Realistically adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle without losing your mind. All You Need is Less (Viva Editions, 2014) by Madeleine Somerville offers ideas for all areas of your life that are stress-free and totally doable. In this excerpt, from chapter 2 “Body,” Somerville shows you how to make eight super simple organic skin-care recipes—all with three ingredients or less!
You can buy this book from the Mother Earth Living store: All You Need is Less.
Natural Eye Makeup Remover
This recipe is as easy as pie, and it consists of one single ingredient: coconut oil.
Find a jar of unrefined, virgin coconut oil—usually found in the oil-and-vinegar aisle of most supermarkets—and massage a pea-sized amount onto eyelids and lashes. Wipe clean with a soft, dry cloth, and boom! No more raccoon eyes! As an added bonus, coconut oil goes easy on that delicate under-eye skin and leaves it nicely moisturized too.
I’m willing to bet that you currently own between four to six different kinds of body lotion. There’s probably the giant one you got on sale at a big-bulk store, the travel-sized one you keep in your purse, some special cream for your hands and nails, and maybe a few gimmicky ones you got suckered into buying and now regret—you know, gradual tanning moisturizer, firming moisturizer, hair-growth-inhibiting moisturizer, magic unicorn pretty-lady moisturizer, and so on.
To supplement and complement your body’s own natural moisture, however, you don’t need mass-produced lotions and potions. All you need are a few natural oils. The beauty of this tip really does lie in its simplicity.
By trading cream for oil, your skin will feel buttery smooth, your wallet will thank you, and your husband will never stop groping you even when you are just trying to unload the dishwasher, Adam.
It’s been three years since I made this switch, and although it got off to a rocky start, I’ll never go back. See, when I first decided to forgo conventional lotions, I just walked down to my local health-food store and picked up a bottle of sesame oil. Easy-peasy—right? Except the thing is, I didn’t read the label properly and I bought toasted sesame oil, which—guys, please trust me, don’t do this.
Toasted sesame oil is what they use in stir-fry. I love stir-fries and I make them all the time. Seriously, give me some bok choy, kale, and tofu, and we’ve got ourselves a party! But as much as I love a good stir-fry, I don’t like smelling like a stir-fry. Since the very reason I had purchased eau de stir-fry in the first place was to become more eco-friendly, I couldn’t very well just throw it out, could I?
So every day I faithfully rubbed myself down with that toasted sesame oil and, let me tell you, if you are looking for some space in your marriage this is the way to get it. I don’t think Adam came within 2 feet of me for weeks.
So, yeah. In conclusion: just buy the normal stuff.
Sesame oil (the normal kind) and unrefined coconut oil are my favorite picks for moisturizers, but I’ve used almond and grapeseed oils with great success, too. Your skin is perfectly primed to absorb moisture after a bath or shower, so warm the oil in your hands and then take five minutes to work it well into your skin. Towel off any excess before getting dressed to avoid oil stains on clothing.
Whipped Body Oil
If it feels too easy to just dig coconut oil out of a jar and slap it on your skin, or if you just like to feel a little bit fancy sometimes, this recipe is for you.
Put about a cup of coconut oil into a medium-sized bowl. Then, using a hand mixer and a whisk attachment, mix the oil until it reaches a soft, whipped cream-like consistency. The skin-smoothing effects are the same as the plain-Jane un-whipped oil, but it goes on a bit lighter and feels more luxurious.
Microdermabrasion is typically a process whereby you pay hundreds of dollars for an aesthetician to sandblast your face with tiny particulates that slough off old dead skin cells and reveal a smooth new you. The recipe below employs the same basic idea, but costs pennies, takes seconds, and can be done at home.
I don’t want to risk the ire of the FDA or the International Society of Microdermabrasionists (if such a society exists, which I have no doubt it does) by going so far as to claim that this recipe will produce the same results as a professional treatment, but I can tell you that it’s a fantastic and gentle exfoliant that works wonders on the sensitive skin of your face.
1. In a small bowl mix approximately 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of warm water—use just enough to form a thick slurry.
2. Gently (gently, now!) massage the paste into your skin with your fingertips. Baking soda is an awesome abrasive on its own, so you don’t need to use much force, let it do the work.
3. After a few minutes of gentle massage, rinse your face thoroughly with lukewarm water and apply a gentle moisturizer.
I have found this to be a great weekly exfoliant for the face, and even that rough bumpy upper arm skin too.
(Ha! What? I don’t have rough, bumpy upper arm skin!)
(Yes I do.)
Simple Body Scrubs
Once upon a time, I purchased a book of homemade beauty recipes. It was beautifully written, extensively researched, and illustrated with gorgeous hand-drawn pictures. I loved reading it and, what’s more, I loved being seen reading it. I loved the idea of sitting there all, “Oh hey it’s me, Madeleine! Just relaxing in a park on a sunny spring day, reading about how to whip up my own fair-trade organic gluten-free citrus-mollusk brightening salve!”
I had high hopes for this book. With this book, I would be that girl. The one with the skin so fabulous and glow-y that everyone would be clamoring to know what products I used, at which point I would smile shyly before humbly admitting that my moisturizer was just a little something I had whipped up myself. People would ooh and aah, I’d get paraded around on someone’s shoulders and damn, probably even get a medal or something.
Ask me if that ever happened.
I never made even one single recipe from that book’s prettily laid-out pages. Not for lack of trying either. The problem was that each recipe listed at least five to 10 ingredients, most of which were difficult to find and expensive to purchase when I did.
For this reason, simple beauty recipes (three easy-to-source ingredients or fewer) are more my speed, and body scrubs fit particularly well into this philosophy because the formula is so basic.
1 gentle abrasive + 1 oil/binding substance + some optional fancy extras = gorgeous silky-smooth skin.
Gentle abrasives include things like brown sugar, baking soda, coffee grounds, etc., and binding substances are what keeps the abrasives sticking together while you scrub. Binding substances can be oils like coconut or sesame, as well as things like honey. Optional extras add a little zing in the form of fragrance or appearance—stuff like spices, essential oils, or flower petals (oh, Los Angeles!).
Here are a few of my favorite simple scrubs. To make them, just combine all the ingredients, mix well, and store in a glass jar:
Coconut Brown Sugar Scrub (My Personal Favorite)
• 1 cup brown sugar
• 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil
• Dash of cinnamon and cloves (optional)
Wake Up! Scrub
• 1/2 cup coffee grounds
• 1/2 cup fine sea salt
• 1 to 2 tablespoons olive, almond, or sesame oil
Bright Lemon Scrub
• 1/2 cup of sugar or fine salt
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 1/4 cup honey
• 2 tablespoons white sugar
Feel free to mess around with the measurements to get a scrub that’s as thick or thin as you like, or go rogue with ingredients to create your own exfoliating scrubs. They’re simple to make and easy to customize to the needs of your own skin.
Most importantly, however, when someone asks you how you got that silky, smooth, dewy looking skin, remember to smile and tell them that it was just a little something you whipped up yourself—didn’t take five minutes!
Then wait for the parade to begin.
Homemade Shampoo and Conditioner
I’m going to be honest and say that I usually lose people with this one, and I totally understand why. If someone had suggested to me four years ago that I wash my hair with the same ingredients you use to clear a clogged drain, I would have been shooting them some serious side-eye too. But, here we are, and that’s exactly what I’m suggesting you do.
It’s been three years since I stopped buying shampoo and conditioner, and I swear I haven’t turned into a filthy, greasy hippie-troll person. If anything, my hair is better than it was before. (Seriously. I promise. Go look at my author photograph.)
I implore you to try, just TRY, the following recipe and see what you think. The process is dead-simple, ingredients cost less than a fancy coffee, and, really, you have nothing to lose.
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 tablespoon baking soda
1. Stir well until the baking soda has dissolved, then pour over wet hair. Massage the mixture into your hair, paying special attention to the scalp. If you tend to have greasy hair, concentrate your efforts around the hairline and at the crown of the head as these are the oiliest areas.
2. If you have long or thick hair, feel free to double or triple the recipe; just keep the ratio the same.
3. When you’re done scrubbing, thoroughly rinse your hair.
• 1 cup warm water
• 1 to 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1. Mix both ingredients and pour over freshly shampooed and rinsed hair. Massage into your scalp and leave for a few moments before rinsing. Use 1 tablespoon vinegar if you have oily hair, 2 tablespoons if it leans toward the dry side.
It’s amazing how well these two simple ingredients work to clean and condition your hair. You save an incredible amount of money and you won’t start your days by coating your head in nasties like sodium lauryl sulfate and artificial fragrances, both of which can be toxic and are commonly found in most shampoos and conditioners. You also won’t be buying and throwing away all those plastic shampoo and conditioner bottles, which kind of makes it worth it right there. I always get a million questions when I tell people that I do this (“You wash your hair with WHAT?”).
This recipe utilizes one of the great loves of my life, apple cider vinegar (or as I like to call it, ACV—we’re tight like that).
Many people assume—incorrectly—that vinegar will be irritating to skin, but it’s actually quite the opposite. ACV neutralizes pH and softens skin, and if the smell doesn’t bother you it’ll become one of your most-loved beauty fixes.
To create a skin-soothing facial toner, just mix 50/50 water and ACV, and use a cotton ball or soft cloth to swipe gently over a clean face.
It is truly one of the most delightful things in the world to apply a face mask, wait for it to gradually harden, and then stare at your immobilized features in the bathroom mirror and imagine you’ve had botox. In fact, this describes most of my Saturday nights from ages 14 to 16. (It was an awkward time. But I had great skin!)
This simple homemade mask tightens pores and leaves your skin feeling fresh and clean. I like to do it once a week or so, and it can easily be used for up to three people.
• 1 egg white
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1. Beat the egg white until it forms stiff peaks. Then slowly stir in lemon juice and whisk well to combine. Generously apply the mixture to your face, wait until the mask has hardened, then rinse with warm water. Beautiful.
This article is excerpted from All You Need is Less: The Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity by Madeleine Somerville, published by Viva Editions (c)2014. It may not be reproduced for any other use without permission.