I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about food and nutrition because that is my main area of expertise, but I am also interested in overall health. Over the past year or so, I have really gotten into using “natural” products to make my own household and personal cleaning products, in addition to lip balm, bug spray, bath salts, etc. If you’re wondering how using natural products is related to health, read on!
What many people do not realize is that most of the products we use on a daily basis contain xenoestrogens, which are chemicals that mimic estrogen in our bodies. Xenoestrogens are known by many other names, including hormone disruptors, endocrine disruptors, estrogen mimics, and fake estrogens.
The endocrine system includes all of the glands and the hormones produced by them, and is responsible for maintaining the body’s homeostasis (equilibrium). When this system is disrupted by xenoestrogens, many problems can occur. Recent research indicates that xenoestrogens are connected with infertility, thyroid issues, endometriosis, ovarian and uterine cysts, migraines, severe PMS, reduced testosterone in males, and increased rates of breast and uterine cancer.
So where are xenoestrogens found?
There are several sources, but the most common include perfumes (phthalates), certain soaps (sodium lauryl sulfate), hand sanitizers (triclosan), cans (BPA), and sunscreen (oxybenzone and benzophenone). When looking for bath and cleaning products, be wary of products that produce excessive bubbles, as these may contain sodium lauryl sulfate. Also avoid those with scents that last longer than 15 minutes, as these are likely to contain phthalates.
There are many claims out there regarding the benefits of essential oils.* Some people use them in the place of medicine, as bug repellent, natural hand sanitizer, etc. The reason these oils are effective is that they are very concentrated, pure sources of natural plant defenses. Because we share some DNA with plants, many of the oils’ benefits work on us. I’ll admit I’m still skeptical of their medicinal properties, but I have first-hand experience with other benefits.
For example, I’ve used basil oil to stop bug bite itching, lemon oil to eliminate odors in the kitchen, lavender to calm my baby during bath time, melaleuca (tea tree oil) as an anti-fungal oil on the baby (diluted, of course), peppermint on my temples to reduce headaches, and several oils to scent my homemade products. They can be kind of expensive, but I found some good prices through Amazon.
*Essential oils are very potent, so read about proper use before putting them on your skin or ingesting them. Make sure you buy pure oils; Doterra and Young Living are reputable brands.
One of my favorite and easiest DIY recipes is for body wash (or liquid hand soap). I use it at home and give it as gifts. I initially ordered all of my supplies from Amazon, but later saw them at Whole Foods — it’s up to you where you get them. I keep all of them on hand because they last a long time and the bottles can be reused.
Here’s what you need:
- 1 8-ounce pump bottle
- 1/2 cup Dr. Bronner’s liquid castile soap (I use unscented usually, but I also like lavender)
- 1/4 cup vegetable glycerine (to make it lather better)
- 3 T. fractionated coconut oil
- 5-7 drops vitamin E oil (optional)
- 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oils (I like a combination of lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus)
Simply combine all ingredients in a cup or bowl with a spout and pour into your bottle. The ingredients separate over time, so give the bottle a quick shake before each use.
I decorate my bottles with washi tape (from Office Depot), which is great for decorating just about anything you want to give as a gift or look pretty in your home.
Get creative, and enjoy your new soap!