au naturale

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I might have mentioned a few months ago that I’ve been trying to transition into all-natural, often DIY health and beauty products this year. I like simplicity and I like knowing what ingredients are in the things I put in and on my body, so I made it a challenge of sorts to phase out my old face wash, moisturizers, etc, and try my hand at “green” products. It’s certainly easy to go out and buy natural, organic products these days — Sephora and Ulta have plenty of options, and even Target and Walmart are on board with their Burt’s Bees and Kiss My Face products — but that can get pretty expensive. I’m not so much a fan of that. So I did a little research.

The first “recipe” I found was for all-natural deodorant, courtesy of Passionate Homemaking. I mixed up my first batch with the normal ingredients — baking soda, coconut oil — and added a couple of drops of lavender and orange essential oils. What happened when those scents combined was glorious: I had created gin & tonic scented deodorant. Can’t buy that in a store! Perhaps it was because I was drinking a lot of gin & tonics with my Mad Men that summer, but I was thrilled with the outcome and since then have made several more batches. My dad has joined me, and has even tossed his Tom’s brand deo in favor of my homemade stuff.

The next thing I researched was homemade laundry detergent, and I found a reliable recipe at Edible Perspective. Grated Dr. Bronner’s bar soap, washing powder, borax and baking soda were all the ingredients that I needed, and I’ve successfully washed loads and loads of laundry with my all-natural, cheaper alternative soap. I bought a nifty container and a tiny scooper, and it all lives on a shelf on top of my washer and dryer. I’ve also seen a lot of hype about soap nuts and DIY fabric softener, but so far I’ve stuck with my recipe and made two huge batches.

More on the personal hygiene side of things, I switched out my generic, whatever-is-cheapest-this-week body wash with Dr. Bronner’s Hemp-Almond liquid soap. I use it primarily for body wash, but this stuff has a gazillion uses, and I could probably eat it with successful results if I was desperate enough. I use a washcloth “glove” with the soap in the shower, and the large bottle has lasted me the whole semester with still plenty left.

I’ve also jumped on the oil cleansing method bandwagon, and have tended to my face with a mix of sunflower and castor oil, plus an occasional swipe with witch hazel pads and a gentle exfoliation with my Clarisonic facial brush. When I think I need an extra scrubbing, I mix a palmful of baking soda with a bit of water in the shower, and rub it gently across my face in circular motions — it mimics microdermabrasion and it is completely natural and hassle-free.

I exfoliate regularly (although I admit, not regularly enough…) using the dry-brushing technique, and it does all sorts of good things for my skin and my circulation. If I were really dedicated, I would follow up my dry-brushing and cleansing with a moisturizing oil, like the grape seed oil I purchased when I bought my dry-brushing brush, but alas…I am lazy in the moisturizing department. However, I do moisturize my feet pretty regularly at night — I massage a generous dollop of Burt’s Bees peppermint foot salve into my rough heels and my tired toesies, and then I wear a comfy pair of socks all night. When I wake up in the morning, my feet are soft and warm and smell lovely. There is nothing bad about that arrangement. (And this also works fabulously for hands, too, if you don’t mind sleeping with socks on your hands. Which I don’t.)

For the sake of my natural curls/waves, I use a sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. There are some fancy brands out there that do marvelous things, but I’m happy with my drugstore L’Oreal. I also condition my hair with Moroccan Oil, which is so moisturizing and softens my unruly locks, all the while leaving them scented with a subtle, exotic spice. Argan oil is the base of the product, and there is an incredible sustainability movement centered around its production. Plus, you can eat it with honey and almonds for breakfast with toast, and you can put it on your face as an acne treatment. Everyone wins!

A very cool mama at church told me about a simple shampoo/conditioner duo that she loves: the shampoo is simply baking soda and water, and the conditioner is apple cider vinegar and water. Something like 1-2 Tbsp. of the soda/vinegar per 16 oz. of water. She keeps a 16 oz. bottle in her shower, adds the appropriate amounts of soda/cider, and pours it over her head in the tub. Simple! And cheap. I love that. She said that her hair smells a bit like apple cider vinegar after she conditions, but once her hair dries the smell vanishes, and her locks are soft and shiny. And think about all of those chemicals and goopy-gooky stuff that you aren’t pouring down the drain. I think drains all over will thank us if we make the switch.

Back to exfoliation — I’m in the process of phasing out a lovely jar of sugar-almond body scrub, which I think is pretty natural anyway, but I’m excited to try and make my own when that is all used up. My roommate just made a huge batch of sugar scrub as Christmas gifts, and I’m looking forward to trying my hand at it. Brown sugar with almond oil? Coconut oil with sea salt and lavender essential oil? Yum.

And yum really is correct. My dad told me once that we should theoretically be able to eat whatever we put on our bodies without sickness or damage — because, really, what goes on our bodies eventually makes its way into our bodies. So if you want to make your own sugar scrub and then take a lick or two every once in a while, or perhaps spread some on a piece of toast with cinnamon, you totally can. Because natural really is the best way to go.

*     *     *     *     *

Some other ideas for natural products: homemade toothpastevapor rub, all-natural nail polish brands, and natural cleaning ideas. And, as always, we are our best and most beautiful selves when we drink plenty of water, eat our colorful vegetables, breathe fresh air or just plain breathe calmly for once, and take time to give thanks for the blessings in our lives. And don’t forget the multivitamins!

Do you have any experience with all-natural or homemade products? How have they turned out? — Do you have any recommendations?

Let me know, I’m always curious!

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8 thoughts on “au naturale

  1. I love natural. Shakley products have always been my favorite. The vitamins are the best I’ve found and I love their laundry products . Your article was most helpful thanks

  2. You make me smile, sweet friend. Lip gloss/chapstick is also super easy and cheap to make. Oils, beeswax, and honey. My kids love it and it isn’t “spicy” like some of the others that they dislike. Martha Stewart has a nice recipe for that.
    Lotions are also easy and use most of the same ingredients as what you probably already have in your house.
    You can ditch ALL commercial cleaners for the house and go with borax and vinegar for almost everything. (magic erasers are also nice).
    Soap making is easy and far less expensive than buying the natural soaps.
    You’re dad is wise. My mom’s oncologist told her the same thing. It’s what started our all-natural quest.

    • These are all marvelous ideas! I’m so impressed that you’re making your own soap, and you’re the one who’s inspired me the most in making the switch to natural, homemade products. Thanks, Amy, and I appreciate your comment!

  3. That all sounds delightful! Lindi uses olive oil as conditioner- just puts it in, and lets it sit for a little while before rinsing it out- and it makes her hair so smooth and shiny! Also, we made homemade ‘Biore strips’ out of warm milk and gelatin, and those were pretty amazing. Oh, and Lindi made a face mask for us a while ago out of (I think) honey and yogurt and cinnamon with a few other things mixed in, and it smelled so delicious!

    I would love to start dry brushing– do you have any recommendations about what kind of brush to get, etc.? 🙂

    • Olive oil is a great idea for a conditioner, and I bet her hair smells lovely afterward! As far as dry-brushing goes, I found a great one at Ozark Natural Foods, in the beauty/vitamins section, hanging on the front of the little desk that’s there. It’s a rough wooden handle/head with natural fiber bristles, and it’s a pretty good price. I’ve had mine for about a year now and it’s still got lots of life left in it!

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