Top 5 DIY body care ingredients

Top 5 ingredients for DIY body care products

In our quest for a greener life, I quickly learned to stay away from chemicals in the foods and in the cleaning products that we were using, but it took me several years before I realised that having chemicals in our body care products was just as bad. The skin just absorbs them and they get into our body

I needed to replace my go-to commercial creams and lotions. I quickly found out that commercial brands are not necessarily as green as they claim to be and even when they were, there were still ingredients in them that triggered allergic reactions in my children or me.

Now we make our own body care products. At least that way, we know exactly what we are spreading on our faces.

I haven’t bought any creams or lotions since 2008 for my family, and I gift homemade body care products to friends and family for birthdays and Christmases, and everybody enjoys them.

To make all my body care products, I use the same few essential organic ingredients that will keep at least a year when stored correctly in a cool dark place or a fridge. So I buy in bulk around once a year. Find a review of my best-loved ones below.

1. Shea Butter

If I had to buy just one thing for my body care products, this would be it. It is versatile, a miracle on my extra dry crocodile skin, soft on my children’s skin and useful in the medicine cabinet too.

What is it?

Shea butter (pronounce shay) is the fat extracted from the pit of the shea tree fruit although we call it a nut. It is solid at room temperature but melts in the heat of your hand.

You will find to types of shea butter, refined butter, white and odourless, is bleached and deodorised and unrefined butter that has a yellow tint more or less pronounced and a nutty smell. It is also possible to find some debris in the unrefined butter.

I prefer to use the unrefined version as it is unadulterated and has all its properties but if you want something with a neutral scent refined is ok too.

The best suppliers store the nuts and process them across the year until the next harvest so they always produce fresh butter.

What are the benefits?

Shea butter contains moisturizers that are similar to the ones produced by our own sebaceous glands. This makes it highly hydrating for our skin as it is penetrating the skin and its high-fat content makes it highly emollient.

It is appropriate for most skin types.

Rich in vitamins A and E, it is a good antioxidant helping fight free radicals.

The plant has anti-inflammatory properties helpful in the control of eczema, dermatitis and rosacea, and also sunburns, rashes, grazes and preventing and nappy rash in babies.

Research shows it is an antifungal that kills the spores of ringworm and athlete’s foot fungi.

Shea butter contains oleic, stearic, palmitic and linoleic acids that protect and nourish the skin.

Research has shown that shea butter also helps our skin produce natural collagen which makes it more supple and elastic. The skin is stronger, resisting better to exterior factors like sun, wind and cold. making the skin softer and more elastic, which can probably help with wrinkles too.

How do I use it?

My primary use is as a complete body moisturiser. I use it to help soothe eczema flares. It keeps our skin soft and supple and makes a great foot rub. We haven’t had any athlete’s foot problems in years, and it is good to avoid (or help repair) cracked heels.

I use it neat as a lip balm or as a moisturiser in the shower, I also rub it on painful joints when I don’t have any coconut balm left.

I have made a healing salve to help with rashes, bites, scrapes and burns.

It protects the skin around your nose when you have to blow it often.

I use it in my deodorant to help moisturise the skin.

It is also great to condition hair. It relieves itchy scalp and helps with dandruff. I have also rubbed it neat on the scalp to treat cradle cap when my children were babies.

A cool trick: Smear some softened shea butter in your nostrils to clear up nasal congestion fast.

I get mine here

How do I store it?

I keep my shea butter in an airtight container in the fridge. I buy enough for one year, but most sites seem to say that fresh butter keeps for around two years. It is important to check the butter before using. If it smells stale or has discoloured you need to throw it away.

2. Coconut Oil

This is my second best! I like it for its medicinal properties, its versatility, I like that it is solid but melts easier than shea butter and because I always have it on hand as I use it a lot for cooking.

What is it?

Coconut oil is the oil extracted from the edible, fleshy “meat” of a coconut.

Virgin or unrefined oil is extracted by pressing the fresh flesh of the coconut. It gives pure oil that is coconut flavoured. Processed or refined coconut oil is made from the dried coconut chips called copra that is heated to deodorise it then filtered through clays to take away impurities and finally sodium hydroxide is used to remove free fatty acids thus prolonging the oil’s shelf life.

Coconut oil is solid at room temperature, the melting point is 24.4°C (76°F) where it becomes liquid. You can keep it in either form but it is best to keep it at the same temperature all the time

I use unrefined coconut oil for cooking and for body care products but it really is up to you. If you prefer to avoid the smell or taste, then go for refined oil.

What are the benefits?

Coconut oil contains lauric acid which gives it antiviral antimicrobial and antifungal properties.

Using coconut oil on the skin can improve its moisture content and it can reduce symptoms of eczema.

It can kill harmful bacteria in the mouth so it is good to use in toothpaste and for oil pulling.

It protects lightly the skin against harmful sun rays blocking about 20% of UV rays

It soothes an itchy scalp,  helps with dandruff and also cradle cap in babies. Its antifungal properties may help with scalp ringworm and its moisturizing properties help with keeping the hair in good condition when shampooed often.

How do I use it?

First, test it on a small area of your body for 24 to 48 hours do not use if you are sensitive to it.

I use it neat as a face cleanser /make-up remover even around the eyes. (wiping with a cotton ball then washing with a warm cloth.)

Because of its antimicrobial properties, coconut oil also works great as a deodorant, on its own or in a mix.

It makes a great shaving cream as it moisturises the skin and softens the hair. Its antimicrobial properties are helpful for those little nicks too.

Coconut oil is also a great massage oil and personal lubricant. Don’t use with condoms. the oil might compromise the rubber.

I like that being solid it is easier to manipulate and dose than liquids.  Melting easily in your hands it doesn’t feel so cold when applied to the skin.

We use coconut oil in homemade toothpaste and for our oil pulling routine too. (Do not spit the coconut oil from oil pulling in the sink it could clog it.)

I use it in shea body butter and eczema lotion to help melt the shea butter as my hands are always so cold that I can’t melt it.

I get mine here

How do I store it?

Coconut oil is shelf stable. For long term storage, it is important to keep it at a constant temperature. It is ok to store it in the fridge if the temperature fluctuates a lot where you live.

I store it in a cool dark cupboard in an airtight container and I transfer some to a big jam jar for everyday use.

I have kept some jars unopened for close to two years at the beginning of our adventure because I had bought 4 one litre jars at once but my family didn’t like it so much in the cooking at first. The last jar opened 18 months later was fine.

If your oil has a rancid sour smell, changes colour or becomes lumpy stay on the safe side and throw it away.

I keep the opened jar of oil in a draw by the stove top. A litre lasts us around two months, between cooking and body care products.

3. Beeswax

You wouldn’t think that beeswax brings anything much to your DIY body care products apart from firmness and better resistance to hot weather but you would be mistaken. It has great properties too, so I put it in my top 3.

What is it?

Beeswax is produced by the honey bees workers to create the combs that will house the larvas and the honey that feeds them.

The combs centrifuged to get the honey out of the alveoles; then the combs are left by the hive for the bees to clean the remaining honey out.

The clean combs are then melted and poured into blocks or pellets or sheets to be made into new comb foundations for bees, candles or for use in cosmetics and body care products or for waterproofing of fabrics and leathers.

What are the benefits?

Beeswax provides a protective barrier against irritants, holds moisture but lets the skin breathe.

It is a humectant that attracts water keeping your skin hydrated.

It has antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that help in preventing and treating skin irritations.

It contains vitamin A that helps re-hydrate and repair damaged skin cells.

Beeswax is naturally hypoallergenic and is good to help soothe itchy skin.

Beeswax in natural makeup gives staying power without clogging pores and it waterproofs mascara naturally.

How do I use it?

I mix it with olive oil or sweet almond oil in healing salves.

To protect our skin from the elements in winter, I use it in my moisturising lotion.

It is essential in deodorant sticks and lip balms to keep them solid in warm weather.

I add it to beard balm whipped with coconut oil and shea butter.

I get mine here

How do I store it?

I keep my beeswax pellets in kraft paper bags in a metal tin. I also get blocks from a local beekeeper that I keep wrapped in kraft paper in the tin too. Beeswax is supposed to last for years but I prefer to use it within a year as the lovely smell disappears with time.

4. Cocoa Butter

It is the perfect addition for a touch of yumminess and luxury. The smell is gorgeous. It also adds a rich creaminess to your body care products.

What is it?

Cocoa pods are the fruits of the cocoa tree found in tropical regions around the Equator. 70% of the production comes from Africa.

Inside the pods, you’ll find the beans that will give us cocoa powder and cocoa butter.

Cocoa butter is the fat extracted from the cocoa beans by fermenting then drying, roasting and grounding the beans. The powder is then pressed or boiled to extract the fat.

Cocoa butter is solid when cold. It has a pale yellow colour and a yummy chocolate odour.

What are the benefits?

Cocoa butter is rich in vitamins and antioxidants like A, B1, B2, B3, C and E.

It is a great moisturiser, protecting your skin against the environment.

Moisture penetrates the hair fibres and makes hair it more manageable. Making it a good alternative to shaving soap.

As a bonus, the chocolaty scent left behind is gorgeous.

How do I use it?

I love it in my preparations to add a touch of richness and yummy chocolate scent.

I take a piece in the shower rubbing it on me to condition my skin.

Cocoa butter is solid, even at room temperature. When I need to spread it, I mix a bit of warm water with it then scoop it out.

It makes a nice body butter melted with coconut oil in a double boiler then cooled in the freezer for 15 mn and then whipped with a whisk. It makes it quick to apply then.

I get mine here

How do I store it?

I store cocoa butter in a cool dark cupboard in an airtight container. It will keep between 2 and 5 years in optimal conditions.

Like all the other ingredients it is better to keep it at a constant temperature to optimise its life span.

If the butter colour seems off or if it smells sour the butter has gone rancid and it is best to throw it away.

5. Lavender Essential Oil

Not strictly necessary as you could replace it by infusing the oils with dried plants or skip it altogether, but it does boost the properties of the oils, and adding a fresh, relaxing scent.

With essential oils, it is important to measure properly. I always dilute at 1% that means no more than 6 drops per 30ml (1 oz) and have everyone do a patch test to make sure anybody in the family can use the product. In aromatherapy, I dilute at 2%: no more than 12 drops per 30ml (1 oz)

What is it?

Lavender is a fragrant sun-loving plant from North Africa. It grows naturally around the Mediterranean sea.

It is easily grown in gardens and is cultivated commercially for the perfume and cosmetic industry.

Lavender essential oil is made by steam distilling the flower buds and condensing the steam into liquid and collecting the oil floating on top. It is then bottled in dark brown or blue bottles equipped with a dropper.

What are the benefits?

Research has shown that lavender essential oil can help with stress and anxiety, fungal infections and in the treatment of wounds.

How do I use it?

When we want to lift our mood or we need to relax I just sprinkle a few drops in a diffuser .

I add it in deodorant once the melted oils have cool down.

We each have sweet almond oil and lavender EO in a small roll on to apply on bites and stings or to rub on our temples when we feel a tension headache coming.

It is also a staple ingredient in my healing salves.

I get mine here

How do I store it?

In its original bottle, shut tight, in a cool dark cupboard. It will last around 4 years, but I usually buy enough to last me a year.

This is an extremely useful site to learn the shelf life and best storage of essential oils: click here

One last thing:

Making your natural body care products isn’t complicated or expensive. You can get multiple benefits from the simplest of ingredients.

It is important to always do a patch test for any new product or combination before using to avoid any issue and to discontinue use if you start showing signs of sensitivity.

We hope you’ll have fun experimenting, finding what you like best or what is most efficient for you.

We would love for you to share your questions, thoughts and discoveries in the comments below.

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