front row, left to right: golden flax seed, dried oregano leaves, shea butter; middle row, left to right: dried rosemary leaves, dried lavender buds, coconut oil; back row: extra-virgin olive oil
Olive oil, coconut oil, flax seed, lavender, rosemary, oregano. They’re all things we usually have on hand in our pantry and often use to make our food. But since I decided to try making our own body care products, those pantry staples have become a way to live simply and frugally and cleanly, both for ourselves and for the environment. Along with all that, I get to make stuff.
With these very simple ingredients I’ve been able to replace several expensive products. For a replenishing facial cleanser I use a simple mix of olive oil, lavender Castile soap, vegetable glycerin and water. As a basic facial scrub I use flax seeds that I grind in a spice/coffee grinder. I store the ground seeds in a spice container that has a sifter cap with large holes. To add a little extra exfoliating effect to my facial routine, I mix a few shakes of the ground seeds with a little of the facial cleanser when I wash my face. As a toner I use a simple infusion of lavender flowers and distilled water. For a soothing face and body moisturizer, I make a creamy emulsion of olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter, beeswax, lavender essential oil and distilled water using my immersion blender.
For a natural alternative to store-bought deodorant, I use an old stick deodorant container and pour in a combination of melted coconut oil, baking soda, cornstarch and essential oils, and then let everything solidify in the refrigerator for an hour. When this runs out, I’ll try this recipe for homemade deodorant next. I’m still experimenting with different shampoo and conditioner recipes; one of the simplest I’ve seen involves mixing liquid Castile soap, olive oil, aloe vera gel, and water infused with herbs. Since several recipes use herbal infusions or decoctions, I’ll be able to make use of the abundance of herbs we have in our spring and summer garden. For essential oils, I use lavender and tea tree oil which are affordable and can be bought online if you can’t find them locally.
front row, left to right: lavender water toner, lavender face & body cream, ground golden flax seed scrub; back row, left to right: olive oil cleansing lotion, liquid castile soap, coconut oil deodorant
All of this started from a continuing desire to simplify the variety of different products we buy and to reduce the amount of synthetic chemicals in our lives. With a small investment of time you can make products that are healthier, cheaper, and greener. For information and recipes, I’ve listed several books below, all of which I was able to rent from our local library. I’ve also included the recipe for the lavender face and body cream I use, which I’ve adapted from Dina Falconi’s Earthly Bodies, Heavenly Hair. It’s worth a try if you’re so inclined. My advice is this: start slowly by switching out one thing at a time, keep the formulations inexpensive and simple, and experiment until you find what works best for you.
Though making your own products has many benefits, what I’ve realized, as with baking and cooking, is that when it comes down to it, I really like to make stuff. I love the process of trying and learning something new, the satisfaction in the success of it, and the pure enjoyment of the result. Though I haven’t calculated the exact financial savings of making our own body care, I think it’s pretty cool to able to be make something that is good for our bodies, and the earth too, all from my kitchen apothecarium.
Lavender Face & Body Cream
(adapted from Earthly Bodies, Heavenly Hair by Dina Falconi)
3/4 cup/6 oz. extra virgin olive oil or almond oil
1/4 cup/2 oz. coconut oil
2 tablespoons/1 oz. unrefined shea butter
3/4 oz. beeswax
1 cup + 2 tablespoons/9 oz. purified or distilled water
30 to 60 drops lavender essential oil, or up to 3 teaspoons for a stronger preservative effect
1 quart glass pyrex measuring cup
(Important note: Measurements for water, liquid and solid oils and butters are by volume; measurement for beeswax is by weight. In other words, use volume containers such as measuring cups and spoons for measuring the water, liquid and solid oils and butters, and use an electronic scale to measure the beeswax. You can also increase the amount of beeswax to 1 ounce; the cream will be slightly thicker.
Also, this recipe, when made with olive oil as the base, produces a very rich cream, great for very dry skin. When made with almond oil as the base, the final cream is a little lighter and more suitable for dry to normal skin. If you’re unsure, try making a half-batch of this recipe so you can test what you like before making the full version).
Put olive oil or almond oil, coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax in the glass pyrex measuring cup. Fill the saucepan half-way with water. Place pyrex container in the water bath in the saucepan, turn heat to low, and stir until the coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax are completely melted. Transfer mixture to a 1 quart mason jar. Let mixture come to body temperature, about 98ºF. While oils are cooling, heat water to body temperature, about 98ºF. Pour water into mason jar containing melted beeswax and oils. Add lavender essential oil. Place immersion blender into the jar until blade or whisk touches the bottom of the jar. Turn blender on; once the mixture begins to emulsify, move blender around the jar to incorporate any streaks of unblended oil or water. Blend until mixture is a creamy emulsion, as you would when making homemade mayonnaise. Transfer to clean jar with tight-fitting lid. Let the cream sit for a few hours before using it. Store the cream away from direct heat and sun. Other than the lavender essential oil, this cream does not have any added chemical stabilizers or preservatives, so it is advisable to use it up within a short period of time or store it in the refrigerator to extend its shelf life.
makes 19 ounces/538 grams, or a little over 2 cups
Natural Face and Body Care Books
Naturally Healthy Hair: Herbal Treatments and Daily Care For Fabulous Hair by Mary Beth Janssen