Thoughts from The Queen Bee

Dress For Success

images (1)I have never deliberately considered this adage, but in hindsight I realize I have always dressed well in comparison to my associates. In high school, I spent more days dressed in skirts and heels than in jeans, and when I started working in the financial industry in Toronto, I always dressed above my level. This was not any deliberate plan to elevate myself above my peers….I just loved clothes. Or more precisely, I adored shoes, and bought the clothes to support my shoe addiction! I searched a long time for the dress to perfectly match my gorgeous teal suede pumps….oh, they were glorious!

It wasn’t until I had left the 9 to 5 world that I deliberately gave thought to this phrase. After several years of self-employment that saw me traveling the world representing our company, the bank crisis in December 2008 resulted in the loss of our financing, and with my go-to financial industry reeling, no-one was hiring.

With opportunity decidedly not knocking, and bills to be paid, I started a pet services company. I love dogs, dogs love me, and I was living in doggy central, so it was a no brainer. The company flourished, and I was healthy and happy, and 25 pounds lighter. Bonus!

One day while walking between clients, I saw another dog walker, and noticed that his attire was less than remarkable. I remember thinking to myself, “he looks like a dog walker”. Then I looked down at myself….jeans two sizes too big (that 25 pounds!), and a baggy sweatshirt. I looked like a dog walker!

Then came an epiphany….was I only a dog walker? No, I was an entrepreneur that owned a pet services business, and I was a walking advertisement for my business. You never know when you might meet your next client….what impression was I giving of my business, if I didn’t care how I looked?

I went home that night, sorted through my clothes and pulled out all of my baggy, tired, uninspiring clothes and tossed them out, or set them aside for donation. Then I went shopping. Nothing fancy….I still needed to dress practically for walking dogs, but my jeans could be size 10 not size 14, and no need to wear baggy sweatshirts and T shirts, when there were so many cute yoga tops and jackets available.

Did changing my wardrobe make me a better dog walker? No. What it did was give me the confidence that I was representing my company in a polished and professional way to any potential clients I might encounter on my daily route.

I still run that pet services company, and still walk dogs on a daily basis. However, I now also run a handcrafted bath and body business, so I also need to be aware that I could encounter customers or potential retail partners at any moment.

Grooming is more essential. I can’t have long fingernails, but are they neatly clipped and polished? When was the last time I had a haircut? Are my roots showing?

Murphy’s Law guarantees that the moment you run to the grocery store in pajama pants and Uggs, with your hair in a messy ponytail, you will run into the buyer for that store you’ve been trying to get your product into for 6 months.

Being a handcrafted entrepreneur usually means we are the sole labourer, a jack of all trades. Many of us are holding down full time jobs while trying to get our business off the ground. Many are wives and mothers. With all that going on, very often it is you that end up at the bottom of the priority list, and thinking about our image can seem so unimportant, compared to the countless balls you have in the air.

I understand….but do yourself a favour; look in the mirror every day and ask yourself….would I buy handcrafted bath and body products from me? If the answer is “no”, then it’s time to move yourself to the top of that list and fix whatever needs ‘fixin’ to allow you to feel confident that you represent your business in a professional and polished manner.

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How many times have you heard the saying, “if I knew then what I know now”…followed by any number of endings?

I started thinking about what advice or knowledge I would pass along to teenage girls that would save them the painful process of learning it for themselves, and came up with the following, in no particular order:

Being Shy Will Get You Nowhere.

I was painfully shy as a child and teenager, and it was only once I left school, started my first job and was forced to put myself out there that I realized most of the people who seem to have it together and exude confidence are really just better at hiding their insecurities. Next time you’re in a situation where you don’t know anyone, take a deep breath and look around. You’ll probably see someone else lurking on the sidelines looking as uncomfortable as you feel. Walk up and introduce yourself….trust me, they will be very happy that you did, and now it’s two of you against the world, not just one!

Beauty Really Is In The Eye Of The Beholder.

Don’t waste time comparing yourself to women on TV or in magazines. TV and movie actresses have a whole army of makeup and stylists helping them to look good on screen. Those women don’t look anywhere near as good in real life, and magazines air brush photos to remove every blemish, wrinkle and bulge. If you ask 10 men (not hormonal teenage boys) to point out the most beautiful woman in the room, you’ll probably get 10 different answers, and they won’t all look like supermodels. They may have a gap between their teeth, wear glasses, carry a few extra pounds, or snort when they laugh. Happiness is beautiful, intelligence is beautiful, being interested in the people you meet is beautiful. Be strong, be healthy, and be happy, and you will be beautiful, inside and out.

High School Is Not Life.

Truly….for most of us high school was the worst time of our lives. Shy, self-conscious, afraid to be different, to be ourselves. There is a great, big, beautiful world waiting for you, where you can be yourself…be whatever you can imagine, without worrying about what the “popular” crowd thinks of you. Unlike high school, where you’re trapped with the same group of kids from year to year, in the real world you get to pick who you want to have in your life!

Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff!

Seriously…. 5 years from now no-one, most especially you, is going to care if you had a pimple on prom night, or if you got invited to the party of the year, or if you only got 95 on your exam instead of 100. Be kind to yourself….you don’t need to be perfect, just be the best you that you can be. Just you is more than enough.

Your thoughts?

sugarandsheascrub

Good morning, all! BumbleBee Lane SoapWorks is in the thick of Christmas planning, and we could use your help…

Please leave us a comment telling us which of these fragrances you would like to see under your Christmas tree this year in our Deluxe Body Butter and Sugar & Shea Scrub…

Gingerbread

Chocolate Mint

Sugar Cookie

Pumpkin Pie

Candy Cane

Other?

We will be randomly selecting one commenter to receive a Gift Set in the winning fragrance.

Thank you and happy Saturday!

The Skinny on Skin

skin

One of the biggest misconceptions circulating on the Internet today is that our skin is a giant sponge, absorbing everything we put on it. This is so prevalent, that many people are more concerned about what they put on their body than they are about what they put in it. Last summer we sold our products at a local community market, and I was chuckling at the fact that customers were grilling me over every ingredient in my lotions, but purchased multiple canned and baked goods without inquiring as to the whether they contained trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, etc.

The reality is that our skin is designed to protect our bodies from the countless things that bombard it on a daily basis (heat, cold, dirt, pollution, bacteria, sun, wind), and keep things out of our bloodstream, while our digestive system is designed to process everything we eat into energy that is relayed directly into the bloodstream.

“Because 60% of what we put on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. That is why transdermal patches for medicines (nicotine, morphine, birth control, etc.) are so effective.”

I pulled this quote from a blog, which I will leave as anonymous as there are so many I could have chosen, and I’m not here to point fingers at inaccuracies or errors by another blogger. The reality is that it takes a lot of work to get medicine into the bloodstream, which may include potent penetration enhancer, application of electrical currents, or even patches containing micro needles, to push the drug through all the layers of the skin to the bloodstream. It also requires that it be covered to prevent evaporation, and the patch must be held securely against the body for a prolonged period of time, ranging from several hours to days. Even with these special measures, when a transdermal patch is removed, a high percentage of the drug that was on the patch initially remains on the patch.  A study done using the narcotic Fentanyl showed that after 3 days of continuous wear, up to 84% of the original dosage remained on the patch, requiring special disposal methods to prevent potential narcotic abuse.

Without the dermal patch and penetration enhancers, the absorption rate drops to around 4%.

This does not mean that we should stop caring about what we put on our skin, but we should definitely start thinking of it more as a Kevlar vest, which requires some effort to get through, rather than as a giant sponge….

How does this apply to products such as preservatives? The maximum recommended usage rate for preservatives in cosmetics is between .5% and 1%. If you purchase an 8 oz bottle of body lotion, then the maximum amount of preservative in the bottle is .08 oz. As no more than 4% of what we apply to our skin makes it through the dermal barrier, that means no more than .0032 oz of preservative makes it through the skin, with even less than that making it through into the bloodstream…..that’s less than 1/300th of an ounce of preservative if you use the entire bottle of lotion.

Compare that to the risk of contamination from preservative free lotions. I can hear the wheels turning….if so little of our lotion penetrates the skin and moves into our bloodstream, then the risk from using a preservative free lotion must be equally low, right? Yes and no. A contaminated lotion will penetrate our skin just as poorly as a preserved lotion, but there are two factors to consider: a small amount of preservative will not cause problems for a system that is designed to flush out what the body doesn’t need….preservatives are regarded by the body as a foreign substance. Bacteria, such as eColi, staphylococcus, and salmonella, however, are living organisms which immediately latch on to healthy cells and begin to multiply, and only a small amount is required to start the potentially deadly ball rolling.

The other wild card that we need to consider is that those absorption rates apply only to healthy skin. If the skin is damaged by a cut or has been compromised by illness, sunburn, or even dehydration, penetration will occur at a higher rate. This isn’t of too great a concern when we are speaking of the ingredients in a properly made lotion, but bacteria will take full advantage of any small chink in the body’s armour.

So, if you have a friend or relative who is chronically ill, suffers from eczema, or is going through chemotherapy, stay away from preservative free lotions or body butters. If you are still anti-preservative, a better choice would be an anhydrous (contains no water) product such as a whipped body butter. No water = no environment for bacteria and mold to grow.

Okay, this post is definitely approaching “run on” territory, so I’m going to leave the issue of the absorption of essential oils through the skin for tomorrow!

Further Reading:

http://personalcaretruth.com/2011/01/the-impermeable-facts-of-skin-penetration-and-absorption/
http://www.americannursetoday.com/keep-consumer-hand-lotions-at-home/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8845555

Shameless Self-Promotion

imageAfter a much needed redesign, and a switch to an improved shopping cart, BumbleBee Lane SoapWorks new website is up and running.

Visit it us at http://www.bumblebeelane.ca

imageNo, actually it isn’t. I’m going to immediately qualify that statement…A well made bar of handmade soap is not harsh.

This summer we have been supporting a new local Community Market by selling our products there. It has been an extremely valuable experience, as it has allowed me to meet our customers face to face, which doesn’t happen very often when you only do online and wholesale orders.

Aside from hearing what people would like to see in our lineup, the most valuable thing for me has been hearing what their concerns are. The most prevalent concerning handmade soap is the belief that it is harsh and hard on your skin. First I’m going to talk about why so many people believe this, then we’ll look at why this belief is incorrect.

When most people are asked about handmade soap, they think about the lye soap that our grandmothers (or great grandmothers) made at home. The ingredients were rendered fat from the cows or pigs that they butchered for food, and lye made from wood ashes produced by the wood stoves used to heat their homes.

The process was simple: throw wood ash into a pot, fill it up with rainwater, let it soak until an egg dropped into the water floats with about 1/4 of its surface above the water. Strain the ashes out and use the remaining solution to make soap.

The difficulty in making soap with homemade lye is that there was no way to measure the strength of the lye. Let’s do a quick and easy review of basic high school chemistry….I promise it will be quick, hang in there! This is a molecule of water:

image

 

Each hydrogen atom has the ability to attract and hold two oxygen atoms, giving water the chemical formula of H2O.

In this same fashion, when we make soap, the individual atoms of fatty acids that make up the vegetable oils pair off with the sodium (NA), oxygen (O), and hydrogen (H) molecules that form a molecule of lye (NAOH), forming two new molecules, soap and glycerin. If we used olive oil, we would have roughly 1 molecule of glycerin for every 3 molecules of sodium oleate (olive oil soap).

Still with me? Back to our grandmother making soap. With no way of measuring how strong the lye was, ie how many molecules of lye were in the lye and water solution, there was no way to measure how much animal fat she would need to add to pair off with, thereby neutralizing or consuming, each molecule of the lye. More often than not, the end product contained free molecules of lye within it. Lye is a caustic substance, so this active lye would sting and burn the skin when the soap was used.

So it wasn’t the handmade soap that was harsh, it was the unneutralized lye suspended within the bar of soap that caused the problems.

Fast forward to now: lye is commercially produced by passing an electrical current through either sodium chloride (salt) to produce sodium hydroxide, or through potassium chloride (potash) to produce potassium hydroxide. The end product is 100% pure lye (plus some other substances that aren’t used in soapmaking), which allows us to calculate precisely how much of any individual vegetable oil or animal fat is required to consume one molecule of lye. Each oil has a different chemical composition, so the amount of lye required to saponify (change to soap) one gram of olive oil is different than the amount required for one gram of coconut oil.

Modern soap makers use special lye calculators to create our recipes. Each type of vegetable oil contributes different qualities to a bar of soap, and we spend a great deal of time coming up with the perfect blend. Once we have that blend perfected, the lye calculator will tell us exactly how much lye and water we need to add to our batch of oils to convert every molecule of oil to soap and glycerin, and leave no lye in the finished product.

However, we don’t stop there! We add extra oils to each batch. This is called ‘superfatting’. Superfatting our soap does two things: it ensures that we never have any lye left in our soap, even if our scale is out of balance resulting in small discrepancies in the amounts measured, and it leaves a small amount of unsaponified oils in the finished product, which leaves your skin feeling lightly moisturized after your shower.

So that is why modern handmade soap is not harsh. This is not your grandmother’s soap!

If you purchase a bar of handmade soap that irritates your skin, there are three possible explanations:

1) You are allergic to one of the ingredients;

2) The Soapmaker has produced a lye heavy soap. Natural and handmade products are a growing industry, and when there is money to be made, you can be sure there will be people who try to cut corners to maximize their profit. Rushing to get product ready for sale can result in errors. Sometimes beginners will run out of an oil in their recipe, and replace it with another without running it through a lye calculator thinking that ‘it’s just a small amount, it won’t make a difference’ ;

3) You may have extremely sensitive skin. While most people with skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, rosacea etc can use a fragrance free handmade soap, there are some who cannot. Try a bar of authentic Castile soap made with 100% olive oil, which is the gentlest soap,and if that doesn’t work you should probably stick with synthetic cleansers such as Cetaphil.

One final comment on lye: there are two types of lye, potassium hydroxide, which our grandmothers made, is now used to make liquid soap, sodium hydroxide is used to make bar soap, and a blend of the two are used to make cream soaps and most shaving soaps.

Dr. Oz, what have you done?

I feel a wee bit of a rant coming on, but I’ll try to keep it under control 🙂

This week my inbox has been inundated with emails from ‘Dr.Oz-News’ and DrOz-Press Release’ among others. This week they are touting the weight loss benefits of green coffee beans, last week it was raspberry ketones.

Now if you bother to read the email you will notice that it does not come from Dr. Oz, but from some random company looking to get rich quick off of desperate people by tying their product to Dr. Oz’ popularity and reputation. I’ve heard that Dr. Oz has lawyers working overtime trying to prevent this, but the problem is that they are using his name because he did feature these products on his TV show.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Dr. Oz as much as the next person, and I think he has brought a lot of really useful information to light, both on his show and during his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show. However, he is a cardiologist, not an expert on all things relating to health and medicine. When he began a daily talk show, he entered the ranks of those vying for the almighty ratings, and his credibility is suffering because of it.

I stopped watching The Dr. Oz show because every week there was another “Top 5” episode. The Top 5 Cancer Fighting Foods, Top 5 Weight Loss Supplements, Top 5 Belly Busters…and on and on. Now Dr. Oz, and his lawyers can preface these shows with as many disclaimers they like about him not personally recommending them, or claims have not been scientifically proven, etc. The minute he gave these people a forum to showcase their foods, juices, teas, pills etc, he was seen as promoting them, and he has no business trying to disassociate himself from them once he has moved on to the next hot ratings winner. Not to mention, as a doctor, he has no business featuring unproven supplements, foods or drinks at all. Being a doctor brings with it a much higher degree of responsibility than the average person is held accountable to, because the average person will believe everything a doctor tells them.

Seriously, if you watch Dr. Oz daily and incorporated all of these things into your daily life you would be so far from eating a healthy balanced diet….Does he not understand that there are people who are so desperate they will incorporate every single one of his suggestions into their lives? What about interactions between these disparate items?

Contrast the snake oil he promotes on the show with what he actually promotes as being responsible for his health and wellbeing in his March 2013 article in Men’s Health. Not a green coffee bean or raspberry ketone in sight! In fact, he only mentions 3 things to add to your diet: green tea, nuts, and a Vitamin D supplement.

This appears to be a case of ‘Do as I say, not as I do’, and not in a good way….

http://www.menshealth.com/health/dr-ozs-25-greatest-health-tips

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