DIY Hygiene: Greener Grooming
The DIY medicine cabinet in full simplicity
It happened a bit more rapidly than I expected: One day my wife Emma read a list of horrors associated with fluoride and toothpaste, and by the evening, she’d sworn off store-bought toothpaste. In the weeks to come, I watched our other toiletries disappear. Realizing she was right, as is often the case with greener, kindlier things of the world, I soon followed suit. Over the next couple of months, we’d converted ourselves completely: shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste and whatever else came up.
Honestly, we are such avid boycotters of companies who test on animals that it’d gotten difficult to find products suitable, affordable and effective. It seems every country (we’re career expats) offers very limited hygiene choices, monopolized by the very companies we don’t use. If I’d have known just how easy it would be to make it all, if I’d have known how truly good the results would be, how cost efficient, I would have converted much sooner. I’m happy there are companies out there making green bathroom products, but I’m also happy not to need (or have to pay for) them anymore.
What you need
Strangely, the key ingredient in all of your bathroom products is the same: baking soda, aka bicarbonate of soda. Before starting the DIY toiletries, I’d only ever seen baking soda in the occasional recipe and shoved to the back of refrigerator shelves. I didn’t know what a wondrous creation it was. It is in fact the all-natural, do-it-all solution for every green house and sometimes greenhouse even. It’s not just the key for hygiene products but also for natural household cleaning and odor eating.
Beyond that, the ingredient list remains simple. Vinegar, particularly apple cider vinegar, is very useful in the shower (great for preventing dandruff). Coconut oil is very good for making things into pastes, and it has anti-bacterial and other beneficial properties for your body. Then, you’ll need to choose some essential oils. Spearmint is my favorite for toothpaste. I like citrus for my body, patchouli for my hair. But, there is an unbelievable variety to choose from, and most can be found for a few dollars and last for ages.
You can easily get yourself set up for under twenty dollars, and this will provide you with all of your all-natural, green bathroom products multiple times.
How to do it
Making toothpaste with three ingredients
Toothpaste: Our first DIY toiletry was toothpaste. Truth be told, this can be as simple as dipping your toothbrush in baking soda, but that isn’t the most pleasant cleaning. It doesn’t taste great, and the experience is startlingly different than brushing with pastes. That said, we haven’t gone much beyond that in our toothpaste. We mix baking soda and a few drops of minty essential oil. Some folks like to add coconut oil for a smoother texture and calcium, but we’re not bothered.
Warning: I will be frank in that some dentists (and wannabe dentists) are anti-baking soda. Its abrasiveness can be bit much for tooth enamel. However, baking soda is renowned for its teeth whitening abilities as well as plaque removing qualities. Use responsibly. I brush in the evening and mouthwash in the morning.
Making Deodorant with three ingredients
Deodorant: I simply didn’t believe a homemade deodorant would work on me. We currently live in Panama, with all the associated heat and humidity. I work in the garden four or five hours a day, sweating profusely. Not only does it work, I use a lot less now. I used to be a big time deodorizer, but I think the disappearance of chemicals has allowed my body to reach some sort of happy balance. I’m a lot less smelly.
So, like toothpaste, this can be done simply with baking powder alone, rubbing it under your arms, but that is a bit too far on the unconventional scale for my taste. I like to smell good, as well as not stink. We mix coconut oil, baking powder and essential oil — patchouli at the moment. It seems to be pH balanced for both my wife and me.
Making shampoo and conditioner
Shampoo & conditioner: Remember the old science experiment classic where you mixed baking soda and vinegar to make a volcano. Well, that’s kind of how I take a shower now. For a shampoo, I sprinkle a little baking powder into a jar with about the same amount of water, shake it up, and scrub it into my hair. This is the shampoo. After a rinse, I do the same process with apple cider vinegar, which makes hair shiny and soft as well as prevents dandruff. You can certainly go fancier than this, but it gets the job done for me. I’ve used dandruff shampoos with varying success my entire life, but since I started with this regimen, I’ve had no problems.
Body scrub/soap: Making soap can get a little complicated, especially when much of your life is spent traveling. So, soap can be a problem. We tend to just scrimp and do a little baking soda mixture with water and essential oil. It might not technically be soap, but it gets us through. We also like a few different castile soaps available on the market, specifically Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (a great product and a champion for good causes). That said, soap is not outside the realm of an easy repertoire.
Organic natural moisturizer
Other options: That more or less covers the basics for the bathroom, but that’s not to say other extras aren’t quickly at your fingertips, and without needing to buy anything more. Body sprays, mouthwashes and aftershaves are no great feat to master. Ladies, a nice foamy leg shave isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, either, nor is moisturizer (coconut oil does it, as does apple cider vinegar) or whatever else you may need.
The point we’ve reached is that it is entirely possible that you make your own bathroom products. It’s cheaper. It’s better for the environment. It produces less waste. The gray water is safer to use in the garden. And, frankly, as practitioners of permaculture, we should all be doing it. So, maybe it’s time for you to read the truth about fluoride and get inspired.
Once you get started, you can use the same ingredients to clean your house as well.