There is a lot of misinformation out there on what it takes to keep your hands clean (and soft) – at least if you ask me. I’m not a professional in neither biology or any other science, so if I ever find sufficient (trustworthy) evidence to prove the contrary I will be the first to admit I was wrong. Though until then, I will insist that the very best thing to wash your hands with is plain old fashioned handmade soap! Actually I intentionally try to avoid any stronger stuff, such as commercial antibacterial soaps like Dettol. If you want to explore this topic further you can start by reading: Dangers of Antibacterial Soap (Dettol) and Commercial vs. Handmade soaps. This post though will focus on my own alternative to products like antibacterial soaps, including the recipe I use, so that you can make your own. If you have never made soap before you can read about the process here: How to make natural soap.
The soap I prefer to wash my hands with (and the star of this post) is pure coconut soap. First of all, using 100% coconut oil makes a rock solid bar of soap, which can withstand the moist environment in many bathrooms. Additionally coconut oil is a strong cleanser, perfect for hand washing. A very common misconception about coconut soap is that it dries out the skin, but there’s a very basic trick to solve this: super fat! Super fat is a soapers term describing leaving some of the oil in the soap, , without being saponified (made into soap). This adds extra moisture to the soap. A normal batch of soap will have a super fat of between 5% and 7%, since more might make the soap too soft, but since coconut oil makes a rock solid bar of soap it can have a super fat up to 30%.
The second secret to great hand soap is essential oils. Essential oils doesn’t only add scent to a soap, but also different properties, depending on the essential oil you use. Tea tree, cinnamon and sweet orange essential oil, amongst others have antibacterial properties, making them great ingridients for hand soap. In this soap I’ve added lemongrass and sweet essential oil – which also smells divine.
My mold is 900 grams, so this is the recipe I’ve used:
900 grams of coconut oil
342 grams of Water
140 grams sodium hydroxide
40 ml Lemon grass essential oil (optional)
50 ml Sweet orange essential oil (optional)
1 spoon Aloe vera gel (optional) – added in the lye
Suoerfat is at 15%
The last three ingredients are optional and can be exchanged or completely left out. I prefer to keep the essential oils at 10 ml per 100 grams of base oils (carrier oils), but many use less than that. If you want to make less or more than this recipe, simply run it through your preferred soap calculator,
Oil pulling has been practiced in a number of indigenous cultures, including in India, for centuries. Oil pulling is the practice of keeping oil in your mouth for 15-20 min., allowing the oil to ‘pull’ out toxins from the gums and thereby leaving them and your body healthier. I was never one to get too much into the science of such methods, but in general go with my gut feeling on whether it sounds credible or not. I have a lot of faith in practices that have survived generations, but make sure to keep a balance according to the seriousness of the situation. Meaning I uses natural methods to prevent illness, but never take the chance if I get seriously ill.
What oil pulling can have an effect on is:
Whitening the teeth
Preventing bad breath
Reducing tooth decay and improving health of gums
Detoxifying the body and reducing inflammation
Relieving headaches and hangovers
Clearing troubled skin such as acne and eczema
Improving hormonal balance
How to ‘oil pull’
Choose an oil – I use whatever is handy, and taste all right. I have used coconut oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil and olive oil. Coconut oil, with it’s antibacterial properties and pleasant taste, is a clear favorite.
Take a spoon full of oil, and put it in your mouth. Preferably on an empty stomach. Try to fit it into a routine, such as when you are preparing breakfast. You might feel uncomfortable at first keeping the oil in your mouth, but give it some minutes to see if it settles in. You can take small amounts the first couple of times to get used to it.
Keep it in your mouth, swirling it around occasionally, for 10 to 15 min.
Spit the oil out in the sink. Don’t swallow it.
Brush your teeth like you normally would.
Voila, easy peasy! It’s good to make it a routine over a longer period of time. I believe nothing will fix anything if only done once or twice. Give it a try over a couple of weeks, and see for yourself if you feel any differences.
2. The oil cleansing method
Unlike ‘oil pulling’, this method might give you more visible results faster. This is a method to clean your skin, using only oil, warm water and a wash cloth. Over the last years I’ve had a lot of issues with blemishes and irritated skin, and this method has really helped calm my skin when it was particularly inflamed. I’ve used a number of different oils, and haven’t seen a major difference in result, so I usually just use what I have at hand. Some possible choices are: almond oil, flax seed oil, olive oil and coconut oil.
How to use the oil cleansing method
Apply oil on your face in a generous amount
Either let the hot tap run until the water is really hot or keep a pot of hot water aside before starting
Soak your wash cloth in the hot water. It’s a little tricky to get the water hot enough to steam, but not so hot you burn your fingers, but practice makes perfect
Place the steaming wash cloth over your face
Repeat once or twice
The steam in combination with the oil, cleans out the pores, and leaves your skin moist at the same time. I usually don’t need to use a moisturizer after I use this method, since some of the oil is left on the skin.
3. Face & Body oil
There was a time when I used to make body butters to use on my skin, and I still occasionally do so, but I generally just use oil straight on my skin now. If you want to try making body butter, you can read how to here: Whipped Body Butter (with 2 to 4 ingredients). Well, there isn’t much of a trick in using oil on your skin, except for the fact that you can. I think many, including my former self, have a feeling that oil will make your skin oily and maybe even cause it to break out. Though in my experience, once your skin gets used to it, the oils soaks in within a minute and leaves the skin soft and moist. I try to use oils that are more light in texture such as sweet almond oil, flax seed oil and avocado oil, especially on sweaty summer days. In winters I sometimes use heavier oils, such as neem oil and a bit of castor oil, which are both much thicker in texture. To choose an oil that suits your skin, you can research the different properties of oils you have at hand, or just experiment. Personally I use oil after my morning shower and after cleaning my face in the evening.
4. Natural hair conditioner
A few years back I started questioning whether commercial products, was really as healthy as most of them claimed to be. Once I started reading up on the labels, and decoding the many ingredients that goes into for example shampoo or conditioner, I concluded that most of the same was if not unhealthy then at least unnecessary. I figured that had to be a simpler and more natural way to clean my body. When it came to conditioner, I turned to a traditionally practice of India, namely the one of ‘oiling’ hair. Oiling hair is as simple as it sounds, to apply oil to the scalp and hair before washing it, to make it soft and manageable. For me it has worked like a charm, and is also a very enjoyable tradition I share with some of my indian friends. To read more on how to oil you hair you can read: How to oil your hair (natural conditioner).
When I started out making my own products, toothpaste was of course one of the products I got around to making. At first I was a bit doubtful on whether natural ingredients would be able to clean my teeth as well as a commercial toothpaste, but three years later and still no cavities, I’m not in doubt anymore. The first natural toothpaste I made was oil based, but I have later gone over to using tooth powder – which you can read about here: Trashy Toothbrushes. Though I wanted to include the oil based version in this post, in case some might prefer it over the tooth powder.
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp baking soda
10-20 drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil (optional)
How to make it:
Depending on where you are, and the temperature there, your coconut oil might be fluid or solid. If needed, put the coconut oil in a water bath to melt it
Put the two tsp coconut oil in the container you want to store your toothpaste
Mix baking soda in and stir
Drop the essential oils in, and taste to determine how much you want to add
How to use it:
If the paste is too solid, you can keep under hot water for 30 sec, and if it’s too fluid you can put in the freezer for a little while. Mostly I don’t fuss, and have just used it as it was
Dip your toothbrush to add a little and brush as you normally would
That was it for now. Hope it gave you some inspiration! This is just a fraction of how many different uses oil has, with tons of info online just waiting to be discovered.
I always loved making things myself. I loved it so much that until the age of 25 I’ve never bought gifts for my family, but always made them myself. Now that I’m making soaps, needless to say that thats what I gift everyone! Luckily my family and friends doesn’t mind. I am a passionate soaper, which means I end up writing a lot about it, but I have a lot of additional experience with making other Natural products because I make all my own products. So I thought I would put together a list of easy DIY Natural products that can be made with 2 to 4 ingredients, for own personal use or to gift in the upcoming Indian holiday season. Lets face it, nothing beats homemade gifts. So here we go.
Lip Balms for super soft lips
Lip balms are some of the easiest products you can make. Again, I’m super lazy when it comes to personal care, so I’ve narrowed it down to the most basic thing I can use on my lips – butter! I just take some Mango butter and use it as lip balm. Though as a gift it’s nice to fancy it up a bit. There’s only one thing you need to keep in mind when making your lip balms:
Some essential oils are phototoxic, which means that they react to exposure to sunlight, in a way that can cause allergic reactions in some people. Phototoxic essential oils are mostly citrus scents such as Lime, Orange, Mandarin, Bergamot and Lemon. So don’t use these in the Lip balms. Actually they should never be added in product used when going outside during the day. Otherwise you can switch up any part of the recipe – Shea butter, Cocoa butter, Sal butter and Mowrah butter can be substituted for the butters, and any Carrier oil or essential oil depending on availability and preference.
Mango Lavender Lip (Vegan):
This makes a softer, more butter like lip balm. Almost like a lip butter. I prefer this because it’s easier to apply in a round container. For a lip balm tube it won’t work because it’s not hard enough. This is also an option for vegans that don’t want any animal products in their products.
50% Mango butter
50% Sweet Almond oil
Lavender essential oil
Kokum Coconut Care:
I personally love peppermint in my lip balms. It gives a tingling sensation when you apply it and just smells like a dream. This works well in both a container and a lip balm tube. Beeswax protects the skin and tend to make the lip balm feel fresh on the lips a little longer. This might get a little hard in winters, so its possible to add a little extra oil if you like it softer.
50% Coconut oil
Peppermint or Spearmint essential oil
How to make it
Measure out your ingredients on a scale according to the size of your containers
Gather oils/butters/beeswax in a double boiler and melt
Add essential oils (I would add a few drops per 30 grams)
Pour into your containers and let it harden
Face packs for beautiful skin
Face packs or Face masks (depending on where in the world you are) is another thing that is super easy and still feels really really luxurious. I prefer to keep my Face packs pretty simple, and always use clay as my base. Besides being fantastic for the skin, clay also gives the mask a very smooth feel and makes it easy to apply. Depending on your preferences you can use any clay – I’ve chosen Bentonite Clay and Karolin Clay.
Activated Charcoal & Karolin Clay
Activated Charcoal is a fantastic skin cleaner, because it absorbs impurities without drying the skin. Karolin clay is a great clay for more sensitive skin, because its a very gentle cleaner that moisturises. This mask is perfect for dry, sensitive and troubled skin.
75% Karolin Clay
25% Activated Charcoal
Turmeric & Bentonite Clay
This mask is not for sensitive skin. If you want to make it more mild, you can switch Bentonite for Karolin Clay. Though Bentonite Clay is super cleansing, and perfect for skin that needs some extra detoxifying. When coming in contact with liquid the clay gets the ability to absorb toxins and impurities. Turmeric is an ancient Ayuvedic ingredient in Indian skin care, that is used to give a beautiful natural glow and is said to be help lighten dark spots. If you’re very light skinned, it might give a yellow glow for some time after its used. You can removed it by applying oil on your skin, and remove it with a warm washcloth.
85% Bentonite Clay
Note: you can add any favourite ingredient to the mix such as for example Red Sandalwood or fruit powders
How to make it
Measure out your ingredients on a scale according to the size of your containers
Gather, mix and voila!
The mixes can be used mixed with water, honey or rosewater. If you’re gifting it you can make a small instruction to go with it.
Hair pack for lustrous hair
I’ve not used hair packs much, but when a friend showed me a hair pack she wanted (and I saw the price of it) I told her I could make it for her. After using it once, she declared every dying love to it and made me promise to order the ingredients for it right away. So for so much love I thought that should make the list. Now hair packs can be combined in any combinations of the ingredients I list, so feel free to get creative. Actually you can even stuff all of them in one hair pack!
Hair cleanser and softer (south indian style)
Soap nut is traditionally used to clean hair in India, and can actually be a substitute for shampoo. If you want to read more on natural shampoo you can read Chāmpo चाँपो / Shampoo. Arappu is made from a leaf and is mostly used in southern India to clean and soften hair. It’s a natural conditioner, so it will leave your hair super soft.
25 % Reetha (soap nut) powder
75 % Arappu powder
Optional adds: Amla for shine
Hair cleanser and shine
Shikakai like soap nut is also a natural cleaner, and help strengthen the hair roots. Amla nourishes the hair all around, and gives beautiful shine.
Optional adds: Arappu for extra soft hair
Hairfall hair pack
Neem and Fenugreek are superior when it comes to help treat hair fall, while Amla and Moringa nourishes and stimulates hair growth. Even if you’re not struggling with hair fall it’s still a super hair pack that will give overall healthy hair and scalp.
Optional adds: Reetha or Shikakai for Cleanse
How to make it
Measure out your ingredients on a scale according to the size of your containers
Gather, mix and voila!
The mixes can be used mixed with water or yogurt to be applied on hair. If you’re gifting it you can make a small instruction to go with it.
Another easy idea for a personalised gift is to make body butter. If you want to give it a try you can read Whipped Body Butter (with 2 to 4 ingredients). If you’re more adventurous you can go for learning how to make soap here – How to make natural soap. Though I warn you, soap making is highly addictive. One day you find yourself counting the days since you made your last batch of soap. Sigh, 2 weeks. I hope this was useful! Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for more easy DIY.
I am very lazy when it comes to personal care, so I have slowly and steadily made my beauty routine as simply as possible. So for moisturiser I have come down to the most simple ingredient I possibly could – oil! The other day though, I felt inspired and whipped up a batch of Mango and Kokum whipped body butter, and it did feel just a little more pampering than my usual oil routine. It is also insanely easy to make, so I thought I would give you a little post on how to make your own custom body butter.
What is Body Butter
Body butter is a mix of butters and oils. Butters are usually solid or soft with a very smooth feel on the skin. In India Mango Butter and Kokum butter are probably the most commonly known butters, but there are also less known butters such as Sal Butter and Mowrah Butter. Internationally Shea butter and Cocoa butter are widely used in a wide range of personal care product. Oils added to body butter can be divided into two categories – soft oils and semi-hard oils. Soft oils are oils that are liquid at all times, and semi hard oils will turn solid at certain temperatures. The most common semi-hard oil is Coconut oil, but Palm as well turns solid at some temperatures. Typically I mix 1-2 butters with 1 soft oil and 1 semi-hard oil, and then play around with the quantities according to the season. Let me explain.
The trick in making body butter in India (or any place with large changes in temperature), is to take the seasons into consideration. In winters you need less butter and semi hard oil to make a beautiful whipped body butter, and in summers you need more. This ensures your butter stays fluffy rather than stone hard or super soft. So I follow these guidelines to make my body butter:
Medium – early and late summer:
25% Semi-hard oil
25% soft oil
Warm – summer:
25% soft oil or Semi-hard oil (at this temperature it won’t make a difference if its soft or semi hard)
Cold – winter:
50% soft oil
25% semi-hard oil
50% soft oil
When you decided you’re quantities, its time to decide what you want to put inside. I will write some basic recipes for inspiration, where you can switch up whatever you feel like to make it your own. 4 parts represents 25% each.
Mango-licious Body Butter
2 part Mango butter
1 part Coconut oil
1 part Sweet almond oil
Grapefruit & Peppermint essential oil
Koko-tastic Body Butter
1 part Kokum butter
1 part Mango butter
1 part Alkanet infused Coconut oil
1 part Safflower oil
Lavender essential oil
How to make it
Measure your ingredients out in grams, and gather them in a double boiler.
2. When everything is melted, set it apart and let it harden. You can speed up the process by putting it in the fridge.
3. When it has hardened, whip it with a whisk like you would whipped cream. It will soften and then start becoming fluffy. Add your essential oils until it has the scent you want. Now voila!
Keep in a jar in a cool place. I don’t usually keep mine in the fridge but it’s an option, if you’d like your body butter to last longer. Since this is for personal use I don’t put any preservatives, and have never needed it as long as its used within a few months time. Though, I recommend that If you’re intending to sell you should do your research on preservatives and stabilisers to taken an informed call on this.
Note: Shea and Cocoa butter makes excellent body butters. My selection is purely about local availability.
Note: this post is modified from something I wrote some years back BUT thought it was still just as relevant today.
Anyone Indian will probably look at this post, and think – TELL ME SOMETHING NEW! But non the less, this is something I only really discovered after I came to India. So, let me just say, it doesn’t take much time here in India for a woman (or this woman at least) to start wondering how all the woman here have such beautiful, long, silky, shiny hair. HOW?! Considering that I need to pour at least half a conditioner in my hair to give it the same look as them, I thought ‘there must be another trick to it’. The trick is so simple – oil, oil and oil! It is not that I haven’t heard of hair oil, but at home in Denmark it was at least 5 times the price of a conditioner, and mostly going under exotic names with a page long ingredients list, that made it seem impossible to replicate it on my own.
Man, was I wrong – making your hair oil is as easy as buying an oil. Many oils can actually be used on their own, or in a two to three oil combination. In the South of India Coconut oil is used for almost anything, including as a hair oil. A friend of mine once told me that when women in the South of India are out of oil, they just squeeze some oil from their hair on the pan! Oiling your hair is cost effective but can also help prevent hair fall, treat dandruff and fungal infections, stimulate hair growth, treat split ends and overall keep your hair strong and healthy.
How to choose oils
There are a number of oils I use in my hair oil, alone or in combinations. For me I follow a few criteria when I choose my oils – the oils should be:
Indian sourced – I follow this mainly for Environmental reasons, but there’s a lot of social benefits attached to this as well. Sourcing oils that are native to your country, and even better to you’re local community both lessens the carbon footprint (because of less transport) and supports the local economy, which you can amplify by supporting small scale businesses. For this reason I do not use Olive oils, even though it is supposed to make for a wonderful hair oil. I don’t think though I’m missing out much since there’s a number of equally wonderful oils I can choose from.
Cold pressed – This has several benefits; cold pressed oils are only minimally heated (mainly from the friction when pressed), which best retains the nutrients of the oil. Other processes of extracting oils involves extensive heating of the oils, resulting in loss of nutrients. What is known as ‘Refined’ oils additionally treats the oils with a number of processes that damages the oil, and thereby making it less healthy.
Organic – The boom in use of Pesticides has been immense in this Century. Many don’t think about the fact that buying natural products, doesn’t mean there’s no toxins in them. Pesticides are carried in the produce it’s applied to, and oil is no exception.
Cost effective – The prices of oils are often set according to the cost of the process of extraction, not how nutritious it is. Many super cheap oils are super healthy and nutritious.
Targeting the problem area – Everyone is different, and that applies to our hair too. Using super moisturising oils on already oily hair might make the problem worse. So it’s important to choose an oil that will serve the purpose you’re looking for. This mainly comes from trial and error in my experience.
Keeping these in mind, I use a mixture of the following oils. I’ve made two categories 1) thick oils that has to be ‘diluted’ with other oils 2) Light oils to be used alone or mixed with a thick oil.
Castor oil is one of the most conditioning oils available as well as having antibacterial and anti fungal properties. I’ve come across quite a few articles that swears by Castor oils ability to promote hair growth, because it accelerates blood circulation to the scalp. I won’t swear by its abilities to speed up hair growth, but it does make my hair feel healthy, strong and look beautiful. Besides that, it is one of the cheapest oils of such qualities. Because of it’s thickness though it has to be ‘diluted’ with another oil.
Butters is another option, and something I’m only recently started exploring. Butters like Mango butter or Kokum butter are extremely nutritious, and known to make for fantastic personal care products. The only hassle is that butters need to be melted, but that makes for a great opportunity to take your oiling to the next level – hot oil! Anyone that has tried a hot oil head massage knows that its one of the most relaxing and soothing activities possible. Even better if you convince a friend or loved one to apply it for you.
Coconut oil is a very popular oil in Southern India, and is also a popular oil for hair. As an oil Coconut is super nutritious, conditioning and strongly antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti fungal. This makes it a great oil to treat dandruff or irritations on the scalp, as well as for general moisturising. It has a very light feel and sweet scent, which makes it comfortable to apply on the hair and keep over night. Thicker oils like Castor can feel a little sticky to keep in too long, even when mixed with another oil. Coconut can be used with a thick oil or on its own.
Some dont like this oil because it has a very strong smell. Though Neem has strong medicinal properties, as well as being a very moisturizing oil. Its also quite a cheap oil, which is a bonus. It has strong antibacterial and antiseptic properties and is an analgesic (painkiller) that can bring relief to discomfort from eczema and other skin ailments. Additionally it treats dandruff, is a natural remedy and prevention for lice and promotes hair growth. Be aware it might stain since it has a yellow colour. Can be used alone or added in smaller quantities to a mix of three oils, to avoid the strong smell.
Sweet almond oil
Personally I like sweet almond because it is a super light oil. It makes it a great oil to add on days when you don’t feel like having to wash your hair several times to get the oil out, or just as a leave in on dry ends. Its on the expensive side so when using it I usually mix it with castor or simple use very small amounts. An interesting thing I’ve read is that it’s a sealant and hair protector, meaning it penetrates the hair and seals in the moisture, while also protecting it against damage. Which means it can be used before straightening, blowdrying and other treatments where the hair needs some extra protection.
Mix, Use, Wash .. Repeat!
Now once you’ve narrowed down your oil mixture, you simple gather it in a bowl. I would use 1/4 of a thick oil, and 3/4 light oil. You can add your favorite essential oils, to add extra properties to the mix. I use Lavender, sweet orange and peppermint regularly. Now this is how to go about applying it:
In the evening..
Get out your oil of choice, a comb and a towel (if you want to protect your clothes)
Part your hair and apply a little oil to the parting, massaging it in thoroughly to ensure it reaches your scalp.
Keep parting your hair, applying the oil to the scalp, massaging it.
Once you’ve covered the whole scalp massage it gently until yoiu feel like its evenly divided over the whole surface.
Now start applying the oil to the rest of your hair, ending up combing your hair back in a braid.
The morning after..
Wash your hair thoroughly. You will experience that the oil will keep your shampoo from lathering like it would normally, and I always wash my hair twice or thrice to ensure all the oils is out.
My soaping adventure has taken me through a number of different experiments with soap, but till date one of my favourites is to make pure Coconut soap. In this post I will go through three different recipes of pure Coconut soap, using the same method (cold process), but creating soap bars for three different uses:
As a Shampoo bar
As a Face & Body bar
As a Clothes Washing bar (for hand wash and machine wash)
I originally started making Coconut Soap because I was struggling to find a combination of oils in my soaps, that reached my four criteria 1) they should be Indian sourced 2) They should be Organic 3) They shouldn’t be too expensive 4) They should make a hard, cleansing and moisturising bar of soap. Three oils in particular are known to make very hard, balanced and moisturising soap bars – namely Olive oil, Palm oil and Coconut oil. Since Olive oil can’t be sourced from India, and Palm oil isn’t available from Organic and sustainable sources, I was left to find other alternatives. Even though I found many different combinations, I couldn’t really get the soap bars as hard as I wanted them, without doubling the price of my materials. Then one day I came across a post on making pure Coconut soap bars, something I had never even thought about. Today I have probably made more pure Coconut soap, than of other recipes, and I’ve found a number of up benefits and a few downsides to it:
It makes a super hard bar of soap that doesn’t get soft after use
It has great thick creamy lather
It is super cleansing and moisturising (if superfatted properly)
Its versatile – can be used for hair, body and clothes
It has a beautiful white colour if no colour is added, and gets a very rustic look if it is added
Its naturally antibacterial and antimicrobial
Its relatively cost effective since Coconut oil is a medium priced oil (here in India)
It does have a very rustic look, and leaves a white coating on top of the soap that hides the colorant used – and is thereby not very suitable for making soaps with colours, patterns and swirls
It does disappear relatively fast, maybe because of its great lathering
All in all I think the upsides outweigh the downsides.
3 Coconut soaps – for hair, body and clothes
Because Coconut Soap is very cleansing, making a bar without superfatting it will make it very drying. Though by controlling the superfat % you can also modify it to serve the purpose you have in mind.
Superfat is the amount of oil left in the soap that isn’t saponified. It’s calculated in percentage, and will in most soaps vary from 5 to 7 percentage.
0% Superfat for a Clothes Washing bar
Pure Coconut soap without any superfat makes the perfect clothes washing bar, because it is very cleansing. Make your soap like you normally would, with or without essential oils. You can cut them as bars to use for hand washing, or follow this Washing powder recipe for Machine wash:
What you need:
A bar of Coconut soap
1/2 Washing Soda
Essential oil of choice (apply by drops until it smells like you want it to
How to make it:
Shred the Coconut soap with a normal kitchen shredder
Mix the soap shreds with the Washing Soda
Drop your essential oils until it has the desired smell
Optional: mix with a few power turns in a mixer grinder.
10% Superfat for Shampoo bar (12% for dry hair)
Coconut soap makes for a great shampoo bar because it lathers a lot, giving you the same feeling as using regular shampoo. When making you’re recipe superfat by 10% for normal hair, and 12% if you’re hair is dry. Make your soap like you normally would and add your favourite essential oils to leave your hair smelling fantastic. You can also add softening or cleansing powders such as Amla, Shikakai, Soapnut or Arappu. Make sure to cure the bars (leave them to rest) for minimum 6 weeks after making them. Only use additives that will help soften or clean the hair – such as Soap nut, Amla, Hibiscus, Shikakai etc.
20% Superfat for a Face and body bar
For face and body you need some extra moisturising to make sure it doesn’t dry out the skin. Superfat by 20% and otherwise customise the soap according to your wishes. There’s is mostly not much difference between a face and a body bar, unless you’re trying to solve an issue you’re having on a specific part of your body – like acne, dryness etc. When superfatted this much it will take the soap a little longer to harden in the mould, but since Coconut already hardens pretty fast it won’t take very long (1 day max).
I hope this was useful. Do let me know if you give it a try, or have more know more ways of making or using Coconut soap.
Disclaimer: this post is inspired by one of Wellness mama (whom I’m a big fan of), also describing the dangers of antibacterial soaps. I have used the same studies as her, but tried to see it from the perspective of India.
Dettol soap is probably the most popular hand washing soap here in India. At least you can’t go long without either hearing their commercials or coming across one of their soap. A Scandinavian colleague of mine always puts an additional piece of soap in the office bathroom, because she says she’s ‘not gonna use that toxic stuff’. She’s referring to the Dettol soap. I don’t use commercials soap by principal, because I don’t trust their transparency and sincerity, but after looking a little closer at Dettol, I couldn’t agree more with my colleague’s choice of words – toxic stuff. Let me walk you through it.
What’s inside a Dettol soap
To understand what’s so bad about Dettol soap, we need to understand what it contains. Later I will only focus on a few of the ingredients, but if you want to read more on the toxic ingredients found in many commercial soaps, you can start by reading Commercial vs. Handmade soaps. Lets look at a typical Dettol soap:
Sodium Palmate – saponified palm oil. Like I’ve mentioned in my earlier post, commercially derived Palm oil is very damaging to the environment and destroys the habitats it’s harvested from. It’s used in soap because it’s cheap and makes a super hard and moisturising bar.
Glycerin – what they sometimes refer to as added moisturiser. Note that Glycerin wouldn’t need to be added if it had been handmade soap, because real soap contains glycerin naturally
Perfume – manufacturing a scent takes up to 3000 different chemical compounds. Most of these are made from synthetic compounds derived from Petroleum, whereof many are known toxins linked to a number of serious health issues and hormonal disruptions. Many of them are still untested for possible harm
Benzyl Salicylate – a chemical compound that helps scent last longer. Can cause irritation on the skin. Listed as an allergenic by European Cosmetic Directive
Butylphenyl methylpropinal – fragrance compound
Citronellol – a natural scent additive to add citrus or floral notes. Occurs naturally
Geraniol – fragrance compound, that also occurs naturally
Hexyl Cinnamal – fragrance compound
Coumarin – fragrance compound associated with allergy and contact dermatitis
Linaloo – fragrance compound
Palm Acid – biproduct of palm oil
Sodium Chloride – salt
Tetrasodium EDTA – is a preservative and a known carcinogen (agent known to cause cancer), and is also a penetration enhancer – which means it breaks down the skins natural barrier, making it easier for harmful chemicals to penetrate the tissue and even enter the blood
Ethidronic Acid – an inorganic acid used as a binding agent
Triclocarban – antibacterial agent
Titanium Dioxide – added for the white color
Sodium Carbonate – also known as ‘Washing soda’. Its similar to Baking soda in composition, but is caustic and used as a cleaning agent.
Sodium Sulfate – sodium salt often used in detergents
There’s a number of ingredients on this list that is of concern. I will focus on Triclocarban (in solid soap) or Triclosan (in liquid soap), which is supposed to be the antibacterial component in Dettol. Before we get deeper into that, it’s important to understand something much more basic – there is no proof available that Antibacterial soap is any way is more effective than normal soap, or even natural handmade soap.
Antibacterial vs. Normal soap
The biggest selling point of Dettol soap is that it’s antibacterial – like it says, it kills 99.9 % of bacteria! We are made to believe that it’s superior to normal soap, and will protect us better against disease and infections. Though this doesn’t seem to be the case. Last year the FDA (US Food and Drug Association) released it’s final ruling on the effectiveness and safety of Antibacterial soap:
Consumers may think antibacterial washes are more effective at preventing the spread of germs, but we have no scientific evidence that they are any better than plain soap and water. In fact, some data suggests that antibacterial ingredients may do more harm than good over the long-term.
Data suggested that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in antibacterial products — for example, triclosan (liquid soaps) and triclocarban (bar soaps) — could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.
This highlights two important points: 1) there’s no proof Antibacterial soap will protect you better than normal soap 2) even if it did, health concerns linked to ingredients such as Triclosan or Triclosaban might outweigh the benefits. If you want to read the final ruling of FDA, you can find it here. Though, this is not the only points to keep in mind. Let me explain.
There’s clean and there’s too clean
Bacteria might be associated by many as something bad, but we are becoming only more aware of how incredibly important bacteria is for us to stay healthy. Especially the gut bacteria plays a crucial role in keeping the body’s systems in balance. In recent years studies have shown that people with less varied gut bacteria are much more prone to getting sick. We receive this bacteria through a number of ways throughout our life. For bonus info I can tell you that one of them is through birth, which ultimately means that children born by C-section often lack this gut bacteria diversity. Though, we also obtain these bacterias through our life, by the different exposures we come in contact with (food, environment etc.). Now, it’s important to understand that while it is the good bacteria that keeps us healthy, being exposed to bad bacteria is essential for our body to build up our immune system. Essentially that’s what vaccines does – they expose us to a tiny amount of the disease, to make our own body produce antibodies to protect us against future exposure.
So what happens when we use antibacterial agents? Just like when we use antibiotics, strong antibacterial agents doesn’t distinguish between the good and bad bacteria. It’s simply wipes out all of it – good and bad. I absolutely agree that there can be situations where this is necessary (for example after visiting a hospital or other places where dangerous bacteria might occur or in the case of using antibiotics to fight dangerous disease), but if used on a daily basis we diminish the natural exposure we need to grow a strong immune response and bacterial diversity to stay healthy. This post for example shows some of the research done, linking use of Antibacterial agents to immune related sensitivities:
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University published a study in the 2012 Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology where they found that children with high levels of triclosan, a common component in everything from cleaning products and toothpaste to pizza cutters and countertops—anywhere “antibacterial” properties are marketed), were at significantly higher risk for developing seasonal allergies, food, drug, and insect allergies, hay fever, and other immune-related sensitivities.
Super bugs and drug resistance
Again it’s important to understand what happens inside our bodies. Most diseases occur when an imbalance in the body in combination with exposure to a virus or bacteria, makes a favourable environment for a bad bacteria or virus to go into overgrowth. For example, a yeast infection that many women might have experienced, happens when the balance of the natural bacteria is disturbed, causing overgrowth of yeast (which occurs naturally). This can happen when using harsh soap that removes all the bacterias, or overuse of Anti-biotics that essentially does the same. Now this is important to understand, because by using antibacterial agents, we might be making a favourable environment for so called “superbug” to develop, and in combination with the growing drug resistance (caused by overexposure to for example antibiotics) we are looking at nothing less than a health emergency. Recent news report on ABC new explains:
Indeed, recent research suggests these products may encourage the growth of “superbugs” resistant to antimicrobial agents, a problem when these bacteria run rampant, turning into a dangerous infection that cannot be treated with available medication.
Similar growth of drug-resistant strains has already occurred with antibiotics. The overuse and misuse of antibiotics has led to several drug-resistant microbes, such as streptococcus pneumonia and strains of E. coli.
Dr. Stuart Levy, president of the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and a professor of molecular biology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, believes antibacterial soaps are dangerous.
“Triclosan creates an environment where the resistant, mutated bacteria are more likely to survive,” says Levy, who published a study on the germicide two years ago in the journal Nature.
Charles Rock, a researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hosptial in Memphis, Tenn., also published work in Nature last month supporting the resistance theory.
“The use of triclosan in these products will lead to the emergence of resistance,” he predicts. “There is no strong rationale for [its] use.”
Increased risk of infection
Oh the irony, but some studies show that use of Triclosan causes build up of Staph aureus bacteria in nasal passages and other parts of the body, which leads to higher risk of infection. Read the full study here,
Triclosan, a chemical found in the majority of anti-bacterial hand and dish soaps, was picked up in the nasal passages of 41 percent of the adults sampled by researchers at the University of Michigan. Those with triclosan in their noses were more likely to also have colonies of the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus (commonly referred to as “staph”).
Most importantly though, was that researchers found a potential link between the two: Triclosan appears to help the staph bacteria grab hold and bind to proteins in the nose.
“I think we have been seeing a lot of this over the past few years, that perhaps these antimicrobial soaps are doing more harm than good,” said Dr. Melissa Osborn, an infectious disease specialist with MetroHealth Medical Center. “We know that one of the reasons that staph aureus colonizes some people’s noses is that it adheres to some of the proteins in the nose. Triclosan actually promoted that adhesion.”
Having staph aureus in your nose — which is the case for about 30 percent of people — is not necessarily a problem in and of itself, but is a risk factor for getting other infections such as surgical site infections, boils, catheter site infections in people on dialysis and diabetic foot ulcers.
This is just a fraction of the research emerging on the dangers linked with use of antibacterial soaps, gels, cleaning products etc. Studies also show that chemicals like Triclosan disrupts hormones as well as is of major environmental concern. So what should we go? For me it’s simple. Soap is not the issue – washing your hands with normal soap is proven to cut a number of dangerous disease in half. Wash your hands and body in good old, natural soap. As for Hand sanitisers, where water is not available, there is a number of DIY natural versions out there. The other day I saw my colleague squeeze a lemon into his hand, which in fact is also antibacterial. I will be sure to follow this post up with one on how to make you’re very own, safe antibacterial hand sanitiser.