Bare essentials

Carrier oils infusing in the sun
When Flo posted this year’s “not buy anything new” thread, over on the forum, it occurred to me that it doesn’t mention personal care products. I assume they are covered under categories such as health or even food (groceries) and that most people buy them on a regular basis, as necessities, as they would food.

When I first moved up here I opened a small business making soaps, moisturisers, salves and many other personal care products, based around essential oils (I am an aromatherapist after all) and natural, biodegradable ingredients. I fully intend to write a book containing some of my recipes because they were fabulous (but that’s for the future as many recipes will need to be adapted) so, after a recent query about whether I’m still selling, I thought I’d share some recipes I use myself, on a daily basis. (I’m not still selling by the way – EU regulations make it nigh on impossible for micro-businesses such as mine to survive but that’s a whole other topic).

The query was specific to deodorant so I thought I’d start there. But it doesn’t finish there. I’ve found over the last few years, since my business closed, that I’ve vastly simplified products for my own use and I now use just a very few ingredients do pretty much everything.

The deodorant I sold through Green Aura was lovely and worked really well but was quite complicated to make, had a large number of ingredients (many of which are difficult to source in small quantities) and it proved a nightmare to reduce the bulk recipe into a single pot (hence the work needed for my book). As with all my other products, it contained no preservatives so making lots to store wasn’t an option. Plus, I don’t know about you but I can’t somehow find the time to brew up pots of potions, no matter how lovely, just for me. I just want something that is effective, quick, simple and preferably cheap to fling together. As often as not I ended up buying deodorant until I discovered a much better solution – purely by accident.

After much moaning about my lack of home made toiletries my daughter made me some cold cream and some toner – I don’t know what recipes she used but they were lovely and worked well. Having finished those I’ve since been making my own, very simple versions and they are equally lovely and effective.

Here comes the accident part. Having cleansed and toned my face I usually use a tiny bit more of the cold cream as a moisturiser – you see, it already has two functions. Anyway, one day, straight out of the shower I cleansed my face and went to apply the toner and poured too much into my hand. Not wanting to pour it back in the bottle I slapped it in my armpits (I couldn’t think what else to do with it and I wasn’t going to tip it down the sink!). Anyway for good measure I also wiped the excess of my moisturiser there too – and had splendid, sweet-smelling armpits all day. I haven’t bought or used any other deodorant since. And you use such small quantities that there is no greasiness.

All of that was probably too much information but you had to know how I discovered it, yes?

So my recipes for both are, as I said, very simple. One thing that for me is absolutely crucial is the quality of the ingredients particularly the essential oils. I only use therapeutic grade essential oils, from a reputable source. They cost more (sometimes a lot more) but they last forever and you’re only using a few drops per batch. If you think of their other uses and the money you’re saving on not buying other cosmetics then it’s money well spent – and you don’t need a vast array. (I used to sell an essential oil first aid kit which contained half a dozen oils and recipes for using them for dealing with a huge number of problems). These days the other ingredients come out of my kitchen and I’m happy with that. For my business I had to buy cosmetic-grade ingredients but for eating I buy the best quality I can afford so I think that if it’s good enough to put inside my body it should be OK for my skin. One final point – I never eat supermarket sunflower or other vegetable oils, only cold-pressed olive oil and virgin coconut oil (as well as butter, tallow and lard but haven’t tried those in cosmetics yet!). The standard supermarket oils are super-heated, deodorised, bleached then coloured and “scented” to give the producers a uniform end-product that has a long shelf life – yuck.

Anyway here are the recipes. They’re very forgiving and you can tinker to your own requirements.

Cold cream –
60ml coconut oil
5-15ml olive oil
15-20 drops essential oils of choice

I use a combination of oils and although I’ve changed them occasionally I keep coming back to this – 7 drops lavender; 7 drops geranium (or rose geranium); 4 drops tea tree and 2 drops clove.

It’s very simple to make – warm, to melting point, the coconut and olive oil. The olive oil, as well as being very nourishing, makes the final product less solid so add as much or as little to get it to the texture you like best. Let it cool until it’s just starting to look cloudy, add the essential oils of your choice and mix really well. Put it in a pretty pot and it will sit in your bathroom happily for several months (although that might not be an issue when you realise how many things you can use it for). You only need a small amount – a little goes a very long way.

100ml cider vinegar (with mother for preference)
100- 300ml green tea, cooled
20-30 drops essential oils of choice (I use more of the same)

The varied quantities depend on your skin type. Basically the drier your skin the greater the dilution of the vinegar. So greasy skin may need 1:1 vinegar to green tea, very dry skin 1:4. If it makes your skin feel very tight simply dilute it more. If you don’t want to use tea, rose or orange water or a hydrolat (a by-product of essential oil production) of your choice are all good. Or just water – but use boiled, filtered or mineral water. Put it all in a bottle and shake thoroughly before each use.

Civilised people probably put a drop on a cotton pad but I just pour a drop in the palm of one hand and splash it round – a bit like Henry Cooper in those after-shave ads (OK now you know I’m really old!).

If you’re interested my regime is – apply cold cream to face, wash it off with hot water and a clean flannel, splash the toner on (including pits) and then apply the tiniest tad as moisturiser (to face) and a smear over each armpit. The excess is rubbed into my hands. (On a side note – you’ll never see an aromatherapist with poor nails. The essential and carrier oils we’re using regularly condition them beautifully).

That’s it, done. I also use the cold cream for any dry skin anywhere else, often using some of the toner first, it is so lovely for any skin problems – it’s especially fantastic on your feet. And I use a splash of the toner in a litre of cool water as a hair rinse instead of conditioner (oh and for well-endowed ladies it’s good under the boobs too – they’ll know what I mean). Again too much information I know. Finally, a tbsp-ish instead of fabric conditioner is lovely too (just don’t use it if you tumble dry your clothes – essential oils are flammable!).

And no, I don’t smell like a chip shop. There is very little vinegar smell anyway, because of the oils, and what little there may be evaporates very quickly.

2 Comments on Bare essentials

  1. What a great way to stop people from using your toner and cold cream! 😉 Seriously though, a most excellent idea to simplify and healthify your beauty routine and uses the bare minimum of products to so do. Sheer genius 🙂

  2. Lovely, thanks! I will be trying this. For now I’m down to buying some shower stuff and deodorant and using a mix of organic oils for my skin allover. I’m so happy to be rid of the tons of products I used to use and lug around and my skin looks much better than it used to 😉

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