Sunday, December 9, 2012

DIY: Perfume...

I have a confession to make. I used to be a fragrance junkie. Yeah, that’s right I was a perfume addict. I used to have a shelf full of bottles of the stuff, all different brands, and scents, the majority of them expensive. I wore it everyday and I loved it. Then I woke up to the fact that I was paying for a lot more then a pretty scent in all those pretty little glass bottles. Virtually all perfumes contain synthetic compounds and toxic chemicals. We’re talking endocrine disrupters, phthalates, parabens, hormone disrupters. These toxins in your favorite designer fragrances can cause anything from migraines and headaches to allergic reaction, allergy development, asthma, cancer and more. Once I got wise to this, the perfumes I once loved so dearly began smelling a little less sweet. Though it did take me a little time to kick the habit completely. You know how it is, some things you can quite cold potato while others take a bit more effort. For me, junking the perfume habit was all about trial and error. Meaning - if I wasn’t going to use perfume to smell good anymore what was I going to do? And how was it going to work? Figuring that kind of stuff out takes time, and can only be done by experimentation, so that’s what I did.

Last Christmas I was given Kim Barnouin’s book “Skinny Bitch: Home Beauty and Style” by my good friend J, which I promptly began reading after the festivities were over. There is a section in the book about perfume which was my first awakening to the dangers of store-bought fragrance. Of course, for some people when it comes to certain things more then one awakening is needed, so I didn’t give up perfume right away. I kept on with it, but the seed had been planted, and eventually I began doing my own research into why perfume was so bad. By the time I was finished I realized that if I truly cared about my body, my health, the environment, and the animals I couldn’t in good conscience continue to wear perfume. So I pledged right then and there not to buy any new perfume, and I began my search for safe, healthful, cruelty-free, and sustainable alternatives. Unfortunately as I came to realize very quickly not too many of those exist in the world, and of the few companies out there who are producing safe, cruelty-free, environmentally friendly fragrances I realized by looking at the ingredients that I could easily do the same thing at home for a fraction of the cost. It would just take a little bit of study, some creativity, and good old trial and error.

As far as I’m concerned good quality essential oils are the way to go. They may seem expensive at first when you see that most of them only come in a quantity of one or two ounces, but these oils are super concentrated and highly potent so a little really does go a long way. It’s been maybe ten months since I bought my very first bottle of essential oil and I haven’t had to replace a single one yet. When you take into consideration that I use these oils for more then just my own homemade perfume, you see that you actually get a lot of bang for your buck. However just because you start buying essential oils instead of commercial fragrances doesn't mean you can stop being a savvy consumer. You still need to read the labels to ensure that the essential oils you're buying are the real deal. Too many cheap oils are out there for sale, full of synthetic chemicals. What you want to look for is oils that are organic, 100% pure essential oil, have no synthetics, and also ones that are ethically wildcrafted. Don't automatically go for the cheapest oils you can find, but keep in mind that you don't have to break the bank for good quality either. Shop smart, keep savvy.

Now I’ll admit that in the beginning it took a little getting used to. Since homemade perfumes using essential oils are made by blending essential oils with a carrier oil - such as jojoba, almond, avocado, borage, primrose, apricot kernel etc.. - it can leave you feeling a little greasy or oily afterwards. Whereas perfume sprays on, dries and you forget it’s even there. So at first I wasn’t used to that sensation of ‘feeling’ the perfume on my skin, it was a bit odd, and annoying, and I felt slick. So I began using a little less, and making sure I rubbed it in well, and over time - not very long really - I stopped noticing it. I adapted, and I love the scents that I create so much that I would never even consider going back to toxin laden perfume. It’s great to have absolute control over what you’re putting into and onto your body, and with the wealth of beautiful essential oils out there your scent combinations and fragrance options are virtually endless. Plus I feel much cleaner using homemade perfume, I don’t sneeze after I apply it, or get random headaches, and I can breath easier. In fact breathing easier is the most amazing thing. You know that old saying that some people don’t know their sick until they’re actually healthy? Well it’s kind of like that. I didn’t know I had a sensitivity to artificial scents until I stopped using them. Now I can barely stand to be around people who are wearing perfume, they could be standing five to ten feet away from me and I start feeling a headache come on, my nose tickles, and my throat constricts. Walking through a department store these days is absolute murder, lucky for me I rarely find myself in department stores.

When it comes to DIY perfume my favorite carrier oil to use is Almond Oil, which is good for sensitive skin like mine. Though you can use any good carrier oil that suits your fancy and your skin type. While my favorite essential oils to use for fragrance include - but are not limited to - peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, white thyme, lemongrass, citronella, and ylang ylang, depending on my mood. Since pledging at the beginning of the year not to buy any new perfume my supply of commercial store-bought fragrance has diminished to one half-full bottle of Calvin Klein’s Euphoria. This was previously my favorite fragrance in the world, and now all I see when I look at it is toxic waste. Still I can’t bring myself to throw away a perfectly ‘good’ half bottle of perfume, and yet I can’t bring myself to put it onto my skin either. Perhaps I’ll keep it as a reminder of why I don’t want that sort of thing in my life anymore.

One other interesting thing I’ve realized in this trial and error of making my own perfume is that perfume truly serves no purpose. It’s entirely unnecessary. As much as I love my own homemade stuff I don’t wear it everyday. I typically only wear it to work, or if my husband and I are going out somewhere nice, or if I’m in need of a little mood elevation - because essential oils are great for this too! The rest of the time I don’t wear any fragrance, and I’m perfectly okay with that. Our society has conditioned us into believing that to be desirable we need to constantly smell of something other then ourselves, and this is utter nonsense. We have some how been bamboozled into thinking that our own natural scents are offensive or unflattering and this is simply not the case. The moment you truly realize this you will be set free, and you will never again seek out the wisdom of corporations to try and determine how you should and shouldn’t smell.

So give essential oils a try and see how you like them, but of course don’t take only my word for it. Do the research yourself and see. If you’re interested in more information the Environmental Working Group did a study testing 17 top name brand perfumes. In the end they found that each product had at least 14 secret chemicals that weren’t listed on the packaging because of the ‘trade secret’ laws. A total of 38 secret chemicals were found among all seventeen brands.  A dozen of these chemicals were hormone disrupters, with an average of four hormone disrupting chemicals per product. Ten of the ingredient in each product could cause allergies to develop or cause allergic reaction. But the worst part is that the EWG found that roughly 91% of the ingredients in each producing including those on the label and those not included in the label had not been tested for human safety. You see like various other industries The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) is self-regulating, which means they can test their own products for safety and then hand over their reports, but no governing agency double checks the proclaimed safety of the products tested they just take the IFRA’s word for it. How messed up is that?

So if you’re interested in looking into this more in depth, or you want to find out what’s in the products you have sitting in your makeup bag or on your shelf check out the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database.

EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetic's Database

You might also like to browse through a copy of

Kim Barnouin’s book “Skinny Bitch: Home Beauty and Style”

PS: This DIY Perfume post is part of a new series of posts I have planned about making green products yourself at home. It's a way to avoid chemical contamination, stop supporting corporations who only care about their profit margins not your health, lessen our carbon footprint on the planet, and save a few bucks in the process. As I become more and more aware of the realities of the common everyday products we buy without giving it a second though I realize there has to be a better way, and as I discover these better ways I hope to share them with you too! 

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