We use so many products on our bodies, far more than are actually necessary or even advisable, with devastating effects. But all can be sourced ethically, or even homemade.
On the Market
Where to source personal care products that tick as many boxes as possible: no animal testing, organic/fair trade ingredients, no or sustainable palm oil, no or conscious packaging.
- LUSH cosmetics sell a whole range of package-free shampoo and conditioner bars, to suit all hair types. As they are not diluted, each bar makes about 80 washes, as much as 3 bottles of the mainstream stuff. Here are direct links to the relevant listings on the LUSH website, where you read about each product in great detail. (There are many more — these are just the lowest priced.)
Solid shampoo bars: Godiva, Copperhead, Jason and the Argan Oil, Honey I Washed My Hair, Brazilliant, Trichomania, Soak and Float, Karma Komba, Seanik, Lullaby, Jumping Juniper, Montalbano, New
Conditioner bars: Big, Sugar Daddy-o, Jungle
Two in one: Avocado Co-wash (excellent, I use it myself, but it’s best for thick hair that needs heavy moisturizing!)
Skin & Body
- “Launched in 2013, Farm to Girl is a company of women scientists and nurses dedicated to empowering, uplifting and supporting women farmers, villagers, entrepreneurs and small sustainable farms both globally and locally. We handcraft premium skin and baby care from fresh, healthy and fairly traded ingredients made in villages with traditional processes free of synthetic and harmful chemicals.” Farm to Girl also donates 20% of profits to women’s health and education, and products are packaged in glass and metal rather than plastic.
[in the works]
Ingredients for DIY
Note: This is not a list of things you need to buy before you start! Most of the recipes here require only 2 to 4 basic ingredients. Other ingredients are described so you can experiment with your own recipes if you wish.
- Olive Oil has a long history of being used in skincare. It is similar to the oil produced by our skin, so it doesn’t clog pores or dry the skin out. A small amount rubbed on the skin is readily absorbed.
- Coconut Oil is an immensely popular ingredient in DIY recipes but it’s not actually indispensable: if allergic, just use olive or other in half the indicated amount. However, its texture makes it a great base for homemade products, and it is highly moisturizing.
- Granulated sugar is an excellent basic exfoliant that dissolves in water and leaves no mess. Brown sugar is slightly gentler, but fair trade white sugar is widely available packed in paper.
- Finely ground sea salt is detoxifying and muscle-relaxing, but it is less gentle and a bit drying (and will sting on cuts or after shaving).
- Ground coffee smells great of course, but it is also a vasoconstrictor: when applied to the skin it tightens blood vessels, thereby reducing varicose veins and rosacea. It also helps to redistribute fat cells and lessen cellulite. In scrubs, sugar, salt and coffee need to be mixed with oil, not water, for obvious reasons.
- Oatmeal is an extremely gentle exfoliant, good for the face. It is also emollient, softening and hydrating the skin, very helpful when it’s dry and itchy. It is mixed with a bit of water (or milk) before use. You can grind your own from rolled oats, which can be found in bulk or packed in paper. Similar to oatmeal: almond meal, flax meal (ground linseeds, good for dry skin), rice bran, wheat bran.
- Yogurt or milk can be used in face masks as non-granular exfoliant: lactic acid dissolves dead skin cells.
For use on the body, only use oils that are listed as safe for this usage! Find the list here.
- Rosemary: A natural astringent, it tightens and tones the skin, making it firm and supple and preventing wrinkles. It also helps the body eliminate toxins.
- Frankincense: Also astringent, it’s known as an “anti-aging” oil that also helps heal scars, stretch marks and similar. It has the ability to eliminate abnormal cells while promoting the regeneration of healthy cells.
- Lavender: Accelerates the healing of scars, cuts, scratches and so on, and helps with acne. It leaves the skin smooth, and its smell has deeply relaxing properties.
These are more specialized and will mostly interest people who want to take their DIY products to another level (to make gifts, for instance).
- Shea butter
- Cocoa butter
- Aloe vera juice:
A warning: DIY products can feel quite different from the industrially-made ones we are used to, but they are just as efficient (and arguably efficient in better ways). We just need to not expect the familiar frothing or similar “special effect” (they are put in there because they are expected and associated with the product “working”), and to grow accustomed instead to more natural products. After a while you’ll find it impossible to go back.
Here are recipes for both shaving cream and aftershave.
One of the simplest things you can make for yourself, a scrub sloughs off dead skin, leaving you baby-smooth and less prone to breakouts. The circular rubbing action it requires, starting at the extremities and moving towards the heart, improves the blood circulation.
All you really need is an exfoliant (e.g. sugar) mixed with an oil. Here’s a great basic recipe that you can tweak (and enhance with essential oils and/or other exfoliants): 1C sugar + 1/2 melted coconut oil + 1/2C olive oil. Rub onto wet skin in the shower and rinse off, no more than once a week. Here are four recipes to get you started.
There are many recipes for homemade deodorant on the web, all variants on the theme of baking soda + something to make it less harsh on the skin. Typically this is cornstarch or arrowroot, with coconut oil a popular optional addition to make a paste, with deodorizing properties of its own.This simple recipe takes 5 minutes, works extremely well and is powdery, not too oily.
Face mask for oily skin
4Tbsp wholewheat flour + 4Tbsp yogurt + 1Tbsp lemon juice + 1 Tbsp honey. Smooth onto face and leave 10-20 min. Rinse with warm then cold water. Use up to 3 times a week.
For a moisturizing and stimulating scrub, mix together 1/2C sugar + 3Tbsp olive oil + 1Tbsp fresh grated ginger. Rub for 1 min into each foot then rinse and dry. Wear socks while the skin absorbs (this may be best done before going to bed).
Instead of wax strips with their accompanying plastic, try sukkar, the traditional hair-removing caramel of the Middle East. Homemade from two ingredients, it can seem a bit fussy but the results are wonderful. Find all the details, and the recipe here.
Simply use olive or other oil. You can also mix 1 part oil with 1 part filtered water or aloe vera juice in a small jar, and shake vigorously before each use. Gently press a soaked pad over the eye gently for 10 seconds then wipe away. Repeat as needed.
Here are 5 simple, printable recipes.
Here are printable recipes for both shaving cream and aftershave.
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