If you haven’t already scrubbed your hygiene routine of microbeads, the federal ban on the plastic particles in soaps and toothpastes means it’s time to start.
The first time I thought about microbeads — I mean really thought about them — was nearly ten years ago while reading Alan Weisman’s The World Without Us. Since then, parts of his book about what the world might look like if humans disappeared continue to haunt me, but none as much as the section on plastics. Though I stopped using products with microbeads the very day I read that chapter, I’ve been unable to rid my mind of the image of tiny, (truly) age-defying plastic particles streaming from sink and shower drains into the sea.
The new federal ban of microbeads in skin scrubs and toothpastes offers some small bit of relief from those lingering visions (though it doesn’t do much for the countless beads already lurking in our waterways, nor does it include a similar ban on plastics in lotions, make-up, and other products we don’t rinse off right away).
If you want a greener clean but are’t sure how to part with your favorite exfoliant or trusted toothpaste, or you’re daunted by the idea of making your own body care products, look no further than these manageable recipes from author Stephanie Tourles’s book Organic Body Care Recipes. Here, natural ingredients like oats, sea salt, sugar, and cornmeal — things that likely already live in your kitchen cabinets — do the heavy lifting, and you can rest a little easier knowing they won’t be here years after we’re gone.
Gentle Facial Exfoliant
This scrub doubles as a facial mask: Simply apply and let dry for 20 minutes, then rinse.
Recommended for: all skin types, especially dry (except those listed in Contraindications; see below). If you omit the cornmeal, then any skin type can use it.
Use: daily or as needed
Follow with: moisturizer
Prep time: approximately 5 minutes (if oatmeal is ground ahead of time)
Blending tools: small bowl and spoon or whisk or plastic bag; bowl and spoon or whisk to mix scrub for use
Store in: zip-seal bag, plastic or glass jar, or tin (dry ingredients only)
Yield: approximately ¾ cup dry ingredients
Contraindications: Generally, scrubs can be used on all skin types except those with acne or acne rosacea; broken capillaries or thread veins; sensitive and irritated skin; thin, mature, or elderly skin; or sunburned or windburned skin.
½ cup ground oatmeal
¼ cup powdered milk, whole or nonfat
1 teaspoon cornmeal
- In a small bowl, thoroughly blend all dry ingredients using a spoon or small whisk, or shake them in a sealed plastic bag.
- Pour the mixture into a storage container.
- No refrigeration is required for dry ingredients, but for maximum freshness and potency, please use within 6 months.
To mix the scrub for use: In a small bowl combine 1 tablespoon of scrub mixture with enough water to form a spreadable paste. Allow the mixture to thicken for 1 minute.
Application tips: Using your fingers, massage scrub onto the face and throat. Rinse.
Coconut and Vanilla Brown Sugar Body Buff
The aroma of this scrub is so richly tropical! It’s a delightful skin polishing formula to use year-round, but especially when you wish you were in the balmy, breezy, warm tropics.
Recommended for: all skin types except acneic (use with care on sensitive and environmentally damaged skin)
Use: 1 to 2 times per week
Follow with: moisturizer if necessary
Prep time: approximately 10 minutes
Blending tools: medium-sized bowl and small whisk
Store in: wide mouthed plastic or glass jar
Yield: approximately 1¼ cups
1¼ cups brown or raw sugar
6–8 tablespoons coconut base oil (extra-virgin; unrefined)
15–20 drops vanilla essential oil (or substitute vanilla fragrance or flavoring oil. Follow package directions for proper measurements.)
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine sugar and coconut base oil. If the temperature of your house is below 76°F and the coconut oil is solid, warm it over very low heat until it’s just melted, then blend with the sugar using a small whisk, making sure to break up any lumps of sugar. Add the essential oil drop by drop, blending after each addition.
- Spoon into a storage container with a tight-fitting lid.
Note: At temperatures below 76°F, this scrub will harden because of its coconut base oil content, but it can still be scooped out of the container with a spoon and applied to skin. Coconut oil will melt upon contact with body temperature.
No refrigeration is required, but for maximum freshness and fragrance, please use within 6 months.
Application tips: Massage approximately ¼ to ½ cup of scrub onto premoistened skin using circular motions. Rinse.
Soda and Salt Toothpaste
This is a simple, inexpensive, odor-eliminating, tooth-whitening, and highly effective formula. It leaves your mouth feeling super-clean. Note: Cinnamon and clove essential oils may irritate sensitive gums and tongue.
Recommended for: everyone
Follow with: water rinse or mouthwash
Prep time: approximately 2 minutes
Blending tools: small bowl, toothbrush, or small spoon
Store in: do not store; mix as needed
Yield: 1 treatment
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon sea salt, finely ground
1 drop peppermint, spearmint, sweet orange, clove, or cinnamon bark essential oil
A few drops tap water
Combine ingredients in a small bowl and mix them thoroughly with a toothbrush, your finger, or a small spoon until a smooth, thick paste forms. The paste shouldn’t be too runny; it has to stay on your toothbrush.
Application tips: Dip your toothbrush into the paste and use as you would regular commercial toothpaste.