So if you know anything about me, you know that I like to make stuff. If I CAN make it, I won’t (typically) buy it. It started with bread and vanilla extract, and has gotten … out of hand. It’s ok, I can admit it. My husband will routinely find a stash of something strange I purchased in bulk, and just shakes his head. He’s really more of a “Why make it when you can buy it?” kind of guy. That’s actually how I got the name for this blog. This is the all too familiar exchange:
“What is this?!? What are you doing with 5 pounds of … powdered bentonite clay?”
“… I wouldn’t worry about it.”
I’m not entirely sure WHY I started this whole obsession with doing things myself, but I really do enjoy it. There’s just something extremely satisfying about using your hands to make something new. It leaves you feeling like if civilization crumbled, you’d still be alright (not really, but you know what I mean). And while it’s not exactly budget friendly in the beginning to buy a bunch of random things in bulk, once you’ve accumulated your ingredients then you can make pretty much whatever you want for way cheaper than it is to buy at the store.
I’ve been making my own soap for a long time now, and it’s been fun to try new ingredients and recipes. The only downside is that one small batch makes multiple bars of soap. Good for the budget, but bad for finding new recipes. I can only justify having so many bars of soap in the house at a time. And, of course, I’m the only one using it because my husband claims “It doesn’t make [him] feel like a dove.”
A few months after I started making soap, I began using it to wash my hair. Trigger the “You can’t wash your hair with soap!! That’s so bad for your hair!!” people. But here’s what I’ve found from personal experience and research – soap (and I mean real soap here, not synthetic detergents) is one of the best things to use to wash hair (along with the rest of the body). Lots of people are under the impression that “lye soaps” are harsh on the skin and hair, which is why they should be avoided. What they don’t understand is that “lye soaps” (which, let’s be real here, is ALL soaps) are one of the most gentle types of cleaners. They just wash away excess dirt and oil. Synthetic detergents (even store bought bar “soaps” typically contain detergent) strip away ALL the oil. Think about it – Dawn dish soap is used to clean wildlife after an oil spill. Sure, that sounds great, but biologically it’s very, very bad (unless you’re an oil covered pelican, of course).
Oil is an essential part of how your skin (including your scalp) functions. I don’t want to get too technical for the non-medical people out there (I’ll save that for later), but your skin produces an acidic, oily substance called “sebum.” Advertisements have led us to believe that oil on skin is bad, and we need to wash it off. But here’s the kicker – the oil our skin produces is what keeps it healthy. It moisturizes our skin, keeps our hair strong and shiny, and is antibacterial. Yes, you read right, our skin’s natural oil can kill bacteria and reduce the risk of skin infections.
But what do we do? We use a synthetic detergent to strip away ALL oils from the skin, and then we “moisturize” with artificial oils, butters and waxes. But those artificial oils do NOT possess the same antibacterial properties of our natural oil, so they don’t do a very good job. In response to this, your skin goes into overdrive to produce MORE oil. It’s freaking out! You scrubbed away it’s protective layer and covered it in a weird foreign substance that doesn’t belong there! It’s going to make more oil, because that’ll teach you! So, strangely enough, the more you wash away the oil, the more oil your skin will produce as a result. So that’s fun. I’m not into conspiracy theories, but it certainly seems like a win for any company that makes soap (aka detergent).
Well, that got out of hand. Don’t get me going on soap, I guess. And yes, I WILL go into more detail (there’s more detail?) about soap in a future post. It’s kind of my thing.
What I actually wanted to say about this whole thing is that it’s a serious struggle to make these types of products for myself because, strangely enough, I know how the body works and have a background in science and medicine. You’d think that would make it easier, but the problem isn’t with me – it’s with the internet. It seems like the only people crunchy enough to make their own soaps, shampoos, deodorants, lotions, etc, are also completely ignorant of the way the body works. Most of the blogs and such dealing with these topics are run by people with ZERO knowledge of science, research methods, or general biology. Every time I find a recipe that looks great, it’s described as being “chemical free” and is proclaimed to “rid your body of toxins” and “cleanse your aura” (okay, I made that last one up).
First things first. Everything is a “chemical.” Water is a chemical. That’s just silly. And “toxins” being the root cause for all of our maladies? That’s literally on par with saying that melancholy is caused by an excess of black bile, so we need to leech you to restore the balance of the humors. It’s nonsense. Also, I’m just going to throw this out there, but just because something is “natural” or “plant based” doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Poison ivy, nightshade, and arsenic are all 100% “natural,” and I wouldn’t recommend touching any of them with a 10 foot pole. And just because something is artificial or a *gasp* synthetic “chemical” doesn’t mean that it’s bad for you. That said, if I could make everything from the original base materials (here’s a coconut, a log, and some tallow – make soap) I’d do it. But that’s just me being weird, not because I think “toxins” and “chemicals” are a problem with commercially made ingredients (or even the finished products).
So I’m kind of at a crossroads here, because on the one hand I’m stubbornly sticking to my “living off the land, do it myself” mentality, but on the other hand I’m surrounded by crazy people who don’t know what they’re talking about. It’s like I’m the only crazy hermit who’s not actually crazy. But don’t they all think that? Am I taking this too far?
The answer, of course, is no. I’m taking this just far enough. I’ll do it myself, and woe be to all the naysayers (just kidding – I hope no woe befalls any of you).