In my previous post, Getting Personal, Part 1, I shared with you why I decided to overhaul our personal care items. Now, I must be clear - I'm still learning and discovering new ideas and methods everyday that shape my choices. By no means am I an expert on natural, "green" personal care - I don't have it all figured out. I simply want to share what we have been trying and it is my hope that YOU will share your ideas too! We've discovered that finding personal care items that work for each individual is a process of trial and error. We all have a different body chemistry, so what works for me might not work for you.
So let's start at the beginning. In my opinion, the best place to start is here: Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. If you haven't heard of this site created by the Environmental Working Group, check it out. It is a priceless guide that will help you make informed choices about the products you use on your body. Basically, you can type in the name of a product and they will give you the lowdown on that product - what is in it, what those ingredients mean and if they are harmful, it will tell why. They also have a hazard rating system: Green for "generally safe", Yellow for "use with caution", and Red for "watch out!" (these are my descriptions, not the websites). You may not be able to find information about all the products you have, but their database is impressive. They also have oodles of good information to help you choose safer products. When I started making changes, I didn't throw absolutely everything out at first - we couldn't afford to buy all new products. So I slowly started making changes as we used up our old stuff. When it was time to replace shampoo or face powder, I went right to this site and researched my options before going out and buying something new.
My gateway product into the world of natural body care was a bottle of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap. This stuff is legendary. Not sure if it's because the product works so well or if it because of the insane amount of text on the bottle. That Dr. Bronner, he was one crazy cat. We use this product as body wash for the whole family and shampoo for the kids. But seriously, you can use this stuff for almost anything. It's THE ultimate all purpose soap. Body wash, face wash, shampoo, shaving soap, hand soap, dish soap, laundry soap, toothpaste (yes, some people use it for that!), all purpose cleaner.... you name it, you can use Dr. Bronner's for it. As a fan of multi-purpose products, this makes me happy. Why have countless other bottles when this one soap can do it all? I'll admit, we don't use it for everything I listed about, but it's nice to know we could.
Hair Care: I've tried using Dr. Bronner's as shampoo, but it didn't work so well with my long hair (however, we've had great results using it on the kid's hair). After trying several natural ingredient shampoos from the health food store, I still wasn't happy. In desperation, I searched for alternatives and discovered a hair cleaning method called "No Poo". No, I'm not talking about constipation. The "No Poo" method (no shamPOO) involves using baking soda to cleanse the scalp and vinegar to condition the hair (check out more detailed instructions here ). I was skeptical. So I tried it. By golly, it worked. My hair had never felt so clean (is there anything that baking soda and vinegar can't do?!?). Be aware that if your hair is used to being washed everyday with harsh detergents, your oil glands are working hard to produce enough oil to keep your scalp from being dried out. Once you stop using detergent shampoo, there will be an adjustment period as your oil glands try to figure out what is happening (translation - you will have super greasy hair for a while). I used this method for quite a while and was very happy with it, but to be honest, I missed the feeling of a good lather. We've been so conditioned to think that lather equals clean. So, I finally found a great line of shampoos and conditioners by Aubrey Organics that I adore. At this point, I am using these products and the "No Poo" method, alternating about every other time I wash my hair.
As long as we are discussing hair, I should also mention two things: One, I've never used hair product (gels, sprays, creams, etc.), since I hate the way they make my hair feel. Because I don't use them, I really have done no research seeking out safer products. All I know is I have read the ingredients labels on a few bottles and been dismayed by what I read. You're going to have to do your own research on that one.
Two, I'm not convinced that coloring/dying hair is safe. I remember getting a packet of literature from my OB's office when I was pregnant with my son. One of the pages was a question and answer format, on which the question was raised "Is it safe to dye my hair when pregnant?" Long story short, no one really knows if it's safe or not - it's so hard to test these things and no one would willingly damage their baby for sake of research and testing. The paper didn't really answer yes or no, it simply stated that there may be possible risks and high risk pregnancy women should avoid coloring their hair. This got me thinking - if coloring hair is not safe for a developing baby, then it's probably not safe for the mother as well. I don't have any concrete evidence that hair coloring is harmful, but I tend to lean towards "better safe than sorry". Sorry, gals. Hate to burst your bubble. Why are we so afraid of gray hairs? We all grow old. There is no denying it. It seems terribly silly to cover up something that is a mark of wisdom and distinction. Consider the following verses from scripture:
"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life" -Proverbs 16:31
"The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old" -Proverbs 20:29
I've chosen to embrace my gray hairs and fully intend to be a silver fox as I grow older. Salt and pepper hair is the new sexy.
Facial Care: I'm still trying to figure this one out. Facial care can be very tricky, because I feel like our skin is changing all the time. And what works for one person might be horrible for someone else. Honestly, I can't say that I have ever found a face wash that I really liked... and I've tried quite a few. For about the last year, I've been using the Dr. Bronner's soap to wash my face, followed by a swipe of diluted apple cider vinegar to restore the pH balance. During the dry winter time, I sometimes get some dry patches, so I dab on a little coconut oil (FYI: coconut oil is also fantastic for removing eye makeup). What? Oil on your face? Yes, I put oil on my face and no, it does not make me break out. In fact, I think it prevents it. Washing your face too often makes those oil glands go into overdrive. I only wash my face once a day to keep my oil glands from overproducing. Since I was 12 twelve, I've had terrible acne. I went to several dermatologists, was on countless prescription creams and drugs, tried a million different cleaning products and regimens. Nothing seemed to work. Finally, about 10 years ago, I got so sick of it all and stopped washing my face in the morning out of sheer laziness. And guess what? My skin has been much better ever since - still not perfect, but an improvement. I wonder if all those years I was simply washing my face too much, causing my oil glands to go bonkers (well, I think there were other culprits as well, but the over-washing was not helping).
My current method of washing once a day with soap is working ok, but I really want to try this, The Magic Mitt. I've heard great things about it - the cloth cleans your face with plain water. Now that sounds good to me! Also, I'm considering trying the "Oil Cleansing" method, as explained here, on Crunchy Betty's site. If you are into making your own facial care items, "Better Basics for the Home" by Annie Berthold-Bond is chuck-full of recipes and ideas.
Ok, enough for one day. Next time, we answer the burning question - what does Lori put on her arm pits? Does she smell like a stinky hippie? I'll also share some more natural body care tips. In the meantime, I'd love to hear any ideas or suggestions you may have. What is working/not working for you???