Health & Wellbeing

My Chemical Break-up: A Beginner’s Guide

Georgia Mueck gives organic skin care products a test drive to see how we can reduce our exposure to chemicals.

When I say a beginner’s guide, I mean that I am a beginner. I embarked upon writing this article with the well-intentioned but wildly naive notion that I would show people a myriad of cheap, natural alternatives to face and body products. I started out having no idea what I was doing, and I’m pretty much still there. But what the heck, I’m gonna give you my highly uninformed opinion anyway.

Let me reiterate as a disclaimer that I honestly have no idea about any of this, so emulate me at your own risk. Most of my “research” was actually Google search, so enough said.

Going “chemical free” is often met with the snarky remark “everything is chemicals”! Yeah, okay, thanks for that primary school science fact, friend. Unless you’re Captain Literal, you know that what is meant by “chemicals” in this sense roughly translates to “man-made, possibly harmful stuff that I don’t actually know a thing about”.

For now, let’s just swap the term chemical free for organic (or natural), which sounds way trendier and a lot less confusing. Organic body products are growing in popularity every day, with celebrity endorsements from the likes of Megan Fox, Reese Witherspoon, and Gwenyth Paltrow (then again, Paltrow advocates steam-cleaning genitalia, something you should NEVER do, so why listen to her?).

In my opinion, organic is better for food, so why shouldn’t it be better for skin and body products as well? The only problem is that I was (and still am) flat broke and had to scrounge for five cent coins from the bottom of my car to afford a coffee, let alone the $61.00 Blueberry Soy Exfoliating Cleanser favourited by Megan Fox. Yeah, nah, not gonna happen.

So, a quick peruse of Google later, and I found “natural” products that could be used instead of Blueberry-Soy-Latte-Mochaccino-Face-Bomb-Spritzers or whatever. There’s a lot of information on natural alternatives out there, most of it conflicting, but a site that I found pretty all-round helpful was Wellness Mama. I didn’t try all of the recommended substitutes, but here’s what I thought of the couple I did.

Baking Soda alternative for Toothpaste

Baking Soda (or bi-carbonate of soda) seems to be a bit of an all-rounder when it comes to cleaning; it can be used for getting coffee stains out of china, cleaning basically the entire bathroom, or even for washing clothes. Plus it’s also hella cheap.

I didn’t use the mint soap or whatever it is, because a). the idea of putting soap in my mouth is not appealing, no matter how much it tastes like gum, and b). even if I was inclined, I have no idea where to source it and I had baking soda in the cupboard already so…

Anyway, other sites also recommend adding lemon juice or even salt to the baking soda, but I just used plain old water and made it into a paste. Now, as a person who loves savoury food, I didn’t really mind the taste, but I guarantee that others will HATE it. If you can soldier through the initial yuck moment however, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. It really works. My teeth actually felt WAY cleaner, and they seemed to stay feeling that way for longer too.

9/10 would recommend


– Our mouth, skin and hair have varying pH levels that need to be kept in balance. Baking soda is too alkaline for our skin and hair, and will therefore be drying if used over an extended period of time. It is okay to use as a toothpaste replacement so long as you DO NOT brush your teeth for more than 2 minutes, and you brush them GENTLY.

Apple Cider Vinegar alternative for Toner (also conditioner)

Similarly to baking soda, apple cider vinegar (ACV from now on because I’m lazy), is a bit of an all-rounder. It’s really good for you if you drink it (watered down, not straight), and there are studies suggesting it can help with managing blood sugar levels, weight loss, and digestion. I would definitely recommend drinking it, especially to assist with an upset (hungover/full of carbs/both) stomach; it’s worked for me consistently.

To make the toner, the general consensus on ratio is 1/2 tsp ACV to 1/2 – 1 cup water, and then just apply like you would a normal toner. For me, I’m more of an occasionally toner, so I didn’t notice any big difference straight away, but my skin definitely felt toned. Also, no need to worry about the smell, it goes away once the toner dries.

For the conditioner, the ratio is 1:1 for ACV and water. Then all you do is chuck it in a spray bottle and apply thoroughly to shampooed hair, waiting between 15-60 minutes before washing it out.

Now, I’ll be honest, you CAN smell it after, even when the hair is dry. However, a few drops of essential oil later and I fixed that problem for next time. While my hair didn’t feel the same as when I used store conditioner, after a few washes with ACV, it was noticeably softer and shinier. I also liked the idea of being able to change the smell with different oils every now and again, instead of being stuck with the same old generic floral scent most store conditioners have.

7/10 would recommend ACV Toner

8/10 would recommend ACV conditioner

I would say that “natural” and/or “organic” alternatives to regular beauty/body products are a definite thing. There’s no rule stating that we need 50 unpronounceable ingredients in our moisturiser, or that only poisonous cleaners are effective. If we have the option of natural, cruelty free products that aren’t going to break the bank, shouldn’t we choose to use them?

However, I get that it’s not for everyone, or that some people may take some coaxing, so here’s a quick list of organic, or predominantly natural, cruelty free products available at supermarkets or specialty chain stores:

  • All the Lush things. All of them. (okay, some stuff is not exactly cheap, but it’s just so ETHICAL)
  • Crop Skincare  – available at Coles (reasonable price)
  • Natures Organics – available at Woolworths and Coles (very cheap!)
  • Brite Organix – Available at Woolworths (not organic, but vegan and cheap)





Image: Kenny Louie, Wikimedia Commons, no changes made

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