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Beauty Kitchen Confidential
Lifestyle expert Eliza Sarasohn — author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organic Living — tackles your questions on the ins and outs of living la vida organica. This week, Sarasohn relates a few recipes for whipping up a chemical-free beauty regimen.
If you poke around in the conception stories of some of the leading organic cosmetic and body care companies, you’ll find many of them were started by individuals who either had problems with conventionally produced products or simply thought they could do it better. Start making your own beauty products, and who knows — you might even join their ranks.
Making your own products is not only a great way to save money — products like body scrubs and facial masks are hugely marked up, which you’ll realize when you buy the raw ingredients to make them — it’s also the best way to control the content of the substances you apply to your body. Plus, it can be a lot of fun.
The recipes below will help get you started, but know there are thousands more out there, many of them easily accessible with some determined Googling. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a short collection available. Another good site to look at is Spa Index at www.spaindex.com — click on the Spa at Home link to get to the recipes.
Tools of the Trade
You probably already own most of the following items and it’s more than okay to use them if you’re only working with food products (beeswax and soap are okay, too). If you’re working with essential oils, avoid plastics of any type, as the oils can permeate these items. And if you really get into the DIY thing, you’ll probably want to put together a separate set of tools for formulating use only, so you won’t have to worry quite as much about getting your tools squeaky clean.
- Measuring cups and spoons.
- Grater or vegetable peeler. Both work great on somewhat solid ingredients like beeswax and soap, but peelers are easier to clean as you don’t have to deal with all those holes in a grater.
- Glass measuring cups, ovenproof with pouring spouts. You can do everything with these — measure, mix, melt, chill, and store things, too.
- Blender or food processor. Good for whipping and chopping. Food processors are typically the better choice as the motors on blenders tend to be on the wimpy side.
- Coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Essential for grinding herbs and such.
- Hand mixer or immersible blender. Good alternatives to standing blenders for mixing things up.
- Funnel, for transferring your blends to containers.
- Cheesecloth or coffee filters.
- A pot or two. For melting ingredients over direct heat.
- Bottles, jars, spray bottles, etc. Feel free to reuse containers if you can get them clean to your satisfaction. If not, you’ll need to buy some — natural food stores often carry them.
Beauty Kitchen Confidential
Many of the ingredients for formulating natural body care products are no farther away than your kitchen or nearest supermarket. Safflower oil, for example, is a great skin moisturizer all on its own. Olive oil makes a great hair conditioner. You’ll see lemon juice and apple cider vinegar in lots of recipes for hair rinses. Have a banana or an avocado that’s just slightly too old to eat? You can use them for a facial mask or hair conditioner.
Natural body and personal care products often contain little or nothing to preserve them. Keep them fresh by making them up in small batches, refrigerating between uses, and using them as quickly as possible. Keep contamination concerns down by washing your hands first before applying them or by using a clean utensil to scoop them out.
1/2 tsp. safflower oil
1/2 tsp. avocado oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
Blend together and apply wherever skin is dry and flaky
A very rich, very smooth lotion with a slight coconut scent that dry skin will eat right up. A good one for areas that take a beating and where skin can get especially dry, like knees and elbows.
1/2 cup grated cocoa butter
2 TB. coconut oil
4 TB. sesame oil
2 TB. avocado oil
2 TB. grated beeswax
Combine all ingredients in ovenproof glass container. Place over a pan filled with water (this is a Bain Marie, or water bath). Melt over medium heat, and then pour into a clean jar. Stir and let cool.
You can use this as a lip balm or cuticle treatment.
1 TB. beeswax
3 TB. sweet almond oil
1 tsp. honey
8 to 10 drops essential oil (if making lip balm, try combining a couple of drops of peppermint essential oil with orange, lemon, or lime; if making cuticle treatment, benzoin essential oil helps heal cracked cuticles and works well with one or more of the following: lavender, Roman chamomile, tea tree, neroli, palmarosa, sandalwood, jasmine).
In small saucepan, melt beeswax with sweet almond oil over low heat. When the wax is melted, remove from heat. Add honey and stir well. When mixture begins to cool, but before it gets too thick, add essential oils. Pour into small jars and let cool.
The glossiness of the lip balm is determined by how much oil you use. This recipe has a slight gloss. If less is desired, reduce the amount of sweet almond oil by 1 teaspoon.
Brown Sugar Body Scrub
This scrub will make you glisten from head to toe! Be careful if using in the shower; the oil can make things slippery.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white granulated sugar
3/4 cup oil (good choices include macadamia, sweet almond, or apricot kernel, all of which complement the warm fragrance of the brown sugar)
40 to 60 drops essential oil, if desired (options include cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and vanilla)
Combine sugars and carrier oil in medium bowl, mix thoroughly. Add essential oil drop by drop and mix in. Spoon into storage jar — if you added essential oils, a glass jar is best; the oils will seep into plastic. To use: scoop out 1/4 to 1/2 cup of scrub and apply to moistened skin with circular motion. Rinse well.
Shampoo A La You
Shampoo is one of the easiest things you can make. The liquid version is simply a combination of liquid soap with water and oil (you can skip the oil if you have oily hair). Mix them together, et voila, you’ve got shampoo. You can also simply melt a bar of natural soap in hot water or grate it into hot water. It’s that easy.
Do-it-yourself liquid shampoo works best in soft water. If your water isn’t soft, soap scum can build up on your hair, just like it does on bathtubs and showers, and you can end up with dull hair. A fix for this is using a detergent-based shampoo on occasion, which doesn’t exactly fit the organic living model but will dispatch the scum in a hurry. Rinsing your hair with an acid, such as apple cider vinegar or lemon juice, will do the same thing, as well as give your hair a nice shine.
If you have dry hair, one thing you’ll probably notice right away is that your hair feels much softer and silkier when you wash it with soap instead of detergent-based shampoo, as the soap doesn’t strip your hair of oil like detergent does.
For Basic Liquid Shampoo
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup liquid castile soap
1 tsp. light vegetable oil — try jojoba, almond or avocado
Yield: 8 oz.
Mix all ingredients. Pour into a clean squeeze bottle or empty shampoo bottle. Shampoo as you normally would; since this shampoo is thin you might need to wash and rinse twice, especially if you have long hair. Rinse well with cool water.
A Note on Conditioners...
You might find you don’t need a conditioner when using natural shampoo, as it doesn’t contain ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate, which can dry the hair and scalp. If you do, try a conditioning hair pack. Mayonnaise, direct from the jar, is a classic one — the oils and proteins it contains do great things for dry hair. Simply measure out about 1/4 to 1/2 cup (depending on hair length), and apply it to damp hair. Some people prefer to wash their hair first, some don’t; do what works best for you. Cover your hair with plastic wrap or a plastic shower cap, and simply let the mayonnaise do its work for at least 15 minutes (longer is better; try for 30 to 40 minutes). When done, rinse and wash your hair if you didn’t before you applied the pack. For oily hair, add a teaspoon or two of lemon juice to straight mayo.
Other ingredients to try: Coconut oil, banana, avocado. All are good for dry hair. Coconut oil is also a great conditioner by itself. Olive oil, egg and yogurt do a nice job of maintaining normal hair’s consistency.
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Organic Living by Eliza Sarasohn with Sonia Weiss.