Thursday, 12 May 2016

Test Driving Some DIY Green Beauty

Today's post is not about food, but is in keeping with a post I did earlier about greening up self care and my favourite eco-friendly soaps. As of late, I have been using myself as a guinea pig for a few natural self care products. I have tried to minimize my use of the Dirty Dozen in my self care products and have been slowly finding natural replacements, mostly homemade with the exception of my soaps - Ground Soap, The SoapWorks, and my Green Beaver Castile Soap which doubles as body wash and shampoo. From poking around the internet, I have found that many of the made for me beauty products can be a little pricey, but many are no more expensive than some of the high end conventional brands found in the department stores. Now, whether they work or not or are actually as green as they say, that's another story.
Some of my home made experiments have included coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and a variety of home made body and facial scrubs made from some pantry ingredients. I have to say, that overall, most of my DIY experiments have been pretty successful.
For the past 2 years, I have been using coconut oil as a face and overall body moisturizer and I would like to report that it has become my go-too moisturizer. I am lucky that it doesn't seem to clog my pores on my face as it is one of oils that has a high Comedogenic Ratings - 0 to 5, with 0 meaning no clogging and 5 being the worst.  My beloved coconut oil is a 4. Oils like argan oil, hemp seed oil and shea butter will not clog pores (a zero rating) while oils like avocado oil, grape seed oil, almond oil, jojoba oil and olive oil are low on the scale (2). I would first do a patch test to make sure that coconut oil doesn't clog your pores and cause breakout. If you decide to try a natural oil to moisturize, and you find that coconut oil is not the right choice for your skin type, you may have more luck using the less comedogenic (clogging) oils like olive oil or almond oil.
The eco-warrior in me found the perfect use for an old Clinique moisturizer container, not to mention, an ironic choice! I scoop out the coconut oil from my pantry oil and put it in this container. An excellent way to repurpose!

Coconut oil has been helpful to keeping my face, lips and body moisturized, especially through our cold winters. Downside is that it feels a tich greasy at first so it is important to remember a little goes a long way. I use it as an intensive moisturizer at nighttime by using larger amounts on my hands and feet and then wear cotton blend sport socks on my feet and cotton mitts on my hands to bed. Oh, and if you don't have soft terry towel like mitts or gloves, white sport socks work well too. It looks funny, but it does the trick. If you are having trouble sleeping, you can amuse yourself by doing a sock puppet show until you nod off!
Coconut oil is also a fabulous make up remover too. Apply to your face all over and tissue off. You may need to repeat for those dramatic look makeup applications, but it works well. I wash afterwards with either my Ground Soap or The SoapWorks Camomile soap. Gently towel dry and then apply a light application of the coconut oil.
I have curly hair and have found coconut keeps my curls curly and tames my frizzies. I take a little dab of coconut oil and melt it by rubbing it between my hands and then evenly distributed through my hair like you would any styling gel. This keeps my curls in check without that crunchy feeling too. Bonus, it acts like a stay in conditioner! The catch for this is to not use too much, otherwise your hair gets weighed down and looks greasy!
Pretty curls, tamed by a little dab of coconut oil!

During the winter months, I deliberately use too much coconut oil in my hair and scalp. It is an excellent deep conditioner when left on for a few hours. It is also a great way to soothe and calm mild psoriasis on your head. Apply a fair bit of the oil, massage your scalp with it and comb through your hair. Wrap in a towel or a shower cap and hang out with a cup of tea and a good book for several hours. I love home remedies... They take time to work so you have a great excuse to relax... BONUS! You will have to wash your hair a few times to fully remove the oil but as long as your shampoo is gentle, and preferably eco friendly and toxin free, this will remove the coconut oil well.
Sometimes my scalp is itchy and I get a build up of icky bits (sorry if that's too much information LOL!), resulting in the dreaded white flakes upon my favourite black clothes. Sadness... For years, I've used the Head and Shoulders shampoo which has a moderate toxic rating on the EWG SkinDeep Web Site. It's worked ok, but I have wanted a more natural approach and I think I have found it. A month ago I came across some information about apple cider vinegar, particularly the unpasteurized kind, being a good fix for dandruff and dry scalp. It is also supposed to a good hair conditioner, but I fear that if it is left in, one might smell like a salad, so for now, I am just using it as a treatment and then washing it out.

For the past month I have been using a 1:1 ratio of water to ACV (apple cider vinegar) and gently massaging it on my scalp.  Drip dry a bit and mop up the excess with a towel. Then I hang out for a few hours, grab a good book or do some writing while letting the vinegar do it's thing. Then, I rinse and wash out with a gentle shampoo or my castile soap. So far, I have found that it has reduced the dry itchy feeling I get and I think the white flakes have been minimized too. More to follow as I keep this treatment up on a bi-weekly treatment.
A new to me brand of unpasteurized apple cider vinegar I found at Bulk Barn!

Last but not least are my DIY products; a collection of homemade body and facial scrubs that I have been using for the last several months. I scoured the net for various kinds, including information from dermatologists and regular "peeps" on the effectiveness of said scrubs. I chose the ones that I felt would work the best and had the blessings of dermatologists. I found a great article for this >HERE<Two words of caution: FIRST, not everything on Pinterest is a good thing (check out this post here) so do some research and SECOND, do patch tests for any DIY self care products just to make sure you don't have any reactions.

I tried out 3 DIY products. The first contained used coffee grounds, coconut oil, and honey. The second contained coconut oil or olive oil and ground oats. The third contained coconut oil and baking soda. All of these ingredients are supposed to have wonderful properties ranging from anti-microbial, anti-fungal, age-reversing plus a whole lot more, and while I really want to believe these promises, these aren't the reasons I have decided to try out DIY personal care products. As an aside, I even question the promises that the expensive store bought concoctions make. Bottom line, I wanted to make some things in my kitchen that would gently exfoliate, brighten up, soothe, and moisturize my skin, without having to purchase the made-for-me products with toxic ingredients. 

I know we can purchase green beauty products, but alas, my budget and my unwillingness to spend the money for higher end products prevents me from purchasing them. So for now, safe DIY is on tap and after the past few months of experimentation, I have come to the following conclusions...
I found that the coffee grounds, coconut oil, and raw honey scrub is best used on my hands, legs and rough spots like feet, elbows and knees. It is a little to harsh for faces, though I did try it once. I must say, that it certainly freshens up rough skin elsewhere on your body, while moisturizing with the coconut oil. It is a little messy for clean up and given that I don't want the grounds going down the drain on a regular basis, it requires a special screen on the shower or sink drain. I think you could use this body scrub a once per week or just when you find rough spots!

Coffee Ground Scrub

1/2 cup very finely ground coffee, already used for coffee
3 tbsp. raw honey
2 tbsp. olive oil or coconut oil
Combine the ingredients thoroughly. Store in a wide mouth mason jar for up to 1 month in the refrigerator
To use, wet down your skin and scoop a small amount out of the container. Apply in a circular motion to wet skin. Don't rub too hard.  Rinse thoroughly. I used a mesh drain cover to catch the grounds in the tub and ran super hot water down the drain to make sure the oil was flushed out thoroughly. I prefer this as a body and hand scrub because I find it a little too abrasive.
I've also tried a mix of ground oats and coconut oil (or olive oil) on my face. It is not as harsh a scrub as the coffee one and I believe that as long as you don't scrub too hard, it seems gentle enough on my face.  I thought it does a lovely job on brightening my complexion. I found it especially nice around my nose and chin area to slough off the dead skin. I only use this once per week and do it on a days that I don't plan on wearing make up or before bed.  The no make up rule after a facial makes sense. Thank you to the Cosmo Girl lawyer named Elle Woods in the movie Legally Blonde 2 for that tid bit of facial after-care! I am so not a glam gal. I've used this once every 2 weeks and I find that my complexion seems smoother and more polished.

Ground Oats Scrub

This is the right amount for one facial scrub application.

1 tsp. coconut oil or olive oil
1 tbsp. ground oats (regular oat ground finely into a flour in a coffee grinder)

Mix well in a small bowl and gently apply to a wet face. Gently rub onto your skin using round circular motions for a few minutes, being careful to avoid the under eye area. Don't rub too hard. Rinse with warm water, tissue the excess off and wash your face with a mild eco-friendly soap.


Last, but not least, I also tried coconut oil mixed with some baking soda. I have only used it on my hands so far. It also does a lovely job of exfoliating. It doesn't seem too harsh and doesn't make a huge mess in the sink. It's not quite as grainy as the ground oats and is definitely not as abrasive as the ground coffee scrub. I'm a little hesitant about using it on my face because of the alkalinity of the baking soda. Since the skin on my hands is a little tougher, I thought it would work out well, and it did! Again, I do this once per week or 2 weeks because, as with all things, you can do too much of a good thing. In my research, I did read that if you were to use any DIY with baking soda on your face, it would be best to use it as a mask

Baking Soda Scrub

1 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 Tbsp. baking soda

Mix the ingredients thoroughly in a small bowl.  Wet your hands and lower arms if desired. "Wash" your hands with the mixture and gently rub your lower arms with the scrub for several minutes.  Tissue off the excess and wash with a mild soap.


And so, this ends round 1 of Michelle the green beauty guinea pig and my first attempts at some DIY beauty and self care products. If you too decide to try out some DIY, please know that there are some pretty crazy homemade products out there on the internet highway. I would research carefully, and check out what the dermatologists say too as well as check out the comments from folks who have tried them. Some food based products may better eaten as opposed to slathered on your skin. Just because it's not chemical or full of mystery ingredients, homemade DIY beauty and self care products can be just as harmful to you. On the flip side, DIY green beauty and self care products can be fun to make and fun to use. The safe ones would be great to use on a girls' spa night with a few glasses of wine!