Get creative with a natural beauty routine and banish plastic-wrapped body washes, creams and body butters for good. Charlotte Willis shares her tips, tricks and recipes to make your own vegan and eco-friendly beauty products at home.
Reading the back labels of cosmetics and beauty products is concurrently a flashback to chemistry lessons and a source of gross confusion. Sodium this, pantothenic acid that – none of which seems to make sense.
It does make one wonder what exactly you are smearing onto your skin, in a seemingly innocent act to become clean, soft and smell heavenly.
And what’s with all the unnecessary packaging? Boxes concealing plastic cartons, wrappings and labels, all for 250ml of body wash. I need a simpler alternative.
Having sensitive skin makes you think twice about the products you use regularly. As such, I’ve ditched mass-produced and pre-made body washes in favour of handmade soaps, and began creating my own body moisturisers and scrubs. A little bit of luxury everyday never hurt anyone.
Plus, you can have peace of mind knowing exactly what is on your ingredients list, with no hidden chemicals or allergens inside. Ultimately, by opting to use your own containers, you are actively reducing your dependence upon plastic and helping reuse some of those mason jars and empty tubs of peanut butter.
Addicted to soap
If you have ever seen me lurking around the soap displays of Oxford Street Lush, you’ll understand that I, unashamedly, have an addiction to soap bars. I just love discovering new flavours and varieties of soap, seeing what unique and interesting ingredients can be formed into a lather-able bar, and how astonishingly beautiful they can smell too.
Not only do soap bars preserve themselves, they make the ideal gift and can be bought without needless amounts of wasteful packaging. Fancy making your own? Here are the key ingredients you’ll need:
This is an essential ingredient in soaps, which is only required in very small quantities in order to form a neutral pH when paired with the acids in the various oils, which you’ll be using to create the soap.
Pick oils which will suit your skin type, such as cocoa butter for sensitive and dry skin, and coconut oil for oily skin. Combine this oil with an equal amount of soybean oil, which provides a very conditioning soap that will lather easily in your hands.
Grapefruit seed extract
This will act as a natural antioxidant to help prevent your oil emulsion from going rancid (smelling as if it has gone off) while you use it.
Essential oils and fragrances
I usually tailor my essential oils to suit the purpose of the soap. For example, when creating a facial soap, I infuse the soap with rose, tea tree and lavender essential oils, which all cleanse the skin. For a moisturising body soap, opt for lighter fragrances, such as geranium and citrus oils, including lemon and neroli oils.
For these, I tend to use natural dyes that I source online. Alternatively, you can opt for blitzed rose petals or fresh botanicals such as lavender. The best recipes for natural vegan soaps can all be found online, so a quick Google search is a perfect way to explore the fascinating world of soap-making alchemy. I particularly like the recipes you can find here.
Did anyone else used to love rich, thick and creamy body washes before they went vegan? That is, before you realised they were infused with milk, cream and honey. Yuck. Alas, a DIY alternative is what you need to recreate skin-soaked bliss, in a purely vegan way, of course. One of my favourite body wash recipes is an all-in-one blender recipe (no, really) and is sort of like a milkshake for your body! (Recipe adapted from One Green Planet)
- 700ml (24fl oz) distilled water
- 60ml (2fl oz) purified aloe vera gel
- 120ml (4fl oz) coconut milk
- 60ml (2fl oz) olive oil
- 60ml (2fl oz) coconut oil
- 1 tbsp shea or cocoa butter
- 1 tsp guar gum (as a thickener)
- 1 cup Dr Bronner’s Castile Soap of your choice (I use the sensitive blend)
- 5 drops of essential oils
Add all the ingredients into a high speed blender (except the castile soap – foamy mess will otherwise ensue). Blend on the highest setting for about 1 minute, scrape down and blend for 30 seconds. Add in the castile soap and decant into a bottle of your choice. The mix may separate out, so ensure a good shake before using each time to recombine the ingredients.
Clarifying Salt Scrub
One of the easiest products to make in the kitchen, yet one of the most commonly bought off the shelves of pharmacies and beauty retailers (at a great expense) are salt or sugar scrubs.
I adore the feeling of silky-soft skin, unblocked pores and a good exfoliation, and a salt-based scrub is by far your best option to help clarify and tone your skin. Sugar also performs well, and I have had previous success using coffee grinds too, but the champion of universal exfoliators by far? Salt.
To make a jar of salt scrub (suitable for body, hands, feet and face) I use about 700g (25oz) of medium-course unrefined sea salt or pink Himalayan salt. I then combine 120ml (4fl oz) cool olive oil or jojoba oil (particularly good for acne-prone skin) alongside 10 drops of mixed fresh-smelling essential oils, such as lemon and lemongrass. And that’s all!
This delicious mixture will keep fresh for about 3-4 weeks.
Body Moisture Bar
For a zero-waste alternative to tubes and tubs of body moisturisers, why not try using an invigorating and luxurious body moisture bar? These are easily made with a few simple ingredients, which are combined and melted together over a stovetop pan of boiling water, before being poured into moulds of your choice. Body bars make a fantastic DIY gift and can be customised to suit your skin type and tastes! Your basic ingredients are (adapted from Vegan Beauty Review):
- candelilla wax (a vegan alternative to beeswax)
- cocoa butter
- shea butter
- avocado, olive or melted coconut oil
- a few drops of essential oils
- any dried flowers/leaves to decorate the moulds with
You’ll want to combine equal parts of the candelilla, cocoa and shea, melting them slowly in a double boiler or a microwave, and allow to cool slightly. Stir in 1.3 parts avocado/olive/melted coconut oil before adding your essential oils, and pour into your moulds. Leave to solidify for a few hours or overnight before using and enjoying.
Charlotte is a freelance journalist and health writer who has worked with the Vegan Society and other online vegan publications. Her fields of expertise and interest include vegan nutrition, holistic healthcare, mindfulness and fitness. She is currently researching and studying the various links between food and psychological health while pursuing a doctorate degree in counselling.