Well, I have gone through a few stages on this one...
1) Increased water intake to keep skin moister.
2) Stopped buying body lotion.
3) Purchased more moisturizing types of body wash to be 2-in-1 products.
4) Towel-dried my skin more gently and gradually less and less -- leaving it somewhat damp.
5) When needed, I use unrefined or virgin coconut oil (VCO) on the drier areas (elbows, knees, ankles, etc) with damp skin. The key to using oil is to give it moisture to seal in. Sometimes I use a different oil, like jojoba or sweet almond. Each oil has a different rate of absorption.
6) I purchased a "butters" sample and use shea butter on my feet before wearing cotton socks overnight. Combined with using a pumice stone more regularly, my feet are so much softer and smoother now!
7) After I apply my face moisturizer (aloe vera gel with a drop or two of my handmade face serum in the summer and VCO in the winter), I rub the excess into my hands. Keeps my cuticles snag-free!
I use a dry skin brush before I shower. Then while I am still wet put on extra virgin coconut oil. I have been using Bea's balm on my feet this summer. Otherwise for my feet I make a lotion with coco and shea butter and whatever else grabs my fancy.
I've been trying out different types of food-grade oils (sunflower, grapeseed, sesame, coconut, almond, etc.) to use as a body moisturizer because 1) they are easy to find either in bulk or in recyclable glass bottles, and 2) they contain no added chemical preservatives. My favorite so far is the almond oil; it doesn't have a strong scent and it absorbs easily into the skin. Look for oils that are cold-pressed and unfiltered. Spectrum is a good brand.
A word of advice when using homemade body lotion: since it's preservative-free, the lotion will spoil more quickly than a body lotion you'd buy at the store. A homemade lotion will last approximately 1-2 weeks before it starts growing stuff. You can ward off bacterial/mold growth a couple of ways, such as sterilizing the container by boiling it in water for 10 min, using a pump dispenser (instead of dipping your hands in the jar), and making small batches of lotion every couple of weeks. You can also add vitamin E oil as a natural preservative. While the homemade lotion was lovely to use, I eventually switched to moisturizing with a body oil (which lasts a long time without preservatives) when making the lotion every other week turned cumbersome.
I use cold-pressed almond oil that I buy in bulk from the health food store (Integral Yoga Natural Foods in NYC). If you don't have access to bulk body oils, you can also find a really nice selection of oils in the cooking oils section of the supermarket. Look for one in a recyclable glass bottle. It sounds kind of strange to use cooking oil as a moisturizer, but I swear it works;) I like almond, sunflower, and grapeseed oils because they don't have a strong scent and absorb easily into the skin. As others have mentioned above, coconut oil also makes a great body oil moisturizer. It's semi-solid at room temperature, so it's easier to spread onto the skin (leaves a nice coconut scent on the skin, too). I haven't found coconut oil in bulk yet, but the Spectrum brand coconut oil comes in a glass jar. Hope this helps. If you decide to make the homemade body lotion, you can use the same oil as an ingredient in the recipe.
I was just looking at the Lush body butter bars, too! A store recently opened in my neighborhood. Love that they are unpackaged. Does the bar rub easily onto the skin or do you have to wet and use it in the shower?
i've found a number of super easy DIY lotion, shampoo/conditioner, laundry, dishwasher, cleaning products and more recipes. i have them linked on my blog at mywastelesslife.blogspot.com. additionally, i buy shampoo bars called egghead from connecticut natural soap and they're wonderful.
True, there are Lush products that contain ingredients I would not use (e.g. propylene glycol in their conditioners, DEA in the shampoos). However, the ingredients list for the body butter/massage bars looks okay. I noticed they list the individual components of essential oils, as required by E.U. cosmetics regulations. If you're relying on Skin Deep's Cosmetic Database for safety information, this will artificially increase the product's hazard score.
I may be in the minority, but I am not a big fan of the skin deep database. It is too biased for me.... (It is just one of several resources, in my opinion.)
At this point in my journey, I am looking to reduce the number of products I use. Versatility is key for me and coconut oil is fitting the bill for many uses. At the same time, I am finding through a healthier diet and better quality and lower frequency use of "soap", my need for body lotion has dramatically decreased altogether. I am to the point of only using oils on my face (2 drops in the winter/1 drop in summer) and feet (slathered a few times a week) and my cuticles (daily rubbing "excess" from face application) and lips.
Karin, would you mind sharing your other resources for looking up product ingredients? It would be nice to be able to compare information from different sources. The skin deep database is definitely not perfect, but I'm not sure where else to look.
I use google and the internet. I check the sources of the information and try to find a few independent sources. I like Mountain Rose Herbs and Nature's Gift for the items they each carry. I also like Susun Weed and sooooo many more.
I also have an Ayurveda practitioner that I ask.
I also know the owner of a great day spa who is an aromatherapist and knows a lot about all this stuff. She is truly amazing!
Plus, books from the library that have been recommended by health-conscious friends.
I have some books, too.
Depending on the importance of the ingredients, I will read many sources before making up my own mind. It is definitely more of an art than a science, in my opinion at this point in time. There is so much mis-information or half-truths in advertising that are coming into the light more and more these days.