Everybody does certain things for no particular reason—sometimes to show off just a little, sometimes to test our limits a bit, and sometimes for the Everest-scaling excuse “Because it’s there.” Some of the things we do with the latter brand of casual offhandedness might, of course, be far better thought through, given that the utterer of that famous phrase died on the mountain and his body wasn’t even found until about 75 years later. But I’ll grant you that sometimes, too, a seemingly aimless act can lead to more useful ends.
As a person seriously devoted to both comfort and safety, I am more than content to leave any because-I-can acts of physical or psychological derring-do to anyone who wishes to live on the edge. I like my secure and restful life, thankyouverymuch, most especially the life part of it. But I’m willing, on occasion, to do small and non-dangerous experiments, if they seem to offer any interesting byproducts of use or entertainment.
Like making home-mixed shampoo, skin lotion, and toothpaste.
Sorry, if you were hoping for something really exciting! My inner life of fantasy has all of the elements of danger that I have the slightest interest in experiencing. But my day-to-day life and its practical requirements offer plenty of areas for potential improvement. If I can make my chores simpler, my needs smaller, the products I use slightly less expensive or toxic or complicated, and any other kinds of fixes that seem likely to make daily living pleasanter in any way, I’m generally glad to make the attempt at some point.
I don’t like most perfumed products. Nature gives me lots of wonderful smelling stuff to enjoy without my wanting to complicate those scents with artificial add-ons, so I’m more likely to buy an unscented, hypoallergenic version of any product if I can, and just enjoy the benefits of some of my favorite real-life ‘byproduct perfumes’: coffee brewing, freshly cut alfalfa hay, wet sidewalks after a long-awaited rain, a sleepy baby’s milky breath, sun-heated cedars and Douglas-fir trees, yeasty cardamom bread coming out of the oven. Flowers bursting into bloom in the garden. Salt spray at the shore. Spiced cider steeping on a cold night. Maybe it’s because I just recovered from a two-week cold, saw my poor spouse go through his own afterward, and woke up stuffy-headed again this morning, but the idea of all of those very lovely perfumes is the more alluring without thinking of their being masked by any artificial ones.
Then again, not only do I like to be clean both in my home and my person, there are some scents that do enhance my sense of cleanliness and good health in their ways, so I am not averse to adding those that I like, in the quantities I find appealing, to home-brewed stuff of personal- and home-care when I do make them.
My shampoo is almost always the all-purpose blend of a very plain liquid hand soap like Ivory (one could also use a similarly simple, if slightly more expensive, liquid Castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s) with nothing more complicated than tea tree and peppermint oils added in for their refreshing and slightly antimicrobial/antiviral qualities. The plain, oil-free soap is good for nearly any sort of (personal or house) cleaning that doesn’t require scrubbing, and with the oils it’s sufficient for my showering or bathing and hair care, no creme rinse needed. I don’t invest in any special skin treatments beyond the same home-mixed blend of skin moisturizer I’ve used on my face since my eccentric old dermatologist gave me his “recipe” of one part oil-free, hypoallergenic skin cleansing lotion + 1 part oil-free, hypoallergenic skin moisturizer + 1-2 parts water to use daily about 35 years ago. I have far better skin now than I did back then, so I guess it still works just fine.
The toothpaste-making is a work in progress, but I’m generally happy with that little science project as well. I have excellent teeth to begin with, so I wouldn’t recommend everyone jumping into fiddling with homemade toothpaste without consulting your dentist first, but these are also pretty standard toothpaste ingredients, so I’m not especially fearful of ruining my pretty white choppers. The blend at the moment is 1 cup baking soda (very mildly abrasive, and has some ability to remove or lessen stains and freshen breath—not, mind you, baking powder, unless you’re intending to bake your teeth into some sort of snack food) +1 cup coconut oil (melted for blending) + 1/2 cup powdered xylitol (the sugar alcohol sweetener, currently thought to be a cavity-fighter when used in moderation) + 2-3 Tbsp peppermint extract (flavor and breath freshening) + 2 drops blue food coloring. The latter is primarily to remind me that it’s toothpaste, since it’s just stored in a 2-cup jar in the medicine cabinet at the moment and I am, after all, occasionally forgetful. I might try the addition of a little Bentonite clay for better light abrasion, but didn’t have any on hand.
Let me just add that this little project is not my attempt to avoid fluoride. You are all free to choose to use it or not, but I am delighted that my first dentist happened to be among the first adopters of dental fluoridation and my home water district among the first adopters of fluoridated water. I have as near to perfect teeth as any 50-something I know, along with my three siblings, and our parents had typical earlier-generation rates of cavities and other dental problems; my dentists since then have agreed that early and consistent application of fluoride is very probably a significant contributing factor in this one-generation upgrade on general oral health. I don’t doubt that there are potential problems with overexposure or tradeoffs in other areas of health and well-being, and yet I wouldn’t trade any of those for a set of strong, healthy teeth with no caps, fillings, or other major interventions having been necessary, never mind growing up without fear of dentists and their tools. That’s my story. But I’m dubious that the occasional batch of homemade toothpaste without fluoride, at this point in my life, is going to threaten my dental magnificence. If my dentist tells me otherwise, I’ll switch back without a fuss. I’d hardly risk my teeth any more than I would life and limb for a little experiment.