Chapter 442 - Handmade Soap

In actuality, He Wanning’s skin was the shade of light wheat. Paired with her strong eyebrows, it also had a distinctive flavor and beauty. However, the climate in the north during the autumn and winter seasons tended to be on the dry side, so it was natural that it would cause her skin to become dehydrated.

Hechun had been silently standing behind her young miss when she heard this. Her mouth opened and closed but she didn’t end up saying anything. Despite that, Yu Xiaocao managed to sense her maid’s movements and turned her head to look at her for a bit. The two of them exchanged glances and, from Hechun’s eyes, Xiaocao could tell that this maid had brought along some of her recently-made handmade soap along.

She carefully inspected He Wanning’s complexion and quietly asked, “Miss He, what do you usually use to wash your face?”

“I naturally use the soap crafted by ‘Full Spring Fragrance’, which is the most famous cosmetics store in the capital. Since I often go out to ride my horse, if I don’t wash my face with soap, I feel like my face doesn’t get clean enough.” He Wanning stated this in a matter-of-fact manner. Although soap was an expensive item, most of the noble young maidens in the capital could afford to use it.

Li Meirou coldly remarked from the side, “Miss He, I’m afraid that some country bumpkins may not have heard of this type of soap. Isn’t this like playing the qin to a cow ah?”

One of the young girls sitting next to Li Meirou sniggered quietly. From time to time, some of the other young ladies would shoot a look to see if Yu Xiaocao had any reaction to this. Hechun was so incensed by this that her face turned red and wished she could go argue with these girls. Yu Xiaocao gave her warning look that said, ‘We’ll find out very shortly just who is the country bumpkin here.’ 

Yu Xiaocao glanced briefly at Li Meirou, who was immensely pleased with herself. She lightly laughed and continued to talk with He Wanning, “Full Spring Fragrance’s soap admittedly is very good at washing all of the dirt and oil off of your face, but it contains lye as one of its ingredients, so it takes away a lot of moisture from the skin. When added on to the dry climate of the north, it’s very easy for your skin to become dehydrated in autumn and winter. Our skin is like an apple. Originally, it is full of moisture and life but if it lacks water, it very easily shrivels up and becomes dry…”  

Wasn’t she claiming that a country bumpkin would not have heard of soap before? However, now, the person she was claiming to be a bumpkin knew the ingredients of the soap. Was there anything else she could say now? Li Meirou felt like her face had just been slapped and felt her complexion flush hotly.

“Then what should I do? If I don’t wash my skin clean, I’ll get pimples on my face. The pimples are red and quite swollen, so they don’t look very good! Younger Sister Xiaocao, I heard you’re skilled at medicine. Quickly tell me if there are any methods to fix this, okay?” He Wanning felt her own face and thought of a dried up apple that lost all of its juice. She shuddered and then had to ask if there was a solution.

Which maiden in her teenage years didn’t like to be beautiful? There were quite a few young ladies in this room that had some sort of problem with their complexion. Even the most expensive cosmetics didn't seem to do much for their skin. They had noticed that Yu Xiaocao had skin that looked as tender as tofu and felt their insides start to itch. Although they pretended to be disinterested on the surface, they all had their ears perked up as if they were afraid they would miss something important. 

Yu Xiaocao glanced at Hechun and the smile on her face became even more sincere as she said, “Tanggu is close to the ocean, so the air tends to be more humid. It was only after coming to the capital that I started feeling like my skin was getting dry in this climate. I also have similar issues to Miss He. I spend a lot of time outside due to work and my skin gets exposed to the buffeting of the wind and the harsh rays of the sun. If I don’t protect my skin, wouldn’t it become as rough as tree bark then?”

 When He Wanning heard this, she repeatedly nodded her head, “Stop saying ‘Miss He’ this and “Miss He’ that. It seems so distant ah! I’m only older than you by a few years, so just call me by Older Sister He then. Younger Sister Xiaocao, quickly tell me what methods you have to protect your skin, okay?”

When the other young maidens heard He Wanning’s statement, they looked at Xiaocao with gazes full of envy and jealousy. He Wanning was the granddaughter of the Princess Royal [1] and, consequently, had a high status in the capital. She also had a somewhat proud and aloof personality. Most people found it difficult to get close to her. However, they would have never expected that a young girl from a farmer’s family would get her good opinion after meeting her once. It looked like this Yu Xiaocao was someone not to be underestimated!  

Yu Xiaocao flitted a look at all of the other maidens’ expressions and smiled more deeply. A pair of cute dimples appeared on her face that were adorable enough to make people take a second glance, “I guess I will have to assent to your request and tell my secrets then! Older Sister He, to protect the skin, you need to hold in moisture and prevent damage from the sun. Let’s talk about protecting your skin from the sun. The best method would be to wear a sunshade or veil when you go outside. If you don’t like wearing those, then you need to spread some protective cosmetics on your skin. In actuality, the best method is to not go outside when the sun’s rays are the harshest. As for keeping and replenishing moisture in the skin, aloe vera is one of the best things to use…”

“Aloe vera? What is that?” He Wanning wasn’t the only one who hadn’t heard of this term. Even Royal Princess Minglan had never heard of this type of plant.

Yu Xiaocao thought for a bit and suddenly realized something. Aloe vera was a native plant in Africa. The Great Ming Dynasty did have aloe vera but it was probably something that was brought over by the emperor or Royal Prince Yang when they had journeyed to the western hemisphere. Since this plant didn’t look very dazzling, most of these young maidens probably didn’t notice it, which was why none of these girls knew about it.

“Aloe vera is a type of plant from the western hemisphere. It has large and fat leaves. When the leaves are cut open, it will reveal some plant juice. This plant juice can help decrease the redness from someone’s skin and also add hydration. Besides that, aloe vera also has some medicinal properties. However, the juice from aloe vera shouldn’t be put directly on the skin as some people may have allergies to it…” Yu Xiaocao started to explain.  

“Allergies? What are allergies?” He Wanning was currently a curious little dumpling. She had a pretty high ability to catch onto unfamiliar phrases.

“Allergies ah…” Yu Xiaocao paused for a bit to think before she continued, “Allergies are when you have a particular reaction to something. Some people will have large raised red bumps on their skin after touching something. These bumps can be itchy or cause peeling of the skin. Other people will start feeling like they have cold symptoms. Their noses will start itching and they will sneeze a lot. More severe reactions will lead to trouble breathing…”

Before Yu Xiaocao could finish, one of the young maidens suddenly exclaimed, “My mother can’t be around cats and dogs or other animals that have fur on them. Otherwise, she can’t stop sneezing and her eyes won’t stop tearing up. It’s very uncomfortable for her. Is that an allergy?”

“That’s right, your honored mother is likely allergic to the fur on animals. As long as she stays away from them, she naturally wouldn’t have any reaction.” Yu Xiaocao nodded her head in assent.

There was another young lady who had a more introverted personality and didn’t like to talk. She was around fifteen to sixteen years of age. She wanted to say something but then hesitated. Finally, she decided to ask, “Miss Yu, in the spring, my face gets itchy and will also have some small bumps appear. Is that also an allergy?”

Spring allergies were very common and a lot of people were allergic to the pollen and fluffy catkins from willow trees. Yu Xiaocao stated without thinking, “It must be. I don't know what kind of flora you have in your garden. Can you list them for me?”

The young lady thought for a second and then replied, “In my courtyard, there’s not a lot of flowers. I like the gentle elegance of weeping willows so my mother had the servants plant a lot of weeping willows next to the small pond…”  

“Then when you have the symptoms on your face, does it happen when the fluffy catkins from the willows come out?” Yu Xiaocao had a good idea of what was going on and asked specifically about this.

That young maiden thought for a bit and then hurriedly nodded her head, “Indeed! Every time the fluffy seeds are flying around is when my skin has problems. I love looking at floating seeds drifting around the air. It’s as if a warm snow is falling and very beautiful...but every time I’m done admiring the sight, the bumps on my face get worse. Does that mean my allergies are related to the willow trees?”

Yu Xiaocao nodded her head, “Many people are allergic to willow catkins. As long as they keep far away from them and add moisturizing ingredients to their skin, their symptoms will naturally decrease.”

He Wanning patiently waited through the conversation about allergies and now impatiently asked the question that everyone wanted to ask, “Younger Sister Xiaocao, can you tell us, how do you keep your skin hydrated?”

“Didn’t I mention it earlier? Aloe vera juice has very good hydrating properties. I’ve altered some soap and created handmade aloe vera soap. It not only cleans the skin well but also prevents moisture from leaving the skin.” Yu Xiaocao pretended to smile in a mysterious manner.

“Handmade aloe vera soap? This is soap that has the hydrating aloe vera juice added to it? Younger Sister Xiaocao, did you bring any along today? Can you take it out to let us older sisters take a look?” At a party or banquet, most people had to wash their hands at some point. Some maidens were more picky and would always bring their own soap along. Because of this, He Wanning asked to see if Xiaocao brought any soap along.

Yu Xiaocao gave Hechun a look and lightly laughed as the rest of the girls looked at her, “I’m not used to using the soap that is sold by the stores in the capital, so I really did bring some along. I not only brought over some aloe vera soap but I also brought over some new soap that my maid and I came up that contains honey and milk in it. It not only can maintain the skin’s hydration but also has brightening and whitening effects…”

“Quickly take it out so we can see!” He Wanning could no longer wait. Before they realized it, Xiaocao had become the person under the spotlight. Even Royal Princess Minglan no longer had the patience to talk to the other guests and instead looked at Xiaocao with interest as she sat next to her.

Hechun had a proud look on her face as she transferred the two flower pots in her hands to one of the maids in charge of this warm room. She took out her personal purse and carefully lifted out two delicately carved wooden boxes. These boxes were tiny and adorable and had a lily carved on their lids.

He Wanning grabbed one of the wooden boxes and carefully lifted the lid. Everyone could see that inside the box was a handmade soap that looked as beautiful as the most precious mutton-fat jade. It was about half the size of a maiden’s palm and was in the shape of a flower. On the top of the soap, they could also see a small lifelike honeybee carved there.

“It’s so beautiful and it even has the light sweet smell of cow’s milk. It resembles the most expensive pastry from ‘Daohua Village’!” A plump young girl who still had some baby fat on her face exclaimed somewhat foolishly. Apparently, before they knew it, Yu Xiaocao had attracted the attention of everyone and had been surrounded by all of the young maidens. Everyone craned their necks so that they could see the box holding the soap in He Wanning’s hands.

Yu Xiaocao introduced this product, “Older Sister He is holding the milk and honey handmade soap. It not only brightens and hydrates the skin, but it also leaves a light fragrance on your hands after you wash with it.”  “Quickly, bring a basin of water over. I want to try it!” He Wanning had an impetuous personality, so she immediately ordered one of the maids to bring some washing water over.

Royal Princess Minglan was also holding a small wooden box in her hands. Inside this box was a handmade soap in the shape of a leaf. It was so intricately decorated that she could even see the ‘veins’ on the leaf. It had a pale green color that looked very fresh and cute. A light sniff revealed a simple and delicate fragrance that reminded people of the smell of spring in the countryside. The aroma reminded them of fresh cut grass and spring flowers and was intoxicating to them.

“Is this...the handmade soap that has some aloe vera juice added to it?” Royal Princess Minglan quietly asked.

Yu Xiaocao nodded her head and smiled, “This soap is very good at maintaining skin hydration. After washing your hands, your skin will feel slippery and soft. It feels quite comfortable.” 

The water basin had been brought up and He Wanning wet her hands before holding the milk and honey handmade soap bar. She grinned, “Such a beautiful handmade soap. I almost can’t bear to use it!”


[1] Princess Royal - title usually given to imperial princesses to denote them as higher ranked compared to other imperial princesses. Can be given to the 'legitimate' daughter of the emperor (aka daughter of the empress). Also sometimes used to denote the differences between the emperor's sisters vs the emperor's daughters

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Myst.2's Thoughts

Sanguine’s Thoughts: I once made soap too. And by ‘make’ I mean I bought some glycerin soap base, added some dye and fragrance, and poured it into molds. It was pretty fun!

Translator: Sanguine