From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Toner Edition

March 27, 2009


I haven’t posted an installment in From the Pantry to the Bathroom lately, partly because I haven’t stumbled upon another recipe or ingredient as miraculous as coconut oil, which I realized works as both a moisturizer, a hair-softener and a deodorant. So this time, I’m going to write about something I have mixed feelings about, and maybe you readers can offer your opinion, too, and help make the final call.

A while ago, my friend Meghan mentioned that she was using apple cider vinegar on her face as a toner after washing. When my attempt at no ‘poo eventually failed, I had some ACV leftover with a bit of cinnamon and vanilla extract in it, and decided to try it out. I don’t normally use toner because, frankly, I don’t get why we need yet another ablution in between washing, drying and moisturizing, but I gave it a shot.

Well, it left my face smelling pretty yummy, but that’s about it. I wasn’t getting more/less pimples; it wasn’t getting more/less dry or oily; it was just staying the same. Then, a couple weeks ago, I noticed I was getting weird rashes under the outside corners of my eyes, so I decided to stop using it. (Unfortunately, the rashiness is lingering, but I’m throwing buckets of essential oils and Vitamin E on it).

This isn’t to say that I’ve fallen out of love with ACV — this acidic companion is great to have on hand for everything from salad dressings to natural remedies — but as a toner? Meh. What do you think?

From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Pee and Cinnamon

January 17, 2009


OK, first off, don’t worry — there isn’t any actual urine sitting in that bottle. But it sure looks like pee, doesn’t it? (That stuff in the bottle on the left, by the way, is baking soda and water, which refuse to interact with one another unless shaken vigorously). Anyway, this is besides the point. The point is: After one failed attempt last year to wash my hair with nothing but vinegar, I decided to give the whole natural approach to hair maintenance another shot.

Reader Melinda over at One Green Generation convinced me that her homemade system would leave my hair shiny and clean without also leaving me with an I’ve-just-spent-all-day-at-a-fish-and-chip-shop smell.

Needless to say, I was skeptical. However, as part of my new semi-regular series From the Pantry to the Bathroom, I want to make more of an effort to try new things — more specifically, new homemade things.

So I took a few minutes this morning to assemble the recipe, then followed her directions, which go like this:

1. Use an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle. Mix 1 part aluminum-free baking soda to 3 parts water. Each time you use this solution, shake well to mix.

2. Squeeze the baking soda solution onto your dry scalp, then massage your scalp for several seconds.

3. Leave in for 1-3 minutes, and rinse completely.

4. In an old shampoo bottle (well-rinsed) or a squeeze bottle, mix 1 part organic white vinegar to 4 parts water. You can add essential oils or herbs if you like – I add 1 cinnamon stick and 1/2 tsp vanilla. This masks the vinegar smell, and leaves your hair smelling spicy and lovely.

5. Leave on hair for several seconds, then rinse.

I must say, it’s a bit awkward trying to pour watery liquid onto your head without having it run everywhere. The reason regular shampoos and conditioners tend to come in gel-like consistencies is so that you can squeeze a dollop on your noggin, put it down, then gradually work it into a lather until it disperses evenly. But with these mixtures, you tend to get a lot in one place and very little in others.

At least they both felt nice on my scalp, and there weren’t any major problems in terms of rinsing them out in the shower.

However, I do have long hair, so it felt like I required a LOT of this stuff. At least it was cheap.

Blow-drying my hair, I sensed it was taking longer than usual and got the occasional whiff of vinegar (this might be my fault, though — Melinda suggests using white vinegar, and I chose to stick with apple cider because I thought it smelled less offensive… maybe my olfactory senses are messed up). Still, I persevered, then brushed it out.

The result? Well, see for yourself:


Not too shabby, eh? (This is my bedroom, by the way — I was trying to get some natural light on it.) So far, it doesn’t smell at all, which is a good thing, although it’s not necessarily softer or shinier than it usually is. I think the real test will be how long it lasts — if it’s greasy by tomorrow morning, I’m definitely docking points.

Overall, I’m kind of semi-pleased with this Pantry to the Bathroom experiment. It’s obviously a better option than using chemical-heavy brand-name shampoos and conditioners, but considering I already use all-natural stuff and make a point of refilling it from the bulk store, I don’t know that this is really reducing my carbon footprint by that much.

What do you guys think? Are you into this whole no ‘poo movement or is it not worth the fuss?

From the Pantry to the Bathroom: Deodorant Edition

January 2, 2009


Welcome to the first installment of From the Pantry to the Bathroom, where I feature natural alternatives to beauty and hygiene products, all of which can be created by using ingredients found in the kitchen pantry (think toothpaste made from baking soda and peppermint extract; face masks assembled from oatmeal and honey; etc).

While I was entrenched in the darkest days of my green year and not buying any new plastic, let alone consuming products full of chemicals and preservatives, I ultimately had no choice but to make myself clean and pretty using whatever I could find in the house. Now, I still do this, but it’s more in the name of laziness and frugality.

Sometimes, homemade stuff doesn’t turn out so great — using vinegar instead of shampoo, for instance, unless perhaps you have thick, curly hair and don’t mind a permanent redolence of fish ‘n’ chips — but occasionally I’ll stumble upon something so effective and simple, I just have to share it with every woman (and sometimes men) I know.

So without further ado, here is my first find:


The recipe is very simple:

– Coconut oil

– Put on underams

That’s it!

You can find coconut oil at most grocery stores (definitely at any health food store). It looks something like this:


Coconut oil is great for cooking — it can be safely heated to high temperatures, it’s great for smoothies and has lots of beneficial side effects (ask your local nutritionist about it). But it’s also useful as a moisturizer, a shoe polish, and, if you’re feeling kinky, as a lubricant.

I can’t remember what, exactly, possessed me to spread coconut oil underneath my arms recently because I’ve been using a combination of the crystal rock and the wild-yam scented Green Beaver brand of deodorant for a while with mostly positive results. But in the end, I found that coconut oil is a lot more effective. In fact, it almost smelled better once I started to sweat a little. I’m not sure whether the oil is clogging my pores or not, but whatever — I’m sold. Try it out!!

Update: Burbanmom/EnviRambo has also just seen the coconut oil light — check out her post on it over here.

Deodorant ad above from Flickr

Lemon loving for my love seat (Day 351)…

February 14, 2008

As some of you might remember, I bought this wicked-hideous love seat a little while ago from a U-Haul dealer, which I’ve put in my new office to go with the retro theme. The arm rests needed polishing but I didn’t want to get any neurotoxic crap like Pledge and couldn’t really buy any new product without running into plastic, so I looked on the World Wide Interwebs for a good homemade recipe.

This site had some pretty cool suggestions, so in the end, I decided to whip up a concoction of lemon juice, jojoba oil and a splash of white vinegar, then took a dish rag and gave it a rub.

I’m not sure it did very much. Here’s the before photo:


(Excuse my feet). And here’s the after photo:


I don’t know. I mean, I guess it looks cleaner — and there was definitely a lot of dirt that came off on the rag — but it’s not exactly shining. Maybe I should put more oil? Or use olive oil instead? But apparently that can go rancid in the summer or something.

Well, either way, it’s still better than spraying it with petroleum.


P.S. Happy stinkin’ Valentines Day. Remember, coconut oil before K-Y!

No makeup! (I’m not making this up) (Day 342)…

February 5, 2008


All right, kids, we’ve got just over three weeks left of this challenge, so it’s time to start getting a little crazy. Time to do stuff no sane person could ever be expected to keep up for a year, time to make some changes that are over-the-top impractical and outrageous, because I’ll never have to do this again! I think I’ll call this the “You’ve Gotta Be Kidding Me” series.

The first installment? No more makeup.

For the boys, and some of the more confident girls out there, this is totally no biggie. But try to understand that I’ve been wearing eyeshadow, eyeliner, concealer and blush almost every single day since I was 15. As you can tell from the occasional photo of me on this site, it’s not as though I wear tons of makeup, but there’s no way I leave the house without it.

Fortunately, I’m working from home this entire month, and by home I mean a friend’s cottage up in Creemore, so basically no one will see me except the guy who comes to plow the driveway and the cleaning lady.

The green reason behind this? Well, to use less product, of course. I realize this negates some previous changes, like buying all-natural eyeshadow, lip stick and bronzer, but at this point in the game, I’m hoping you can forgive the occasional bit of redundancy.

Photo of an eyelash curler courtesy of Taiyo! on Flickr

A sticky blessing in disguise (Day 314)…

January 8, 2008


A little while back, I gave up tape. Now, this isn’t something that affects me on a regular basis — I don’t spend entire days jonesing for a hit of Duct, or find myself with mountains of open boxes that need immediate closing and can only be sealed with sweet, sweet masking tape.

However, I did need to stick some photos into an album and was a bit stuck, myself. I had no tape, but I didn’t want to buy glue because it doesn’t seem very eco-friendly (it always comes in a plastic tube, and aren’t there horses’ hooves in there or something?).

Then, while at Grassroots over the weekend, I saw this cute little aluminum tin on the shelf, a product called Coccoina (cutest website ever, by the way — the English version leaves something to be desired — specifically, coherent English — but that actually makes it even cuter, if you ask me). The label was written in Italian, however I presumed from words like fotografie and ufficio that this here was glue, and because it was sold at Grassroots, it had to be natural (at the very least, it’s solvent-free, acid-free and doesn’t come wrapped in plastic).

I unscrewed the top, took a sniff and was pleasantly surprised by the aroma of almond. Unfortunately, this pleasant sensation quickly turned to skepticism as I thought, “OK, they probably just poured a bunch of almond oil and wax into a jar and called it glue,” so I asked the cashier if she’d tried it. She said no, it just came in, but she’d heard good things (yeah, yeah). For $8, though, I decided it was worth a shot — I did, after all, need to uffix my fotografies into that album.

Apparently, this stuff has been around since 1927. The website — in its funny English — says it became popular when it was first advertised on the radio like so: “Coccoina, Coccoina … It is not a drug but a solid glue that amazes and arouses enthusiasm in those who use it.” Er, yeah. Sorta like how Quebec has been “providing emotions since 1534,” right?

Well, I guess they were sort of right, because it did amaze me: this stuff is super-sticky, not at all gloppy, and the little brush that comes with it fits neatly back inside the container when you’re finished.

Furthermore, according to Treehugger — who, of course, have already written about this — it even tastes like marzipan, so paste-eaters, rejoice!

“Um, you’ve got some food on your face, there…” “Yeah, I know. I’m exfoliating” (Day 303)…

December 28, 2007

oatmeal mask

I’m trying really, really hard not to buy any beauty products or cosmetics that I can’t get in bulk and pour into a bottle or jar I already have. Unfortunately, despite all my efforts, stores like the Big Carrot, the Body Shop and even Grassroots just aren’t coming through on certain items — specifically, thick hand creams, body butters and exfoliating scrubs.

So I’ve decided to take the plunge and try making some of my own. I’m more than a little nervous, as the thought of slathering oatmeal, honey and other breakfast items on my face isn’t exactly thrilling, and while I love a little coconut oil in my smoothies every now and then, I’m not sure rubbing it into my hands every few hours is wise.

This is where you wonderful, hippie-tastic readers come in — if any of you have any recipes you’d like to share for keeping skin smooth, hydrated and, perhaps most importantly, zit-free, PLEASE do share in the comments below! I promise to try as many of them as I can and report back.

P.S. For those of you who get Alive magazine, check out page 66 for a two-page spread on Green as a Thistle! (I can’t find the article online, but it’s a pretty cool mag, so check it out anyway).

Image courtesy of the Body Shop (which, by the way, doesn’t refill it’s shampoo bottles anymore — lame!)