Happiness, the goal to which we all are striving is reached by endeavoring to make the lives of others happy, and if by renouncing the luxuries of life we can lighten the burdens of others…. surely the simplification of our wants is a thing greatly to be desired! And so, if instead of supposing that we must become hermits and dwellers in caves in order to practice simplicity, we set about simplifying our affairs, each according to his own convictions and opportunity, much good will result and the simple life will at once be established.
When I first adopted a vegan/plant based lifestyle I ran out and spent a good chunk of money on bath and beauty products, as well as home cleaning products, today I realize how unnecessary and wrong-minded this was. A big part of my ethics involves trying to use as few “mass produced” and resource wasteful things as possible, as well as trying to support smaller, more ethical (and less packaging-heavy) companies.
Frankly, a bunch of fancy “vegan-specific” products really aren’t required in order to feel clean and fresh and smell amazing, in fact many of the products which are available in fancy vegan packages kind of suck. It’s also cool to realize that almost everything I use to clean my home and my body is safe to eat and routinely used in cooking (aside from the soap of course).
Staples for a Vegan Friendly Body Care Routine:
- Small bottles and jars of assorted sizes (an empty stick deodorant tube is a MAJOR bonus item here)
- Turmeric Powder
- Coconut Oil
- Cocoa Butter
- Sesame Oil
- Doctor Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap (Yes these DO contain palm oil, but it’s ethically sourced, therefor VEGAN)
- Natural Apple Cider Vinegar (I prefer Bragg’s, but use what you like best)
- A good skin brush
- Organic Brown Rice Flour (made by running brown rice through a good blender or processor until it’s a fine powder)
- A toothbrush (I like the type with the replaceable heads)
- Washcloth, bath puff, towels etc
- Essential oils if you’re so inclined.
My entire dental care routine involves dipping a damp toothbrush into a tiny jar of turmeric powder and brushing my teeth with it. It makes my teeth look bright yellow while brushing, but they come out really white, clean and my mouth feels and smells fresh. This is seriously better than any of the commercial pastes or powders I’ve tried (and I’ve been using natural tooth care products for 20+ years because I avoid fluoride and unnecessary chemicals as best I can).
Avoid getting the powder/paste on your sink, counter clothes etc as it will stain them bright yellow. I tend to dip my brush over an old facecloth to contain the powder in a set area.
Some people follow this up with pulling coconut oil, but I’m not yet on the oil pulling bandwagon, and I like to keep things simple.
I tend to avoid getting soaps etc on my face as I have incredibly sensitive skin, so my routine here is simple and straight-forward:
- Pour a small amount of brown rice flour into your hand (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) then moisten it with water until it forms a runny paste and follow by using it to gently exfoliate your skin. Rinse well with water, and pat face dry.
- Moisten a cotton pad with a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water (1 part acv, 3 parts water) and use as an astringent. Allow to sit a few minutes and rinse. I often add a few drops of lavender oil to this because it smells nice, and does good things for your skin.
- I have made my own moisturizer by mixing melted coconut oil (1/2 cup), cocoa butter (1/8 cup) and sesame oil (2 teaspoons) together and whipping them thoroughly with my hand mixer. This is pretty oily at first, but my skin REALLY needs a lot of moisture or it gets irritated by the wind and sun I bike through daily and just sucks it up like a happy little sponge. Pretty much all commercial skin creams irritate my rosacea, this stuff does not. Straight coconut oil, coco-butter or any natural oil will work as a moisturizer, but this is the blend which seems to work best for me. Please, feel free to experiment and find something simple and natural which works with your specific skin type, it’s fun and affordable since all of the ingredients are common food items in a whole foods pantry.
Important Note: For the sake of simplicity I have pre-made all of my soap/water vinegar/water etc mixtures and keep them handy in the bathroom, please keep this in mind when reading my routine, as it sounds much more complex than it really is. In general pre-making everything from cleaning to body care to food items really helps simplify whole-foods living. I also pre-cook batches of beans, grains etc and freeze them into small portion sizes, to save my time and effort, but that’s another post 😉
My hair care routine is super simple:
- Wash hair with diluted Dr.Bronner’s liquid castile soap (4 parts water, 1 part soap) which I store in old agave nectar bottles.
- Rinse hair with 1 part apple cider vinegar mixed with 3 parts water, which I store in another agave nectar bottle.
- I use a couple of vegan hair styling products as I have yet to find really excellent recipes for my own and have unruly wavy hair.
The first two weeks or so that I used this hair care method my hair seemed pretty angry and dry, after the two weeks ended it became incredibly soft and adjusted to the new routine. I believe this was just the pure soap and vinegar stripping off all of those years of build up. My hair is much healthier and has been growing in thicker during the year or so in which I’ve been treating it with this simple routine.
- I am a big fan of skin brushing and here’s a good tutorial on how to do it if it seems appealing to you: Dry Brushing. I usually brush my skin prior to bathing or showering. It makes me feel good and although I don’t necessarily agree with all of the claims about it, I enjoy doing it and my skin is really soft and glows after my shower if I’ve done it.
- I wash my entire body with the same Dr.Bronner’s solution I describe in my hair care routine. If you try this – avoid getting the peppermint version on your “naughty bits” as it gets pretty tingly (not painful, just weird).
- If I need to moisturize after bathing I usually use some sesame oil or whatever other clean simple oil I have kicking around.
- I’ve found most commercial deodorants to be way too harsh, or not very effective (yes, this includes the deodorant stone) and so I’ve made my own by melting coconut oil down, throwing in a few tablespoons of baking powder, mixing well, adding a few drops of lavender oil, and pouring it into an empty stick deodorant tube and allowing it to harden. It works like a charm for me although it is a tiny bit soft, so I usually need to wipe the (small amount of) excess off before I dress.
- I usually apply my favourite essential oils after my bathing routine. Right now pink grapefruit, sweet orange and cardamom are my favourites.
So yeah, you don’t need a ton of heavily packaged, cruelty-based, and environmentally destructive stuff in order to be clean and smell awesome in your day to day life. This may sound like a lot of effort, but really you’re just mixing a few things together and throwing them into containers. I generally only need to refill my containers every few months, other than my skin cream, which lasts ages if you make this much (I store the extra in my fridge, along side the extra deodorant stick I make ahead).
I try to pair this simple routine with good clean whole foods, lots of bike riding (I’m a commuter cyclist), tons of drinking water, pilates, TRX and a regular reading and meditation routine. This is all working for me and bit by bit I’m returning to the perfect balance which we’re all born with. It’s really nice to take an active role in my own health, and to know that I’m not lining a bunch of corporate pockets which aren’t worthy of my hard-earned money.