The skin that covers your body from the neck down makes up 91% of the surface area of your skin, which absorbs much of what you put on it. While there are lots of facial products I’d like to get off the shelves because of their questionable ingredients, switching to clean body products is definitely the place to start. It comes down to math: if you’re trying to decrease the number of ingredients you’re exposing yourself and your family to, the most effective way to do it is by starting with the products that get used daily on the greatest surface area of skin.
WHAT'S IN A BODY LOTION?
Here are a few things you should know:
- All lotions are made of oil and water (or a water soluble substance like aloe) held together by an emulsifier, something that keeps the oil and the water blended. Just like when you make a salad dressing, oil and water will separate without an emulsifier; they need something to suspend them, either as oil droplets in the water, or water droplets in the oil. An emulsifier is usually a lab-manufactured chemical. Some newer ones are plant-based and biodegradable, but many, including one called “emulsifying wax” are ethoxylated, a process that uses and sheds some very unhealthy chemicals like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
- 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 perfect, and some are allergenic.
- Most lotions contain “fragrance”, which is an ingredient that can contain hundreds of ingredients, without disclosing the specifics. Many fragrance ingredients are allergenic, and some contain phthalates to stabilize the scent.
WHAT MAKES BODY OIL DIFFERENT FROM LOTIONS?
- Body oils are made of oils alone, without the water component.
- Body oils do not need emulsifiers.
- Body oils 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.)
WHY SWITCH TO A BODY OIL?
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? Sounds bizarre, doesn’t it?
Instead, why not pay only for the healthy, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, skin-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 oil into wet skin, creating the emulsion as you go? You’ll have to get used to walking around naked for 3-4 minutes while it soaks in, but once you’ve made the switch, you won’t even think about it anymore. With a well-balanced body oil, you will not feel oily after it absorbs, and you will feel perfectly moisturized all day long.
Whether you’re on a mission to clean up your beauty routine, an environmental advocate working to decrease environmental toxins, a new mom who wants to reduce ingredients for herself and her baby, 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.
CAN I MAKE MY OWN BODY OIL?
Of course you can! If you 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!
With love and beautiful soft skin from us to you,
This article was originally published on MindBodyGreen.com - see it here.