Many of us have grown disenchanted with expensive, commercial beauty products that include toxic and even cancercausing ingredients. Fortunately, safe, natural and affordable alternatives— including homemade shampoos, conditioners, moisturizers, bath salts, body scrubs and butters—are stocked at many natural grocers and health food stores.
We all want to avoid phthalates, cetyl alcohol, triclosan, sodium laureth sulfate, parabens and many other poisonous chemicals commonly found in lotions, creams, scrubs, oils, perfumes and makeup products that may not be listed on labels.
“You want to know what’s in your product,” says Janice Cox, of Medford, Oregon, the bestselling author of Natural Beauty at Home and Eco-Beauty. “If you’re making your own, you’re in control.”
Cox remarks, “Ingredients are absorbed through the skin, our largest organ. It’s why some medicines like birth control, pain relief and nicotine patches are effectively applied externally; it’s also why toxic ingredients placed on our skin can be so harmful.” Her recommended solution is simple: The kitchen cabinet harbors solutions to the dry and dull skin that plagues many this time of year, shampoo residues that result in drab hair, and less-than-glowing skin due to a sub-optimal holiday diet.
“Many products require only one or two ingredients and take minimal time to make,” says Cox. “Plus, they cost only pennies. Who wouldn’t choose that over a $30-an-ounce mysterious chemical soup?”
Honey is a Cox favorite for several reasons, including its antimicrobial effects: a dab on a blemish or insect bite can zap it overnight. “Honey has high potassium content, making it almost impossible for bacteria to survive in,” she explains. It’s also a good source of B vitamins thiamine, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid, plus minerals like iron, zinc and manganese. In this case, what’s absorbed through skin is literally nourishing our body’s entire system.
Honey is also a powerful humectant, helping to prevent loss of moisture from skin and hair. Cox recommends dropping a tablespoon or two in a warm bath to soothe rough skin without stickiness, a conditioning mixture of honey and olive oil to produce silky hair and an apple-honey toner to facilitate glowing skin.
She also recommends an easy shampoo that contains nothing more than natural soap (like Dr. Bronner’s), water and a little vegetable oil for dry hair. “It doesn’t foam up like commercial shampoos, but it gets hair much cleaner,” she advises.
Homemade beauty products are a natural outlet for anyone that loves to cook or craft. Make a small batch— experiment with an array of essential oils to create a preferred scent to suit individual tastes, and add or subtract the amounts according to skin and hair types.
“Take it a step further and make pretty gift packages with glass bottles, jars or tins embellished with ribbons, personal artwork or anything else that taps into your creative juices,” says Cox. “Your friends and family will be especially happy to receive and use them.”
Kathleen Barnes is the author of numerous natural health books and publisher at Take Charge Books. Connect at Kathleen@KathleenBarnes.com.
Simple Natural Beauty Ingredients
Here are a few favorite ingredients for home treatments:
- Honey is perfect for conditioning dry, damaged hair and rinses out easily.
- Sour cream makes a great facial mask for softening and cleansing a dull complexion.
- Green tea is packed with antioxidants and tones skin with no need to rinse off.
- Oatmeal can be used instead of soap to cleanse all skin types.
- Pineapple juice soothes tired feet and softens rough patches.
- Baking soda works head to toe as a hair rinse, facial scrub and bath soak.
- Olive oil in a nail soak keeps nails clean, flexible and strong.
Muscle-Soothing Bath Salts
Yields 24 ounces
This is the perfect bath to relax and refresh the whole body. Add a few drops of essential oils to the mixture for scent.
1 cup kosher or sea salt
1 cup baking soda
1 cup Epsom salt
Mix together all ingredients and pour into a clean, dry container. Pour one cup of the mixture into a warm tub slowly, allowing the salts to dissolve completely. Soak for at least 20 minutes, but no more than 40 minutes.
Raw Sugar Body Scrub
Yields 10 ounces
Raw sugar is well-suited for freshening skin. Using a body scrub helps rid skin of surface impurities, enabling it to retain more moisture and look healthier. It also boosts circulation, which energizes the whole body.
1 cup raw sugar
½ cup light oil, such as almond or sunflower
½ tsp vitamin E oil
Mix together all ingredients and pour into a clean container. Massage a tablespoon or two at a time all over the body to gently exfoliate and moisturize skin.
Yields 8 ounces
If hair is oily, the optional vegetable oil may be omitted, but if hair is dry or damaged, include it. This is a great shampoo for all hair types because it’s gentle on hair and won’t strip away the natural oils.
½ cup water
½ cup mild natural liquid soap (like Dr. Bronner’s or any Castile soap)
½ tsp light vegetable oil (optional)
Gently stir all the ingredients together, being careful not to beat the mixture or it will create foam. Pour the shampoo into a clean plastic container. Shampoo as normal, and then rinse well with cool water.
Eau de Cologne
Yields 4 ounces
Eau de Cologne was originally made by steeping flowers in a jar with alcohol and a small amount of oil. The scented oil was poured off and the alcohol was mixed with water.
¼ cup vodka or witch hazel
¼ cup water 2-3 drops of a favorite essential oil or a mixture of oils (lavender, sandalwood, bergamot, rose, frangipani, ylang-ylang or jasmine)
Mix all ingredients together. Pour into a clean spray bottle or splash bottle. Spray or splash the scented cologne onto skin or hair.
Yields 1 ounce
Solid perfume and scents have always been popular because they are long-lasting, easy to carry and discreet—just rub them on—no need to waste them by spraying the air.
1 Tbsp grated beeswax
1 Tbsp almond oil
8 drops essential oil or mixture of oils (peach, orange, sandalwood, vanilla or lavender)
In a heat-resistant container or small saucepan, gently heat the beeswax and oil until it melts. Stir in the scented oil, pour into a clean, small container and allow the mixture to cool completely. Rub a finger across the solid perfume and apply the scent to pulse points or anywhere else.
Recipes courtesy of Janice Cox, author of Natural Beauty at Home, Natural Beauty for All Seasons, Natural Beauty from the Garden and Eco Beauty.