Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Home spa treatments - a simple tutorial using soap offcuts

As a break from knitting, I'm using this post to share a recipe and tutorial for a really nice home spa scrub/bath soak that I've been playing with, which is very easy to make at home and is a great way to pamper yourself.

Supposing you've made some gorgeous handmade soap and, after trimming the bars, you're left with a pile of beautiful-smelling offcuts...  (In my case, these are the sliced-off strips from a batch of my favourite handmade soap that I made about 6 weeks ago, scented with lavender, ylang ylang and patchouli and embedded with calendula petals)

...or perhaps someone has given you a bar of lovely soap, but you have very sensitive skin and you're just not 100% sure about using it on your face or body.  This recipe solves either of these problems, by combining the finely grated soap with oatmeal, creating a very mild skincare product that can be customised to your skin type and used in a variety of different ways.  

Mixed with honey, the mixture can become a deep cleansing and antibacterial facial scrub.  Alternatively, encased in muslin, it can become a very mild skin-softening bath sachet, which doubles up as a face & body wash.   

For the sake of brevity I won't attempt to elaborate on the skin softening properties of oatmeal or the antibacterial properties of honey, but if you're curious about these ingredients I'd suggest googling it, as there is a wealth of info available online.  I shall simply talk through the steps to make the treatments...

What you need...

Soap offcuts of your choice
Oatmeal (plain and simple, with no additives)
A fine cheese grater
Storage jars (little ones make ideal gifts)  

Optional items...
Clear honey (for use as a facial scrub)
Small pieces of muslin and ribbon (for use as bath sachets/body wash)
Essential oils (e.g. if you wish to bolster the aroma or properties)


Step 1 - Using a food processor, grind your oatmeal down to a fine grain.  The most economical option is to buy regular rolled oats from the supermarket and blitz them in the processor until they reach a texture similar to wholemeal flour.  (Alternatively you can sometimes find oatmeal in finely ground form - e.g it is often sold as 'Colloidal Oatmeal' in  health food shops).  

Step 2 - Grate your soap cuttings until you have a a pile of fine gratings, at whatever quantity you choose.

Step 3 - now simply blend the grated soap with the oatmeal.   Depending on your skin type you can use a proportion that suits you.  A ratio of 40% soap to 60% oatmeal is pretty good for most skin types.  But if you're after a very mild product, try lowering the soap:oatmeal ratio to 30:70  ...or for a more cleansing product, up it to 50:50.   (If in doubt, you could always test out small amounts as a handwash, to find out what works for you.)

At this stage, you may also choose to add some extra drops of essential oil to the mixture... e.g. if you're using unscented soap, or a very low ratio of soap:oatmeal.  Given that this is a skincare product, I'd strongly suggest that you avoid artificial fragrances and go for pure essential oils that are known to have beneficial properties for your skin type.
Combine and shake the mixture thoroughly, until you can see that it is perfectly combined, then decant into a jar for storage.  At this stage, the mixture is ready for use as a honey facial scrub (see instructions below) or  could even be scattered loosely into a bath, if desired, to scent and soften the water.

Step 4 (optional) - If you'd like to package the mixture up as bath sachets or body scrubs...  cut out a circle of muslin, approx 7" in diameter, and place a pile of the mixture in the middle.  (If you're a true perfectionist you could go so far as to hem the muslin or use pinking shears to avoid fraying).  Tie up the muslin tightly with string or ribbon, until you have a securely filled sachet - and voila!

Using the treatments...

To use the powder as a honey facial scrub...  
Wet your face with warm water.  Now take about a teaspoon of the powder into the palm of your hand and drizzle on just enough runny honey to form a thick paste.  Massage the paste into your face, allowing it to exfoliate the skin gently.  As long as the oatmeal has been ground thoroughly it will not feel harsh or 'scrubby', but very gentle.  If desired, leave the paste on a for a few minutes as a mask (e.g. while soaking in the bath) and then rinse off thoroughly when ready.

To use as a bath sachet...   
The next time you take a bath, try dangling the sachet under the taps while the water runs through it, or alternatively drop the sachet into the bath and swish it around for a while.  You should notice the soap and oatmeal infusing through the muslin, scenting and softening the bath water without creating any sludgey mess to clean up afterwards.

To use as a face & body wash... 
While you're in the bath or shower you can use the sachet as an all-over face and body wash, simply by soaking it in the water and then rubbing it against your skin.  This creates a gentle lather through the muslin, with the softening properties of oatmeal, and you'll get several uses out of each sachet before it needs refilling.


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