Out of all the products I make, and of course I only bother making ones that I think are truly exceptional, my favourite is the lotion bar!! It didn't start off that way though.... I'd seen so many variations of lotion bars on other natural product websites and blogs but it's not something I'd ever noticed for sale here in Quebec. I really liked the fact that it doesn't need a preservative, unlike any lotion, no matter how natural, made with water.
The first time I made them I thought it would be fairly easy, I found a recipe that seemed popular out of the many, many online, some silicon cupcake molds to pour them into, and went for it! It was fairly easy, not something I think most people would bother to make at home though (despite all do it yourself blogs that claim it is easy, you do have to have somewhat hard to find specialty ingredients on hand and have a certain amount of patience and basic cooking skills...) I used a lavender essential oil and phthalate free fragrance oil (rose geranium) blend to scent it - and that's where the problem's started ... They smelled horrible! They were way too strongly scented! I realized that most fragrance oils do Not blend well with the natural, slightly smoky, old fashioned scent combination of beeswax and Shea butter, at least to me... And they were hard!! I didn't even bother to try them, I put them in a ziplock bag and hid them in a drawer when they still remain today. A few weeks later though I just had to try it again, I couldn't give up without one more try... I'd been tweaking the recipe in my head, changing the ratios of beeswax to semi-solid and liquid oil, quite a bit different from the recipes I'd seen on-line, and this time I only put a touch of lavender essential oil in it, and they turned out perfectly!! I loved them!! So moisturizing, so protecting. I also really started to appreciate the simple scent of beeswax and Shea butter on its own. And as someone who couldn't use any eye cream around my eyes because they give me a rash, no matter how natural it claims to be, I finally have a product I can use! It is great around the eyes, a little bit shiny during the day if I put too much on, but such a relief to delicate dry skin (and without any really noticeable eye wrinkles yet in my 40's I'm pretty sure they're good protection against aging!)
I decided that this is a product that I really wanted people to try, and after much searching I found the perfect molds to use - a large sun for women and my children's products, a moon for men which matches the men's product design I had made and also the children's, and a smaller purse sized bee mold!
Each lotion bar you buy from me at Savonnerie de L'Estrie is made in very carefully sterilized conditions with rubbing alcohol, not chemicals, used to clean the pots and utensils (I really think the harsh cleansers - or lack of cleansers- used by big factories to sanitize their equipment and product containers could be contributing to the amount of irritation so many natural products can still cause!).
The shea butter I use in my lotion bars is virgin and organic and completely unrefined, so tiny, harmless dark specks from the nutshell may occur in them (although I do painstakingly try to get them all out!!), and it will also have a natural, nutty aroma. I have recently started adding a low concentration of vitamin E (Tocopherol) and rosemary oleoresin extract, both of which are natural anti-oxidants that are excellent for the skin but also help keep the oils in these preservative-free bars fresh from rancidity. Rosemary oleoresin does add a very slight but pleasant rosemary scent to the unscented and Touch of Lavender bars.
The main ingredients of my lotion bars are Sunflower Oil (Helianthus Annus), Virgin Organic Shea Butter (Butyrospermum Parkii), Beeswax (Cera Alba), Vitamin E (Tocopherol), Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf Extract. I only use essential oils to scent them and they are available in Witch's Garden (a blend of lavender, rosemary, bergamot and geranium essential oils), Touch of Lavender (a little bit of lavender essential oil, perfect for babies), Herbal Tea (a blend of mint and bergamot essential oils - very light and refreshing and masculine enough for men who don't mind scents), Unscented (preferred by men and best for newborn babies and use around the eye area), Lavender and Sweet Orange (perfect for babies a few months old), and Sweet Orange (in my baby section, for babies who don't want to smell like lavender!)
To reduce waste I offer them in cost-adjusted refill bags but they really are best stored in closed tins while in use. To use them you can hold them in your hand until the oils start to warm to your body temperature and then rub into your skin as you would an ordinary lotion or massage lotion, or rub the bar with your finger as you would a regular balm (my preference). It may feel a little bit greasy at first but after a few minutes the oils will soak into your skin and the beeswax will seal in this natural moisture. They are perfect to use before bed and I personally slather some on before doing the dishes when I don't want to bother with rubber gloves.
Lotion bars can be used anywhere on the body, are very long lasting and usually only need to be applied once a day. They are great for healing cracked and dry skin, preventing stretch marks, diaper rash and cradle cap. They can also be used to protect the skin around the eyes and lips, as an after shave lotion, a massage lotion and even to tame unruly hair!!
I highly recommend them for everyone: from tiny infants that you don't want to slather in the water-based and preservative/chemical combination found in most baby products, to men who work in a garage all day and have painful, cracked, dry hands!
"Show respect even to people that don't deserve it; not as a refection of their character but as a reflection of yours."
Kara Needham is the founder and creator of Savonnerie de L'Estrie, a small manufacturer of handcrafted, all-natural and affordable artisan skincare in unique folk-art packaging.