Category Archives: Ingredients We Love

Our Love Affair with Lavender

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to Cabo San Lucas. I stayed at a nice resort, and while a tourist trap like Cabo isn’t my favorite place in the world, I loved it — the resort was secluded and had such a tranquil, luxurious ambiance.

But one feature I remembered most was that it smelled AMAZING. The whole resort smelled phenomenal — softly floral, uplifting, and clean.

I found out that the hotel used essential oils that they sprayed throughout the entire resort, and the main component of the aroma was lavender.

Thus began my love affair with the lavender plant. I started researching and buying lotions and sprays that contained lavender, because the scent was so fresh and soft — and it seemed to clear away the cobwebs in my head when I used them.

Which makes sense. The word “lavender” comes from the Latin “lavare,” meaning “to wash.”

Lavender: A Longtime Favorite

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Indigo Wild’s Lavender Zum Mist

Lavender has long been praised for its medicinal attributes, as early as the first century. The Greeks and Romans both used lavender in their herbal baths, to ease sore muscles and help with tension.

Lavender has earned the nickname of “herb of love,” and it’s considered an aphrodisiac because of its ability to both stimulate blood flow and promote calmness.

The plant has been used for centuries in the culinary arts, as well, and is used in a variety of dishes as a spice rub, or in sweets and desserts. (It’s also quite lovely in a number of different cocktails.)

We’re big fans of lavender here at Soap Hope, not only for its gorgeous aroma, but because it’s naturally capable of healing skin conditions and protecting your skin.

Here are a few ways we love using lavender!

1. Say goodbye to bugs!

Lavender oil can be used to prevent insect bites – spraying the skin with a mix of the oil and water will help to ward off mosquitoes, for instance, who avoid the smell. But if you do get bitten, lavender is also an anti-inflammatory, and will help to prevent swelling and further irritation.

2. Pain be gone!

head-650878_1920Lavender is often used in massage therapy, to help relieve sore muscles, sprains, and joint pain. Using lavender in aromatherapy has been proven to reduce the experience of pain in postoperative procedures.

3. No need to stress.

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Badger Balm’s Stress Soother

The calming properties of lavender have been lauded for ages, and there’s science to back it up, too. A recent study tested the aromatherapeutic effects of lavender oil on patients reporting insomnia due to stress, and the results showed “a significant improvement in sleep quality after intervention.”

4. Get things moving!

Lavender can help improve blood circulation AND it aids in digestion. Essentially, this plant is great at making sure all of our systems are running smoothly and properly.

It’s no wonder, then, that we have a wide selection of soaps and lotions and products that contain lavender here at Soap Hope. It’s one of our favorite plants!

What are some ways you love using lavender?

 

A Lovely Senti-Mint: The Many Everyday Applications of the Mint Plant

Widely used for centuries, mint is one of the easiest plants to grow, and has more uses than you could shake a stick at.

You can drink the mint plant as a tea, by steeping its leaves in hot water, or as a refreshing addition to your water during the summer months. (It’s great in a cocktail, too, but that’s another blog post.)

The oil from the mint plant is also used in a range of natural products because of its calming effects.

peppermint-tea-1109_640There are dozens of mint varieties, including spearmint and peppermint, and you’ll find that mint can be used in more ways than just as an after-dinner palate cleanser.

Digestion

There’s a reason you’re offered a mint after a meal. Its aroma helps to activate our salivary glands, which helps with digestion, and can soothe nausea or indigestion.

Cold and Cough

Mint can help to relieve congestion and soothes inflamed tissue in the respiratory system.

Headaches

Applying balms with mint oil can alleviate inflammation and temperature rise associated with headaches and migraines.

Fatigue

Need a pick-me-up? Mint is a natural stimulant, and can help you recharge if you happen to find yourself in a funk.

Skin Care

mosquito-719613_1280Its anti-inflammatory properties can soothe irritation and redness associated with acne and rashes. You’ll also find mint oil in bug repellents, because they hate the strong aroma.

Dental Care

As a natural germicide, mint helps to kill off bacterial growth that can lead to infection.

How else do you use mint? Feel free to share remedies or recipes that you love in the comments below!

 

And here are a few awesome products here at Soap Hope that contain mint:

The Many Health Benefits of Rosemary (Pt. 2)

A couple weeks ago, we waxed poetic about the many benefits that rosemary brings to the table. If you missed out, click here and feel free to catch up on things.

Back? Good. Now that you’re here, we can go over even MORE advantages to using rosemary.

Rosemary – An Awesome Antioxidant

Rosemary is an antioxidant, rather than a preservative.

Technically, a preservative is a synthetic chemical that prevents decay and spoilage. An antioxidant is a naturally occurring element that helps to slow oxidation, which causes decay, spoilage and cellular breakdown.

Rosemary contains over a dozen antioxidant elements, including vitamin E, which makes it extremely useful in preserving organic products.

Synthetic preservatives will help a product last longer but can be dangerous to your health. Antioxidants slow the process of decay and spoilage without harming you or the environment; in fact, antioxidants are extremely beneficial to your health.

All About Oxidation – How It Affects Your Food, Body and Soap

Knowing about cellular breakdown is not just for chemists; oxidation affects us on a daily basis and has serious health implications.

WARNING: SCIENCE AHEAD.

atom with electronsTo start with, atoms need an even number of electrons to maintain stability, which allows whatever material they compose (organic or mineral) to function properly.

During the oxidation process, light and oxygen come in contact with an atom, which causes it to lose an electron and become unstable. Unstable atoms with an odd number of electrons are called free radicals, the kind of elements that cause decomposition and decay.

The term “free radicals” is often used when talking about the health benefits of pomegranate juice or green tea. On a chemical level, free radicals are like atomic thieves. To become stable again with an even number of electrons, the free radical must steal an electron from another atom. This causes a chain reaction of unstable atoms stealing from each other.

In organic matter, these unstable atoms can cause an entire cell to die, leaving leftover unstable atoms whizzing around to wreak havoc on an ever increasing number of other atoms.

This process causes organic material to decompose and eventually spoil. The oxidation of oils (called lipid oxidation) in all-natural soap can cause it to disintegrate and lose its cleansing and rejuvenating effects – unless a natural ingredient like rosemary is added to stop the process.

Free radicals are especially harmful because they cause this chain reaction of electron thievery and cellular death in human systems as well – the results of which include cancer and premature aging.

Antioxidants like rosemary stop the chain reaction of oxidation by “donating” one of their own electrons to the free radicals, which keeps atoms stable and cells healthy.

For this reason antioxidants are attributed with the ability to increase product shelf life, prevent cancer, lengthen life spans and slow aging.

Next time you buy pomegranate juice at the grocery store or order rosemary products from Soap Hope, you’ll know why antioxidants receive so much attention.

Antioxidants and Skin Care

In order to keep every ingredient all-natural, soap makers use antioxidants like rosemary. All-natural soap products contain essential plant oils, olive or coconut oil, or goat’s milk, which means they contain lipids, leaving them vulnerable to oxidation.

hand washingFor longer product shelf life in all-natural products, an antioxidant is a powerful alternative to synthetic preservatives. When used as preserving ingredient, antioxidants like rosemary are used in small extract amounts.

Applying products topically can affect your internal systems as well; what is good on the body is good in the body.

That’s why we’re such big fans of ingredients like rosemary in our products. Here are a few of our favorites!

 

 

 

The Many Health Benefits of Rosemary You Need to Know About

Rosemary’s uses date back as far as 500 BC in Greece and Rome, when it was commonly used to stimulate and strengthen memory. Throughout centuries the fragrant herb has been used in various mystical and religious applications.

While these uses are less commonly employed today, many of the historical uses of rosemary have carried into modern times.

The Many Uses of Rosemary

Promoting healthy skin and hair: Rosemary contains riboflavin (vitamin B2) which is part of what makes it a stimulant. When applied to skin and hair it aids in the regeneration of healthy cells. Using rosemary in shampoo encourages faster-growing and stronger hair. When soap or body wash made with rosemary is used skin tends to look and feel younger. Rosemary is also an astringent, which aids in maintaining the buoyancy of skin.

Inciting memory and increasing mental activity: Certain research indicates that rosemary helps to prevent the breakdown of neurotransmitters in the brain. In a study conducted by Dr. Mark Moss of the University of Northumbria at Newcastle, results showed that workers in rosemary-infused cubicles exhibited better long-term memory and reported feeling more alert than those in untreated cubicles. For this property, Rosemary has been nicknamed the “herb of remembrance.”

Detoxifying: Rosemary’s antiseptic properties help remove toxins from your skin and hair.

Healing: Rosemary also has anti-inflammatory properties, which help heal skin conditions such as acne, eczema and dermatitis. It is also known to ease puffiness or swelling.

The Importance of Antioxidants

Rosemary is perhaps best known for its preservative qualities as an antioxidant.

The plant and its essential oils have been used as natural “preservatives” for centuries, most commonly for meat and other food products. Today it is also widely used as a protecting element in all-natural body care products.

For the same reasons antioxidants are useful as preserving elements in all-natural products, they are also useful for keeping your body healthy. When applied topically, rosemary’s antioxidizing abilities can keep your skin, hair and body looking and feeling young.

Antioxidants are known to “preserve” youth and although the aging process is inevitable, there are ways in which antioxidants maintain health and protect your body from harmful external elements:

  • Stimulate cell growth: Help hair grow faster and stronger and are even known to slow premature graying
  • Protects skin: Shield skin from UV rays to prevent skin damage, keeping skin looking young for longer
  • Stimulate circulation: Aid in lowering blood pressure
    Incite memory and slows memory loss: The alerting scent of rosemary can promote mental stimulation
  • Slow onset of Alzheimer’s: Research conducted by Dr. James Duke, former researcher for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, indicates that the dozen antioxidants in rosemary can slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Detoxifies: Many clinical studies have demonstrated strong links between chemical carcinogens and cancer. Research conducted by Dr. Keith Singletary at the University of Illinois Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition indicates that the antioxidants in rosemary have significant impact on the removal of chemical carcinogens.

To help you remember all of these great benefits, we came up with this handy infographic to share with your friends!

Rosemary Health Benefits (1)

 

 

Want more rosemary in your skin care routine? Check out these great products from Soap Hope that include all of the benefits we’ve talked about!

Please note that another version of this post was published previously on our website. 

Why we love castile soaps

If you do a quick Google search on castile soap, you’ll find it has just about as many uses as a Swiss army knife.

Soap making has a long history, spanning several centuries and a variety of production methods.

The chemical process for making soap has not, however, changed all that much. Fats are boiled with alkali, which then produces soap (yay!) and glycerin.

Castile soap: a brief history

The quality of soap produced is especially dependent on the ingredients used. Early attempts, for example, relied on ash. In Spain, the salsola plant was burned to produce an ash called barilla.

“This, used in conjunction with locally available olive oil, offered a good quality soap which, by salting-out or “graining” the boiled liquor with brine, allowed the soap to float to the surface, leaving the lye, vegetable colouring and impurities to settle out. This produced what was probably the first white hard soap: Jabon de Castilla, or Castile soap, also known to pharmacists as Sapo hispaniensis or Sapo castilliensis.

Eventually, “castile soap” became the generic name for the hard, white, olive oil soaps, which we still use today.

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“Aleppo soap 03” by Bernard Gagnon

Castile soaps can also be made with coconut oil, palm oil, or any other quality vegetable-based oil — and castile soaps also come in liquid form. The liquid soaps use potassium hydroxide to saponify the vegetable oils, while the hard bar soaps use sodium hydroxide.

Just like the food that we eat, it’s crucial that the products we use on our skin are nutrient-rich. Which is why we’re especially big fans of castile soap!

Made of goodness

Castile soap is made with olive oil, which contains all kinds of fatty acids and antioxidants, along with vitamins E and K — all good things!

Vitamin K has been found to help prevent the calcification of our skin’s elastin (the protein that gives skin the ability to spring back). Fatty acids are known to reduce the body’s production of compounds that cause inflammation.

All kinds of remedies

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Castile soap (as mentioned before) uses olive oil, which has long been used as a remedy for skin care and health. Greeks, for instance, used olive oil during massage, to help prevent injuries, relieve muscle fatigue, and eliminate lactic acid buildup. Olive oil has also been recommended as a treatment against skin diseases like eczema and dandruff.

Versatile AND healthy

peg-238525_1280Castile soap doesn’t just clean and nourish your skin — you can use it for washing laundry, cleaning carpets, and scrubbing your vegetables!

There are a host of reasons to love and use castile soaps, and we’ve only named just a few here.

 

How else do you use your castile soap goodness? Comment below!

 

Some of our favorite castile soap products:

Migraine – and Side Effects – Be Gone!

(Viewing this in e-mail? See the original blog at http://wp.me/pv0Gr-ag.  Blog Image: fresh ginger – courtesy of Sanjay Ach, via Wikimedia Commons, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Are you shocked, as we are, at the side effects of some of the medications sold by pharmaceutical companies? For instance, Sumatriptan – a drug used to treat migraines – has side effects like heart attack, chest pain, vertigo, stroke, blood changing from red to black, spams of the arteries, and a long list of other scary things.

Sumatriptan also costs on average $17 per dose.

Or, you could try … ginger. Yes, plain old ginger. In a recent scientific study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23657930), migraine sufferers were given either Sumatriptan or ginger. Both groups had similar results. 70% of people taking Sumatriptan and 64% of ginger users had almost complete relief within two hours.

How much ginger can you get for $17? Given in the amount in the study, you can get eight hundred doses.

So if you or a loved on is suffering from migraine, you might consider ginger. You can grate it, drink it in tea, or take powdered ginger capsules.

It might even be a good excuse for eating some ginger cookies and candied ginger too.

Yes, Honey!

In today’s post you’ll find a recipe to boost your health daily, see how honey beats pharmaceuticals,  and learn how master makers take advantage of the healing properties of honey.

(Image: honeycomb. Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos, under license.)

Beehive Yourself

If you are health conscious and don’t already incorporate honey into your diet, you definitely might want to start now. Here’s are some of the amazing properties of honey:

  • Cancer and heart disease preventative
  • Naturally antibacterial and antifungal
  • Cholesterol regulator
  • Probiotic
  • Skin moisturizer and humectant
  • Natural cough suppressant
  • Heals cuts and burns

How does honey have such powerful health benefits for humans? It starts with its dense nutrition: honey naturally contains 18 amino acids, potassium, calcium, B complex vitamins, and antioxidants.

When we consume the flavonoids in honey, they remove oxidants from the body that can damage capillaries and collagen. You can go on a regimen of artificial drugs from pharmaceutical companies that have tried to reproduce the compounds in honey – or, if you are like us, you might prefer just incorporating raw organic honey into your daily diet.

Honey is also antibacterial, beginning with an enzyme that bees put in honey that creates hydrogen peroxide. A recent medical study found that dressing burns with honey is more effective than using silver sulfadiazene – honey makes wounds sterile in less time, enhances healing, and reduces scarring better than the drugs.

Your Daily Healthy Dose

Get started with honey using this simple morning tonic. (This tonic also incorporates apple cider vinegar, which has wonderful health benefits that we will discuss in a separate post for you.) It’s really easy:

Each morning, put one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (we like Bragg's organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar for its purity) in a tall glass. Add one heaping tablespoon of organic raw honey. Stir it quickly until the mixture is smooth.  Fill the glass 3/4 with filtered water. Then if you like, top it off with a few ice cubes.

The benefits? You get flavanoids into your system, lots of nutrients, a morning energy boost, and a dose of probiotics (some varieties of honey contain as many as 10 species of friendly bacteria that help regulate your digestion). Make it a daily habit, and see how your energy level and overall health improves.

Ahem

A study in 2010 compared honey with cough suppressant drugs like dextromethorphan and diphenhydramine. Guess which one did better? A dose of honey before sleep is more effective than those cough suppressant drugs. 

(Although honey is truly effective for alleviating cough and sore throat, it is a myth that consuming local honey will help prevent allergies. No studies have ever shown that consuming local honey has a measurable effect on allergies. But there are still plenty of other reasons to eat it!)

Sweet!

With all its nutrition, antioxidant power, and healing properties, honey is of course abundant at Soap Hope. Here are some great uses of honey that our master makers have created:

KIND Soap Company Honey Almond Brown Sugar Scrub. This sweet scrub smells delicious and will leave your skin silky smooth. Dig your fingers in for little scoopfuls and gently massage onto your skin in circular motions. Allow the organic raw brown sugar, almond oil, honey and mango butter to work their magic for a couple of minutes. When you rinse clean with warm water, you will be amazed at how soft your skin feels.

KIND Soap Company Honey Almond Brown Sugar Scrub
KIND Soap Company Honey Almond Brown Sugar Scrub

A Wild Soap Bar makes a fantastic Honey Oat  Organic Soap Bar – the only aroma in this bar is the warm scent of raw honey. We love its soothing and moisturizing effects.

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Honey Oat Organic Soap Bar

Rose Geranium Face and Body Bar by Badger blends honey with rose geranium and calming lavender in a beautifully scented bar, with fine ground organic oatmeal for exfoliation that is gentle enough for sensitive facial skin.

Rose Geranium Face and Body Bar at Soap Hope
Rose Geranium Face and Body Bar at Soap Hope

Indigo Wild’s Grapefruit Zum Kiss Stick uses honey and beeswax to moisturize and heal lips.

Indigo Wild’s Grapefruit Zum Kiss Stick
Indigo Wild’s Grapefruit Zum Kiss Stick

We hope you’ve learned something new about honey today with us. Do you have a favorite recipe, regimen, or story about honey, or a thought about Soap Hope? Share in the comments below!

Mind Your Beeswax: The Natural and Sustainable Power of Bees

Image: Honeybee Landing on Milk Thistle. Credit: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos under license.

Bee Helpful

Recently a photo vent viral online of the “world’s first beekeeping donkey.” A creative beekeeper in Brazil not only dons his own beekeeping suit for the workday, he fashioned a suit for his donkey as well, who helps carry the gathered honey to market.

Honeybees are incredibly important to humanity and all of nature. Bees pollinate almost all of the almond, apple, orange, cherry, peach, tangerine and grapefruit in the world.

Unfortunately, many of the pesticides used on crops are deadly to bees. In the last several years, the honeybee population has collapsed. The European Union has banned many chemicals that are known to be harmful to bees, but the United States has not followed suit. (When you buy organic foods and products, you help support the entire ecosystem, including bees, by rewarding chemical-free farmers with your business.)

Bee Grateful

Bees also create wonderful natural ingredients that we use every day in food and body care products. This week we’ll look at beeswax (and be sure to come back next week to learn about honey).

Beeswax is nutrient-rich, non-allergenic, non-comedogenic (won’t clog pores), and never goes bad. Medical science is even looking at beeswax as a tool to help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, as a pain reliever, and for its anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects.

Zum Face Under Eye Butter by Indigo Wild
Zum Face Under Eye Butter by Indigo Wild

Beeswax has the wonderful property of being emollient and keeping skin moist, while still allowing skin to breathe and without clogging pores. It’s full of healing and restorative Vitamin A. (That’s why Indigo Wild uses organic beeswax in its Under Eye Butter.)

Beeswax is also anti-bacterial. Chapped or damaged lips? Beeswax will not only moisturize and soothe, it also provides natural antibacterial protection. Lip balms from Indigo Wild, LEAP Organics, Badger Balm, and Mahya Cosmetics all take advantage of beeswax.

Bee Natural

Beeswax is a humectant, helping skin retain moisture. But unlike mineral oil, which builds up under the skin and prevents the skin from absorbing nutrients, beeswax keeps skin moist naturally and safely.

Gypsy Rose Solid Perfume by KIND Soap
Gypsy Rose Solid Perfume by KIND Soap

For those looking for nontoxic deodorants, beeswax is a natural fit: Nourish Organic uses it as a primary ingredient in all their organic deodorants, along with cornstarch and plant enzymes, for dryness and odor protection.

KIND Soap Company uses beeswax to create beautiful solid perfumes. The beeswax serves as a long-lasting base that allows the intoxicating aromas to stay with your skin all day.

LEAP Organics uses the wonderful emollience of organic beeswax in shaving cream, and you’ll find it in Acure’s Baby Buns Diaper Lotion for diaper rash.

All The Buzz

Now when you see “beeswax” on an ingredient list, you’ll know it means natural, emollient, nourishing, and all-around good. That’s why beeswax is so popular with our makers – in fact, you’ll find beeswax in over 100 products at Soap Hope.

Stay tuned next week for a look at the benefits of honey. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

What’s In A Neem

If you read ingredient lists as fervently as we do at Soap Hope, you’ve seen the words Neem Oil – in body soaps, cleansers, hair care and anti-aging products. You may even have noticed that neem oil seems always to be present when a natural product is focused on helping with dry skin, psoriasis, scalp problems, or anything related to inflammation. Let’s see why.

Neem oil comes from – you guessed it – the fruit of the neem tree, also known by the more elegant name Indian Lilac. Neem has powerful healing and protecting properties: it has been used as an antiviral, anti-fungal, and antibacterial, a pain reliever and an anti-inflammatory.

Medical science is just now catching up to centuries of traditional wisdom (in India, the neem tree is called “the village pharmacy”), with studies of the use of neem for conditions from psoriasis to HIV. It seems that the key may be the special form of vitamin E found in neem.

By the way, neem fits right in with our focus on sustainability at Soap Hope: this tree can live for over 100 years, and the oil is harvested sustainably from the seeds of its fruit.

If you smell the wonderful aroma of its flowers, and with all of neem’s amazing properties, you might think every skin and hair care product would use it – but there’s a challenge for makers: raw neem oil has a medicinal aroma. It takes a master maker like The Seaweed Bath Co. or Nourish Organic to get the perfect blend of neem into their formulations: just the right amount and in combination with the ideal complementary natural ingredients.

So how do makers incorporate neem into their products? Let’s look at a few key uses of this wonder oil at Soap Hope:

  • Seaweed Bath Co., with their focus on protecting and healing scalp and skin, uses neem oil in their body washes, hand, foot and body butters.
  • Nourish Organic blends neem into its Moisturizing Face Cleanser – not surprising, since neem oil is known to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and is a natural antimicrobial.
  • A Wild Soap Bar’s intensely therapeutic Pine Tar Neem Oil Organic Soap Bar is a daily requirement for those who have scalp or skin irritation, itching or redness.
  • KIND Soap Company understands the cleansing and anti-aging properties of neem for skin – that’s why it’s in their Honey Hand Spa.

    So “what’s in a neem?” When you think neem oil, think healing, cleansing, and protective. It’s on Soap Hope’s list of favorite ingredients.

  • Let us know if neem oil is a part of your body care regimen – we would love to hear about your experience. Comments are open below.

    Vetiver and Valentine

    You may not know the name vetiver, but you’ve almost certainly noticed its intoxicating aroma if you have ever smelled cologne – vetiver is present as a base note in the majority of perfumes and cologne today. Its smoky, musky, exotic aroma is said to be an aphrodisiac.

    The vetiver plant (Vetiveria Zizanoides) is a grass that is grown widely in India and Haiti. The tall grass grows up to six feet tall. In India you’ll find thatch roofs, mattresses, and curtains made of this special plant, as it cools and scents rooms and keeps insects away.

    Vetiver’s essential oil is extracted from its roots by steam distillation. The oil has powerful benefits. Academic research has shown that vetiver essential oil is a potent antioxidant that scavenges free radicals. Vetiver is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. It is used to treat blemishes, blemish prone skin, scars, stretch marks and burns. Vetiver is also a natural aphrodisiac that is said to increase libido and desire.

    You wouldn’t know by looking that the roots of this tall grass contain such a special essential oil – but people have known for thousands of years about its valuable properties. It’s a perfect ingredient for this season of love and romance.

    If you’re curious about the seductive aroma of Vetiver, Soap Hope is featuring a line of Valentine’s Day products that highlight the exotic aroma of this wonderful natural essential oil. Indigo Wild has had some fun with this scent, blending vetiver and lavender for their limited run Ooh La Zum bar soap, candle, mist, candle, massage oil, and lip balm.