When indoors, Monique Warner spends an exceptional amount of time in her kitchen, but she’s not always making food.
She spends many of her days on her property at Riverside, NWT, near the Alberta/NWT border, making natural cleaning and beauty products. Aside from home-schooling her children and organizing food in her root cellar, she makes soaps, beauty products, and household cleaning solutions and she does it all from scratch, with ingredients she can pronounce.
Warner became concerned about the amount of harsh and harmful chemicals in cleaning and beauty products. She then educated herself in aromatherapy and essential oils, and decided she wanted to take a more natural approach.
It all started because of chemicals, self-education about the benefits of natural ingredients, concerns for conservation and sustainability and her children. One of the main product ingredients in many mass produced beauty products, paraben, which is derived from petroleum, is particularly concerning, she said.
According the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, parabens are found in many cosmetic products and are used for their anti-microbial properties. Health Canada reported that parabens were found to have weakly mimicked estrogens in animal studies. They also cited a 2004 British study that found parabens in breast tumours.
“I became more interested in the ingredients in products when I had children,” said Warner. “I found out that some of these ingredients can be harmful to the skin, and your skin is the largest organ in your body.”
Aroma wafts through the house when Warner makes soap. She uses grated and boiled moose fat – tallow — that looks much like grated cheese, only it turns into oil when it’s rubbed between her fingertips.
“Back in the old days it would take women all year to save tallow,” she said.
The only thing she has to be careful of working with is soap. One of the main ingredients, lye, although pure, is caustic and needs to be mixed in a specific brand of plastic. Out of all the beauty aids, moisturizers and soaps she makes, the homemade bar soap takes the longest. All others are surprisingly easy to mix and then compared to in-store products.
“And these are all (ingredients) I can find in my home,” said Warner.
Groupings of jars, glass containers, teaspoons and measuring cups surround her in her kitchen. So far she has only led a few small workshops teaching people how to make their own soaps and cosmetic products. She plans to continue offering courses. One of the other added bonuses of making your own products, she said, is it’s cost effective.
Warner will make her first appearance selling her products in Hay River at the Fisherman’s Wharf this Saturday.