Your body. The skin that covers it, from the neck down, makes up 91% of the surface area of the skin. Your skin, busy organ that it is, absorbs close to 60% of what you put on it. And, while there are lots of facial products I’d like to get off the shelves because of their questionable ingredients, I’d rather you switch your body products first. It comes down to math: if you’re trying to decrease the number of chemicals you’re exposing yourself and your family to, the most effective way to do it is by starting with the products that cover the greatest surface area of skin. Make sense?
So, let’s talk about body lotion. Here are a few things you should know:
- All lotions are oil and water held together by an emulsifier (like in salad dressing, oil and water will separate without an emulsifier, which holds them suspended in each other). An emulsifier is usually a lab-manufactured chemical. Some newer ones are non-toxic and biodegradable, but many, including one called “emulsifying wax” are ethoxylated, and may expose you or your household to carcinogens and mutagens.
- Most lotions are about 65% water. Because there is water in the product, it must be preserved, as bacteria and mold WILL grow in water over time without preservation. While preservatives in natural beauty products are improving (not many green brands use parabens anymore), no preservative system is without flaws, and some are highly allergenic.
- Most lotions contain “fragrance”, which is an ingredient that can contain hundreds of chemicals, including hormone disrupters and petrochemicals.
Now, let’s look at body oils. What makes them different from lotions?
- Body oils are made of oils alone, without the water component.
- They do not need emulsifiers.
- They do not need preservatives. (But they should contain antioxidants, like vitamin E or rosemary extract, to prevent rancidity and increase shelf life.)
- Many body oils are scented with pure essential oils, rather than synthetic fragrances. (Note - beware of those with citrus oils like lemon and grapefruit – they can cause serious burns when exposed to UV light.)
So, let’s put this all together, shall we?
Why would you get out of the shower, dry off all the water from your skin, and then apply a product, complete with emulsifiers and preservatives, that is 65% water?
Instead, why don’t you pay only for the healthy, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, nourishing plant oils, and apply them to sopping wet skin? You provide the water, and use your very own hands to rub a beautifully-crafted body oil into wet skin, creating the emulsion as you go? Sure, you have to walk around naked for about 3-4 minutes while it soaks in – who cares? We should all work to be more comfortable in our own skin, right? With a well-balanced body oil, you will not feel oily AT ALL after a few minutes of absorption, but you will feel perfectly moisturized all day long.
So, whether you’re on a mission to clean up your beauty routine, an environmental advocate working to decrease environmental toxins, a new mom worried about altering your new baby’s hormone cycles, or just someone who really loves potions, this new habit is for you. Try it for two weeks, and see if you don’t become a believer.
One last note – if you’re on a shoestring budget, and want to make your own body oil, here’s a DIY combination that will feel great on your skin, sink in quickly, and leave you soft and happy. You can order most of these oils from Mountain Rose Herbs, and even find some of them at your local natural foods store.
In an 8 ounce bottle, combine:
- 4 ounces organic sunflower oil
- 2 ounces organic jojoba oil
- 1 ounce organic sweet almond oil
- 1 teaspoon natural vitamin E oil
- Optional: 5-10 drops organic lavender essential oil
Apply to wet skin, dance naked, and enjoy!
(This article was originally published on MindBodyGreen.com - see it here.)