Book Recommendation: Secrets of the Spas

Secrets of the Spas

Secrets of the Spas is a great little book by Catherine Bardey that gives you fantastic and easy ways to pamper yourself at home with recipes utilizing herbs, essential oils, and items you probably already have in your kitchen. Why pay to go to a spa when you can do these great recipes at home? Bardley includes natural recipes that are beneficial and healthy for your body, face, hair, nails, and feet. She also includes aromatherapy and skin benefits of essential oils and carrier oils.

You will find recipes for all skin types. You can utilize these recipes depending on what particular aromatherapy or skin benefits you are looking for (either calming, rejuvinating, etc.,)

You will find body scrubs, wraps, herbal bath blends, and milk baths.

body scrubs


You will also find natural recipes for moisturizers, body butter, and massage oils.

body butter moisturizers

Bardley also discusses ways to care for and treat the skin on your face and includes recipes for cleansers, pastes, facial steams, moisturizers, tonics, and masks.

facial masks

You will also find recipes for your hands and nails like hand washes, rubs and moisturizers, nail and cuticle treatments. For your feet, there are foot scrubs, masks, and soaks. There are also recipes for hair treatments, conditioners, and wraps.

hair, nails, hands, and feet treatments

Bardley also includes a section for healthy edible recipes for smoothies, shakes, salads, and more.

food recipes

All in all, this is a great book with many detailed spa recipes you can use to pamper yourself and learn about and enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy, relaxing and detoxifying baths, and much more.

This book is part of my series of out-of-print fragrance crafting book recommendations. There are affordable used copies of this book at the marketplaces of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and Alibris, and Abe Books. You may also come across copies at used book shops as well.

* The photos in this post are © Copyright Secrets of the Spas, Catherine Bardley.

** I am getting no commissions from this book recommendation.

Fall Decor Idea

An attractive and fragrant idea for your Fall decor is to display scented candles with whole spices like cinnamon sticks, anise stars, allspice, and cloves. These very fragrant spices will add to the scent of your candles. You can use scented pillar candles, votives, and even bakery candles which look particularly awesome when they are displayed with spices.

*Always use caution with a lit candle and keep away from anything flammable and keep them out of the reach of children and pets.

Salt Scrub or Sugar Scrub – Which Should You Use?

Salt and sugar scrubs are excellent ways to to remove dead skin cells, rejuvenate and moisturize your skin. Both salt and sugar have great exfoliating properties, but which one is better to use? Actually, neither one is really “better” to use than the other one, they both have different properties, so if you’re wondering which one to use, the answer is that it depends on what you want to use it for. Read on for more information about the differences and benefits of both salt and sugar scrubs and when it’s best to use each one.

DIY Fizzy Bath Bombs

Fizzy bath bombs are a great and fun addition to a relaxing bath. You don’t have to shell out and buy expensive bath bombs, they are very easy to make from scratch. There are very few ingredients for a basic bath bomb and once you get the hang of it you can tweak and add more ingredients to the recipe.

Bath bombs mainly consist of baking soda and citric acid, it is the citric acid that makes them fizz when they are dropped in the tub. You can buy citric acid at some health food stores and grocery stores, it is usually in the baking section. You can also order it online from soap making supply stores. Some specialty grocery stores also carry it, like Indian and Greek grocery stores. You will also need to water or witch hazel in a spritz bottle. You can add food coloring and fragrance to your bath bombs also. You can shape them into balls or put them in molds to create cute and pretty shapes.

Here are 5 easy and fun fizzy bath bomb recipes you can try. Some of these include fragrant dried herbs and flower petals as well as skin beneficial oils in their recipes. Enjoy.

Essential Oil Scent Categories

There are many wonderful essential oil scents to choose from when you’re preparing soap, bath & body, and other fragrance crafts. You can even create different scents by combining essential oils together. A good way to help you choose which scents you want to use for any particular crafting projects is to group the essential oils together by scent categories. Essential oils are categorized as Citrus, Herbal, Spicy, Floral, Woody, and Earthy. Some essential oils can fit into more than one category. If you want to combine scents, essential oils from the same category will blend well together.




Clary Sage
Tea Tree




Lily of the Valley

You can experiment and see what combinations you like, generally citrus blends well with floral and spicy. Also, woody blends well with spicy and earthy.

Always use precautions when using essential oils because they are highly concentrated which makes them very strong, do not put them directly on your skin, make sure they are diluted first. Do not use any essential oils if you are pregnant.

Bath & Body Herbs

There are many herbs that have beneficial properties and make great additions to soap and other bath products. Some have natural astringent, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory properties. Even herbal scents have effects, some can be uplifting and stimulating while others can be soothing and relaxing. Herbs can enhance the quality of your bath. This is a list of some of the most commonly used herbs and additives in bath & body and soap recipes along with their beneficial properties.

Calendula (Pot Marigold): The orange petals of calendula contain antiseptic and antifungal properties. Calendula is also an anti-inflammatory and soothes and protects irritated and damaged skin.

Chamomile: In addition to having a sweet apple-like fragrance, chamomile also has anti-inflammatory properties and is very soothing and relaxing.

Citrus Peel: The peels of orange, lemon, and lime are natural exfoliants and have astringent properties. They also have a strong uplifting scent. Their bright colors add a great visual to bath & body preparations like bath teas and scrubs.

Green Tea: Green tea contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that it can protect the skin against sun damage.

Lavender: Known for it’s wonderful soft floral scent, lavender provides antiseptic, antibacterial and healing properties. It is soothing and can relieve stress. The fragrance of lavender has a calming effect and can also help to reduce headaches.

Lemon Verbena: Lemon verbena has a gentle lemony scent and can soothe dry or irritated skin, it also acts as a toner for the skin.

Mints: Both peppermint and spearmint contain antiseptic properties and have a soothing and cooling effect on irritated skin. Their strong fragrances are stimulating and invigorating.

Rosemary: Rosemary helps improve circulation and relaxes muscles. It has a stimulating and refreshing pine-like scent.

* None of this information is meant to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care by your physician.

Potpourri Ideas: Apple Potpourri

This apple potpourri is a fragrant blend perfect for Summer, Fall (omg is it almost here?), and Winter. You can make this beautiful potpourri blend with dried apple slices, dried bay leaves, pear pods, apple pods, twistie pods, and pine cones.  You can add apple fragrance oil to enhance the scent.

This blend also contains one of my favorite potpourri ingredients – cedar roses:

They are cones that are shaped like roses. These cute cones go perfectly not only in a rustic primitive potpourri blend but also a pretty flowery blend. They are actually the bottoms and insides of the cones of the Deodar Cedar tree. When the full cones fall off the trees they start to break down and what remains are these cute little rose shaped parts of the cones.
All of these ingredients are available in potpourri supply stores. You can even find some of them in health food stores and aromatherapy supply stores. You can find so many wonderful ingredients in these stores and you can work this blend according to your tastes and preferences, adding whatever ingredients and fragrances you fancy.

How to Make Fragrant Potpourri

Now that your summer flowers are blooming and your herbs are bushy, you can collect them, dry them and make wonderful potpourri blends out of them to enjoy long after the blooming season is over. If you’re not sure how to dry them, see our posts: How to Dry Flowers for Crafts, and How to Dry Herbs for Crafts. If you don’t want to dry herbs and flowers yourself, you can buy them at crafts stores, aromatherapy supply stores, potpourri supply stores, florists, and even some health food stores.

A potpourri blend consists of dried herbs/flowers, essential oils, and a fixative. You can also add pods, berries, spices, and dried fruit slices. What exactly is a fixative and why do you need it? Since you’re going to be adding essential oils to your potpourri, you don’t want the smell to evaporate quickly and that’s where a fixative comes in. It’s a porous substance that literally absorbs the essential oils and retains them and makes the smell last longer. Some of the most popular fixatives are orris root, vetiver root, calamus root, sandalwood bark, gum benzoin, vanilla pods, and oakmoss. Orris root comes powdered or chopped, if you’re going to display your potpourri I would recommend the chopped version because the powder is going to make your potpourri blend look crumbly, but if you’re going to put it in a sachet, use the powder. Some spices also make great fixatives like cinnamon sticks, nutmeg (whole and powdered) and allspice. A good rule of thumb is to use about 2 Tablespoons of fixative per 4 cups of dried flowers and herbs.

When preparing your blend, make sure that your flowers and herbs are completely dry because any moisture is going to cause your potpourri to become moldy.  Some flowers that dry well are: roses, yarrow, hydrangeas, marigolds/calendula, geraniums, strawflowers, artemisia, ameranths, baby’s breath and sunflowers. Herbs that dry well are: lemon balm, rosemary, lavender, mint, sage, chamomile, oregano, basil, thyme, and bay leaves. Dried fruit slices like apples and oranges will also add color and fragrance to your potpourri blends. You can dry them yourself or buy them from crafts stores and potpourri supply stores.

Dried flowers and herbs have different lovely shades of yellows, oranges, blues, reds, pinks, and whites, and you can make a beautiful and stunning display by choosing combinations that complement each other. If you want a rustic country display, you can add whole pods and spices to your blend. With your essential oils, you can add a single scent or even make a combination of your choice.

To make your potpourri, gather together all of your dried materials and fixatives and add 6 to 12 drops of your essential oil onto the fixative, depending on how strong you want the scent to be. Stir your blend gently trying not to bruise or crush the dried flowers and put your potpourri into a brown paper bag and store it in a cool dry place for a few weeks until the fragrance is absorbed well into your potpourri. Every few days shake the bag to evenly disperse the fragrance and check on how strong the scent is. Once you’re satisfied with the result, pour your finished potpourri into decorative jars, bowls, trays, or any display container of your choice and enjoy.

Soap Making

For this post, I would like to talk about the ways to create/craft soap and how this relates to the proper ways that the soap should be wrapped.

There are 3 ways which crafters use to create their soap and before I get into each one, let’s talk about lye. Lye is an alkaline substance that is needed to make soap. You cannot have soap without lye, it just cannot happen, even natural soap contains lye. The reason is that soap is made through a process called “saponification” which is the chemical reaction that occurs when fats/oils mix with an alkali and water. Some people may think that natural herbal soap doesn’t contain lye because it is a caustic substance, but that is not true, all soap contains lye, even natural ones, because soap cannot be made without lye, you must have saponification in order to have soap. But by the time the finished soap is cured and ready to use, the lye has evaporated from it. So if you hear someone say that their soap doesn’t contain lye, well….that’s a lie. Ok sorry, I couldn’t resist. Actually, some crafters may claim that their natural soap doesn’t contain lye, but what they probably mean is that they crafted their soap in a method that did not require them to use lye…I know this probably sounds confusing but I will explain.

Method #1 is to make the soap from scratch, think of it like you’re making a cake from scratch – you gather together your flour, eggs, extracts, pans, etc., and mix them together properly to make your cake. In soap making this is called the Cold Process method or CP. You gather together your materials such as oils/fats, pots, molds, thermometer, etc., and of course the lye…and I know some crafters are nervous about working with a caustic substance like lye, but when it’s used with the proper precautions it is safe. In the CP method, the lye is dissolved in water (lye is always added to the water, not the other way around because that can cause an explosion!). Also, any fats and oils required for that particular recipe (shea butter, almond oil, coconut oil, etc.,) are melted together and the lye/water solution is then added to the oils and saponifaction begins. At this stage you add herbs/fragrance oils/colors, etc., and scoop your mixture into the prepared molds. CP soap needs time to cure, generally about several weeks, as lye and moisture evaporate and the bars become hard.

There is also another method of soap making from scratch with is called Hot Process or HP. This method is almost identical to the CP method but with one extra step – when the lye/water solution is added to the oils/fats, the combined mixture is heated even further in a crockpot for several more hours until the soap reaches a “gel” phase and this is when the additives such as herbs/fragrance oils/colors are added to the mixture and poured into the molds. Also, HP soaps are generally ready faster than CP soaps which require a longer curing time.

Method #2 – What if you want to make soap but you don’t feel comfortable working with lye? Again, think of it like you want to bake a cake but you really don’t want to make it from scratch. You go to the grocery store and you buy a premade box of cake mix right? In soap making, this is what we call the Melt and Pour method or MP. You can buy a Melt and Pour soap base, which is essentially a base of premade soap that comes in either a solid brick or shredded flakes. This soap has already gone through the saponification process by the manufacturer, so that means that you don’t have to mess with the lye, it has already been done. The way MP soap is made is that the base is melted either in a double boiler or the microwave until it reaches liquid form, you add herbs, oils, colors, fragrance oils, etc., and pour it into the molds. Since MP soap usually comes out smoother than CP/HP, this method is very good for detailed molds. Also, MP soap does not need a curing time.

Method #3 is called Rebatching or Hand Milled. This method is similar to the MP method in that you are working with a premade bar of soap, so again you are not working with lye. Rebatching is essentially shredding a bar of soap and recreating it. MP soap bases contain high amounts of glycerin and moisture and that means that they liquify very well when heated, but in the Rebatch method a shredded bar of soap will not liquify completely, it will reach an oatmeal like consistency and it requires the addition of water and oils while it is being heated. As it is heated, it will reach what is known as the “string stage” at which point it is removed from the heat and colors, herbs, fragrance oils are added and the clumpy mixture is scooped into the molds. Because the soap mixture is so clumpy, it is obviously not meant for detailed fancy molds, but it looks great in loaf type molds and the end result is a rustic looking soap.

All in all, no method is really “better” than the other, it depends on the preferences of the individual crafters. As far as packaging is concerned, as I mentioned, MP soap contains a lot of glycerin and moisture which is great for your skin, but if the soap is left unwrapped it will dry out and look shrivelly and spotty. Also if the weather is humid the unwrapped soap may begin to sweat because the glycerin bleeds out. That is why MP soap needs to be wrapped in plastic wrap when it is removed from the mold and has cooled. You can then wrap it with fancy wrappers like the cigar style ones, or fancy papers, or put them in boxes. Think of it like the soap is wearing an undergarment underneath it’s dress.

Regarding CP soap, does it need underwear or does it go naked? As we have seen, it needs to cure in order for the water to evaporate. Lye usually evaporates in about 48 hours, but water takes longer to evaporate. Even after the soap has been curing for weeks, there still may be excess moisture that needs to evaporate, so generally it’s a good idea to wrap CP in breathable wrappers. You can wrap them in breathable plastic wrap and attach the label, or put them naked in cigar style wrappers with no underwear, or put them in muslin bags with no underwear. Some crafters put their soaps naked in cello bags and poke a little hole in it for air to circulate.

What is a Sugar Scrub?

Body scrubs are a fantastic way to exfoliate and moisten your skin, and one of the most gentle types of body scrubs is a sugar scrub. You can use turbinado sugar, brown sugar, or white granulated sugar. Sugar scrubs are basically a combination of sugar and oil (coconut oil, sweet almond oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, etc.,), which you rub onto your skin and rinse off while you are in the shower. While the sugar granules gently exfoliate your skin by scrubbing off the top layer of dead skin cells and unclogging your pores, the oil moisturizes your skin.

The great thing is that since these ingredients are readily available, you can make your own homemade sugar scrubs instead of shelling out to buy it ready made, and by making your own you can tinker with the recipe and personalize it. A good rule of thumb for your recipe is to use 75% sugar and 25% oil. You can personalize it by adding natural fragrance to it with essential oils of your choice as well as dried or fresh herbs.

To use your sugar scrub, gently rub it on your body in a circular motion, paying special attention to rough skin areas like knees, elbows, and heels. You can also make salt scrubs but sugar scrubs are more gentle because the granules are not as hard as the salt granules, so if you’re not familiar with body scrubs and are trying them out for the first time, I would suggest a sugar scrub, especially if you have sensitive skin. If you have cuts, a rash, or broken skin do not use any type of body scrub until it heals.

Click the links below for some great sugar scrub recipe ideas: