Coping with curly hair
What makes curly hair curl? It has a quite different structure from straight or wavy hair. In particular, ethnic hair structure is unique.
If you slice across a single hair and examine the cross-section under a microscope, the shape will vary – depending on the origin of the person.
Asian hair is straight, and circular in cross section.
Hair of European (Caucasian) origin is somewhat oval, depending on how curly it is.
Ethnic hair is elliptical, varying from oval to almost flat.
Ethnic hair has other distinctive features:
Rather than being uniform, the cuticle layers vary around the diameter of the hair, giving it more texture than straight, uniform hair.
In addition, the diameter varies along the hair shaft, with narrow parts being more easily broken.
Our scalps produce a natural moisturizer called sebum. For ethnic hair, sebum migration along the hair shaft is low and uneven.
Clearly ethnic hair needs special care because of its distinctive structure.
Long, straight hair has been the desired look for a while now. But there are signs that a different kind of “natural” look is once more becoming desirable – with curly hair appreciated for its bounce and beauty.
This is great news for people with seriously curly hair, because turning curly hair into straight hair usually has damaging side effects:
Straightening and hair-relaxing products make it even more fragile and prone to breakage, and combing weakens hair where it bends
After treatment it often has a dry, rough feel and a dull appearance
Healthier, stronger hair with a good feel is the main aim of people choosing the naturalista look, with frizz control and protection against breakage the two big issues.
Leave-in oil products used daily can control frizz and enhance manageability and gloss. We have customers who use a little wild shea butter or jojoba oil spread on their palms then smoothed over their hair each morning.
Washing ethnic hair is a delicate process. According to one US survey, 4% of black women shampoo every day, compared with 34% of women overall. Weekly shampooing and deep conditioning, combined with a daily anti-frizz, can work well for this kind of hair.
Behentrimonium-based conditioners are particularly recommended for their outstanding conditioning properties. You can make your own conditioner using Go Native’s conditioner pellets, which contain behentrimonium methosulphate.
Here is a recipe: http://www.gonative.co.nz/Recipes/Hair+care/Luxurious+conditioner.html
Give your hair a special treat with our Amazing Hair Mask, which is
a great deep conditioning treatment: http://www.gonative.co.nz/Recipes/Hair+care/Amazing+hair+mask.html
So if you have wonderful curly hair, maybe the time has come to put your effort into maintaining its health and shine, so you can delight in it just the way it is.
Neem oil has been treasured for thousands of years in India, extracted from the seeds of trees that may be 200 years old. Traditionally it was used to treat skin conditions and many other afflictions.
It has a strong aroma and brownish colour, which make it tricky to use in skincare products. But in some situations we don’t mind a bit, because it’s an effective alternative to really unpleasant chemical treatments for really unpleasant conditions.
When my mother came out of hospital and was itchy around the back of her neck, the doctor suspected scabies. There was nothing visible, but he suggested applying neem oil to stop further developments! A day later, no more itching.
Moving a little higher up… some children have a terrible time with head lice. Maybe there is a genetic element –I know twin girls (not identical) who react totally differently to the presence of lice – one is never affected, the other often picks them up. Neem oil is a non-toxic alternative to chemicals. Mix with jojoba oil, which has an affinity with hair.
Fungal infections of the feet or nails are another unpleasant thing that respond well to neem oil.
And at the less horrible end of the spectrum: a hair oil of jojoba mixed with neem is great for treating dandruff.
It is also effective at dealing with insect pests in the garden, but doesn’t harm bees or ladybugs. I make a simple spray in a trigger-top bottle, with about 5% neem oil, about 5% liquid soap, and 90% water. I’ve never seen dead insects, so maybe it works as a repellant more than a killing agent. Whatever, my veges and young trees stop being eaten! My recipe is stronger than those I’ve seen on the net – 5ml to a litre is typical, so maybe that’s a good ratio to start with. Shake regularly while spraying!
Neem’s anti-fungal properties mean this spray is also useful against things like powdery mildew and black spot.
So… try it in your problem areas – you’ll be delighted with the results. And I know I’ve become accustomed to the distinctive aroma – I don’t exactly like it, but it has such good associations that I’m very happy to have it around!
A very interesting enquiry this morning - What can be added to soap to preserve it?
The answer goes to the heart of what Go Native is all about!
The fascinating thing about real soap is that it keeps for ages, just as it is.
Soap has been made for a very long time: Wikipedia says, "A formula for soap consisting of water, alkali, and cassia oil was written on a Babylonian clay tablet around 2200 BC." Over four thousand years ago...
We are bombarded with media messages about what to put on our skin, and the idea of washing sensitive skin with soap has been given a hard time. But pure cold-process soap and hot-process liquid soap are very gentle on skin, in spite of having a pH that is to the alkaline side of neutral. Strangely, sensitive skin often copes better with a little soapy lather than it does with complex concoctions...
What do you think? What is your experience of using pure soap?
The tamanu tree is native to the tropical coast of Africa and southern India, and to tropical South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. It has a long history of traditional medicinal use: The oil is applied generously to problem skin (psoriasis, acne, eczema, rashes) and to cuts and scrapes as well as fungal conditions. It is also rubbed on joints that are painful from arthritis and rheumatism. We now know that it contains substances that promote the formation of healthy new tissue, as well as substances with antimicrobial properties.
Tamanu fruit are collected for their oil-rich kernels, which are dried then cold pressed to give a rich, long-lived oil. One hundred kilos of fruit yields 5 kilos of oil. Although they begin fruiting at around 5 years old, the trees are long-lived, growing into gnarled giants.
When you use tamanu oil, you are supporting the survival of these wonderful trees. The timber of the tamanu tree, marketed as calophyllum, has a similar appearance to kwila, another tropical hardwood. It is not yet grown in plantations, and most timber comes from Pacific islands. Unless strongly regulated, the forestry industry is not known for its commitment to sustainability – short-term cash flow can trump long-term considerations. So the greater the demand for tamanu oil, the greater the value of a living tree (compared with a dead tree).
For more information on the uses of tamanu oil, select Tamanu oil on our website, then click on its name.
According to Yana Grammer, a consultant to the USA beauty industry, "Many brands are now launching goat-milk derived skin care formulas that offer consumers countless anti-aging and skin softening benefits."
Goats milk has been historically used for psoriasis and eczema, as the naturally occurring capric, caprylic and caprionic acids and triglycerides gently stabilise skin pH.
Goats milk is also good in hair formulations, as it promotes healthy hair and scalp, improving softness and moisture levels.
The protein and fatty acid composition of goats milk is not easily replicated, so there is "vast potential for market innovation" utilising goats milk.
Go Native's goats milk soap
is one of our most popular products - or make your own by adding fresh goats milk to our melt and pour soap.
Jumping into the shower and lathering up a bar of exquisitely scented soap is a simple but delightful pleasure.
When I was small, my childless godmother gave me a beautifully packaged soap: Dorothy Gray Midnight. It was my first experience of perfume, and it sat in my bedside cupboard for more than a decade, available to evoke glamour and mystery at one sniff. When I turned 21 I unwrapped it, and it provided numerous beautifully scented showers and baths. I don’t know how Dorothy Gray managed to get such a lovely fragrance to endure – she is a hard act to follow!
So… what are the options for fragrance in soap?
Essential oils are pure and natural, but need to be used with care and discretion.
Fragrance oils have the disadvantage of being manufactured rather than extracted simply from plants. Care is also needed with them.
It’s likely that my childhood soap was perfumed with a mix of synthetic and natural fragrances, with fixatives added to slow the evaporation of the perfumes.
For our kits, we have chosen some of our favourite fragrances, ones that are well behaved and distinctive: lavender, rose geranium and litsea cubeba essential oils, and rose fragrance oil.
Lavender is an all-time favourite perfume and rose geranium is a delightful floral perfume that is even popular with men. We also use rose fragrance oil as the cost of rose essential oil is prohibitive.
Litsea cubeba colours the soap yellow and gives a lovely lemon smell, less harsh than lemongrass, and it lasts much better than citrus essential oils, which tend to fade quickly.
Other oils to think about are palmarosa, with a fragrance which Chelsea describes as 'fruity, light and playful', and oils from the mint family, fragrances that you either love or loathe. Peppermint and spearmint are favourites around here. We find them invigorating, and appreciate their 'tenacity' - they don't fade away quickly.
With melt and pour soup, it is relatively simple to make it smell divine because there is rarely any reaction between the soap and the fragrance.
But with cold-process soap, it can be a tricky business. More on that later.
Essential oils and fragrance oils are a similar strength, and are added at a rate of around 20ml per kilo of soap.
That’s 1:50, or 2%.
If you are using a very expensive oil, you may want to add only 1%. If you want the fragrance to come through clearly, or if the oil is delicate rather than strong, you can add 3%.
Adding fragrance to melt and pour soap
Add after colouring, just before pouring into moulds. Gently but thoroughly stir in the measured amount of fragrance. Essential oils vary in intensity, even the same oil from one batch to another. If you find that you want a stronger perfume, you can add a wee bit more and stir again. And if the soap starts to set, warm gently before pouring!
Adding fragrance to cold-process soap
The thing that makes cold-process soapmaking so fascinating and addictive is that it has a life of its own – it’s a series of chemical reactions that humans have made use of for five thousand years, a process of transformation that seems so unlikely that it’s got the magic of alchemy.
Because these reactions are happening from the moment you combine the lye and the oils, the soap is more open to influence than melt and pour, where you are adding fragrance to a stable, finished product.
Fragrance is usually added to cold-process soap at trace – when a spoonful of the mixture is poured on top of the rest and it doesn't sink in. Some fragrance oils and a few essential oils cause unwanted changes in the soap. The most frustrating thing that can happen: Your batch may seize, ie suddenly go hard when you add the oil - before you have a chance to pour it into moulds!
Spicy oils can be tricky.
They often affect colour. Essential oils such as cinnamon and clove will turn your soap brown. You may be perfectly happy with this, as the colour is appropriate!
Spicy fragrances sometimes affect the setting process, and may cause your batch to seize.
So when you use spicy oils or fragrance oils, add them at the first sign of trace, or before, and mix them in by hand, quickly and thoroughly.
The fragrance may have other effects on your batch.
It can develop texture problems: become grainy, oily or otherwise unpleasant.
Most annoying is when saponification isn’t perfect throughout the batch. You are probably using a stick blender or something similar, but this doesn’t actually move everything off the sides of the pot. It’s a really good idea to hand stir as trace approaches, using a spatula to scrape the sides of the pot.
Even then, you may have problems. Sometimes the soap looks fine – nicely homogenous – but it sets with veins or crystals of sodium hydroxide, which makes it a disaster area. It’s the soap around the side of the pot that is especially vulnerable. Make sure you have scraped the side a few times during the mixing process so that soap is incorporated into the body of the pot.
While you are building up experience, it’s a good idea to leave the scrapings behind when you fill your moulds. There is nothing more disheartening than discovering that the last bits you scraped into the middle of your mould have developed veins of sodium hydroxide, ruining the whole lot!
There will be lots of chemical reactions taking place in the 24 hours after you fill your mould, and essential oils can influence some of these.
Your soap may:
As a soapmaker, always take notes. Write down all the details about the batch you are making. Your notes will be invaluable when the unexpected happens, and will enable you to become well acquainted with your ingredients and equipment. Best of all, they will mean that you won’t make the same mistake twice!
Change colour during the curing process
Quickly lose fragrance
Heat up more than usual
Every batch of essential oil is slightly different, so there are no hard-and-fast rules. Some serious soapmakers test oils before committing themselves to using them in a big batch. They gather all the fragrance and essential oils they are considering using, and prepare a small labelled container for each one – then make some soap and pour into the small containers, stirring in the named oil. This way you get to see which oils cause sudden and extreme reactions.
Storing soap to preserve fragrance
You can help retain the fragrance in your soap by storing it wrapped or at least covered. Left exposed to the air, most fragrances evaporate. And it seems to be the expensive oils that evaporate most quickly!
Making gorgeous-smelling soap is a fascinating undertaking. Observe carefully, write down everything, and soon you will develop routines for making perfect soap that looks and smells just the way you want it.
Colouring your soap
Lets start with colouring your soap, a perfectly sensible thing to do when you are using our high-quality ‘melt and pour’ soap.
You have two main colouring ingredients: mica and titanium dioxide. Mica gives the colour, and titanium dioxide changes the opacity – how transparent your soap is.
Mica is a shiny, glittery naturally occurring mineral, and we stock all the colours of the rainbow (it’s true!) plus silver and gold and bronze in different sized particles.
Titanium dioxide is a white powder that is unreactive.
Both these ingredients have been used in all kinds of products for a long time, and are considered to be extremely safe. (Titanium dioxide in nanoparticle form may be less desirable – nanoparticles are incredibly tiny, and may be absorbed by our bodies in ways that ordinary particles can’t. Yet another reason to make your own skin care products!)
Time to choose a colour. The trick is to select one that complements your perfume (next time we’ll talk about making soap smell nice). Lavender is purple, rose is red, mint is green – or maybe you’d enjoy mixing it up! What perfume is black?
Soap made with mica alone can have a translucent look that can be attractive. It looks more watery, somehow – less substantial.
But you can also add just mica to get a colour you want. For example, when Chelsea was making a black soap for Valentine’s Day, she used only black mica, adding it until it was the depth of colour she wanted.
Add only titanium dioxide, and you have a solid-looking white soap. Adding goats milk is another way to make a soap look white.
In between is an infinite range of possibilities! This is where your creativity gets to flow.
Once a soap has titanium dioxide added, the colour from mica will be more muted. The same thing happens when you add mica to goats milk soap.
If you want delicate pastel shades, use more titanium dioxide and less mica.
If you want a brighter colour, use just a touch of titanium dioxide, or none at all.
For a translucent colour, add a touch of mica.
For a clearer colour, add more mica.
What sort of ratios are we are talking about ? In our melt & pour kits, we include 10g of titanium dioxide and 20g mica to a kilogram of soap, for you to add as needed. That’s a maximum of 1% titanium dioxide, and a maximum of 2% mica – quite small amounts.
Some colours are pretty much impossible to achieve in soap: we have never seen a truly red soap. All shades of pink, from pale and delicate to robustly reddish, but not a bright red.
Some silicone moulds have a figure of some sort on a plain background, opening up the possibility of using layers of colour: eg a pink fairy (arriving soon) on a white background. And some people make amazing soaps with layers of complementing or contrasting colours.
Our melt and pour soap with mica is very good for this – we have had no sign of ‘bleeding’ from one layer to the other, which can be an issue with vegetable dyes. The only tricky part is preparing just the right amount of coloured soap for each layer! But at least leftovers can be reheated and reshaped.
Colour and pattern
Patterns show up more strongly with darker colours. Somehow the shadows are more pronounced. So if you want the design to stand out, choose a fairly solid colour – and if you want something more ethereal, keep it pale.
If you are making soap as gifts, you may like to dust the end product lightly with a gold, silver or bronze glittery mica – you can use a cheap little paintbrush to waft some on. Sparkle and satin will give different effects on different coloured soaps, though the satin may show up better. Experiment – and have fun!
Remember melt and pour soap needs to be wrapped until it’s in use, or it will pick up moisture from the atmosphere and start to feel damp and sticky.
Here's Chelsea's Valentine's Day melt & pour creation, just in case you haven't seen it.
Have a wild and wonderful time!
Adding perfume to your soap.
We are proud to announce that we have two new kawakawa products, a hydrosol and an infused oil.
Both have an exquisite aroma, and are lovely to be around!
Kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum) is a New Zealand native shrub or small tree which has family members around the Pacific.
Kawakawa grows throughout New Zealand. Its beautiful heart shaped leaves are very aromatic, and native looper moth caterpillars find them irresistible - you can see some holes in the leaves in the photo! As a defence against being chewed to bits, the kawakawa plant releases an oil that gives the leaves their medicinal value.
Kawakawa leaves contain up to 3.5% volatile oil, comprised mainly of myristicin (70%), an aromatic ether related to eugenol (a local anaesthetic found in clove oil). These aromatic volatile oils give a unique scent to the hydrosol and infused oil – it’s an uplifting and refreshing perfume, quite unlike anything else – distinctly New Zealand.
Kawakawa has a long history of traditional and modern use, both internally and externally. Here we will concentrate on the external applications. (Internally, it has been taken to help the body adapt to stress, to relieve digestive problems, to treat internal parasites, and as a blood purifier and diuretic. Kawakawa is also used to treat coughs, colds and bronchitis.)
The hydrosol is a clear liquid, while the oil is made by infusing kawakawa in extra virgin olive oil.
Here are some ways of using the hydrosol:
Baby wipes: Being antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, the hydrosol is a wonderful base liquid for home-made baby wipes.
Skin conditions: Kawakawa hydrosol’s analgesic properties help to sooth a range of skin conditions, from neuralgia to some kinds of eczema.
Cuts, wounds, abrasions, boils & abscesses: An effective antimicrobial plant, Kawakawa is popular for treating injuries and wounds – great for cleaning kids’ scrapes and cuts.
As an insect repellant: Combine the hydrosol with a few drops of essential oils such as manuka, citronella, lavender and/or lemongrass.
Some ways of using the oil:
Baby nappy balm: Combine the oil with beeswax in a proportion of 85:15 – see the recipes on our website for more info.
Eczema: For dry eczema, make a barrier cream by combining the oil with beeswax.
Moisturiser for skin conditions: Add the oil to a high-quality unfragranced moisturising cream.
Circulatory stimulant: Rub the oil gently into the skin to improve circulation in conditions such as bruising, chilblains and Raynaud’s.
Aches and pains, arthritis: Add kawakawa oil to a high-quality unfragranced moisturizer, and rub this on aching joints.
Muscular cramps: Use as a massage oil.
Kawakawa is a nice plant to become acquainted with. I have had a series of kawakawa plants as indoor pot plants – I love their shapely bright green leaves. When they get too big or spindly, I move them into the garden to join the other natives.
When I read your Facebook posts, I realise I need to think of my kawakawa patch as a herb garden! Some of you have said that it's the holey leaves that have the most medicinal value - I guess those leaves are working hardest to repel the caterpillars!
Baby skincare basics -
Here are some thoughts on caring for baby skin.
They seemed to fall under six main ideas:
Skin can absorb what we put on it
Skin can absorb what we put on it
The basics haven’t changed
Natural tends to be … well, more natural
Babies vary in sensitivity/tolerance
Fragrance – baby doesn’t need it
Avoid mineral oils
We think of skin as a barrier, but it absorbs some substances. Just think of smoker’s nicotine patches! Baby’s skin is delicate, and easily upset. But there are wonderful oils and butters that nourish the skin with natural nutrients.
The basics haven’t changed
Babies have been around for as long as humans have! And loving mothers have been thinking about how to care for them for just as long.
In Western society, where (unlike many traditional societies) we encase our babies’ bottoms, a traditional basic has been zinc cream, used to waterproof the tender skin. Zinc oxide has been used in ointments and sunblocks for a long, long time. Zinc as a mineral is important for healthy skin – that’s one of the reasons we seek pumpkin seeds, for example.
I find it interesting to look at veterinary care: good levels of zinc prevent facial eczema, a horrible illness of cloven-footed animals that affects the liver as well as the skin. (I’m keeping an eye on my sheep as I write, looking for tell-tale signs – conditions are perfect just now for the fungal spores that cause it.)
You can make your own zinc cream that will have none of the extras that the pharmaceutical industry may use to ensure long shelf life and perfect texture. There’s a recipe on our website – it’s called Soothing Diaper Cream.
Goats milk soap is another traditional baby-care item. Something strange and wonderful happens when goats milk is added to a pure soap. The result has a rich, smooth quality that makes it ideal for baby’s delicate skin – and let’s face it, babies do need cleaning at times!
Before the packaging for baby wipes had been invented, mothers used to carry around a moist flannel in a plastic bag, and a towel. You can make your own baby wipes that have none of the additions needed for long life in the commercial product. There are heaps of suggestions on the net.
Natural tends to be … well, more natural
Over the last hundred years, science has permeated our lives – and one curious thing throughout that period is the top scientists who say that we know most of the really important stuff now – there’s only bits around the edges that are unknown. Maybe the huge unfolding of scientific knowledge in recent years has made this attitude less common, but we need to remember that what’s currently known isn’t the last word. Many old wives’ tales have been found to be scientifically sound.
Naturally occurring, lightly processed oils and butters may well contain substances as yet undiscovered – present in tiny but significant amounts – that may make other (known) nutrients more bio-available to the skin. There’s nothing to lose, and potentially much to gain!
Babies vary in sensitivity/tolerance
Babies, like us, are all different.
I have two nieces who (like their parents) are totally different: As a baby, Emma was quiet, shy, hated noise and activity – but was very alert and took in everything. The sensitive one, you’d say. Whereas baby Sarah was in your face, social, funny, taking on every challenge, but slower to reach milestones.
But who had eczema? Sarah. Her mother felt that somehow her eczema was an expression of her inner (and invisible to the world) turmoil, unlike her sensitive sister’s inner calm.
You know your baby. It’s likely that s/he has characteristics that you recognise from your family or your partner’s. You can care for your baby in a way that lovingly takes account of those qualities. Your baby’s skin is an integral part of who s/he is!
Fragrance – baby doesn’t need it
Fragrance is for grown-ups. We want our baby to smell as gorgeous as they look. But the fragrance industry is not baby-friendly. In the USA, fragrance ingredients apparently slip through a regulation loophole that may have developed because fragrance is such a tiny percentage of a product. A small proportion of babies will react to some fragrance ingredients, and other ingredients may have a cumulative effect if used over a long period.
Avoid mineral oils
Mineral oil, one component of crude oil, is the main ingredient in many supermarket skincare preparations for baby. It is very cheap, it doesn’t go rancid, and it is odourless and tasteless – great from the manufacturer’s point of view. It’s also nutrient-free.
Opinions differ on whether mineral oil is absorbed by the skin – probably most cosmetic-grade oil remains on the surface. Scientific studies suggest that cosmetic-grade oil doesn’t block the skin pores, as some believe.
But what a wasted opportunity to use mineral oil on your baby! Vegetable oils contain a multitude of substances that feed the skin and are probably absorbed by the body.
But essential oils, they are natural – surely they are fine? For most babies, a few drops of essential oil in a product would bring the benefits of that plant. But essential oils are potent ingredients, and to be used with great care in preparations for baby.
So… go with your intuitions, and go gently with your baby’s skin. There’s no single right way – just the right way for you and your baby.
We are delighted to be able to offer you an Ecocert approved vegetable lanolin.
In the past we have stocked traditional lanolin (made from the protective oils of sheep wool) which has been used for probably thousands of years to soften and protect.
This vegetable lanolin is very similar in appearance and texture to traditional lanolin but (unlike lanolin!) has no odour. (The texture could be described as gluggy. It’s sticky and thick – not the easiest stuff to handle.)
It is 100% plant origin – manufactured from shea butter, glyceryl rosinate and olive oil – and is free of polyethylene glycol (PEG).
It is an excellent emollient, safe and non-irritating, and can be substituted for lanolin in any recipe with the same result.
Use it in products for body care, baby care, and sun care. For more uses, see the product information on our website.
Our other new product is this transparent gel which is very similar to traditional Vaseline, and can be used in the same way.
It is Ecocert-approved, 100% natural and of vegetable origin – made from castor oil, carnauba wax and beeswax.
It has a wider range of use than Vaseline – for example, it can be used for all skin types and does not block skin pores, whereas Vaseline is not recommended for normal and greasy skins.
Vegetable petrolatum enhances shine in gloss, lipsticks, and lip balms, and can be used as a hair conditioner to bring shine to the hair.
Vegetable petrolatum has similar water resistance to Vaseline.
See the product information on our website for more details.
We want to write about things that will interest, inform and inspire you.
Making skincare products and other things can be so much fun. We look forward to sharing our enjoyment and enthusiasm.
We know that you do all kinds of amazing things with our ingredients, and we hope that you will share your experiences with us.