The Big D and I spent the afternoon at Te Henga (Bethell’s Beach). It was a warm early autumn afternoon and the blue sky was dotted with white clouds, similar to the photograph below. We walked along the edge of the lagoon with the warm water lapping at our ankles and played in the mouth of the Waitakere River where the retreating tide pulled back out to sea creating pint-sized rapids which rushed past our calves and sucked the sand out from under our feet. Walking barefoot on the wet sand has smoothed the bottom of my feet and calls to mind many a summer where I grabbed handfuls of wet sand and rubbed them over my legs and feet to exfoliate them.
Clay, like sand, is a silica-based compound and has in common with sand an abrasive quality which makes it useful as an exfoliant. Clay is considered generally non-irritating and poses no risk to you except if you inhale it – so be careful when mixing it into your products (cosmeticsinfo.org). As well as being exfoliating clay is also absorbent and can be used to thicken products or absorb oil from your skin. Clay cleansing bars are a variation on the oil cleansing method – using a butter to yield a solid bar and clay to provide some mild exfoliation. I assume that the clay is completely saturated with the butter and oil in a clay cleansing bar so the clay is just acting as an exfoliant here rather than being able to absorb excess oil from your skin.
Lise from lisaliseblog.com has done a lot of work with clay cleansing bars. She was inspired by the delightful Lola from lolazabeth.com who developed a bentonite butter bar, the recipe for which seems to have been eaten by the interweb. Lise has many delightful variations on this theme, including a layered chamomile cleansing bar and a rose and white clay cleansing bar. Lise is setting up an online worldwide soap-free DIY Cleansing Bar Catalog which sounds utterly fabulous so I thought I’d better get some experience making clay cleansing bars so I can formulate a New Zealand soap-free clay cleansing bar for her DIY Cleansing Bar Catalog.
I started with Lise’s recipe for a French Clay Cleansing Bar and used some blue magnetic Australian clay in hopes that the bars would turn a bluey lavender colour. What actually happened is they separated into three layers – white, grey and black – which is striking but not particularly in keeping with the lavender theme I had going on.
27 g blue magnetic Australian clay
42 g cocoa butter
57 ml rice bran oil
10g Lavender – dried and ground
25 drops lavender, chamomile and mandarin essential oil (I used the Calm Child blend from Soapcraft, Aromatics and More).
1. If your lavender is not already ground, grind it in your spice grinder. It is best to remove the flowers from their stems before you do this otherwise you’ll end up rubbing scratchy stems all over your face when it comes time to try out your new cleanser. Sigh.
2. Melt the cocoa butter in a water bath. I put some water in a saucepan and placed a steamer insert for my glass jug to stand on.
3. Once melted remove from the heat and stir in the rice bran oil.
4. Next stir in the clay and dried lavender.
5. You will be left with a rather unprepossessing jug of grey sludge. Fear not! As they harden they will separate into rather more interesting white, grey and black layers.
Finally, stir in your essential oils and pour into your mould.
6. Leave to set then unmould and store the ones you aren’t using the fridge. I found mine needed a stint in the freezer in order to harden up enough to unmould easily.
7. Et voila! To use rinse your face, pinch off a bit of the bar, soften in your palms and massage over your face and neck. Wipe off with a warm wet facecloth. Revel in your gloriously soft and moisturised skin.