Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Stink Behind Fragrances: Essential Oils vs. Fragrance Oils

Did you know there is a fragrance in practically everything?  From the toothpaste you start your morning with, liquid soap you wash with a gazillion times throughout the day, and ending with your night time routine of the variety of bodycare items you use - the fragrances are there.

"Fragrance (Parfum)" is the 5th Ingredient on this product label from a well known "Organic" body care company.
So what are these fragrances?  Some say they are "Natural", "Plant Based", or "Have Healing Benefits."

There are two distinctive types of oils manufacturers use to scent products: Fragrances (also called Parfum, Perfumes) and Essential Oils.

What is an Essential Oil?  
Essential Oils should be packaged in dark, amber glass or aluminum.

Simply put, Essential Oils are plant oils extracted through the steam distillation of plant matter.  Not all essential oils are steamed distilled, many citrus oils are extracted through the cold pressed method (taking the rinds of the fruit and pressed).  

-- The Good -- Essential oils provide many health benefits dependent on the plant used, for example let's examine one of my favorites, Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) Essential Oil contains a variety of properties: antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, bactericidal, and more. Great for products used externally for the skin, hair, or as aromatherapy (dispersed into the air).

--The Bad -- $$$ Pricey, pricey, pricey.  These wonderful oils are costly due to the amount of plant matter needed for extraction, and prices increase when there are shortages.  Example: Four ounces of Indian Sandalwood Essential Oil is roughly around $450 due to the current ban on harvesting of these beautiful trees, which are usually grown for 30 years then harvested.

What is an Fragrance Oil?

Fragrance oils are made to mimic scents of plants, foods, feelings, ocean breezes, destinations, pretty much everything and used for anything (yes, even scented underwear exists).  Sometimes they are plant based mixed with chemical substitutes, and most of the time you just don't know.  Manufacturers of fragrance oils are not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients, so it difficult to know every ingredient used to create them.

-- The Good -- Inexpensive and Variety.  The cost factor is significantly less.  You can get 16 oz of Almond Biscotti Fragrance Oil for $19.

--The Bad -- What's in them.  Independent groups have tested fragrance oils from leading manufacturers and found petrochemicals (synthetic compounds derived from petroleum), phthalates - (pronounced THAL-ates), synthetic musks, proplyene glycol, and more.  Many of these ingredients have been studied and linked to hormone disruption, allergies, organ toxicity, cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity.  Please visit for more information on ingredients.

The Choice: Why Unearth Malee chooses Essential Oils?

At Unearth Malee we strongly believe in the simplicity of using the beauty of nature and all its healing benefits.

Pure and Simple.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Playing with Clay, Easy Spa Facial Masks at Home

I'm a Clay Addict.  Currently Unearth Malee houses 10 different cosmetic clays from all over the world.  It's a problem, because having access to these natural beauties makes me want to put them in everything.

You may ask, Why Clay?  What is it about Clay that makes it so wonderful for the skin?

Here are some common reasons why cosmetic clay is used as skin treatments:

Removing Dirt and Impurities
Tightening Pores
Skin Lightening
Gentle Exfoliation
Stimulating Circulation
Reducing Acne, Oily Skin
Firming, Toning Skin

Here's a brief rundown on three common cosmetic clays (also my 3 favorite) and how to use them.

Bentonite Clay  --- This is my ultimate favorite!  I call it the Potent, Can't Move My Face Clay Mask.  It's one of the more popular clays to use with Oily, Acne Prone Skin.  It can be overly drying, so blending this with a more gentler clay like Kaolin would be better for normal skin.  I love mixing in a little bamboo charcoal and using it on stubborn acne bumps. 

Notes:  When mixing, small clumps may form.  This is no problem, but be careful to not apply too thick of a paste. When drying, Bentonite is a extremely powerful skin tightener. Words from Mountain Rose Herbs, "...once it becomes hydrated, the electrical and molecular components of the clay rapidly change and produce an “electrical charge”. Bentonite is a swelling clay. When it becomes mixed with water it rapidly swells open like a highly porous sponge"
Kaolin Clay  --- Also known as White Cosmetic Clay.  Kaolin comes in a variety of colors, pink, yellow, red, etc -- all dependent on the mineral content.  This is the most common cosmetic clay used in soaps, deodorants, mineral makeup, etc.   It's gentler on the skin, but still effective against acne, dirt, oily skin, etc.  This is your go to mask for normal skin, sensitive skin, and dry skin types.

*Thai Lime Rosemary Organic Soap has Kaolin Clay throughout the bar, and Bentonite Clay swirls.  This is a great bar for hyperpigmentation, and oily, acne prone skin types.
French Green Clay  ---  Mined from French quarries, this clay yields a beautiful green color from a mix of iron oxides and decomposed plant material.  This clay is great for acne, oily skin conditions.  It can also be used on normal/combination skin for helping to remove impurities, and promote skin rejuvenation.

A more luxurious clay used in facial and body spa treatments, this is a top clay to use for firming the skin, removing toxins, and cleansing oil and dirt.  It's one of my favorite clays to play with, and my daughter's too (as seen in the picture -- it's her invisibility clay potion that she get's to put on Daddy and Mommy).

How to Apply Your Clay Mask:

In a small bowl, mix 1 Tbsp of clay (one type or mixes of clay), 2 Tbsp of Liquid. (May be more or less liquid depending on how thin/thick you like your mask).  Mix your clay, liquid, and any additives to form a paste.  Apply on clean face with fingers or a clean cosmetic brush.  Allow to partially dry, then wash off. 

Types of Liquid:
Water - For all skin Types
Jojoba Oil - Best for Normal, Dry Skin
Lemon Juice - Great for Acne Prone Skin, Dark Spots, not for Sensitive Skin
Organic Green Tea - Rich in Anti-oxidants, Great for cell renewal, and Anti-Aging

Additives:  You can add aloe gel/juice for extra healing, bamboo charcoal to aid in detoxing, finely ground pure oatmeal (skin soother), and honey (anti-bacterial benefits, great for acne). 

** Please note you should always do a small skin patch test of any bodycare product, whether commercially manufactured or homemade.  You never know what you may react to.  Test a small amount product on the back of your wrist, wash off, and wait 24 hours to view if there is a reaction.

I hope you have the opportunity to create your own cosmetic clay mask.  Playing with cosmetic clay masks is beneficial for your skin, your wallet (low cost option versus going to the spa or purchasing an expensive mask made of the same ingredients), and it's just fun!

  Enjoy and share the love!  M

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Why 3 years?

It's been 3 years since posting on the blog and what can I say for myself...I've been busy.

So what's been happening at Unearth Malee?

1. We Moved.  From a garage startup to a soap studio space on 1326 Monte Vista Avenue, Suite 2, Claremont.   Production occurs on a daily basis.  Everyone is welcome to check out the process, and shop freshly made creations on Thursdays and Fridays from 11am - 5pm.

2. We've Made...a ton of new products.  We've come a long way from 4 soap bars  and 2 lotions.

Currently Unearth Malee produces 
* 17 Organic Soaps with different original soap recipes. 
* Organic Shampoo Bars made with Conditioning Argan Oil
* Organic Balms, healing salves for an assortment of ailments 
* Organic Deodorant made with Certified Organic Arrowroot Powder
* Organic Lip Balms, Aromatherapy Soy Candles, Laundry Detergent

3. We've Grown.  The Unearth Team has gotten bigger.  Meet Iris Magboo, Unearth Malee's Sales and Marketing Director.

As a long-time supporter of Unearth Malee, Iris joins the team sharing her passion for raising awareness on palm oil, vision of caring for our Earth and all beings, and love of enjoying the simple treasures Nature has to offer. 

“I believe that ‘living small’ helps us to live grand lives and using the ‘simple things’ around us help us to do the most extraordinary things.  Unearth Malee makes this concept accessible to simple folks like me and I am very honored, indeed, to be part of this movement.” - Iris

Have a marketing idea or interested in partnering with UM, please contact Iris at

*Thank you so much for your support, inspiration, and words of encouragement.  It's been an amazing past three years, and we can't wait to share more of this journey with you.  Stay tuned for more blog posts...there's so much more to come.
                                                             - M

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Handmade Soaps, Cold Process Vs. Melt and Pour Bases

Are They All Handmade Soaps?

I'm sure you've seen many businesses say their products are handmade, which technically they are BUT not all are made from scratch.

There is a difference.

Cold Process Soap Making: This is where "true soap" is created. Sodium hydroxide molecules bind with oil molecules during the saponification process and soap is created. Glycerin is the byproduct of this process. All cold process soaps contain "naturally retained glycerin." You also need accurate measurements of all ingredients. If you have too much lye, then your soap is lye heavy and unusable on skin. If not enough lye, your soap may not properly cure and you can have a big oily mess of goop.

Melt and Pour Bases: These have become VERY popular. Why go through the process of creating your own recipe, purchasing equipment to make soap, wait 4-6 weeks to use the soap, when all you have to do is order a base online, melt the soap, add a lil bit of this and a lil bit of that? These bases are easy to find, in fact you can purchase glycerin based soap at Michael's Art Store. So, are melt and pour soaps bad -- no, I'm not saying that at all. There's just a difference.

THE DIFFERENCE: Though you have the easiness of not having to create the actual soap itself with melt and pour, you are truly not in control of the core ingredients. Example, another company sells a Bamboo Charcoal soap with lavender essential oil. They purchased the soap base, added the charcoal and essential oil. The only control they had over the creation of the soap really lies in where they purchased the product from.

With cold process soap making, the artwork is in the recipe itself. You can custom tailor each recipe with a variety of vegetable oils. Each vegetable oil contains a specific mixture of fatty acids, some are better for acne, troubled skin, and some are more moisturizing, etc.

So, as a customer how can you tell? Most companies will not advertise that they purchase soap bases. They will tell you that the soap is Handmade. There is no strict definition of what "Handmade" means and no regulation.

How to Tell the Difference?

1. Look at the Ingredients: If they contain "Sorbitol," or "Sorbitan Oleate." These are key terms to indicate they are melt and pours.

2. Cold Process Soaps usually use the words, "Naturally Retained Glycerin" in their ingredient list. If not, and the soap just states glycerin, then I would look further at the ingredients.

3. Really look at it: Most glycerin melt and pour bases are translucent, even with added mica colors, you can still see through them a bit. Some goat's milk melt and pour bases look pretty close to cold process soaps. One similarity I noticed with melt and pours is that they have this plastic kind of look to them.

4. Just ask: Why not just ask the soapmaker, e-mail, call, etc. They have a responsibility to tell you the truth about purchasing their bases from somewhere else.

So after all the explaining, can you tell in the pic which is the cold process soap?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Less Is More - A Minimalist Approach to Bodycare

I'm a simple person. I'm a paper pad and pencil gal. I take 5 minute showers, cut my own hair, and wear 2 different kind of socks because one side of a pair quit. I have many of these quirks.

I'm a minimalist, meaning I continually ask myself, "Is that really necessary?"

So, here I am asking: Are all these body care products necessary? An average bath routine consists of at least 6 products: Body wash, shampoo, conditioner, facial cleanser, facial moisturizer, body lotion. There's a reason why women spend on average $471/year on body care products ( ...because of all this stuff . So, how do we spend less, use less, and save more:

Tips to Minimize your Bodycare Routine:

1 Bar of Cold Process Handmade Soap = Body wash + Facial Cleanser + Body Lotion

Go Handmade! Cold process soap makers create soap from scratch with sodium hydroxide (sorry peeps, no lye = no soap). Recipes are made with mild, cleansing, and moisturizing oils, plus during the soap making process, natural glycerin is created. These soaps are gentle enough to use as a body soap and facial soap. Added bonus: Naturally retained glycerin eliminates the need to moisturize your body with lotion.

1 Shampoo Bar = Shampoo + Conditioner

Go Solid! Shampoo Bars contain all the cleansing agents without stripping your natural oils. No need for conditioner. If you have hard water, the minerals from the water will stay in your hair -- simply use a vinegar rinse (2 teaspoons in 1 tall glass of water). Not up to the task? Just alternate, use the bar until you feel like you need a good rinsing, then go to your regular shampoo.

Jojoba Oil = Facial Moisturizer

Jojoba Oil (it's actually a liquid wax) contains properties similar to our skin's sebum. It makes a great moisturizer (even for sensitive skin), a little goes a long way, AND it's another all-in-one -- facial moisturizer, body lotion, and hair oil.

So...guessing that 1 bar of handmade soaps runs around $6 and lasts a month, $6x12 = $72
A shampoo bar should last you about 2 months, $7 x 6 = $42
1 Bottle of Jojoba Oil should last about 3-6 months, $5 x 2 = $10

Total spent a year = $124

Not bad...

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Turmeric, Good for Skin

Too-ma-rik? Ter-mer-ick?

However you prefer to pronounce it, the benefits of turmeric (Curcuma longa) remain the same. Used for centuries in India, this Ayurvedic medicinal plant is famous for it's potent amount of curcumin, an anti-inflammatory ingredient found in the root and it's antiseptic properties.

A relative of the ginger plant and widely grown in Southeast Asia, it looks much like a pudgy ginger root from the outside, but once you cut into it, the shock of vibrant orange differentiates it from your average store bought ginger (Zingiber officinale). If you haven't heard about turmeric, most likely you have unknowingly tasted it. Used as one of the main ingredients in Indian curries, and as a coloring agent in mustard, turmeric probably crossed your lips or at least stained that new white shirt you wore to that picnic. ;-)

Found in body washes, shampoos, soaps, and makeup, turmeric has become increasingly popular in the body care industry. Used in beauty rituals for Indian, and Bengali weddings, brides are covered in turmeric paste to create a glow like no other. Also applied to cuts, skin infections, acne, and scars turmeric has been known as a useful beauty rescue aid.

So, where can you purchase this miraculous root? Try an Asian grocery store. Luckily, I live near quite a few; Pomona Supermarket on Holt, Market World and Ranch 99 in Rancho Cucamonga. For my organic Turmeric soap, I purchase certified organic turmeric powder through Mountain Rose Herbs.

Here is a great Turmeric beauty recipe:

Indian Bridal Glow Mask

1 cup of chickpea flour
3 tablespoons of powdered turmeric
Almond oil (enough to form a paste)

Directions: Mix ingredients into a paste. Apply to the face and body, and let it sit for a few minutes. Remove the mask by rubbing off mixture with your hands. This motion will exfoliate your skin. Cleanse off the rest of the mask. Can be applied once a week.

(provided by Shalina Vadhera, a celebrity makeup artist and writer of Passport to Beauty).

My note: Definitely try out Shalina's recipe, but if you don't have almond oil, you can also use a more common oil you have on hand -- organic olive, sunflower, coconut, or even sesame seed. Always perform a 24 hr. skin patch test to make sure you don't have allergies or skin sensitivities. I also have tried substituting chickpea flour with baking soda, pearl powder, grounded oatmeal, or finely grounded jasmine rice. Chickpea flour helps with inflammation, redness, and makes a great skin exfoliator. It may be drying for some skin types. If you have really light skin, you may want to tone down the amount of turmeric powder because it does give you a slight orange glow -- not a bad -- I stayed in the tanning salon too long - glow, just a tinge.

Remember: What works for one's skin may not work for another AND I am not a medical physician. I merely enjoy the wonders of ingredients used in beauty regimens across the world. It's a journey I continue to seek and love to share with rest of you. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

It's Official!

Yup, it finally happened. I started a blog. For many years now I have played with the thought of creating an outlet where I can share information learned from my many late nights of research. And yes, I am a research hog. I love it, I crave it, I live comfortably knowing that I am just a "Power On" button away from the vastness of information on the web. I possibly could suffer from research-itis, which may require a curing dosage of Thai massage, ginger tea, a night out with girlfriends, and some type of fruity dessert. This is all self diagnosed, of course.

So, stay tuned. Most of what I will post will be work related, Asian Inspired Bodycare kind of stuff. Asian herbal remedies, organic vegetable oil properties, interesting soap making stories, and occasional blurbs about fantastic moments in life. Hope you enjoy the journey, and feel free to make comments and share.