Be cosmetically cautious

I am of the firm opinion that when it comes to cosmetics and grooming, men really have a very short list of products that are justifiable. Part of being a man is that you don’t spend a lot of time fussing, preening, primping, lotioning, peeling, foundationing, epilating or whatever. Isn’t it bad enough the our women feel compelled to do all this and more?

The list? That really short one? This is it:

  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Shaving cream
  • Hair gel
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant

That should do it. You could even reduce the list further if you combine shampoo and body wash. And the hair gel goes if you shave your head. And if you don’t work up a sweat you could reduce it further, though being immobile is not a manly trait at all.

That is a pretty short list though. You could say it’s manageable. Manageable enough to pay attention to the ingredients of the products. And therein lies what I’d like to focus on in this post. Many of the products on offer today contain contents that are either known to be bad for you, or strongly suspected to be bad for you, so why not do yourself a favour and select products that are at least not yet known to be bad?

A short watch-list:

To give you a very brief list of stuff you might want to watch out for:

Triclosan – an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent that is suspected of contributing to create resistance in bacteria, and is damaging to the environment. You’ll likely find it in soaps, detergents and very many toothpastes. Nice stuff.

Dimethicone – an oil I first came across while reviewing shaving creams, it’s a silicone polymer that makes things slippery and shiny. Will often be found in shampoos, lubricating oils, shaving cream, and food. The fact that it covers the skin in an impenetrable skin also suggests it can cause acne and other skin issues. It is used in shampoo to make hair shiny and slippery and as an anti-foaming agent in food. Tasty.

Parabens (i.e. Ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, other ingredients ending in –paraben). Mainly used to avoid bacterial growth in products, which sounds like it could be worthwhile. Linked to hormonal dysfunction, which sounds very much less so. Also suspected of being a cause of breast cancer in women, which may not immediately cause personal concern for us guys, but if it’s bad for women I’d think it highly likely that it’s not healthy for us either.

Aluminium – commonly used as an antiperspirant, and the true source of all those white t-shirts that are ruined with yellow armpits. In large doses it’s been shown to be harmful to humans, and a possible cause of dementia. Experiments on animals have show it to cause damage to the nerve system and lead to testicular damage and poor sperm quality. Wow, not only does it destroy your t-shirts, but it can seriously damage your manhood. Nasty!

Silver – again helping the bacteria grow resistant to the antibiotics, and harmful to the environment. Use it correctly, buy your sweetheart something nice.

Perfume – apart from being the evil and vile toxic weapon of ageing women on public transport, at least 26 components used in perfume are documented to cause allergy.

Could you do better yourself?

Looking at the list of ingredients in most cosmetic-class products, it reads like some sort of mad scientist chemistry experiment. Is it all necessary? Perhaps not. In this age where guys are brewing bear at home while their lady-friends are fermenting all manner of things, where it’s hip to do that artisan-kind of crafty stuff, maybe you could mix up your own products with a little effort?

I came across this recipe for a home-made deodorant based on natural ingredients:

  • 6-8 Tbsp Coconut oil (solid state)
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot powder or cornstarch (arrowroot is preferred)

I showed this to WDG (who admittedly has a better control of the more esoteric inventory of the mansion) and she said “check!”. We actually have all three necessary components in stock already. Which surely gives a clear indication of them not being strange, dangerous or illegal.

And the recipe claims to work incredibly well. By the sound of it, even better than most commercially available variants that use all sorts of potentially nasty stuff to work their low-grade magic.

Are there other items from the list that can be easily and safely made at home using ingredients you believe to be harmless and good?

Other home-made possibilities?

I did come across an easy recipe for making Beer Shampoo, which should interest a large portion of men. Beer? While washing your hair, sounds like a win-win situation. And it’s super-easy to make, as it’s basically mixing beer with some ready made shampoo. Get some enthusiast-grade beer and some known-good shampoo (Body Shop is good and available) and craft your own beer shampoo. Heck, make Xmas gifts for all your hairy, beer-loving buddies.

In the class of products that are much less involved than you might imagine we also find hair gel. All you need to mix is gelatine and water. This one almost sounds too simple to be good, it may be wise to add some anti-foaming agent and anti-microbial agent.

Soap is a bit more involved, but offers loads of opportunities for customising the result. I’m quite sure it’s possible to create a pork-scratchings flavoured (scented?) soap to go with the beer shampoo. How would that be for a pleasurable bath-time experience?

There are a lot of websites devoted to stuff like this though, so while much of it may be promoted by folks with more eco-sense than an actual wish to quell body odour and avoid greasy hair, there are a lot of possibilities.

Can’t I just buy better stuff instead?

And of course, there are a number of companies seeing that there is a market for safe cosmetics, such as Body Shop, Welleda, Jäson etc. A lot of these is available quite reasonably through on-line shops such as (this link includes a referral code).

Why not do yourself a favour and take a little care of yourself?


  • WDG 02/11/2014 at 18:06

    The deodorant I use now is from Soapwalla and it works miraculosly well- actually better than the Aluminim-deos I used before. It contains coconut oil, tea tree oil, micropowdered clay and baking soda.

    Before I found this gem I went through a few smelly weeks where I tried out all sorts of (more or less) crappy natural deodorants, and this was to be the 8th and last.

    It´s very easy now to find good skin- and haircare products that are made from safe and ethical resources, so there´s really no excuse to continue using remidies that not only harm your body but also the environment.

  • The Silver Blade 10/11/2014 at 00:43

    I’d include moisturiser and aftershave on your list. I’m not sure about homemade moisturiser but I’ve been meaning to try making my own Bay Rum aftershave; there are many recipes online for it.

  • defeatingpain 01/12/2014 at 15:31

    Homemade moisturizer is extremely simple, you can use really any oil on the skin (less is more here) but the best are a good quality olive oil, or coconut oil. You can even whip the coconut oil with an electric beater or stand mixer to make it more like a whipped lotion. Essential oils can add scent or help with skin issues (lavender, chamomile, etc). If you have an especially sensitive face, sweet almond oil is the best, and works pretty well with lavender to sooth post shaving irritation.

    For shampoo you can make a fairly simple, natural shampoo with one of my recipes –


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