Keep It Simple Sunscreen!

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So I posted my first sunscreen recipe a while back, and am extremely sorry to say that the consistency of the recipe has not proven itself to be reliable. It seems to work fine as a sunblock, we haven’t had any burns with it on (unless we’ve been in extreme conditions or forgotton to reapply) – but I really hate making the lotion, and find that it separates, gets gummy and develops hard bits in it after a while. Furthermore, I find the clean-up ridiculous using a food processor.

So…..apologies to any of you who have had mixed results with that recipe. I know when to admit I haven’t gotten something totally right, and this was one of those times!

But I have good news for you! A new, SIMPLE recipe is here! I have now tried and tested this recipe and I think it is not only mountains easier to make, but clean-up is easier, and the lotion is of a much better consistency. It glides on super smooth, and the zinc oxide blends much nicer without any chunks. I have omitted the aloe verathat was in my past recipe because I think it was contributing to the lumpiness and lack of emulsification, being water based and not oil based. If you would like to include aloe in your sun exposure regimen, I suggest making a spray out of food grade aloe juice and applying it after being in the sun 🙂

And it WORKS! I am talking moderate exposure, of course. I haven’t tried this in the desert in Arizona. If you are out and about at a spray park for a few hours, at the park, spending the day at the beach (with some shade time interspersed) and reapplying once or twice, you are golden. Literally ;). I can’t attest for severe conditions, as I don’t expose my family to them – we do moderate sun exposure and seek shade often. The only time I’ve burned with this lotion on is while standing in a paddle pool with my son from 12 pm – 2 pm, after having applied it at like 9 am, and likely having the stuff on my back partially rubbing off in the car (read: human error). My son has never burned with it on, including during that same time in the pool :). Please re-apply after swimming or extended water play, as this sunscreen is not entirely waterproof (I haven’t met a sunscreen that really is, frankly).

And in case you’re new here, or you’ve forgotten, check out these few articles on the toxic nature of commercially produced, chemical based sunscreen, and do some additional research for yourself:

EWG’s “The Trouble with Sunscreen Chemicals”
Mercola’s Sunscreen Guide

My recipe utilizes only TWO ingredients, both of which contribute to the SPF of the recipe, extra virgin coconut oil, and non-nano zinc oxide. “Non-nano” zinc oxide means that it is not penetrating your skin’s mucous barrier, and going into your bloodstream. You can buy non-nano zinc oxide online at New Directions Aromatics, or at many soap making shops or bulk ingredient stores like The Soap Dispensary. I buy my coconut oil at Costco – they have a very affordable extra virgin organic oil there, and it seems to always be in stock.

Sure, you can buy zinc oxide based sunscreen, but holy moly does it ever put a dent in your wallet – and if you don’t use it all within season, don’t expect it to have held together for next year! So I choose to make my own, cheaply and simply.

So let’s get started on how to make super easy, inexpensive, low toxin sunscreen.

1). Start with one cup of softened or completely melted coconut oil. I prefer softened only, if possible.
2). Put in a bowl big enough to mix it in with an electric mixer with beaters.
3). Add 1/4 cup zinc oxide, being careful not to inhale any (wear a mask if possible). Although fairly benign on your skin, you do not want to inhale the stuff.
4). Beat together the mixture until very well blended.
5). Put mixture in the fridge for 5-15 minutes, depending on how soft your oil was to begin with. You want the oil to cool significantly, but not become very hard or solid.
6). Beat the mixture again until it develops soft peaks and takes on the texture of a thick lotion. If it does not seem to be getting creamy, only staying soupy, you need to refrigerate a bit longer and try again.
6.5). If you would like to add some mosquito repellent qualities to your recipe, add about 10-15 drops of citronella essential oil to your recipe now, and continue blending.
7). And you’re done! Store the mixture in a cool location, but preferably not in the fridge, or it will get too hard. What you can do is store it in the fridge for longer periods of non-use, and then take it out the day before you plan on using it. If it is super hot in your house, or if you plan to take it with you to the beach and leave it in a hot bag – store it with a freezer pack so it stays cool. The ingredients will separate if it totally melts. If this happens, not to worry, just repeat steps 5 & 6 🙂

If you mix the same proportions as me, you will end up with a sun lotion with about an SPF of 30. But you can add more zinc if you wish, to increase the SPF – the higher proportion of zinc in the recipe, the higher the SPF – supposedly the percentage of zinc you add is your recipe’s SPF; and coconut oil has an SPF of between approx 5-10.

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*A note about clean-up: I caution you from just putting your bowl and beaters directly into the dishwasher or sink prior to doing a wipe down with paper towel. This will likely result in a lovely greasy film spreading all over your entire load of dishes, that you will need to hand wash to remove. I almost never use paper towel or any other disposable cleaning product in my house, but I DO use it for cleaning up zinc oxide sunscreen. It is quite hard to clean off, because it is greasy and not very permeable (hence making it a great barrier for sun protection, but not so great a barrier to clean through). So I suggest wiping as much as you can off your utensils and bowl with paper towel, and then hand washing them in a sink by themselves so as not to get the sunscreen residue all over everything. You’ve been warned!

For low sun exposure, I just use my Whipped Body Butter, or plain coconut oil. How easy is that, just rubbing on some coconut oil?

I can’t wait to hear what you think about this new recipe. I am super excited about how easy it is to make, and how effective it has been. Let me know how it goes!

Get your ‘Green’ on WITHOUT the toxins!

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I know it can be tempting to jump on the bandwagon of all the fun green coloured treats on St. Patty’s Day. But did you know that food colouring can be quite toxic to your body, especially yellow colouring (which is often mixed with blue to make your lovely green hues)?

There have been studies done which demonstrate not only carcinogenic and disruption of certain natural functions in animals, but ADHD like tendencies in children exposed to drinks containing food colouring. (Please do some basic research on the topic if you have the time, it’s best not to blindly trust my blogger opinion). So, if you are overloading on these colourants on holidays like today, you could be dealing with toxic bods and some hyperactive kids to boot. Doesn’t sound very celebratory to me!

Never fear, though, as always, I have some alternatives for you!

Today, for breakfast, we made “green eggs” (minus the ham) simply by adding some pureed kale to our scramble. You can add pureed kale to a lot of dishes (including just a bowl of yogurt) to green it up! It really doesn’t add a lot of flavour (or texture, if you puree it fine enough) and you are adding lots of great vitamins and minerals instead of yucky toxins. Spinach also works, but I find kale to be slightly superior if you have the option! If you want a burst of flavour, add some pesto!

Apparently matcha (a kind of green tea) can also be sprinkled into icings and sauces to add a green hue without much flavour. You can buy a box of the tea bags, and just rip one open when you need it – or make the tea and use the water (although you might get a little more of a yellowish hue this way).

If you are making a milkshake or a dip, you can also add avocado for a mild flavour and a decent colour burst. Make sure you add some lemon juice as well so your avocado doesn’t brown as fast! Or just serve up some fresh guacamole as a dish on its own 🙂

If you want to keep it even more simple, just serve some foods that are naturally green, such as those listed above, or: cucumber, celery, green salads, zucchini, grapes (pleeeeeease make sure these are organic), green apples, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and seaweed. Serve up some minty cocktails if you are wanting an alcoholic drink (mojitos, anyone)? The leaves are so vibrantly green you shouldn’t need a colorant to add more!

So we’re keeping it safe by lowering our toxins (green should really be a healthful food option, should it not?). BUT, please also remember to keep it safe this St. Patty’s Day by NOT drinking and driving – find a safe way home by deciding on a designated driver, taking transit, calling a cab, or a volunteer designated driver service. Plan ahead so you aren’t stuck with a difficult decision!

Homemade dish soap!

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So it’s time for me to share another coveted recipe with you – this one is a tiny bit trickier, but not by much! One of the last products I replaced in my kitchen was my dish soap. This one is as sudsy as you are going to get! It is really tricky to come by a recipe that has long lasting suds like commercial soaps – and do you know why that is? Because some of the most harmful and toxic ingredients in commercial dish soap are SURFACTANTS, or those ingredients which act as foaming agents to give that sudsy effect to your dish soap. So when we eliminate these from our natural home made products, we just aren’t going to get the same amount of suds. And you know what? It doesn’t matter! Your dishes will get just as clean (if not more so, in my opinion) with this easy recipe, and you won’t have to worry about any carcinogens on your skin (despite many claims of soaps being “gentle”).

In a large mason jar, mix:

1 part soap flakes
1 part liquid castille soap
1/4 part washing soda

UPDATED 01/25/14 Add 5 parts boiling water and mix until ingredients dissolve into a clear liquid*. If you mix things with cool water, you will just get something kind of clumpy; the ingredients will not be as well distributed. Allow to cool – finished product will be whitish and may be somewhat thick.

This was one of the toughest to arrive at, but most rewarding recipes I hade made. This dish soap works wonders. Your dishes will be even squeakier clean (and I highly recommend this step) if you finish with a rinse in a sink full of water with a small amount of vinegar added to neutralize and strip the soap. Especially useful if washing plastics, as I find grease sticks to them more than other things! Do NOT add the vinegar to your washing sink, or your soap will flip flop into something non-soapy.

This mixture tends to congeal over time, so every now and again you may want to add a touch of hot water and re-mix. However, doing this too often will cut down on the effectiveness. Because of this, I just I scoop a bit out with my finger and swish vigorously into the sink under running water, rather than using a traditional squeeze bottle. A little goes a long way!

*This is what your dishsoap will look like before it cools:

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Why I choose to DIY (or, Why I Am Not a Crazy Person)

As frequently as I come across people who are stoked to find out that I make my own body and cleaning products, I find myself speaking to people who come across as viewing me like I am some crazy time waster or paranoid nutjob. I get your concern – it may seem daunting and bizarre to make your own products when so many are readily available to buy. Huh? You make your own toothpaste? You know you can buy that, right?

Yes, I know I can buy that. And I know that people spend years trying to find beauty products that are just right for them – their skin / hair type, their budget, their preference for fragrance. A guy I know finds the scent of coconut oil to be “too girly” for him. Okay, sure. Although I wouldn’t smell coconut oil on a man and be like “Wow, what a girlyman,” I see how someone might have a preference for different scents and such. I know a few people who can’t get over the fact that their laundry might not smell like hibiscus flowers or Essence of Hawaii anymore if they start to DIY.

That being said, there is a bit BUT in here for me. BUT what about your health? You might not believe it makes a MASSIVE impact on your health to regularly douse your body and home in known carcinogens (and many people need to believe the impact is massive to make a switch), but for me, any negative health impact I can easily avoid is a no-brainer. I can’t do much about the radiation leaks from Fukishima. I can’t do a lot personally about the pollution in the city air that I breathe. I can’t do much about toxic runoff into our groundwater, or acid rain. I mean, people can make differences in these areas, but I am talking about me personally, at this point in time. I just am not in a position to change these things anytime soon. So I have to start with what I CAN do.

It’s just like when I tell people I buy organic and I get hit with the whole “Well, we’re all f*ed anyway, there’s chemicals in everything” speel. Well, okay, I get what you are saying, but why not minimize exposure as much as you can? If, as people say, we are regularly exposed to so many chemicals and carcinogens that are beyond our control, why not at least make some impact on the exposure we CAN control? Why not? If I can increase my chances of a few extra years of life to spend with my loved ones, why would I not work towards that? I don’t think that makes me paranoid – I think it makes me proactive and informed. Feel free to disagree, but know that I don’t exist in a state of fear every day. I feel empowered and joyful to be doing what I can for my family!

Your skin is a naturally absorptive organ. If you are putting chemicals on it, you DO risk having them absorbed into your body. And if there are residues on your hands (ie. hand cream, hand sanitizer, etc), you don’t even need to rely on your skin for entrance to your body. Try your mouth. If it’s on your hands for a long period of time, it’s likely in your mouth as well. And when it comes time for home cleaning, you are breathing in those sprays and powdered cleaners. So it’s hitting your respiratory system as well.

Now, I don’t mean to come off as fear mongering. In fact, if you want a balanced perspective on the likelihood of absorption of chemicals through your skin, start with this well written article.. There are lots of misleading quotes out there that have their facts stretched. But there IS a risk to your body, and I personally would rather not take it for a tradeoff of the minor comfort of convenience buying my own personal care products and cleaners, or some kind of fragrance (that I could easily largely re-create with a DIY personal scent using essential oils). Not to mention that if I run out of something, I can easily whip up a batch of it with ingredients that I keep in bulk in my cupboard, rather than running out to the store.

Not to mention the OTHER reasons for DIY. Cost, for example. Most of my products are made at a tiny fraction of the cost of anything I could buy with the same effectiveness. I generally use widely available, CHEAP ingredients that you can buy in BULK and bring your own container for at places like The Soap Dispensary. If you are bringing your own container and buying in bulk, this approach also largely reduces the amount of plastic waste that goes into the garbage. You can’t recycle a toothpaste tube, to my knowledge!

Some of the products I make I find to have superior effectiveness to storebought alternatives, like my toothpaste and deodorant for example. Not to mention “No-poo!”. I love what this does for my hair (and my son’s cradle cap)!

So I hope this explains the reasoning behind what I do. Yes, I am also a crafty person. I do a lot of home baking, and gardening as well. I like the feeling of personal empowerment that comes from producing things for yourself with less reliance on middlemen. But let me finish with a tiny pep talk on how EASY it is to DIY home cleaners and body products! Most of my basic recipes only involve a few ingredients, and usually only basic mixing is involved, unless there is an ingredient you need to melt. It really only takes minutes to make things like toothpaste, deodorant, spray cleaners, and the like. And if you need a little jumpstart to get you going, why not try hosting one of my DIY parties?. A really fun learning experience for friends and family!

And if you still think I am a crazy person, that’s okay 🙂