Wednesday, May 17, 2017

The Inconvenient Realities Of Homemade Products

There is something undeniable about the idea of being able to make your own products.

Take a look at all the things that you spend money on. There’s the personal care items; those that can be considered a necessity for proper function in the modern world. That would include, but not be limited to, the following:

  • Shampoo. We can all agree that dirty hair is a no-go, can’t we?
  • Deodorant. Even the greenest, hippiest person on the planet wants to smell nice. Or at least, not smell bad.
  • Conditioner. That clean hair is going to need some love, isn’t it?
  • Body Wash. Sluicing yourself in water alone isn’t going to do it, so might as well infuse your body wash with delicious fragrances good enough to drink. Though, don’t do that. Just so we’re clear.
  • Hair Styling Products. Hairspray and sea salt styling sprays would be the go-to here. No point having cleaned and conditioned hair if you’re not going to give it a few extra ways to look its very best.
  • Makeup. It’s not essential, but it is nice. Nothing can disguise the fact you were up all night like a spot of under-eye concealer can.

These are just the very basics required to look like a functional human being in society.

Then you can expand the “products I don’t particularly want but know I definitely need” category to include the items you have to buy for your home.

  • Cleaning Products. Each room of the house seems to require different cleaning products, to the eternal chagrin of anyone who would rather spend their hard-earned cash on exciting things instead.
  • Cleaning Materials. Cloths, sponges, whatever the latest must-have accessory is, it all falls into this category.
  • Glass Cleaner. You’re not really an adult until you have tried - and failed, oh, so much failure - to clean glass using anything but a specialist cleaner.
  • Laundry Products. You’ve got the clean hair so you might as well have some clean clothes to go with it.
  • Dish washing Products. Be it dish washing tablets or just a dish soap for those without a machine, it’s unhygienic to do anything but use these.

And so on and so forth. Group it all together and you have a lot of things. Things that don’t necessarily excite you (makeup can get a pass on this, but no one is getting excited by a new dish washing soap…) but that you have to buy.

So you find yourself online and you see that everyone in the world (or so it seems) is now making these products for themselves. You dive into the blog posts and social media shares, all of which are extolling the virtue of these items. How exciting, you think, not only are these items super effective (apparently) but they also cost next to nothing to make! You could free up a whole section of your budget for things that you actually want to buy!

It would be nice if that was the end of the story, wouldn’t it?

Anyone who has ever experimented with these homemade products will be able to explain how damaging a thought process it is. It’s tempting - to an extent, you want to believe it’s possible to replace expensive products with cheap and efficient alternatives, so you try to believe it. Maybe you have even tried them out and had decent results.

However, it rarely lasts. The love affair with home made products might look good in blog posts and on social media, but it’s not going to continue into reality. If you’re tempted to give them a try, then be wary of these common issues that these “recipes” cause.

But first, one thing…

A note on chemicals. Some of these recipes will promise a solution to these at-home products which, according to the blogger/influencer, is chemical free. Doesn’t that sound great and somehow much better for you? Chemical free!

Of course, this is nonsense. There’s chemicals in everything. You probably drank a whole glass full of the chemical compound dihydrogen monoxide today. Absolutely nothing is chemical free, so do ignore usage of this term. Instead, we’ll use toxin-free, as this is more what people are getting at with these recipes.


You’ll find baking soda a regular feature of any recipe for deodorant. On the surface, that’s a really good idea, as baking soda does have deodorizing properties.

Unfortunately, it also… causes major skin irritation.

Some bloggers are honest enough to acknowledge this. They say it’s temporary and will pass, calling it a little uncomfortable. Firstly: it can be very painful indeed, leaving your skin sore and cracking, but secondly… it might not go away. Persisting in the hope you will “adapt” to an inherently abrasive ingredient is not a good idea.

What To Do Instead

Magnesium oil is a surprisingly effective at controlling body odor and you can make it for yourself. It tends to take awhile to build up to usage, though this is true of any trans-dermal use of magnesium. So go very slowly on the advice of a doctor and stop if the tingling becomes uncomfortable. Unlike the baking soda adjustment, you will adjust to magnesium.

If you don’t fancy the magnesium, then just look for any product on store shelves that says it is “aluminum free”. Plenty of brands now often kinder-to-skin alternatives to their regular line, so hunt around and you’ll find them.

PROBLEM AREA: Surface Cleaning Products

Let’s group all of these together as they tend to have the same issues.

The main ingredient credited with amazing cleaning power in these recipes is vinegar. Vinegar does indeed cut through grease, but it’s unlikely to do it as well as the store-bought products. To say it can be effective is true, but to say it’s a complete replacement is either a lie or being said by people with rather dirty homes.

The reason the ingredient list of the store-bought chemical is so long is because they tackle many areas. It’d be nice if there was a one-size-fits-all cleaner that could remedy all household ills, but there just isn’t. It takes more than acetic acid (remember how chemicals are in everything?) to cut through general household mess.

What To Do Instead

Use ecologically-friendly cleaning products or those containing plant enzymes, which use a blend of components to get rid of as much household grime as possible. If it’s cost that concerns you with cleaning products, then you might find it easier to buy from Better Life in bulk, which can reduce your cost-per-use down to very little.


Shampoo is a real favorite for the make-it-at-home crowd. Part of this is through a simple fact: many store-bought shampoos contain ingredients that can, and do, irritate the scalp. Wanting to get away from this is only natural if you’re in the affected group. The problems SLS and sulfates cause are very real.

However, baking soda has a habit of rearing its ugly head when it comes to shampoo recipes. Remember how baking soda is abrasive? Yes, it’s going to clean your hair and completely destroy it at the same time. Don’t use baking soda as a shampoo.

As for the other recipes (and particularly those involved in the “no poo” movement), maybe you will find one that works for you. Hair chemistry is a complex thing and some people will get on well with shampoo recipes. If, however, that doesn’t happen, then you’re not doing anything wrong by needing to return to store-bought brands. There’s something of a habit of guilting people into how bad shampoo is for them in the effort to turn them into homemade proponents, but here’s the thing: sometimes, your hair just doesn’t want to play. If you are hormonal (either in terms of period or the menopause), then your hair will be greasier than normal. That’s a problem a homemade blend probably isn’t going to shift.

What To Do Instead

Shampoo bars are a great invention that rarely contain the problematic chemicals; though, of course, read the labels for yourself. The anti-SLS trend is also becoming more popular for major brands, who are realizing that their consumer base don’t want to have to hurt themselves just to get clean hair (which is somehow a shock to them…?). Look out for anything that claims to be “low shampoo” or “SLS-free”.

In Conclusion

The above is just the beginning, but it’s all about applying the same principles. While there are some things you can make for yourself, it’s not possible to do everything. It’s not through laziness on behalf of women the world over that these products were developed; they were developed to fill a gap that homemade products weren’t fixing.

So if you find your homemade makeup doesn’t leave much of a color payoff, your floors aren’t as sparkling clean as you hoped, or your body wash isn’t doing much washing - then that’s okay. You tried; but there’s nothing wrong with needing to buy products. It’s a luxury that we have, after all - might as well make the most of it.
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