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Mica Powder vs. Pigment Powder – What is the difference?

Article Culled from

Recently I’ve noticed much confusion about the difference between mica powder and pigment powder. Both can be mixed into and used to add color to resin, soap, candles, and translucent polymer clay. They are both colorants and can be used to color the surface of polymer clay. But they are not the same thing. Here’s the difference.

Mica is sparkly. Pigment powder is matte. They behave differently. But online listings are often confusing and they’re sometimes sold mixed together in the same packet. And that can mean the powder you bought won’t work as you expect.

Mica Powder

Mica is a natural stone mineral with shiny flakes. When mica is ground into a powder, you get mica powder. Mica powders are therefore sparkly, sort of like very fine glitter. They’re used to give a metallic or shimmery pearl-like effect. They come in many colors. Pearl Ex is a popular brand of pure mica powder. (See a color chart of all Pearl Ex colors here.) While mica powders do often have color, they’re not optimal for coloring things because their main purpose is to create sparkle or shine. They won’t create a solid wash of bright color.

Pigment Powder

Pigment powders are ground-up colors, sort of like powdered colored chalk. Pigments are the actual colors themselves and have names such as ultramarine blue, cadmium red, yellow ochre, and titanium white. There are also artificial pigments with names like Pigment Blue 15. Pigments are what manufacturers use to give paint its color. They are not sparkly. Pigment powders are excellent at coloring things (this is their job, after all). Pure artist’s pigments (pure color) are fairly expensive, so pigments you buy from cheap sellers online are usually mixed with fillers (such as chalk) that make the color go farther. (For the nitpickers among us… in recent years the word pigment occasionally refers to mica and synthetic mica particles. Therefore it can be said that mica is a type of pigment, but pigments are not mica. But in reality, these materials are two different things and are very dissimilar materials.)


Confusion happens when sellers of craft materials try to gain buyers by using confusing keywords. You often see listings in online marketplaces (like this one on Amazon) where the terms are used rather loosely. In this case, I’m not exactly sure what you’d get. You might get pigments, you might get mica powder, or you might get a mixture. And while we’re at it, these colorants are not a dye, contrary to what the listing says. Pigments and dyes are completely different things, as explained in this article.

Used in Cosmetics

Both mica powders and pigment powders are used in the cosmetics industry. In fact, a combination of pigments and mica powder is used to create eye shadow, blush, and powdered foundation makeup. These can be used with polymer clay. You can read about Using Eye Shadow with Polymer Clay here. Cosmetic supply companies are excellent sources of both pigments and mica powder. But choose a reputable company to be sure of exactly what you’re getting.

They Behave Differently

While both mica powders and pigments can be used to color the surface of polymer clay, they do behave quite differently. Knowing which material you have will help you know how to use it in your clay project. These are both incredibly versatile materials that can be used in so many ways beyond adding rosy cheeks to a cherub. For example, about a third of the veneers in my 100 Days Project are done using mica powders and pigment powders. Here’s an example of a veneer using only pigment powders, mica powders, and a stencil.

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Deciding Which: a Hydrosol or an Essential Oil?

Deciding Which: a Hydrosol or an Essential Oil?

Cristin McDonnell has studied Ayurvedic medicine and brings her interest in healing to our work here at Harms Vineyards and Lavender Fields. This is one of a series of her blogs on healing.

I was in the process of writing this blog when my mom called. I explained that I was trying to write about when is it best to use either an essential oil or a hydrosol. My mom said, “Wait, what about people like me who are not familiar with either?”

I was a bit reluctant to write about the difference between an essential oil and a hydrosol, as there is already so much information out there on both. Then I remembered the words of the Ayurvedic practitioner I studied with: repetition, repetition, repetition.  So, if you are already familiar with both, then I guess a little review never hurts, right?

An essential oil and a hydrosol are both products of plant distillation. The essential oil is the concentrated oil from distillation and contains the oil soluble constituents, whereas the hydrosol is the water based product of the distillation process with tiny bits of the oil in suspension within it. It contains the water-soluble constituents.  Consumers will be happy to know that when they purchase a hydrosol, they are getting a 100% distilled product.  Hydrosols can not be manufactured synthetically in a laboratory.

My curiosity in writing this blog came from wanting to understand people’s preference in using one or the other. I love both. The aromatic you chose will certainly depend on your purpose for using the product. Then comes choosing which form, the oil or a hydrosol?

In my Ayurvedic studies, treatment  wasn’t just a matter of learning the patient’s symptom and then prescribing an herb. It was a matter of getting to know your patient as a whole and understanding the patient’s reason for the consultation on both a physical and emotional level.

The same thought process can be applied when deciding whether to use a hydrosol or an essential oil.  Knowing yourself, your skin type, and your purpose for choosing either product, will guide you in your choice. Patients that I have talked with have said that either the hydrosol or oil has given them not only a physical healing, but also an emotional healing. When you make these choices,  you really are thinking of yourself holistically.

Some patients prefer hydrosols because they are typically the more sensitive of the two products.  Both the essential oils and hydrosols are anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, but because of the water component, hydrosols are often more tolerable. Some find the water component makes the hydrosol soothing and refreshing. Examples of sensitive skin issues where a hydrosol may be a better choice, include treating second degree burns,  and treating children and older patients.

Another patient, who typically prefers hydrosols over essential oils, suffers from a wrist injury that has been on-going for months.  In treating the injury to her wrist, she found the essential oil to be a more soothing option.  This is a great example in knowing yourself and what your body needs to heal.

As I mentioned before, I personally use both. There are many reasons that I use lavender essential oil, but one reason is that I am sensitive to perfumes. I can wear a fragrant essential oil without the sensitivity or headaches that perfumes give me. I prefer hydrosols for treating skin conditions that appear on my face.

When deciding between using an essential oil or a hydrosol, first think about your purpose and then give yourself a quick, holistic health examination. Consider your mind, body, spirit and then proceed to the most suitable choice of aromatherapy.

Source: 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols, by Jeanne Rose

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Activated Charcoal Face Mask

Below are a few recipes ( actually similar variants) for charcoal face mask Do not wear light color clothing!

Activated charcoal is a well-known toxin remover, making this mask both cleansing and soothing for your skin and pores.

non-metal mixing bowl
wooden or plastic mixing utensil
cosmetic or other brush

1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal  
1/2 teaspoon  bentonite clay   
1/4 teaspoon  virgin coconut oil  
1/4 teaspoon  virgin avocado oil  
1 teaspoon  water   
How To Make A Charcoal Mask
1.In a small non-metal bowl, mix together all ingredients with a wooden or plastic spoon.
2.Use a cosmetic or other brush to apply the mixture to your face. Be careful to avoid your eyes and mouth.
3.Let the mask sit on your face until it dries, then remove it with a warm washcloth, rinse your face with cool water, and pat dry.

I added a drop or two of eucalyptus. I also made more than the recipe called for and put the remainder in the ‘fridge for next week.


Charcoal Mask Ingredients
1 tea spoon bentonite clay
1 teaspoon  activated charcoal powder
2 teaspoon  water
½ teaspoon  raw honey
1 drop each tea tree and lavender essential oil (optional)

How To Make A Charcoal Mask
1.In a small glass bowl add the water and essential oil.
2.Sprinkle the bentonite clay over the top of the water mixture in the bow. Allow it to absorb for a about 10 seconds before adding the rest of the ingredients. This makes the mixture easier to combine.
3.Use a small rubber spatula to mash and mix everything together. The clay will want to stay lumpy, so this takes a few minutes to mix thoroughly. You’ll have enough mixture here for 2 face masks.
4.Once your mask is mixed, apply it liberally to your face. Allow it to dry, about 10 minutes, before washing off with soap and warm water.

Note: This mask is meant to be used in one use and will not store well, as it does not contain preservatives.

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Red Palm Oil

The Oil Palm

The oil palm (Elaeis guineensis jacq.) is a species of palm that originates from West Africa in particular the area between Angola and Gambia. It is a perennial, tropical tree crop that starts bearing fruits in large bunches, weighing between 5-30kg each, after 30 months of field planting.

The oil palm fruitlets from the bunches (known as fresh fruit bunches) are unique as each produces two types of edible vegetable oil; palm oil from the mesocarp (flesh of the fruit) and palm kernel oil from the kernel (seed). Both are edible oils but with very different chemical compositions, physical properties and applications.

Each fruit bunch will produce 20-25% oil at the mill. For every 10 tonnes of palm oil produced at the mill, 1 tonne of palm kernel oil is produced when the kernel is crushed.

The oil palm keeps producing the fruit bunches until the end of its economic lifespan of between 25-30 years. This remarkable agronomic characteristic allows the oil palm to provide a consistent and uninterrupted supply of vegetable oils to meet ever-increasing global demand

What is palm oil?

Palm oil, like olive oil, is a fruit oil. It is the only vegetable oil that contains an equal proportion of unsaturated and saturated fatty acids. It is particularly rich in saturated palmitic acid (44%), and monounsaturated oleic acid (40%). Palm oil is also naturally very stable because of its low content of polyunsaturated fatty acids (10%), in addition to its Vitamin E content.

Is palm oil similar to palm kernel oil?

No. Palm oil comes from the mesocarp or flesh of the oil palm fruit while palm kernel oil comes from the kernel or seed. In terms of uses, palm oil is mainly used for edible purposes, while palm kernel oil is generally used for non-edible purposes such as making soaps, cosmetics and detergents. In addition, palm kernel oil has specialised applications in confectionery fats, or cocoa butter substitute (CBS) and cocoa butter equivalent (CBE).

Red Palm Oil (RPO)

Why are certain palm oil products red in colour?

Crude palm oil is very rich in plant pigments called carotenoids, which give the oil a natural distinct orange-red colour. In conventional refining process, all the carotenoids in crude palm oil are removed; giving the refined oil a golden-yellow colour. Thanks to an innovative technology introduced by the Malaysian palm oil industry, the healthful natural carotenoids (along with Vitamin E) in the oil are retained in the refined product marketed as red palm oil.

Red palm oil (RPO) is the only commercially-available vegetable oil that contains substantial amounts of carotenoids (about 550 μg/g) and Vitamin E (600 μg/g) comprising tocotrienols (65%) and alpha-tocopherols (35%).

Some of the carotenoids in RPO are converted to vitamin A in our body; the rest of the carotenoids, together with vitamin E (particularly tocotrienols), are reported to play a vital role in advanced nutrition – boosting the immune system, scavenging damaging reactive oxygen species in our body, and are involved in complex mechanisms, which have evolved to protect the body from chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancers of the breast and skin.

How much red palm oil (RPO) does it take to supply the RDA for Vitamin A?

 The carotenoid content of RPO is higher than that in tomatoes, with beta-carotene (60%) and alphacarotene (30%) forming the two main pro-Vitamin A carotenoids. As a potential source of Vitamin A, RPO provides about 7,000 retinol equivalents (RE) per 100 grams. This means that one teaspoon (6 grams) of RPO will supply the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of Vitamin A for a child (350-400 RE), while double this amount (12 grams) would supply the RDA for an adult (800 RE).The body converts whatever Vitamin A it needs (on top of pre-formed Vitamin A from foods of animal origin) from pro-Vitamin A carotenoids, so there is no danger of excess conversion.


Tocotrienols, like tocopherols, are members of the Vitamin E family. Both can exist in the alpha-, beta-, gamma- or delta-forms called isomers.Vitamin E (both tocotrienols and tocopherols) in food can have any combination of these eight isomers.

Polyunsaturated edible oils are liquids and would need to be first “hardened” by hydrogenation in order that they may attain the semi-solid nature for manufacture of food products such as margarines, shortenings, vegetable ghee, confectionery, and bakery products.

During the hydrogenation process carried out at high temperatures, the fatty acids in these oils are transformed into the trans fatty acids (TFAs) which are harmful to health. Such hydrogenated fats, containing TFAs, are also referred to as “trans fats”.

What are the dietary sources of tocotrienols?

Palm oil is rich in Vitamin E tocotrienols. Tocotrienols are also found in rice bran oil. Corn oil, soybean oil canola oil and sunflower oil do not contain Vitamin E tocotrienols.

What is so special about tocotrienols?

Tocotrienols act as more powerful antioxidants than tocopherols. Scientific research conducted in the United States and elsewhere has demonstrated that tocotrienols have remarkable health effects. Tocotrienols protect against free radical – induced oxidative stress.
Consumption of tocotrienols is associated with cardioprotective effects, skin health, anti-cancer and cancer suppression properties, and neuroprotection.

1.      Palm oil is one of Nature’s richest sources of Vitamin E tocotrienols and pro-Vitamin A carotenoids.

2.    It is cholesterol-free. Studies have shown that palm olein (liquid portion of palm oil) and olive oil have similar beneficial effects on plasma cholesterol levels.

3.    Additionally, animal and cell-culture studies have found that palm tocotrienols inhibit the growth of certain types of cancer.

4.    Stable at high temperatures, palm olein is the ideal choice for household and industrial frying as it is less prone to oxidation.

5.     Palm oil is also odourless and neutral in flavour, thus preserving the natural taste of food.

6.    Unlike other vegetable oils, palm oil is naturally semi- solid at room temperature; it does not require hydrogenation and is therefore free of trans fats.

7.     Used in popular shampoo, conditioning and soap products, toothpaste. Palm oil derivatives can be found in body lotions, night creams, deodorants, shaving products and other cosmetics.

8.    Palm oil is one of the 17 edible oils cited by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) / World Health Organisation (WHO) Food Standard under the CODEX Alimentarius Commission Programme.


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African Black Soap & Skin Care Tips

You may be wondering what is special about the African black Soap whether it’s in bar, paste or liquid form. By the way, similar to Shea butter, it used to be a must have back then in west Africa until the quest for modernization and the fact that the producers then did not evolve quickly pushed it off the shelves.

It was usually sold in cake form and depending on household size, you could buy a half kilo form wrapped in leaves or paper that our mother would then cut portions for use.

The natural black soap is not black in color , it is usually a kind of dark brownish color as a result of the ash used instead of lye.

Typical ingredients include : Shea butter, palm kernel oil, palm oil, cocoa pod ash/banana skin ash/palm bunch ash, coconut oil, wild honey, cam-wood etc.

The plant ash serves as the natural lye (Potassium carbonate) which is very gentle on the skin and hair.

Now the choice of oils or plant ash depends on the what is available locally hence the variation in hardness, lather and sometimes color but it does not take away the fact that it’s 100% natural.

There are modern day variants like Dudu Osun which include Aloe vera, Lime Juice and Fragrance. Otherwise, African black soap should not have artificial colors added and should not be solid black color.

The African black soap helps deep cleans, nourish, protects and refreshes the skin. It is used for bathing and hair wash.

And if you find the bars drying, then try the paste or the liquid forms as they are made for more sensitive skins.

Will leave you with below formula from one our esteemed customer (thanks Dessi!). In her own exact writing;

“Absolute must have!!! I can’t imagine using anything else as a face wash. Here is how I prepare my Black African Soap FACE WASH:”

200 ml Distilled water/Rose water
2-3 TBSP Black African Soap
3 drops Tea tree oil
5 drops Lavender

Enjoy is and Pass it on.

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Shea Butter Experience

It is only natural that the first blog should revolve around our premier product. Two years ago (August 2014), we started this online portal with unrefined Shea butter (Ivory & Yellow) and African black soap.

Growing up in West Africa, Shea butter is a must for any household, applied on new born babies instead of modern formulas. After sustaining light injuries while playing in the neighborhood it applied on strains and muscle aches and my grand parents like to apply it all over the body before going to bed usually mixed with mint/eucalyptus oils especially during the cold weather.

Yes, you might say it is not so soft, yes back then it’s mostly softened with coconut oil and applied on all parts of the body (hair & body).

Briefly, I will try to answer a few questions we often get about Shea butter, first is about the colour. The most “natural” colour of Shea butter is the ivory/off white or beige colour. To make the yellow, a root dye is from borututu tree (Cochlospermum angolensis) is added. By the way this tree has tremendous medical benefits also. When only this dye is added, then the ivory and yellow have the same qualities. However, some unscrupulous individuals add some other chemical additives to create deeper yellow color, which in any case changes colour after a few months.

Second question is about Shea butter being organic or not. Shea butter (Karite tree) grows in the wild hence there is no concept of organic farming. What you can have is “organic” collection of the nuts. More importantly for me is the fair trade where the local communities usually women that produce the shea butter are adequately compensated.

I will leave you with below simple recipe based on what I grew up with that is good for both the hair and dry skin type

170gm Shea butter

50gm Virgin Coconut oil

Any choice of essential oil (20 drops)

Empty clean jar

Melt unrefined Shea butter on the steam using double pot.  Put it out of the steam and add the coconut oil while mixing it. When cooled a little bit, Use a hand mixer to whip in Air. Put it in a clean jar and let it cool down on the room temperature. The  Shea butter recipe is now ready to use. Keep it in an airtight glass container.

Do leave comments with formulas that work for you.