Next on my list of problems to solve in a greener, chemical-free way was hand cream.
These hands are working hands, battered even… They suffer in the kitchen (poor knife skills according to beloved hubby!) and in the garden (I KNOW, I should wear gloves…) and even on hikes they get stabbed & snagged by thorny bushes more often than not. And they get really, really dry. I get through tubes of hand cream trying to nourish and repair them.
Making my own hand cream took a little research and some forward thinking. Turns out most good homemade lotions contain shea butter – an ingredient I haven’t figured out how to source here in Montenegro yet. Steve’s recent visit to the UK saw him return with goodies for my hands: sweet almond oil (which I have since found out can be sourced quite cheaply across the border in Bosnia), shea butter & beeswax pellets. I should be able to source beeswax locally & cheaply but it may take some time to arrange – knowing Monte! – and I was desperate to get cracking & avoid buying any more commercially produced products laden with goodness knows what nasties so I caved in & ordered the pellets online too.
Together with my coconut oil, I now had the basics of a lotion:
I combined 2 tbs shea butter, coconut oil & sweet almond oil with 1 tbs of beeswax (the other advantage of getting pellets is you can measure by spoonfuls!) in a glass jug which went inside a saucepan 1/3 filled with boiling water, bain-marie stylie. On a medium heat, the water bubbled & the contents of the jar slowly melted, helped along by a vigorous stir with a chopstick every minute or 2.
Once fully melted, I removed from the heat and allowed to cool for a few minutes before adding in the last critical ingredients: essential oils. Lavender is antiseptic, anti fungal & healing, Geranium has multiple benefits including improving the health of skin & also has a wonderful smell and Cedarwood tightens the skin and protects it from toxins and bacteria. All 3 oils blend well together.
I added a few drops of each oil into the mix and whilst still melted poured it into a glass jar. Here’s the finished product after 5-10 mins when properly set:
Never mind all the pretty pictures – does it actually work??? Yes! So far, so good. It feels greasy when it goes on but I don’t mind that at all and I’ve got into the habit of applying it just before I go to sleep so that it soaks into my hands overnight. And you don’t need much. A month into my new experiment & I’ve hardly dented the contents of my jar – just a little blob thoroughly worked in will do the job. And it smells delicious.
I’ve yet to work out how cost effective it is. I will see how long all the ingredients I have invested in last and then calculate the cost but I suspect it will be a long while before I’ll know for sure. I have enough ingredients to make another 3-4 jars and if this jar lasts as long as I think it will, I’ve probably got 12 months+ to go before they are all used up…
Since I’ve been blogging and facebook posting about green body care, people around me have been surprising me with their contribution to my ‘kind to the environment, kind to me’ journey. Turns out that at least 2 good friends here haven’t washed their hair with shampoo for a while, either – in one case it’s been years. Another friend, Nadia, has given me herbs from the Yemen to condition my face. The first time I used it (see pic below) I didn’t get the right consistency of powdered herbd to water so it didn’t really spread well on my face, but subsequent uses have been more successful and it feels amazing. I leave it on for a few minutes and then wash it off in the shower.
Helping to clean Steve’s temporary bridge with some weird floss brought me very close to the reality of dental hygiene. I want healthy, white teeth please & a sweet smelling mouth.
So when Nadia’s husband Tom, recommended a homemade tooth powder recipe that he said was working wonders, I got interested. I did some online research into keeping teeth healthy – the articles are many & varied & I’ll let you form your own judgements but here’s a rough summary of what I found:
- Being an overall healthy person is the real key to healthy teeth! A healthy diet promotes healthy saliva and ensures that your blood is rich in minerals that feed your teeth.
- Proper mastication helps a lot – chew your food well to exercise your teeth and gums (use ‘em or lose ‘em…). I’m now trying to chew each mouthful of food at least 20 times and eat more raw food.
- Remineralisation of teeth is the key. Sodium fluoride that’s in most commercial toothpaste actually demineralises your teeth by removing the calcium which discolours them & makes them brittle in the long term. Fluoride (or more precisely the chemical mixture contained in toothpaste & labelled fluoride) is pretty damn toxic actually…
- Glycerin (present in commercial toothpaste) coats the teeth and traps the bacteria in. Teeth will naturally re-enamelise but are prevented from doing so when coated with glycerin.
- Proper saliva pH is critical – acidic saliva is bad & since stress can create acids in the body, staying chilled is good for your teeth!
- A good flow of saliva is also important. Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS) – found in commercial toothpaste – contributes to ‘dry mouth’ where less saliva is produced. SLS attacks the mucus membranes of the mouth, altering the structure of the skin, and can potentially cause toxins & chemicals to enter the blood stream, which in turn impacts health and takes us back to the first bullet above!
Yikes!!! Unsurprisingly, with all this evidence stacked against commercial toothpaste, I didn’t need much encouragement to try out Tom’s recipe. It’s a simple powder made from powdered clay – yes, I’m brushing my teeth with DIRT!!
Bentonite clay helps absorb toxins, heavy metals and impurities. A tsp of this is mixed with a tsp of bicarb of soda (which raises the saliva pH to tooth-friendly levels and seems to whiten teeth too) and 3 calcium-magnesium capsules (which feeds the teeth the right minerals).
Tom recommended grinding cinnamon, cloves & mint and adding to the mix for a fresh & pleasant taste.
I have been using the homemade tooth powder for the past 4 weeks. I LOVE it. It was weird at first not to have a ‘paste’ that foams – SLS in commercial toothpaste ‘excites’ your mouth and makes it feel tingly, especially combined with menthol – but I’m actually brushing my teeth for longer and more thoroughly because I don’t get this effect. I simply dip my moistened brush into the powder & get to work with my electric toothbrush (apparently using your toothbrush with nothing on it is probably better than using toothpaste as the abrasive action dislodges any food remnants & stimulates gums without introducing any chemicals).
The powder is strangely salty (from the bicarb of soda) at first but I got used to it really quickly and I am really happy about the aftertaste of clove & cinnamon and it seems to keep my breath really fresh. I have ditched commercial mouthwash now too.
Two things that I’ve noticed after just a month: my teeth seem whiter and they feel less sensitive. And it’s a winner cost-wise too! I reckon I have a year’s worth of tooth powder for less than £10.