A friend of mine with a beautiful, glowing complexion recently confessed that she uses a high-grade olive oil as a daily moisturizer. The other day, a woman who has given facials in spas for 25 years mentioned that she rubs herself down with olive oil before going in the sauna to keep her skin soft and supple all winter long. She also takes real milk baths. And even though she sells cosmetics, she said you could do just as well with olive oil as a moisturizer and bananas and avocadoes for facial masques. This helped to confirm my longheld belief that natural grocery store purchases can do just as well without the toxicity risk of expensive, beautifully packaged cosmetics.

The benefits of DIY (do it yourself) products include: saving money, keeping left-over grocery items out of the waste stream, no packaging to toss and knowing that you are using all-natural ingredients because you assembled them. Saving your own resources is a good reason to start making your own personal care products. A good bottle of olive oil to use as a moisturizer can cost $20 compared to a high quality store purchased moisturizer, which may run $75 for a few ounces. You can also use olive oil for salad dressings and to baste a chicken breast. Don’t try that with your processed moisturizer! Olive oil comes in a glass bottle that can be recycled. Often retail cosmetics come in containers that must be thrown into the trash. Bananas or avocados that are too mushy to eat can be mashed and used on your face as a masque. You get the benefit of the nutrients and don’t have to add spoiled food to the waste stream.

Avoiding synthetic (made from petroleum) chemicals is another benefit for health conscious consumers. Start reading labels on your pre-packaged personal care products. Fragrance and parabens on the label are a red flag. Studies say that they are chemicals that interfere with the normal functioning of our hormones and may cause reproductive and breast cancer, infertility, miscarriage and birth defects. Phthalates appear on labels as dibutyl phthalate (DBP), diethyl phthalate (DEP) and "fragrance." Parabens appear with a prefix and then the word "paraben."

Also remember, what’s in your shampoo will go down the drain and into our water supply. So in addition to home-made products having zero synthetic chemicals, you can be sure that your concoction is biodegradable and contains no phosphates. Just be careful to strain solids out of your products when you rinse them from your skin, hair or bath. An avocado-mash drain clog creates a whole different set of problems!

I am always experimenting with sensual, new grocery store ingredients to keep my skin and hair in youthful condition. I have found that shopping at the farmer’s market or food co-op can give me the most reliable ingredients. I look for certified organic produce and dairy products, because I know that they have had no chemical additives and were grown without pesticides. I also try to buy locally grown items when I can, because that means that less energy was used in getting them to me. I will more often splurge on seasonal items like exotic vegetables and fruits for experimental masques in the summer when they are more likely to be grown locally and are cheaper.

Essential oils are made by distilling plants down to a concentrated oil and are also fun to explore. You can use pure plant essential oils, too. One drop goes a long way – and if used in the wrong quantity may cause skin sensitivities. Used according to directions and in the right application, they can enhance your emotional well-being, maximize health and restore beautifully clear skin.

Enjoy the following recipes:

Honey Almond Facial Scrub (one application)
1 Tablespoon honey (locally made)
2 Tablespoons raw rolled oats
2 Tablespoons plain organic yogurt
8 whole uncooked almonds ground
Process the almonds and oats in a blender until that are finely ground. Mix the ground almonds and oat mixture with the honey and yogurt in a small bowl until blended. Pat the mixture on your face and neck and relax in a comfortable position for up to 10 minutes. Wet your hands and over a sink or bath, massage gently to exfoliate. Rinse off and pat dry. (Do not use if you are allergic to nuts)

Avocado Mask (dry skin)
1-2 avocados
Smooth the mashed avocado over your face, let firm for 15 minutes and rinse off. (Be careful not to clog your drain in the process.) Avocado is very rich in antioxidants, which are great for preventing pre-mature aging.

Oat and Honey Milk Bath
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup powdered milk
2 tbsp honey
Place all ingredients in a small natural fabric bag (muslin and cheesecloth are great choices). Hang the bag under the faucet as you fill the tub, so running water disperses the soothing product throughout your bath.

Egg & Olive Oil Hair Masque
2 whole eggs
4 tbsp olive oil
Mix ingredients together and smooth through hair over sink. Wrap head with a shower cap or plastic wrap and allow 10 minutes for penetration. Rinse off and shampoo normally in shower. (For a smooth and shiny finish, be careful to wash all of the oil from your hair before normal styling).

Dandruff Remover
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white vinegar
Combine ingredients then apply directly to the scalp. Use before shampooing. Apply twice a week.

Eye Soother
Place cotton balls soaked in ice water over closed eyes and lie down with feet elevated. Or place cucumber slices on eye lids while relaxing in a hot bath for 10 minutes.

Citrus Bath
1 orange sliced
Petal from 1 rose
3-4 soy candles
10-15 drops Orange essential oil
Draw warm bath 102-4 degrees. Mix into bath water essential oil and allow orange slices to float on top of the water. Take petals off of rose and float them. Light candles, get in and enjoy! (Orange essential oil eases digestion, stress and anxiety. Rose is uplifting and an aphrodisiac.)

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Kim Carlson, the EarthSmart Consumer, shares fun and practical ways to live a more planet friendly and human healthy lifestyle. From natural beauty and green gifts, to providing eco-makeovers for entire homes, Kim blends responsible consumerism with her own brand of “eco-chic.” Kim regularly promotes EarthSmart tips on local and national television. She is also a frequent guest on talk radio programs, and is a contributing editor to several major magazines. Kim can be reached at kim@earthsmartconsumer.com. Copyright © 2005 Kim Carlson. All rights reserved.

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