Wholesome Homemade Body Care

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Tender Care For Skin & Hair

Now that Mom’s in hospice care, she gets professional bed baths several times a week. The idea is lovely and so are the folks who perform these ablutions, yet the products they use are anything but. That seems so weird; after all, the skin is our largest, most absorbent organ, affected by everything we use on our bodies. I suppose that such concerns may seem irrelevant when one’s time on the planet is short, but to me, using wholesome ingredients  feels as important as ever at life’s end.

Happily, it’s surprisingly easy to make your own body care products with safe, mainly plant-based ingredients, from skin cream to shampoo and deodorant. I find it pleasant and pleasurable to create and use soothing body and hair care products, for myself, for Mom, and for little gifts. As winter approaches, indoor environments are apt to be especially dry, thanks to more active heating systems (forced air heaters especially). Those of us who keep gardening despite the weather can also develop chapped faces and hands as well as dull, damaged hair.

Quick & Simple DIY

The good news is that most gardens and kitchens contain safe, natural ingredients that can ease discomfort and help heal dried out hair and skin. Homemade, plant-based body care items are far better for our precious bodies than most commercial products. Bizarrely enough, a surprising number of common ingredients in shampoos and conditioners are genuinely harmful to our health. Remember, whatever we put on our skin and scalp is taken into the body very efficiently. Read a few labels closely and you’ll quickly see the value of organic skin and hair care products.

If DIY feels daunting, do at least check those labels carefully. Choose products made only with organic ingredients and avoid products that contain known carcinogens such as sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), parabens, formaldehyde, and DEA, MEA or TEA, as well as hazardous materials such as polyethylene glycol. To learn more about what’s in the products you use, check out the Enviromental Working Groups’ Skin Deep data base, which lists and rates ingredients for body care and cosmetic products and is updated frequently. Here’s the link:


Soothing Kitchen Ingredients

The good news is that some of the wholesome, healing ingredients in your pantry work equally well for food and body care. Organic virgin olive oil is not only anti-inflammatory and cholesterol lowering, it can also do wonders for your skin and hair. After soaking your feet in warm water, massage them with virgin olive oil, then slip on warm socks. Olive oil smoothes rough skin on hands and elbows and makes an enriching conditioner for dry hair, as do organic avocado ad grapeseed oils.

Rich in antioxidants, virgin coconut oil is similarly healing for skin, melting quickly at body temperature to make a light, easily absorbed oil that can be used on your face and body. Rub some on your hands, then run your fingers through your hair to give it a healthy sheen and combat dryness. If you want to try a few of these recipes, make small batches to see which best suit your skin. Package them in squeeze bottles or small canning jar with screw-on tops for ease of use (the tiny quarter- or half-cup ones are great for skin creams and conditioners).

No BO Deodorant

Virgin coconut oil is the base ingredient in this paraben-free, unscented deodorant (or it can be lightly scented with essential oils if you prefer). It’s very effective even for folks who tend to have strong body odor. The mixture is firm to the touch except in hot weather, when it may melt in the jar but don’t worry, it’s still good to go.

Coconut Oil Deodorant

1/2 cup virgin coconut oil (solid)
1/3 cup organic tapioca starch
2 tablespoons baking soda
4-6 drop pure essential oil (optional)

Warm oil in a glass bowl over hot water until it melts, then stir in other ingredients until well blended. Pour into a small jar (I use half-cup canning jars), let cool and cover tightly. To use, lightly massage 1 teaspoonful into each armpit (or wherever) after bathing.

Self Soothing With Coconuts

I really care about skin care, in part because I have rosacea, a sometimes-painful facial skin condition that can make you look like a heavy drinker and even give you a big W.C. Fields nose over time if untreated. After spending way too much time trying conventional medicine’s treatments without success, I finally switched over entirely to using organic cold pressed coconut oil. No more soap, only water and coconut oil. The rosacea even affects my eyes, which can get red and swollen when inflamed. Happily, a combination of flaxseed oil and salmon oil, taken daily (by mouth) has nearly cleared up my eyes, and even improved my vision by reducing ocular inflammation.

My hair was also getting stiff and dry from weather exposure (ok, and maybe age). I find the simple shampoo recipe below to be especially healing, and it works wonders for chemo patients whose scalps have become uncomfortably sensitized to commercial shampoos. To revitalize dry hair, wet hair completely, then wash with a teaspoon of this mild, castile-based shampoo. Gently massage your scalp (fingertips only; no nails) as you wash and rinse your hair. This increases blood circulation and unclogs sebaceous glands, both of which improves hair health and appearance. Rinse well, gently towel hair dry, then let air dry completely. Use an olive or avocado oil conditioner weekly until hair luster is restored, then monthly or as needed.

Super Natural Shampoo

This gentle shampoo does wonders for dry hair, eliminating dandruff and itchy scalps. It also adds body to thin hair and is especially helpful during and after chemo treatments. It’s also pleasant as a body wash, leaving skin feeling soft and supple. If you like a little fragrance, use a scented Dr. B’s, which comes in rose, orange, lavender, and various other scents.

Simple Homemade Shampoo

1 cup plain liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s)
1 tablespoon organic cider vinegar
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup water

Combine in a bottle with a flip-top or squirt nozzle. Shake gently, apply 1-2 teaspoons to wet hair and work in well; mixture will be rich and very lathery. Rinse thoroughly while massaging scalp. Hair will not be “squeaky clean” because the natural oils will not be stripped out (so you may not need to use conditioner as often). Don’t worry; when toweled dry, hair feels soft and is not at all sticky.

Rosemary & Lemon Balm Shampoo

1/3 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons dried lemon balm foliage
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary sprigs
1 cup plain liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner’s)
1 tablespoon organic cider vinegar
1 tablespoon organic avocado oil

Pour boiling water into a glass bowl with herbs and steep, covered with a plate, until cool. Strain liquid, adding water if needed to make 1/3 cup, and proceed as above.

Olive Oil and Honey Conditioner

2 tablespoons organic olive oil
2 tablespoons honey

Combine ingredients in a glass bowl and warm gently over hot water, stirring well to blend. Work into through damp hair, gently massaging your scalp. Wrap your head with a hot (old) towel or wear a shower cap  while you relax or take a bath for 20-30 minutes. Wash with gentle shampoo and rinse well.

Herbal Avocado Oil Conditioner

2 tablespoons rosemary, snipped
2 tablespoons lavender (fresh or dried)
1 cup organic avocado oil

In a saucepan, combine rosemary and lavender with 1/2 cup water, bring to a boil, remove from heat and steep for 15-30 minutes. Strain liquid, pressing herbs firmly, combine in a food processor or blender with oil and blend well. To use, shake mixture well, then put 1/4 cup of it in a glass bowl over hot water and warm to wrist temperature. Comb through damp hair, wrap head with a hot (old) towel or shower cap and relax for 20-30 minutes. Shampoo hair with gentle shampoo and rinse well.

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