I came from a family of doctors who took a hands off approach in my own family’s health care–my parents gave us no antibiotics or other meds unless absolutely necessary because of resistance and side effects, and thought that drinking water and resting could fix most things. Needless to say, though I know everyone might not agree with me (and of course many serious health issues necessitate supplements or other drugs), I adopted this hands off approach myself. To this day (knock on wood!) I find conscious, healthy, varied eating along with exercise and other types of stress relief keeps me healthy and gives me the vitamins and nutrients I need.
The problem with this approach is that while I was thinking about what was going into my body food-wise, I wasn’t giving a lot of consideration to what I wasn’t keeping out, especially with the products I spread on my body. We’re at the mercy of the stores we shop at and the lenient laws of the US (except for some of us, Aya!), which allow lots of chemicals to get in our bodies. At the risk of sounding crazy, around the same time the information about plastics led me to try and get rid of some of the plastics in our home, I also starting researching my body products on the incredible website created by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Skin Deep, and getting really freaked out about it. Skin Deep is a database where you can learn (and get terrified) about the toxic ingredients in your cosmetics, soaps, toothpaste, and other toiletries.
I could go on and on about the crazy things that are in our toiletries, but here are a few gems:
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate- This chemical may seem innocuous if you look up its properties in Skin Deep–only a 1-2 EWG toxicity rate depending on how its used. It is listed as a skin irritant though. In fact, laboratories throughout the world use it to irritate skin on test animals and humans so that they may then test healing agents to see how effective they are on the irritated skin. So why is it in my toothpaste, shampoo, and skin wash, and why am I spreading this sh*t all over my mucous membranes!?! It’s so hard to find toothpaste without it, but once we made the switch my husband Garriy’s mouth ulcers went away almost immediately, and since switching to shampoo without it, we both have a much less itchy scalp in the winter.
- Synthetic Fragrance- Listen, I like my Mrs. Myer’s awesome smelling dish soap, those fancy botanical-sounding candles, and my L’Occitane perfume as much as the next gal, but the problem is that “fragrance” is a catch-all term that can include hundreds of chemicals that have harmful contaminants and/or trigger allergic reactions. So, even if you’re buying a so-called natural product, if it contains synthetic fragrance, it could cause health issues. For that reason, as a start, I’m forgoing cleaning products (which have their own separate issues) and making my own scented with essential oils, and using Dr. Bronner’s soap for our hands and bodies. I’m slowly working on the rest of it, and of course, you also have to be careful when using essential oils. This is a hard one to tackle though…
Triclosan- Our parents just used a bar of soap back in the day to wash their hands and get rid of germs. Today, we’re obsessed with everything antibacterial. Many soaps and toothpastes now contain triclosan, a hormone-disrupting pesticide that according to the EWG, “poses potential toxicity to fetal and childhood development,” concentrates in breast milk, and breaks down into toxic chemicals. Both the American Medical Association and the FDA advise against its use, noting that good ole soap (not the antibacterial kind) and water are equally effective at getting rid of germs. So why the hell is it still in your Dial hand soap, Arm & Hammer “natural” deodorant, and Colgate (it’s banned or restricted in many countries, including the EU)? I don’t know, but it’s a wonderful question.
Okay, so I could go on and on, but basically I was upset that I was smearing my body and living with toxic chemicals that I’d brought home myself. After all, shouldn’t we be confident that the substances we rub on our bodies, and which are absorbed through our skin are things that, for the most part, we’d be comfortable ingesting?
Since I’ve written a book here, I’ll refrain from going through the various chemical reasons why I decided to switch over to a natural deodorant (I’ve not been using anti-perspirant for years), but you can read about possible risks of many deodorant ingredients online. In the meantime, what follows is a simple recipe made from things I always have around the house anyway, and which are food safe: coconut oil, baking soda, and cornstarch. I like to add in grapefruit essential oil because it smells so awesome. I’ve tried lots of regular drugstore and natural deodorants in the past, and I’m a pretty sweaty girl, and none of them ever worked for me. I can promise you that this does the trick amazingly.
I’ve seen people put it in old “click-up” deodorant containers or plastic push-up containers, but it seems like a hassle to me, especially since it warmer weather it can be pretty melty because of the coconut oil. We just use a glass jar (a shallow one, not a tall narrow one, so you can get at all of it), or a small Nalgene container when we travel. If it melts and needs to be re-solidified, simply stir and let it sit in the fridge to chill. Note that some people can develop skin irritation or rashes from the baking soda even though it’s not a toxic ingredient, so you can cut back to a ratio of 1 part baking soda to 3 parts cornstarch, instead of the 1:1 ratio below.
Natural Coconut Oil Deodorant
- 1/4 C. baking soda
- 1/4 C. cornstarch or arrowroot powder
- coconut oil (virgin organic, if possible)
- 10 drops grapefruit essential oil (Optional: or another scent that you like: tea tree oil is recommended by many for its natural antibacterial properties, but I’m not a huge fan of that scent)