Castile soap is my miracle soap. Right now I use Dr. Bronner's brand (even though the over-the-top religious rhetoric printed on the bottle creeps me out a little) but this weekend I'm planning to make my own for the first time - good or bad, I plan to blog about it. Castile soap has an alkaline pH of 9 (that means you shouldn't set the bottle down too hard while it's open so that it splashes in your eyes because it really hurts - not that I'd know). The higher pH worried me at first because most manufacturers strive to create body cleansers that have a neutral pH of 7. Either way, I can tell you that castile soap has worked wonders for my skin! It is now the only soap I use - even for my face. It has been incredible for my skin allergies and sensitivities (yes, I'm the geek with the allergies) and almost immediately after I started using it I noticed my face wasn't as oily. It's all natural, hypoallergenic, environmentally friendly (you can use this when you go camping) and it is the only soap I know of that lathers in salt water - don't ask.
Baking Soda as a Face Scrub
I noticed once, after buying a HUGE box of baking soda, that it had tips on the back of the box that listed possible household uses. One of the suggestions was to use baking soda as a gentle exfoliant. I've tried it and it's really gentle while still being effective. And even though the baking soda method ("no-poo") thing was a total fail, I've found that adding a teaspoon of baking soda to your shampoo once a week gives your shampoo a great lather and your hair more body and volume.
Unrefined Coconut Oil as a Moisturizer
I use unrefined coconut oil after every shower as an all over moisturizer. It's made almost entirely of medium chain fatty acids - just like the oil your body naturally produces - and it's loaded with antioxidants. Because of it's high level of antioxidants, it even offers some UVA/UVB protection. I would advise combining it with zinc oxide powder for sun protection if you plan to be out for awhile because natural antioxidants are neutralized when they combine with free radicals (meaning the UVA/UVB protection won't last for more than a couple of hours at best). I was hesitant to start using coconut oil on my face because I'm already prone to breakouts, but I'd read so many positive reviews from people using it specifically to control acne that I thought I'd give it a try. Miraculously, it hasn't caused me any problems. I apply a thin layer on my face to wear under my makeup and a heavier layer before I go to bed at night. It's also great as a substitute for shaving cream or gel.
Shea Butter as a Hand Moisturizer
Shea Butter is a natural derivative of karite trees that grow in Western and Central Africa. It has a great texture and a very mild, neutral smell. Considering the number of times I have to wash my hands every day (I'm a nursing student), I find that unrefined coconut oil is not heavy enough of a moisturizer or convenient enough to carry around and use as hand cream. Before I started using shea butter as a hand cream my hands were getting cracked and irritated. Now, even though I only remember to use the shea butter at night, my hands feel great!
I hope these simple tips are helpful!