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.

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.

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:

How to Dry Herbs for Crafts

Many herbs retain their beauty, color, fragrance, flavor, and beneficial properties even when they are dried. Not only are they used for food recipes, but they are also widely used for beauty recipes. They make wonderful additions to soap, bath salts, body scrubs, face masks, potpourri, sachets, and much more. They can be combined with dried flowers and dried fruit slices and peels to make truly beautiful and fragrant crafty creations.

Since most dried herbs retain their strong fragrances, they are used in aromatherapy as well. They also retain their vibrant color and they make great additions to potpourri blends, dried flower arrangements, wreaths, etc,

Herbs that dry well are Lavender, Lemon Balm, Lemon Verbena, Rosemary, Mint, Sage, Chamomile, Basil, Oregano, Thyme, and Bay Leaves. These herbs also retain their strong flavors so they are very good choices to dry not only for crafts but also for cooking.

You can buy dried herbs but the good news is that you can save money and dry them yourself if you have an herb garden. Just like drying flowers, there are several easy ways to dry herbs.

Visit these helpful links about drying your own herbs:

Carrier Oils

For this post let’s look at carrier oils. As we saw in the post about essential oils, since they are so strong it is not a good idea to apply them directly onto the skin (neat). They should be diluted in soap, body butters, oils, etc., When they are used in oils, these oils are known as ‘carrier oils’ because they ‘carry’ the essential oils to your skin. They are also known as base oils.

Carrier oils are mainly vegetable and nut oils…these oils are also the kinds you cook with, and since they contain beneficial qualities and nutrients for the skin, they are also used as the base oils for massage and bath oil blends. It is important to remember though that you shouldn’t go to the supermarket and buy any vegetable oil and use it for your skin because some oils are manufactured differently. The kinds of oils you should use on your skin should be ‘cold pressed’ or ‘cold expeller pressed’ – which means that the oils have been extracted without the use of additional heat. Although there is some heat involved in the cold pressed method because of the friction produced during the extraction, it is not enough to destroy the vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that are beneficial to the skin. Some oils, however, are manufactured using extra heat in order to increase the amount of oil during the extraction but this heat is so strong that it destroys much of the oil’s beneficial skin properties. Make sure your oils have been cold pressed, your best bet is to shop from health food stores or aromatherapy supply stores.

There are many different carrier oils available and the kind you choose should depend on what you want to use it for – some oils are beneficial for dry skin, others are beneficial for oily skin, others for sensitive or aging skin, etc., Most carrier oils are clear and odorless, although you may be able to detect a slight aroma. The cool thing is that the aroma is not strong enough to interfere with the fragrance of essential oils that are added to it. There are some oils though that have a very very strong aroma, like olive oil but most people really don’t mind the strong distinctive smell.

Examples of carrier oils that are generally good for all skin types are Sweet Almond oil, Apricot Kernel oil, Sunflower oil, Avocado oil, Safflower oil, Grapeseed oil, Coconut oil, and Jojoba oil*.

Avocado oil, Olive oil, Sweet Almond oil, and Rosehip Seed oil are good choices for dry skin types; Jojoba Oil, Sesame seed, Sweet Almond, Apricot Kernel oil, Avocado oil, and Grapeseed oil are good choices for sensitive skin; Jojoba oil, Safflower oil, and Grapeseed oil are good choices for acne prone skin.

Carrier oils and essential oils can be used to make awesome bath oils and massage oils. So how much should you use? The general rule is a 2% dilution, which would be 10 to 12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.

You can get really crafty and creative with bath and massage oil blends and package them in pretty bottles and add dried fruit slices or dried flower petals and herbs inside the bottle to enhance the look and smell. A dried orange slice looks fantastic in a bottle of orange bath oil, as do dried rose petals in rose oil, etc., But make sure that your fruit, herbs, and petals are completely dry before adding them to the bottle otherwise they will go rancid. Also, keep in mind that carrier oils themselves will go rancid after a certain amount of time.

Luxurious bath and massage oils make great gift ideas especially when dried flowers, herbs, and fruit are added inside the bottles. You can decorate the outside of the bottles with raffia or bows or dried flowers and herbs. Another great gift idea is to make add the bottles to gift baskets that contain other fragrant products like candles, potpourri, bath salts, etc., Below is an example of a Rose themed gift basket that I had made.

* Jojoba oil is technically not an oil but a liquid wax. It is very similar to the natural oil on human skin and it works as a great moisturizer.

* If you have nut allergies, please use caution and do not use oils that are derived from nuts. Use the seed based oils instead.

Essential Oils/Fragrance Oils…What’s the Difference?

For this post I want to discuss essential oils and fragrance oils which are important whether you’re making fragrant products (soap, candles, potpourri, etc.,) for sale, or buying them for your own use. First of all, what are they and is there a difference between an essential oil and a fragrance oil?

While many people use the words essential oil and fragrance oil interchangeably there is actually a difference between them. Essential oils are natural essences derived from plants, flowers, and fruits. Many parts are used to extract essential oils – leaves, petals, leaves, rinds, etc., The most common way to extract them is by distillation, in which the plant/fruit parts are crushed and steam-heated and the essential oils are condensed from the steam. The amount of plant material needed to extract the essential oils varies, which is why you will find a great difference in prices of various essential oils. Some of them are quite expensive for a small amount, for example over 60,000 roses are required to make just one ounce of essential oil. Since essential oils are natural essences of plants they are used in aromatherapy for their medicinal properties and mood enhancing qualities.

Fragrance oils, on the other hand, are synthetically produced aromatic oils. Since they are commercially produced they are much less expensive than the natural essential oils. Also, because they are synthetic, fragrance oils do not contain the natural aromatherapy properties of essential oils, although some fragrance oil do contain certain amounts of essential oils in them. But since they are not derived from nature but are manufactured, you will find a great many interesting varieties of fragrances like cinnamon buns, pecan pie, sweet candy corn, and buttercream. Fragrance oils are used to make fun, fantastic bakery scented candles and soap/bath products. Keep in mind though that not all fragrance oils are safe to use on the skin and if you’re a crafter, be sure to check with fragrance oil companies to check which ones are safe to be used in bath products.

So does this mean that since essential oils are natural they are better than the synthetically produced fragrance oils? Well, no actually, and in the cases of some essential oils, make that hell no. Just because something is natural it doesn’t mean that it is good for you. All essential oils are highly concentrated and very strong and they should never be used directly on the skin (called “neat”) without being diluted first, either in carrier oils, bath salts, body scrubs, etc., Some essential oils are actually milder than others but even these can cause a bad allergic reaction if used neat and if it happens to you, you’ll definitely be thinking this is so not neat. Some essential oils shouldn’t be used at all because they can be toxic and some shouldn’t be used by pregnant women.

But all this doesn’t mean that you should be looking at all essential oils with a nasty side-eye and avoiding them like the plague, they are safe when used correctly and make wonderful additions to fragrance and aromatherapy crafts. It’s just always better to err on the side of caution.