Posts tagged personal care

September – November: Teeth, Hair and Kindness to Fish

Alright, alright, so I started a blog but then didn’t actually get round to posting any content in it.  I have been very busy with some projects which will be revealed in next month’s entry.  I have made the switch to a few homemade products this autumn, though, so I will tell you about them now.

The first major thing I started making for myself was toothpaste (and mouthwash).  There are few things simpler than making your own toothpaste and it’s oddly satisfying to use.  Let’s make some together – ready?  All you need is:

  • 2 parts baking soda (make sure yours is aluminum-free)
  • 1 part salt
  • a few drops of peppermint essential oil (This is optional and makes it taste good instead of just tasting of salt)
  • something to keep it in (I use a Tupperware pot)

Just mix the ingredients together and you’re ready to go.  Of course, at this stage it is a powder, not a paste.  This is fine by me.  I like the gritty, scrubby texture of it.  If you want a paste, just add a bit of water (useful for more even distribution of the essential oil), or indeed glycerin if you have some.  I usually add just a few drops of water, for a kind of thick powdery paste.

Dip your toothbrush in and scrub away!  My teeth feel great, and I swear they’re a bit whiter.  At first I tried it with no essential oil, and found the salt taste hard to bear.  I got used to it after a few days, but was delighted when I got hold of some peppermint oil, it makes brushing so much nicer.

Then I started making my own mouthwash.  This is also extremely easy, and recipes seem to vary pretty widely so I just chose a few ingredients that seem to be beneficial and which I also have lying around.  I make a 500ml bottle of it, and this lasts a couple of weeks.

My mouthwash recipe:

  • 500ml water
  • a good few drops of peppermint essential oil (I like to go a bit overboard on the oil)
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons vodka

Just give it all a good shake each time you use it.  After a good scrub with your homemade toothpaste, this will leave your mouth feeling fresh and minty.

You may wonder why there is salt in my toothpaste and vodka in my mouthwash.  Each ingredient is included for a reason, and that’s something I find particularly reassuring about making my own things – I know what’s in it, and why.  There’s noting superfluous or dubious.  Baking soda kills all those bacteria in your mouth.  Salt is an excellent abrasive, to scrub off those coffee stains.  Peppermint oil tastes good and gives you fresh breath.  End of story.  So my teeth are clean, white and healthy and no bunnies were tortured in the process.  Hooray!

As for the mouthwash: vodka is another good destroyer of bacteria, I threw in some more baking soda for good measure, to make sure my gums stay healthy, and lots more peppermint oil.  Soon I will start including other oils that are good for the gums.  In the past couple of weeks I have been experimenting with using peppermint tea as a base for the mouthwash instead of water.  I reasoned that herbs are good for your teeth and gums, and that you can never have too much minty goodness.  Also a bottle of green stuff looks fancier on my bathroom shelf than what appears to just be a bottle of water.  I was congratulating myself on my ingenuity until I realized the other day that my teeth looked a bit yellow after using it, and thought that perhaps after scrubbing with salt, rinsing with tea is perhaps not such a good idea.  So I have switched back to the water base.

You may notice an abundance of baking soda.  It seems that this is going to be a recurring theme in all my homemade products – apparently there’s nothing baking soda can’t achieve.

Speaking of the wonders of baking soda, did you know that it makes amazing shampoo?  On to October’s big change…

I stopped using shampoo about a month ago, and I never intend to buy it again.  Before you all recoil in horror, let me tell you that my hair has never looked or felt better.  From the first wash with my homemade shampoo, it instantly felt thicker, less flyaway and more obedient.  Four weeks later, it is shiny and soft.  I am in love.

Making this particular switch is something I’ve wanted to do for a while, but I was anxious about it as everything I read talks about this horrific-sounding ‘adjustment period’ of several weeks, during which there’s no telling what your hair might do.  Basically, the problem is that shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils (as I’m sure you all know).  Your hair copes with this wanton pillaging by over-producing oil to compensate.  So it gets greasy.  How do you respond to this situation?  More shampoo of course!  Now you’re locked in an endless battle between your hair and shampoo.  Now, baking soda doesn’t disrespect your hair in the same brazen manner.  It politely takes away the dirt and grime, without taking the oils that your hair needs and quite rightly produces.  The initial problem is that your hair doesn’t instantly catch on, and continues producing oil at shampoo-fighting rates, so there will indeed be an adjustment period as it realizes that this is no longer necessary and that the oil workers can in fact put their feet up with a cup of tea and a biscuit.

So anyway, I was worried that my head would resemble an oil slick for 6 weeks, and decided to wait at least until the summer was over, when I could feasibly hide under a hat when it got ugly.  Then, after all that worrying and reading about how awful it would be, I barely noticed a difference.  For the first week, my hair was just glorious and I talked about it to anyone who would listen.  During weeks 2 and 3, my hair was, granted, slightly greasier than normal.  But I did not have to call in sick or even hide in a hat.  Now, in week 4, my hair is no longer oily at all, it is lush and shiny and it feels wonderful.  Hooray for independence from shampoo!

So, here’s how to do it yourself.


  • 500ml water
  • 1-2 tablespoons baking soda


  • 500ml water
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

That’s it.  That’s all you need.  AND, before you ask, I don’t smell like vinegar.  It’s well diluted and it doesn’t smell at all once my hair dries.  The purpose of the rinse is to neutralize the alkalinity of the baking soda, and leave your hair lovely and shiny.  Also, I quite enjoy the mildly vinegary smell immediately after my shower; it makes me think of fish and chip shops…

To wash, just pour some of the shampoo over your head, give it a good scrub with your fingers, and rinse well.  Then pour over some of the rinse.  Granted, it is not as much fun as using foamy shampoo.  And when you’re washing it doesn’t feel like it’s achieving anything.  But when your hair is drying, you will see how clean and soft it is.

The amounts of baking soda and vinegar I give are extremely approximate.  And how much you need varies according to your hair.  Most recipes I read called for 1 tablespoon baking soda / vinegar in a cup of water – I figure a 500ml water bottle is about 2 cups so I throw in around 2 tablespoons.  But I am not fussed about really measuring, I just eye it.  Also, I extended the tea-instead-of-water experiment to the hair products, and I like it.  At the moment, both shampoo and rinse are made with a base of jasmine tea.  As I read more about what is good for hair, I may change to a different tea and/or add some essential oils.

So, there you have it.  Toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoo and rinse – done.  Instead of being full of shop-bought products of dubious origin, my bathroom shelf now looks like this:

Left to right: toothpaste, mouthwash, (ducky), shampoo, rinse

My final change this autumn is my reversion to full vegetarianism.  For the last 2 years or so I’ve been one of those annoying people who call themselves vegetarians but who in fact eat fish (and other miscellaneous tentacled sea creatures found in Korean cuisine).  Although begun for reasons of convenience, and continued because in fact I really like fish, this never really sat well with me and I always vaguely planned to become an actual vegetarian again in the future.  Well, welcome to the future.  I realized that, (a) I rarely eat out, (b) there are plenty of veggies and indeed vegans on this island that seems to manage just fine, and (c) calling oneself a vegetarian when one eats fish is raging hypocrisy and very annoying indeed.  So, maybe 2 or 3 weeks ago I decided enough was enough.  No more tuna kimbap.  No more delicious spicy fish stew.  No more fish and chips! (That particular consequence just dawned on me yesterday, and I was actually quite downcast about it).  It has taking me this long to actually reliably remember that I’m veggie again – to stop almost buying cans of tuna at the supermarket, or to think about grabbing a quick tuna kimbap for dinner.  Now that it has sunk in, I feel much more at ease with myself and able to face all the lovely, angelic veggies and vegans here on Jeju.

‘Til December, dear friends – I hope the length of this post has compensated for its tardiness.  To give you a hint about next month’s offering, there will most likely be some more body products and some knitting.

Happy crunching.


Comments (2) »