Friday, 22 September 2017

Further adventures in homemade toiletries

I talked in an earlier post about some of the harmful mystery chemicals used in body care products by reputable manufacturers, and about how easy it is to produce safe and effective homemade versions of most, if not all, necessary toiletries.

Here are a few more examples to increase the repertoire of basic building blocks, from which a myriad of possibilities extend.

Good dental hygiene without SLS

Tooth powder

It was actually toothpaste that got me started on all this years ago, when I discovered that the foaming agent Sodium Lauryl Sulphate, contained in nearly all commercial tooth pastes, was giving me terrible mouth ulcers.

Being slightly less savvy in those days, I merely looked around for another commercial toothpaste without the SLS. There are two or three, but what I didn't think too much about at the time is that they still have a range of other mystery chemical ingredients that don't seem to contribute materially to the core business of cleaning teeth.

Now I know about this simple and effective homemade tooth powder alternative: 

1 part Epsom salt
2 part Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
3 part Bentonite powder (Fuller's earth, diatomaceous earth, etc.)
+ a couple of drops Clove oil

Homemade tooth powder - yeah, it's a grey powder...
Combine all of these and blend using a mortar and pestle or an electric mini chopper and store in a small, wide-mouthed jar (or similar), which will allow you to easily press your moistened toothbrush into the powder and load it up for brushing. I was a little concerned about the lack of a fluoride supplement, so I checked it out with my dentist. He reassured me that this isn't of great importance to an adult with fully developed teeth in good condition. 

Epsom salt (Magnesium sulphate) is an old school substance with a surprising number of uses around the home and garden and also as a home remedy. The original tooth powder recipe I started with called for sea or rock salt, rather than Epsom salt. Its purpose in the mix is as a gentle scouring agent. Epsom salt does the same thing, but brings an additional benefit: I had been suffering a bit with leg cramps during the night and read somewhere that this can be due to a magnesium deficiency. Since I switched to the Epsom salt version of the tooth powder: no more cramps. Result!

Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is well known as a gentle scrubbing and cleaning agent. It also neutralises acidity, which is actually what causes the degradation of tooth enamel that leads to decay.

Bentonite is a type of clay, made up of the tiny calcite skeletons of prehistoric, microscopic, ocean-dwelling diatoms. It also has a range of home remedy uses, stemming from its powerful detoxifying properties. It can be made into a paste and used topically, to treat skin lesions, or prepared as a suspension in water and taken internally, to treat stomach upsets. In the jungles of South America, tapirs eat the stuff, which is what allows them to safely eat toxic plants that would otherwise kill them! In the tooth powder, it acts as a cleaning, mineralising and detoxifying ingredient.

Clove oil adds a pleasant flavour and natural antiseptic properties.


Sun lotion

Homemade sunscreen in reused container
Sunscreen is an essential for anyone who spends much time outdoors. It's another great example of the shock value to be had from reading the list of ingredients. For a start, as with pretty much every skin cream or lotion, the number one ingredient is Aqua. That's water to you and me! I suppose this comes down to a general consumer demand for 'non-greasy' lotion formulae, but it comes at a price. The active 'moisturising' ingredients absorbed by the skin from creams and lotions are, necessarily, oils and fats, not water. Anybody who has ever been swimming knows that water doesn't moisturise the skin. In order to keep oils and water nicely mixed, they have to be coated with emulsifiers: great source of mystery chemical ingredients right there. To thicken these watery creams to a nice consistency, one has to add gums, such as guar or xanthan. More items not required for the core purpose. The list goes on.

So the moisturising creams, ointments and sunscreen that I make have a simple lipid base. The basics are things like coconut oil, olive oil, shea butter, lanolin, beeswax. All readily absorbed by and beneficial to the skin. You can vary the ratios to get the sort of consistency you want. For lip balm, as an example, up the proportion of beeswax to make the final product that bit firmer.

2 heaped tbsp shea butter
3 heaped tbsp beeswax
2 heaped tbsp coconut oil
2 tbsp calendula oil (to make this, cover a handful of calendula blossom with eg olive or cold-pressed rapeseed oil and leave to infuse for up to a week, then strain out the flowers)
2 tbsp zinc oxide (be sure to get non-nano)
1 tsp lanolin
1 tsp raspberry seed oil
1/4 cup olive oil

The active sun blocking ingredients are the zinc oxide and raspberry seed oil. To increase the SPF, simply add more zinc oxide and/or rasp seed oil.

Melt and combine all in a double-boiler (or just a smaller pot inside a larger one, with hot-simmering water in the larger one), then pour into a jar and allow to set.

With this sunscreen it's important to make sure you're properly covered, so it should be reapplied several times a day. It may not be strong enough for Australia or the Med, but it does just fine for UK conditions. Experiment carefully until you're sure you have the right formula for your situation.

Bath salt

Nothing could be simpler:
Just add 1 cup of Epsom salts per bath!

The possibilities really are endless, particularly once you start making your own herbal extract ingredients, and especially if they're also home grown. The companies making big bucks out of all this stuff want you to believe that it's fabulously complex and the teams of scientists they have developing their products have developed formulae with unparalleled effectiveness. Sure, they work: but they're also much more complex than they need to be to work. The simple reason: maximisation of profit!

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