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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.

My Chemical-Free, Natural (and edible) Skincare Regime

My husband remembers the time, way back in our very early days of dating, when we took a holiday together and almost half of my luggage consisted of toiletries. I would like to tell you he remembers this fondly, but rather he shakes his head at the memory and tells me he was thinking: “who is this girl?!” Such was his despair (although I didn’t know it at the time) that it’s probably a miracle our relationship made it beyond the holiday…

The skincare and body products I use today are such a far cry from back then that now I find it hard to believe myself. In those days, I bought into plenty of the marketing ploys. I figured expensive products were better for me. I reasoned that beautiful celebrities endorsing a product was a reason for me to buy it. I trusted the assistants that told me I needed several different products to do the same job. What this really meant: I gave big multinational pharmaceutical companies my money (far too much of my money) in order to purchase (mostly) unnecessary products with questionable ingredients. I consumed a lot of wasteful packaging, and my bathroom was always cluttered. I was locked into a cycle of buying and stockpiling products.

Today, I’ve reduced what I use to the essentials. I’ve simplified. Mostly I use ingredients, and I can find almost all of them at the grocery store, and at bulk stores. I tend not to buy pre-made products: nothing I use has more than a handful of ingredients that I mix together as I need. There’s no pressure. Ingredients are rarely on sale or marketed cleverly in an attempt to make me buy more, so I do not buy more than I need.

My Chemical-Free (Edible) Skincare Routine: Then vs Now

When I talk about chemicals, I’m referring to man-made, synthetic and petroleum-derived products. For me, chemical-free means natural and safe. Not everything that occurs in nature is safe, of course. My rule is: if it’s edible, then I use it. If it’s not, then I don’t.

Skincare: Face

THEN: Back in my pre- plastic-free and pre- zero-waste days, I used eye cream, a day moisturiser and night moisturiser, usually purchased from one of those fancy counters in the shopping malls. I used cleanser and toner. Occasionally I would be persuaded to buy some other nonsense product by the sales assistant like skin brightener, or serum, or whatever they were trying to plug that month. I often had random packets of “free sample” cluttering my space that I rarely used. I used a face scrub to exfoliate, usually purchased from a chemist or supermarket. I purchased lip gloss, but rarely used it.

NOW: I replaced all of the moisturizers with a single product: oil. Moisturisers are made with oil, water and emulsifier to bind them together, whereas oil is just that – one ingredient. Water-based products like moisturisers need preservatives to stop them going bad, whereas oils are fairly stable and do not. Almond oil is my staple. If I’m away from home, or I have run out of almond oil, I will use olive oil or coconut oil.

To clean, I use bar soap. I don’t make my own, I buy from a local lady who specialises in natural skincare. It’s made from a blend of coconut oil and olive oil and doesn’t dry my skin out. I don’t use a product to exfoliate, I use a flannel. It works much better, I find.

Bulk Soap Chopped Into Bars Zero Waste Natural Beauty Treading My Own Path

I buy soap in 2kg blocks because this way it is packaging free and I can cut the bars myself to a size I like. All you need is a knife: soap is very easy to cut.

Bodycare:

THEN: I used store-bought deodorant, body moisturiser or lotion, a razor with refillable blades and shaving foam. I used handwash to wash my hands, and shower gel to wash in the shower. I had a separate hand & nail moisturiser. I used store-bought toothpaste to clean my teeth.

NOW: I make my own deodorant using bicarb, corn flour, coconut oil and essential oil (you can find the recipe I use here). I never had much luck with store-bought chemical-free brands but this stuff actually works! (Added bonus: I can buy all the products packaging-free.)

I no longer have a separate body lotion or hand lotion and use almond oil. Ditto with the shaving foam. I use an epilator mostly which is used on dry skin, but if I use a razor blade then I use almond oil. I use a body brush to exfoliate rather than products with “exfoliating properties” (usually plastic microbeads).

Dry Body Brush

A body brush replaces the need for exfoliating products. This one is made of FSC wood with natural bristles. I’ve had it for almost four years and it still looks (almost) like new.

I use bar soap (the same as I use to wash my face) to wash my hands and body.

I make my own toothpaste using very similar ingredients to those in the deodorant (you can find the recipe I use here, and it has been approved by my dentist). When I first made it I used peppermint essential oil, as I do with the toothpaste, but I’d get confused which container was which, and I didn’t enjoy smelling like toothpaste, so now I use a different one.

DIY Homemade Toothpaste Zero Waste Plastic Free Treading My Own Path

I used to make toothpaste with glycerine, but now I use coconut oil as I couldn’t find glyerin in bottles without a plastic lid, and I already use coconut oil for many other things. This kilo of bicarb has lasted a couple of years, but I can now buy in bulk so won’t need the box – or to buy a kilo at once! The essential oil bottles I get refilled.

Hair Care:

THEN: I used Herbal Essences shampoo and Herbal Essences conditioner (the one in the yellow bottle). They changed the packaging and then tried to discontinue the product at one point, and I remember trawling all of the discount chemist stores in a mild panic trying to stock up on these two products. I used a hair serum that was a salon-owned brand only available in the UK and only at the salons, so getting it was a real pain. When I moved to Australia I purchased 6 bottles to bring with me, and when my sister came to visit she brought some with her too (this was all pre-Plastic Free July 2012). My haircare routine caused me so much stress, but I was terrified that my curly hair would be unmanageable without these products. I did use Frizz-Ease serum on special occasions, too. I guess you’d say their marketing campaigns were very effective on me!

NOW: I wash my hair with rye flour, and I use white vinegar as a conditioner. It makes my hair soft, shiny and manageable, without the need to apply any other products. I have used bicarb soda in the past but I prefer rye flour – it’s plant-based (bicarb is mined), has a gentler pH, is easier to make a paste in my hand, and makes my hair shinier than bicarb. If rye flour is not available, I switch to bicarb. I prefer white vinegar to rinse my hair over apple cider vinegar. The smell dissipates far more quickly, and my hair feels and looks better. White vinegar has a lower pH than apple cider vinegar (meaning it is more acidic) so I dilute white vinegar with water more than I would dilute apple cider vinegar with water before using.

Rye Flour Shampoo Zero Waste Treading My Own Path

I buy rye flour from the bulk store, and I sieve with a tea strainer before using in my hair to remove any big flakes. I also find towel drying my hair removes excess flour. When it’s dry, I give my hair a good shake to remove any flour that might remain.

I don’t use any hair serums or gels. I find the vinegar does a good job on its own. If my hair was particularly frizzy I would just rub a little almond oil in my hands and run my hands through my hair.

A summary of all the ingredients I use now:

Skincare Regime Zero Waste Bathroom Products Treading My Own Path

Some of the products I use in the bathroom. From left to right: a jar of rye flour (for shampoo), white vinegar (refilled using an empty wine bottle), homemade deodorant and almond oil. Below left: a bar of soap. Below right: a towelling pocket I use when the soap is too small to pick up. I pop the scraps in here and use as a flannel to ensure none of the soap is wasted.

The products I use in my bathroom are: rye flour, sodium bicarbonate, white vinegar, corn flour, essential oil, coconut oil, almond oil and bar soap. Just a handful of ingredients (8, in fact) that do the jobs of a much bigger handful (or small suitcase-full) of products, all with many ingredients of their own. Most ingredients I use live in the kitchen, where they are also utilized, and my first stop when I run out of something in the bathroom is always my own pantry.

And the benefits? I could tell you about not using chemicals, about supporting the local economy rather than the big multinational pharmaceuticals, about stepping off the consumer treadmill and no longer being sucked into the marketing campaigns. I could talk about no longer buying more than I need, and the reduction in clutter in my bathroom. I’m going to tell you the most surprising benefit of all: simplicity and freedom. When I first gave up plastic and began looking for alternatives, I thought I’d have to learn how to make my own shampoo and moisturiser. I thought it would be difficult, and time-consuming. Rethinking what I was using, and why, and then looking for suitable alternatives made me realise it was only as complicated as I made it. Ditching all the products that were unnecessary, and choosing the simplest options for what remained was all I needed to do.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Do you have a natural and chemical free skincare routine? Can you eat your beauty products? Do you make any of your own products and would you like to share the recipe(s)? Have you had any dismal DIY fails or bad experiences along the way and want to share the lessons you learned?! Do you find it hard to let go of those store-bought products? Is there a particular product you struggle with replacing? Tell us your experiences and please leave a comment below!

Plastic Free July is almost upon us!

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This year’s Plastic Free July challenge is almost upon us, with just a little over two weeks to go. Plastic Free July, in case you don’t know what it is, is a challenge that runs every year which encourages people to give up disposable plastic for the month of July. (If you think that sounds too hard, you can also commit to a week or even one shopping trip instead.)

What do I mean by disposable plastic mean anyway?

This is the stuff you use just once, or a couple of times, and then throw away. Obvious items include plastic shopping bags, plastic bottles, plastic food packaging in general (cellophane wrapping, polystyrene trays, plastic tubs, bottles and yoghurt pots, even tetra-packs) and a lot of cosmetics and toiletries packaging. But there’s loads of less obvious stuff out there too. Like, for example, when you buy a new pair of socks and they are hanging on the rack with a little plastic hook? That little hook is gonna go straight in the bin.

What’s the purpose of Plastic Free July?

Well, there’s actually a few. On an individual level, it makes participants vastly more aware of how much disposable plastic is in our lives. It also encourages people to look at what plastic they use and see if they can find alternatives to any of it, so maybe after July, some new habits are formed.

But also, by bringing your own bags to the shops, or taking your own containers to the fishmonger, or refusing a straw, people can also send messages to retailers and businesses, and also their staff and other customers. This sends the message to the wider community that there is another way, and create awareness at this level too. The more people that demand change, the more businesses will listen.

Of course, it also means vastly less plastic is consumed in the month of July, which means less plastic going to landfill and less plastic ending up in our rivers and oceans where it harms wildlife. And less fossil fuels are wasted making new disposable plastic that is destined for the same journey.

Plus it’s a great way to find out about businesses that are already doing great things to help the environment – either cafes with zero waste policies, or companies that make stainless steel water bottles or reusable cloth vegetable bags – and also charities, community groups and other organisations that are campaigning for change.

So Plastic Free July is about creating awareness, reducing waste and inspiring change.

Why am I so passionate about Plastic Free July?

I took part in Plastic Free July last year for the first time, and it was a life-changing experience. Seriously. I always thought of myself as pretty green and sustainable, but once I started looking at how much plastic I was consuming, I realised there was so much more I could do. So after July I committed to permanently avoiding buying disposable plastic packaging.

But it wasn’t just that. Once I started looking at all that plastic-wrapped food, I realised that it’s all processed, and mostly junk. The more processed the ‘food’, the more plastic packaging. Once I stopped buying that stuff, I instantly felt better and healthier, and it made me start to look at what I was eating to make the connections between food and health. We all know that you need to eat well, but often we choose to ignore it when we’re busy, for the sake of convenience. Taking part in Plastic Free July made me reconnect with the issue. I also learned to cook new things so I could make fresh, wholesome versions of the things I could no longer buy, so I didn’t have to go completely without.

The same goes for skincare. I used to buy products that were readily available in the supermarkets, and never really considered that they contained preservatives, irritants and carcinogens. Yep, carcinogens. (If you wanna see what’s in the products you’re using, check out the Skin Deep database here which contains 64,000 products. It’s an eye-opener.) Once I started looking for cosmetic products in glass I began to find natural products that didn’t contain any of that nasty stuff. Now I know the alternatives I wouldn’t dream of buying those mass-produced synthetic chemical cocktails to put on my skin. (I’ve also started learning how to make my own.)

The Plastic Free July challenge also led me to small, independent businesses and local producers, and changed the whole way I shopped. Which is great because I’d much rather be supporting these types of businesses rather than the big multinational companies with their inferior products and questionable ethics. I just needed that extra push, I suppose.

What else? Well I learned a great deal about waste and pollution, and found out about a number of charities and individuals doing amazing work, including 5 Gyres, who campaign against plastic pollution, and the fantastic Beth Terry, who gave up plastic completely in 2007, and whose blog contains a wealth of information regarding plastic-free living.

Through Plastic Free July I was also able to really connect with my local community, and meet so many people who live just down the road and have the same concerns as me. It’s great to know I’m not the only one that cares – and sometimes it can feel a bit like that!

So there’s a lot more to Plastic Free July than giving up a few plastic carrier bags!

Want to get on board?

Sign up! You’ve still got two weeks to prepare for it, and if you want to know more have a look at the Plastic Free July website which has loads of information, links and suggestions for dilemnas you may have. You can choose which challenge you want to sign up to, and if there’s something that you absolutely cannot avoid that comes in plastic (like medication!) just keep the packaging in a ‘dilemna bag’ for the end of the month.

And if you’re still not sure, have a look at the website anyway… you’ve still got a couple of weeks to change your mind!

Ingredients I love…Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a relatively new addition to my grocery cupboard. When I was growing up coconut oil (and coconut products in general) were considered unhealthy because of their high fat content, in particular their saturated fat content. (Avocados and coconuts are unique among fruit and vegetables for containing saturated fat.) Saturated fat has been linked to heat disease. However coconut oil is now becoming popular again as its properties and their benefits are more widely understood.

It’s worth noting that the coconut oil I’m talking about here is virgin cold-pressed. Virgin cold-pressed coconut oil is produced from fresh coconut meat, which is dried and then pressed to extract the oil, usually within hours of harvesting.

Oh, and one more thing before I begin my list. All things in moderation. Coconut oil might have some amazing properties and health benefits, but eating an entire jar in one sitting isn’t going to do you any favours! Limiting consumption to only a few tablespoons a day is recommended.

Six reasons why I love coconut oil

  1. It’s tasty…and better for you!

Let’s face it, things full of fat always taste much better, and coconut oil is composed of 92% saturated fat. But don’t panic! Not all saturated fats are equal. There are 34 different saturated fatty acids, and of the four found in coconut oil, lauric acid accounts for almost 50%. Lauric acid is a medium-chain fatty acid, and medium-chain fatty acids are metabolised differently to other saturated fats.

Medium chain fatty acids tend to be used by the body to provide energy soon after they are consumed, rather than being stored as fat. If fatty acids are used this way they cannot contribute to weight gain. Lauric acid has a particularly high rate of oxidation compared to other fats, meaning it is burned off, making it a valuable source of energy.

  1. It has anti-microbial properties

Lauric acid has antibacterial properties, but can also be converted in the body into monolaurin (glycerol monolaurate), which has even greater anti-microbial properties. In lab tests both lauric acid and monolaurin have been demonstrated to be effective against viruses and pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli and Salmonella (research here, here, here and here).

  1. It’s good for the heart

There are two types of cholesterol, LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) and HDL (‘good’ cholesterol). High levels of HDL are thought to protect against heart attacks and strokes (see reports here, here, here and here). The lauric acid in coconut oil greatly increases HDL cholesterol in the blood (analysis here) and decreases the total cholesterol to HDL ratio.

  1. It has a long shelf life

Because it is high in saturated fat, coconut oil is resistant to oxidation. (Oxidation is what makes oils rancid, breaking fatty acids down into aldehydes, ketones and alcohol.) Oils high in unsaturated fat are much less stable and prone to going rancid. Some particularly susceptible oils (such as flaxseed oil) will go rancid within weeks; coconut oil can last years. This is great if you’ve bought a jar because you needed 2 teaspoons for a recipe, as it will sit happily in the cupboard until you’re ready to use it again.

  1. It’s not just for eating

Coconut oil is also a great base for beauty products because it is solid at room temperature, has a long shelf life and is easily absorbed by the skin. If you want to make your own beauty products then coconut oil is an essential; I use coconut oil for making my own deodorant and toothpaste. It’s a key oil for making soap and also has great moisturising properties. The anti-bacterial properties of lauric acid have been shown to be effective in treating acne.

  1. It’s a great natural alternative to butter

Because it’s solid at room temperature (it melts at 25ºC) it’s great as a butter replacement in recipes for people who can’t/won’t eat dairy products, or want to cut down. Now I’m not a vegan but I am a fan of the raw vegan treat. Coconut oil is often found in such delights as a substitute for dairy products. What could be better than snacking on food that tastes delicious and is packed full of goodness? What, you don’t believe me that raw vegan treats taste delicious?! Try this recipe and see for yourself!

Raw chocolate

(This recipe is adapted from another recipe I found online – I used to link back to it bu as the link no longer works so it’s been removed.)

Ingredients:
170g coconut oil
110g raw almonds
60ml maple syrup (1/4 cup)
10 – 12 medjool dates
4 tbsp cacao powder

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Method:

Line a 20cm by 25cm tray with greaseproof paper.

Chop the dates finely using a knife. (Don’t attempt to do this in a food processor or you will end up with a big sticky lump attached to the blades)

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Chop the almonds in a food processor until they resemble small nibs, but not so fine that you get a powder. (If you don’t have a food processor then you could use a coffee grinder of chop by hand using a sharp knife)

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Heat the coconut oil in a saucepan on an extremely low heat until it is liquid (it will melt at 25ºC). Add the maple syrup and cacao to the pan and stir.

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Add the chopped dates and nuts and mix well.

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Pour into the lined tin, using a fork to make sure the fruit and nuts are distributed evenly.

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Place in the freezer (make sure the tray is flat) and leave for at least 30 mins until solid. Chop into squares and store in a container in the freezer. (You eat it straight from frozen.) If it doesn’t get eaten immediately, it will last for a month.

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Notes:

Maple syrup is not raw, as it is made from the heated and reduced sap of the maple tree. If you want a raw sweetener then replace the maple syrup with raw honey (which is not suitable for vegans) or raw agave nectar.

Raw cacao is preferable as it is higher in nutrients. If you cannot find it, then I recommend an organic product such as Green & Blacks cocoa powder. Don’t use Cadbury’s as it contains extra ‘flavours’!

Two simple recipes for do-it-yourself toothpaste

This weekend we finally finished off the toothpaste we have been using since last year, purchased before our plastic-free adventure began. We had a bit of a stockpile of the old stuff to use up, but now the last little bit is gone, and from now on I’m gonna make my own.

I’ve been suspicious of conventional toothpastes for a while and stopped buying them 18 months ago. Conventional toothpastes are full of cleaning agents, detergents, preservatives, anti-microbial agents, and thickeners, and many of these ingredients are questionable in terms of their effects on the body.

Three Nasties in Conventional Toothpaste

Sodium lauryl sulphate
This is added as a foaming agent and detergent. It is a known irritant.

Sodium fluoride
This is added to toothpaste to help prevent cavities. However it is toxic by ingestion and can be fatal. It can affect the heart and circulatory system. In younger children too much fluoride can cause fluorosis, which is when the enamel of the teeth is discoloured and the teeth have brown markings.

Triclosan
This an anti-microbial and anti-bacterial agent used in toothpaste to help prevent gum disease. However, it has a number of other impacts on humans and the environment. For example, triclosan is fairly stable and fat soluble, meaning it can accumulate in the body. It has been found in blood, urine and breast milk. It is a demonstrated endocrine disruptor and has potential links to breast cancer.

Despite its stability, it can react with chlorine in tap water and sunlight to form toxic intermediate and breakdown products such as dioxins, which are highly toxic, and chloroform, which is a carcinogen. Triclosan is also toxic to aquatic bacteria, phytoplankton, algae and fish. (This fully referenced fact sheet is great if you want more information.)

There are also concerns that its widespread use may cause resistance in bacteria similar to the way antibiotic-resistant bacteria developed.

So what are the alternatives?

You can buy natural toothpastes but they are expensive (and some still contain questionable ingredients), and they almost all come in plastic packaging. Making your own safe, inexpensive, packaging-free toothpaste seems to be the best solution.

How to Make your Own Toothpaste

You can make your own toothpaste simply in just a couple of minutes using only a handful of ingredients.

Bicarb soda – is an abrasive agent that removes dental plaque and food from teeth. It also neutralises stains and odours.

Sodium chloride (salt) – is a mild abrasive and also has anti-bacterial properties.

Glycerine/glycerol – is a sweet-tasting colourless odourless liquid that makes the paste smooth, provides lubrication and acts as a humectant, helping the toothpaste retain water. You can buy glycerine at a pharmacy.

Peppermint oil – this gives the toothpaste its minty taste. You can also use other essential oils but ensure they are food grade.

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Ingredients:

4 tsp bicarb soda
1 tsp sodium chloride (salt)
3 tsp glycerine
8 – 10 drops peppermint oil

Method:

Measure dry ingredients into a bowl. Add glycerine and stir to form a paste. Add essential oil.

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Alternative Recipe – Glycerine-Free Toothpaste

There is a lot of information on the internet regarding  glycerine in toothpaste. It all seems to come from one source, Dr Gerard F. Judd, who wrote a book called ‘Good Teeth, Birth to Death‘ published in 1996 in which he claimed glycerine coats the teeth and prevents remineralisation. I have not read the book but if using glycerine in toothpaste is something that concerns you, you can replace the glycerine with coconut oil.

Coconut oil has anti-microbial properties and because it is solid below 25ºC it works well as a glycerine substitute.

To make this version use the recipe above but substitute 3 tsp glycerine for 2 tsp coconut oil.

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The Taste Test

Neither toothpaste willtaste like conventional toothpaste, so don’t be surprised! Bicarb soda and the salt make the taste very salty. The glycerine version is slightly sweeter and has more of the texture of conventional toothpaste. It has a higher melting point, whereas the coconut oil will melt in your mouth – literally – and has a mild coconut taste and the texture of oil. If you’re not worried about glycerine (and if you’ve been using conventional toothpaste you’ve probably been using glycerine in that) I would recommend starting with that, and once you get used to the taste you could consider making the switch to coconut oil.

Deodorant: why natural is better and how to make your own!

Before you roll your nose up at the idea of making your own deodorant, let me tell you that is exactly how I was about a year ago. So what changed? Why would I want to make my own deodorant anyway?

Well… the first thing was that I became increasingly interested in what ingredients go into beauty products. I learned that some of the ingredients used in regular products are not good. And when I say ‘not good’, we’re talking carcinogens, neurotoxins, irritants, even pesticides.

Conventional anti-perspirant deodorants (the kind you buy in chemists, supermarkets and beauty stores) contain, among other things, aluminium salts. These have been linked to breast cancer. There is a LOT of info about this on the web; studies have been carried out that ‘prove’ they do with just as many that ‘prove’ they don’t. Whilst the verdict is still out, why take the risk?

The second thing that made me want to stop using conventional deodorant was learning about the way aluminium salts work. Aluminium salts are what makes a deodorant ‘anti-perspirant’, and they work by blocking the pores, or more specifically the sweat ducts. Sweat is still produced by the sweat ducts, but it cannot escape. Sweating is a natural process that has two useful functions – it regulates our body temperature by cooling us down, and also allows us to excrete toxins. (The skin is an excretory organ.) If we’re blocking our sweat ducts, then the toxins cannot be released, so where are they going? My view is, that if the body was designed to allow us to sweat, it’s probably best to let it do it’s thing.

These two reasons were enough to convince me to stop using conventional deodorant. However, I had mixed results with store-bought natural deodorants. They are often expensive, almost always come in plastic packaging, and I would say half of the ones I’ve tried don’t actually work. Let’s face it, the reason we use deodorant is to prevent ourselves from smelling bad. I’m willing to give up aluminium salts, but only if I’m exchanging it with something that will actually work. Natural and useless has no appeal.

So not being completely satisfied with the natural products on the market, I contemplated the concept of making my own. But what actually convinced me to make my own deodorant was meeting other people who made their own deodorant…and didn’t smell! For me that was the final reassurance I needed to jump in and give it a go…

Super Simple DIY Deodorant

This is a really simple recipe that only requires 3 ingredients and will take you about 5 minutes. What’s even better is that the ingredients are cheap, being things that you’d find in your grocery cupboard and are all safe enough to eat!

Makes enough to fill a small jar. Effective enough to last all day without reapplying!

Ingredients:

1 tbsp bicarb soda
4 tbsp cornflour / arrowroot powder (sometimes called tapioca flour)
2-3 tbsp coconut oil
optional: essential oils (therapeutic or food grade)

Mix bicarb soda and cornflour together in a bowl.

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Add 2-3 tbsp coconut oil. (Coconut oil has a melting point of around 25°C, so it will depend on the temperature of your kitchen whether it is solid or liquid. If it is solid, immerse the jar in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and the oil will melt.)

Stir to form a paste.

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This looks runny because I had to warm my coconut oil slightly to melt it. As it cools it will stiffen to form a paste.

Add a few drops of essential oil if using (if not the deodorant will have a mild and pleasant coconut smell.)

Pour into a clean jar.

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How to Apply

Apply a small amount with fingertips  to underarms and rub in well.

How to store

I keep mine in the bathroom, where usually it maintains a good consistency. If the day is particularly hot and the deodorant completely liquifies, stir with a clean teaspoon and put in the fridge to harden. If it is too stiff, put the container in a bowl of warm water to soften.

Tips

  • Some people are sensitive to bicarb soda. My boyfriend has particularly sensitive skin and so I use the ratio 1:6 bicarb to cornflour. I tried the ratio 1:8 but found it was only effective for 6 or so hours after applying. I have also made it for myself using 1:4 with no problems, and I know people who use 1:1.
  • Everyone is different, so if you find my recipe doesn’t work for you, try tweaking it by adding more bicarb.
  • The amount of coconut oil you need will depend on the temperature of your house. I use less in summer and more in winter because our bathroom temperature fluctuates to maintain the same consistency.