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Posted: Friday, November 11, 2011 12:00 pm

By Kim Steele

Harker Heights Herald

The sounds of laughter and smells of lavender, lemongrass, buttercream and orange wafted through the hall recently at the Harker Heights Activity Center as a group of women melted ingredients for solid lotion bars and lip balms.

"I've always been interested in naturally made products," said Sarah Medina, a Harker Heights resident attending the class. "I love bath and body products, and I'm a sucker for it all. I've thought about making my own, and I can see where these would be perfect gifts. I might just give it a try."

Medina created several lip balms, flavoring them with buttercream and chocolate raspberry oils, then moved on to solid lotion bars scented with lavender and peppermint-vanilla. Medina said she was pleased to actually make the products and be able to take them home for her use.

The Healthy Skin Workshop, sponsored by the Harker Heights Public Library, featured recipes and mixing sessions for lip balms and solid lotion bars. Participants used numerous ingredients - beeswax, cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado oil and fragrance or essential oils - in their products.

Teacher Claire Grasse, a Harker Heights resident who furnished the supplies for the workshop, explained how to mix and melt the waxes and oils, heat them over the stove, add fragrances and cool the concoctions. Grasse owned a skin care wholesale and retail shop called Ivy and Grace for several years.

Grasse said she had never heard of making handcrafted skin care products until about 12 years ago when, after having four children in four years, she needed a break from them and went to the bookstore by herself. There, she found a book about soapmaking, bought it and made her own soap.

That first venture led Grasse into other areas, from salt and sugar scrubs to lip balms and solid lotion bars. Grasse, a 911 dispatcher for the Bell County Communications Center, has led several other skin-care-related classes for the library - body scrubs and cold-process soapmaking.

"Why pay top dollar for these products when you can make them in your kitchen?" said Grasse. "They are great gifts, and you can make them for half the price and twice the quality of what you'd buy in the store. And you get to control the type and amount of ingredients."

Grasse said she considered returning to business a few years back, but got busy writing and publishing a murder mystery called "The Soapmaker Journals." The book is about a misfit who flunks out of nursing school, stumbles into soapmaking and is framed for some murders. It is available at www.amazon.com.

At the workshop, participants scented and flavored their products before pouring them into metal tins and plastic push-up bottles. Lotion scents featured pink grapefruit, sandalwood-vanilla, blackberry, cantaloupe-lily and lemongrass. Lip balm flavors included grape, root beer, margarita and chocolate cream.

Grace Gibson, 15, of Nolanville, worked with her mother, Donna Gibson, to create several lip balms and solid lotion bars. The two women scented their bars with sandalwood-vanilla and dragonfly moon, and flavored their lip balms with buttercream, honey and raspberry cream.

"I made soap in chemistry and I'm really into it," said Grace Gibson. "Now I want to expand and do different things. This was fun, and it's using what I learned when I made soap. I would really like to do this as a hobby."

Grasse said the positive reactions to making solid lotion bars and lip balms are exactly what she wants from the workshop. As for the participants, Grasse hopes they gain a new appreciation for handcrafted skin care products and how they fit into their daily lives - all from her class.

"These ladies will get softer skin, hopefully a new hobby, and maybe even a new business if they want to go that far," said Grasse. "They'll definitely have a new awareness of what they're putting on their skin. I just want people to have fun here, and if they take something away they can use, I'm happy."

For more information about Grasse's workshops, email her at c_grasse@yahoo.com.

Contact Kim Steele at ksteele@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7657.

Basic Lip Balm

(makes three .25-ounce tubes)

Ingredients

5 teaspoon castor oil

1 teaspoon candellila wax or beeswas

1 teaspoon shea butter or cocoa butter

Flavor oil to taste

Directions

Melt oil, wax and butter together over low heat.

Working quickly so the mixture doesn't set up, divide into three small paper cups.

Individually flavor each cup.

Pour into containers and place in refrigerator. Do not move them until they're set.

Basic Lotion Bar

(makes two 2.5-ounce tubes)

Ingredients

1.5 ounces candellila wax or beeswax

1.5 ounces shea butter

1 ounce cocoa butter

1 ounce Butter EZ

1 ounce liquid oil (avaocado, safflower, fractionated coconut)

½ teaspoon Dry-Flo AF (cosmetic grade corn starch)

1-2 milliliters fragrance or essential oil

Directions

Melt oils together over moderate heat. Be careful not to burn yourself.

When the oils are completely melted, stir in ½ teaspoon Dry-Flo AF.

Divide the mixture into two waxed paper cups and fragrance each seperately, stirring well. Work quickly so mixtures don't thicken up.

Pour liquid into lotion bar containers and place in refrigerator until they harden.

Claire Grasse's online sources for materials and information:

Brambleberry - www.brambleberry.com

Ingredients To Die For - www.ingredientstodiefor.com

Lotioncrafter - www.lotioncrafter.com

Majestic Mountain Sage - www.thesage.com

The Scent Works - www.scent-works.com

Wholesale Supplies Plus - www.wholesalesuppliesplus.com

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