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A Greener You: Non-toxic Body Care Products

Buying & Making Green Body-care Lotions

by Sarah Kingsbury

When you’re trying to be a green shopper, there’s a lot to think about: Should you run back out to your car for the reusable shopping bags you forgot in the trunk (again)? Should you buy the organic apples from New Zealand for your fruit-crazy kids, or wait six months until they come back in season locally? Is drinking soymilk a health pro or con? By the time I get to the health and beauty aisle, the questions are almost more than I can deal with: Is this really natural? Will it give me cancer? Will it make my hair look nice? Do I want to smell like a papaya all day? And what the heck is babassuamidopropalkonium?

Buying non-toxic body-care products can be very challenging. The cosmetics industry is by and large self-regulated, their ingredients are trade secrets, and the ingredients they do list are often multi-syllabic and unfamiliar. The challenge is even greater when you consider that we want our beauty products to live up to their promises, too. We want them to make us look fabulous and smell delicious!

Recently, I found a cool website called SafeCosmetics.org with a database that rates the toxicity of thousands of body care products, from sun block to mascara to shampoo. To find out how your “natural” products rate, simply go to the website at www.cosmeticdatabase.com/index.php, enter the product name in the search field, and find out how your product rates on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most toxic. There’s also a place for users to review the product, which I liked because I want natural products that work like they promise, please!

However, once you do a little research and find some non-toxic body-care products that you like, you may find that the new lotion you are dying to try costs five times more than the one you are currently using. If this is a deal breaker for you, there is a much less expensive way to get extremely non-toxic body care products: make them yourself. All you need is a blender and a few raw ingredients.

I have not always been a fan of homemade beauty products. Pureeing avocado and putting it on my face has always struck me as messy and a lost opportunity to eat guacamole. Mayonnaise belongs on sandwiches, not in my hair. Not to mention the time involved in preparing and cleaning up these concoctions. I just want to grab a bottle of lotion or facial cleanser and go.

Then, several years ago, I became a fan of Rosemary Gladstar’s books on herbs, and to my delight discovered that she had written a book called Herbs for Natural Beauty. Gladstar offers simple, easily adapted recipes for non-toxic beauty products that work and have a decent shelf life (meaning you won’t have to devote a large portion of your life to preparing them over and over).

My favorite homemade beauty recipe for face and body scrub was adapted from this book. If you can’t find the ingredients at your natural food store, they can easily be ordered online. This cleansing scrub is multi-purpose. You can mix it into a paste with a little water for a facial scrub or use it on your whole body with a loofah. For a face mask, mix it with honey or rosewater. I like to make it in really big batches and share with my friends.

The oats in this recipe are best ground in a blender. A spice grinder works well for the roses and lavender, but only if you have never used it for coffee.

Oat-Clay Cleansing Scrub
2 cups white clay
1 cup finely ground oats
1/4 cup finely ground dried lavender
1/4 cup finely ground dried rosebuds (stems
and leaves removed)
1/4 cup poppy seeds
10–30 drops of a favorite pure essential oil

Keep some in your bathroom for daily use and store the extra in a cool dry place. If you enjoy using the scrub, get yourself a book of recipes for homemade body-care products and have fun! Making my own beauty products has been one of the most rewarding methods of greening my life: I get to use organic, non-toxic products for a fraction of the retail cost, and all those plastic containers that lurk in my cupboards get a new life as my lotion and scrub containers.   

Find more recipes and beauty tips here.

For more articles on greenliving, visit the Index.

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