From the vast array of hair and body care products available at the store, one might think hygiene products are finely tuned exercises in chemistry. Some are, but for the most part, things like shampoo and conditioner are just a great way to part you from your money. Unless your body has particular sensitivities, you can cook up a sizable number of hygiene products from within the comfort of your home: Shampoo? Check. Conditioner? Check. Deodorant? Check. I could keep going, but why waste your time? Let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how to free yourself from the petrochemical grip of commercial body care, and maybe even save you some money.
Shampoo and Conditioner: Commercial shampoo works by stripping our hair of dirt and natural oils, using chemical whirlwinds made up of sulfates, mineral oils, and sketchy unpronounceables. Then we use conditioner to restore moisture. Instead, try this: Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda into a cup or more of warm water. Mix it until the baking soda dissolves. Apply the solution to sections of hair while bathing, and massage it into the roots. For oily hair, skip conditioning entirely; for dry hair, condition with a solution of 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. Play with the proportions of baking soda/apple cider vinegar to water, and over time you will find the balance just right for you. It may sound like you’re just making a volcano, but it really works.
Deodorant: You can make your own (very effective) deodorant for super-cheap! And even better, no sketchy aluminum. Just keep it in a shallow, lidded, wide-mouthed jar or bowl, and apply with your fingertips. From www.bonzaiaphrodite.com:
1/3 cup corn starch
1/3 cup baking soda
10 drops of antibacterial essential oil (tea tree, lavender, or eucalyptus)
10 drops antifungal essential oil (tea tree, peppermint, sandalwood, or eucalyptus)
2 tablespoons Vitamin E oil
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Mix everything up in a bowl until it forms a thick paste. Transfer to your storage container and then allow 24 hours to “set up.”
Face and Body Scrubs: To give you an idea of how wayward the cosmetics industry is, there are actual scrubs out there made with tiny plastic beads. Big name perps include Dove, Olay, and Clean & Clear. Horrid for the environment, and seriously, rubbing your face with plastic is kind of shudder-inducing. Instead, whip up your own scrub when you need it. Check out these natural options:
Oily Skin Scrubs
Combine baking soda, one crushed aspirin, and water to make a paste.
Moisten sugar (fine-grain for face, coarse-grain for body) with lemon juice.
Reuse still-damp coffee grounds.
Normal Skin Scrubs
Combine equal parts plain yogurt and ground oatmeal.
Moisten cornmeal with honey.
Make a slushee of sugar (fine-grain for face, coarse-grain for body) and almond oil or aloe vera gel.
Dry Skin Scrub
Mix equal parts honey and finely ground almonds.
Make a paste of oat flour and half an avocado.
Mix plain yogurt with the contents of 1 bag of green tea (about 1 tablespoon).
Toothpaste: Combine 2 oz. of chalk (calcium carbonate), 1 oz. of baking soda, 5 to 6 drops of essential oil (peppermint is the classic, although cinnamon, lemon, and clove are also good options), and a pinch of stevia powder (to taste). Mix in enough vegetable glycerin to form a paste. Store in an airtight jar and use a little spoon to apply paste to the toothbrush.
Tooth powder calls for an even more basic recipe: baking soda, stevia, and a few drops of essential oil (in the same proportions as above).
Laundry Detergent: So easy it’s almost embarrassing. Combine equal parts washing soda, grated soap (like Dial or Fels Naptha), and borax. Use 1 to 2 tablespoons per load and wash clothing as usual.
For more recipes online (including hair gel!), visit www.bonzaiaphrodite.com. For a whole book of recipes ranging from pet shampoo to window cleaner to moisturizer, pick up a copy of Raleigh Briggs’ Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills (the source of most of the recipes above, and available online from www.buyolympia.com). There’s even a Complete Idiot’s Guide to Making Natural Beauty Products, which is ironic, because if you’re battling the hegemony of the unregulated cosmetics industry, you’re probably anything but.
by Mica Habarad