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4 Supplements That Gave Me Better Skin (And Overall Health)

pills and multivitamins on a black background

(Disclaimer: the following article is not to be treated as medical advice, and observations are based on personal experience. Always consult your physician for your specific condition. I’m not getting paid for any product recommendations in this post.)

Walk into any pharmacy and one of the first things you notice shelves that are almost overflowing with health supplements for practically every kind of health concern. You want better eyesight? Try bilberry extract. Menopause? Check out the herbal blend over there. Improved sleep, better concentration during the day, liver detoxing… everything.

So what kind of supplements would be helpful for supporting skin health?

I’m sure you’ve come across some articles about all sorts of them, but perhaps have not yet found the chance to experiment with them for yourself.

Here, I’ll offer some of my personal suggestions and observations, plus some actionable steps for you to consider. Please note that these are supplements I am actually taking myself, so I do have first-hand experience with them.

I read research papers so you don’t have to (but you’re most welcome to follow the links to some of them if you’re curious to know more). As someone who grew up with eczema as a child, grew out of it as an adult, and then despaired when it returned – I was also desperate to find a cure. Now that I have figured out what helped to get my skin back to normal, I’m hoping that sharing my experience will benefit you too.

Fish oil

mackerel fish with lemon and parsley on white background

I’ll start with my favourite, because it practically erased my dishydrotic eczema on my left hand once I started taking it religiously for 15 days. You can see how bad it was and how it transformed, in my original blogpost.

Fish oil contains two types of Omega-3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA is linked to supporting healthy brain function, and together with EPA, have shown promise as therapeutic agents in a number of inflammatory skin conditions, by helping the skin form a robust and healthy lipid barrier to prevent moisture loss (translation: your skin becomes better at staying moisturized on its own).

The recommended daily dosage for fish oil is 3,000mg, according to the American Heart Association. Personally I tripled the dosage during those 15 days, and then tapered off to the 3,000mg dosage once my skin went back to normal.

Be aware though, that fish oil was found to have some possible unintended side effects, including compromising chemotherapy drug treatments (no kidding).

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) Extract

This one is a very recent discovery (on my part, anyway). I began taking it about 5 weeks prior to writing this article, and it seems to have fixed my dry skin issue.

Horsetail extract contains a high concentration of plant-based silica, which the body can absorb easily. Silica is essential to the formation of collagen in the skin, which in turn ensures that the skin’s barrier functions run optimally. What I noticed was that I don’t need to rely so heavily on moisturizers, especially for my legs, which used to be dry, and sometimes flaky in the past. Now I can actually forget about applying any oils on my legs on a daily basis, because they still feel comfortable, and don’t have that powdery white surface from being dehydrated.

Poking around the web, I also found a research paper where a double-blind clinical trial in Iran showed that a 3% horsetail extract ointment was effective in speeding up wound healing as well as offered pain relief after episiotomy procedures. That was interesting to know.

Right now I am taking 3 x 500mg tablets a day, one with each meal.

Be aware that there are some concerns about the side effects of taking too much of horsetail extract orally, over an extended period of time. You can read more about that here.

Vitamin C (time released) with rutin and rosehip (rosa canina) fruit extract

All these are potent antioxidants, which among a myriad of other actions, help scavange free radicals from around the body. In the context of the skin, this helps to mitigate premature ageing from the destruction of collagen and elastic fibres in dermal tissue, usually from over-exposure to UV light (i.e. sun damage).

As with most antioxidants, vitamin C and rutin curb inflammation around the body too, which is generally a good thing.

I usually take 3 x 500mg tablets a day, together with the horsetail extract. It is a water soluble vitamin, so any excess that the body doesn’t need is easily flushed out (so long as you drink plenty of water).

B-Complex and Zinc

Red Vitamin B capsules on white background

I have found that B-Complex supplements make a real difference in my day-to-day mental functioning, and to keep me in a generally buoyant mood. Apart from that, numerous B vitamins play critical roles in promoting optimal skin health. For example, thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3) and pantothenic acid (B5) all help to reduce redness in the skin and strengthen its barrier function. Some even have proven effects in reducing acne breakouts.

(However, it is worth noting that there was a study that looked into acneiform eruptions caused by vitamin B12 , also known as cobalamin. Although the breakouts were pretty gruesome, the patients made a full recovery between 3-5 weeks of stopping the oral B12 supplements.)

The B-Complex supplement that I take is also combined with zinc, which is said to contribute to regulating the body’s immune responses, by activating T lymphocytes. And here’s something I’m quite proud of – I am rarely ill, even though I may occasionally be surrounded by coughing, sneezing children (schoolyards are fantastic bacterial breeding grounds, aren’t they?). Prior to taking B-Complex supplements, although I would generally consider myself as healthy (I exercise and eat moderately), I would still succumb to coughs and colds that my kids bring home from school. Now, no longer.

All in all, it’s a good combination of vitamins that work in tandem to enhance the body’s natural resistance to infections, with a pleasant additional effect of giving your skin a healthy glow.

I’m taking 1 tablet a day, as recommended on the product label.

What You Can Do Right Now

1. Do your own research

You must want to understand how and why a particular supplement works, what its recommended dosage is, its side effects and safety considerations. You might find that it may not suit you, or you may stumble upon something else that makes more sense to try, in your particular situation.

2. See your physician and seek his or her advice

This is especially important if you have underlying medical conditions, or are taking any medications routinely. If you can’t make a trip there personally, even a phone call would be better than no communication at all. Even though these supplements are very common, and may be very familiar to you, it would be best to consult your doctor if you intend to start taking these to help with your skin condition. You never know if any of these seemingly harmless things could interfere with the efficacy of your other medications, or even bodily functions.

3. Be observant, and be patient.

Once you get the go ahead to start taking a supplement, always observe for any unwanted side-effects, especially within the first 1-3 days. Then if you choose to continue, you will need to allow for several weeks, or even months to pass before you assess its efficacy for you. Don’t give up after just 2-3 weeks. Some effects take longer to develop than others. Be patient.

4. Avoid taking a whole slew of new supplements all at once

You won’t be able to tell which one is yielding what effect! Instead, try one at a time for 3-4 weeks and observe any changes to your body or skin in that period, and make a judgement call about whether you would want to continue taking it.

Conclusion

Balanced nutrition and some supplementation of essential vitamins and minerals is going to give your skin its best shot at getting into its healthiest possible state. Regardless of your skincare regime, no matter how much money you spend on expensive cosmetics, it will all be for nought if you don’t look into the fundamental conditions needed for healthy skin, through nutrition.

…no matter how much money you spend on expensive cosmetics, it will all be for nought if you don’t look into the fundamental conditions needed for healthy skin, through nutrition.

It may take time for the effects to kick in, but I can personally vouch for the notion that the long-term benefits of nourishing your body well, will be worth the wait.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, I am no medical expert and I am not making explicit recommendations for you to take these supplements to fix your skin issues. This list is by no means exhaustive. Please consult your general physician or dermatologist to get his or her advice that is tailored to your specific condition.

What I do hope is to at least offer you some insights into the possible routes you can consider in taking charge of your own skin’s wellbeing, based on my own experiences.

Was this article helpful for you? Please share it with your friends and family! You can also leave a comment below, or write to me anytime at michelle@kindersoaps.com. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

Wishing you all the best on your journey to better skin!

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SOAPFUL Soap Repurposing Project with Sunway Hotels & Resorts

Used hotel soap bars collected by Sunway Hotels and Resorts hospitality staff, ready for repurposing

Goodness, it’s been a long time since I’ve written anything really interesting on our blog. Partly because I was caught up with the usual day to day running of the business and home affairs – and partly because we had to keep this new project under wraps until it was officially launched this month. It lines up perfectly with our efforts to engage in more zero-waste efforts.

On 5th December 2018, the Soapful project by Sunway Hotels and Resorts was announced to the public at a media event, where it pledged its commitment to fulfilling the 12th of 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which is to do with responsible consumption and production. Specifically, with regards to addressing the usual practice in the hospitality industry which is to discard used hotel soap bars after just a handful of uses.

Representatives of Sunway Hotels and Resorts, Ecolab and Kinder Soaps together with Selangor Youth Community and Pertubuhan Kebajikan Anak Yatim Darul Ehsan Malaysia (PKAYDEM) at the launch of Soapful
Tengku Amir Shah (fourth from left, in black T-shirt), Sunway Bhd President’s Office executive vice-president Evan Cheah (third from left), Yayasan Islam Darul Ehsan board of trustee member Mohd Salim Sain (second from left, in purple shirt), Leong (second from right) and Ecolab Singapore and Malaysia managing director and vice-president Ong Kian Tick (right) with guests and children from PKAYDEM during the launch. Photo credit: The Star

(Read the story that was carried by The Star in their Metro section.)

In this particular project, Sunway Hotels is partnering with Ecolab (a global company that provides water, hygiene and energy technologies to all sorts of industries – you should visit their website, their range of services is astounding), and Kinder Soaps to undertake the recovery and repurposing of used hotel soap bars collected from its various properties around Peninsular Malaysia, and then distributing it to the Selangor Youth Community (SAY) as a possible means for them to engage in entrepreneurship training amongst young adults.

 

Members of media crowding around Raja Muda Selangor
Media swarming around the royal patron of SAY, Raja Muda of Selangor Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah

Kinder Soaps took the first delivery of roughly 100kg of Sunway’s used hotel soap bars, cleaned and repurposed them, and produced 1,000bars which were then presented to Pertubuhan Kebajikan Anak Yatim Darul Ehsan Malaysia (PKAYDEM) at the media launch.

(Pauses to take a mental breath)

This is a something significant to us, as it involves Kinder Soaps in a movement that extends far beyond what I imagined our company could achieve on its own. We have been working on this project since July this year. Actually come to think of it, the whole thing began in May – and it very nearly didn’t materialise at all. Here’s what happened (the story you won’t find reported in the media):

Amidst the slightly more frenzied pace of work in the middle of the year, I took a call from one of Ecolab’s staff who told me about this soap recycling project they had in mind. After finding out who Ecolab was, and understanding the size of their typical client (they had yet to mention who their client was for this particular project), I suggested that they try to look up a bigger soap manufacturer in NPRA’s list of cosmetics manufacturers – because I thought Kinder Soaps was far too small to take it on. They accepted my suggestion, and I thought, that was that.

June rolled around, and yet another email arrived from Ecolab from a different member of staff, enquiring about the possibility of collaborating on a CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project related to soap recycling. Again, I found myself suggesting them an alternative to working with us, because we had no excess soap to offer them for their original CSR activity (plus, that was the period when we were preparing for our GMP audit, so we were all a little flustered from making sure that we had our paperwork etc in order before the auditors were due to visit the studio). I thought it was such a pity we wouldn’t be able to work with them, but I also felt we would not be in a position to effectively help them in the long run because of our limited supply of soap scraps to recycle. If you are a regular customer with us, you’d know we only make as much soap as our customers require – and we often find ourselves out of stock for the more popular ones.

Finally however, in July I met with Ecolab Singapore and Malaysia’s Managing Director, Mr Ong Kian Tick, where he revealed who their client was, and what they had in mind for the CSR project. He introduced Kinder Soaps to Sunway Hotels and Resorts’ CEO André Scholl, its Regional Senior General Manager Kelly Leong, and Group Director of Brand Marketing & Communications, Farizal Jaafar. At that first meeting, I still remember feeling like I was in an out-of-body experience, not quite believing what we were discussing around the table, and who I was with.

Representatives from Sunway Hotel and Resorts, Ecolab, Kinder Soaps, and Raja Muda Selangor walking down the red carpet
My first experience being treated as a VIP, with a red carpet entrance. Photo credit: Sunway Hotels and Resorts

We were essentially presented with a long-term opportunity to actually do something to recover perfectly usable soap, and save them from being tossed into landfills. Packaged in paper, the way I would be happy with. No plastic shrink wrap. Everything done by hand, and we would be able to pass along our know-how about soap rebatching to the disenfranchised, which would hopefully give them access to a skill that could potentially stir up their entrepreneurial spirit. While it isn’t the perfect solution to curbing soap waste from the hospitality industry, I think it’s still a step in the right direction to get society thinking about what it really means to adopt more sustainable consumption habits.

What noone else realised was that I had been thinking about soap recycling as a service for Kinder Soaps, for years. But at the back of my mind, I also knew we just didn’t have the kind of network nor resources to actively pursue it, especially since we are already so caught up with business-as-usual. And yet somehow, someone took a gamble on contacting us, connected all the dots and eventually made my dream a reality – even after I had voluntarily turned down the opportunity twice.

From left to right: Mr Kelly Leong, Yayasan Islam Darul Ehsan board of trustee member En. Mohd Salim Sain, Mr Ong Kian Tick, Raja Muda Selangor Tengku Amir Shah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah
I think this would count as my first celebrity wefie, with the Raja Muda Selangor. We talked about sailing, his experience training in the army, and plastic pollution in the oceans. Really down to earth chap.

I can’t think of a better Christmas gift for Kinder Soaps (actually, I can – it’s that we rapidly reach more new customers so we can sell more soap in the long run, haha…! XD You can check out our soap bars here).

View of rain from driver's seat
Rain or shine, we’ll be soaping…

Seriously though, I’m so grateful at how things have panned out so far for the Soapful project. It has been quite a challenge to reach this stage (many rounds of trial and error to figure out the most efficient way to rebatch the used hotel soap bars – it’s pretty tedious work, I can tell you that). Our production crew pulled many long days and nights to ensure everything got done and delivered on time for the launch. Hopefully there won’t be any more 2am soap wrapping sessions after this…! And we had the privilege of working with a bunch of lovely people from Sunway’s PR and Communications team, namely Farizal, Stephanie, Chandrika and Jen Mun – thank you all for the hard work you did to make everything come together. I’m sorry I gave you a heart attack by getting the delivery numbers wrong at the last minute. :”) Looking forward to continuing to develop the Soapful programme through the year with you all.

As always, I believe we wouldn’t be where we are today, were it not for the continued support from our suppliers, customers, friends and family all these years. Thank you so much.

Speaking of family, the 5th of December is also my father’s birthday! So that same evening as the media launch, my family all got together to celebrate his 68th trip around the sun:

Michelle Ho, Ho Tet Shin and Lionel Ho
My dad, and my younger (but more level-headed and responsible) brother

I attribute my optimism, curiosity and sense of idealism to my dad. It’s genetic, perhaps somewhat perplexing to people who don’t understand our brand of humour, and it’s contagious. 😉 Happy birthday Daddy, this “win” for Kinder Soaps is dedicated to you, and Mummy. <3


More writeups, videos and blogposts on the event:

Newspapers

Blogs

News Portals

Videos

Instagram

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Our Stockists

We have teamed up with a few lovely shop owners to bring you a select range of our products. We regularly visit them, so you’ll always find the freshest batches of products there. We recommend calling them ahead to check with their store opening hours as well as which of our products are available (they may not carry our entire range of products). Here’s where you can find our wares:

In Petaling Jaya

Foh Peng Medical & Trading Co

No. 9 SS 22/ 23 Damansara Jaya,
47400, Petaling Jaya,
Selangor
Phone: 03-7727 3258

Opening hours: best to call to enquire

This place is just downstairs from our shop. If you’d like to collect your online orders on a day when we are closed, you can ask our Sunshines to leave your order with Foh Peng’s staff. Just be sure to collect it promptly.

Nude The Zero Waste Store

3G, Jalan 19/29, Seksyen 19
46300 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor

Opening Hours: Tues-Sun 11am till 7pm

In Kuala Lumpur

The Hive Bulk Foods

Bangsar

2A, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar Park,
59000 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Phone: 03-2202 0707

Opening hours: 9am till 7pm daily

Ampang

1F, Hock Choon Supermarket,
241 Jalan Ampang,
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Phone: 011-1144 3887

Opening hours: 9am till 7pm daily

A Bit Less Bulk Store

20, Jalan Ambong 4, Kepong Baru,
52100 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Opening hours: 10am till 7:30pm daily

And here is a terrific little café that I personally frequent, which has a lot of heart:

Rubberduck

60 Jalan Sri Hartamas 1, Plaza Damas,
Lot K-0-8B (Ground Floor), Dorchester Service Apartment,
50480 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Phone: 03-6206 1832

Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 8am till 8pm; Weekends 8am till 6pm

Stray Folk

137b Jalan Aminuddin Baki,
Taman Tun Dr Ismail
60000 Kuala Lumpur,
Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur
Phone: 03-7494 4276

Opening Hours: 10am till 9pm daily

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Studio Open Day This Saturday!

This Saturday we are throwing open our doors to welcome you to our shop – and production studio! 🙂

For the first time ever, Kinder Soaps will be hosting an Open Day, where you can come and meet the handful of people who make, inspect, package, ship and answer questions about our products. We’ll also be conducting mini “tours” to our production area, and have some light snacks and drinks for you. You can also stock up on soap – there will be a one-day, in-store-only special offer available. 😉

We aren’t expecting a huge crowd, so this is a good opportunity for those of you who would like to ask us pretty much anything about Kinder Soaps, and get responses right away, in person.

We’d love to welcome you! Please RSVP to ask@kindersoaps.com as soon as you can so we can have a better estimate on how much food to prepare.

Date: Saturday, 28th July 2018
Time: 11:00am – 4:00pm
Venue: 11A-A (First Floor), Jalan SS 22/23, Damansara Jaya, 47400 Petaling Jaya
Phone: +603-77320955

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Going Plastic-Free For Our Courier Shipments

We’ve been using courier services to deliver our goods, ever since we started business. But the one thing that bugged me was the use of those plastic sleeves to wrap each parcel – they only served one purpose, which was to protect the parcel and hold the consignment note while in transit, and after that it would be torn or cut open, and discarded. I thought they were a compulsory requirement from our courier companies – until someone showed me how they shipped their parcel via PosLaju, without any fuss from the staff when there was no outer plastic sleeve. What a revelation!

So this is what we’re going to do, from now on:

  • All our parcels will be going out in kraft or manila paper envelopes or cardboard boxes, with our items wrapped and protected with paper GEAMI wrap.
  • We will forgo using the outer plastic sleeves that courier services provide us.
  • We are replacing cellophane tape with paper tape.

And yes, we’ll still be able to hold our consignment notes to the odd-shaped envelopes, without relying on clear plastic windows.

Here’s how we’ll do it, and you can follow along too!

Step 1: Gather your materials

You will need:

  • An envelope, roomy enough to fit your item(s) in and wide enough to accommodate your courier’s consignment note / airway bill,
  • Scrap paper
  • Scissors
  • Good quality glue

Step 2: Make paper corners

Cut 2 strips of paper, about 2 x 4 fingers wide. They need to be fairly wide, in order to hold your consignment note securely on the envelope.

Fold each end down to make a 90º angle in the middle of the strip. This is your paper corner.

Cap diagonally-opposing corners of your consignment note with your paper corners, if you are only using 2. Otherwise, cap all 4 corners.

Step 3: Position your consignment note on envelope, glue down paper corners

Step 4: Insert contents and seal envelope

…et voilà, your plastic-free parcel is ready to go!

Also, it would be a good idea to write your addressee’s details directly onto the envelope, and include the courier’s consignment note number too.

We’ll do the same paper corner trick with our parcels that go out in boxes, or at least glue the whole consignment note down onto the parcel and cap the corners where the duplicates open up, just to make sure the paper doesn’t flap around during transit.

I hope this gives you an idea of how you too can go plastic-free with your shipments. 🙂

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New Stockist: The Hive Bulk Foods

We’re absolutely thrilled to be a part of the family of vendors over at The Hive Bulk Foods!

This cozy store in Bangsar specialises in helping consumers adhere to a zero-waste lifestyle, where general sundries are sold without packaging, and you can buy all kinds of things by weight. They have an impressive range of personal care items too, from tooth powder to soap bars. It was great to see other local cosmetics brands I look up to, like Root Remedies, Jeanie Botanicals, Claire Organics, and Native Body & Skin having their own space there as well. Okay, maybe I felt a little star-struck to be placed alongside them, haha… :”)

If you think that this whole thing about going packaging-free and zero waste is a hippie / hipster lifestyle (read: expensive) affair, please reconsider it. The Hive’s owner, Claire, does everything she can to make this kind of lifestyle one that is not only sustainable for the environment, but for the pocket too. Affordability is a key consideration for sustainable consumption, and she’s working hard to find solutions that will encourage the public to seriously consider going packaging-free with their daily household consumables.

Here’s what the place looks like:

via GIPHY

I love looking at their neat rows of wooden shelving, with glass jars full of nuts and grains, honey, coffee, and household items that are meant to replace their disposable / throwaway counterparts. We can do so much to reduce packaging waste from ending up in landfills, just by tweaking our purchasing habits. I do hope you’ll pay The Hive a visit, and perhaps consider buying your regular grocery items there so you can avoid creating yet another throwaway item when you get home from the usual supermarket run.

Here’s their address:

92A, Lorong Maarof, Bangsar (above Speedmart)
59000 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

017-680 4221

Follow this link to navigate to their shop in Bangsar using Google Maps.

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Experiment: Pulut Tai Tai Soap

soap bar placed on the edge of a water jar

(Warning: LOTS of pictures ahead!)

Last week on the 8th of May (just a day before Malaysia’s 14th General Elections, woohoo!) I finally took the leap to scratch that itch of an idea that has been playing around in my head for the longest time (read: YEARS), which was,

What would happen if I took traditional food recipes and stuck their ingredients into soap bars?

It seemed like a very natural thing to do – given that the food we eat offer a cornucopia of health benefits, even when applied topically to the skin (think: brown sugar scrubs, egg white masks etc).

Of course I wouldn’t touch anything that involved meats… so naturally I started looking at desserts. Specifically, the traditional Malaysian ones, and those which I personally have a fondness for. :”)

The simple rule I gave myself for this little game was to ensure that EVERY ingredient for the food item, was to be used in the soap. I would be referring to food recipe websites a lot!

So for the first experiment, I went with the iconic pulut tai tai, (recipe here) which is a glutinous rice block coloured with butterfly pea / bunga telang (Clitoria terneata) flower infusion, and topped with kaya (a coconut jam, recipe here). This is what the actual dessert looks like.

Blue Glutinous Rice Cakes (Pulut Tai Tai)

(Photo credit to Michelle Chan, on Flickr)

It took me yonks to finally pluck up the courage to plan for, and make this soap. Predominantly because:

  1. I had no idea whether the blue from the butterfly pea flowers would carry through into the soap,
  2. I generally don’t like doing hot process soap because I hate the cleanup,
  3. I don’t like cleaning up in general, and because of the complexity of the soap design, I expected the mess to be massive (thankfully, I was wrong about this though!).

But in the end, I talked myself and planned for an uninterrupted day in the studio to “play”. 🙂

For my soap base, I chose to stick to just coconut oil (because coconut plays such a distinct role in this recipe), and used coconut milk for the lye solution. Here’s the rest of my shopping for the ingredients:

shopping basket containing food items

YES, there is actual gula melaka (palm sugar) in this soap. AND there are eggs in it too! There is no significant smell to in the resulting soap that hints at the eggs’ presence – but it seems like a great way to introduce protein into a skincare formulation in a relatively safe way. If you’re worried about bacterial contamination, don’t fret – the raw soap’s high pH levels, and the sustained heat it is subject to while cooking, is sufficient to kill off any bacteria in the eggs. Just wash your hands with soap while handling the eggs, as normal.

First up was weighing out all our materials. Here’s our pandan (screwpine) leaf tea, which I made using leaves from my home garden:

And this is bunga telang tea, also from our garden (I had my daughter pick 25 flowers and simmer them in 300ml water. From the earlier soap photos, it is obvious that this isn’t anywhere concentrated enough to be used in the soap as a serious colourant). Isn’t the blue just gorgeous?

This is what bunga telang flowers look like:

And this is something I enjoy seeing, every single time I make soap – rosemary oleoresin lazily sinking to the bottom of a carrier oil mixture (in this case, virgin coconut oil).

Then came making the lye solution – I used coconut milk to replace the water portion. It became a thick slurry immediately. I hadn’t refrigerated the coconut milk, so it turned from pure white into a light caramel colour, as expected. It also gave off a mild scent of ammonia (similar to what happens when using goat’s milk in a lye mixture):

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Since this was a hot process (HP) soap which I was going to heat in a slow cooker, I didn’t wait for the lye solution to cool to 40ºC as what we normally do with cold process (CP) soap. After blending the coconut milk lye solution with the coconut oil, I added in the glutinous rice flour, sea salt, followed by more coconut oil and the eggs, which I had blended together:

Now, I wish I had an extra pair of hands because I wanted take a video to show you just how light and surprisingly mobile the whole soap mixture became after the eggs and coconut oil mixture was added to it. The mixture would even slide off cleanly from my spatulas. But eventually it returned to taking on a much more viscous consistency.

After about 30 minutes of cooking at high heat, the soap mixture was at 85ºC at had changed to a familiar, olive green colour:

Doesn’t it look like kaya? 🙂 At this point it was also smelling a little sweet, and reminiscent of food. I tested the pH level, and it had already come down to around 10.

At this point, the general idea was to separate the raw soap into 3 portions:

  • a “white”, or uncoloured portion (supposedly to resemble the uncoloured glutinous rice),
  • a blue portion (the blue coloured rice), and
  • a brown-green portion (the kaya “topping”).

I separated the “white” and “blue” portions, and coloured the latter by adding the bunga telang tea:

Then I added the pandan tea to the uncoloured portion. Here’s what they look like, side by side:

To say that I was disappointed with the colouring result, is an understatement. I *almost* wanted to give up, but I pushed on anyway. I added more bunga telang tea to the mixture, and worked it in well (my hand was so tired from gripping the spatula!).

Now came the layering in the mold. First up was to randomly drop dollops of the “white” and “blue” soap in the mold, and pack it in:

It was still quite warm, and easy to manipulate. While that was hardening up, I worked with the last remaining soap portion – the kaya topping. In went the crushed gula melaka to the soap that was still being kept warm in the slow cooker:

In about 15 minutes, the room smelled absolutely delicious and the sugar looked like it had melted completely into the soap. I began spooning it onto the “rice” portion:

I smoothed it over as best as I could and covered it with a sheet of waxed paper. Now all I had to do was to wait for it to harden up enough to cut.

While waiting, there was one other question that remained to be answered:

Can you make a blue bunga telang lye solution?

The answer is a resounding NO, because this is the resulting colour when sodium hydroxide (NaOH) flakes are added to bunga telang tea:

It’s a fantastic shade of orange! But when added to coconut oil to turn into soap, the resulting soap bars are still a plain white. Interesting trivia, and I’m glad I finally got round to removing all doubt about the matter. 🙂

Coming back to the pulut tai tai soap – as it turned out, I could cut them within 2 hours of moulding, for two reasons:

  1. Being such a coconut oil-heavy recipe, I expected the soap to set up quite quickly, and it did. It had already been pushed past the gel phase and saponification was complete, as testified by the pH level of 10 it was at. I didn’t want to risk allowing it to harden up so much that it would be difficult to cut.
  2. I was also impatient. XD

So after I had cleaned up all the equipment and work tops, and the soap showed a surface temperature of around 36ºC, I greedily unwrapped the soap:

At this point, I sent a disheartened message to my hubby, saying that I as disappointed with how to blue colouring turned out (or not, rather). And then, I pushed the block through our wire cutters – this is what I saw:

OMG THERE WAS BLUE! Pale, but still unmistakable blue! So with much excitement and anticipation, I cut the rest of the bars.

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The soap bars  have a pleasant caramel scent, with a hint of coconut and pandan. Colour-wise, they are unexciting but I have come to appreciate that those stoic shades of grey and olive green. I definitely want to continue experimenting with this blue colourant.

I’ve already been using a bar regularly in the shower, and it is remarkably moisturizing. Works well on the hair too. At this size, each bar weighs around 150g after drying for a week (it was 10g heavier right after cutting).

They aren’t for sale at the moment – but we will be giving some away together with purchases, and to willing guinea pigs (preferably those with extremely dry skin).

So there you have it – our pulut tai tai soap bars. What do you think of this little experiment? 🙂 Would love to hear from you!

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How To Get The Best Currency Exchange Rates When Transacting With PayPal

Okay, this isn’t related to soap at all–but I hope it will be useful for those of you out there who purchase things online and have to pay using foreign currency.

I learned something new today: when paying for a bill in a foreign currency using Paypal, you can choose between using

  1. Paypal’s currency conversion rate, or
  2. your credit card issuer’s rate.

I called up my bank, and they told me that their credit card follows Visa’s International Exchange Rates, plus a 1% transaction fee. After a quick run on Visa’s site, I found that it was better to select my credit card’s currency conversion rate over Paypal’s. Bear in mind though, that the final rate may differ slightly, because the actual transaction date may be later than the day you got the indicative rate for.

I also discovered that I saved paying an extra 9% of the invoice by opting to transact in my supplier’s home country currency, instead of their USD-based invoice. This was also after comparing rates. (I don’t know if there are instances where the reverse happens, but I would imagine that it could.)

This took me a couple of hours to do (because I was working at home, and my kids are on a short school break), but it saved me several hundred ringgit.

Lesson learned: it’s worthwhile spending time making comparisons – at least for big ticket purchases.

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Goat’s Milk and Patchouli Now Available As Ugly Ducklings

Once in a while, we make a slip up in our production, which results in botched batches. For the ones which are perfectly fine in terms of efficacy and quality, but are wrongly sized, cut, or packaged, we offer them for sale as Ugly Ducklings, at special prices.

For the first time ever, our flagship Goat’s Milk and Patchouli bars will be sold as Ugly Ducklings. We entered the wrong batch size in our spreadsheet, and resulted in bars that are about 10% smaller (and 10% cuter…? :p).

So we have decided to do the following:

  1. Price this batch of soap at RM20 (naked – usual price is RM23 per bar) and RM21 (wrapped);
  2. Send a special 15% savings coupon to everyone who has backordered and paid for this particular batch of GMP, to make up for the smaller soap bars they will be receiving.

We’re really sorry for this slip up, but we hope this will help to make up for our mistake. As always, thanks for your continued support (even when we stumble along the way).

Read more about our Goat’s Milk and Patchouli soap here. The special Ugly Ducklings price is applicable only while stocks from this particular batch are available.

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New Distributor – Foh Peng

We know that our shop has quite sporadic opening hours, so to help us attend to those of you who can’t make it to our place when we are open, we have asked the kind owners of Syarikat Perniagaan dan Ubat Foh Peng if we could place some of our soap bars in their store. They’ve agreed, so now you can get hold of some of our more popular offerings from our neighbour just downstairs from us! 🙂

They are located between Public Bank and Semenyih Memorial Hills’ office. Our staircase is off to the right. You can’t miss their signboard.

Personally, it is a little surreal for me that now we can see our soap on their shelves. I grew up around this area, you see, so I have memories of this shop since I was a teenager.

Lots of people go to Foh Peng to stock up on baby supplies (milk powder, diapers, wet wipes etc) as well as household dry goods. And of course, chinese herbs. They’ve got quite a well-stocked apothecary, and are able to recommend you all kinds of herbal preparations to address common ailments. They have a particular combination of herbs that you boil to make a pretty tasty drink to combat coughs, and it’s pretty effective – it’s worked on my kids, consistently.