are nutrient-rich botanicals with a wide range of health supporting capabilities and many supplements support healthy skin as well. For example, the herb gotu kola is said to encourage collagen production while supplements like CoQ10 act as antioxidants with the potential to encourage new cell formation. Green tea can be a tea as well as a supplement and plays an important role in both internal and external skin health. Studies show certain of green tea’s anti-oxidant constituents may aid in skin cancer prevention and treatment and thus may be beneficial when made into soap. In addition, these anti-oxidants provide a plethora of benefits for the body’s inner processes, too.  Anti-oxidant rich chocolate also makes a wonderful soap ingredient and contributes not only to skin health but provides a novel bath time treat.

Other ingredients can also add fun and nutrients to soap and hence, to skin cleansing. The most familiar of these is beer with herbal hops and other whole grain components. Wine and champagne made with anti-oxidant rich grapes also add nutrients and lather-enriching sugars while lending a distinct, elegant air to any cleansing ritual. Then there’s mead, or honey wine, nectar of the gods.  Much has been written about the benefits of honey on skin wounds as well as its anti-bacterial and moisturizing capabilities. Soap made with mead combines these benefits with a cleansing regime bringing a distinctly different element to an otherwise ordinary routine.

Overall, the skin plays an important role in our daily lives while showcasing our personality. Skin health can effect how we see ourselves and hence, influence the impression we make with others. As the biggest organ of the body and the shield between your inner processes and the environment, your skin’s nutritional needs deserve equal importance to those of the heart. Everything that goes on your skin can eventually make its way into your bloodstream. Choose skin cleansing products with an eye to health and witness the visibly radiant bloom of ravishing skin reflected in the eyes of everyone you meet.

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A Wine for Every Body

A vineyard is a beautiful sight to behold in the spring with its freshly manicured grape vines giving birth to new limbs with clusters of buds and the promise of ripe fruit. During the fall harvest season, the now pampered globes are collected and relocated to the winery where the fruit is processed into red, white or sparkling (i.e., champagne) wine. While a particular wine is determined by its grape or other fruit component, nearly all wines provide a liquid opportunity to share in the health supporting profile of this splendid fruit.

Wine is a historically diverse beverage, used in an infinite variety of recipes with dishes like beef and seafood, as well as in flavorful punches. Even mead, or honey wine, is an enthusiastic addition to the wine marketplace enjoying renewed appreciation for its versatility and distinct flavor. Wine’s multi-faceted talent does not end in the kitchen, however. Wine also makes a wonderful, healthy base for soap by bringing the antioxidant-rich profile and nutritional value in grapes and other fruits to the soap making pot and hence, to skin care. The fermentation process used to make wine allows we soap makers access to fruit and berries and hence, to a broader range of skin-loving nutrients not otherwise available due to its perishable nature. Even preservatives can not significantly increase fruit’s shelf life as a soap ingredient, an addition which ultimately compromises the basic tenure of “natural soap.” While honey can be added directly to the soap pot, mead allows for a larger serving and provides the distinct fragrance and color of honey.  In its melomel form, i.e., combined with fruit, mead blends the anti-bacterial and skin-healing attributes of honey with a fruit’s nutrient profile for an extraordinary skin-loving ritual via a simple bar of natural soap.

Grapes contain the anti-oxidant quercetin, flavonoids, minerals and vitamins. The beautiful color of red wine is derived from the grapes’ flavonoid content. Red grape skin and seeds also contain resveratrol, a chemical receiving a lot of press lately for its health-promoting properties. Resveratrol is thought to provide red wine with anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties. When added to soap, these qualities may become directly available to the skin via the cleansing routine. Because of its unique astringent quality, essential fatty acids and vitamin (including vitamin E) profile, I also blend a liberal helping of grapeseed oil into nearly all my Winery soap formulas. The beautiful green tint found in grapeseed oil comes from its chlorophyll content; chlorophyll’s importance to plants is considered equal in importance to human blood. In addition to providing a deodorizing factor, chlorophyll is studied for its potential anti-cancer effects. Grapeseed oil contains abundant anti-oxidants and with its ability to support and nourish the epithelium/skin cells, makes a wonderful skin care ingredient. This characteristic also encourages damaged tissue to regenerate restoring the skin’s moisture-retention capacity.

Along with nutrients, wine adds a superb lather-boosting element to soap due to fruit’s natural sugar content — some soap makers add a bit of refined sugar to a batch just to increase lather. By using fruit wines, however, this boosting mechanism is achieved via a natural sugar complex. With its rich, multi-layered bouquet, wine adds a distinct aroma note to a soap blend as well. Since grape wines tend to have complex fragrances, wine provides a distinct aroma landscape not otherwise available in a natural form.

Not only do fruit wines such as strawberry or raspberry provide their health-promoting nutrient profiles to soap, they lend the distinct fragrance of these extremely popular fruits to the soap bar.   In addition to being attributed with aphrodisiac qualities, strawberries contain anti-oxidants along with several vitamins including C and K. Being highly perishable in its raw state, the nutritional profile of strawberries becomes directly available to the skin through strawberry wine soap. Our “True Love” soap is made with 100% strawberry wine and has a mild strawberry fragrance. Swirled with dark chocolate, packed with anti-oxidants, this dense-lathering bar soap is a healthy treat for both the senses and skin alike.

Raspberries, too, are packed with vitamins and contain ellagic acid, a compound found to have anti-carcinogenic activity on skin cancer cells as well as other cancers. When fermented into wine, the highly perishable nature of raspberries is transformed allowing our skin the opportunity to directly benefit from its nutrient content. There is a wide variety of fruit wines available on the market, including elderberry, cranberry and blackberry, each of which may offer distinct skin care benefits through soap making.  Even mead, or honey wine, adds a distinct, fabulous element to bar soap. Along with its amino acid content, the skin care and healing attributes of honey are well documented and with its particular sugar profile, mead soap has a lush lather, intriguing fragrance and unusual look.

No wine soap would be possible without first removing its alcohol content. Not only does alcohol inhibit the chemical reaction necessary to the soap making process, it also dries the skin. While nearly any wine can be mixed into soap, I prefer working with 100% fruit wine rather than flavored wines, and mead in nearly any form or combination of ingredients. By adding a de-sparkling step to the soap making process, elegant champagne becomes another goldmine in my quest for an assortment of distinct, nutrient-rich, all-natural handcrafted soap blends. Associated with romance, elegance and celebrations, champagne makes a remarkable soap with its fabulous nutrient profile and rich lather, an elegant touch to an otherwise ordinary routine. Our “Mimosa” champagne soap, with orange essential oil and Vitamin C-rich rosehip swirls, is modeled after the famous brunch beverage and a distinct bathing experience.

Wine and champagne soap is a wonderful, luxurious cleansing and moisturizing experience. When incorporated into soap, these time-tested beverages add their health supporting qualities to everyone’s skin care regimen. Special occasions and special harvests become memorialized events when fine spirits in soap are added. And when coupled with that special person, a simple bathing routine can become a romantic interlude, too. In addition, wine soap gives a whole new meaning to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bar) on an invitation. When attending such an event, along with its liquid form, be sure to include a lovely wine soap for the host.