sustainable skin care Feed

DIY frugal and natural foaming hand wash

Simple soap and water is just as effective as antibacterial soaps. Little eco footprints

Commercial liquid hand soap was the first product I ditched when I started simplifying our household’s personal care products. I now make a simple foaming handwash using only two ingredients: water and castile soap. By switching to a simple homemade handwash, you can reduce exposure to unnecessary chemicals, minimise waste and save money.

The liquid soaps you find in the supermarket are laden with a long list of unnecessary and nasty chemicals.

I used the helpful Skin Deep cosmetics database to investigate the safety of ingredients in a major brand of anti-bacterial handwash. I discovered that of the 17 ingredients listed, seven are considered a "moderate hazard", including the first ingredient after water – cetrimonium chloride. This chemical and others, such as methylchloroisothiazolinone and methylisothiazolinone, can cause skin damage and allergic reactions.

Simply switching to a "natural" product isn't the answer.

Just because something is advertised as containing "ingredients of natural origin" doesn't mean that it’s safe to put on your skin.

Even an expensive hand wash marketed as "plant-based" and containing "all-natural ingredients" contains potentially irritant chemicals such as cocamidopropyl betaine, phenoxyethanol and phenoxyethanol.

The home brand and budget hand soaps fare even worse, with most containing the "high hazard" triclosan, despite it being a toxic chemical that can interfere with hormone regulation.

There’s no evidence that including triclosan and other antibacterial or antimicrobial ingredients in hand soaps is any more effective than plain soap and water.

Given that washing our hands with plain soap and water works just as well, washing our hands with these chemicals seems an unnecessary risk, particularly for children and expectant mothers.

But I get the appeal of liquid soap. Thankfully it’s easy to make your own.

How to make your own foaming hand wash

Making your own foaming handwash couldn't be simpler and will save you money.

Make your own foaming soap wash using only water and castile soap. Little eco footprints

To make your own foaming hand soap, you will need a foaming soap dispenser. You can buy foamy bottles from online soap-making supply stores, or you can simply buy a foaming hand soap and reuse the dispenser.

Castile soap is a very mild liquid soap that will clean your skin without stripping it of natural oils. It is traditionally made using pure olive oil, but can also be made with other oils. You will find it in most organic food stores, or from online soap supply stores.

Fill the dispenser four parts water and one part liquid castile soap. Little eco footprints 2

Fill the dispenser four parts water and one part liquid castile soap. Little eco footprints

To make the foaming hand wash, fill the dispenser with around four parts sterilised water and one part castile soap. I simply leave the morning kettle boil for an extra minute and use that water once it has cooled.

Home made simple and frugal foaming hand wash. Little eco footprints

Buying your castile soap in bulk will make your hand wash super-frugal. I bought a five-litre bottle – which is enough soap for me to make 25 litres of handwash. I like that I haven’t had to think about buying hand soap in the five years since I bought the bottle. I'm guessing it will last me another five years.

My foaming handwash works out costing around $1 a litre – far cheaper than even the cheapest and nastiest home brand refill hand soap at $4 a litre.

The pump can become stiff after a while. I’ve read that you can add a dash of oil to your mix to alleviate this problem. I simply wash my dispensers thoroughly in sterilised water and leave them to air-dry when this happens.

Switching your handwash may seem a trivial change that isn't worth the bother. But lots of small changes can make a big difference.

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 23rd February 2015.

Pantry pampering with pumpkin and ginger {DIY skin & hair treatments}

Pantry-pampering-Little Eco Footprints

I love pantry pampering. I wash my face with honey, soak in porridge and wash my hair with bi-carb soda. Every now and then I make a hair treatment or face mask with various combinations of egg, honey, olive oil, lemon, and yoghurt. Pumpkin and ginger are the latest additions to my list of favourite pantry pampering produce.

Pumpkin DIY skin-and-hair treatments

Thanks to a bumper pumpkin harvest, I have more pumpkins than I could ever eat. So I was thrilled to discover that it's a nourishing skin treatment.

Pumpkin-pantry-pampering-recipes-Little Eco Footprints

Pumpkin is a popular ingredient in anti-wrinkle and hydrating creams - for a good reason. It is rich in vitamins, antioxidants and natural exfoliating agents.

It is particularly nourishing for sun-damaged and ageing skin.

For a delicious-smelling face mask, combine a few tablespoons of mashed cooked pumpkin with a raw egg, a tablespoon of honey and a good pinch of cinnamon. Apply the mixture to your face, avoiding the eye area. Wash off after 20 minutes.

Pumpkin is also great for soothing and softening dry, cracked hands and feet. The face mask recipe doubles as a foot-and-hand treatment. Smother your hands or feet and then wrap in a plastic bag.

An exfoliating pumpkin body and face scrub can be made by combining one cup of mashed pumpkin with ½ cup of brown sugar.

Pumpkin is also good for your hair. It's high in vitamin A (good for the scalp) and potassium (promotes hair growth). To make a moisturising hair mask, combine one cup of mashed pumpkin, two tablespoons of honey and ½ cup of yoghurt. Apply the mixture to damp hair and cover with plastic wrap (or an old shopping bag).Let it sit for 15 minutes and then wash out.

Ginger DIY soaks, scrubs and masks

Ginger-pantry-pampering-recipes-Little eco footprints

Ginger tea is a well-known remedy for colds and flu - but you can also get the benefits of ginger by bathing in it. A ginger and Epsom salts bath is my favourite remedy for flu aches and chest congestion. I add two cups of Epsom salts and around two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger to a warm bath.

If the idea of bathing in ginger doesn't appeal, you can always try a detox mustard-and-ginger foot soak. Soak tired and aching feet in a bucket of very warm water with two tablespoons each of mustard powder (or freshly ground mustard seeds) and freshly grated ginger.

Ginger is also an antioxidant-rich skin treatment. It is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic so is particularly good for pimple-prone skin. You can make a facial cleanser by mixing freshly grated ginger with a little honey. Use this recipe as a nourishing face mask by leaving it on for around 20 minutes.

You can make a warming body scrub by combining ½ cup of brown sugar with ¼ cup of olive oil, one tablespoon of freshly grated ginger and the zest of one lemon.

Ginger is also great for dry and damaged hair and dandruff. Make a hair mask by mixing two tablespoons of freshly grated ginger with three tablespoons of olive oil and a dash of lemon juice. Massage into your scalp and hair and leave for at least 30 minutes before washing out.

So next time you want to pamper yourself, instead of visiting an expensive beauty parlour or spa, simply visit your pantry.

Originally published in the Newcastle Herald Monday 23rd June 2014. 

What is your favourite pantry pampering recipe? 

Five other uses for my 'Homemade moisturising body bar'


One of my most shared posts is my 'Homemade moisturising body bar recipe'. Have you tried it? It's good. 

I thought I'd share five other ways I use this body bar: 

#1.  As a barrier to prevent henna dying my skin, when dying my hair with henna. I apply it along my hairline. It works a treat and is petrochemical free, unlike Vaseline.

#2.  As a lip balm. I've put a little in an old lip balm tub. It's delicious and nourishing. 

#3.  As a face moisturiser on cold winter evenings or really cold days. I put a small amount (about the size of an pea) in the palm of my hand, rub my hands together until it melts and then smooth my hands over my face. 

#4.  To protect hands while gardening. It also makes hands and nails easier to clean afterwards. 

#5.  As a hair wax to calm frizzy and dry hair. I melt a small amount in the palm of my hand, like when using it as a face moisturiser, and then brush my hands through my hair. 

I'm hitting the road today. I'm off to run workshops on the management and identification of native vegetation in Scone and Deniliquin. Little Eco is having a holiday at my Mums for two weeks while I'm travelling. I'm missing her already, but on the other hand I'm bouncing with excitement at the idea of two weeks doing something I absolutely love and not having to look after a husband or child. Two weeks of just being just me. 

I hope you find a few moments to be 'just you' too. 

Quiet time pantry pampering

Wearing honey and banana face mask

Little Eco and I are embracing pantry pampering. We recently enjoyed a honey and banana face mask. We mixed a mashed banana with honey, then jumped in the bath and slathered it all over our face. The vitamins in bananas are known to improve complexion and even smooth wrinkles (perhaps I should wear this mask more often!) and when combined with honey hydrates your skin. 

Skin benefits aside, our pantry pampering moments are more about time together than the beauty benefits.

I've discovered that pantry pampering is a great way to calm Little Eco down and trick her into quiet time. I'll head to the kitchen and grab a handful of oats for a nourishing porridge bath, or some honey and yoghurt for a moisturising face mask, or whip up a banana milkshake hair mask. Thirty minutes later, and after lots of giggles about putting food on our face, she's calm and relaxed. 

Are you a fan of pantry pampering? Whats your favourite way of tricking kids into quiet time?

I'm enjoying Maria Hannaford's free natural beauty guide. Its full of loads of pantry pampering inspiration, like using tahini as a face mask for dry skin. It's free if you sign up for Econest's friday newsletter

Winter pantry pampering

Winter pantry pampering

The cold winter weather has wrecked havoc on my skin so I decided to enjoy some pantry pampering last night.

I made a lime, coconut and salt exfoliating face scrub by combining the juice of 1 lime (lemon will work just as well), a teaspoon of coconut oil and enough salt to soak up all the liquid.

I also made a moisturising honey and yoghurt face mask by combining around a tablespoon each of honey and yoghurt.

My skin feels delicious ;-)

What's your favourite pantry pampering recipe?