Cotton: The Fabric of Our Lives…Unfortunately…

Cotton Facts:

  • Cotton is the biggest non-food agricultural crop in the world.
  • It uses 11% of the entire world’s pesticides.
  • In developing nations specifically, 50% of pesticides go towards cotton.
  • It uses 24% of world’s insecticides (a form of pesticide).
  • 220 million Metric tons of CO2 are released each year from global cotton production.
  • It takes 2,700 liters of water to make one t-shirt.

Cotton is everywhere. It’s in our clothing, our furniture, our bedding, our food (cottonseed oil/cellulose), and even our money! However, cotton has a dark side – it’s massively resource intensive and an environmentally destructive crop. The exact impacts vary among countries, growing practices, and conventional vs organic cotton.

The problems with cotton in general are very simple:

  • It uses tons of pesticidesˆ, fertilizers, and other toxic chemicals.
  • It’s immensely water intensive to grow and process into final products.
  • Plus, heavy use of chemicals leads to lots of water contamination.
  • As an industrial monocropˆ it degrades the soil, reduces biodiversity, and replaces wildlife habitats.

Pesticides and toxic chemicals:

Cotton is a chemically intensive crop all along its supply chain from the field to the store shelf. These include pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, defoliants, dyes, and other toxic chemicals used in manufacturing.

Pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides are used heavily to protect cotton from pests like the bollworm, and weeds. Additionally, monocropping leads to an increased need for pesticides because it disrupts normal and healthy ecosystem function. Crop rotation and co-planting are farming methods designed to preserve ecosystem health; isolating large acres of a single crop leads to greater problems with pests and soil degradation. Pesticides and related chemicals are harmful to human health and our ecosystems. These chemicals contaminate the broader environment through runoff and by seeping into soil, sometimes reaching deep aquifers.

Defoliants are chemicals used to help leaves fall off plants; for cotton, this makes it easier to pick. Agent Orange is a well-known chemical defoliant, which gained recognition during the Vietnam War due to its prolific use by the US military and the subsequent injury to humans and damage to ecosystems.

Cotton also requires high amounts of fertilizers, primarily nitrogen-based synthetic ones. These fertilizers contribute significantly to emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O)ˆ, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

Water Pollution by Textile Industry in Tirupur, India.

Dying cotton is the most chemically intensive step in the processing of cotton into final products like clothing. Conventional cotton products use extremely toxic dyes, plus bleaching agents, wetting agents, industrial detergents, softeners, and salts. Consequently, textile manufacturing produces large quantities of wastewater that contaminates surrounding rivers and lakes with all of those toxic chemicals.

Water use:

To make one T-shirt uses an amount of water equal to what a person drinks over the course of 2.5 years. Cotton irrigation systems are an inefficient use of water, as is the case with all industrial agriculture. Diverting water from nearby lakes and streams to irrigate crops results in lost water during transport and reduces the availability of fresh drinking water.

The disappearing Aral Sea in 1970 compared to 2014.

The case of the Aral Sea disaster is one of the best examples of cotton’s environmental impact. Once the fourth largest freshwater lake, the Aral Sea was drained to near extinction to irrigate cotton crops. During the 1950s, it supported a booming fishing industry, providing livelihood and employment for thousands of people. It was considered an oasis in central Asia, located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Now, it is an arid desert where communities struggle.

Soil erosion and destruction of habitat:

Cotton is a monocrop and it takes up vast quantities of space. Reduced fallow time between growing has led to soil degradation, increasing the need for fertilizers. After almost a century of heavy use, many established cotton fields are thoroughly exhausted, forcing expansion of agricultural land into surrounding habitat. This destroys vital habitat for wildlife.

Please read my follow-up post that discusses alternatives to conventional cotton.

References:
http://www.theworldcounts.com/counters/cotton_environmental_impacts/environmental_issues_with_cotton
http://bettercotton.org/
https://www.worldwildlife.org/industries/cotton
https://www.ota.com/advocacy/fiber-and-textiles/organic-cotton/cotton-and-environment#_ftn40
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921344916302828
https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-fashion-blog/2014/oct/01/cotton-production-linked-to-images-of-the-dried-up-aral-sea-basin
http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/about_freshwater/freshwater_problems/thirsty_crops/cotton/

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Imperfect alternatives to conventional cotton (follow-up post)

This is a follow-up to the my post about the environmental impacts of cotton.

There are a few alternatives to conventionally grown cotton, the obvious one being organic cotton. World Wildlife Fund launched the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI) with support from Ikea to encourage better practices of cotton production. BCI has gained wide support and has been successful in reducing pesticide use and water consumption. BCI works with farmers and other stakeholders to implement new irrigation technologies and more eco-friendly cultivation methods. In Pakistan, farmers have reduced their water use by 39%, which significantly lessens cotton’s impact on the Indus River.

Hemp and bamboo are other common alternatives to cotton, but as with all textiles, they do come with their own sets of problems. Both are quick growing and less resource intensive than cotton. Hemp needs virtually no pesticides or chemicals to grow and uses half the water cotton does. Bamboo is also less water intensive, grows amazingly fast, and doesn’t need pesticides to grow either. In terms of growing these crops, they are better than cotton. However, processing methods for these materials can be energy intensive, expensive, and sometimes require harsh chemicals. Well, nothing is perfect. I know it’s frustrating, but we do need to clothe ourselves, so don’t agonize too much. If we improve processing methods and reduce the toxicity of chemicals in the manufacture of these products, it would significantly reduce the environmental impact of these materials.

The bottom line for shopping is finding materials that are cultivated using ethically and environmentally responsible practices, requiring as little water and pesticides as possible, and processed using relatively few toxic chemicals. Waste management practices of manufacturers also differ significantly, so finding responsible and transparent companies will reduce your environmental impact as well. Ethical shopping can be more expensive, so you really need to strike a balance between your wallet and your conscience. I buy new professional clothing and things like underwear and socks, but I also try to buy organic cotton or organic hemp products, and I shop at thrift stores.

Additionally, more companies are starting to sell eco-friendly clothing. Check out companies like Pact Organic and Patagonia.

On a personal note, I’ve found the transition to ethical shopping a bit stressful – greenwashingˆ is a big problem, there are lots of choices, and it’s expensive. The fashion industry has a long way to go in terms of human labor and environmental impacts. Pushing for transparency, ethical practices, and less environmentally intensive technologies is a good start.

I’ll dig into some of the issues and possible solutions more in future posts since it’s a pretty big topic.

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My Bookshelf: Environment and Society (A Critical Introduction)

The book: Environment and Society: A Critical Introduction by Paul Robbins, John Hintz, and Sarah A. Moore

Published in 2010, this first edition textbook is still a fantastic resource years later. There is a 2014 second edition out there, but I haven’t read that one yet. I picked up this book on a whim at Half Price Books. I highly recommend it as a primer for environmental issues couched in social, political, and economic terms. The authors cover a wide range of topics and do a superb job of explaining the various influences on complex ecological problems.

The book is divided into two main parts. First, they examine common environmental theories and perspectives, such as market-based resource management and population theory. They also discuss environmental ethics (animal rights and industrial agriculture), risk culture in terms of environmental disaster, political economy (capitalism’s role in exploitation of nature), and the social construction of nature. These concepts are all important to understanding global climate challenges.

The second part covers a few major ecological issues including carbon dioxide, trees, wolves, tuna, bottled water, and French fries. These all tie into the theories discussed in the previous section. I’ll use the French fry chapter as an example since without reading the book it might seem a bit out of place or unrelated. The authors use the commodity of French fries to examine issues like industrial agriculture (potato monocrops), risk perception concerning fats and health, globalization and fast food, and the ethics over biotechnology and engineered crops.

If you’re on a budget I would recommend the first edition since you can find pretty cheap copies out there. I would highly suggest checking your local used bookstores to see if any of them have copies – buy used and shop local!

First edition on Amazon (prices range from about $1 to $80 for new hardbacks)

Second edition on Amazon (prices range from $18 to $35)

News Spotlight: Phthalates in Mac and Cheese

A couple days ago, The New York Times published a story about phthalates found in boxed mac and cheese. This morning, the NY Times article was one of the front-page pieces in the Seattle Times. This interest is driven by a recent report from the Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging in which a study of 30 cheese products reveal significantly high levels of phthalates. The powdered cheese packs from boxed mac and cheese contained the highest levels, which was four times that of other cheeses tested (like block or shredded).

So, when I read this, I thought I was safe since I buy organic boxed mac and cheese. Nope. Unfortunately, phthalates were found in organic boxes as well. *sigh*

How do these chemicals get into foods?   Phthalates are used in manufacturing and product packaging and leach into food during production and storage. These chemicals are lipophilic (fat liking), so they accumulate in fats, including our own bodies. Fattier foods will have higher concentrations of phthalates.

What are phthalates and why should we be concerned?   Pronounced thal-eights, they are a group of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)ˆ primarily used to make plastics soft and pliable. They’re also used as solvents in fragrance and found in a variety of other products including adhesives, shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, body washes, nail polish, detergents, hair styling products, and wood finishes.

These chemicals disrupt hormone function and are linked to birth defects in male infants, endocrine cancers, developmental delays, learning disabilities, and behavioral problems. Phthalates pose a significant risk to men because they target testosterone, leading to feminization, lowered sperm counts, and genital defects. The NTPˆ and EPA consider phthalates to be probable human carcinogens. Exposure to EDCs at times of heightened vulnerability during development changes how the body grows, which can have lasting health consequences, such as infertility.

If you asked most scientists about the top 10 or 20 endocrine-disrupting chemicals they worry about, phthalates would be on that list,” Dr. Patisaul said — Quote from the NY Times article

How do you avoid phthalates?   Well, you’ll probably be exposed at some point without knowing it (they’re everywhere), but you can control some routes of exposure. This is especially important for pregnant women, infants, and young children. Here are some ways you can limit exposure:

  • Reduce your consumption of processed foods and eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume low-fat dairy products, since phthalates can accumulate in fat.
  • Ditch the plastic: use glass, ceramic, stainless steel, and wood to store food. If you must use plastic, opt for harder polycarbonate ones and don’t use them for anything hot. Additionally, avoid microwaving food in plastic as the heat increases the leaching of chemicals.
  • Avoid synthetic fragrance and check your personal care products for labeled phthalates. They may also be called DEHP or DEP.
  • Look for personal care products labeled “phthalate-free” and choose organic, non-toxic products.
  • Buy products in glass bottles or jars, especially cooking oils or fatty foods like peanut butter.
  • Make mac and cheese from scratch!

On a broader level, what can you do?   Reach out to companies and express your concern over this issue. Or you can join some of the collective action happening:

Safer chemicals, healthy families:
This petition to the Kraft Heinz Company requests they eliminate all sources of phthalates that may contaminate food.

http://org2.salsalabs.com/o/6639/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=24285

Toxic-Free Future:
Add your name to a message that will be sent to the Kraft Heinz Company expressing concern over the testing and asking them to eliminate sources of phthalates in all their cheese products.

http://salsa4.salsalabs.com/o/51668/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=20996&tag=KraftEmail

Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging:
This is a petition you can sign like the ones above, but it’s from the group that conducted the study of the cheeses.

http://kleanupkraft.org/

 

References:

https://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=24
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/12/well/eat/the-chemicals-in-your-mac-and-cheese.html
http://www.seattletimes.com/nation-world/whats-in-your-childs-mac-and-cheese-toxic-chemicals-a-new-study-says/
http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/phthalates/

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DIY Body Oil and Lotion Bars

Over the past few years, I’ve shifted away from lotions and started using more oils and butters. The biggest difference between traditional lotions (even all-natural ones) and pure oils/butters is the absorption rate. Lotions contain alcohols to speed up the drying process so your skin is smooth and moisturized, but relatively dry to the touch within a few minutes. Oils and butters take time to soak into your skin, occasionally necessitating a pat dry to absorb excess. This takes some getting used to, but once you do, I bet you won’t want to return to lotions. I personally think the benefits of alcohol-free moisturizer is significant enough to warrant adjusting your routine to accommodate for extra absorption time. Especially if you have sensitive or extremely dry skin, oils and butters are often a good choice since they aren’t watered down with fillers or other ingredients.

You can combine multiple oils or you can just use them individually. I haven’t had time recently to remake my mixed body oil, so I’ve just been using straight coconut oil, shea butter, or almond oil as an after-shower moisturizer. It’s not as interesting as my blended oil, but it works just fine.

The oils and butters I tend to keep on hand for body oils include:

  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Apricot seed oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Sweet almond oil

You can also add specialty oils, listed in my face oil post, like argan oil, marula oil, rosehip seed oil, tamanu oil, and jojoba oil. These are more expensive, so I tend to reserve them for my facial oils only. I’m on the fence about jojoba oil though, because I used to consider it an all-purpose oil, but lately I’ve been saving it for my face only since the price has been rising so much in the last few years.

Liquid body oil, semi-solid body oil, and lotion bars use essentially the same ingredients, but with different amounts of beeswax and ratios of oils to butters. The liquid oil has no beeswax in it.

One note, to make these oil mixtures, you must melt all the ingredients together slowly either using a double boiler or a glass Pyrex measuring cup in a water bath.

Liquid body oil:

This is one of my favorite body oil recipes, which does occasionally solidify depending on how accurate I am with my measurements.

  • Cocoa butter (2-3 tbsp)
  • Coconut oil (2 tbsp)
  • Almond oil (2 tbsp)
  • Grapeseed oil (2 tbsp)

Sometimes I like to add shea butter as well. Some people dislike how heavy shea butter feels, so the combination of oils and butters really comes down to personal taste. I generally don’t use olive oil in this recipe, but if you’re trying to limit buying new ingredients, I think it would be fine. I’m singling out olive oil since most people already have that in the house for cooking. I like using almond oil, apricot seed oil, or grapeseed oil because they’re lighter, have lower melting points, and balance out the heaviness of the cocoa butter.

Semi-solid body oil:

There are two ways to create a firmer moisturizer: you can increase the proportion of solid

Semi-solid body oil in tins.

butters, like cocoa or shea, or you can add beeswax. Beeswax is more effective at simply increasing hardness, since it’s a wax with an extremely high melting temperature. However, adding solid butters will create a more salve-like product, as you can see in this image to the right.

One of my favorite semi-solid recipes is this:

  • Beeswax (unrefined)
  • Cocoa butter (raw, unrefined)
  • Coconut oil (unrefined)
  • Shea butter
  • Almond oil or any other oil that is liquid at room temp

I like this one because it smells like honey and chocolate. Again, the ratios for this one are dependent upon personal taste. Less shea butter will feel less heavy, and less beeswax will raise the melting temperature so it will be softer. For a pretty soft and fast melt semi-solid oil, I recommend doing about 1 parts beeswax to about 5 parts liquids, and adjusting for how much cocoa butter you use since it’s hard at room temperature.

Lotion bars:

For lotion bars, you’re using the same ingredients, but you pour it into a mold to create a solid bar.. I recommend silicone molds, which you can find on Amazon or at any baking store. These are good for travel since it’s not a liquid that might leak, but you do have to be careful that they’re not exposed to really high temperatures as they will melt.  So don’t leave one in your car when it’s 95°F out. For lotion bars, you want about 40% liquid oil, 35% solid oil (butter) and 25% wax. Or, a 1:3 or 1:4 ratio of beeswax to oils. It also depends on how hard you want the lotion bar.

This ylang-ylang cocoa butter lotion bar recipe is one I’ve made in the past:

  • 4 tbsp. beeswax
  • 3 tbsp. cocoa butter
  • 2 tbsp. shea butter
  • 1 tbsp. mango butter
  • 1 tbsp. avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp. sweet almond oil
  • Add essential oil mix after cooling slightly: 30 drops ylang-ylang, 20 drops jasmine, 10 drops sweet orange

After looking at and trying recipes online I’ve found that creating your own lotion bars and body oils for use at home is very much dependent on personal taste. Some people like heavier feeling products, some like harder lotion bars. To create something you’ll really like, you do need to experiment a bit and make decisions based on the properties of the ingredients.

Properties of oils and butters:

To help you figure out which oils and butter you want to use, here’s some very brief information on common ones:

Sweet almond oil: average absorption, light oily feeling, liquid at low temps (fridge )
Apricot kernel oil: fast absorption, heavy oily feeling, liquid at low temps; good for mature skin
Avocado oil: slow absorption, heavy oily feeling, pretty rich oil, liquid low temps
Cocoa butter: slow absorption, heavy oily feeling, hard solid at room temp
Coconut oil: average absorption, slight heavy oily feeling, very smooth, soft at room temp
Grapeseed oil: fast absorption, light oily feeling, liquid at low temps
Jojoba oil: average absorption, not very oily feeling, liquid at room temp
Mango butter: average absorption, light oily feeling, soft yet solid at room temp
Olive oil: average absorption, heavy oil feeling, liquid at room temp
Shea butter: slow absorption, heavy oily feeling, tacky or sticky, soft buttery solid at room temp

Additionally, you can download my document on DIY basics that has more information about all these oils.

Lastly, I have two tips:

  1. If you’re making something that will be solid at room temperature (like a lotion bar) cool the product in the freezer. Cooling too slowly can result in a gritty product sometimes.
  2. Use glass bottles for products that are supposed to be liquid at room temperature. That way, if it starts to solidify you can easy melt it in the microwave.

Minefield of Chemicals: Toxic Fragrance (part 2)

How to avoid fragrance chemicals:

  • Read labels: avoid “fragrance (parfum)” without any detail
  • Look for “fragrance-free” official label
  • Avoid air fresheners and perfumed cleaning products; try natural ways to eliminate odors
  • Choose products that disclose source of fragrance: essential oil blends or botanicals
  • Find trustworthy companies with certifications that backup claims of “no synthetic fragrances”
  • Switch to green cleaning or DIY cleaning

My last fragrance article focused on perfume/cologne, but fragrance chemicals are present in many more consumer products. We are so inundated with fragrance in our society that its prevalence often goes unnoticed. Go to a store like Target or Fred Meyer (subsidiary of Kroger), walk around all the departments, and notice where you find fragranced products. Fragrance is heavily used in personal care products, but it’s also used in clothing, children’s toys, cleaning supplies, trash bags, Kleenex, and even feminine hygiene products.

The heavy use of fragrance is one of the worst problems because it makes everyday life difficult for those with sensitivities, limits consumer choices, and exposes people to toxic chemicals without their consent. The use of fragrance in public space is similar to the secondhand cigarette smoke issue. Smoking and using fragrance are not just individual lifestyle choices because they affect other people without their consent. This also pertains to company choices to use fragrance in public spaces, such as air fresheners in hotels or workspaces. Additionally, individuals should not have to work so hard to find products that are free of fragrance chemicals or are not unnecessarily scented. Even products labeled as “unscented” sometimes contain fragrance to mask the smell of other chemicals. The EPA has defined “fragrance-free” as an official term manufacturers can use to indicate that a product contains no fragrance chemicals; this is part of the Safer Choice label program.

So, what are some of the toxic chemicals used in fragrances and why should we be concerned? In my last fragrance post, I went over briefly some of the health risks associated with fragrance ingredients. Here, we’re going to examine just a few of the chemicals found in fragrance to give you a snapshot of why synthetic fragrances are so concerning. I think an important thing to keep in mind is how unregulated the fragrance industry is, so we’re not just worried about the health risks alone, it’s a combination of these ingredients being potentially toxic and having basically no safeguards to protect us.

  • Acetaldehyde: Affects kidneys, reproductive, nervous, and respiratory systems. Classified by CA Prop 65ˆ as known/suspected carcinogen. IARCˆ (International Agency for Research on Cancer) and the NTPˆ (National Toxicology Program) list it as a possible carcinogen.
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA): Possible endocrine disruption; also listed as carcinogen by CA Prop 65.
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT): Stabilizer and preservative. Eye and skin irritant and possible respiratory system irritant. Limited evidence of thyroid damage, including cancer, from BHT.
  • Dichloromethane (methylene chloride): Shown to cause mammary gland tumors and classified as possible carcinogen by IARC and NTP. Also, possible carcinogen to individuals working with it. Use is restricted by European Commissionˆ and it’s been banned by the FDA.
  • Diethyl phthalate: Fragrance solvent that’s a possible endocrine disruptor and neurotoxin; poses threat to reproductive system. Irritates eyes, skin, and respiratory system.
  • Formaldehyde: known human carcinogen. Banned in personal care products in Japan and Sweden. European Union and Canada restrict it. CA Prop 65 states in gas form, its carcinogen. Individuals working with formaldehyde are at risk of cancer and immune system impairment.
  • MEA, DEA, TEA – ethanolamine: When used in conjunction with certain preservatives, they form nitrosamines (a chemical class). The IARC and NTP consider various compounds in this chemical class as possible or known carcinogens.
  • Oxybenzone (BP-3): This UV filter is a possible EDCˆ; it might be toxic to liver cells and can accumulate in the body. European Union regulates its use in cosmetics.
  • Propyl paraben (propyl p-hydroxybenzoate): Possible endocrine disruptor (EDC). Banned by Denmark for children’s products under 3 years old. European Commission restricts its use in cosmetics.
  • Styrene: Toxic to blood cells and liver when ingested; neurotoxic when inhaled. European Commission classifies it as a “category 1” endocrine disruptor, which means there’s strong evidence that it is carcinogenic.
  • 1,4-Dioxane: This is a byproduct of making other chemicals and a common contaminant in final products. Since it’s a contaminant, it doesn’t need to be disclosed on ingredient labels. Under CA Prop 65, it’s known or suspected to cause cancer and birth defects. IARC and NTP both list it as possible carcinogen.

These substances are only a few of the thousands used in fragrance blends, but it gives you a good sense of the types of health concerns we’re dealing with. The evidence to support health risks is weak though, because most substances are not really tested. It’s difficult to make environmental and public health assessment on substances when there is insufficient data.

In addition to these chemicals, there is some evidence that certain chemical compounds found in essential oils may be harmful to our health and the environment. My next post in this fragrance series will dive deeper into that aspect.

 

References:

http://www.womensvoices.org/fragrance-ingredients/report-unpacking-the-fragrance-industry/
http://time.com/3703948/is-perfume-safe/
http://www.ewg.org/sites/default/files/report/SafeCosmetics_FragranceRpt.pdf
http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/chemicals-of-concern/fragrance/

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Sea Salt Texturizing Hair Spray for that Summer Beach Look

I love sea salt hair sprays – I like the crunchy, beachy, wavy texture. But, many of the products I’ve found haven’t been great ingredient wise (I do list a few good ones at the bottom though). I’ve seen a lot of formal DIY recipes online, so based on researching those and comparing with the Hippie Homemaker’s one on Etsy that I bought, I’ve created a template for how to make a great sea salt spray that can be customized based on your own preference.

My first tip for a good homemade product is to use sea salt or real ocean water if you have access to it. Table salt is pure Sodium Chloride, what we know as just “regular salt.” But sea salt, and salt water, have a lot more going on. They contain potassium, magnesium, and other trace minerals like manganese, calcium, zinc, iron, and silicon. There are also different kinds of sea salt with varying mineral compositions depending on where it’s from in the world.  Texturizing spray is not just about the salt, it’s also about the minerals and extras that help create that authentic beach babe wavy and tousled hair look.

This is the super simple DIY sea salt spray recipe that I use and will improve on later this summer:

  • Ocean water (that I brought home from Hawaii)
  • Coconut oil (unrefined)
  • Lime essential oil

This is simple, but it has the four basic components of texturizing sprays: water, salt, oils, essential oils. I mixed this in a 4 oz bottle; I think I used 1 tbsp coconut oil and a few drops of lime essential oil until it had just a hint of fragrance. Now, I’m going to expand on these ingredients to you can choose what you want to use.

Water: People recommend using distilled water, because tap water is often treated with various minerals that might change the effectiveness of the spray. Since I used ocean water, I didn’t have to think about this part.

Salt: Choose the right salt is important, as I noted above. Based on my research, it looks like lots of people use Epsom salt in combination with a finely ground Celtic sea salt, Himalayan sea salt, or a sea salt blend. Most recipes suggest using 1 Tbsp salt in 1 cup of water; the Hippie Homemaker suggests 2 tbsp Epsom and 1½ tsp Dead Sea salt (she has a recipe on her blog).

Oils: Adding an emollient of some kind is important so your hair doesn’t dry out too much. I like using coconut oil since it feels beachy and I like the scent. You can also add aloe vera gel, argan oil, vegetable glycerin, jojoba oil, or avocado oil.

Essential oils: These aren’t *essential* to the product (haha), but they add a nice fragrance and some are beneficial to hair. I like using lime because again, it’s summery and beachy to me and I love the smell! It really depends on personal preference, but I think any of these would be fitting: lavender, rosemary, grapefruit, lemon, vanilla, or orange. Just remember to check that you’re using the proper concentration for essential oils, as they shouldn’t be used undiluted.

Other ingredients: In researching other DIY recipes and store bought products, there’s other stuff you can add to give the spray a little boost. These include sugar, sea kelp extract, and Vitamin E. Some people also add conditioner, which probably acts as an emulsifying agent (since conditioner is a mix of water and oils). I’m not crazy about this idea for some inexplicable reason, but it may be a good idea if you’re having issues with ingredients separating. (This is just an educated guess, I don’t know this for a fact).

I turned to DIY recipes for sea salt sprays, because I couldn’t find one that had safe ingredients. There may be more options on the market since I last checked, since it seems like they’re gaining popularity. From my knowledge at this point, if you’re interested in just buying a spray, I suggest looking into these three products:

Herbivore Botanicals Sea Mist Texturizing Salt Spray (I haven’t used this, but ingredients look good to me)

SheaMoisture Zanzibar Marine Complex Sea Salt Texture Spray (I haven’t used this, but I generally like SheaMoisture’s products)

Hippie Homemaker Gidget’s Ocean Waves Texturizing Spray (This one I bought on Etsy and I really liked it)

You can also try looking for others on Etsy.

Side note: I found an interesting article that talks about the science behind the classic beach hair. Although she does caution against bottling your own ocean water because it will go bad quickly, which I disagree with. I took home a water bottle full of ocean water when I was in Hawaii and it survived the plane ride just fine. I’ve kept it in the fridge and it’s been good for over a year now.