Detox Your Body: Make Chemical-Free Toiletries For Your Trek

We all trek to detox our bodies and minds. However, with commercial toiletries in hand, how are we “detoxifying” our bodies? This question used to drive me over the wall!

It all started with what I found in my bathroom last year.

One fine morning last year, I was brushing when I began to read through my toothpaste’s ingredient list. The list of ingredients was so long! It had such complex chemical names! The list reminded me of my chemistry lessons. It was exhausting. I had to upturn a bucket and sit down. I thought my toothpaste had the strength of only Meswak and Neem – it was a “Herbal” toothpaste after all! Well, I was in for a rude shock.

I got into a frenzy. I began going through the ingredients list of all my toiletries. Sodium Laureth Sulphate, Propylene Glycol, Triethanolomine, Fluoride, I had them all on my bathroom shelf. These are the first few names that pop up on Google if you search for “dangerous chemicals in toiletries.”

Look for any of these ingredients further and you will get hundreds of articles and research papers – each pointing out their harmful effects on the body and the environment. These ingredients have been shown to disrupt our hormones, kill coral reefs, end up in fishes, etc.

I realised that we have attuned ourselves to believing that these commercial products are as good as they claim to be. Many ingredients in our toiletries do more harm than good to our health and to our pockets.

chemical-free-toiletries-indiahikes
Toiletries for your trek.

That was when I decided to change everything.

I bought my own supplies and started making my own toothpaste, soap, scrubs and even sunscreen. I experimented and made many batches of each product. Time and again, I tweaked the recipe to see what works best. My friends were my lab rats. Their feedback made every iteration more effective. At the end, each of the products had no more than five ingredients. They worked better than commercial toiletries. I’ve never looked back since.

Now, I carry my own set of chemical-free toiletries to my office – that is the Himalayas. Most of these ingredients are healthier, greener alternatives to chemical ingredients.

Here are a few simple recipes for chemical-free toiletries to detox your body.

Non toxic Toothpaste

toothpaste-ingredients-chemical free toiletries-indiahikes

Ingredients you need: 1 part baking soda, 2 parts raw coconut oil, 1 part clove essential oil

Optional add-ons: 10 drops of peppermint essential oil, 0.5 tsp of sea salt, 1 tbsp edible clay, 0.5 tsp cinnamon

Method: Toothpaste has a very simple alternative: mix 1 part baking soda with 2 parts raw coconut oil. Yes, coconut oil. Unrefined coconut oil has good anti-microbial properties and is effective against plaque-causing bacteria.

Baking soda is a natural whitener. It is a light abrasive that removes surface stains from the teeth. It also prevents plaque build up. You should definitely trust its benefit when one of the leading toothpaste company endorses it.

The 1-part clove oil is to target gum issues.

You can always upgrade your tooth powder or paste to include spice/herb powder/essential oils in your basic mix.  You can modify them to specifically target dental issues. For example, you can add 0.5 teaspoon of cinnamon as an odour-neutralizer and 10 drops of peppermint oil for that hint of freshness.

Sea salt contains traces of minerals that are very good for our teeth-you can add 0.5 teaspoon of it into your mix. These nutrients strengthen the gums, safeguard against tarter and bad breath. It might even lighten your teeth in time. So when Priyanka Chopra asks you “Kya aapke toothpaste mein namak hai?” she is indeed asking you the right question.

Why Edible clay?
To make the toothpaste more stable. Add edible clay such as Bentonite clay or diatom powder, which are known for their ability to absorb dirt and toxic metals from the body.

Store your mix in a cool place.

In the recipe we make for our treks, I have not used coconut oil.  Coconut oil is unstable with varying temperature and becomes hard to handle in its liquid state.

Natural Sunscreen

sunscreen-ingredients-chemical free toiletries-indiahikesWhat you need: 1 cup of coconut oil, 4 tbsp of beeswax, 1 cup of warm water, 2 oz. by weight of non-nano zinc oxide, 20 drops of any essential oil

Note: Unlike toothpaste and deodorant, I would not suggest you to make your own sunscreen. Sunscreen is effective only when your active ingredient is well-mixed. It is best left to an experienced person to get that done right! So when you buy, choose products with mineral filters. You can use products such as biotique for sunscreens.

What you shouldn’t buy: Commercial sunscreens you use are of two kinds: there is one with chemical filters and one with mineral filters. Chemical filters include oxybenzone, avobenzone while mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. Oxybenzene has been shown to disrupt hormones when absorbed through the skin. That is not all.

The sunlight that reaches us has two kinds of harmful rays: UVA rays (they penetrate deep into your skin’s dermis) and UVB (burns superficial layer of your skin). Most chemical filters are only good at filtering UVB rays not UVA rays. However, UVA rays have been shown to cause premature ageing and could trigger skin cancer. So sunscreens are required to filter UVA rays as well.

Also, sunscreen with SPF 50 is shown to provide 98% protection from UVB rays. Any higher rating hardly provides higher protection. It is better to buy SPF 50 and keep applying it every few hours for maximum protection.

Ingredients and method: Our own recipe contains 1 cup of coconut oil, 20 drops of any essential oil and 4 tablespoons of beeswax mixed with 1 cup of distilled water to create the lotion base. I melt coconut oil and beeswax together in a double boiler. Once it has melted, I blend it in a food processor. I add water little by little until it emulsifies. Then I scrape the sides. To this, I add zinc oxide powder and 20 drops of essential oil.  I blend it until all the ingredients are uniformly mixed.

This recipe was experimented and tested more than the other products. Our founder, Arjun,  used this on his Pin Bhaba trek and he swears by it.

Organic Deodorant

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Why shouldn’t buy commercial deodrants: Without much of a preamble, I am going to tell you that Parabens in deodorants closely mimic Oestrogen and have been shown to disrupt your hormones. Triclosan, a common anti-bacterial agent has been banned by FDA to avoid the risk of antibiotic resistance and hormonal imbalance.

So how do we avoid being Pepe Le Pew the skunk without using the commercial deodorants?

What you need: 3/4 cup non-GMO cornstarch, 1/4 cup baking soda, 4-6 tablespoons melted coconut oil

Method: Again, coconut oil and baking soda come handy. Both of these ingredients have been shown to control the bacterial growth in the armpits, thereby reducing bad odour. Mix 1/4 cup of baking soda, 4-6 tablespoons of coconut oil and a 3/4 cup of non-GMO cornstarch powder.

Melt and mix all the ingredients and store in an air tight container. You can even add few drops of fresh essential oils to it (depending on how you want the scent) and you have a very effective deodorant.

Frankly, I sweat profusely, and this combination with 15 drops of tea tree oil has been the most effective deodorant for me.

Antibacterial Soaps/Sanitizers

antibac-soap-ingredients-chemical free toiletries-indiahikesMaking soap is difficult – so I wouldn’t recommend you make one.

Here is what you shouldn’t be buying: Most commercial sanitizers and antibacterial soaps contain Triclosan. Triclosan has been shown to cause a myriad of problems from disrupting thyroid to creating antibiotic resistance. Not just that, adding Triclosan has been shown to provide no added benefit to everyday soap and water. FDA has only just banned Triclosan from all soaps and sanitizers.

So when choosing a soap, a basic one would do. Study the ingredients and make sure to avoid the ones that claim to destroy 99.9% bacteria. Baking soda/vinegar/lime does a wonderful job of cleaning your hands without any side-effects.

For hand sanitiser, you can buy alcohol-based sanitiser instead of Triclosan based sanitiser.

Embrace the change

It is hard to change your usual toiletries that you are absolutely used to.  You might not see immediate effects of your commercial toiletries on a daily basis. However, your body and wallet will thank you for making the switch to milder and effective natural alternatives.

Chemical free toiletries-Indiahikes
My first every trek with Indiahikes: Kashmir Great Lakes.

We all go to the mountains to bring our lives back to its basics. Trekking strips you down to the most simple form of living. In keeping with that spirit, the alternatives I have suggested are not only good for detoxing your body but also good for the environment. If you choose to adopt it as a lifestyle choice, I’d say Green Trails is achieving what it has set out to do. We couldn’t be happier.

Additional resources

I have compiled a list of additional resources for you to go through. Have a look!

> Take a toxic tour of your bathroom.
> ‘Dirty dozen’ cosmetic chemicals to avoid.
> What you need to know about toxics in your cosmetic products. 

 

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Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran

Lakshmi Selvakumaran is the Green Trails Coordinator at Indiahikes. She holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering. She's currently working towards making trekking a more sustainable sport by bringing in fresh innovations and ideas that leave no carbon footprint in the mountains.

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