Natural bath and body products are quickly gaining popularity, due to a growing fear of toxins as well as environmental concerns. But buying such products can get expensive (think brands like LUSH), and the cheaper drugstore options often don't have a lot of variety in scents or ingredients. Making your own products is a great way to know exactly what's going in them, and it's a lot of fun!
If you're just starting out and need to buy all these ingredients, it may feel more expensive than a typical student budget can allow. But each thing you buy will last you a long time, and cost per batch for just about all of the ingredients I suggest comes down to $1-2. That being said, I tried to include recipes with overlapping ingredients as well as things that you may already have on hand!
1. Sugar & Salt Body Scrubs
Body scrubs are one of my favorite things in the world. The salt/sugar exfoliates your skin while the oils nourish it, and once you rinse the scrub off your skin feels incredibly soft and smooth. Salt and sugar are pretty much interchangeable in any body scrub recipe, but there is a difference between the two. Salt is rougher and provides a deeper exfoliation (which I personally prefer), whereas sugar is more gentle. You can also opt to use these scrubs just for your hands instead of your entire body.
The basic recipe involves salt/sugar, a carrier oil (or a mix), and essential oils for scent. Check out these recipes if you want some ideas, or try mixing your own combination with this basic recipe.
2. Coffee Body Scrub
This one is similar to the body scrubs above, but with a slight alteration. Instead of salt or sugar as the exfoliator, this recipe uses coffee grounds. It also reduces your waste because you reuse the coffee grounds after you make your coffee. It has a shorter shelf life than the scrubs mentioned above, but it's pretty likely that if you make coffee you'll be making it at least of few times a week anyway. Plus, it smells heavenly.
Because your face is more sensitive than the rest of the body, it deserves a different kind of scrub. While these scrubs still use some kind of exfoliator, I prefer to use less oil. Instead, my base usually ends up being some kind of perishable food, so many of these scrubs only last about a week in the fridge. Making the scrubs more frequently, however, gives you more opportunities to experiment!
Recently, I made this pumpkin and turmeric face scrub because I had extra pumpkin puree after making a pie with my friends. It felt amazing on my skin and noticeably reduced inflammation. Just make sure you use the correct proportions--too much turmeric can make your face orange! If this does happen, just use a regular face wash and it will come off within a few minutes. And if that scared you too much, here's a list of recipes for all skin types.
4. Lip Scrubs
I promise this is the last scrub on this list, so just hear me out. Your lips deserve pampering too! The basic recipe is pretty much the same as the body scrubs, though you should only use sugar (more gentle than salt) and no essential oils. Essential oils are too strong to be ingested, and should only be used for outside the body. Instead, use spices and flavorings such as vanilla extract to make it worth your mouth's time.
I really love this recipe for a chai lip scrub. It's delicious and perfect for fall! Since it does need a lot of ingredients, it may get expensive to buy everything for such small quantities. Some bulk stores allow you to buy spices by the ounce, but if that's not an option then take a look at these amazing (and more simple) recipes instead.
5. Lip Balm
Lip balm is something that just about everyone uses. It feels nourishing and tastes great, plus you can carry it around in your pocket! The basic recipe is a base of oil and/or wax, with essential oil and possibly some kind of juice or dye to add pigmentation. Essential oils are safe to use because even though you ingest small amounts of lip balm over time it is not nearly enough to have any kind of effect (whereas you lick off the entirety of a lip scrub).
For a simple starter recipe, try out this lemon coconut lip balm. If that combination isn't appealing to you, use the recipe as a base and swap out whatever essential oils you prefer.
Lotion is essential, especially for students who live through cold and dry winters. Lotion is typically a basic combination of butter (ex: shea, cocoa), oils, some kind of thickener (ex: beeswax or arrowroot powder), and essential oils. While most lotion recipes are very simple as far as ingredients go, the majority require some sort of mixer to get the texture right. This is nice because you can determine how thick or fluffy you want the lotion to be, but many college students don't have access to an electric mixer.
To work around this, I use this recipe when I'm at home. It produces a large batch that will last me at least until the next break, and I can adjust it to be as thick and creamy as I want it to be.
7. Body Wash
Body wash is a great liquid alternative to traditional bar soap when you're in the shower. Bar soap didn't make the list of DIYs because it requires molds and is typically made in huge batches, but body wash is here to save the day. Homemade body wash is typically made from a base of castile soap, and oils and scents can be added as you like.
I like this recipe for body wash because it actually foams up a bit, though not as much as a typical body wash. It also includes honey, which is antibacterial and extremely soothing to the skin (note: you may have to use hotter water if you feel any lasting stickiness!).
Deodorant is expected in society, but most people actually use a 2-in-1 antiperspirant and deodorant. Just about every homemade recipe is solely a deodorant, which can take some time to get used to. You will likely be surprised that you're sweating more than you did before, which is okay. The active ingredient in homemade deodorant recipes is baking soda, with essential oils added for fragrance, so you won't be smelly. When transitioning from antiperspirant to natural deodorant, some people also experience irritation because your armpits are flushing out aluminum from the antiperspirant. One way to "detox" and improve the transition is to put a simple clay mask on your armpits, following the same directions are you would your face.
I love this recipe (see video above) by Lauren Singer. One batch lasts me approximately two months. When I first started making this, I swapped arrowroot powder for cornstarch because I had it on hand. It still worked as a deodorant, but it irritated my skin so I switched to the original recipe (and had no problems).
I know making your own bath and body products for the first time can seem overwhelming. It's okay to start small. And if these recipes don't work for you, keep experimenting until you find something that you like. To make things a bit cheaper, recruit some friends to make stuff with you--chip in for the ingredients and you can all reap the rewards. Homemade products also make great gifts, so you don't have to break the bank buying things for everyone. Overall, just have fun and enjoy creating something with your own two hands!