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DIY Body Scrubs (4 Recipes plus a Simple Formula to Invent Your Own)

Is that food on my face? Yes, it is! I take great satisfaction in making DIY skincare products out of regular ingredients that I have in the pantry. There are a few reasons:

  • If it’s safe enough to eat, then it’s safe enough to put on my skin. I don’t need to worry about reading labels, or trying to decipher chemical names, or battling through greenwash claims.
  • Food items are some of the easiest things to find plastic-free and generally packaging-free. Chemicals come in bottles. Coffee grounds, sugar, salt – all of these things can be picked up from bulk stores.
  • It keeps my home uncluttered. I like owning things that have multiple uses, and that goes for ingredients as much as for other stuff. One jar with multiple purposes. Plus, it’s kind of fun when you run out of something in the bathroom to just head over to the pantry, rather than traipsing all the way to the chemist.

That said, my bathroom routine is super simple (you can read about it here). Gone are the days when I thought I needed all of those products that the marketers tell us we need. I had the day cream, the night cream, the eye cream, the body lotion, the face scrub, the body scrub… I also had a cluttered bathroom and an empty wallet!

I’m also a big fan of making things that involve little effort. I like to make things from scratch, but I also like these things to take minutes to put together and to be fail-safe (I don’t want to stuff it up and have to throw anything away).

Mixing ingredients together in a jar, now that’s the kind of level of complexity I’m talking about.

DIY Skincare Scrubs from Scratch

Body scrubs exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells (there’s plenty of marketing mumbo-jumbo about glowing skin and improved lymphatic drainage and looking 20 years younger, but I’ll spare you any wild claims.) Some body scrubs also moisturise and these generally have an oil base alongside the exfoliating ingredient. I’m a big fan of products with multiple purposes, and I’m also lazy, so any product that can clean, exfoliate and moisturise all in one suits me perfectly!

A good body scrub has three main components: an exfoliator + a moisturiser + essence

By essence I mean more than the fragrance: I also mean the way it makes us feel. For example, lavender is known for its calming and sleep-inducing properties, citrus is energising and awakening, and chocolate feels decadent and indulging.

Good Natural Skin Exfoliators

Sugar, salt, dried coffee, used coffee grounds, ground oats, ground rice, bicarb of soda.

Different exfoliators have different properties. Sugar is considered more gentle on the skin than salt as the crystals are smaller and they dissolve more easily in water. Oats and ground rice are gentler on the skin and may be more suitable for face scrubs.

Good Natural Skin Moisturisers

Olive oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, grapeseed oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil.

Oils are not created equal. Some have far superior properties – and often far superior price tags to match. Olive oil is readily available and affordable so is a great optionto start with.  It does have a strong fragrance and a green tinge though, whereas almond oil is a more natural colour and without a strong fragrance.

Coconut oil is unusual in that it is solid below 25°C. If you live in a very cold climate you may have a hard time getting a scrub made with coconut oil out of the jar, but if you like the idea of having a more solid product to rub in it’s a good choice.

Ideas For Essences

Essences don’t need to be fancy. You can skip them entirely and leave the scrubs plain if you prefer, or just add a drop of essential oil for fragrance. Or you can go to town, combining essential oils and flower petals and all kinds of things. Up to you.

Stimulating essential oils: grapefruit, lemon, lemongrass, orange, peppermint, bergamont

Relaxing essential oils: lavender, rosemary, cinnamon, ylang ylang, rose, chamomile

Other ingredients to add: lemon, orange or lime zest; lemon, orange or lime juice; lavender flowers or rose petals; honey; thyme or rosemary; cocoa nibs; loose leaf tea (green tea, chamomile tea, peppermint tea).

DIY Body Scrub – a DIY Formula

A body scrub needs to be easy to remove from the jar, spread on your skin and rinse off.

Start with a tablespoon of your chosen oil, and a tablespoon of your chosen exfoliator, and combine. Add more of either to get your preferred consistency. Add your essences last.

If adding dried herbs, flowers or tea you may need a little more oil, as these will soak up the oil.

If adding lemon, lime or orange juice, you may prefer a little less oil as these will add more liquid to the pot.

Test it out! Always do a patch test first. Put a small amount on your skin in the crease of your elbow, and wait 24 hours to see if there is any adverse reaction. Use it in the shower, and see if you like the consistency. Make a note of any adjustments you might want to make. Test on your body before trying on your face as your facial skin is more fragile, and always avoid the eye area.

DIY Body Scrubs: 4 Recipes to Get You Started

From left to right: citrus olive oil scrub; coffee scrub; lavender sugar scrub; green tea and epsom salts scrub.

These are some ideas to get you started – feel free to play with the ingredients you have to hand and make your own combinations. All of these scrubs are fresh and do not contain preservatives, so are best stored in the fridge and/or used within a couple of weeks.

Citrus Olive Oil Scrub

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil (30 ml)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp lime zest
juice of 1/4 lime
Optional: a drop of lemon, grapefruit or lime essential oil

Mix together the sugar and oil. Add the lime zest and lime juice, and essential oil if using. You can add extra sugar or oil to get your desired consistency. Spoon into a glass jar.

Allow the scrub to settle. A layer of olive oil on the top of the jar will help keep it from spoiling. Stir before use.

Coffee Scrub

Ingredients:

2 tbsp spent coffee grounds (ask a local cafe for their used grounds)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp coconut oil
Optional: a drop of orange essential oil

Method: melt the coconut oil if solid, and mix the coffee, sugar and oil together. Add the essential oil last. Store in a glass jar in the fridge.

I love using coffee grounds as they are a waste product. You could use fresh coffee, but why wouldn’t you want to have a cup of coffee first?! If you use homemade coffee grounds, let them dry out as the extra moisture will mean it spoils more quickly. There’s no reason why you couldn’t use olive oil instead of coconut oil. I just like to experiment :)

Lavender Scrub

Ingredients:

3 tbsp almond oil
1/2 cup sugar
2 drops lavender essential oil
Optional: 2 tsp dried lavender flowers

Method: mix the oil and sugar together, then add the flowers and essential oil.

You could substitute the lavender flowers for chamomile flowers or rose petals, and lavender essential oil for chamomile or rose geranium. Almond oil works better than olive oil as the delicate floral flowers can be overpowered by the olive.

Green Tea Scrub

Ingredients:

3 tsp Epsom salts
3 tsp bicarb
1 tsp matcha powder
3 tbsp olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients together, then add the olive oil. Pour into a glass jar.

Epsom salts are not actually salt, but a mineral compound containing magnesium which is thought to be very good for the skin. If you can’t find Epsom salts, regular salt or sugar will be fine. If you don’t have matcha powder, you can use regular green tea.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you make your own skincare products? Do you want to, or is it something you can’t see yourself bothering with? Do you have your own favourite recipes or flavour/scent combinations? Are there any other products you make from scratch? Have you ever had any disasters, or things not going to plan? Any tips you’d like to add? I’d love to hear from you, so whether you’re a DIY skincare enthusiast or avoid it at all costs, please leave me a comment telling me your thoughts!

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Disclaimer: the information here is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. It is a record of my own experiences. Always do your research before using ingredients on your skin, particularly when using essential oils.

A Guide to Reducing Plastic in the Bathroom (Part 1)

If food is the most common source of disposable single-use plastic in the house, then bathroom products must be the second. Thing is, they don’t need to be! This two-part guide has tips for how you can reduce plastic packaging in the bathroom, and ditch a lot of dubious synthetic chemicals in the process.

In Part 1 I’m covering the basics: simple swaps, things to think about and what has worked for me. In Part 2 I’ll be covering the dilemmas that we women face – including makeup, shaving and that time of the month.

Buy in Bulk

Buying from bulk stores is the easiest way to transition to plastic-free, if they are an option for you. When I began my plastic-free journey, I found bulk shampoo, bulk conditioner, bulk liquid soap and bulk oil, so I switched to these. Now I’ve simplified even more…read on!

Switch to Bar Everything

Solids are much easier to find plastic-free as they can be sold loose, wrapped in paper or sold in tins, so if you don’t have access to a bulk store switch from liquids to bars! Bar soap is a great replacement for liquid soap, and you can find great products that are gentle enough to use on your face if you look around.

Homemade soaps are having a bit of a revival, so see if you can find someone who makes soap locally as you will be able to chat to them about exactly what ingredients their soaps contain.

Natural Handmade Bar SoapIt’s also possible to find bar shampoo, bar conditioner, bar deodorants and even bar sunscreen! I’ve only ever used bar soap but plenty of people I know use bar shampoo and love it!

Cut Down on the Number of Products You Use

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics estimate that on average, an American woman uses 12 personal care products every day, and a man uses 6 daily. That’s 12 separate containers, and 12 items to try to find plastic free!

Before I switched to plastic-free, I would have a separate face wash and shower gel. Now I buy one good quality block of natural, handmade soap that has a high oil content (combined olive oil and coconut oil soaps are fairly easy to find) which I use for my face and in the shower.

Rather than a separate face and body moisturizer, I now use one product for both.

I stopped buying separate hair gel and (after shampooing and conditioning as normal) started rubbing a small amount of conditioner into my hair (and leaving it in) as a replacement – I found it works just as well. That was before I began my bicarb and vinegar hair experiment – now I don’t use anything at all.

Are there any products you could double-up on, or anything that isn’t really necessary that you could do without?

Replace Your Exfoliator with a Body Brush

I used to buy exfoliating scrubs until I realised that a body brush was far better. Dry body brushing is great for improving circulation, stimulating lymph glands and removing dead skin cells…and there’s no packaging, microbeads, drain-clogging ingredients or chemical ingredients to decipher.

dry body brush Body Shop FSC CROPPEDThe brushes usually have wooden handles and cactus bristles so are completely plastic free. The idea is you use long sweeping strokes towards the heart, either before or after a shower.

Consider Using Oils

After struggling to find moisturiser and cleanser in plastic-free packaging, I decide to switch to oil. Not oil-based products, but oil. Just one ingredient. Or maybe two, if it’s a blend.

Most lotions are a blend of water and oil, with an emulsifier to make it mix properly and a whole pile of other stuff chucked in there for good measure. Because they contain water, they also need to contain preservatives. Plus, a good proportion of what you’re paying for is water.

Oils are the part that have the moisturizing properties, so why not just use oils?

If you’re thinking oh, but won’t that make my skin oily?, actually no. Oils mimic the skin’s natural sebum. Oil cleansing is far better to clean your face than water, because oil dissolves grease, whereas water does not (like dissolves like).

If you’re thinking, but won’t it clog my pores?, again, no, although it depends on what oil you use and your skin type. All oils have a comedogenic rating, which measures how likely they are to clog pores. If you have oily skin you will be better able to cope with oils that have a higher comedogenic rating. Drier skin has smaller pores and prefer oils with lower comedogenic ratings.

Sweet Almond Oil and Jojoba Oil

I’ve tried hemp oil, but it left a green tinge on my face and stained all my towels green. Many people recommend coconut oil, but I haven’t tried this – its comedogenic rating is quite high. Now I stick to almond, jojoba and rosehip oils for my dry skin. I can get refills for the bottles (so no new packaging) and you need such a small amount each time, they last for ever.

Oil can also be a great treatment for hair, but it’s not something I’ve tried.

Make Your Own – No Experience or Equipment Necessary!

Some products are really simple to make at home. I make my own toothpaste and deodorant using coconut oil, bicarb and essential oil, pretty much. You just mix the ingredients together in a pot and voila! I checked the toothpaste recipe with my dentist, and the deodorant one is a keeper because it actually works.

deo9jpg

I love that I can use bicarb for three different bathroom products (counting the shampoo, too)!

Tooth Brushing

I use a bamboo toothbrush, that comes in a cardboard box. The bristles are plastic. Once the toothbrush is life-expired (you know because the bristles come out in chunks) you can soak the brush in water to release the rest of the bristles, and then compost the wooden handle.

Bamboo toothbrush unassembled

There you have it – Part 1 of my guide to reducing plastic in the bathroom. In Part 2 I’ll be covering all the additional dilemmas that women face when giving up plastic – makeup, shaving, and what to do at that time of the month, so make sure you come back and check it out!

I’d love to hear from you! Have you already taken any of these steps, or there ideas there that you think you’d be able to adopt? Are there any other plastic-free alternatives you can suggest? What works for you? Join the conversation and leave a comment below : )

A Guide to Green Cleaning: What You’ll Need

After having spent the week furiously and continuously cleaning after our bedroom and wardrobe went mouldy last weekend (oh, and having to deal with the fact that someone stole our credit card details to play online poker too), I am starting to feel like my stress levels are back to normal, life can continue on and the flat is now gleaming.

So I thought I’d take the opportunity to share some of the green cleaning tips I’ve picked up in the last week. It’s really easy when we are faced with emergencies like that to chuck all our green intentions out the window and head to the shops to buy the biggest plastic bottle of toxic bleach that we can find. But it doesn’t need to be this way – natural products work better, are safer, don’t give off noxious fumes and don’t harm the environment.

This is a guide to all the basic green cleaning products you need to keep your home clean and chemical free.

Green Cleaning – the Basics

The two key ingredients for green cleaning are white vinegar and sodium bicarbonate (bicarb soda).

vinegar

Vinegar doesn’t go off, is non-toxic, biodegradeble and cheap. It is acidic (the stuff you can buy from the supermarkets is around 5% acetic acid) and this helps kill nasties. We bought our original bottle from the supermarket, but we refill it at a bulk buy store we found in Fremantle who sell 10% vinegar to save on packaging and waste.

Sodium bicarbonate is an abrasive that wears away stains. According to How Stuff Works, it also reacts with grease to form glycerol, which is the cleaning ingredient found in soap. When bicarb soda is mixed with vinegar it forms carbonic acid, which makes the vinegar more corrosive and enhances its cleaning ability. As an alkali, it’s also good at neutralising odours.

Essential Oils

Vinegar and bicarb soda are great at keeping things clean, but sometimes we need a little extra help. There are two essential oils that are cheap, commonly available and great for dealing with mould and other microbes: clove oil and tea tree oil.

oils

Both have antimicrobial properties. Clove oil is an excellent anti-fungal and great for using to clean bathrooms. The WA Public Health factsheet on mould recommends using tea tree oil as a way to kill the mould spores.

How to use: add 1 tsp oil to one cup of water, and wear gloves. You can either use in a spray bottle, shaking well before use, and then wipe with a cloth, or use a bowl, immersing and wringing a cloth out multiple times in the solution to ensure it mixes.

Elbow Grease

If you’re not using harsh chemicals, you will need to put in a bit of muscle yourself! The extra effort is definitely worth it for not inhaling toxic chemicals and carcinogens, and not releasing dangerous chemicals into our water supplies.

Re-use What You Can

Where possible, it’s always best to re-use or re-purpose where you can rather than buying new. We have two old spray bottles that originally had toiletries in them which we now use for cleaning purposes. We also saved some old toothbrushes (from back in the days when we used plastic ones) to use for cleaning grouting and other tricky spots.

toothbrush

Keep Packaging to a Minimum

We needed to buy a few things, so we made sure we chose products that were as environmentally friendly and sustainable as possible.  We needed some cloths and bought some biodegradable cleaning cloths. They are plastic free and made with natural fibres. However, they are still single-use and if it hadn’t been an emergency we would have found a different solution.  Having been through our wardrobe, we identified a few things that were definitely beyond repair and will cut these up to use as rags so we don’t need to buy any more.

Support Ethical Companies

One thing we needed was a scrubbing brush. I wanted to buy a wooden one with natural fibres but the only wooden ones available were unidentifiable wood coated in varnish. Instead I opted to buy a plastic brush by Full Circle. They are a great company that design products that are sustainable and made from renewable resources.

brushThe brush I bought is made with post-industrial and post-consumer recycled plastic and bamboo, and has a hollow design to keep plastic to a minimum. Despite it being plastic, I feel it is better to support a company with such great intentions.

The star purchase has to be the gloves I bought, made from fairly-traded natural rubber sourced from FSC-certified forests, manufactured by a company called If You Care. They are plastic free, and even the box is made from FSC-certified recycled paper with biodegradable inks. I love it when I find companies like this.

glovesMicrofibre Cloths

Rags and general purpose cloths are great for general dirt and grime, but microfibre cloths are useful for specific tasks. They are made up of very small fibres (microfibres – hence the name) and have far far more than a standard cloth. This means they are far better at picking up dirt. They are also super-absorbent and quick-drying, which helps prevent microbes growing on the cloth and makes them more hygienic. Want to know more? Check out this site for more information. They’re not cheap, but they last for a very long time, and for jobs like removing mould spores, they are far superior to general rags.

And that’s it! There’s no need for separate cleaners for the kitchen, the bathroom, this type of surface, that type of surface. There’s no need to waste money on expensive harmful products, either. None of this stuff is new, either. It’s what our grandmothers used to use before chemical companies and advertisers realised there was money to be made in producing 3000 different products and scaring people into using them. Another great example of nanna-technology : )