Now that my house is squeaky clean and on its way to earth-friendliness, I decided it was time to switch gears and begin work on my personal habits. Over the past year or two I have switched a few hygiene items with all-natural, non-animal-tested products. But when I started asking for tips on how to live a greener lifestyle, a friend suggested I begin by cutting out products containing petroleum.
This idea stumped me. Why should I get rid of my petroleum products? Most of the skin care products I’ve ever used are mostly made from a petrolatum or mineral oil base. Petroleum is in almost every lotion, chap stick, ointment and diaper rash cream on the market. It can’t be that bad, can it?
What I’ve discovered is, it is that bad, and it isn’t. Actually, it was hard finding much information about this issue from unbiased sources, but the sources I did find are passionate about it. (A pretty good article about this can be found at Best Health Mag online.) The worst and most conclusive issue with using so much petroleum is that it is, in fact, petroleum. Da da da DUM! Shocker! When I thought of it this way, it seemed so obvious that I should stop using petroleum-based products. Our skin care products are made from the same substance that fuels our cars. I felt quite foolish that I hadn’t quite made that connection before. I mean, the name should have tipped me off, but I figured it had to be a different kind of petroleum. Because real petroleum, the kind motor oil and gasoline is made from, is made from crude oil, and crude oil is very toxic. And they wouldn’t put that stuff in my favorite lotion, would they?
They would. However, the petroleum in cosmetics is highly refined and is considered perfectly safe by most experts. Some of it is even diluted with a vegetable replacement. In certain grades of petrolatum, though, cancer-causing chemicals may still exist. These grades are not approved for use in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and foods. For the most part, you can rest assured that your cosmetics are safe, but I will always wonder if any toxins were missed in the refining process.
More pressing than the small possibility of using impure petrolatum is its environmental impact. By now, most of us are becoming more mindful of the oil we use through watching our gas consumption. We’ve seen the effects of oil spills and the pollution caused from constantly burning fossil fuels. We understand that there is a finite amount of crude oil in the world and that someday we’ll need to figure out a new way to keep our busy world turning. Our dependence on oil goes way beyond what we put in our cars. If we want to reduce our oil consumption, we must take a look at the other places where it impacts our lives. Including our cosmetics.
With this in mind, I swapped out my favorite toiletry–body lotion–with a natural alternative. This was a difficult change for me. I have very dry, sensitive skin that nearly guzzles up moisturizers. A long time ago I found the perfect lotion for my skin and have used it all over my body, every day, for years and years. Since I go through so much of this petrolatum-based lotion, I realized changing this one habit would make the most impact of all of my practices.
I was afraid the natural lotions would not work as well for my dry skin as my former product did, but I have been pleasantly surprised. I have all the moisturization with the added benefit of breathability on my skin. The downside to the natural lotions is the cost. My new products cost $.50-$1.00 per ounce, which is at least twice more than my old favorite. The benefit to my health and the environment is worth the change, but it does make an impact on my budget.
The best thing to do, it seemed, was to try to make my own lotion at lower cost. I searched for homemade lotion recipes and found a good, basic one in Happy Living Magazine online. (Isn’t that fun?) The ingredient list required me to venture out beyond the grocery store, but it was time for me to explore the natural goods store anyway. I bought beeswax, coconut oil, and vitamin E oil. The rest of the ingredients I had at home.
The lotion was surprisingly simple and quick to make. After grating the beeswax (the tedious step of the process), I melted it with coconut and olive oils in a double boiler. Next I added boiling water mixed with a tiny amount of borax (a natural preservative) and mixed with my hand blender. Then, voila! I had creamy, emollient lotion. It was amazing. As soon as the hot water combined with the liquid wax and oils the mixture turned thick and white. I felt so science-y and was very impressed with myself. When it cooled, I added some vitamin E and essential oil and poured it into a clean jar.
I couldn’t wait to try it, so I jumped in the shower to create a clean slate for my new product. Then I towled off and smoothed on my homemade product. The lotion was a little thicker than my normal brand, but it was so creamy and fragrant and felt good on my dry, itchy skin. (You can control the thickness of your lotion by using lighter or heavier cooking oils). My skin still felt healthy and moisturized many hours later, when my regular brand would normally need a refresher. My hands especially felt the difference. My mothering duties require frequent hand-washing, which does a number on my knuckles and fingertips. Within a day of using my homemade lotion, there was a noticeable improvement in how my fingers looked and felt.
I am definitely satisfied with my homemade replacement for my petroleum-based lotion. I am already looking forward to playing with different scents and oils and making this concoction for my friends and family members. (My husband has already requested a “manly” lotion.) As much as I enjoy my homemade lotion, though, I have to ask myself
whether it is realistic to switch from my store-bought brand to my homemade product. The answer lies in the cost of production.
Here’s my cost breakdown:
Coconut Oil: $7.50 for 14 oz, $.54/oz, $1.08 per batch
Viamin E oil: $3.75 for .5 oz, $7.50/oz, $.63 per batch (this ingredient is optional)
Beeswax: $5.49 for 4oz, $1.37/oz, $1.37 per batch
Olive Oil: $5.49 for 17oz, $.32/oz, $.64 per batch
Ingredients of inconsequential cost:
Water: 2 oz
Borax: 1/8 tsp
Essential Oil: 5 drops
Total Ounces per batch: 7 oz
Total per batch: $3.72
Total per ounce: $.53
The cost is the same as the cheapest store-bought natural lotion I tried, but I might be able to lessen the cost through experimenting with cheaper ingredients or purchasing ingredients in bulk. As easy as it was to make, I can see this becoming my primary moisturizer from now on.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to not only find a way to improve my environmental impact, but to also solve my dry skin problem. I am learning so much from these “go green” experiments, and I hope you are, too.
Next week I’m going paperless in the kitchen. No paper napkins, no paper towels. I’m so dependent on paper goods that I’m pretty skeptical that this is going to work, but I’ll give it my best shot. How many paper goods to you go through in the kitchen? Leave a comment and let me know! And be sure to tell me your ideas for future posts or experiments you’d like to see me try.