When we started making soap, one of my first goals was to have a Hau Hele version of everything we make. I knew it would be a challenge to get the properties I wanted. However, I also knew the results would be well worth it. It did take several tries and failed batches, but I just viewed those as failed light bulb filaments. You can ask my wife about my persistence. I’m a firm believer in the old adage, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” And, persistence pays off!
What is Hau Hele? And, why did I work so hard to make it?
Hau Hele - Our Hibiscus Tea Soaps.
Hau Hele is pronounced “hō hêlā”. It comes from the name of the state flower of Hawaii which is the the yellow hibiscus flower. It’s name there is Pua ma‘o hau hele. Hibiscus plants are called Botox plants because they contain several anti-aging proteins and compounds. The flowers make a popular tea that contains numerous antioxidants and natural acids called alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA). These are acids like hibiscus acid, citric acid, malic and tartaric acids. The flowers also contain a water soluble fiber called mucilage. Used in soap, hibiscus tea helps
Even out skin tone
And that’s just the flowers in a tea used externally. Internally hibiscus tea does so much more. The leaves also promote hair growth and decrease graying.
The natural acids of hibiscus flowers might do wonders for your skin but they wreak havoc on soap recipes. Soap which is supposed to be alkaline, has a pH range of 9 to 10. Hibiscus tea runs the opposite direction of neutral and has a pH range of 2.5 to 4.6. For reference, distilled water has a neutral pH of 7 and the pH scale runs from 1 to 14. The normal soap makers rule goes something like this:
Soap + Acid = Mush
Making a soap that defied the rules was welcome challenge for me. As a kid, I learned how remove tree stumps by putting drain cleaner and foil in a bottle. Did I mention that I love exploding things? But, I am so not giving those details because I don’t want people in dark sunglasses knocking at my door. Anyway, the chemistry of hibiscus tea is a bit of an art because variables such flowers to water ratio effect the pH. So the first step was to weed out all those variables and make a consistent tea with a consistent pH before I could move on to any other step.
This tea still had a lot more to teach me. I also had to find a new way to test pH because the hibiscus tea kept tainting the colors. As it turns out the actual hibiscus tea and the juice from another plant can be used to test the pH. I can go into further details about my mad scientist experiences in a later article. Let’s get into the “Why.”
The reason I was so determined to get hibiscus tea into our Hua Hele soaps was because of what hibiscus tea does for the skin. Let’s start with AHA. Alpha Hydroxy Acids break down dead skin cells and their bonds which speeds up cell turnover. Without the dead skin cells to clog pores or build up in layers, your pores are allowed to breathe and produce their oils without any hinderance. This is what helps to control acne breakouts and even our your skin complexion. Once the dead layers have been shed or thinned, the hibiscus tea can actually help your skin absorb moisture. Mucilage, the natural fiber can be compare to microscopic sponges that hold the moisture against your cells long enough for them to absorb it.
Along with moisture, your skin absorbs powerful antioxidant called anthocyanocides. (Cyano-cides as in blue, NOT cyanides!) These protect against free radical damage. Anthocyanocides also have slightly astringent properties which reduces the appearance of large pores for a smoother complexion. The antioxidants also inhibit the formation of the enzyme called elastase. Elastase is an enzyme that breaks down the elastin in our skin. Elastin is the connective tissue keeping your skin attached to the muscles in your face and body. By preserving and protecting the elastin you keep your skin looking younger, and firmer, longer.
There is still so much more that scientists are discovering about this natural Botox plant. And, the list of what IS known keeps going. I’ve included some research papers below for those who want to dig deeper into the science. I’ve been drinking hibiscus tea most of my life but only started using it externally for the last few years. We will be coming out with more Hau Hele products as we continue. We just have to refine our preservation & packaging methods. Keep in mind that we only use natural preservatives, like citric acid and sea salt, and biodegradable packaging. But, nothing worth doing ever comes easy.