Are You Ready For “Cold Season”?

What is Cold Season?

In the U.S, weather isn’t the only cold thing happening during the fall and winter months. The average number of colds spikes during these seasons, most likely due to the fact that people spend more time packed together indoors and are at higher risk to spread germs. Today we’ll look at colds and flus and the importance of washing your hands with the right soap.

What is a Cold? What is a Flu? And What is the Difference Between the Two?

Cold or Flu Diagram created by the CDC

Telling the difference between a cold and a flu can be difficult. They often have similar symptoms. According to the CDC, “Flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses.” The main difference between the two is that common colds are less severe and don’t usually lead to further health problems. Flus are more intense and can lead to other complications ranging from ear infections to pneumonia.  

How Can I Prevent Colds and Flus?

Once infected with a virus the best thing you can do is rest, stay hydrated, and take medications to alleviate the symptoms. However, preventing the spread of a virus is equally important. We’re all taking additional preventative measures because of COVID, but it never hurts to be reminded just how important it is to wash your hands. Washing your hands with an effective soap for the right amount of time will help dismantle the germs lurking on your hands.

Why is it So Important to Wash Your Hands with Soap?

AVNS Man Shampoo Bar is made with Neem oil, a powerful anti-bacterial oil.

The composition of most viruses includes a lipid bilayer that holds all the other components inside. In his recent article in “The Guardian”, Dr. Thordarson, published chemistry professor, explains, “Soap contains fat-like substances known as amphiphiles, some of which are structurally very similar to the lipids in the virus membrane.” When these two similar substances compete, the stronger soap molecules dissolve the lipid bilayer and leave the virus inactive. Soap is advantageous over other disinfecting agents because the way it lathers offers full coverage on a more effective scale. 

Facts about Washing Hands

Photo by Burst on Pexels.com

Doubtful about the effectiveness of hand washing? Washing your hands can seem like such a mundane task, it’s hard to believe just how effective a simple scrub with soap and water can be. But washing your hands wouldn’t be so highly recommended if there wasn’t proof behind it! Here are some facts straight from the CDC!

  • “It is estimated that washing hands with soap and water could reduce diarrheal disease-associated deaths by up to 50% 1.”
  • “Researchers in London estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, a million deaths a year could be prevented 2.”
  • “A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections 3.”
  • “Handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16% 4.”

Are You Using the Best Soap?

While mass produced soaps are often labeled as antibacterial, the harsh chemicals and detergents used for cleansing may quickly lead to dry, raw skin — especially if you are washing your hands more frequently — and could leave skin more exposed and vulnerable to germs. Our natural soaps contain natural glycerin, a byproduct of natural oils that cleans and moisturizes skin. Our Salt Bars and Bars with antibacterial essential oil blends are great hand washing tools to prevent the spread of germs!

Salt

Salt creates a hypertonic solution (meaning it will attract water through osmosis). Because bacteria is mostly composed of water — just like the human body — when it comes into contact with salt, the salt will leech water from the bacteria, leaving it to shrivel and die. 

Keeping harmful bacteria off of your skin is important, but many artificial chemicals used in antibacterial soaps have been banned because they were not shown to have any health benefits and in some cases there has been evidence suggesting some chemicals may have dangerous effects

Antibacterial hand sanitizers often contain alcohol that strips the skin of bacteria, but because it is such a harsh substance it makes your skin dry. Salt bars are a natural solution that will fight bacteria, but will also replenish your skin and body with much needed minerals. The European Spa Salt used by Apple Valley Natural Soap is solar evaporated and comes from the pristine waters of the Mediterranean sea.

Essential Oils

We have a selection of soaps that were specially crafted with ingredients — specifically essential oils — researched for their antiviral properties. Our FKA “Thieves” Soap Body Bar is inspired by a blend of ingredients used to protect against illness since the 1400s. This blend contains essential oils of cinnamon, lemon, organic eucalyptus and organic rosemary — all shown to have antiviral benefits. We added Dead Sea Clay to the recipe to provide an extra boost of purification and fortification for your skin! Our Charcoal Detox Face and Body Bar is made with refining activated charcoal and a spicy, sweet blend of antiviral essential oils including rosemary, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus.

The Best Way to Wash Your hands

The CDC has a fantastic page with information on how to wash your hands as well as the most important times to wash your hands. I’m providing the information on how to wash your hands in this blog, but I’ll link the rest of the page here.

Steps to Wash your Hands Like a Pro According to the CDC:

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com
  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

I know that hand washing might seem pretty boring, but there’s no reason why you can’t make it fun! For example, if you keep up with my blogs, you’ve probably noticed that I love Grey’s Anatomy. Every time I wash my hands I like to pretend I’m a hot-shot surgeon prepping for a daring surgery. You can also switch up your music selection, as long as it’s twenty seconds or longer. Another idea? Pick a soap you’re in love with. If I’m being honest, I could wash my hands all day with the Black Licorice Hand, Foot and Body Bar. What’s your favorite soap?

Much Love,

Nora


Argan Oil Vs Jojoba Oil for Hair and Skin

Why Try Oil for Hair and Skin?

A quick search about the benefits of facial and hair oils will leave you with more questions than answers. Some websites claim that dermatologists recommend oils over any other type of moisturizer, while other websites claim that dermatologists strongly discourage the use of oils. What is true? What isn’t? Today we’ll be sticking to what we know about oil, specifically Argan oil and Jojoba oil and then we’ll do the one thing that no amount of research can do, we’ll decide for ourselves. I wanted to give you the best advice on these two popular cosmetic oils, so I put them to the test and did a half-and-half style session to see which oil will rule them all.

What is Argan Oil?

According to an article published in the National Library of Medicine, “Argan (Argania spinosa L.) oil has been used for centuries in Morocco as cosmetic oil to maintain a fair complexion and to cure skin pimples and chicken pox pustules scars.” If you read my last blog, you know I’ve a huge fan of argan oil’s versatility!

Main Components of Argan Oil

Wikipedia

Argan Oil is mainly composed of fatty acids which play a major role in aiding the skin’s natural functions. There are four ways in which fatty acids contribute to the skin’s natural process. Now, if you understand scientific terminology feel free to read the original article here, but if you’re like me and want the basics I’ve broken each function down into more simple jargon below.

Fatty Acid Functions

1) Contributes to skin’s permeability layer which allows skin to lock in water to stay hydrated.
2) Acts as building blocks and support for generation of skin’s natural oils.
3) Helps maintain skin’s homeostasis.
4) Strengthens outer skin’s barrier and acid mantle.

A Note About Linoleic Acid

Photo by Immortal Snapshots on Pexels.com Walnuts are just one of many foods that contain linoleic acid!

“Linoleic Acid is a polyunsaturated omega-6 fatty acid and is one of two essential fatty acids for humans, who must obtain it through their diet. It is a colorless or white oil that is virtually insoluble in water. ” (Wikipedia). Linoleic is an essential addition to the human diet to avoid scaly skin. To read more about Linoleic acid and its benefits you can read this study.

Uses of Argan Oil

My wash day hair before and after deep conditioning with Argan Oil
  • Thermal heat protectant for hair: put 2-4 drops in the palm of your hand and massage into damp hair after showering. Your hair will feel silky soft after blow-drying.
  • Deep conditioner: wet hair with hot water, massage a small amount into the scalp and down the shaft of the hair, wrap with a towel, and let it sit for 15 minutes. Wash hair as usual. Alternatively, apply to dry hair before going to bed at night. Wrap in a towel and wash in the morning for soft, silky locks. Argan oil helps with dandruff and other dry scalp symptoms.
  • Makeup remover: put a couple of drops on a cotton ball and and gently remove eye makeup. Leaves the delicate skin around your eyes moisturized.
  • Facial moisturizer: apply a few drops to your delicate facial tissue and around your eyes and watch your skin soak it up and start glowing.
  • Beard oil: bearded people, you know what I’m sayin’, but if your beard needs additional TLC check out our brand new Beard Oil along with our other recently released men’s products!
  • Cuticle and nail repair serum: apply a drop to cuticles and nails at night and say good bye to cut, sore finger tips. Argan oil will strengthen and nourish your nails too.
  • Night hand oil. Two pumps rubbed into your hands before you go to bed leaves them soft and silky in the morning. (Also great for sunburns!)
  • Expectant mothers: apply organic argan oil to your tummy to help prevent and reduce the appearance of stretch marks.

What is Jojoba oil?

Jojoba Oil is gleaned from the Jojoba plant which can be found growing in southwestern states. An important thing to note is that, “although jojoba oil is often categorized as an “oil” because of its pale yellow, transparent, liquid appearance, it is actually a liquid wax ester” (NCBI). Before you go dismissing jojoba oil as some melted candle juice, just remember that wax ester is actually used to make the skin soft and that wax treatments are very popular at spas…so does that make jojoba oil like a secret, portable spa treatment? Try Customizable Portable Spa Treatment! We offer Customized Jojoba Oil scented with the same essential oils we use for our scrumptious soaps!

Uses of Jojoba Oil

  • Moisturize hair and skin
  • Massage oil
  • Make-up remover
  • Helps combat athlete’s foot
  • Helps rid the scalp of dandruff
  • stimulates hair growth
  • Aids in combating skin infections

While argan oil and jojoba oil supposedly share many of the same benefits, jojoba oil is known for its similar composition to skin’s natural oil: sebum. Oils are rated on the comedogenic scale on how likely they are to clog pores (zero being rarely and five being like ‘whoa, do not get near my pores’). Argan oil is a zero on the comedogenic scale and even though jojoba oil is a two, it is still widely recommended for oily skin because it is thought that it can trick the skin into producing less sebum. On the other hand, argan oil is known for its ability to combat dry skin. 

One More Oil to Note

Although not a main focus of this blog, I will take a quick moment to mention one additional oil: hemp seed oil. Hemp seed oil is known for its countless benefits which is why we are proud to carry Hemp Facial Oil. Not sure what hemp entails or curious about CBD? Check out this blog!

Battle of the Oils

So what happened when I tried using a different oil on each half of my body?

After showering I applied both oils to my face, hair, and body. I used Argan oil on my left side and Jojoba on my right side.

Argan Oil Vs Jojoba Oil for Skin

Skin Status: I recently realized during an informal family poll that I’m somewhat of an abnormality when it comes to bathing habits. Obviously I’m going to need to write a blog on this, but for now I’ll say that most of my skin is very balanced. I rarely suffer from over-dry or over-oily skin except on my hands, face, and back.

Hypothesis: I typically apply lotion after showering, but I hate the greasy residue left on my skin (especially when I’m trying to jam my damp legs into jeans during the winter season after that perfect shave…ew). I predicted that applying oil would yield, well, even oilier results…but I was pleasantly surprised.

Results: Both my arms and legs felt soft and moisturized after applying the argan and jojoba oil, without leaving a lot of extra surface oil to make me feel slimy or sticky. I didn’t include photos because my camera isn’t strong enough to detect any differences in my skin quality (I should invest in one of those pore-exposing skin microscopes). If to make any comparison, I would affirm that a little jojoba oil goes a long way and spreads easily, whereas the argan oil was thicker.

Argan Oil vs Jojoba Oil for Face

Skin Status: Ah, my face. As you may already know, I’ve spent a ton of time trying to get rid of my acne. I have large, visible face pores that are extremely prone to clogging and love to produce oil…so I figured my face was the perfect canvas to test out these two “miracle oils.”

Hypothesis: I actually started using these oils before this experiment to make sure my face wouldn’t have an extreme reaction.

Results: I felt as though the argan oil made more a difference in the long run, but had a heavier feel on my face, whereas the jojoba oil was super light. I’ve actually applied argan oil directly to healing acne scars on my face and I personally feel like it has made a huge difference in the healing process. My scabs seem to heal faster and I get to avoid that gross “crusty phase” because my skin stays so moisturized. I think I will continue to use argan oil as a night moisturizer and jojoba oil as a daytime moisturizer.

Argan Oil Vs. Jojoba Oil for Hair

Hair Comparison

Hair Status: I have lonnnnng (overdue for a haircut) wavy to curly hair that I work hard to keep bouncy and beautiful. I am prone to greasy roots and dry ends.

Hypothesis: I was worried that the oils might weigh my hair down. Oil is a controversial subject in the Curly World and is promoted and discouraged by curl influencers. Because the results from the skin tests were so similar, I imagined my hair would probably looks the same, but it didn’t…

Results: I was so surprised by the results after my hair finished air-drying. I even took a picture because you can see the difference in my hair. The left side with the argan oil has great definition and I love how fluffy the wave/curls look. The right side with the jojoba oil seemed to be slightly more defined, but also made my curls look slightly oilier. The biggest surprise was that the argan oil side actually looks LIGHTER? I have no reason as to why this was, maybe I used too much jojoba oil? 

You might hear curly girls rant and rave about the benefits of coconut oil for curly hair, but when I tried adding it (also used wayyyyy too much) to my own hair routine the result was a greasy, nasty, stringy mess. My curls are so sensitive, and usually anything thicker than a sour cream consistency elongates and weighs my curls down (don’t use sour cream in your hair). The lesson here is: different oils work for different hair/skin types. Not sure which to try? Get both and run your own experiment!

Much Love,

Nora


Earth Day every day: why every ecotourist needs natural soap

Do you ever feel like you’re just one of the crowd?

A crowd of 7.8 billion people?

I do.

In fact:

In 2015 I was just one of the 58.5 million people who visited New York City. 

In 2016 I was just one of the 20.4 million people who visited Orlando’s Magic Kingdom.

But…

In 2018 I was one of just 275,817 people who visited The Galapagos Islands.

And that’s where I learned the truth.

Like many of you, I first encountered the Galapagos Islands in my seventh grade biology class. The few glossy pictures available in our giant textbooks focused mostly on the finches (who, much like the dinosaurs, have attained an almost mythological status in the minds of lay biologists). Cloaked in mystery by their isolation, the fauna and flora of the islands are mainly known for their legendary encounter with Charles Darwin, but to the people who live on the islands today they mean so much more.

The animals inhabiting the Galapagos are so protected that they aren’t afraid of humans. This adorable sea lion was having a peaceful snooze amidst the crowd of people on the dock.

I visited the Galapagos as a student enrolled in Bethel University’s 2018 Ecology in the Tropics interim trip. My time spent in Ecuador and the Galapagos was a rare chance to explore one of the world’s most preserved natural histories, but more importantly, a chance to live as an ecotourist.

What is ecotourism?

Oxford’s Lexico defines ecotourism as “tourism directed toward exotic, often threatened, natural environments, intended to support conservation efforts and observe wildlife.”

What does ecotourism look like?

Your impact on the environment

How you travel impacts the earth. When you travel mindfully by conserving energy and limiting waste you protect the environment. We’ve crafted our products to help you with your mission.

Eco-lodges

Photo by Victoria Borodinova on Pexels.com

You gotta love hearing the sound of the lock click when you slide your room key into the security slot of your hotel room door for the first time after check-in. Tell me if this is relatable or not, but I have the tradition of checking the bathroom out first thing to gauge the cuteness of the tiny complimentary toiletries (you can imagine how obsessed I am with Apple Valley Natural Soap’s Sample Bars). 

Besides the soap, the first thing that usually catches my eye is the printed card that entreats me to reuse my towels to cut down on water waste.

Does this mean that the hotel is an eco-hotel?

Not exactly.

While it’s fantastic that chain hotels are cultivating practices that preserve the earth, when you stay at a true eco-hotel you find more than a place to stay; you find an immersion experience.

What does staying at an authentic ecolodge look like?

(According to my personal experience staying at the Santa Lucia Cloud Forest Reserve and Mandari Panga.)

Built around community, surrounded by nature

In the cloud forest I’d wake up to clear skies and by evening the lodge would be completely engulfed in a giant cloud.

Whether sleeping up in the clouds or literally right above the amazon river, from morning to dusk, our tour guides helped us learn everything about the environments we were submerged in, allowing us to establish a greater connection with the land.

Ecolodges aren’t only set up for tourists. The places we stayed were created not only to provide jobs for locals, but also as an opportunity to educate locals about the importance of their environment. 

Ecolodges don’t stop with tourists and locals, they also encourage the merging of these two communities. We ate locally sourced and prepared food. Played soccer with the staff and near-by neighborhoods, and were also encouraged to join in the singing and dancing.

Re-aligning your lifestyle with nature

While using a compost toilet and brushing my teeth in the dark were certainly challenges, there was something sacred about learning to live by the rules of a force greater than myself. 

Nazca Booby

Because there was no electricity, lights went out when it got dark…and although we were provided with candles, I preferred falling asleep with the sun (plus the tents that did opt for candlelight became the hotspot for every insect in a one mile radius..haha, dodged that moth).

Showering and laundry with natural soap

I grew accustomed to cold-rainwater showers (it was so humid in the rainforest that temperature wasn’t a big deal). Yes, the space was small and a little spidery, but the views were worth it and I got the benefit of soft water. 

Photo by Kai-Chieh Chan on Pexels.com

Yes! Before rain-water sinks into the ground it is usually soft!

Traveling with one of our shampoo bars makes you a model ecotourist. Because they’re solid, our shampoo bars make it possible for you to save space and avoid checked luggage. 

Of course, you’ve also avoided the problem of slippery soap by bringing along one of our Natural Cotton Soap Bags. This bag not only stores your soap, it also acts as a washcloth that can be brought right into the shower with you. It’s made of natural cotton, so it is eco-friendly and easy to grip! 

Psst. If you’re dealing with hard water you can always bring a little baking soda with you…

Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

Sometimes finding the resources to keep your clothes clean while on an epic expedition can be even more challenging than keeping yourself clean.

I was forced to do a lot of sink laundry during my three months in Europe last fall and I always felt guilty wondering what kinds of chemicals I was releasing down the drain.

AVNS bars are extremely versatile, you can even use them to wash your clothes! Marianne recommends using our coconut bars because they have one main ingredient, coconut. But in a pinch any of our shampoo bars and many of our Body bars can also be used to effectively hand wash clothes. You can run hot water over the soap to create a basin of soapy water for dipping clothes into. For extra suds power you can also wet the clothing and then apply the bar directly. Once the area is coated with soap you can massage it in and rinse. Because our soap is biodegradable, you choose a much better option for the environment than harsh detergents.

Photo by João Jesus on Pexels.com

The truth is…

You may feel like one of the crowd, and many times you will be. 

But you’re the one who makes a change and that makes you one in a million.

I bet you were wondering why I’d talk about travel during a time when travel has been restricted.

It doesn’t matter where you are, because you can be an ecotourist anywhere you go.

Even if you’re stuck at home.

Turning off the water while you brush your teeth saves up to four gallons of water.

Growing a garden reduces your carbon footprint.

Utilizing natural light conserves electricity.

Using our natural soap keeps you, and the earth healthier.

It doesn’t matter if you are one of one million or the only person in the house. When you make earth day every day, you make a difference.


Faith in Quarantine

When you’re a child the world seems bigger.

The family retriever was the size of a horse, chapter books were intimidating, and twenty minute car rides took hours: which is why the three hour drive to my grandparent’s house in Wisconsin seemed to me like an all day affair. The trek was worth it though. I’d spend all week counting down the days until my parents packed up the car, strapped me into my car seat and backed out of the small driveway connected to our modest townhouse in Plymouth, Minnesota. At this time I was the only grandchild, and spending the weekend at Nana and Papa’s meant I got twice the attention. I’d wake up to pancakes and fall asleep to Nana’s stellar impression of Grandfather Frog as she read aloud to me from her old copies of Thornton Burgess stories.

Their cabin was surrounded by forest and sat on the top of a steep decline that led right to the lake. I spent hours outside, shaking off suburbia as I scampered down the damp stone staircase and straight into the sparkling lake. I built forts out of sticks, filled old mason jars with “perfume” made with water and crushed up flowers, and mixed together my own homemade exfoliant*. Sheltered by the shade of the leafy green trees made me feel safe and secure as I played contentedly on the forest floor, surrounded by God’s sacred beauty.

I tell you this because I’m guessing you have a special place of your own. It doesn’t even have to be nature. It could be curled up in your favorite chair in the corner of your favorite coffee shop, or standing, swaying with your eyes shut in front of the stage as the stirring strumming of a guitar pulls at your heart. You can understand how a special place is invaluable, which is why — when my dad came down with a cold the night before we were supposed to leave for the cabin…putting our morning departure in jeopardy — I immediately prayed to God. I wish this touching moment of a child praying for her sick father was without ulterior motive, but embarrassingly I was actually praying for his recovery so that we could still go to the cabin.

Yes, my childish selfishness mortifies me to this day.

Regardless of my prayer’s shady intentions, when I awoke the next morning to sounds of my parents packing I was overjoyed. 

Lying on my back in bed, I remember a feeling of immense gratitude. Overwhelmed, I did what any thankful child does. I stretched out my tiny arms as far as I could manage and circled them around the air in front of me, drawing an invisible God into the biggest bear-hug I could muster.

Let me get something straight: this is not the story of God answering the prayer of a simple and slightly selfish child (what kind of backwards moral would that portray?) No. This is a story of child-like faith. To me, it’s a beautiful image that brings me back to a time when trusting in God was the simple and easy solution and not the last-resort, risky task.

The older I get, the harder it is to trust God. Being an adult seems to imply the continued practice of taking on more and more responsibilities with each passing year. It’s no wonder that in a culture that encourages self-sustainment we struggle to allow room for God to act.

Especially now in this time of quarantine we find our worlds growing smaller than ever and our burdens greater. We find ourselves restricted from visiting the places that are most near and dear to our hearts. And those whose jobs require them to continue to brave the outside world face dangerous risks every time they leave the house. As we navigate this new and confined lifestyle we ask ourselves how there could possibly be room for God when we feel like there’s barely room for us. 

Having faith can seem tiring. Even when we try to listen to God in this time of chaos, it isn’t always clear that he’s there or listening to us. Is that God telling me to give myself bangs? Or is it my own stir-crazed gut?

As a shy child I grew up dependent on Joshua 1:9. Every time I showed up friendless to summer camp or tried something new I relied on the heartening command to “be strong and courageous.” I was always comforted by the thought that no matter how big the journey seemed, God was always along for the ride.

In her riveting year long memoir “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” Rachel Held Evans spends a month practicing aspects of biblical domesticity. Her reflection at the end of the month stuck with me as I read the rest of the book for class and is as follows,

“Somewhere between the chicken soup and the butter-bleeding pie, I’d made peace with the God of pots and pans — not because God wanted me to meet him in the kitchen, but because He wanted to meet me everywhere, in all things, big or small. Knowing that God both inhabits and transcends our daily vocations, no matter how glorious or mundane, should be enough to unite all women of faith…”

-Rachel Held Evans

Although the domesticity Held Evans refers to has more to do with an exploration of a woman’s traditional role in the household, I find that the general idea of “home life” is extremely relevant and her wisdom is widely applicable. God will be with you, wherever you go. Whether it’s at the hospital you work at, the aisle of the grocery store you’re stocking, or sitting at your kitchen table filming online lectures for your students…God will meet you there and he will make room even when you can’t.

*I know you’re probably wondering how you can get your hands on some of my homemade exfoliant. Unfortunately, mixing sand and water is not FDA approved (nor is it that great of an exfoliant). On the bright side, AVNS has some incredible exfoliating bars that are also fantastically sanitary! Try our Grapefruit Peppermint Luffa Body Bar, it’s packed with authentic dried luffa fiber. You can also check out any of our Salt Bars! Only Jesus can wash away your sins (but at least we can help with the dirt and dead skin)!


The Importance of Clean Hands — AVNS’s Response to the Coronavirus

First and foremost we want to assure you that we are taking this outbreak seriously and want to do all we can to ensure AVNS products continue to be a blessing for our customers. To this end, as an extra layer of protection until the Covid-19 has passed, employees will be required to wear gloves at all times when working with any products including packaging orders for shipment. Masks will also be used where necessary. When you order our products, rest assured that we are taking all necessary steps to keep producing nourishing and effective products which are safe and beneficial.

Because I attend a small university and live on campus as a full time student, I am rarely required to venture out into the world. This doesn’t mean I’m a hermit. I love exploring the city and could thrift all day if you let me, but these trips are luxuries, not necessities. With the outbreak of the Coronavirus, my peers and I have all watched — through phones and computers — the domino effect of other universities transferring to online courses…and the email we received announcing that our spring break was being extended by a week was met with mixed feelings.

The jokesters of the world have been keeping us updated through social media. They capitalize on and exaggerate the public’s frantic scrounge for toilet paper and hand sanitizer, oftentimes forcing us to crack a grin despite our deeper rooted fears. Yet, as I arrived home last night on the first day of spring break I was met at the door by my younger brother’s adorable, mile-a-minute chatter and my mother’s instant command to go to the sink and wash my hands. Today at my local dollar store I heard an elderly man ask the cashier if they happened to have any hand sanitizer, to which she answered, “No, sorry.” (if only he would’ve been able to read this blog, he could’ve had access to a homemade recipe!)

All joking aside, there is nothing wrong with being aware and prepared when it comes to your physical health and safety. Centers for Disease and Control Prevention (CDC) has released a plethora of helpful information on the virus, including preventative measures. Their top two steps are keeping your hands clean and avoiding close contact with others.

Keeping your hands clean?

We can help with that!

AVNS utilizes many natural ingredients that have antibacterial properties. The salt content in our Salt Bars make any of them great choices for the kitchen or bathroom counter — especially the Salt and Spice Kitchen Bar — because salt is anti-viral, antifungal and antibacterial (if you want to know more about why this is, you can check out my blog on Salt Bars!).

Why is it so important to wash your hands with soap? The composition of most viruses includes a lipid bilayer that holds all the other components inside. In his recent article in The Guardian, Dr. Thordarson, published chemistry professor, explains, “Soap contains fat-like substances known as amphiphiles, some of which are structurally very similar to the lipids in the virus membrane.” When these two similar substances compete, the stronger soap molecules dissolve the lipid bilayer and leave the virus inactive. Soap is advantageous over other disinfecting agents because the way it lathers offers full coverage on a more effective scale. While mass produced soaps are often labeled as antibacterial, the harsh chemicals and detergents used for cleansing may quickly lead to dry, raw skin — especially if you are washing your hands more frequently — and could leave skin more exposed and vulnerable to germs. Our natural soaps contain natural glycerin, a byproduct of natural oils that cleans and moisturizes skin.

That being said, we have a selection of soaps that were specially crafted with ingredients — specifically essential oils — researched for their antiviral properties. Our Thieves Soap Body Bar is inspired by a blend of ingredients used to protect against illness since the 1400s. This blend contains essential oils of cinnamon, lemon, organic eucalyptus and organic rosemary — all shown to have antiviral benefits. We added Dead Sea Clay to the recipe to provide an extra boost of purification and fortification for your skin! Our Charcoal Detox Face and Body Bar is made with refining activated charcoal and a spicy, sweet blend of antiviral essential oils including rosemary, peppermint, lemon and eucalyptus.

You can protect your skin morning to night with an appropriate soap that fits the hour. Feeling a little sleepy before your morning shower? Feel refreshed with the Peppermint Tea Tree Shampoo bar. This shampoo bar leaves your scalp and skin restored and and invigorated with its blend of anti-viral/antibacterial tea tree and peppermint essential oil. 

Getting ready to doze off? For a gentle and effective cleanse, try the Lavender Chamomile Face and Body Bar. With its soothing aroma, this bar is a simple blend including title roles Lavender and Chamomile, both plants studied in the medicinal world for their preventative qualities.

Why stop with soap? AVNS also makes a number of delicious smelling beeswax candles. Beeswax is a fuel which produces negative ions when burned. These negative ions negate the positive charge of air contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, and allergens like dust and pollen, and the neutralized ions are sucked back into the burning candle or fall to the ground where they can be swept or vacuumed.

While we wish soap bars were even more transportable than they already are, we know that sometimes it might not be the most convenient option for when you’re on the go. Hand Sanitizer is a hot commodity right now, but if you haven’t had the chance to stock up we’ve got a homemade and customizable recipe for you!

HOMEMADE SANITIZER RECIPE FOR HANDS AND SURFACES

*Makes one cup

You’ll need:

  • 7 oz of alcohol (at least 70% alcohol by volume).
  • 1 oz aloe
  • 20 or more drops of essential oils (recommendations below).
  • 1 tsp glycerin

Directions:

  1. Mix ingredients.
  2. Shake concoction well.
  3. Pour into container.

Additional Notes:

  • The final ratio using this recipe keeps the alcohol between 55-60% which is good for killing bacteria and viruses. If you get much lower than this and are relying on the alcohol alone to kill germs, the effectiveness drops significantly. As we are adding small amounts of other ingredients, you can choose up to 90% alcohol by volume. But, if using greater than 90%, even though this may kill some bacteria and viruses, it requires a longer contact time to be effective (hours vs seconds) and allows for organisms to lie dormant without being killed. We suggest Vodka (try to get 120-150 proof which contains 60-70% alcohol by volume). Rubbing alcohol at 70% can be used if necessary, but as Isopropyl alcohol is rubbing alcohol’s main ingredient please be aware that it is controversial as some consider it toxic and harmful to the skin.
  • You can use aloe gel or aloe water.
  • Recommended Essential oils with antiviral/antibacterial properties include: clove, lemon, rosemary, eucalyptus, cinnamon, tea tree, pine, peppermint and lavender. 
  • If depending on alcohol alone to kill germs it should be at 60% of the final product, but as we are adding essential oils which have their own antimicrobial properties, the sanitizer may be just as effective with the alcohol being at a lower rate. Essential oils are shown to have their own amazing abilities with or without alcohol.
  • If making this for surfaces, you can leave out the aloe and glycerin as they are added to help moisturize the skin.

Now that we’ve established multiple ways to clean your hands, we’ve got to figure out how to keep them clean and occupied. Humans are face touchers, and in the face of illness this becomes a problem. Our faces are full of orifices (ears, nostrils, eyes and mouth) exposed to unwelcome microorganisms and particles. (By the way, we have two natural lip balms which contain anti-viral fighting essential oils to help those lips fight germs, Peppermint and Lanolin Intensive Lip Therapy!) Our hands are the vehicles that spread germs from the objects they’re in contact with, to our most vulnerable surface area. Cash is a great example of something we touch and can be fearful of, here’s a great article which talks about why consumers should be cautious when handling cash, but not fearful. we need is to keep our hands busy, and with the unfortunate demise of our social lives, we may find ourselves with extra time on our hands (pun soooo intended). When I mentioned earlier that I was at the dollar store, I was actually stocking up on DIY craft supplies.

While you’ve already got a recipe to whip up a fresh batch of homemade hand sanitizer…you can also make a fabulous floral wreath in time Easter!

FLORAL WREATH

You’ll need:

– Artificial flowers (you can get them cheap at the dollar store or repurpose any you might already have!)

– A foam wreath (can be found at the dollar store).

Directions:

  1. Pick out what types of flowers you want on your wreath. I tried to stick with three main colors and found a variety of sizes. I ended up with seven small bouquets, each had about five flowers. You can estimate how many flowers you need by laying them around the foam wreath. 
  2. Cut off the flower heads, but leave about an inch of stem to stick into the wreath. I chose to include the leaves in mine to keep it more full, but you can always remove them.
  3. Stick the flowers into the foam. I did one type of flower at a time, so that I could monitor that I was keeping them equidistant as well as alternating their location on the wreath (inside, outside, center).
  4.  When you are satisfied with how it looks, you can use a bit of ribbon to hang it up!

You can se my completed wreath below! We’d love to see how yours turned out, feel free to post your finished wreath with #applevalleynaturalsoapfloralwreath on Instagram or Facebook!


How My Acne Made Me Beautiful: The Natural Way to Help Cure Acne

I let acne define my beauty

As a teenager I spent a lot of time reassuring myself that when I was in my twenties I’d finally be beautiful. I’m not exactly sure how this hopeful and destructive mantra worked its way into my head, but I’m guessing it had something to do with my belief that acne problems disappeared when you became an adult. When I decided I wanted to write a blog about acne I wanted to include photo evidence of my own acne battle, as proof of the struggle that was most definitely real.

Taken on a camping trip in Ely circa 2015. Where are your favorite camping spots?

So for you, dear Reader, I made the long and arduous trek through my Facebook photos: a timeline of my most awkward and embarrassing years documented by photos posted with careless enthusiasm by a younger me.

I scanned every photo of myself, searching for the tell-tale traces of a bumpy forehead or a crusty, make-up coved chin spot…and came up empty. As expected, the girl on my Facebook is a total goofball (see grainy photo on the left), but unexpectedly, she’s virtually acne-free. How??

I tried to hide my acne


I grew up under a lens. At least, that’s how it felt. Facebook, Selfies, Snapchat, and Instagram are only a few examples of the visual and digital world that consumed my adolescence.

So how do you face this world when you feel like the face you have isn’t good enough? You put forth a face that isn’t yours.

So we cake on the make-up, we angle our cameras to adjust the parts of us that we don’t like, or we digitally make them disappear.

Hiding your acne won’t make it go away

I realized I didn’t need to find proof of my acne because it’s currently all over my face! And the only reason I don’t have pictures that prove I have acne is because I avoid taking them. (Although, I did find one. Please feel free to zoom in on the picture below so you can see the giant spot on the bottom right of my chin).

Taken in Bayeux, France in fall 2019.

Yes, that’s right. I’m almost twenty-two and I still struggle with acne.

And do you want to know something else?

That’s perfectly normal.

It’s okay to have acne

I am not abnormal for having acne, and neither are you. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic, “For many women, acne can persist for decades, with flares common a week before menstruation.”

Decades.

While this information is comforting in its unifying nature, it still won’t cure the actual acne.

Getting rid of acne

Acne, pimples, zits — like adorable puppies — come in many shapes and sizes, grow rapidly, and typically in batches. Puppies are pretty great, but if you had to walk around with five of them hanging off of your face and biting you, you’d probably change your mind pretty quickly.

Now, if all the puppies on your face happened to be labrador retrievers, you could probably get rid of them by throwing a stick. However, oftentimes we find ourselves with a variety of puppy breeds on our faces so even if you get rid of the labradors you still have four terriers gnawing your chin. This isn’t an easy problem to solve, in fact, I spent about half my life trying to figure it out.

I’ve tried just about everything to get rid of acne over the span of ten years. When I saw a dermatologist as a teenager I was given a harsh face wash and a salve that smelled like rotten eggs. I eventually tried a three step acne kit that cleared my face somewhat and bleached all of my towels.

When I got tired of smelling like a floor-cleaning solution factory, I gave up and tried water-only rinsing my face twice a day which worked until it didn’t. At this point, I became desperate and went into a chaotic DIY phase. I made homemade face scrubs from anything I could find in my kitchen (would not recommend) and once I even covered my face with peanut butter (would really not recommend). I disliked the thought of switching back to something with harsh chemicals, but I felt like I didn’t have other options.

A natural solution for acne

It didn’t matter if I had one tiny pimple or a huge acne flare-up. I realized that the problem had less to do with whether I had acne or not and more to do with how I let my appearance dictate my sense of worth and value.

A few months ago I tried a sample of the  Honey Carrot and Tangerine Face and Body Bar. When I woke up, the painful cyst on my chin was barely there so I continued to use it for the rest of the week. During that week I had the clearest, most beautiful skin I’ve ever had (included proof in the picture below). This bar smells like glowing memories: a warm, happy deja vu…and can be used with any skin type.

Besides minimizing my acne, I felt like the Honey Carrot Bar also brightened my complexion and lightened my darker acne scars.

I was so thrilled with the results that I ordered the next biggest size along with a sample Acne Battle Bar, because my skin tends to get oily and I wanted a cleanser that would tackle everything from whiteheads to cysts. The Acne Battle Bar is packed with antibacterial, moisturizing and exfoliating ingredients like grapeseed oil and oatmeal…and the reviews glow as much as I want my skin to. Of course, I didn’t want my roommate to be jealous when all my fantastic soap arrived wrapped neatly in Tiffany blue tissue paper, so I had to order a sample Calendula Castile Bar for our bathroom counter, perfect for my roommate’s eczema (and also for my sensitive skin!). 

Because Apple Valley Natural soap is made with natural ingredients, it doesn’t cleanse with harsh chemicals and detergents that dry out your skin. Instead, our soap contains natural glycerin, a byproduct of natural oils and fats. Glycerin works as a humectant and draws water into the skin while also strengthening it. Studies have shown that Glycerin hydrates and improves the skin’s ability to defend against harmful agents, allowing it to act as a natural and effective cleanser.

I went to art class right after picking my package up and decided to have an impromptu photo shoot with my soap and my art supplies.

These bars are working wonders and I love using a small pump of Organic Moroccan Argan oil for an extra moisturizing boost.

If you suffer from dry skin, the Antioxidant Beauty Facial Soap Bar is packed with vitamins that will pamper and brighten your skin. Regardless of your skin type, you should try to keep your skin hydrated and clean. I do this by trying to drink at least six glasses of water a day and changing my pillowcase every week. 

You define your own beauty

My acne is hormonal, which means that sometimes the only real way to get rid of it is time. My acne makes me beautiful because it reminds me that I am more than my appearance. I love, love, love using Apple Valley Natural Soap to wash my face. Even when there’s nothing I can do about my acne, washing my face makes me feel beautiful because it smells SO amazing and feels soooo dreamy.

As I scrutinized pictures of myself for flaws I could expose for the purpose of this blog, I continually caught myself on this heartbreaking thought: “She’s so beautiful, and she didn’t know it.” I still criticize my appearance all of the time, when I should be appreciating the beauty I already have. I celebrate my younger self for her beauty: her beautiful intellect, her beautiful humor, her beautiful thoughtfulness. God made everyone with natural beauty, inside and out. We hope that our products will encourage your natural outer beauty, so that your inner beauty can shine.


Everything You Need to Know About Castile Soap

How is my love for acting related to Castile soap?

When I play a character in a show, I not only get to fill their shoes, I also trace their footsteps. 

Here I am with my fellow actor Dah in our production of I Hate Hamlet. I absolutely loved my costumes for this show…I felt like a princess!

Because of this, I’ve travelled through a number of character paths that have taken me around the world: I’ve stolen a Commedia dell’arte romp through the winding canals of Venice, floated through the dreamscape of Charles Dickens’s London, explored the historical and haunted flats that make up the New York City skyline, and washed a peasant’s laundry in (and I think you’ll see where I’m going here) Castile, Spain.

Castile? Wait, isn’t that a type of soap?

You guessed it!

The history of soap

Early soaps were made from combining animal fats and plant oils with salt or ash. This primitive soap was used for cleaning cooking utensils and medicinal purposes rather than for beauty and personal hygiene. As soap making became more refined it also became more expensive because it required both technique and coveted family recipes. Prices only dropped after production became more mainstream when chemicals were introduced to simplify the process.

What is Castile Soap?

Castile soap has been around for quite some time, but unlike the first soaps ever made it does not contain animal fat or ashes. However, a traditional Castile soap is also free from modern chemicals used in most mass-produced soaps.

So if it doesn’t have chemicals or animal byproduct, what exactly is it made of?

Olive oil.

And I’m sure you already guessed where those olives were grown.

Spain exports the world’s majority of olive oil and the production of olive oil in Spain can be traced back about 3,000 years. Although Castile soap got its name from a specific region in Spain, Castile soap can be made with olive oil from anywhere…which has its disadvantages.

The benefits of olive oil in Castile soap

Because Castile soap is generally defined as soap made with olive oil, many companies can get away with using small quantities of low grade olive oil while still labeling the soap as “Castile Soap” This soap will not have the same benefits as a soap composed of high quality olive oil.

Now, the advantage of using olive oil from outside of Castile is that it allows us to pick from the best. In keeping with the origins of the first Castile soaps, our organic virgin olive oil is sourced mainly from the Mediterranean region. Our true Castile soaps provide a gentle cleanse and act as a nourishing moisturizer. Our virgin olive oil is chemical free and retains its vitamin content, the reason behind olive oil’s health benefits (especially vitamin E). Vitamin E protects skin from the damage of free radicals and can help alleviate symptoms of eczema.

We choose to go organic with our virgin olive oil and many of our other products to promote the protection of the earth and water from harmful pesticides and we want our Castile soap to do the same for your skin. Our Calendula Castile Bar is the perfect soothing solution for sensitive skin (babies would highly recommend it…if they could talk). Our Lavender Castile Bar will create a calming, creamy lather…perfect for shaving! I know I’ve got the Lavender Orange Castile Bar on my wish-list and I’ve got an audition for Antigone tomorrow so I’m ready to get into character (Greece likes its olive oil too!)

Wish me Luck!

Nora


I’ve Got a Golden Ticket (To Apple Valley Natural Soap): how we make our natural soap

Chocolate factory…or Natural Soap factory?

If at first glance you mistook the photo above for a thick block of delicious chocolate fudge, don’t worry, I did too. Believe it or not, that’s actually the Salted Chocolate Sink Bar…so even if you can’t sink your teeth into it, you can still give your hands a good lather. The Salted Chocolate isn’t the only AVNS soap bar that looks good enough to eat, in fact, just browsing the AVNS website makes me feel like a kid in a candy store, and let me tell you, meeting Marianne for the first time felt a little like shaking hands with Willy Wonka himself.

I love chocolate, so it’s no surprise that I adore Rohld Dahl’s classic tale, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve always envied Charlie Bucket, the young hero who visits the mysterious and alluring chocolate factory and is swept into a whimsical adventure as he becomes privy to the secrets and inner workings of the fantastic factory.

While Charlie’s journey allows readers to peer into the fantastic world of Wonka’s factory, today I’ll be giving you the inside scoop on the process behind making our scrumptious soap!

Soap needs to be clean in order to clean!

You can have a giant factory with a bazillion hallways and rooms and a giant chocolate-churning fountain…or just a simple kitchen, but no matter where you set up, both Wonka and Marianne will agree that an important step in the creative process is cleanliness. When Augustus Gloop falls into Wonka’s chocolate river, Wonka is more distraught by the thought of contamination than he is about Gloop’s safety. The spaces where AVNS soap is made undergo scrutinous sterilization to ensure that the purity of each product remains intact.

Combining and balancing ingredients

The next step in soap making is to create a recipe. Great soap calls for a great recipe. The base ingredients lye and water are combined. The oils and butters are also combined as they gently melt at the correct temperature. Any delicate, heat-sensitive oils are added secondarily. When both the lye and oils are at the correct temperature, they are blended together until light trace (soap talk for the absence of oil streaks in the mixture). Finally, any essential oils and herbs are added and the soap is poured into molds.

As any chocolatier or “soaplatier” will tell you, attaining the correct balance of ingredients is essential. After Augustus Gloop gets sucked up the chocolate pipe and carried away to the fudge room, Mrs. Gloop panics at the thought of her son being turned into fudge. However, Mr. Wonka (knowing that Gloop would unbalance his recipe) reassures her he will not allow this to happen, “’Because the taste would be terrible..Just imagine it! Augustus-flavoured chocolate-coated Gloop! No one would buy it” (Dahl).

Can you imagine? Salted Chocolate Gloop Sink Bar? No, thank you.

The setting and curing process

One of my favorite parts in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is when Violet Beauregarde steals a stick of gum from Wonka’s Great Gum Machine and starts chewing. Wonka tries to warn the greedy girl that his recipe is premature, but Violet does not heed his warning and before she knows it, she begins to swell like a blueberry while consequently turning a violent shade of violet. Using our soap will never turn you into a blueberry because like Willy Wonka, we know that timing is everything. After the soap is poured into molds it sets for 12-36 hours and then cures for another 2-6 months.

What matters most

Willy Wonka prides himself on the inventive and exotic origins of his candy creations, but what is most important to him — and what Charlie learns during his visit — is that at the end of the day, what really matters most is the chocolate.

AVNS has an impressive selection of unique soaps, all different and all hand made…but when stripped down to the core, there is a greater mission at hand. All of AVNS soaps are biodegradable, meaning that every ingredient used in an AVNS bar of soap can be broken down by microorganisms. This natural form of decomposition is eco-friendly, making our soaps like the Organic Coconut BarsOrganic Castile Soap Bars and the seasonal Camping Bar great (and packable) for your camping expeditions!

Although the Salted Chocolate Sink Bar is inedible, it does have a little Wonka-esque trick up its sleeve: it doesn’t contain added scent. The minimal ingredient list allows the natural scent of delicious organic cocoa butter to smell for itself! This isn’t the only unscented soap bar, many of our natural and organic soaps use minimal ingredients to cater to both the environment and sensitive skin. Our Calendula Castile Bar is only composed of saponified organic extra virgin olive oil and organic calendula petals, that’s a peace-sign amount of ingredients!

By using minimal, natural ingredients to make our soap, AVNS aims to promote peace: both inner and with the earth. I’d pick that kind of peace over a piece of chocolate any day.

P.S. Although our soap looks good enough to eat (and is Gloop-free) please do not nibble!