Headlines

Activated Charcoal: the basics

Cruisin’ The County: Awash in curiosity at soap-making class

Natural Should Mean. . . Well. . . Natural.

Very Rich, Very Soft Lather Produced Using Soap Alchemy Goat Milk Soaps

Activated Charcoal: the basics

Posted in: Featured Ingredient | Comments (0)

Detoxifying Activated Charcoal Skincare Products

Soap Alchemy’s Shea Butter Black Soap and Detoxifying Charcoal Facial Scrub pictured along with the essential ingredient: finely powdered United States Pharmacopoeia Grade Activated Charcoal

 

What is activated charcoal and why should you choose to add it to your skincare regime?

The Short and Sweet Version:

What is is?  
Activated charcoal is charcoal that has been specially treated to become extremely porous and adsorbant.  Ad-sorbant materials have a charge that actually attracts and binds other molecules to itself (as opposed to ab-sorbant materials, which draw particles in but do not bind them).  This means that activated charcoal attracts impurities away from your skin and binds them within its pores so, when the charcoal is washed away, skin-damaging particles go down the drain along with it.  What does activated charcoal adsorb from your skin?  Excess oil, bacteria, toxins, and more!

Who is it good for?
Anyone!  Activated charcoal is one of few “active” ingredients that is truly good for all skin types.  It can help calm acne-prone skin by adsorbing excess oil and blemish-causing bacteria.  However, it leaves no residue and will not irritate nor alter the pH of dry, sensitive skin (unlike many other cleansers).  Also, activated charcoal powder is a gentle exfoliant, which helps remove and wash away dead skin cells to reveal your naturally radiant, glowing skin!

What makes Soap Alchemy’s activated charcoal products special?
Each ingredient in Soap Alchemy’s products has been hand-selected by our Alchemist for both maximum benefit to the skin and minimum impact on our environment.  This commitment to quality and ethical production extends to our activated charcoal.  Soap Alchemy uses only USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) grade (medical grade) activated charcoal.  This means that one could actually ingest the charcoal without harm, as it is free of the heavy metals and other toxic materials found in lower grades of activated charcoal.  It is vegan-friendly (contains no animal products, such as the bone char used in some activated charcoal) and is sustainable because it is made from coconut shells that would otherwise be considered waste.  Additionally, our Alchemist has chosen to use a very finely powdered form of medical grade activated charcoal, which has a greater surface area (so it adsorbs the more debris from your skin more quickly) and is smooth to the touch as compared with larger grains.

Read on to learn more about Activated Charcoal or click on one of the following products to see how easily activated charcoal can be added to your skincare regime:
Detoxifying Shea Butter Black Soap, Detoxifying Facial Scrub

The Nitty Gritty Details:

Piqued your curiosity?  Great!  Let’s take a closer look at activated charcoal, what it is, how it’s used, and why it could help your skin.

What is Activated Charcoal?

First stop, a quick peek in the Encyclopædia Britannica for a bit of background:

Charcoal [is an] impure form of graphitic carbon, obtained as a residue when carbonaceous material is partially burned, or heated with limited access of air. […] The use of special manufacturing techniques results in highly porous charcoals that have surface areas of 300–2,000 square metres per gram. These so-called active, or activated, charcoals are widely used to adsorb odorous or coloured substances from gases or liquids, as in the purification of drinking water, sugar, and many other products, in the recovery of solvents and other volatile materials, and in gas masks for the removal of toxic compounds from the air.

Haycarb (a leading manufacturer and marketer of coconut shell activated carbon), provides additional details:

Activated carbon is a carbonaceous, highly porous adsorptive medium that has a complex structure composed primarily of carbon atoms. The networks of pores in activated carbons are channels created within a rigid skeleton of disordered layers of carbon atoms, linked together by chemical bonds, stacked unevenly, creating a highly porous structure of nooks, crannies, cracks and crevices between the carbon layers.

Since we just learned that activated charcoal is a form of the atomic element, carbon, let’s take a moment to consider what that means:

Carbon’s atomic number is 6.  Its symbol is C, and its atomic weight is 12.01.  It is also one of the most abundant elements in the universe and is a primary building block for life on Earth.  Carbon is an extraordinarily versatile element:  arrange the atoms one way, and you have the soft graphite used in writing pencils; arrange them in another, and you have the hardest known natural material: a diamond.  You may even recall lessons on the Carbon Cycle from high school science classes. Briefly, carbon is constantly being recycled among various lifeforms. Carbon (in the form of carbon dioxide or CO2) is released by animals during respiration and by the burning of fossil fuels. In turn, it is converted back into organic matter by plants and trees during photosynthesis.

At this point, you may be asking yourself what on earth any of this has to do with skincare… but being aware of carbon’s versatility is key to understanding how our Alchemist is able to turn a dirty-looking black powder into a wonderfully effective cleansing and purifying agent!

How does it work?

As mentioned above, Activated Charcoal is a highly porous and adsorbent material that is commonly used in various applications to remove odors, toxins, chemicals, and other impurities.  For instance your home water filter may contain activated charcoal (carbon) granules, which trap unpleasant odors, chlorine, VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), and sediment, effectively removing them from your drinking water. Hospitals, on the other hand, use a very high grade of activated charcoal in pill, capsule, or slurry form, to treat poisoning and overdoses. Again, the carbon draws the toxins into itself so that they can pass through the body without causing harm.

To understand how (and why) this works, you must know the difference between an absorbent and an adsorbent substance. An absorbent material, like a towel or a clay flower pot, draws moisture into itself but then later expels it, whether manually (by wringing out the towel) or simply through evaporation.

On the other hand, an adsorbent material, such as activated charcoal, has a charge that attracts and binds other molecules to itself. These tiny particles remain attached to the carbon and are removed (as from a water filter or from the body) along with the charcoal.

Haycarb offers a more technical explanation:

Adsorption is the attachment or adhesion of atoms, ions and molecules (adsorbates) from a gaseous, liquid or solution medium onto the surface of an adsorbent – activated carbon. The porosity of activated carbons offers a vast surface on which this adsorption can take place. […]  These molecules are then trapped within the carbon’s internal pore structure by Van Der Waals Forces or other bonds of attraction and accumulate onto a solid surface.

How great of a surface area are we talking?  Haycarb explains, “The surface area of activated carbon is impressive, 500 to 1500 m2/g or even more; a spoonful of activated carbon easily equates the surface area of a soccer field.”  Just imagine how effectively an adsorbent material with such a considerable surface area could remove impurities from your skin!

You should be aware that there are various grades and types of activated charcoal, which affects how it can be used. For example, some activated charcoal (such as that used to process white sugar) is commonly made from animal bone and is called bone char. Also, lower grades of activated charcoal may contain toxins such as lead and mercury… which may be acceptable for some applications, but not for others.  Soap Alchemy uses only vegan-friendly USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) grade (medical grade) activated charcoal which is made from coconut shells.  This means that one could, in fact, ingest the charcoal without harm, as it is free from the heavy metals and other toxic materials found in lower grades of activated charcoal.

Finely Powdered USP Grade Activated Charcoal

Soap Alchemy’s USP grade activated charcoal is so finely powdered that even just gently dabbing your fingers into it will leave them completely coated. Though it will clean up with soap and water, the raw material is extremely messy to work with!

Even activated charcoal made from plant matter can vary in porosity, composition, and effectiveness depending on how it is created (through heat, steam, chemical processes, or a combination thereof), what it is made from, and the size of the granule being used.  Smaller granules have more exposed surface area, and therefore, adsorb impurities more quickly.  Haycarb explains:

Finer sizes accelerate diffusion rate of the adsorbates into the pores, hence improves kinetics, but wettability/filtration on powders, pressure drop or screening problems with granules, are limiting factors. Therefore particle size range and distribution selection is a compromise.

Fortunately for us, the disadvantages of powered activated carbon don’t apply to our purposes, as we intend for it to be massaged onto and then washed off of the skin rather than contained within a filter.  Because our Alchemist has chosen a finely powdered form of activated charcoal, we get the kinetic advantage of quicker adsorption speeds without any real downside.  In fact, we also gain the advantage of its gentle exfoliant properties.

In Summary:
Soap Alchemy uses only USP (United States Pharmacopoeia) grade (medical grade) activated charcoal.  This means that one could ingest the charcoal without harm, as it is free of heavy metals and other toxic materials found in lower grades of activated charcoal.  It is vegan-friendly (contains no animal products, such as bone char) and is sustainable because it is made from coconut shells that would otherwise be considered waste.  Additionally, our Alchemist has chosen to use a finely powdered form of medical grade activated charcoal, which has a greater surface area (so it adsorbs debris from your skin more quickly) and is smooth to the touch as compared with larger grains.  This USP grade activated charcoal powder is a primary ingredient in Soap Alchemy’s Shea Butter Black Soap, Facial Detox Scrub, and our upcoming Activated Charcoal Mask.

In our next article, we will discuss how the addition of activated charcoal can enhance the cleansing properties of a soap and describe the best techniques for using products that contain activated charcoal effectively.

Until then, we invite you to take a look at our Shea Butter Black Soap, Facial Detox Scrub, and Activated Charcoal Mask (coming soon) for more information and a full list of ingredients:

Detoxifying Shea Butter Black Soap, Detoxifying Facial Scrub

Karen @ March 27, 2017

Cruisin’ The County: Awash in curiosity at soap-making class

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Off on Cruisin’ The County: Awash in curiosity at soap-making class

A Soap Making Class instructed by Soap Alchemy owner Jordan Henderson was recently featured in an article in the New Castle News by reporter Lugene Hudson. The story was originally printed on November 16, 2010.

By Lugene Hudson – New Castle News

Nothing like the scent of Soap Alchemy, Natural, Handcrafted Soap!

Jeannie Clark Henry of Bessemer gets a whiff of the natural soap made by Jordan Henderson during his class at the F.D. Campbell Memorial Library.

BESSEMER, PA — For the first few minutes, I had flashbacks of my late-afternoon high school chemistry lab.

Who knew soap making involved equations, precise measurements, thermometers, gloves, masks and flasks?

It’s a time-consuming technique — with just a simple recipe — that in the end, yields a product everyone uses. In a way, this was like chemistry class.

During a four-hour demonstration at the F.D. Campbell Memorial Library in Bessemer, Jordan Henderson of New Galilee’s Soap Alchemy first explained the steps involved in what is called cold process soap making.

Discussion started inside, but for the action segment, we headed outside. After all, pioneers didn’t run to the store for a bar of Dove. They made it.

Jordan started creating his own about 13 years ago when his body reacted to store-bought soap, which can contain harsh chemicals. Today, he produces soap almost every day in his soap kitchen, turning out 150-pound batches at a time.

Soap is described as a cleansing agent, manufactured in bars, granules, flakes or liquid and made from a mixture of the sodium salts of various fatty acids of natural oils and fats. Alchemy basically means any magical power or procedure of changing a common substance of little value into one of great value, Jordan said.

His first batch used olive oil, which is very good for the skin, he explained “It took me nine months to make it,” he laughed. “I didn’t know what I was doing.” But once he perfected the formula, success followed.

Making a gentle bar of soap still requires some safety precautions

Members of a soap-making class observe as a brave volunteer pours water to begin a chemical reaction.

Precautions are necessary, though. Besides having the essential tools, safety is an important facet. “Soap making is a chemical reaction and can be dangerous at points. You need a high level of respect for what you’re doing.”

Despite all that, the final product is skin safe. The method requires the perfect, well-calculated combination of crystals of sodium hydroxide — which if not used properly can remove skin — distilled water and, in this case, Greek olive oil.

Jordan keeps vinegar on hand, which neutralizes the soap acid if an accident occurs. “We’re working with high temperatures and the water goes from 60 degrees to 200 degrees in a matter of seconds. If it goes to steam, there’s a type of explosion.”

I stepped back quickly. Jordan cautioned class members who experiment at home to remember that no animals and no children or young adults can be in the area during this process. Inhaling the caustic fumes must be avoided, so working in a well-ventilated area is crucial.

The sodium hydroxide was poured into the water slowly — not the other way around — and the containers must be capable of handling the quick change in temperature. Those two elements are then poured into the oil.

When done correctly, the sodium hydroxide and oils are converted into a sodium salt of a fatty acid, and the pH quality is tested. It must be between seven and 10.

Once all the ingredients were measured, Jordan added a few drops of clove essential oil. The mixture was stirred using a whisk, poured into aluminum bread pans lined with plastic wrap, heated in the oven at a low temperature for at least eight hours, tested for pH quality, cooled, cut and air dried to last longer.

Risks aside, Jordan encouraged the class to try making soap at home. “It’s a lot of fun. I love making soap.”

He produces all types including goat milk, castile, unscented, shaving and specialty soap.

The group worked in pairs. Each person took home a bar of soap she had made during the class.

“I encourage everyone to learn,” Jordan recapped. This was a bubbly experience, bar none.

For the article as seen in The New Castle News, please click here.

tim @ January 22, 2011

Natural Should Mean. . . Well. . . Natural.

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Soap Alchemy Basic Castile Soap - LavenderShouldn’t it? Did you know that in the United States, the term “natural” can be used on skin care products that contain little or no actual “natural” ingredients? At Soap Alchemy, when we say “natural” we mean “natural.” Plain and simple… We only use food grade oils in all of our soaps. They are not bleached, deodorized or refined, just natural, food grade vegetable oils. Many soap manufacturers use cosmetic grade oils… You wouldn’t want to cook with cosmetic grade oils, so why put them on your skin?

Did you know that the FDA does not review, nor does it have the authority to regulate, what goes into cosmetics before they are marketed to consumers? Soap Alchemy lists every ingredient that goes into the batch on each bar of soap we produce. We do not use any ingredients that we would not ourselves put on our skin. There are no additives such as Sodium Laurel Sulfate or it’s cousin Sodium Laureth Sulfate which are notorious for drying the skin. We don’t use fragrance oils in any of our soaps, just pure, natural essential oils and we see no purpose in using any colorants, natural or otherwise, in any of our products either.

Since every body is different, at any given time, you will find between 30 and 40 different varieties of soap on our website. For those who prefer no scent, we make about 10 different soaps that contain no essential oils or scent masking chemicals, which you may find in some “fragrance free” products, so you can choose what soaps work best for your type of skin. Our Pure Castile line of soap uses only 100% Extra Virgin Olive Oil as the base oil for the soap while our Basic Castile line of soap, which includes our Oatmeal Soaps containing Certified Gluten Free Oatmeal, uses a blend of Soybean, Extra Virgin Olive and Palm Kernel Oils as well as Babassu Oil, Cocoa Seed Butter and Jojoba Oil. Our Goat Milk Soaps contain Soybean, Coconut, Babassu and Jojoba Oils, Cocoa Seed Butter and Goat Milk.

Our Specialty Soaps offer completely different blends of food grade, natural vegetable oils in each different bar to allow more choice in the oils which go on your body. Our Shea Butter Specialty Soap contains 35% unrefined Shea Butter! We also offer Neem and Tea Tree, Hempseed with Rosemary, Baby Almond, Avocado with Spearmint and Sunflower Oil Soap in this line.

What’s more, with the exception of our Goat Milk line of soap, Soap Alchemy Soaps are Certified Vegan!What you do get is a pure soap that rinses clean away and is good to use on your hands, face and entire body! We even have customers who use it on their hair!

Be Good to Your Body, Be Good to the Earth.
Our bars of soap not only claim to be natural, they are and they are safe for the environment. From the paper we use to package it, to our display boxes, our marketing materials and the inks used in our printed materials, you can bury it in the ground and it will break down naturally leaving nothing behind to harm the environment. Our wrappers and marketing materials are printed with soy inks on 100% recycled paper, our boxes are made with FSC Certified paperboard and printed with linseed oil inks and our soaps use all natural, earth friendly ingredients.

tim @ May 9, 2010

Very Rich, Very Soft Lather Produced Using Soap Alchemy Goat Milk Soaps

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

The Goat Milk Soap from Soap Alchemy is made with a base of Soybean, Coconut and Palm Oils as well as Cocoa Seed Butter, Jojoba and Goat Milk, of course! What else can be said about Goat Milk that isn’t already know? The Soap Alchemist has created a line of Goat Milk Soap with a creamy, rich soft lather that’s great for you entire body, hands, face and hair.

The Soap Alchemist at Soap Alchemy uses only the best vegetable oils and essential oils when formulating his soaps and currently offers the Goat Milk Line in the following great varieties … Unscented, Rose Geranium, Unscented with Crushed Pineapple and Shredded Coconut, Natural Brown Sugar and Vanilla, Unscented with Green Tea and Chamomile and Rosewood Scented with Green Tea and Chamomile.

Why Goat Milk?  Goat milk has been used for years to superfat Hand Crafted Soap. Goat Milk is higher in calcium, vitamin B-6, vitamin A, potassium niacin and selenium than cow milk. Goat milk is also higher in chloride, copper, and manganese.

Many people believe that the nutrients in the goat milk transfer to your skin as you bathe.  While we can’t claim that this is true of not, we can tell you that we love to wash with it! Besides, how often do you get to use the word “superfat” in a good way?

jordan @ March 24, 2008

Why is Glycerin Important?

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Glycerin is a humectant.  One molecule of glycerin is created for every three molecules of soap. Commercial soap makers remove the glycerin from their soap and sell it to the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. With Soap Alchemy’s Natural, Hand Crafted Soap however, all of the naturally occurring glycerin remains in the soap.

Our Soap Alchemy Soap is naturally softer as well.  You may be able to “dent” the soap with your finger.  You will notice that when our soap is freh it will draw moisture from the air into small beads that will make the soap bar’s surface wet.  Both of these traits indicate that the soap has a high glycerin content.

What does Glycerin do for your skin, well it helps keep more moisture on your skin and that’s a good thing!

jordan @ February 28, 2008

Lye in Soap?? WHAT?

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Did you know when Hand Crafted Soap is properly made and cured, the soap no longer contains lye?  The chemical reaction has converted the alkali (lye), water and oils and fats into saponified oils and fats and glycerin, resulting in a mild, pure Hand Crafted Soap.

All soap is made with lye, or more correctly Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH). Sodium Hydroxide is a very strong alkali, about pH 14. Although we don’t normally think of it, Olive Oil, and other vegetable and animal oils, are technically considered acids.  Well, to be precise, they are triglycerides.  That is 1 glyceride and 3 fatty acids, hence tri-glyceride.  Here are the details of soap making and the process called Saponification.  When you take a strong alkali, Sodium Hydroxide and mix it with the fatty acids, you end up with a Sodium Salt of that fatty acid, what we all call soap.  As long as the amount of lye is balanced to the fatty acid, no extra lye will exist once all of the chemical reactions complete!

Can you make soap without using lye?  No, sorry about that.  Its a chemical reaction and that is the way it works.  Often a label might list Sodium Olivate, which means the saponified olive oil, which is from mixing lye and olive oil. They are listing the result of the reaction, not the ingredients that went into the reaction.  So, yes, all soap is made with lye.

By the way, you do need to use water in the reaction.  Water caused the NaOH, lye, Sodium Hydroxide, to dissociate, sort of break apart.  The Na, Sodium, floats around in the water and the OH floats around in the water.  With out the water, that wouldn’t happen.  Its in that state that the chemical reaction occurs, converting the triglyceride, into soap.  The end result is glycerin and sodium salts of fatty acids.  Isn’t that cool?  Its chemistry!

jordan @ February 24, 2008

Basic Castile Soaps Great for the Whole Body

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Made with a base of Soybean, Olive, Palm, Palm Kernel, Cocoa Seed Butter and a touch of Jojoba Oil, The Soap Alchemist at Soap Alchemy has created a line of soap with a simple, yet healthy, clean feeling. Great for you entire body, hands, face and hair.  Basic Castile Soaps … Simple and Clean.

At Soap Alchemy, we use only the best vegetable oils and essential oils when formulating our soaps. Nothing goes into a batch of soap that we wouldn’t want to put on our bodies. No Synthetic Fragrances. No Added Coloring. If it isn’t necessary to making a great bar of soap. you won’t find in in any of our soaps. The Basic Castile Line is Certified Vegan and is currently offered in the following great varieties: Unscented, Lemon Zest, Ginger, Patchouli, Lemon Eucalyptus, Rose, Rosemary, Lavender, Crushed Grape Seed with Citrus, Foloral Citrus, Cedar, Unscented Oatmeal, Mint Oatmeal, Peppermint Oatmeal, Lavender Oatmeal and Vanilla Oatmeal.

jordan @ February 24, 2008

How is your soap made?

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

We make our soap in small batches, measuring out the vegetable oils, water and Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH). We mix the oils and water/NaOH solution when everything is about 90 degrees F. Once the mixture has started tracing, the solution starts to look like pudding, we pour it into our handmade wooden molds. The molds are wrapped to insulate them. The soap continues to saponify in the molds. Saponification is the chemical reaction that converts the oils and alkali into a sodium salt, which is what we all call soap. 2-3 days later the soap is removed from the molds, cut into bars and then placed on racks for 6-8 weeks for curing. Curing lets moisture out of the bars, increasing their hardness. Throughout the process we measure the PH of the saponifying solution and bars as well as checking for water content and hardness. A saponified bar has no Sodium Hydroxide let. All of it has been used to make soap. Once cured, the bars are hand wrapped and shipped to our customers. That makes a batch of cold processed soap, from our hands to yours!

jordan @ January 25, 2008

Tiny Bubbles linked to Pure Olive Oil Found in Soap Alchemy Pure Castile Soaps

Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments (0)

Customer used to thick, rich lather from their heavily fragranced bars of commercially processed soaps were slightly alarmed when their usual soaps were replaced with a bar of Soap Alchemy Pure Castile Soap.  Instead of the typical mound of big, fat, fluffy bubbles, of they were accustomed, they were greeted with a smooth layer of tiny bubbles.

They were amazed to discover, however, that when they rinsed, they felt moisturized, refreshed and squeaky clean! It just goes to prove that size really does not matter! Small can be just as good, if not better!  But seriously, the thickness of the lather created is not necessarily a measure of how well it cleans, and this line if Soap Alchemy Soap proves just that!

The Soap Alchemist at Soap Alchemy uses only pure Olive Oil in his Pure Castile Soap Alchemy Soap and offers this great, Vegan Certified formula in two varieties: Unscented and Rose.

jordan @ January 24, 2008