I used to think that “health and beauty” as a category was a bit odd. Health and beauty aren’t necessarily related. You can be healthy and ugly, and you can be beautiful and sick. But when you look at what society considers beautiful, it’s often tied to perceptions of health. It used to be attractive to be fat because that meant you were getting enough to eat (which indicated wealth as well as health). Then obesity became linked with diabetes, GERD, and other health issues, and it became unattractive. Most traits that are idealized in romantic partners are linked to strong genes and the likelihood of producing healthy offspring.
Of course, obsession with beauty can be superficial, even when the underlying motivations may be tied to health. Not every obese person is unhealthy, and not every medical condition is caused by poor lifestyle choices. That being said, many of the products we use to keep our bodies beautiful and “healthy” can actually cause a lot of damage. Deodorant for women often has aluminum deposits. Deodorant is often applied under the armpits, right by the lymph nodes. Aluminum build up in the lymph nodes is linked to breast cancer.
Lotions, shaving creams, serums and facial treatments often contain preservatives and synthetic ingredients that hold no other purpose than to keep the product shelf-stable longer. Some of these ingredients can be neutral or even beneficial. Vitamin E is a great example of a natural preservative. But there are many others that are cheaper and not beneficial. Companies moved by the bottom line are more likely to use less expensive products.
What does this product do?
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If you have a long list of cosmetic products that you use, it can be useful to sit down and consider what each product does. For example, shampoo washes your hair, but it also strips it of oils. Conditioner is meant to add those oils back in. But their are hair soaps and rinses that are able to do both at the same time. I was surprised to learn that apple cider vinegar makes a great conditioner. I thought it would strip my hair, but it makes it softer than ever!
Deodorant is meant to keep you from smelling, but consider whether you even omit body odor on the regular. Some people only need to apply deodorant when they work out or are under stress. 2% of people (which is actually a lot) have armpits that never smell. There are also natural ways you can reduce your overall body odor rather than just covering it up. I make a magnesium spray-on deodorant that I can scent however I like.
Shaving creams are meant to moisturize your skin so you’re less likely to cut yourself shaving. You can accomplish that with any creamy substance, which is why I use a homemade shaving cream made of coconut oil and shea butter. I have a friend who simply takes baths with my coconut oil bath fizzies and then shaves her legs after. I’ve gotten tired of the fact that almost all women’s razors come with synthetic moisturizing strips, and I’ve never enjoyed shaving, so I’m considering the sugaring method of hair removal. This is a cheap, homemade paste that is not only less painful than waxing, but the only waste is the paste and water that gets washed down the drain. And over time, the lemon juice in the sugaring paste lightens your hair, so ideally you won’t need to remove hair as often.
Women are constantly told to fear wrinkles. I am of the belief that wrinkles show life experience, but if you have certain wrinkles you’d like to keep from growing, lemon essential oil is great for smoothing out skin. Of course, citrus oils should not be applied before going outside, as they make your skin sensitive to sunlight. The great thing about making essential oil applications is that you can use a carrier oil that suits your skin. I tend to choose lighter oils that soak in quickly, to avoid a greasy face and clogged pores.
When you’re considering replacing your health and beauty products, it’s important to ask what your products do, and what the best method to accomplish their task would be. You don’t necessarily need shaving cream, you just need an effective hair removal method (or not! All-natural is perfectly acceptable too!). You don’t necessarily need deodorant, you need to manage your body odor. When you think about the products you use this way, you can start to find easy, natural solutions to meet your needs.
What does my body need?
Speaking of needs, you can only meet your body’s needs if you know what they are. This can be accomplished by analyzing your body and what causes certain conditions.
For example, I struggle with dry lips. Worse yet, I tend to pick my chapped lips when I’m bored or caught up in a book or movie. Lip balm only adds a coating that makes the skin easier to pick (kind of gross, I know, but it’s real). So I looked into what causes dry lips. Not surprisingly, it’s mainly just dehydration. So I approach my body’s (specifically my lips’) need for hydration in two ways. I switched to a liquid roll-on with coconut and essential oils. This soaks straight into my lips and doesn’t leave a coating on my skin. I also make a conscious effort to drink water every time I go to apply lip balm. This is addressing the underlying need that my body is expressing with dry lips.
Are my ingredients the best they can be?
Of course, health and beauty is a lucrative field, and many companies want to utilize the move to more natural ingredients while keeping costs down. So they’ll sell high-end products full of coconut oil and other great ingredients, but still supplement with lesser ingredients. Certain products have lax (or no) labeling restrictions, so you have to be careful when buying pre-made natural products. When I don’t feel like making my own, I tend to buy from local vendors who I know make the products themselves.
Even when you make your own health and beauty products, you need to be careful of labels. Coconut oil, for example, has different levels of refinement that affect the nutrients. So for the most part, for full benefits, you’ll want to make sure you’re buying virgin, unrefined coconut oil. Vitamin E oil is vitamin E that has been extracted, usually into corn oil, which can be a problem for people with corn allergies. The essential oil market has been saturated with brands that sell fragrance oils with all sorts of fillers and additives, then market them as pure essential oil. Essential oils should always only have one ingredient-the plant that it stems from.
I love to add plants and herbs to my skin care products. I made a lip balm for the holidays made of candelilla wax and rose petal extract, using roses I was given after my honeymoon. Adding dried herbs to soaps is also a fun way to add texture, scent, and natural oils. Consider planting an indoor herb garden with herbs you like to use often. This will save you money and give you control over the nutrients in your herbs! It also means you can avoid pesticides and other additives.
Making your own health and beauty products gives you the ability to take control of your health. When you address your body’s needs directly, instead of using a prepackaged item that doesn’t take your unique body into consideration, you give your body the resources it needs to thrive. Figure out what your body needs to be healthy and beautiful, and take control today!
So what do you think? Do you use homemade products? What and why?