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Green & Gorgeous: My Homemade Beauty Routine

Welcome back to our monthly Green & Gorgeous series! We took a break in July for our fabulous SLM Block Party giveaways, but usually I set aside the first Friday of each month here at Simple Organic to discuss green beauty tips, trends, and resources.

Have you had a chance to check out The Story of Cosmetics? (You may already be familiar with Annie Leonard from her thought-provoking video The Story of Stuff.) Leonard is working together with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to raise awareness about the toxins in the health and beauty industry, as well as the lack of regulation and oversight.

You may be aware that on July 21, a bill was introduced in Congress called the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010. This bill, if it becomes law, would give the FDA regulatory power over the beauty industry so that toxic, cancer-causing ingredients would no longer find their way into baby shampoos and lipsticks.

Photo by Erica Kline

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, American women use an average of twelve beauty and personal care products each day. I decided to see how I compare with the average American woman.  I counted it up, and everyday – if I take a shower – I use three store-bought products: soap, toothpaste, and hair pomade (I’ve got frizzy curly hair!   Need my pomade.).  If I don’t shower that day, then it’s just one: toothpaste.

So, I have significantly lessened my exposure to the toxins in health and beauty products simply by opting out. I’m not spending lots of money on the “organic” and “natural” versions of mainstream products; instead, I have a homemade beauty routine.  And I should tell you that a few years ago, if you had told me I would be using so many homemade products, I would have said you’re crazy.  But today, here’s what you’ll find in my bathroom.

Shampoo and Conditioner: Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar

Almost one year ago, I stopped buying shampoo and conditioner at the store, and instead I went “no-poo.”  Again, let me say that I never thought I would try this, and I never thought this would work for me.  I have curly hair that tangles and dries out easily, and yet an oily-ish scalp.  Honestly, I really only tried it because I felt like everyone else in the “green living” community was doing it, so I had to at least give it a shot.  Imagine my surprise when it worked well for me – I really liked it! There was a transition period, as was foretold, and then my hair and scalp became quite happy.

Photo by jessica mullen

Benefits of Going No-Poo:

  1. I save lots of money on store-bought shampoo and conditioner.
  2. I save lots of time not standing in the shampoo aisle and trying to figure out which shampoo to try this time, reading ingredients, comparing prices, smelling the products (admit it, you’ve done this!), etc.
  3. I am not putting all those toxins and chemicals into my body via my scalp.
  4. It’s a green choice: less products purchased = less packaging, plastics, etc.

Learn more about going “no-poo” from this post at Simple Mom, or this excellent video from SO contributor Stephanie at Keeper of the Home.

Soap: Dr. Bronner’s

I do use store-bought soap.  We use the same liquid Dr. Bronner’s castile soap in the shower that we use for washing our hands at the sink.  It’s concentrated, so you can mix a little bit with water in a foaming pump for hand-washing, or just use a tiny squirt on a washrag.  I buy it in bulk sizes to save money, either from a co-op or from Amazon. So, that’s store-bought product #1.

Photo by Max Edmands

Deodorant: Homemade

We just finished the Simple Organic Natural Deodorant Challenge, so you probably already know about my coconut-oil-based homemade deodorant. We have hit the 100+-degree-days here in central Texas, and this deodorant is still rockin’. No need for the store-bought stuff here.  And the same benefits still apply:

  1. less money spent
  2. no confusion over what to buy for how much money containing which ingredients
  3. no toxins or disease-causing chemicals
  4. no extra packaging

Face and/or Body Lotion: Natural Oils

I know there are a lot of ladies out there who love the smelly scented lotions.  I’m not trying to convince you otherwise, but make sure you know what you’re putting on your skin (the biggest organ in the body – and quite permeable, too!).

I personally have never been much of a lotion girl,  but every now and then I’ll feel the need for a little extra moisture.  Coconut oil is a great choice for the body, and organic jojoba oil is my go-to “lotion” for my face.

I’ve had skin struggles for most of my life, and I used to be horrified at the thought of slathering oil on my face.  I grew up using oil-free products such as Neutrogena and Clinique, that really only stripped my skin of its natural oils so it went into overproduction.  No more…jojoba oil is a wonderfully light moisturizer, pure and clean.  My skin feels healthy and balanced, and I have less skin problems than ever before. Ditto for the coconut oil; plus, coconut oil has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties – bonus!

Facial Cleaner: Oil-Cleansing Method

I only clean my face at night, and (true confession) not every night.  I used to be rather religious about this, until I got pregnant and fell into bed each evening utterly nauseous and exhausted.  Those pregnancy hormones were keeping my skin clear and happy, and so, not seeing the need for daily cleaning, my lifelong habit slowly went out the window, never to return again in quite the same way.

Photo by Liz

When I do clean my face, I use the Oil-Cleansing Method. Yes, I clean my face with oil!  Again, a previously scary thought for me – and perhaps still for some of you.  Let me tell you, though: it works.  Really beautifully. There is science behind it, and it really makes sense.

If you want to learn more about the oil-cleansing method, you will find a lot of information here. And again, those same four benefits apply: less money spent, less confusion in-store, less chemicals and toxins in my body, and less packaging purchased.

Homemade Beauty: Green, Frugal, and Non-Toxic

That’s about it for me.  I use a natural hair gel on my frizz curls on the days I shampoo, and I brush my teeth with a natural store-bought toothpaste (although homemade toothpaste is possibly in my future…).

Oh yes – I do have an addiction to my Graham Gardens Peppermint Lip Balm, so that makes a total of four products!  No make-up, unless I find myself in a bridesmaid dress (or the occasional hot date!), and then I use mineral make-up.

It’s almost as green, frugal, and non-toxic as a beauty routine can get. What’s next? Will I make my own toothpaste? How about homemade lip balm? Could I give up my anti-frizz cream? (Do I need to?!? Nah….)

What does your beauty routine look like? Have any green, frugal, non-toxic tips to share?

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42 Comments

  1. amy

    love this post! I use many of these same things! I’ve heard of some people using coconut oil to tame the frizz ??? it’d maybe be worth a try?
    if you find a homemade toothpaste that you like, please do share! 🙂

    • Stephanie P

      I’ve used a bit of coconut oil on my hair just after getting out of he shower. Not too shabby.

      • Bethany Corrie

        So, I just went to get my hair cut and I was talking with the stylist about needing a “no maintenance” hair cut since I have been ‘poo free and don’t use other hair products anymore, and she suggested coconut oil too! I guess I’ll try it after my shower tomorrow!

    • Katie

      Hmmm, yet another use for coconut oil!! I have never heard of using it as hair gel but I will definitely give it a try now! Thanks!

  2. Helen

    Unfortunately, The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 does not include enough exemptions for small businesses that manufacture cosmetics. If the bill passes as it is written, these small business will be unable to survive. That is very unfortunate because it is small cosmetics makers that make the safest cosmetics available! Visit this website for more information: http://www.opposesca.com/

    • Katie

      Thanks, Helen! It seems like this is always the case when these issues come up with govt regulation. I will check out that link.

  3. Shannon

    I have a similar personal care routine except I wash my face with a good soap instead of oil.

    I did a post this past week on how The Story Of Cosmetics gets it all wrong. While it is good to inform people of the problems I thought their solutions were way off.

  4. Stephanie P

    Yeah, while I really like most of “The Story of…” clips, the cosmetic one is perhaps my least favorite of all. I’m still struggling to find the right makeup for me, though. I’m hoping to test out Shaklee’s liquid mineral foundation soon.

    I tried the OCM on my face for about a month and no success. Even after reformulating different ratios of olive oil to castor oil it still left me with little bumps all over my face 🙁

    Right now I’m using coconut oil as a moisturizer for my arms and legs and it seems to be working well.

    Does anyone have any fragrance tips? I’d love to use some essential oils for “perfume” but I’m not sure which ones are safe for that kind of thing.

      • Heather

        Jojoba oil is supposed to be really good for clearing up acne and those fine bumps under the skin. I used that for awhile and really liked it and am now trying out grapeseed oil.

  5. Stephanie P

    Oh, my husband and I also tried to use Dr. Bronner’s to wash our hair. We diluted it with water at a 1:1 ratio. However, it just makes our hair way too greasy. Unfortunately, the DH hates the smell of vinegar so I doubt the apple cider rinse will work for the shower. We do use the white vinegar for a clothes softener in the laundry.

  6. Nikki Moore

    Great article! I tried no-poo, but it didn’t work for me, even though I really wanted it to (I think our hard water has a lot to do with it). I now use Jason Naturals shampoo (same stuff hubby uses) and I rinse with a ‘conditioner’ of diluted lemon juice. My hair and scalp have never been happier!

    I wash my face with oil and use a natural purchased lotion for my hands and feet, although I could (and sometimes do) also use olive oil and/or coconut oil.

    Also: I use olive oil to shave my legs! Especially in the winter, my skin gets SO dry, and when I shave it’s even worse. I love having silky soft legs (don’t think hubby minds either) and the olive oil has been WONDERFUL! It’s a HUGE improvement over the pricey, overpackaged, wasteful “moisturizing” shave gels. Not only is it natural and cheap, it works way better, leaving my legs without the snowstorm effect (dry skin falling off).

    I use Honeybee Gardens makeup. Since using the oil cleansing method I use much less skin makeup (concealer, foundation etc) than I did before since my skin is so clear.

    For deodorant, I tried the coconut oil stuff but that didn’t cut it. 🙁 So I use Kiss My Face Lavender roller. It’s a little more expensive than I’d like, but it works. I may try another homemade formula in the future, but for now I’m happy with where I’m at.

    • Sandy Cruser

      Go to ewg.org, search for Jason’s naturals. They are not so natural. Ewg is a good site to refer to for looking up the mixtures in our products we put on our bodies.

  7. amber

    i have to admit that i do all of the above, but i have one secret indulgence. i use eye cream religiously…. it is one that is made by origins and i checked it on the cosmetics database for chemicals and other terribleness that could be included in the cream. it is the one thing that i do spend the money on and it is worth it. I stopped using it when i first was plagued with all day sickness during my pregnancy, because i dont even know if i even was taking a shower a month ago, but a few weeks ago, someone asked me if i was tired!!! the bags had grown! so i started using my eye cream again, and it really has reduced the swelling. or maybe this is all in my head! who knows. but regardless, it does feel like a spa day!

  8. Tricia

    I pretty much use these same beauty routines, except I found olive oil/castor oil to be a little heavy for me, so I started using jojoba oil to cleanse my face, and I actually have no need of a moisturizer because the jojoba oil seems to cleanse and moisturize at the same time. I also use a homemade sugar scrub for occasional exfoliation. I tried washing my hair with water only and “brushing” out the dirt/grime that accumulates, but that was a seriously disgusting exercise. After three weeks, it was just too gross – I’ve never loved my baking soda/water shampoo so much as I did washing my hair after three weeks of using only water.

    While I love using all natural homemade products, I have to admit that I do miss smelling girlie. I tried adding essential oils to my cider vinegar rinse, but while it smells nice in the shower, it just doesn’t stay in my hair.

  9. Doodlebug's Mommy

    I tried the no ‘poo thing but it didn’t work for me, so now I use an all-natural shampoo bar. I use kiss my face soap (the ingredients say: olive oil and salt!). Most of the time I don’t use deodorant (because I forget), but I’ve been meaning to try the homemade version. I use baking soda to brush my teeth, and I use nothing on my face; just scrub it with a wet rag.

  10. Jo

    I am in desperate need of something for my curly/dry hair. What kind of gel do you use? I found a recipe for hairgel made from boiling and straining flax seed, have you ever tried it? My 3 1/2 yo little girl has Shirley Temple curls and I would love to know if you have a natural replacement for the leave in/detangler I have to put in her hair every morning to wash it. We are going to brave the No Poo method soon, just waiting to finish the stuff in the shower first. Thanks for the tips!

    • Katie

      Hmmm, I have never looked into natural dentanglers. I will have to check that out! As long as I keep my hair around shoulder length I don’t really get tangles, but if I let it get too long it starts knotting up pretty badly. One reader mentioned above to try coconut oil as a hair gel, so I will try that soon!

    • Nikki Moore

      For gel, I use a homemade gel made of…gelatin. 🙂 It works SO well on my frizzy/kinky/curly hair! I mix about 1 tsp of plain gelatin (I think I have the Knox Blox brand) with 1 cup hot water, blend and let cool. I put it in a spray bottle, sometimes with a little essential oil but usually just plain. It is as effective as anything else I’ve used, and I used to be a hair-product junky!

      HOWEVER…it does NOT last. You can keep it in the fridge, but it turns hard (like, uh, jello) and you have to thaw it out before using. Just sitting on the counter it goes bad in two days. 🙁 So you can either mix it up as-needed, or keep it in the fridge and put it in warm water for a while to thaw it out. This problem is very annoying because I’ve finally found something easy, cheap, natural and homemade, and it looks so great on my hair in my high-humidity climate.

      As for detangler, I use 1/2 water and 1/2 lemon juice as a ‘conditioner’ each time I wash my hair. Basically it’s a detangler. You might try that! It’s a leftover practice from my fling with no-poo…turns out I needed shampoo but the lemon juice wash was really awesome and I kept that part of it.

      • Allison

        If you add GSE ( grapefruit seed extract) it will act as a preservative and it will keep for 2 wks. I make my own gel out of flax seed and thus is what I do. Use approx. 16 drops per cup of gel.

        • Nikki Moore

          Wow! I had no idea! Thank you SO much for clueing me in. I’m so excited that it can work!

          • Katie

            This sounds amazing! I tried the coconut oil as a hair gel and I looked, well, very oily. 🙂 I might have to try this – and the detangler too. 🙂 Thanks!

  11. Meg

    Just a question about the no poo method. What if you get your hair highlighted or colored? Does the baking soda and vinegar affect it in any way?

    • Katie

      Good question – I don’t know about this! Does anyone else have any experience with this?

  12. Alisa

    Where do you get coconut oil and jojoba oil from? Very interested in trying that out!

    • Katie

      I buy my coconut oil online from various places, depending on sales and prices; Wilderness Family Naturals, Tropical Traditions, and Mountain Rose Herbs are all good sources. I get a gallon tub and it’s much cheaper than buying smaller quantities at Whole Foods or other health food stores. I bought my jojoba oil at Whole Foods because I just wanted a little to try it out, and it’s lasting forever! (A little goes a long way.) Next time I might look for a cheaper source, though.

  13. Shannon

    I have just discovered the joys of using coconut oil as lotion over the past year. I bought a jar for $5.99 at the health food store and use it for cooking, lotion and lubricant (TMI but that’s what my OBGYN suggested!).

    I love the smell of coconut!

  14. Kendra

    This post is timely because I JUST ordered a bunch of stuff from iherb.com to replace my old products!

    I keep meaning to start using healthier products, but I’d always say “When this product runs out, I’ll replace it with another,” but then I never would. I was reading an article about carcinogens in baby shampoo this week, though, and thought “ENOUGH is enough.” I got some earthmama baby shampoo, dr. bronners (which works best in a foaming soap dispenser unless you like bath loofas), aluminum-free baking soda (for no poo), natural toothpaste, beenatural shampoo and conditioner, coconut oil (for making my own deodorant and using for hair gel) and even some no paraben shaving gel from Jason’s naturals.

    I’ve started no poo before and stopped, for no good reason, so I need to start again. I also have done oil cleansing and liked it, but stopped (why do we not do things that are healthy for us?). I’m starting that all again.

    Just FYI, I found an article that describes “fakers and no fakers” in terms of organic and natural which has been really helpful. I’m sure it’s not exhaustive, but it was a good starting place for me.

    http://www.greenoptions.com/forum/thread/121/my-list-of-fakers-and-not-fakers

  15. Erika

    Question – what do ladies use for sunscreen? I love Coconut Oil, but it doesn’t have any protection from sun. I live in CO with lots of sun and am outside a lot, so have not given up my sunscreen moisturizer. I can say I LOVE Dr. Bronners, and I’m gonna start the natural deoderant challenge this week.

  16. vegeater

    I too have been detoxing my personal care products routine. I find I just can’t give up conditioner — I have super curly hair, and it needs it; and I find that oils are just too oily for my taste. Most recently I bought the bulk size Whole Foods brand (like, $6). I only wash every fourth day or so, so it should last me a while. I’ve been using a small amount of Dr. Bronners soap for washing my hair, which seems to work well. For body soap, I just like a good old bar of castile soap, used sparingly.

    I’ve been using a coconut oil based deodorant for a few weeks now, which I have dubbed CocoDeo, and love it – I can scent it however I want with essential oils. And plain old coconut oil (scented with lavender) does great for body moisturizer for me.

    • Rachel B

      CocoDeo is a very fun name for it! I may have to start making my own just so I can call it that, too, haha!

  17. Katie

    Sounds a lot like my beauty routine. I love making my own things! It saves money, it’s better for you and it’s just fun. Homemade tooth paste is great! I’ve been making my own for almost a year now. I think I’m going to try the no-poo method, I’ve been debating it but just haven’t tried it yet.

  18. Kristen

    I’ve been using lanolin as lip balm and it works great. A little bit goes a long way.

  19. Elizabeth E.

    I was inspired by this post over the summer and have made many changes to my beauty routine as a result. The deodorant works wonders, I can’t believe how effective it is! And the baking soda and lemon juice for my hair has made it possible for me to reduce my hair washing from every other day to twice a week while it staying clean and holding it’s style.

    But, I have to say that after fighting with my complexion for 20+ years the best change I made wasn’t to using the oil cleansing method for my face. I did that for a couple of months and didn’t see any change at all from before. But, recently I’ve stopped washing my face all together and I’ve seen the best results ever. At night I simply take a clean wash cloth and soak it in warm/hot water and then wipe my face two or three times. I’ve had zero problems since switching to this method. Can’t get greener than that!

  20. Jenna Schrock

    I admit, I enjoyed reading your blog and I’m so inspired that I want to start using eco-friendly products, too. I’ve also read from a different post that baking soda with salt is a good replacement for commercial toothpastes.

  21. NANETTEWise

    It is perfect that we can receive the mortgage loans and that opens new possibilities.

  22. Jennifer

    Best homemade toothpaste EVER:

    2 Tablespoons Coconut Oil
    3 Tablespoons Baking Soda
    1/4 Teaspoon Stevia (natural sweetner, I found this at Trader Joe’s)
    20 Drops Peppermint Essential Oil

  23. Michèle

    I use aotmeal and honey on my face as a face wash:

    first I wash my face by rubbing aotmeel(with water) on my face and then rinse it of…then I take a bit of honey and slatter it on my face and rub it ijn with water and rinse off. Then I use rosewater ,( i buy it in 1liter botlles so it is very cheap) an then use my 2$ essence my skin gel creme….

    and once a week i use a youghort mask!!!

    xxxxxxx

  24. Venus Smith

    Homemade routine really good for mommy like me specially if you are assign in the house daily and sounds boring. I will try to follow this following task like making homemade shampoo. I think its really exciting!

  25. Kimberly

    Yeah! I love reading about others who do the same things!!! Everyone else thinks I’m nuts! 😉

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