Archive for the ‘Greening Your Bathroom’ Category

I get obsessed with keeping my lips moisturized this time of year and I buy lip balm basically every time I see one. I’m never really satisfied but I recently bought one that was terrible. It was a natural formula with SPF. I didn’t read the ingredients before purchasing but they put a bunch of chemical sunscreens in it and it made my lips dryer than ever! This angered me so I had to come home and make my own lip balm. I was lucky enough to have scored a big block of beeswax at a co-op so I melted some rosehip oil with it in a 1:4 ratio (one part beeswax, 4 parts oil by weight) and added some essential oils, a ‘chai’ blend – ginger, clove and cinnamon. I encourage you to buy beeswax next time you are at a farmer’s market and make your own balms with a good quality oil such as olive, coconut or grape seed . It’s so easy to do. Just melt it in a double boiler on your stove and play with the amounts to make the consistency that you want. To test it, drop a bit on a counter and allow it to cool for a minute. You can also add lavender to make a healing salve for really dry areas, irritated skin and cuticles. My lips feel amazing today!

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Cleaning with essential oils has many advantages. The most extraordinary one being the anti-bacterial properties that most essential oils have against common household contaminants such as e. coli, staphylococcus, and salmonella. There are literally hundreds of in vitro studies published on the internet that prove the effectiveness of essential oils against bacteria.

The great thing about these germ-fighters is that they kill bacteria without killing everyone else. Common household cleaners are made from toxic chemicals that threaten our eco-systems and bioaccumulate in our bodies causing a range of health issues. Essential oils are actually good for our bodies and our minds. When you inhale the oils, you will feel your mood adjust. You can have a happy aromachemically-induced cleaning experience!

Here are some essential oils I recommend based on their germ-killing abilities, scent, availability and price:

  • cinnamon
  • eucalyptus
  • ginger
  • grapefruit
  • lavender
  • lemon
  • lemongrass
  • lime
  • orange
  • peppermint
  • rosemary
  • tea tree
You can get some nice quality oils at health food stores or departments. Use them on their own or make a combination based on your preferences – your chance to be a perfumer. You only need a few drops of essential oils in each batch of cleaner because they are extremely concentrated (they come with a dropper for a reason). For instance, a mop bucket of vinegar and water would only need about 5 drops.
Here are a few recipes:
All-purpose kitchen cleaner – 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water, a few drops of orange, lavender and rosemary.
Window cleaner – 1 part vinegar, 2 parts water, few drops of lemon.
Bathroom scour – 1 cup of baking soda, enough water to make a paste, 5 drops of tea tree oil, 5 drops of peppermint.
Toilet bowl cleaner – 1/4 cup of baking soda, 1 cup of water, 10 drops of tea tree, 10 drops cinnamon

Another thing to keep in mind is the use of a good quality microfiber and good old elbow grease goes a long way. Happy cleaning:)

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It is estimated that chemicals from personal care products are in 80% of the water in the United States. Some of the effects of this pollution include male fish being feminized and coral reef being destroyed.

Here is a list of the top chemicals to avoid:

Chemical sunscreens – The WTO estimates that 6000 tons of chemical sunscreen ends up in the coral reefs “bleaching” it of life-sustaining algae. The most common one used is oxybenzone. Look for for physical (mineral) sunscreens such as zinc and titanium. To find this information on the label, look for ‘active ingredients’ where it will list the sunscreen.

Nanoparticles – When choosing a physical sunscreen, look for ‘non-nano’ zinc and titanium. There are many concerns about nanoparticles’ effect on algae and aquatic life.

Synthetic musk – A carcinogenic ingredient that is contained in many perfumes and is toxic to aquatic life. Not good for humans either so avoid it! If you want to smell beautiful, look for natural perfumes and products scented with pure essential oils.

Triclosan – An anti-bacterial agent that is very toxic to algae and bio-accumulates in fish. Soap is all you need on your hands. For extra antibacterial properties, choose one with tea tree or lavender essential oils.

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  1. Choose bar soap rather than body wash. No need for a plastic bottle! It requires minimal packaging and does not require detergents or foaming agents. I recommend buying from a local artisan soap maker or go on Etsy and stock up.  Make sure that they use essential oils rather than synthetic fragrance.
  2. Avoid plastic packaging. So much of it ends up in the landfill and it comes from petroleum, an industry riddled with environmental offenses. Sometimes you can find a company that uses corn or post-consumer plastic which is better but not ideal. Look for glass, aluminum, and post-consumer paper packaging.
  3. Buy certified organic or look for certified ingredients on the label. This will mean that the plant extracts contained in the bottle were grown without the use of pesticides. Also, organic ingredients contain up to 30% higher levels of antioxidants – great for your skin!
  4.  Avoid petrochemicals. Not sure what that is? Hint: most of the major companies use them. Buy from smaller companies at stores that you trust for providing healthy products – health food stores and eco boutiques are the best choice.
  5. Tone down on the products. What’s better than buying eco-friendly packaging and ingredients? Buying no product at all. You probably don’t need 30 different nail polishes. Keep it simple.
  6. Avoid botanical ingredients that come from endangered trees such as rosewood and sandalwood or from unethical harvesting practices such as palm oil.
  7. Get rid of the chemical, industrial-strength cleaners. You are not meant to have these toxins in your lives. Use vinegar, baking soda  and antiseptic essential oils and high quality cleaning tools. The Ecoholic, Adria Vasil just wrote a great article on the anti-bacterial properties of vinegar if you’re not convinced.

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I am not a cosmetic chemist but I do formulate products. I don’t have a degree in microbiology but I have deep respect for microbes and what they can do to enhance or destroy my formulas. I am an artist, a crafter and an alchemist. I procure botanicals then I melt them, mix them, and bottle them. In this process, I must adhere to strict sanitation codes, ingredient safety knowledge and the very serious and challenging issue of preserving the products.


I’ve noticed some talk on the net that I find very offensive from cosmetic chemists. I’ve run into it several times and I have even had a heated argument on Linked In (I know, lame). Some chemists feel that natural products are a joke and that small artisans have no right to exist. They paint us as snake oil salespeople with dirty dungeons filled with cauldrons and cobwebs (double double  toil and trouble).

Listen nerds, if you didn’t make crappy petroleum laden products and test on billions of animals, I suppose you wouldn’t be feeling so threatened right now.

The truth is that skin care, body care, cosmetics and perfume have always been made by artisans – for thousands of years. It was only in the last century that industrial age of petrochemicals took over and everything became about patents and profits (while poisoning everyone and everything). Fortunately, just like the food industry is veering away from processed junk in favor of whole foods, the beauty industry is becoming reacquainted with ingredients we have always used…and big beauty is not part of this. It would be impossible to swap their ultra cheap petroleum byproducts that they buy from BF Goodrich for botanicals from farms around the world. It would be a financial disaster so they keep pumping out new science (with animal testing), old generic formulas and HUGE marketing campaigns.

You have break it down to this – your skin is a living, breathing organ that can be nourished into looking great for a very long time. How do you nourish the rest of your body? By eating mineral oil tinkered with by scientists. Do you get your food from a lab? It’s the same thing. If you are serious about having beautiful, healthy skin, you’ll feed it what it craves – botanical oils, extracts, butters and waters.

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Petroleum – love it or hate it? I’m guessing that most of you hate it. The sad fact is that as much as we resent this commodity, it is unavoidable unless you are living with wolves. The latest catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico has put many of us over the edge in our disdain for it and yet we still have to get in our cars and go to work or heat our houses in the dead of winter. At this point, some things can’t be controlled but fortunately some things can.

The beauty industry is absolutely littered with petroleum products – from the ugly plastic packaging to the petrochemicals you unknowingly spread all over your body. A huge health concern with petroleum products is that they can generate 1,4-dioxane. This is a substance that is known to cause cancer and is also a kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant, and a respiratory toxicant not to mention a leading groundwater contaminant. The Environmental Working Group has found that an alarming 22% of all products contain unsafe levels of 1,4-dioxane.

I have compiled a list of what to look for in labels to determine whether an ingredient is petroleum-based.

Cosmetic Petrochemicals

  • Paraffin Wax
  • Mineral Oil
  • toluene
  • Benzene
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Anything with PEG (polyethylene glycol)
  • Anything ending in ‘eth’ indicates that it required ethylene oxide (a petrochemical) to produce e.g. myreth, oleth, laureth, ceteareth
  • Anything with DEA (diethanolamine) or MEA (ethanolamine)
  • Butanol and any word with ‘butyl’butyl alcohol, butylparaben, butylene glycol
  • Ethanol and word with ‘ethyl’ – ethyl alcohol, ethylene glycol, ethylene dichloride, EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetracetatic acid), ethylhexylglycerin
  • Any word with “propyl” – isopropyl alcohol, propylene glycol, propyl alcohol, cocamidopropyl betaine
  • Methanol and any word with ‘methyl’ –  methyl alcohol, methylparaben, methylcellulose
  • Parfum or fragrance – 95% of chemicals used in fragrance are from petroleum

The best way to take petroleum out of your bathroom is to avoid any products containing these chemicals and to choose products that use glass rather than plastic.  Use soap or shampoo bars rather than body wash and shampoo in bottles. It may take a little extra effort on your part, but you are likely to have a far better experience in your bathroom with botanicals than icky oil.

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