Simple DIY recipes for a low-tox life, and why you need them
It’s becoming really bluddy difficult to choose cleaning and personal care products that we know are safe and can feel good about using. As a dedicated label reader, I get sick of googling WTF-sounding chemicals and guessing whether that okayish ingredient is the natural version, or its synthetic impostor. If there are too many long-arse chemical names on a label, I’ll drop it faster than I burn through a 5ml essential oil bottle. As consumers become more astute, brands are getting sneakier: hundreds of synthetic chemicals can masquerade as ‘fragrance’ on ingredients labels and greenwashing abounds. Many products claim to be natural when they are anything but and, without a certification logo, ‘natural’ is merely an empty marketing term.
This might surprise you, but beauty and home care products sold in Australia are not evaluated for safety. Beauty and cleaning labels can hide their formulations under the guise of trade secrets, and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration only tests personal care products labelled with therapeutic claims. It’s impossible to know which chemicals lurk behind brands’ sleek packaging and deceptive marketing, and how they will interact with our bodies. Skin is highly porous and readily absorbs the substances it comes into contact with. When we use products on our skin, we’re giving them a free pass into the bloodstream and lymphatic system.
The accumulation of synthetic additives in our bodies is worrying, when you consider that women use an average of sixteen personal care products every day, and that products like nappy cream are used frequently on delicate skin. Add in the cleaning agents that we use at home (now perfuming the air everywhere we go, thanks to COVID), and it’s easy to see how these chemical agents might build up in the body and cause issues. I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom: our bodies are incredible and work remarkably hard to detoxify, but we can give them a helping hand by avoiding the baddest in the chemical bunch.
Just who are these health-sapping jerks?
The Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme regulates chemical use in consumer products to an extent, but I have little faith in their oversight when synthetics with known harms are deemed safe. Recently in California, 24 toxic chemicals were banned from use in cleaning and personal care products – many of which are still used across Australia and the United States. This group includes formaldehydes, phthalates and parabens, which have documented links to cancer, infertility, immune system damage and hormone disruption.
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep website and app are fantastic sources on the safety of ingredients in cosmetic products, and which ones to avoid. They have a database of additives and a straightforward ratings system for a HUGE range of popular brands. It’s as simple as typing a product or ingredient into the search bar and you’ll see the safety rating and the data they’ve based that rating on.
How to dodge the danger
Super simple. Look for beauty and cleaning products with natural or organic certification, like EcoCert, COSMOS, Natural Products Association, EWG Verified and Australian Certified Organic. Granted, these products are pricier than the average, and that’s because gaining certification to give customers peace of mind can be an expensive endeavour. And because you’re getting high-quality ingredients, rather than a cocktail of cheap synthetics.
A great way to save money and live more sustainably is to make your own. It always seemed so darn wasteful to me tossing plastic spray bottles, deodorant tubes, serum jars etcetera into recycling and, when my EO obsession first took hold, I learned that I could DIY effective products, mostly with ingredients already in my cupboards (and any that weren’t, were cheap enough to buy). After years of experimenting with formulas and learning about the most effective essential oil combinations for each purpose, I’ve landed on a stable of tried and true recipes, which I’ve shared with you below.
Since switching to all-natural beauty and cleaning products, I can’t catch a whiff of regular perfumes and cleaning sprays without an immediate headache. I find it so amazing how, once we detox, the body develops an innate alarm system for the toxic shite. These days, Soul D’lite and Love Nirvana from the aka Bliss collection are my go-to perfumes, gracing me with the calming and mood-enhancing benefits of aromatherapy, as well as their gorgeous aromas.
What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I tried at least ten different natural deodorants before finding a recipe and a brand that I adore. If you don’t love the first natural product you try, don’t tell yourself that nothing’ll work as well as the trusty (toxic) conventional brands. There are so many formulas out there and there really is something for everyone. I hope you’ll love the suggestions below and be well on the path to a healthier, low-tox life.
Tender toosh paste (aka nappy cream)
What you’ll need:
- 100g glass jar
- 3/4 cup coconut oil
- Dried chamomile
- 15 grams beeswax
- 12 drops of kid safe essential oil, like lavender
- ½ teaspoon of arrowroot starch to thicken
- Over a saucepan of boiling water, combine coconut oil and chamomile in a glass bowl/measuring jug and mix over the heat to combine;
- Grate beeswax into the mixture and stir to combine;
- Leave ove heat, stirring occasionally, until beeswax has melted fully;
- Remove from heat and cool slightly;
- Mix in arrowroot while the mixture is still warm and voila!
(If you notice the mixture separate after a while, give it a mix to recombine.)
What you’ll need:
- 100g deodorant canister
- 5 tablespoons grated beeswax
- 4 tablespoons virgin coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon shea butter
- 4 teaspoons bentonite clay
- 8 drops rosemary oil
- 8 drops tea tree oil
- 6 drops orange oil
- 4 drops ylang ylang oil
(Rosemary and tea tree oil will wipe out the bacteria which cause body odour, while orange and ylang ylang add a gorgeous scent.)
- Whisk beeswax + coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat, until melted;
- Remove from heat and whisk in shea butter until melted;
- Sprinkle in bentonite clay and whisk until smooth;
- Allow to cool slightly then whisk through essential oils;
- Ensure deodorant canister is wound down and carefully pour mixture in. Place in freezer to set.
Tough on germs/gentle on skin hand sanitiser
What you’ll need:
- 50ml glass spray bottle
- 10ml organic vegetable glycerine
- 5 drops immunity essential oil blend
- 5 drops tea tree oil
- Top with distilled water
- Give it a shake and it’s ready to use!
Hello gorgeous(!) beautifying serum
What you’ll need:
- 100ml glass bottle
- 80ml your choice of carrier oil from rosehip, jojoba, apricot kernel, macadamia and fractionated coconut. Experiment with different combinations to see which your skin loves best.
- 10 drops frankincense oil
- 10 drops lavender oil
- Swirl gently with the lid on and she’s good to go!
Glistening glass potion
What you'll need:
- 750ml glass spray bottle
- 2 cups distilled water
- 1/2 cup white or cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol 70% concentration
- 1 to 2 drops of orange essential oil
(Don't clean windows/mirrors on a hot day because the solution will dry too quickly and leave streaks. To clean mirrors, spray on a paper towel or soft cloth before wiping.)
MacGyver all-purpose cleaning spray
What you’ll need:
- 1 litre glass spray bottles
- 2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon natural dish soap
- 30 drops lemon essential oil
- 20 drops tea tree essential oil
- Shake to combine and get your spray on