Natural Deodorants – Make Your Own with Coconut Oil

coconut oil deodorantIf you are looking for a healthier and greener alternative to regular deodorants then the simplest solution is to make your own. This may sound all too way out and crunchy granola hippy, but it’s easy and what is more important it works!

Years ago I switched from roll-ons to rock crystal deodorants, thinking that these were totally safe and free of the aluminium that makes the regular products a health worry.(Aluminium has been linked with breast cancer and Alzheimers.) Continue reading

Sunscreen: The Good The Bad and the Skin Cancer

Which sunscreen is safe to use at the beach?If you, like us, have been routinely slathering your kids with sunscreen to protect them from cancer causing skin damage, you might find this article on skin cancer research worrying.

Researchers have found that since the use of sunscreen became general in the mid-70s rates of skin cancers have increased significantly, rather than decreased as expected. One theory was that because they take longer to burn, people spend longer periods in the sun. Another that the sunscreen blocks most of the UVB rays but not so much of the UVA, which penetrates deeper into the skin.

One of the main risk factors identified here though, was some of the chemical ingredients in the sunscreens themselves. Certain of the active ingredients act as free radical generators once they are activated by the UV rays. Free radicals are the big bad wolves of the cancer world, loose cannons in the body that can cause changes in cell structure.

If you are interested in more detail, go read the original article, which is full of information and references to current research. But for easy reference here is a list of things to look out for:

Chemicals to avoid in sunscreen
Benzophenone, oxybenzone or benzophenone-3 – all free radical generators when activated by UV light. These, or derivatives of these, are found in most common chemical sunscreens.
Psoralen – high risk of melanomas shown in several studies that rate this chemical four times worse than those listed above..
Look out for these ingredients in face creams that have an SPF too.

Physical sunscreens
These use minerals such as titanium dioxide or zinc oxide and reflect the UV light away from the skin. They tend to look white on the skin. They work as sunblocks and are much safer than chemical sunscreens.

Natural tan
The article concludes  with saying that the safest protection against skin cancer is to build up a natural tan gradually without risking severe sunburn. Most severe skin damage was seen in people with infrequent but intense exposure to the sun. For example the holidaymaker from a less sunny climate who sunbathes too long and gets badly burned. Those with regular, moderate exposure to the sun are less likely to suffer from skin cancer.

Vitamin D
We all need vitamin D and our body manufactures it from the sun shining on our skin. Using sunscreens prevents this natural process. We all should spend a minimum of 10 minutes a day  in the sunshine without any blocking sunscreens on our skin, to get a basic level of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps suppress the growth of malignant melanomas and possibly other cancers too, so getting enough sunlight on our skin helps fight, rather than causes, skin cancer.

Once again it’s all about moderation, getting out in the sun and fresh air, but not overdoing it, minimising the chemicals we expose ourselves to and reading that tiny small print on the ingredients lists.

Photo: © Radu Tania | Dreamstime.com

Vinegar For Stinky Dog Blankets

Smelly dog, clean dog blanketDo you have a dog whose idea of fragrance is to roll in the stinkiest thing he can find? And then generously shares it with you by snuggling down on the sofa?

We have three of them, luckily only the Jack Russell feels entitled to lounging on the furniture. And you don’t want to know about the elderly cats in the family….

All this results in rather a lot of extra laundry, and somehow those smells are hard to get rid of just with detergent.

The answer is vinegar, plain old distilled white vinegar. I don’t why it took me so long to try it, when I’ve been using bicarb and vinegar as cleaning agents for ages. I’ve used bicarb (baking soda) to neutralise odours in the wash and that helps, especially with towels that have become slightly musty, but it’s not quite enough for the serious smells.

Today I washed the stinkiest dog blanket to ever pollute our house, which had already been washed twice to no avail. I added one cup of vinegar to the wash along with the regular detergent. That blanket came out smelling sweet enough to put my nose up close to!

Why it works? As far as I can gather from my non-scientific perspective, the acids in the vinegar break down the proteins that hold most smells connected with our beloved pets. Once broken down they are easily washed away. Thank goodness for vinegar – the dog blanket gets a new lease of life.

And the best news from a green perspective: vinegar is a renewable resource, it’s bio-degradable, non-toxic and it’s cheap. Now I just need to find out where I can buy it in bulk!

Natural Air Freshener – A Bowl of Hyacinths

sweet smelling hyancinthsAir fresheners were one of my pet hates even before I had any idea of green living. Now I’ve read about what goes into creating the artificial fragrances used for air fresheners I am even more against them.

They are very bad for respiratory health especially for young children, often aggravating allergies or triggering asthma attacks. Even worse some of the ingredients are cancer-causing in the long term, so all those chemicals can seriously damage the health of your family. This article has more on the dangers of air fresheners if you want to scare yourself!

I’ve written before about using natural scented candles instead of bathroom air fresheners. But what other ways are there of making your home smell nice?

Ours often smells of baking bread, but just as often of wet dog, so I was over the moon when my sister-in-law reminded me of a winter tradition from my childhood. She gave us a bowl of hyacinth bulbs. They have flowered quickly and their scent perfumes the air all around. It would be almost overpowering in a small room, but in a large space wafts appealingly as you pass.

There is no need for any artificial fragrances with that rich floral scent filling the air, and better still the flowers last for ages. In fact the bulbs are coming out in stages so they should be giving us sweet scents for a couple of months at least. Then we’ll put away the bulbs till next winter, re-pot them and they will grow and flower all over again. How about that for renewable, sustainable, sweet-smelling living!

A bowl of hyacinth bulbs also makes a great green gift for kids to give parents and grandparents – they can plant them up and decorate the bowl to make it even more special.

Green Alternatives To Air Freshener Sprays

A friend recently was being driven to distraction – her teenage daughter was determined to go green and kept hiding the bathroom air freshener spray!

So if putting up with a stinky bathroom isn’t an option, what can you use instead of conventional air fresheners, both sprays and solid, which are definitely on the bad list as far as toxic chemicals and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are concerned?

hemp and soy massage candleMy suggestion was to keep a natural soy and hemp scented candle in the bathroom, with a box of matches next to it. It can be lit at any time for long enough to give a sweeter fragrance to the air; much better than filling the air with an unhealthy burst of chemicals from a spray can. Another bonus of these candles is that the melted oil from them can be used as a luxuriously massage oil or skin moisturizer. What could be more appealing than a bath by candlelight, with lightly fragranced air scented with natural essential oils, followed by a massage with the warm natural oil from the candle?

Another option for a naturally sweet smelling bathroom is an essential oil burner. A few drops of essential oil in a little water in the top basin, is gradually evaporated into the air by a candle burning underneath.

Or just open the window. Most smells will disperse quickly enough with proper ventilation!

If you’re not convinced that air fresheners are  a health risk, check out this simple explanation of the most common chemicals used in them.