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Back to the Bar

No, it’s not what you might think! I have been promising to write this soap post for some time. What with one surgery or ailment after another, this piece has taken a backseat far longer than I intended. But I really want to share with you, my friends, what a difference going back to bar soap, particularly homemade bar soap, has made in my skin.

Last fall, I took a little trip all on my ownsome, over into Nevada and then up into Oregon, before coming down to Crescent City, California and then home. During that trip, I noticed that my hands, which were so dry and chapped and cracked from gardening, canning, and processing fruit, began to improve. At first, I thought maybe it was getting away from the hard water we have here at home. Our well water tastes great, but it’s full of minerals, and I always thought that was why my hands were so dry here. But the water through Nevada and much of eastern Oregon was just as hard, and my hands were less dry, less cracked and chapped. I began to realize that the reason my skin was improving had nothing to do with the water. It was the soap.

Yes, those little bars of cheap motel soap were helping my hands rehydrate and heal. It was something of a revelation. For years, I’d been using antibacterial liquid soap on my hands and liquid body wash in the shower. I started using antibacterial soaps when they first came out, when my kids were little and colds were constant. Antibacterial soaps have their place, don’t get me wrong. If somebody in my house has a cold, I want that person to be washing his or her hands with antibacterial soap. After certain actions in the bathroom, I want to use, and I want others to use, antibacterial soap. I’m sure you get my drift—enough said on that score.

But there are many times throughout the day when I wash my hands and don’t need antibacterial action. I just need to remove something sticky or greasy from my hands while cooking, or some good clean dirt from the garden before I make a sandwich. This is where I’ve discovered just how much of a difference bar soap can make. Even a cheap bar soap like you find in a motel room.

Why? Because of the fat content in the soap. Bar soaps are always made with some kind of fat. Commercially produced soaps usually use vegetable fats. That’s why the soap doesn’t dry out your hands as much—it’s not stripping your skin of your own natural oils, and it’s actually adding a little fat (which turns out to be a barrier against bacteria). But when I discovered handmade, homemade soaps, the bar was raised to a whole new level.

Let me tell you about a soap-maker extraordinaire named Shannon Luzum, of Stacked Stone Farm. Shannon makes a soap called Gardener’s Hands that is exceptionally good for people like me, who have our hands in the dirt all the time. (Yes, I wear gloves, and still my hands get filthy. I don’t mind—I’m getting my beneficial soil microbes.) But there’s a point where that dirt needs to come off, and Shannon’s handmade, homemade, luxuriously fatty soap with ground walnut shells in it does the job. And after my hands are clean, they don’t feel dry. They actually feel moisturized. It’s truly amazing stuff, and I will never be without Gardener’s Hands soap from Stacked Stone Farm as long as Shannon continues to make it.

Shannon also gave me a little inside dope about soap.  “Liquid soaps contain alcohol, which dries the skin,” she says.  (I can attest to that.) She continues: “They also add preservatives due to the water content of the mixture. Homemade soap contains natural glycerin that is produced as part of the saponification process. The glycerin is awesome for skin. Commercial soap makers remove the glycerin and sell it to the public in lotion. Thus they sell two products.”  This is why homemade soap is so much better for your skin than commercially-produced soaps–it still contains the glycerin.  And I have to say, I have needed far less lotion (some days, none at all) on my hands and feet than I did before I switched back to bar soap.

I’m getting ready to try some of Shannon’s goat milk and lavender soap. It hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m thinking it will be good for my dry arms and legs. I have been using a commercially produced, French-milled soap made with vegetable oils on my dry legs and feet with a scrubbing sleeve, and I’ve seen great improvement in my skin. I know Shannon’s soap is going to work even better because the fats are higher quality, the glycerin is still in the soap, and it will nourish my skin even more.

Shannon also makes some salves and other products. I really like her Sore Muscle Rub, which is gently warming and soothing on my arthritic hands and inflamed shoulder, but I am in love with her Boo-Boo Salve.

Let me tell you about Boo-Boo Salve. It is darn near a miracle of healing. I bought it for my husband’s sore, split fingers, but he put it on his dresser and was forgetting to use it at night.  I moved it onto the bathroom counter where he’d remember to use it after he brushed his teeth when getting ready for bed, and where I could use it too.

One night, I came in from the garden with several mosquito bites. Now, I’m the person who gets huge, swollen bumps that itch for days and turn into sores when a mosquito gets me. I noticed on the label of the Boo-Boo Salve that it was good for bug bites, so I put a dab on each bite. None of them ever itched after that! And in the morning, they were nearly invisible. By the end of the next day, after a reapplication, I didn’t know I’d ever been bitten! Whoopee! I started putting the salve on minor scrapes and scratches I’d collected in the garden, and healing was faster than with any antibiotic salve I’ve ever used, like Neosporin or Polysporin. So when my grandkids were visiting, and both got scratched or scraped on something, I applied the Boo-Boo Salve, assuring them that it wouldn’t sting (always their fear when they get a boo-boo—that the medicine will hurt worse than the injury). They were pretty happy when it turned out I was telling the truth.

Then my son came over to get some plants from me, and we walked around back where the mosquitoes like to hang out, even in the day, and he got back in his truck with three bites on his arm.

“Hang on a minute,” I said, and ran back in the house for the Boo-Boo Salve. “The kids told me about this,” he said. I put a little dab on each bite, and he went home. The next day, he called me. “My bites never itched and are already dried up. Can you put some of that salve on Bryce’s arm when he comes over today?” he said. “He’s got some monster bites that are really bugging him.”

I doctored Bryce with Boo-Boo Salve and his bites went away. He’s such a believer in Boo-Boo Salve that when we went on vacation together recently, he showed up at the travel trailer door with a story about a spill from his bike and a request for some Boo-Boo Salve on his boo-boos. I’ve ordered a jar for my son and his family, because with a kid like Bryce, they’re gonna need it. My brother’s nickname for Bryce is “Crash.”

While we were on vacation, I used some sunscreen on my chest that plugged up some pores and caused a big pimple. Yeah, I know, totally gross at my age. But guess what? Boo-Boo Salve worked on that pimple too. And when I was sitting at the picnic table one evening at dinner, I felt a sharp sting on my lower calf. Later, I found a red spot there that got increasingly infected. It never itched, but it did make a nasty pustule, so I’m thinking it was probably a spider bite. I had to drain the pustule and put peroxide on it, and then some Boo-Boo Salve. That little miracle in a jar had that bite healing within a day. Spider bites can be very nasty, so I am so glad I had the salve with me on vacation.

Just this week, after weeding my tomatoes for 6 ½ hours, stupidly without sunscreen, I had a bad sunburn on my right shoulder. I put some aloe vera gel on it, but that didn’t help much. Boo-Boo Salve made it feel much better. (I’m wondering if Shannon ought to rename this product: “Miracle in a Jar.”) I highly recommend Shannon’s Boo-Boo Salve as well as her soaps. Check out the offerings at Stacked Stone Farm. You will surely find something useful.

I know a few other soapmakers who are making wonderful homemade soaps for sale. Boni Hester creates works of art in soap that would grace any guest bath. I hope to have some shortly for mine.  You can see her wonderful work on her Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1433011163595425&_rdr.  I’m unable to find another link for Boni’s work, but if you Facebook (and who doesn’t), you should be able to find her.  You’ll be amazed at what she can create in soap!

Another soaper, Donna Joan Batten, makes soaps from her goats’ milk. Her production at Gotcha Goat’s Milk Soap is temporarily shut down while she moves operations, but check out her website at http://www.gotchagoatmilksoap.net  and consider placing an order when she’s back up and running again. I’m eager to try some of Donna’s soaps, too.

Patti Franklin Mintz at Hummingbird Hill Handmade Soaps also makes gorgeous and fun soaps.  See her soap  at http://hummingbirdhillhandmadesoaps.com.

Each soaper is unique in her products, so I’m ordering different kinds to try.  I’m just in love with homemade, handmade soap!  (And I have to add, I’m not writing this blog because any of these soapers are paying me to rave about their soap.  I don’t endorse any products for payment in money or kind.  If I like something, I want to tell you about it!  If an advertisement appears on my blog, it’s because Word Press puts it there.  That’s the price of free hosting.)

If you have the chance to buy handmade, homemade soap, don’t pass it up. You’ll be amazed at the benefits homemade bar soap will bring to your skin. Go back to the bar!

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