I’m on a never-ending mission to swap the chemicals in my life for healthier alternatives. My body care products are a top priority and I want all their ingredients to be from plants and minerals. It’s a worthy goal, but when I first started on my journey, it felt impossible.
First, labels can be deceiving, so truly healthier products not always easy to find. And when you do find them, they are often more expensive. I wish they weren’t, but the reality is that chemicals are cheap, they are easy to produce, and they don’t spoil as botanical ingredients do.
By contrast, plants have to be cultivated and nurtured over time. They need time, attention, and acres of land to grow. Plus, they are subject to hurricanes, drought, and other whims of Mother Nature that don’t apply to chemical labs. To top it off, most of the healthier, plant- and mineral-based products out there are made by smaller brands that don’t benefit from the economies of scale that larger companies enjoy.
It’s not easy to compete with the big labels and I really want these smaller, more thoughtful brands to succeed. I try to support them as much as I can, but it’s not always feasible. Along my journey to a healthier lifestyle, I’ve found some affordable ways to get the natural products my body needs.
High price doesn’t mean high quality
Just because you pay more for a product with a pretty label, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. There are plenty of fancy pants products that are filled with cheap chemicals, yet charge a fortune. These brands are essentially selling low quality, toxin-filled products with high price tags and elegant labels. Don’t be fooled! Always check the ingredients, no matter whose name is on the label, or how natural or high-end their branding appears, or how healthy the store or online shop is where you found it.
Easy DIY alternatives
One great way to save some money AND ensure your body care products don’t have chemicals is to make them yourself. There are a zillion recipes out there and some are definitely easier to make than others. But you can usually make them in bulk and divvy them up into smaller containers.
Since natural ingredients do go bad, you’ll want to refrigerate or freeze what you don’t immediately need. Or for fun, you can throw a DIY party and split everything up with friends. This way, you can share in the cost of the ingredients and nothing goes to waste.
Pinterest is an amazing resource for finding DIY body care. I’ve been gathering healthy and (mostly) easy recipes as I come across them and will continue to add to these boards over time.
I’m posting the Pinterest boards here for your convenience. Please let me know which you end up trying and whether you love or hate them!
- DIY natural soap and shampoo
- DIY natural moisturizer
- DIY natural deodorant
- DIY natural oral care
- DIY natural face masks & body scrubs
- DIY natural ointments and cures
Simple ingredient swaps
We often don’t need multi-ingredient products, DIY or otherwise. An easier way to save on healthier hair and body care is to use just one or two individual ingredients without having to actually make anything. Here are a few examples.
Plant-based oils are nutrient-rich and highly moisturizing for your skin. You can add a few drops of organic or wildcrafted essential oil if you like, but it’s not necessary. It’s best to buy the oils as organic if that’s in the budget.
- I’ve read countless testimonials by folks, who suffer from acne, that oil-free moisturizers weren’t helping their skin and that switching to pure grapeseed oil was the one thing that finally cleared the pimples.
- Jojoba oil is known to be deeply conditioning for both hair and body.
- Sweet almond oil is great for massages and can be really helpful if your skin is prone to rashes.
- Avocado oil is thought to lighten age spots and other pigmentation issues.
- Sesame oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, making it great for acne-prone skin. (Blend it with almond oil, if the scent is too strong for you.)
Shampoo and conditioner
I haven’t yet tried what’s called the “no-poo shampoo method”, but I have several friends who love love love it and it’s on my (ever-growing) list of things to try. The short of it is that you can wash your hair with baking soda that’s been diluted in water. Then follow it with a conditioning apple cider vinegar rinse (also diluted), which neutralizes your hair’s pH.
No-poo’ers find they only have to wash their hair a few times a month. In between baking soda washes, some will detox their hair with bentonite clay and occasionally do a deep conditioning hair mask with coconut oil or jojoba oil.
It can take your hair a couple months to adjust to the no-poo method, so ponytails and hats may become your friend. But if you can stick it out, your hair will (they say) be detoxed and gorgeous in no time.
Aftershave or Toner
For a clean, fragrance-free aftershave or skin toner, simply dab on some all-natural witch hazel and call it a day. Witch hazel comes from the bark and leaves of the hamamelis virginiana, which is a plant that is native to North America. It is a traditional skin healing astringent, long known to help with acne, insect bites, poison ivy, and more. Some manufacturers add a synthetic fragrance or alcohol to their witch hazel, so do check the label to make sure it’s pure.
Hair spray or hair gel
In place of hair spray or gel, just dab a bit of aloe vera gel and style, as usual. You can also use aloe as a pre-wash to help with dandruff, or as a post-wash in place of conditioner.
Toothpaste / tooth powder
I haven’t used regular toothpaste in years. Instead, I use a natural tooth powder made from baking soda, coconut oil, and activated charcoal that I buy from a guy at my local farmer’s market. If you’re a DIY’er, you could use just baking soda and/or just the pure activated charcoal.
Some folks worry about the taste of the baking soda, but honestly, it doesn’t taste like much of anything. Maybe it has a teensy tiny bit of bitterness at first, but I’m so used to it that I don’t even notice anymore. And I have to say is that my teeth feel like I’ve just been to the dentist… every single day. I also don’t wake up with a nasty film on my tongue anymore.
Of course, I don’t just brush my teeth, I also brush my tongue, the roof of my mouth, inside my cheeks, my gums, and inside my upper and lower lip (opposite my gums). It only takes a few extra seconds, but what a difference it makes!
I’m a fan of plain ol’ hydrogen peroxide as a mouthwash swish. It doesn’t taste like anything and I like that I can feel the fizzy bubbles doing their job. I also keep a small spray bottle of organic peppermint essential oil with me for a quick mouth spritz after meals and throughout the day.
Since ancient times, salt has been used to preserve foods, because it naturally prevents the growth of bacteria. For the same reason, salt bars have become a popular, all-natural deodorant for those looking to remove toxins from their lives.
Do note that the salt does not prevent us from sweating; rather it creates an environment where the malodorous microbes cannot survive.
There are two types of deodorant salt bars. One I have used and feel confident recommending: Himalayan salt stones. Many in the natural world use the other type, crystal salt stones, but I find it a bit dubious and personally wouldn’t use it. Here’s a bit of context…
Himalayan salt stones
I dig Himalayan salt stones. The salt is naturally sourced, then sanded and polished into different shapes. To use it as a deodorant bar, simply wet it, rub it on your hands, and then rub your hands onto your armpits to transfer the salt.
You definitely don’t want to rub the salt bar directly onto your armpits or other soft-skin areas, especially with freshly shaved skin. Been there, done that, regretted it. Salt is salt and it does scratch and itch! Applied properly, you can use the salt anywhere on your body that sweats — feet, back, crotch, wherever.
Also, it’s best to apply the salt to freshly washed skin, because it’s NOT going to do a great job of neutralizing the bacteria that has already built up. What it WILL do is prevent new bacteria from stinkin’ up your pits.
So Well Salt Stones
Crystal salt stones
Despite being popular in the world of natural living, I wouldn’t use crystal salt stones myself and would not feel comfortable recommending them. To be fair, they may be perfectly safe. But maybe not. I couldn’t find studies either way and I’m not taking my chances.
Folks claim the crystal salt stones are more effective than Himalayan salt and that may be true. When you find this type of salt in premade deodorants in stores, it will often be listed as either ammonium alum or potassium alum. Both of these natural mineral ingredients are rated well on the Skin Deep Database (here and here), yet you usually don’t see either called out directly on the ingredients label.
Instead, you’ll usually see them listed as “potassium mineral salt” or just “mineral salts”, presumably so the brand can steer clear of using the word “alum”. I find this lack of transparency unsettling.
Aluminum is the ingredient that most folks already know to avoid in deodorant and I’d be willing to bet that a fair percentage of crystal salt customers would think twice before buying an alum-containing product if the brand were more forthcoming about what TYPE of salt it really is.
If for some reason, you can’t use salt as a deodorant or you don’t find that salt stones work for you, there are still plenty of natural-ingredient deodorants to choose from. Many aluminum-free brands use activated charcoal and/or baking soda as a key ingredient in their deodorant since they can safely and sensitively neutralize odor and absorb moisture. Obviously, you’ll want to check their other ingredients as well, to make sure they don’t contain unwanted synthetics. And note that natural deodorants often include tea tree oil, which can be bothersome for some.
Baking Soda is Aluminum-Free
Baking soda is and always has been aluminum-free. It’s baking powder that can contain aluminum. When buying baking powder, always look for “aluminum-free” on the label. When buying baking soda, you’ll sometimes see the words “aluminum- free”, but that’s only because the makers know how often people confuse baking soda for baking powder. If your baking soda does NOT say “aluminum-free”, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t have any aluminum in it.
- SALT: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-do-salt-and-sugar-pre/
- SALT: https://www.cell.com/cell-metabolism/fulltext/S1550-4131(15)00055-8