So you’ve decided to become an apartment homesteader; are already making consistent lifestyles changes to limit your personal use of water, electricity, and fuel; and have committed to producing less trash.
You. Go. *Virtual high five!*
But there is even more to the homesteader’s life than conservation.
In this post in the Apartment Homesteader series, I want to consider preservation.
Preservation comes in many forms. Today, let’s talk about how you can preserve your health by removing harsh, nasty, human-made chemicals from your homestead personal care cabinet and making your own natural alternatives.
Let’s Talk Toxins …
Toxic chemicals are everywhere: in our water, our air, our food, and the products we purchase.
We can’t always avoid them when they show up in our food, water, or air, but we can make a concerted effort to avoid them in the personal care products we buy!
What are the toxic chemicals in common products? What makes them dangerous?
We can group the chemical “yuck” into three categories:
- Carcinogens: Chemicals that can potentially cause cancer
- Neurotoxins: Chemicals that mess with our brain
- Endocrine Disruptors: Chemicals that mimic and mess up our hormones
Every time one of these chemicals gets into our blood stream, we risk damaged cells and organs.
Ladies, listen up: the makeup we wear contains some seriously terrifying chemicals!
Did you know that the average American woman puts over 80 different types of chemicals on her face, in her hair, or on her skin before breakfast?
How insane is that?!
And all of those chemicals are absorbed into our skin and enter our blood stream … which means that, just because we put eye shadow, lipstick, and a few other cosmetics on our faces this morning, we potentially have over 80 toxic chemicals coursing through our veins RIGHT NOW.
If you read the ingredient lists of the makeup you buy, you’ll likely come across some or all of the following chemicals with some frequency: phthalates, lead, quaternium-15 and other formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, PEG compounds, BHT, BHA, parabens, octinoxate, carbon black, siloxanes … and more.
- Phthalates are a group of chemicals that may be disruptive to the endocrine system, which is responsible for hormone production. Chemical interference in your endocrine system can lead to developmental, reproductive, and neurological damage. Where would you find phthalates? They’re used to plasticize products, making them more flexible or better able to hold color and scent. But just because “phthalates” don’t show up on an ingredient list doesn’t mean they’re not in there. These chemicals can be grouped under and listed as “fragrance.” Companies claim their fragrance formulas as “trade secrets,” which is their fancy way of telling us they don’t want us to know what they put in their makeup. Your best bet is to avoid products that list “fragrance” and choose ones that use natural plant oils.
- Lead is a proven neurotoxin linked to miscarriage, reduced fertility, and delays in the onset of puberty for females. To find it, look no further than your lipstick, as color additives are a common source of lead in makeup. And, you know it’s true: every time you wear lipstick, you’ll end up ingesting some of it.
- Quaternium-15 releases formaldahyde. It is used in mascara, pressed powders, and eyeliners. It is a potential carcinogen and can cause skin sensitivities and irritation.
- Parabens are dangerous. They are the most widely used chemical preservatives in cosmetics, and they easily penetrate your skin and are absorbed into your blood stream. Parabens can mimic estrogen and have been detected in human breast cancer tissue.
Raise your hand if you have a skin care product in your bathroom right now that is labeled as “anti-aging.”
Well, sorry to break it to you, but the chemicals in your anti-aging lotions and creams may kill you before you have a chance to show off your “younger-looking” skin.
First up, the one we already saw in makeup: parabens. Parabens are used in over-the-counter personal products as a preservative to extend the shelf life of the product. These chemicals can be found in face and body moisturizers, body wash, and cleansers.
Also in makeup: phthalates. These have been classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Almost all skin care products contain synthetic substances that are petroleum based. Petrochemicals have been shown to cause anemia, kidney degeneration, and nerve damage.
You should also make it a habit to avoid cosmetic fragrance. The smell of that “lavender-scented” lotion is made from about 2 percent lavender “essence” and 98 percent … other stuff. And if the fragrance is completely artificial, expect it to be made from petroleum or coal.
These cheap, synthetic chemicals mimic the aroma of natural fragrances. Companies use them because they are cheaper than pure, natural scents, which only come from essential oils.
Lotions and potions for hair care are also laden with chemicals. Two biggies are sodium lauryl sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, which in combination with other chemicals can form nitrosamines, a truly awful carcinogen. Exposure to these chemicals can cause eye damage, depression, diarrhea, and more.
A toxic chemical that shows up in hair dyes is coal tar. A byproduct of coal processing, coal tar is a known human carcinogen. Extended exposure to coal tar can cause mild dermatitis, vision issues, headaches, dizziness, and labored breathing.
Propylene glycol is a chemical used in styling gels, conditioners, and shampoos … and you might also recognize it as the active ingredient in antifreeze. Propylene glycol can cause brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.
In addition to parabens—the endocrine disruptors—aluminum compounds are often found in antiperspirants. Some studies indicate that they might promote cancer and mess with your hormones.
Another chemical, silica, is a skin irritant and may be contaminated with a carcinogen, which means it could be capable of increasing your cancer risk.
Catch the drift here?
The chemicals found in most makeup, skin, hair, and antiperspirant products on the market can cause more problems than they are created to fix.
When we lather on lotion, style our hair with gel, paint our faces with liquid foundation, and coat our armpits with aluminum-filled antiperspirants, we’re spending thousands of dollars to toxify our bodies and, potentially, permanently damage our health.
DIY for the Win!
But there is another option: DIY the heck out of your personal care products! By making your personal care products yourself, you can know exactly what goes in and exactly what will be absorbed by your skin.
Below, you’ll find recipes for eight common personal-care products you can make using a few simple, natural ingredients — and they won’t even break the bank!
I recommend that you include certain essential oils in each of the recipes below. Make sure you use only therapeutic-grade, 100 percent pure essential oils. (The term “therapeutic grade” is not regulated, but you a better shot at getting high-quality essential oils if you look for that label.) Essential oils can help oxygenate your blood, move nutrients into your cells, and promote detoxification. Plus, they smell awesome.
Store all of these products in dark glass containers (think amber/brown or blue) in a mostly cool, dark place—like your shower or your bathroom cabinet.
1/2 c. baking soda
3/4 c. coconut oil (solid at room temperature)
10 drops of essential oil (e.g., frankincense, lavender, tea tree)
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until you have a gritty paste consistency. Transfer to an airtight glass container. Use the paste to wash your face in the shower or over the sink.
1 c. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap (unscented)
1 c. organic coconut milk
10 drops essential oil (e.g., lemongrass, tea tree, orange)
Pour all ingredients into a glass container with a pump top. Shake well before using.
2/3 c. Dr. Bronner’s Pure Castile Liquid Soap (unscented)
1/4 c. raw honey
2 tsp. olive oil (can be substituted with sweet almond, grape seed, or sesame oil)
1 tsp. vitamin E oil
20 drops essential oil (e.g., lavender, tea tree, lemongrass, frankincense)
Pour ingredients into a glass container with a pump top. Shake well before using.
Body and Face Lotion
1 c. coconut oil (solid at room temperature)
1 tbsp. vitamin E oil
10 drops essential oil (e.g., lavender, frankincense)
Mix all ingredients and transfer to an airtight glass container. Lotion will melt when it comes into contact with your skin, so use less than you think is necessary at first. A little will go a long way when the coconut oil turns to liquid!
1/2 c. baking soda
1/2 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. sea salt
10 drops essential oil (e.g., peppermint, cinnamon)
Mix all ingredients and transfer to an airtight glass container. Use 1/2 tsp. of paste every time you brush your teeth.
1/3 c. olive oil or fractionated coconut oil
10 drops essential oil (e.g., cedarwood, sandalwood, orange, rosemary, peppermint)
Pour ingredients into a glass container with a dropper top. Shake gently to mix. Use 2–3 drops daily for healthy facial hair.
Roller-Bottle Perfume for Women
Fill a glass roller bottle 3/4 full with distilled water. Fill half of the remaining space with vodka (to enhance the aroma). Add 5–10 drops of your favorite essential oils. (I recommend ylang ylang, frankincense, and copaiba.)
Roller-Bottle Cologne for Men
Fill a glass roller bottle 3/4 full with distilled water. Fill half of the remaining space with vodka (to enhance the aroma). Add 5–10 drops of your favorite essential oils. (I recommend cedarwood, cinnamon bark, and copaiba.)
You don’t have to stop there! There are plenty of other products you can make with inexpensive, natural ingredients and essential oils:
- Hand soap
- Laundry detergent
- Hair spray
- Hair detangling spray
- Hair styling putty
- Hand sanitizer
- Lip balm
- Lip scrub
- Hair rinse
- Hair conditioner
- Acne treatment
- Face masks
- Bug spray
- Shaving cream
If you find a recipe for one of these products that you love, be sure to comment below and share it with your fellow homesteaders.
Together, we will work hard to live toxin-free lives!
28 Days to Clean Challenge
Do you want to really commit to good, clean living? See if you can do the 28 Days to Clean Challenge!
- Week 1: Replace all skin care products with natural DIY alternatives.
- Week 2: Replace all hair care products with natural DIY alternatives.
- Week 3: Replace all makeup, deodorant, and specialty items (e.g., sunscreen, bug spray) with natural DIY alternatives.
- Week 4: Replace all household cleaners with DIY alternatives.
Read the rest of the articles in the Apartment Homesteader series here.
Then, find more tips, tricks, and inspiration in The Apartment Homesteader Facebook group! Join your fellow apartment homesteaders here.
What’s an alternative to coconut oil? I used it as a lotion for a while but it and my gut don’t get along!
Sweet almond oil or high quality olive oil would be great alternatives. It doesn’t have to be solid at room temperature, but just know that it might make some of the recipes a more liquid consistency. If that’s an issue, consider adding a natural thickening agent like xanthan gum.