CultureHealth

For the holidays, I decided to give my mom a “spa package.” I made her some natural lotions, natural sugar scrubs and got her gift certificates for a mani/pedi and facial (I tried making natural soaps, too, but that was a major fail). While making the lotions and sugar scrubs, I realized just how simple they really were, and I decided to make them for all of my family members and friends.

If you need a super last minute gift idea, or plan on giving friends gifts after the holidays, this is a great one. If not, this is still a simple, fantastic sugar scrub recipe that will leave your skin soft, smooth, hydrated and smelling delicious. It takes about three minutes, two everyday ingredients that I guarantee you already have (if you have a kitchen) and a container, like a mason jar, for storage.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Small mason jars (I found some cute 4 oz. ones at a craft store. You’ll want a fairly small size, because this scrub contains no preservatives and should be used within two months)
  • ½ cup sugar (white or brown)
  • ¼ cup oil (olive, almond and coconut are great options)
  • Optional: essential oils of your choice (I used lavender, rose and peppermint essential oils in different batches)

All you need to do is add the sugar, oil and about 15-20 drops essential oils into a bowl and mix until the sugar is completely coated. Then scoop it into a jar and you’re done! Add a cute label or tie some twine around it for effect.

You can also add different herbs or spices – I added ground cinnamon into my peppermint batch and thyme leaves to one of my lavender batches. Raw natural honey is a wonderful addition, too, as it’s great for softening skin.

A few things to note – be sure you choose a natural, organic oil, or else you’re thwarting your whole natural, chemical-free plan!

Additionally, should you choose to use coconut oil, most will come in solid form. You will need to melt it to liquid form before mixing. It is quite easy to melt – you can scoop it into a glass jar or container and put the container in a pot of simmering water until it melts. You could also use a double boiler or microwave it, although I prefer the glass jar method. It only takes a few minutes at most.

Finally, if you don’t want your coconut oil to smell like its strong coconutty self, be sure to buy refined coconut oil. It’s still natural coconut oil, and I prefer it in natural products because of its scentless-ness.

I used olive oil for mine and the olive oil scent is easily masked by the essential oils!  Olive is a great oil to use in natural products because its smell is light and often undetectable, even when not mixed with essential oils.

I hope you love this sugar scrub! What natural products or homemade gifts do you like making?

Image: Debra

CultureSkills

It’s the time of year where silver and gold are soon to be decking the halls, and while decorating for the season brings nothing but smiles, the decorations can get a little pricey! There are some great DIY ideas to bring the holiday spirit into your home without breaking the budget.

1. Table Décor

Grab some old bottles or jars and cover the outside of them with some holiday paper. Use a contrasting color to write words such as “Joy” or “Noel” with one letter on each bottle! A paper mache technique works great for these!

2. Favorite Cuddly Snowman

Use a lone, clean white sock to make your favorite frosty friend come to life! Using some clear hair-ties to separate each section of the snowman and some black and orange felt for the buttons, nose, and arms, Frosty will be finished in no time! Add some google-y eyes and you’re all set!

3. Rudolph Candle

Take a candle (preferably of a brown color) and go outside to find some branches to your liking. These will serve as Rudolph’s antlers and can be hot glue gunned to each side of the candle! Grab a red cotton ball to put on the front and voila!

4. Frosty Fridge

Possibly the easiest and most inexpensive of them all would be to make your fridge Frosty inspired! Grab some orange and black construction paper to cut out buttons, eyes, and a nose and tape them onto your fridge! Top it off with some holiday patterned wrapping paper to act as a scarf for your new Christmas friend.

5. Candy Cane Bouquet

This is a simple and adorable center piece for your table: Grab some candy canes, ribbons, and either real or fake flowers. Tie the candy canes around the bouquet of flowers with the ribbon, tie a bow, and you’re done. A cute and polished way to add Christmas joy to your table top!

There are so many ways to add holiday spirit to your home, and with Christmas right around the corner, the decorating has just begun!

How are you DIY decorating this holiday season?

Image: Stephen Nakatani

CultureHealth

Whether you are having guests over for a celebration or hanging out with friends for a cozy night in, it’s great to know some quick and affordable drink recipes. These simple and delicious beverages are great to have and share!

drinks 3

 Cranberry Citrus Punch

Tangerine or Orange slices
Pineapple Juice
Cranberry Juice
Club Soda

Place a few orange slices at the bottom of a champagne glass, then pour equal parts cranberry juice and pineapple juice. Add 2/3 cup of club soda for some fizz!

drinks 2

Apple Cinnamon Tea

1 Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea Bag (Celestial Seasonings Brand used above)
Fresh cut apple
Cinnamon
Condensed Milk

Add a fun treat to this simple tea by spreading some condensed milk onto an apple slice. Use a knife to scratch a design in the center and sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top. The sweetness of the apple slice is delicious against the tartness of the tea!

drinks 1

Chocolate Coffee

Your choice of coffee (Kirkland Pacific Roast featured above)
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Coconut milk
Nutella
Pecans

Brew a cup of coffee and add two heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder. Feel free to go for sweetened cocoa powder if you’d like it extra sweet. Add 1/3 cup of coconut milk. If you prefer a milkier coffee, include creamer and sugar to your liking. Spread Nutella along the rim of your mug and dip the rim into sliced up pecans or nuts of your choice. Coconut flakes or crushed up candy canes would also be great cup toppers.

All the cups and glasses featured in this article have been purchased from a local dollar store. You don’t have to spend a lot to entertain! Cheers to you and yours this holiday season. Happy sipping! 

Images: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

Skills

The season of giving should really be year-round. We often weather storms of stress and worry, but there are certain people that provide us with much needed hope or just the right kind of advice. Showing gratitude is a healthy practice for us all (and doesn’t have to be expensive either). Here are four thank you gift ideas that your wallet will thank you for.

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1. Something Old, Something New & Something To Say Thank You

Write this out on a tag so that your celebrant knows exactly what this gift package contains. The simple rhyme is easy to follow and adds a fun touch while the mix of gifts allows you to spend your money carefully.

Here’s what I did for a best friend:

Something Old– A tattered copy of her favorite book (since she’s been wanting one to travel with)
Something New– A silver necklace
Something to Say Thank You– A handwritten note of gratitude chock-full of inside jokes

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2. Teas & Thank You

Clever titles will make any gift better. I re-used an empty jewelry box as a peek-a-boo type package and some string to keep the tea packets together. Add a nice mug and a thank you letter and your recipient is ready to steep in gratitude! This is a great option for professional settings at work or school.

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3. Jars of Light

Show appreciation for those guardians in your life. Wrap yarn around a clean jar and tie the ends snugly. Hot glue can also help keep the ends of the yarn attached to the glass. Red, orange, and yellow yarn created this gradient look. Place a small candle inside and attach a note to your homemade lantern.

Here are a few suggestions for those warm words:

“You have been a light for me lately. Thank you.”
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames. –Rumi”

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4. Framed Quote Art

Dollar stores and thrift stores have very affordable and eclectic frames. Grab two complementary frames and insert a quote and a picture. Song lyrics are another great option for quotes paired with a mix CD (remember those?). These decorative gifts are semi-homemade but 100% thoughtful.

Let’s consistently remember and recognize those around us who make our day-to-day easier. Simple acts of kindness can speak volumes, so let your appreciation be heard by those who matter most.

How do you say thank you?

Images: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

Culture

As children, we love Halloween for the candy. As we grow up, the candy is still nice, but celebrating is about the costumes and the parties. Part of the fun of the holiday is the ability to dress up and step outside of yourself for a day. The type of costumes we wear have a way of changing as we get older. Do we wear the costume that reflects us or do we wear the popular costume? For girls in particular, the popular costume has become synonymous with the sexy costume. We live in an age where the popular costume comes with drawbacks.

The change in our costumes seems to represent an unspoken cultural shift. On Saturday Night Live‘s Halloween episode this year, they parodied a Halloween store commercial. They claimed to have “sexy Hunger Games costumes” including “Sexy Katniss Everdeen,” “Sexy Her Sister,” and more. Though there were a lot of jokes in this sketch, this one stuck out to me because it plays on the idea that every popular costume needs to be sexy. No one ever said that all young women should be dressing sexy for a holiday, but it is expected anyway. Likewise, I don’t think anyone says they want to be a sexy version of something on Halloween, but you kind of expect that is what a girl’s costume will be.

I personally have worn both types of costumes, but I started out with a more innocent one. I have always had long dark hair so I looked for a costume that could accentuate that. One year, I ended up going as Samara from The Ring. While I bought makeup from a Halloween store, most of my costume was an outfit that I put together myself. I loved the costume. I put a lot of work into it. I wore it freshmen year of high school and by senior year, people I didn’t even know still remembered that costume. I still have pictures of the costume and remember it fondly.

A few years later, I wore the “sexy” army girl costume. I wore it in a theme with my friends, and it was fun to coordinate costumes with them. I was legally an adult by the time I wore it but I was still living at home. The main downside of wearing the costume was walking past my parents as I left the house. I don’t know if I would have been allowed to wear that kind of costume before I was an adult. Regardless, it felt odd for them to see me like that. Another issue was that I got cold when I went out at night. Going out and being seen is the point of the costume. They are good outfits to look at but not very practical. All that said, it was a costume that I wore only one night. My costume choice did not have any long term effects on me. So, what’s the real problem?

I think the problem with the sexy costumes is about how we have accepted this role for women. There does not seem to be a male equivalent to the sexy costume. Nor is there any expectation for men to wear any particular kind of costume. In fact, the pictures on costume packaging suggest men wear clothes under their costumes. This makes the idea that women have to be sexy all the time all the more strange. As I mentioned, I made my costume when I went as Samara from The Ring. I bought my costume when I became sexy army girl. When I went shopping for a costume this year, there were two sexy women costumes for every regular one. It’s not impossible to find costumes that don’t show much skin, but the point is that this task should not be that hard. We have somehow accepted this to the point where it has become a trend. If you’re not in a couple’s costume, it’s as if you are advertising. Can you be called a tease for wearing these costumes or are you just a shopper? At what age are you pressured to go from bunny to sexy bunny? No one pays attention to this trend and that is what makes it dangerous.

In the end, the choice of how you celebrate Halloween is up to you. It’s a holiday! It should be fun. I don’t think you should worry about someone “slut shaming” you because you picked a certain costume. I do think a problem exists when the costume makes you feel bad when you are wearing it. There is a double standard in the way these costumes are marketed. If you are feeding into this by wearing a costume, you should think about how that makes you feel before you make a final purchase. Maybe you could embrace your creative side and make something all your own.

Culture

Halloween is right around the corner, and with that comes the stress of figuring out what disguise you’ll be wearing for the night! As a college student, you’ll likely find the need to have more than one costume at hand. Here is a list of simple, unique, and money-saving costume ideas to help you this holiday season!

1. Nail Polish

We all have a love-hate relationship with painting our nails, so why not make your costume a tribute? This costume idea is simple and can involve yourself or a group of your friends! All that is needed is a solid colored dress and white duct tape to be used to spell out the name brand “Essie” along the side. If you want to spend a little more money, feel free to invest in a white hat to act as a cap! Another cute addition to this outfit is putting a strip of duct tape towards the top of your dress with a flirty and corny nail polish name (because we all know those are our favorite thing) such as “Plum Play With Me” or “Teal Me Your Secrets”!

2. Sesame Street

Why not give a tribute to your childhood and go down memory-lane this Halloween? Gather your best friend and do a Cookie Monster and Elmo duo with the simple purchase of snapbacks dedicated to the characters as well as a few small temporary tattoos to adorn your cheeks! Pair with a black top and blue or red skirt and some black knee-high socks with Converse to complete the look!

 3. Gumball Machine

We all have a sweet-tooth especially around this time of year! Pick up an inexpensive shirt at the store and glue colored pompoms to it with all-purpose glue. Pair this with a red skirt and you’re sure to be a sweet treat!

 4. Valentine’s

Another simple costume idea involving a simple or solid colored dress is to be a valentine! Use colored paper to cute out a heart and write a phrase such as “Be Mine,” “Text Me,” or “Melt My Heart.” Attach it to a piece of yarn and wear it as a necklace to be coordinating with your friends!

 5. Retro

Everyone loves a throwback, and the easiest way to do this is to grab an old boa from your childhood dress-up wardrobe with a simple dress and bold lipstick! Top it off with some winged liner and you’ll be throwing it back to Gatsby!

Have fun, be creative, and enjoy the Halloween spirit in the air (and don’t forget to scare a friend while you’re at it)!

Image: Lenore Edman

CultureSkills

Before Macklemore made it cool, hipsters used to roam the empty aisles of local thrift shops, handpicking hidden wardrobe gems as the occasional indie tumbleweed rolled by. Fast forward a few years and a catchy chorus, and everyone wants to be a thrifter.

This new trend is really fantastic, because it means: less waste, less sweatshop labor, support for local non-profits and, of course, killer jumpsuits, sweaters, hats, and bowling shirts galore. Self-expression rocks.

Of course, with so many new thrifters on the block, finding those coveted diamonds in the rough has gotten more difficult, and prices have even gone up.

That’s why I’m here to share some tips that will have you poppin’ tags and takin’ names.

1. Patience, friends.

Sometimes you’ll have to search high and low before you find something you want. Other times, nothing will call your name. It’s ok to go home empty handed. Collecting as you go will allow you to slowly build up a collection or wardrobe of items you love.

2. Be willing to get dirty.

If you really want to find something worth writing home about, sometimes you have to go the extra mile. Sift through the entire wall art section; dig through the book bins and clothing piles. I know, it can be a battlefield in there sometimes, but stick it out and you might go home a very happy camper.

P.S. dress comfy and even consider wearing close-toed shoes if you’re heading to a massively popular store on restock day.

3. Research first.

Many thrift shops have great clearance events; call ahead to see if any are coming up. Additionally, ask what days the shop generally restocks its selections. Show up on those days! Be warned, they’ll get hectic at good thrift shops (see item #2).

4. Pay attention to the tags.

Many thrift shops have tiered pricing, meaning they will put an item out at one price, and then lower it a bit if it hasn’t been sold in a couple weeks. The price will continue to drop until the item is discarded to a clothing recycler. If you love that funny floor lamp but don’t want to drop $15 this week, check out the dates on the tags or ask someone working how long it has been out and if/when the price will drop. Just be aware – anything you’re not holding or don’t already own is fair game. That lamp may be gone tomorrow. It’s all about making the tough judgment calls.

5. Budget yourself.

A good way to make those judgment calls is to allocate the amount of money you’re willing to spend. Macklemore only goes in with $20 in his pocket. How much are you going to take? I like the cash thing, because it not only eliminates credit card fees, it allows me to control what I spend. Leave the cards at home or in your glove compartment, and walk in with your allotted cash as your only form of currency.

6. Throw out the gender stereotypes.

By this I mean that a large portion – we’re talking at least 60 percent – of my winter wardrobe consists of sweaters from thrift store men’s racks. They’re oversized and awesome. Don’t limit yourself to your gender’s section only. Gender stereotypes belong nowhere in this day and age, and thrift shops are no exception to that rule.

 7. Use your imagination.

Turn old drawer pulls into wall hooks, and key chains into necklaces. Get super DIY. A good way to get imaginative without losing control: when you see something you might want, envision its purpose in your room, wardrobe or wherever you plan to put it. Does it work? Does it serve a purpose of some kind? If no bells ring, don’t buy it.

8. Keep an open mind.

You may find clothes that scream “I’m weird!” But they could also turn out to be the coolest clothes you’ve ever worn. Don’t be closed off to finding things you didn’t expect to want. While shopping for my new apartment, I went to a thrift shop in search of a lamp. I left with a super cool bed. It happens.

It’s great to see thrift shopping growing in popularity, and it’s even better to see people rocking outfits that match their own individual styles. It’s also an incredible way to save money on clothes that you’ll be able to spend on other experiences. All in all, good things come from thrifting. Do you have any thrifting tips?

Image: Sabrina Dan Photo

Health

The feeling that comes with knowing your laundry, kitchen, and bathroom are clean is something like intense joy. We often judge this cleanliness by what we smell: the smell of disinfectant. Bleach. Soap. Strangely tropical flowery fragrances that would never actually be in our apartments naturally.

What these smells actually tell us, though, is that we have replaced dirt and germs with chemicals and artificial substances. Replacing bacteria with these agents is sort of like replacing a stomachache with a headache – the unpleasantness is still there, just in a different form. We clean our little living spaces with chemicals that are unsafe to even inhale. What is up with that?

I’m not dissing our love of freshly cleaned chemical smell. I love it, too. I am saying, though, that there are some natural cleaning agents that actually get the job done better, and much more safely, than the commercial products to which we’ve become so accustomed.

Below are five natural cleaning products to replace commercial cleaners:

Task: laundry
Natural solution: soap nuts

I’m sorry, what? Soap nuts? That’s the reaction I often get to this.

Soap nuts, native to India and Nepal, are these little round berry things that grow on trees and do a fantastic cleaning job by releasing natural saponins to free dirt, oils, and stains from clothing. They are unscented and wonderful for those of us with sensitive skin and allergies. In fact, they’re used in Ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for eczema and psoriasis.

Not only that, but they clean incredibly well. I spilled red curry all over a new white shirt. In a moment of pure stupidity, I didn’t wash the shirt right away, leaving it to bask in all its curry-stained glory for two days. I felt defeated when I finally put it in the wash. To my surprise, it looked good as new after I took it out.

What you do is place around five soapnuts in a reusable muslin bag (which typically comes with the order) and place them in the washing machine. It’s not unsafe to put them in the dryer, but I prefer not to do that. The soap nuts can be reused for about five washes.

The best part? Soap nuts are completely non-toxic and can be composted when done, and they are pretty darn inexpensive. I love them, and order mine here, although Amazon and plenty of great retailers also carry them.

Task: dishes (in the dishwasher)
Natural solution: white vinegar

I know, I know. It sounds strange. But, if you want your dishes to actually be stain free and deep-cleaned, I’m telling you, this is how. Just put white vinegar in the dish soap slot and run the dishwasher. That’s it. They will be sparkling when they’re done, and the vinegar smell isn’t apparent when used in the dishwasher.

Task: quickly remove a stain from clothing or carpet
Natural solution: Dr. Bronner’s castile soap and water

I can’t tell you if it’s ok to use on fabrics that require dry cleaning – I’m going to assume it’s not. I can tell you that last time I spilled hot sauce down my cotton shirt (I’m messy, ok?) I put water and a little dab of Dr. Bronner’s almond castile soap on a tissue and wiped away the stain. It went away completely after wiping for around 20 seconds each with three damp/soapy tissues. It probably would have been quicker had I used a washcloth, but that would have made too much sense.

Castile soap is good to have around the house, too, as it has many uses, including washing dishes in the sink, as an ingredient in natural body washes and shampoos, and to hand wash delicate fabrics.

Task: maintain shower cleanliness
Natural solution: apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar in a spray bottle makes a great everyday shower cleaning spray. I also like to add a few drops of lavender oil to remove the vinegar smell. You can use this as a quick toilet bowl cleaner, too, by spraying and letting it sit, or using a toilet brush. Add coconut oil, too, and lemon or lime juice for an extra cleaning kick.

Task: use an all-purpose cleaner in the bathroom and/or kitchen
Natural solution: coconut oil

Coconut oil is magical and life-changing. It has hundreds of fantastic uses, and it’s incredibly gentle and safe on skin. In fact, I use it as a face wash and body moisturizer every day. Aside from its gentleness, its cleansing properties are incredible.

Dampen a rag or sponge with coconut oil – it can be in liquid or soft form – and wipe down any surface that needs cleaning. The dirt will come right off; it’s amazing to watch.

Pretty amazing, and a little strange, that we can safely and naturally wash our faces with the same product we use to clean our showers, floors and countertops.

I hope these cleaning products help you replace the dangerous, nasty chemicals currently under your kitchen and bathroom sinks! I swear by each of them and have found success using them to keep my apartment clean. They’re great for dorms, too, because we all know those little rooms can get dirty. Happy cleaning!

Do you use any natural ingredients in cleaners? Share below!

Image: Umberto Salvignan

Health

There are many methods to avoiding the harmful chemicals found in commercial shampoos. Many people do the no-poo method, and others go for the clay washes. Since I hold a 9-6pm corporate job, I’m not in the position to experience the two-week no-poo transition phase, in which my hair would be a massive grease ball. Plus, after some research, I realized clay would be a no-go because it’s just difficult to find all the ingredients.

So, I went with plan C, which was… figure out what other random things can clean hair and make a concoction.

Luckily, I found some great information and recipes using ingredients ranging from coconut milk to castor oil to honey. Very interesting.

I decided to do a little remix to a recipe I found on Wellness Mama’s blog, using some ingredients I already owned:

1/4 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup Dr. Bronner’s almond scented liquid castile soap
1/2 tsp olive oil
1 tsp coconut oil
6-8 drops lavender oil

Shake and enjoy! Because of the coconut milk, this will last for about a month, which is why making small quantities at a time is key. One thing I’ve found is that the shampoo is a very thin consistency, but all it takes is about a teaspoon. Once that small amount is on my hair and I start lathering, it gets foamy and covers my whole head.

This is a great natural alternative for those who love the foaming aspect of shampoos (most shampoos foam because of chemical agents). The clay method doesn’t foam, and neither do many other recipes.

This shampoo works really well for me. I underwent a short transition period during which my hair was ridding itself of the chemicals other shampoos had built up, but it was only noticeable to me when I felt my hair. It didn’t look strange or dirty; it just felt a less soft than usual.

Some people experience no transition, others experience a more noticeable one if their hair has seen a ton of product. Once the transition ends, though, your hair will be shiny, soft and all-natural!

Ever washed your hair with uncommon ingredients, or done the no-poo method? Share it in the comments section!

P.S. Check out my DIY Natural Body Wash and DIY Natural Face Wash recipes.

HealthSkills

Last week I shared my natural face wash recipe. This week, I’m sharing my body wash recipe, which also includes several essential oils.

If you haven’t read my last article, you may be wondering why on this green earth I would use oil to wash my face and body. To sum it up in a nutshell, most of our facial and body cleansers contain harsh, even dangerous, chemicals, including industrial cleaning agents and ingredients in antifreeze. To top it off, many natural and essential oils contain antibacterial and cleansing properties.

It sort of blew my mind and got me freaking out about what I’d been putting on my skin all these years. So, I did some research on natural stuff, and now here I am, with some chemical-free and deliciously scented face and body washes that I made myself. They work wonders.

So here’s the recipe, which includes the incredible and inexpensive coconut oil that comprises the majority of my face wash. As with the face wash recipes, the possibilities are endless here. Essential oils and castile soaps do wonderful cleaning jobs, they’re not harsh on the skin and they don’t send chemicals down the drain into our water.

The Recipe

1 cup castile soap – inexpensive, health foods stores
3 drops rose oil – pricey, health foods stores
3 tsp coconut oil – inexpensive, grocery or health foods stores
5 drops lavender oil – somewhat pricey, health foods stores

Note: while some of the oils I use are pricey (close to $20 for a small jar), they last a long time. Most recipes call for only a few drops of each, as a little goes a long way. Plus, the oils can be used for all kinds of health purposes. They’re a good investment.

Soap-wise, I chose Dr. Bronner’s organic almond liquid castile soap. It smells de-lish but not too strong. Like I did for my face wash, I used a mason jar, but feel free to use any type of bottle or container.

Be sure to shake it up before use, every time! Otherwise, the oils will sit on top and not mix in with the soap.

Other than that, just put it on a washcloth and use it the way you’d use regular body wash! Scrub and rinse.

For extra moisturizing and cleansing, you can rub coconut or another type of essential oil on your skin when finished. I’d recommend coconut oil just because it’s so much cheaper than your typical essential oils, plus it smells awesome and works wonders. You can wipe it off or leave a light layer if it’s comfortable for you, although leaving it on all day feels a little weird in my opinion.

I hope you find my recipe beneficial, but feel free to find the scents that work best for you! Research can let you know the best ingredients for dry skin, oily skin, and normal skin.

Anyone have other recipes for natural body washes? Share below!

Image: Annouk, Flickr

Health

I wash my face with oil. I get some funny looks when I tell people this, but I personally think it makes more sense than telling people I wash my face with chemicals. Not only that, but my skin glows. It’s super clear, feels like a baby face and smells like a coconut! Does it get any better than that?! I’ve tossed all my store-bought face washes because I no longer feel the need to scrub my face with chemicals, alcohols, and other industrial cleaning products of unknown origins.

I became interested in using oil cleansing face wash when I was at the grocery store, reading labels on cosmetics marketed as “organic” and “natural.” I’m sorry, but can someone explain to me what is natural about Disodium Laureth-3 Sulfosuccinate and Cocamidopropyl betaine?

After some research, I found that many(probably the majority of) commercial face wash products contain chemicals like those found in antifreeze (propylene glycol – a skin irritant that can lead to liver and kidney damage) and crude oil (mineral oil – inaccurately named and classified by the World Health Organization in the most harmful group of carcinogens). Trust me – that’s only the very beginning.

These chemicals are so harsh on our pretty little faces that they can cause reactions, including dry skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis. Their short-term benefits are derived from industrial cleaning agents. Imagine washing your face with Clorox wipes.

That research was enough to make my skin crawl. Being a slight mother nature weirdo, this discovery was all the motivation I needed to switch cleansing methods, pronto.Weirdo or not, though, the benefits that come with natural oil washes and the health/beauty dangers that come with commercial ones make the option seem like a no-brainer.

I started my switch by simply Googling “natural face wash.” What I found was unbelievable. I realized that most stripped-down face washes I could buy still contain at least some kind of long-named chemical, but that I could make my own using only a few ingredients, namely, essential oils.

What?

It seemed so counterintuitive to clean my face by rubbing oil on it, but, like most people my age, I decided to blindly trust the Internet. I settled on a simple recipe that wouldn’t require me to purchase too many oils (being real here, I have almost no disposable income). I also didn’t want anything too complicated for my first try.

The Recipe

Here’s what you’ll need, if you want to try the recipe I use:

Coconut oil (1 tablespoon) – very cheap, grocery or health foods store
Tea tree oil (3 drops) – average, health foods store
Lavender oil (2 drops) – somewhat pricey, health foods store
[optional]: squeeze of lemon juice for oily skin
[optional]: a couple drops of honey
A bottle or jar with a lid (I used a mason jar to make it cute)

Mix as many “servings” of the recipe as you please into your container. This next step is optional, but you can stick it in the fridge, and it will take on a more lotion-y consistency.

The Method

When using it in either form, simply put some on your fingers and massage it into your face until you feel you’ve covered your whole face, jawline included.

Then, take a washcloth and put it under water that’s as hot as you can stand having on your face. Wring it out and put it over your face for about a minute – this is to “steam” your face and open your pores more so the oil can get in there and do its job.

Next, use a clean washcloth and warm water to wipe the remaining oil from your face. And voila! You’re done!

Other Options

There are endless variations on the recipe, because so many essential oils possess cleansing and antibacterial properties. I read about one girl who uses literally only coconut oil. I read another article listing possible oils to mix, including castor oil, which apparently is a fantastic gentle cleansing oil. I think I’m going to try it in my next recipe.

If you want to get creative with different scents and oils, do a Google (or Bing, I don’t know your life) search on essential oils, determine which ones have cleansing and/or moisturizing properties, and try those in a face wash blend! It’s all about finding the one that works wonders for you.

Results

The results are actually unbelievable. Like I said at the beginning, my skin is clear, soft, and glowing. My pores look smaller, too. I even put on some makeup to test it out, and the oil peeled all of it right off.

Whether you have extremely dry, extremely oily, normal, or acne prone skin, there’s a natural oil face wash out there for you. Best of luck in making the switch! Your skin will thank you.

cat in tub

Any other natural face wash ideas? Share them in the comments section below!

Images: Sharon_K, Flickr; Veganbaking.net, Flickr

Skills

Now that finals are coming to an end, you finally have time to start enjoying the holiday season. You can think about gifts and decorating now that you have a break from all of your schoolwork. As you add people to your gift list and think of ideas for Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, the cost of gifts and celebration plans may start quickly rising. If you are trying to avoid an expensive holiday season, there are many ways you can celebrate on a budget. Don’t let the holidays put you in debt or stress you out in the new year. You can save a bunch of money while having a great time!

1. Determine your budget.
The very first thing you’ll want to do is set a limit on how much you want to spend. You can do this in terms of the total amount you will spend, or based on how much you want to spend per person. Keep in mind, you do not need to buy gifts for every single friend or family member. A heartfelt card is more than enough for those you don’t necessarily want to buy presents for.

Let’s say you set a budget of $75-100 for presents and holiday events. You now have a number to work with, which enables you to allocate your funds appropriately to each person and event on your list. Write down everyone’s names and jot down ideas for gifts, along with a ballpark cost. Having all of the names and costs will help you visualize whether you will be able to stay within budget. If it looks like you are going over budget, adjust your gift ideas or think of something else to give (see below).

2. DIY gifts.
If you’ve ever been on Pinterest, you’ll know that we are becoming a very do-it-yourself world. DIY gifts are not only an inexpensive way to show someone you care, but these types of gifts are often very thoughtful because they take time to make.

DIY gift ideas:

*Knit a scarf
*Make a set of greeting cards to give as a bundle
*Bake cookies
*Write a poem
*Make a picture frame and frame a special photo
*Create a scrapbook of memories
*Make soap or candles
*Make a homemade snowglobe
*Design cork coasters
*Paint wooden utensils
*Make a homemade card with a special handwritten note

3. Experience gifts.
Instead of purchasing or making a gift for someone, take him or her out for an experience gift. Sometimes there’s no better gift than time, and by treating someone to a fun afternoon is a very special present. You may have to pay for tickets or food, but this can be done on a low budget.

Experience gift ideas:
*Take someone out to lunch or to see a movie
*Visit the zoo
*Spend the day at an amusement park
*Walk around your local botanical gardens
*Go ice skating
*Hike in the morning and watch the sunrise
*Bake a cake or cook a meal together

4. Coupon gifts.
If you aren’t interested in purchasing, DIY, or experience gifts, giving coupons might be a unique twist on your usual holiday presents. Many people love favors, and giving a little book of coupons to your Mom, Dad, siblings, or friends will not go unappreciated. All you’ll need is a piece of paper, a pen, scissors, and a stapler. Of course, you can make your coupon book look fancier, but this is a quick, easy, and cheap way to offer something nice to someone. Get creative!

Coupon gift ideas:

*Wash the car, inside and out
*Clean a room for someone
*Pick up the groceries
*Cook dinner
*Wash and fold laundry
*Making the bed every day for a week
*Favor of your choice

5. Limit gifts and spending total.
Before you and your friends or family buy presents for each other, have a discussion about how many presents you will get for one another or about how much you want to spend. 1 present and 1 stocking stuffer is typically a good limit for family, whereas friends can differ based on who you are buying presents for. By being transparent about your budget and limit, you and your family and friends can unload that stress and just concentrate on finding the perfect gift.

6. Make dinner and rent a movie.
When it comes time for the actual celebrations, there is no need to buy a new dress, suit, or shoes to attend a festive party. There are inexpensive (and fun!) ways to spend Christmas Eve or New Years Eve, such as making a home cooked meal and renting a movie. You can even just order pizza and watch a Christmas special. The time spent together with people you like being around is all you really need for the holidays.

7. Host a cookie decorating party.
What better way to get in the holiday spirit than to decorate (and eat) cookies? Spend your days off icing cookies with family and friends. The time will fly when you are rolling dough, listening to holiday tunes, and icing cookies with every color of the rainbow.

8. Volunteer.
Give the gift of time! Volunteer at your local food bank or animal shelter, or make blankets and collect toys. The options are endless and it may just be the best gift you give all season.

9. Secret Santa.
When you and your family or friends decide to do Secret Santa, your costs are seriously cut since you only have to buy one present! Set a maximum limit so that everyone stays within that price range. Get a group of people together, draw names from a (Santa) hat, don’t tell anyone whose name you have, and then purchase a special present that will be exchanged later. It’s so much fun to surprise someone with a funny, novelty gift.