Taking care of yourself and the planet: a quick guide to homemade cosmetics

What is your toothpaste made of? Which soap do you use to wash your hands and which one to clean your dishes? Which products do you apply to your hair everyday? What does your aftershave contain? And what about the detergent you use for your laundry?

Making a list of all the cleaning and beauty products we use on a daily basis can be quite surprising, as there are so many that we use without even thinking for they have become part of our daily routine. On average, every person uses up to ten of these products per day. It is so normal to brush our teeth, do our dishes, to wash our hands that it is hard to keep track of all the products we use, of their ingredients, their effects and the entire industry behind them.

The cosmetics and household products industries form an inherent part of our society, a society focused on economic growth and consumerism. In the end, as with many other industries, the amount of goods produced leads to overproduction and to pollution of the environment. The money spent on all those products only go into the pockets of the industries, serving their own interest and not at all the one of the general public.

Most of those industrial products are loaded with chemicals and thus affect the environment and our own bodies as well. It is often argued that the small doses of harmful chemicals present in these products have no negative health effects. However, when you pause to think about the quantity of products used day after day, you realise that the sum of chemicals adds up quickly and they become potentially dangerous. The skin is our body’s largest organ; it reflects our physical health and wellbeing while protecting our inner being. It absorbs up to 60% of all the substances that come into contact with it, which are then transported into the bloodstream. This is how toiletry and household products become potentially harmful. So why would we want to cover our skin with chemicals? Most of the “conventional” cosmetics and domestic products are full of toxic and irritating ingredients, which have been proven to have a role in skin allergies, cancer, infertility, birth defects, reproductive problems and learning disabilities (for reports from organisations, see here and here ).

So, what can you do?
In the past few years, the trend to make homemade beauty products has taken off. There are more and more blogs and magazines discussing the topic and proposing easy homemade recipes. A growing number of shops selling ingredients and offering workshops on how to make your own products have also sprung up. This is very positive because using natural beauty and household products, and especially making them yourself, has many benefits.

The basic ingredients to make your own deodorant
The basic ingredients to make your own deodorant

Firstly, it can help reduce your environmental impact. Using simple ingredients already present in your kitchen, or buying organic ingredients paying attention to the origin will have a positive effect on your environmental footprint. Additionally, recycling and reusing containers that you already have at home and making the exact quantities of products you need will also help limit waste. Moreover, there is no animal testing involved, which is often the case in the traditional cosmetics industry. However, it is very important to be aware that “homemade cosmetic” is not always synonymous with ecologically sustainable. Buying many different ingredients that will only be used once in very specific products, buying new empty containers instead of reusing old ones, and buying the necessary material of course can also lead to more garbage and products going to waste, and to more consumption all together.

This leads us to the second major benefit that could come from making your own household and toiletry products. That is the realisation that you only need a few products to fulfil all of your needs. Is it absolutely necessary to have three different lotions, two shower gels or three different kinds of house cleaning products? Good news! The answer is no. Many raw materials that can be used for cosmetics and household products are already present in your kitchen and have numerous uses – for instance olive or coconut oil, honey, apple cider vinegar, lemon and coffee, to name a few – or else it will be enough to simply buy one or two ingredients selected specifically based on your personal preferences and needs. Thus, making your own products not only helps reduce consumption in general, but more importantly it also allows you as a citizen to take back control of the political power that the act of consumption itself carries. It is by such a reappropriation that the citizen of an economically globalized society can hope to influence the course of events (to read more about it see this research paper by Latouche (in French)).

Additionally, with natural and homemade products, you know exactly what is going onto and into your skin. If you don’t have time to do it yourself, but want to start buying natural product brands, it is very important to read the labels. Sometimes it can be challenging to identify the ingredients of a product properly because the ingredient lists are made up of complicated scientific names, which are often difficult to understand and remember. Here are a few of the most common toxic chemicals that can be easily avoided: Benzoyl Peroxide, Parabens (Methyl, Butyl, Ethyl, Propyl), Dioxin, Phthalates, PEG, Propylen Glycol, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate, etc.

Finally, making your own natural beauty and household products will allow you to save money and is also very enjoyable. Experimenting in your kitchen with friends or on your own is lots of fun and you will be so proud when you realise that your homemade product actually works. Plus, they make great gifts too.

So, go check our previous posts, like this one on the many purposes of baking soda and vinegar or these homemade beauty products made from kitchen scraps, and stay tuned for more easy homemade recipes.

By: Teresa Iglesias