Body wash, also known as shower gel or liquid soap, is a wonderful invention, from both a personal care and an environmental point of view.
Liquid soaps provide instant cleaning, as opposed to bar soaps, which can take from seconds to minutes to work up a lather good enough to make you feel like you’re getting the job done.
This “instant” soap also means less time in the shower, and this is good for the environment, since water is becoming scarcer across the planet as climate change makes its presence felt.
In fact, using body wash allows you to cut back shower times for a full minute, saving from 2.5 to 7 gallons of water, depending on your shower fixture (standard or low-flow). In a year, this can save up to 2,555 gallons, or the equivalent of washing one load of clothing per week for a year.
This is also nearly the entire yearly water ration of a person living in Kenya, and almost twice as much water as is available to other third-world residents living in Angola, Zaire and Albania.
Free of Toxic Ingredients
Unfortunately, most commercial body washes are also laden with chemicals that are bad for the environment, and equally as bad for people, because they don’t require FDA approval before reaching your bathroom, and only 11 percent of the more than 10,000 ingredients used have been tested by manufacturers for their possible adverse health effects.
The list of toxic ingredients is virtually endless, but includes such items as phthalates (from petroleum, which cause obesity, cancer and reproductive defects in males) and formaldehyde (used to preserve bodies), which is at best an allergen and at worst a carcinogen.
You can remove these threats to yourself and your environment by making your own body wash, and the process can be as simple or complex as time allows. Just remember your basic chemistry; oil and water don’t mix.
Body Wash Recipe
The simplest recipe involves Ultra Ivory Pure dishwashing soap (the clear kind, and the only affordable liquid soap available in stores with no coloring, dyes, fragrance or surfactants).
Diluted about four to one with mineral water (depending on your preference and the amount of dirt and body oils you want to remove), it makes a remarkably effective body wash that leaves skin feeling both clean and soft, but you can add more softening properties by dissolving one-quarter cup of Epsom Salts in the mineral water and adding this to one gallon of the soap mixture.
Why salt? Because salt, and not oil, is what truly hydrates skin. Salt is hygroscopic; that is, it absorbs moisture from the air, and skin, with the right amount of salt, absorbs moisture more readily. This is why, when you sweat a lot, your skin looks clearer and firmer.
If you must, you can also add fragrance, but please do not use essential oils. Instead, go to your nearest whole foods or herbal store and buy dried leaves, of lavender, bergamot, geranium, rosemary or mint, or grow you own and dry over winter. You can also use pure extracts, of vanilla or almond, for example (though just a few drops, because the alcohol-based carrier is very dry), or you can save orange or lemon peels, or rose petals from your favorite, fragrant roses.
Some people pulverize the herbs in a coffee grinder and add them to the soap mix. I prefer to steep them, over low heat and with very little distilled water, for 24 hours, and then drain them through cheesecloth or an old t-shirt. Add one teaspoon of rubbing alcohol for a carrier, and add the result to the soap mix. Because the fragrances are water-based and toxin-free, you can use as much or as little as you want.
The recipe also works for shampoo, leaving hair silky soft and manageable, and you are not limited in your choice of fragrances or additives from the natural world. Creeping oxalis, a reddish-leaved plant that looks like clover, is a wonderful astringent and skin tonic. Rose mallow will help skin irritations, and lovage – which was believed in ancient times to remove freckles and dark spots caused by aging – will, in fact, reduce the appearance of liver spots and firm older skin, though no claim can be made for freckles.
In fact, once you’ve perfected your body-wash manufacturing skills, you might want to get a book on herbal cures and experiment for yourself. If you come up with anything really good, please let us know by submitting a comment below.