Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Year of Better Update - Beauty and the Beets

It was my intention to post an update at the beginning of each month, but if my goal is to write coherent sentences with proper punctuation, I have to wait until after Blue goes to bed. And by that point, I prefer to burrow on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and watch Victoria (which I love, now that I realize it's more like Downton Abbey and less like The Queen). But I've been getting questions from my Facebook friends about recipes and how the more natural approaches to skin care, health and home-making have been working out.

In short, it's freaking awesome and I can't believe I waited so long to switch over.

So, I'm going to share what I've done so far, breaking it down to health and beauty in this post and cleaning/cooking in the next one.

If you are truly interested in reducing the amount of chemicals in your home, I suggest you download the Think Dirty app and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) app. Think Dirty evaluates health and beauty products (it has a scan's tempting to scan everything in your bathroom...don't do it - especially if your husband just bought you a year-long subscription to Birch Box. Just pick a few things to start with because you are going to want to throw it all in the trash.) while EWG focuses on cosmetics, sunscreen and food. They also list some cleaning products, which is how I discovered that I can keep my Seventh Generation dish soap, but I need to ditch the Aveeno baby soap and anything from Mrs. Meyers (I know...sad trombones on that one). So, armed with these 2 apps, I started with the basics: deodorant and hair care.

1. I switched to "Sensitive" Dove deodorant when I kept breaking out in my arm pits (yeah, it's just as unsightly as it sounds). But even after I switched, I kept breaking out. I decided it was the fate of my skin and resigned myself to sleeves. But my deodorant scored a NINE on the Think Dirty app (mostly for fragrance - which is counter-intuitive to sensitive skin but whatever...). I then got on the EWG app and browsed their list of "approved" deodorants. Kiss My Face scored well for most of their products and when I happened to find it at Wegman's, it felt like stars aligning. Surprise, surprise...after a month of using Kiss My Face, my underarms are almost completely blemish-free! (Fair warning, though: if it wears off overnight and then you sweat through a Muscle Pump class the next morning, you will stink. I moved away from the fans to keep from spreading the stench, but I'm not sure it helped.)

2. Again, when I scanned my shampoo and conditioner in the Think Dirty app, they scored 9's and 10's for perfumes and formaldehyde. I hate it when my beauty products contain formaldehyde. I would prefer not to be embalmed on a daily basis. After washing my hair with Dr. Bronner's soap for about a week (and contending with increasingly crispy hair), I decided I needed to find another option. I found the Acure line at Target (yay!) and it is highly rated on both apps (double yay!). It contains a lot of food-type ingredients, like pomegranate juice and something derived from sugar beets. They also have a seaweed exfoliating scrub that I use about 3 times a week. Yes, it's green, but it makes my face feel so not like it's almost 40.

3. I know. Sorry. If you're a guy or no longer have to face this battle every month, just skip to #4. But, it is what it is. So, I've been using Tampax almost since day one, when I was super confused about the applicator needing to come back out. And they've been fine. They did the job and I never thought much about it. Although every now and then I would convince myself that I had contracted Toxic Shock Syndrome until I realized it was a head cold or the flu. But a few months ago I started noticing more of my "level-headed and reasonable" crunchy granola Facebook friends "liking" the Lola brand of tampons and pads. And since you get a great deal as a first-time customer, I ordered 2 boxes to give them a try. I will say, they do the job and I don't think much about it. However, I feel much more comfortable knowing it's 100% cotton going up there instead of propylene glycol, adhesives, artificial fragrances and polyester. I've already ordered the matching pads for this month.

4. remover. It's a necessary evil and I pretty much do as little as I can get away with and still have clear skin. The Neutrogena wipes have been my go-to for so long that I just started buying them at Costco. However, they scored a...wait for it...NINE in the Think Dirty app (this is why you don't scan your entire bathroom at once, friends. You've been warned.) and while some things I waited until I ran out of to replace, this was not one of them. I know this is shocking but it scored the highest for "fragrance". There are almost 3000 fragrance ingredients added to personal care products, usually to mask an odor (eww...nothing says "fresh" like the smell of chemicals in the morning) or to add a pleasant scent, but they can also disrupt hormones. I like my hormones to be regulated and, well, not disrupted. So, the makeup remover is a little trickier because it's a concoction using ingredients around the house and a few essential oils from Young Living. (This is where I do a quick plug for Young Living and say that if you are interested in using essential oils for more than just making things smell nice, YL should be your only source. I will explain in a later post, but trust the Virgo who researched it for weeks before ever putting a drop on my skin - and continues to research it still.)

Makeup Remover Recipe:
1. 2 Tb jojoba oil or grapeseed oil (these are my 2 "face oils" because they don't clog the pores like coconut oil can)
2. 1 Tb of alcohol-free witch hazel (I also get this at Target. It will say "alcohol-free" on the bottle.)
3. 4 drops of lavender
4. 4 drops of frankincense (yes, like the Three Wise Men)
5. Optional: 4 drops of lemon or tea tree or myrrh (again, Wise Men). I've seen it with a combination of any of these. I didn't have any tea tree or myrrh when I made this batch and lemon keeps me awake at night so I just used #3 and #4. You can also add Vitamin E but, again, I didn't have any on hand when I made this.
*Add to a glass spray bottle. Yes, if the essential oils are in there it has to be glass.
*Give a little swirl before using each time and spray one cotton round generously. Apply to face. Hear the angels sing.

I seriously love this recipe and I can't wait to play with the ingredients as I build my collection of oils. Also, my age spots are beginning to fade and the worry wrinkle between my eyebrows is less pronounced. And my face feels re-hydrated without leaving an oil slick on the pillow.

5. "Stretch Mark Cream"...aka Why Didn't I Discover This Stuff About 4 Years Ago cream. OK I vaguely remember some people telling me that coconut oil was nectar from the gods and that if I cared about my epidermis at all, I would slather it everywhere every day. Well, coconut oil is nectar from the gods, y'all. And while I still keep a jar of Cetaphil in my car for dry, lizard hands (the Cetaphil products scored a 5 on Think Dirty, except for Baby Cetaphil which scored a 9...what is wrong with THAT picture?), I whipped up this batch for daily slathering.

Stretch Mark Cream Recipe:
1. Jar of unrefined, organic (or virgin, cold-pressed or raw) coconut oil
2. 12-15 drops of Gentle Baby Young Living oil
Fun fact: If you dump a jar of coconut oil in a bowl and whip it with an electric beater, it will stay, more or less, whipped in the jar. Add some Gentle Baby oil and voila. I've also known people who add Vitamin E oil and/or Frankincense and Myrrh to this, as well. (I have some bars of local beeswax that I'm going to melt but I think I'm going to put that in my first batch of lip balm.)

6. Soap. We started using the Dove Shea Butter soap when I was trying to address the armpit acne issue and we've just stuck with it. Most of the Dove soaps score a 9 on Think Dirty but the sensitive skin version scored a 3, so if making your own body soap is too tree huggy for you, there are other options. But this couldn't possibly be easier.

Body Soap Recipe
 1. Dr. Bronner's Baby Mild Liquid soap (I started with Peppermint first. It was awesome until I washed the lady parts. And I was tingly for at least 5 minutes, regardless of how well I rinsed. That is not really for me but if you like a little sensation in the shower, may I suggest Dr. Bronner's Peppermint) + water in a foaming soap dispenser.

That's it. Dr. Bronner's is an awesome company that I should have been buying all along. It only has 8 ingredients and 4 of them are water and oils.

7. Ah, shaving cream. There's no before product because honestly I just used whatever was laying around...shampoo...soap...water. But this recipe from Modern Hippy Housewife (I love that she's modern and hippy) is probably the best I've found so far. A lot of recipes call for coconut oil but as great as it is for stretchmarks, it will clog a razor just as fast as it will clog a pore. This uses grapeseed or olive oil instead. I also added this to a foaming soap dispenser because...well...why not? I use this recipe in the guest bathrooms as hand soap as well because the honey and the oil leave the hands feeling so soft and nourished. Please don't judge my razor. That's next month's project.

8. Lastly, my new face regiment. There are a lot of people who use their essential oils for cleaning or body wash, but personally, I feel that's kind of a waste of expensive oil. If it's only on my skin for 15 seconds or it's being applied to my kitchen floor, that's not as good as it going directly on my skin or in my diffuser or in my mouth (more on that next month) so I reserve most of my oils for application or inhalation or ingestion. Right now, since it's winter in Pennsylvania and the sun comes out between the hours of 8 AM and 9 AM, I use 1-2 drops of lemon oil with a little jojoba oil on my face in the morning. But the citrus oils are tricky. It's like Retin-A. Hey high school friends, remember that time I put Retin-A all over my face and then went out and played a softball game? It's like that. Lemon can increase photosensitivity so I use it on rainy, cloudy days, which are in great abundance at the moment. It's great for clarifying and brightening. And then a little "Frank" in the evening for generally healing and skin health.

I also switched Blue's Aveeno Baby Wash (Neal texted me the Think Dirty score one night during bathtime and I demanded he throw out that Baby Cancer Wash immediately) to Weleda Calendula Baby Shampoo (from Amazon). It gets the highest score of "O" on Think Dirty and its most suspicious ingredient is probably Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate, which is similar in structure to MSG but without any of the toxic effects. The rest is water, oils, flower extracts and naturally occurring essential oils.

And that's where we are so far. As I mentioned, Neal gave me a Birch Box subscription for Christmas so, while the Mighty Nest subscription would probably have been better for The Year of Better, I asked for it back in November. And I will keep using the samples they send. At the end of this year I will probably start looking to replace my makeup with cleaner, less chemical-laden options (and that's no easy or cheap feat either).

I love sharing recipes so if you have a body wash or shaving cream or deodorant roll-on, etc. that you love, please post it in the comments! And if you try one of these, let me know how it goes! Next up will be my new arsenal of cleaning sprays, scrubs, tabs and, of course, the wool dryer balls I finished last Sunday.


  1. Very interesting. I didn't realize how "whole hog" you really intended to go. My esthetitian (sp?) recommended macadamia oil for my face and so far i like it, and ditched the drug store one. (will scan it and see what i gave up.)

    And, i was serious when i commented that i went nearly a year with NO shampoo at all. I just rinsed my hair every day. Day two it was a bit funky, but other than that, it was just fine - winter and summer. Apparently in Australia, that's what they do. I rinsed occasionally with beer (don't scan that!) or vinegar for a little extra shine. don't remember why i went back to 'poo.

    Not sure i want to let you in my house. Am sure it's full of chemicals!

  2. I am totally interested in the makeup remover. I have acne-prone skin, always have and probably always will, and coconut oil doesn't work for me--acne everywhere. After experimenting with it, I haven't experimented with others (except for almond oil--same result). As a user of the makeup remover wipes, I'm intrigued by the spray but am afraid of the expense and eventual break outs (to be fair, my skin isn't exactly clear now, so would I really notice, ha?). How does it fare on your skin?

  3. I'm having the chemical allergy test next week so I'll probably be picking your brain next weekend. Our problem with a lot of natural products is that the Chema A is allergic to are natural 😞 I'm most interested in hair care products b/c I've only found one safe for any more recommendations in that area?

  4. I am loving following your Year of Better. Please update more about your healthy/clean-living journey. Miss you, friend!


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