With homemade body products, including lotions and scrubs, you can avoid questionable chemicals and feel like a wizard at the same time
Reducing the amount you consume is hands down the easiest way to reduce your environmental impact. Buying less means less packaging to dispose of, fewer products cluttering your home and fewer items destined for the landfill when they break or become obsolete.
Living with less has significant other benefits too, like giving yourself the opportunity to create. Tackling DIY projects to upgrade items we already own, or creating meals from scratch instead of buying something pre-made, allows us to tap into a self-sufficiency we’ve largely lost touch with.
This week, I’m going to share a few recipes for household products I’ve been using for years. These homemade lotions and potions are easy to whip up and contain just a few simple, natural, and easy to source ingredients. Best of all, you’ll have the satisfaction of making something. When was the last time you did that?
Rich body lotion
Coconut oil is still my go-to moisturizer for summer, but this recipe has saved my skin during Canada’s many dry winter months when forced air, indoor heaters, and an arid climate dry out my skin at an alarming rate. I typically double or triple this recipe, as I inevitably end up giving jars of this cream to friends and family as gifts.
1 cup water
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp grated beeswax
Essential oil in a scent of your choice (optional)
Place the olive oil and beeswax in a saucepan or double boiler and gently warm over medium heat until the beeswax has melted.
Add the water to a blender, or a bowl if you’d prefer to use a stand or hand mixer. Start the blender/mixer and slowly (sloooowly) add the oil and beeswax mixture.
Don’t be alarmed – it will look like a bizarre mess at first and you may think you’ve ruined the whole thing, but just trust me and keep mixing. Gradually, the two liquids will magically emulsify into a rich, thick cream.
Add essential oils if you’d like a scented lotion, and then use a spatula to transfer the cream into sterilized glass jars. I keep extra jars in the fridge until I’m ready to use them.
There are many reasons to make your own toothpaste; concerns about common ingredients like fluoride, potentially mouth-damaging detergents like sodium lauryl sulfate, and the pervasive use of plastic tube packaging are only a few.
This recipe neatly sidesteps all three issues and is simple and effective. Your teeth will never feel cleaner! It may take you a few brushes to get used to the slightly salty taste of the baking soda/bicarbonate of soda, but I now find that when I am visiting friends or family and use “regular” toothpaste, it tastes overwhelmingly sweet.
1/4 cup baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)
1-2 drops peppermint, spearmint, anise or cinnamon essential oils (optional)
Add the baking soda to a sterilized glass jar and slowly add water until you get a thin paste. Add one to two drops of essential oils if you prefer a flavoured toothpaste, and use as you normally would.
When I began making this toothpaste, I was amazed by how smooth and clean my teeth felt – I was getting a dentist-level feeling of clean without the accompanying sweaty, white-knuckled visit. After a few weeks, however, I started to wonder if the baking soda/bicarbonate of soda was wearing away at the enamel of my teeth.
There’s a rating system called the Relative Dentin Abrasivity (RDA) scale designed to measure precisely how much wear and tear each brand of toothpaste creates on the surface of the tooth. The scale runs from zero to 200, zero being the least abrasive.
Baking soda/bicarbonate of soda clocked in at a measly 7 on the RDA scale, while the nearest commercial toothpaste registered at a 35 (incidentally, it was the Arm and Hammer baking soda toothpaste). Other popular brands such as Colgate Tartar Control racked up a score of a whopping 165.
So, while baking soda/bicarbonate of soda may feel more abrasive than its store-bought counterparts, you can bet your pearly white teeth it’s not.
The final recipe isn’t so much a strict recipe as it is a general guideline to help you whip up satisfying face and body scrubs in no time. Exfoliating with a scrub helps slough away dead skin, but commercial scrubs often contain a slew of artificial fragrances and colours, not to mention ocean-killing plastic microbeads. To hell with all that! Save your money, avoid the plastic packaging, and mix up a few of your own. It’s dead simple and your skin will be radiant and silky smooth in no time.
The basic idea is to combine a liquid (water, oils like olive, coconut and sweet almond, or honey) with a natural abrasive (brown/white sugar, coffee grounds, baking soda/bicarbonate of soda). Mix the two together into a loose paste and apply to damp skin in the shower. Be prepared for a bit of a mess if you use dark ingredients like brown sugar or coffee grounds, and do watch your step if you use oils.
A few of my favourites are baking soda/bicarbonate of soda mixed with a few drops of water for a simple face scrub, and coconut oil and brown sugar for a sweet body scrub. Don’t scrub too hard when you’re applying these – let the ingredients do the work for you or you might irritate your skin. After washing it off, dry and moisturize as you normally would (perhaps with your homemade body cream?).
The point of creating your own products isn’t just so you know exactly what goes in them. It’s also to reconnect with the process of creating. Consuming requires us to become passive, but creating (no matter what we create) results in an active participation in our day-to-day lives and the world around us.
Not to mention that even though I’ve been making things for years now, every time I whip up a fresh batch of lotion or toothpaste, I feel like a goddamned wizard. You just can’t beat that.
This article was written by Madeleine Somerville, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 23rd February 2016 17.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010