Say what you will about us Filipinos, but we’ve got to be among the most fastidious people on the planet when it comes to personal hygiene. It isn’t unusual for us to shower in the morning and in the evening, sometimes even more if the day is especially hot or if we hit the gym that day. And that goes for everyone, from the blue-collar workers living in the slums to the high-powered moguls dwelling in posh villages behind wrought-iron gates.
Thus, it goes without saying that we use up a lot of toiletries like shampoo, soap, and toothpaste in our day-to-day lives. While they keep us all smelling and feeling clean, they may also be killing us slowly. For personal care products contain a plethora of ingredients and chemicals that have been linked to brain, liver, and kidney disorders, and yes, to cancer as well.
Store-bought shampoo, for instance, is often riddled with DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), and TEA (triethanolamine), all of which disrupt your hormones and are linked strongly to liver and kidney cancer. Stick deodorants are even worse: they have high concentrations of propylene glycol, the active ingredient in antifreeze!
But how do you lessen your exposure to these chemicals while keeping body odor (and thus, not driving your friends away) at bay? A great way to hit these proverbial two birds with one stone is to make your own toiletries:
Homemade Clarifying Shampoo(inspired by this recipe)
Don’t be fooled by how easy this is to make. Baking soda is great for removing build-up that commercial shampoos and hair products leave on your scalp. This shampoo is so effective at cleaning hair that you should only use it a few times a week so that it doesn’t dry out your strands.
1 tablespoon sodium bicarbonate or baking soda
1 cup tap water
Mix together the water and the baking soda until the latter is dissolved.
Pour the mixture into an empty shampoo bottle that has been cleaned and dried.
To use, shake the bottle and squirt a sufficient amount directly onto your wet scalp and hair. Massage gently with your fingertips (not your fingernails) for a couple of minutes, and then rinse off thoroughly with cool water.
Tip: You can add a few drops of essential oil to this mixture if you want a scented shampoo. Rose, lemon, lavender, or peppermint oil is highly recommended.
DIY Minty Toothpaste
Many mainstream toothpaste brands are chock-full of harmful and toxic chemicals like triclosan (a known carcinogen), artificial colorings linked to hyperactivity and ADHD in young children, as well as highly abrasive ingredients that can damage tooth enamel and cause sensitivity. The following recipe contains none of that but still manages to keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh.
2/3 cup sodium bicarbonate or baking soda
1-2 tsp peppermint extract (you may also use vanilla or orange extract for a different flavor)
1 tsp fine sea salt (omit this if you have sensitive teeth)
In a small glass jar, mix together the baking soda, extract, and sea salt, if using.
Add enough water to make a thick paste.
To use, dip a moistened toothbrush into the jar and apply onto the teeth with gentle, circular strokes. Rinse out your mouth thoroughly with water once finished.
Tip: Keep the jar of toothpaste in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight to preserve the integrity of the extract used.
I don’t know about you, but for me, going without deodorant is unthinkable! Now, eating right and drinking lots of water can help reduce body odor, but sometimes, we need that little extra bit, don’t we? This coconut oil-based deodorant is a great alternative to the commercial brands that load up your skin with aluminum (and even help cause breast cancer in women). You can even pick your favorite essential oil to scent it with.
1/4 cup sodium bicarbonate or baking soda
1/4 cup organic cornstarch
6 tablespoons coconut oil (now would be the time to use that bottle of virgin coconut oil from Tita Baby’s last visit)
A few drops of your favorite essential oil (try lemon, orange, or rosemary)
In a small bowl, combine the baking soda and the cornstarch.
Heat the coconut oil slightly until it liquefies, and then add to the baking soda and cornstarch mixture.
Add in your essential oil of choice and mix well.
Pour into a small glass jar.
To use, take a tiny dab of the coconut oil mixture and massage gently onto clean armpits.
Tip: Wait 3-5 minutes for your skin to absorb the mixture completely before putting on your clothes to avoid unsightly armpit stains.
Herb and Citrus Soap
No compilation of homemade toiletries is complete without a recipe for soap. Like all the previous recipes in this article, this one has all of the good stuff and none of the bad. It’s also a great way to use any leftover fresh herbs in your refrigerator.
To mold the soaps, you can recycle circular yogurt containers. Rinse them with soap and water, then dry them thoroughly.
Plain glycerin soap (these can be bought at health food stores or craft stores)
Fresh herbs and the zest of your choice of citrus (fresh mint leaves and lemon zest are a great combination)
Chop up the glycerin soap into tiny blocks and microwave on medium heat for intervals of 30 seconds until melted. Stir the chunks around after every interval to break them up.
In a food processor, blitz the fresh herbs and use a paper towel to squeeze out the excess moisture. Combine with the zest of your chosen citrus fruit. You will need about a tablespoon of the herb-citrus mixture for each cup of the glycerin soap.
Lay out the soap molds for pouring.
Once the glycerin has melted into a smooth puddle, let cool for a couple of minutes before adding the herbs and citrus. (Adding them too soon will dissipate their scents and colors.)
Add the herbs and citrus, stirring to get the color you want (the longer you stir, the darker the color gets) and to keep the bits from settling to the bottom of the soap.
Pour the mixture into the molds and let them sit on the counter for an hour to set completely. Place them in the freezer for another hour to help them come out of the molds easier. Use within three months.
Tip: To unmold the soap, run the edges with a knife and then gently push at it from the bottom.
So, there we have it. You don’t have to forsake being clean for being healthy once you’ve got the hang of making these easy-peasy toiletries at home.
And who knows? You may end up making them so well that you end up creating a nice little sideline business of your own out of it.