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toxins in the home

Unrecipes: Chemical-Free Cleaning and Personal Care

I am not this fancy!
Image Credit: Becky Wetherington on Flickr.

When I wrote about how we keep a balance with the ol’ budget around here, I mentioned that there are a whole lot of cleaning and toiletry products that I no longer buy. Several readers inquired about our alternatives, so I promised to write up a post detailing them. I also mentioned that those of you who were impressed probably shouldn’t be. I worry that I have you all picturing me in the kitchen pouring luxurious bars of soap in various shapes and scents and putting pretty labels on bottles of homemade moisturizer. It’s definitely not like that, and if I made myself out to be some guru that was not my intent. Anyhow, I’ll shush now and get on with it.

First, a rundown of the ingredients I use for personal care and household cleaning, since most of them will appear more than once. In bold are the items I really feel that I need. The rest I could live without, but they add a little something and I had them on hand, so I use them. If you’re familiar with this sort of stuff already, you may want to skip to the next section.

  • Castile Soap: Traditionally, the name Castile soap refers to a product made from olive oil in the Castile region of Spain. These days, however, it refers to any soap whose base is purely from vegetable oils rather than animal tallow. These soaps are pure and simple, without harsh detergents, animal based ingredients, and the like. Popular brands include Dr. Bronner’s and Dr. Woods. These soaps can be found in health food stores, but are becoming more readily available elsewhere. We typically use Dr. Bronner’s. I like to buy the Baby Mild variety since it contains no essential oils, but I can divvy it up and add my own depending on what I’m in the mood for.
  • Vinegar: Vinegar requires little explanation, as I’m sure it is not a foreign product to any of you. I tend to use white vinegar most often, as it is inexpensive and I can purchase it in much larger quantities and a recyclable container. Another popular option, especially for hair rinses, however, is Apple Cider Vinegar. I use Bragg’s ACV here and there as well.
  • Baking Soda: This also needs little explanation, but I suppose I’ll mention that in many countries it is referred to as Sodium Bicarbonate. It’s also important to note that due to the way they are processed, many popular brands contain aluminum, so you may wish to look for one that does not. I use Bob’s Red Mill, which is labeled aluminum free.
  • Extra Virgin Coconut Oil: Oil from coconuts also needs little explanation. When cold, the oil is solid, but slight warming causes it to liquefy. You can buy any old type, but the unrefined (virgin) oil retains all of its beneficial properties, while the refining process destroys some. One difference that you will notice, however, is that unrefined oil smells strongly of coconuts whereas the refined oil is virtually odorless, so if you don’t enjoy the smell you can certainly purchase the refined oil. Just be aware of the difference. The brand I purchase is called Spectrum, but that’s just because it’s the only brand my local stores carry.
  • Essential Oils: Essential oils are used for fragrance as well as for certain therapeutic or medicinal properties. They are extracted, usually by distillation, from various plants. They differ from fragrance oils in that they are derived from plants themselves and do not contain synthetic fragrances, which can have negative effects on human health. Most essential oils are not to be used undiluted on the skin, but are perfectly safe when used with a “carrier” oil like olive or coconut. I use only a few essential oils, and really I could live without them, but they add a nice touch and I do enjoy them. If you’re new to the world of EOs, you may enjoy Dionna’s article on Essential Oil Remedies for Children over at the Natural Parents Network.
  • Grapefruit Seed Extract: GSE is, in fact, made from grapefruit and is useful as a natural preservative as well as an antimicrobial agent. I took it, diluted in water, when I had Mastitis and avoided a trip to the doctor, but I also use it in some household products. It is available in health food stores.
  • Stevia: Made from a plant of the same name, Stevia is found in powdered and liquid forms and used as a sweetener. I use it in one product only, and that’s Annabelle’s toothpaste. You can find it in health food stores. It is becoming rather controversial, however, especially since becoming available as an ultra-processed white powder under the name “Truvia.” Definitely do your research and decide how you feel about using it. Certainly the less processed the better – if you can grow it yourself or get your hands on the actual leaves, that’s fantastic. If you buy it in powdered form, it should be green. Another popular alternative is Xylitol, but it’s just as controversial and personally I don’t wish to use it. Crunchy Betty has a great article on the topic -> Xylitol: Should We Stop Calling it Natural?
  • Xanthan Gum: This is another controversial product, and unless you have it on hand, you probably have no reason to buy it. It is a fermented corn sugar derived from a particular bacteria (Xanthomonas campestris). It is used in food products, especially gluten free specialty foods, and cosmetics. Most of the issues with it are based on the fact that it’s corn-derived and therefore usually GMO, but you’ll certainly uncover quite a bit of information if you look around. I won’t use it for food any longer, but in cosmetics it’s nice because it keeps things that would otherwise separate, mixed.

Personal Care
I’m the type of gal who likes to keep things as simple as possible, so I try to find solutions for personal care products that are not only chemical-free, but that don’t require any difficult to find ingredients. I don’t really follow recipes, as that requires extra time and, you know, writing stuff down. I wing it. You can, too. I trust you on this.

  • Hair
    • ShampooI tried going no ‘poo for some months, and after the initial transition it worked great. Eventually, however, I started to feel like I had some residue that just plain never went away completely, so I jumped ship. I think this has a lot to do with the extremely harsh water we have here. In any case, I started using a small amount of liquid castile soap when I need a good wash, and I add a bit of lavender essential oil when I want my hair to smell pretty. I do the same for Annabelle, though she needs a good wash far less often than I.
    • Conditioner: I have stuck with the vinegar rinse. It’s inexpensive, and it works. I keep a spray bottle in my shower that contains half vinegar and half water and I use this to spray my hair. This method means I’m much less likely to get vinegar in my eyes, which stings. A lot. I follow each wash with a vinegar rinse, but even when I don’t wash my hair with soap, I do a hot water and vinegar rinse.
      For Annabelle, I spray vinegar only on the curly back of her hair, taking care that I don’t accidentally get any in her eyes.
    • Styling: I do have a gel (Alba Botanica) and a hairspray (Aubrey Organics)1 that I use when I really want to get fancy, but for the most part all I do is use a small amount of coconut oil on my ends and as far up my hair as seems to need moisturizer. Just a touch adds moisture and shine without making the hair look oily.
      Where I have really gotten frustrated is with Annabelle’s super curly hair that becomes a giant tangle in the back the moment it makes contact with anything. For awhile, I was just using coconut oil and brushing it out, but coconut oil is expensive, and when you use enough to help detangle it also makes the hair greasy. I have come up with (gasp!) an actual recipe for a detangling spray that I now use for her. It also helps tame flyaways for me. Here it is:
      • 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil
      • 1/4 tsp Xanthan Gum
      • 1 cup water
        I use a funnel to pour the coconut oil into a spray bottle, then add the xanthan gum and mix. Finally, I add the water and the lid, and shake vigorously. The xanthan gum keeps the oil and water from separating and also adds a bit of thickness to the mixture. You can also add a drop or two of essential oil for fragrance. This does not work as beautifully as the “No More Tangles” I remember as a kid, but it does make it easier to comb Annabelle’s curls out and it helps them keep their shape. If you use conditioner, I also hear good things about diluting a bit in water and simply using that.
  • Face: I wash with castile soap and use coconut oil as a moisturizer. Coconut oil also works wonderfully to remove makeup from under the eyes, and it has a natural SPF so it provides a bit of protection from the sun as well.
    I do wear makeup, most of which I order online from Coastal Classic Creations, whose products are about as pure as they come. They even use BPA free containers. I am not a fan of their mascara, however, so I use ZuZu Luxe, which you can buy at Whole Foods if you have such a thing near you, and probably some other health food stores as well.
  • Teeth: This is where you’re going to think I’m really crazy. I researched toothpaste recipes until I wanted to scream, and there was virtually nothing that some sources didn’t advise against. Baking soda is a popular choice, but some say it is too abrasive and damages your enamel. Glycerine is commonly used, but some sources say it coats the teeth and actually does more harm than good. I couldn’t find anything I felt completely and totally comfortable with, so finally I threw up my hands and started using Peppermint Dr. Bronner’s, or Dr. Bronner’s Baby Mild with Peppermint Essential Oil added. It lathers beautifully, tastes minty fresh, and leaves my teeth feeling cleaner than ever, so I think I’ll stick with it unless my next visit to the dentist gives me a reason to do otherwise.
    I have tried it with Annabelle and she scrunches up her face and declares the stuff, “hot!” I made a different concoction for her using about two tablespoons of coconut oil to one tsp Dr. Bronner’s and several drops of Stevia to make it pleasant to the taste. The soap is what actually does the cleaning – the rest just makes it palatable.
    I have gone back and forth on rinses, and I’ll report back when I find something I want to stick with. For now, I’m finishing off a bottle of Tom’s while I decide what to do next.
  • Body: I wash myself and Annabelle with castile soap. Easy, peasy. Going soap free seems to be increasingly popular. I’m not ready. As a moisturizer, I use coconut oil. Olive oil is wonderful, too, but the smell is too much for me. Coconut oil works fine as a deodorant if I’m not doing anything terribly active, but when I need something heavier duty, I use Crystal deodorant spray.
Yes, I grabbed the camera before helping.
You may now question what kind of
mother I am anyway.

Household

  • Dishes and Laundry
    There are many wonderful recipes out there for homemade dish and laundry soaps, but most call for ingredients that are not easy to come by here. For now, I am happy using products that I can buy locally. I would like to experiment with making my own when we move, but I’ll take it slowly. My favorite brand for dish and laundry soaps is Biokleen. When I can’t find it, I go for other relatively safe brands. My current hand dish washing soap is Meyer’s Clean Day. I’m definitely not the super green poster child in this department, but I’m working on it.
    I do use a lot of vinegar, both as a rinse agent in the dishwasher and as a fabric softener. I was skeptical about using it for these purposes, but the results are undeniable. Our harsh water used to leave a thick white coating on dishes, but when I add a cup of vinegar to the wash, everything comes our sparkly clean.
  • Floors and Surfaces
    My basic “all-purpose cleaner” is a small amount of castile soap and a couple of drops of essential oil for fragrance diluted in a spray bottle with water. This works beautifully on our counters and tile floors as well as on bathroom surfaces. I always keep a spray bottle of vinegar on hand as well, and use that to sanitize counter tops and kill bacteria in other areas – especially the bathroom.
    For wood, I am still trying recipes and working to find something I love. I was using a combination of olive oil and lemon juice, but in the end I decided this was leaving a build-up on my wood. For now, I use warm, soapy water.
  • Glass
    Vinegar works wonderfully. In the old days, we used it with newspaper, but I have found that a cotton cleaning cloth actually works wonderfully. For a long time this was the one purpose I reserved paper towels for. Boy did I feel silly when I saw how well a regular old, washable cloth works!
  • Fruit and Veggie Wash
    I wish I could remember where I found recipes for fruit and veggie washes, but that’s tricky since I don’t follow any one exactly anyway. I suggest that you find an exact recipe that you like and trust, but if you want to know what I use, it’s a combination of grapefruit seed extract, vinegar, water, and a bit of baking soda. It’s not very scientific, and I may actually measure one of these days.
  • Toilets
    Our crazy harsh water tends to leave a mineral buildup on toilet bowls. To combat this and generally clean, I sprinkle baking soda on the dry part of the bowl (a repurposed spice jar with a shaker top works wonderfully for this) and then gently spray it with vinegar. I leave this to sit for a few minutes and then scrub all of the residue away.
  • ScouringAnnabelle has free access to her art materials and this sometimes leads to a bit of exploratory drawing. Fortunately, her pencils and crayons wipe off most surfaces easily, but for some this is not the case. For tough jobs, I create a paste with baking soda and a very small amount of water. I use a soft cloth or simply my fingertip to scrub crayon, pencil, and other types of marks away. Baking soda is quite abrasive, however, so test it on a small part of your surfaces before going all out.

And that’s that. Overall, my goals are to minimize our environmental impact and keep toxins out of our home. Many times, however, I have been thankful that we use the types of products that we do because they give me peace of mind around our busy toddler. When Annabelle licks the tabletop or rubs her hand in the table I have just sprayed, I can stay calm, knowing that nothing in these products will harm her.

Do you have any recipes or ideas for alternatives to homemade household or personal care products? Could you ever go soap free? Would you brush your teeth with soap? What’s the “line” for you? I would love to hear your thoughts on toxin-free products for the home and body.


1 I have not thoroughly researched either and there are probably better/more “green” brands. They’re just what my local store carries.

Journey to a Disposable Free Household

Welcome to the First Annual Freedom of Cloth Carnival

This post was written for inclusion in the Freedom of Cloth Carnival hosted at Natural Parents Network by Melissa of The New Mommy Files and Shannon of The Artful Mama. This year’s carnival will run from Sunday, July 3rd through Saturday, July 9th. Participants are sharing everything they know and love about cloth diapering, including how cloth has inspired them.

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Photo Credit: Ray King
Used by Creative Commons License

I have been on a journey to be kinder and gentler to the environment since long before my daughter was born, but her birth and the decision to cloth diaper definitely gave me the extra push I needed to take that journey more seriously. I knew from the start that I would use cloth in combination with elimination communication, but as I researched my options and learned how easy it was to use cloth, I took things a bit further.

Using cloth caused me to think more about other single-use items in our home and I have slowly been replacing these with options we can use again and again. The most obvious switch was from disposable to cloth napkins, but later we moved away from our use of paper towels for cleaning. I was surprised to see how easy it was to use cotton cloths in their stead, even for things like mirrors and windows. Making one small change at a time has made the switch to cloth for all of our household needs an easy one. My most recent change has been away from disposable feminine products and it was quite easy thanks to my “Keeper Cup.”
As I gave more thought to the products I was using to wash our diapers, I also began to examine all of our household cleaning products and that has been instrumental in my switch to a chemical-free household. Not only is this safer for my family, but it has me buying fewer products in disposable containers. We do use a large amount of vinegar that comes in plastic gallon jugs, so my current eco conundrum is how to reduce those. The change in our choice of cleaning products in turn made me look at the products I use for my own self care: shampoos, soaps, and other cosmetics. I have slowly made changes in this area as well, switching to products that don’t contain harsh chemicals and that use less packaging and disposable containers.
By no means am I perfect, and I’m sure that my family is not making all of the “right” choices, but the point is – we’re thinking about it, and we’re making changes one at a time as we see a need. Cloth diapering has been a giant stepping stone in our journey toward awareness and conscious, mindful living in our environment. 

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freedom of cloth carnivalVisit
Natural Parents Network
for the most up-to-date news on the Freedom of Cloth Carnival!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants on the following themes. Articles will go live on the scheduled theme day:

  • Sunday, July 3rd, 2011: Cloth Related Recipes — Writers share their best cloth-related recipes and tutorials.
  • Monday, July 4th, 2011: Choosing Your Cloth Style — Today’s posts discuss parents’ individual journeys to finding the cloth diapering “style” that best suits their families.
  • Tuesday, July 5th, 2011: Cloth Diapering Must Haves — Parents talk about the most important items in their diapering “stash” and why they love them.
  • Wednesday, July 6th, 2011: Wordless Wednesday, Inspired by Cloth — We asked parents to share their favorite cloth-related photo with us and turned them into a fluffy Wordless Wednesday photo montage on Natural Parents Network. Link up your own Wordless Wednesday post there!
  • Thursday, July 7th, 2011: Cloth Through the Stages: From Infancy to Potty Independence — Today’s participants explain how cloth diapering has served their families throughout one or more stages of their children’s lives.
  • Friday, July 8th, 2011: Cloth Troubleshooting and Laundry Day — Seasoned cloth diapering parents share their best tips and tricks for handling common cloth problems and tackling the diaper laundry.
  • Saturday, July 9th, 2011: Inspired by Cloth — For today’s theme, we’ve asked writers to explore the ways cloth diapering has inspired them to become “greener” overall.

Toxins in the Home: Lead

Zinc and lead ores, photo credit: Orbital Joe on Flickr
Used by Creative Commons License.
While I’ve been going on about the dangers of everything you can imagine for months now, I may be the last crunchy mom on the planet to have awoken to the realization that lead is practically everywhere! I mean, we all know about lead paint, but I thought lessons had been learned and putting lead in things was a giant no-no. Silly me, I should have known better. It is still everywhere.

Back when I was reading Green Babies, Sage Moms, I remember some mention of dishes along with a suggestion that families use lead free ceramics. But why wouldn’t ceramic be lead free!? The idea seemed crazy to me, but my prego brain soon moved on to some other worry or plan and I forgot to look further into the matter. That was until one day, when I noted that when scratches appeared on our dishes, the color left behind was a sort of metallic gray. While I realize that what I saw was a mark made by the silverware, and not lead, it reminded me of the issue and triggered a train of thought that went something like this: “That looks metallic. Lead is a metal. Lead free ceramics! I was meaning to look into that!” So, look into it I did, and I found that both of our sets of dishes were most certainly on the list of those containing lead. Even the glaze on Corelle, which is not ceramic at all, contains lead. It seems that most all popular brands of dishware do, though only at or below “FDA approved levels.” I’m not so sure I want the FDA deciding how much lead my child should be exposed to, and when you consider all of the other items in the average home that may also contain the stuff (drawer pulls, painted toys, jewelry, etc), the thought of the cumulative effect of all of it combined is a bit unsettling. 
An Annabelle-sized dinner in a lead free bowl
When I did my searching, I found a list of dinnerware brands that are made with lead, but the site that hosted it seems to be gone now. If you want to check your brand of dishes, you will more than likely be able to find information on their website, or on a product page for the same item somewhere like amazon. Keep in mind that “lead safe” does not mean “lead free.”
Of course we can’t go out and replace everything in our home that contains heavy metals or strange chemicals all at once, because we’d go broke. Disposing of such things is a sticky issue as well, so we’re taking it slowly. Fortunately, however, we’ve been using a combination of the cheesy dishes I bought when I first moved out on my own at seventeen, and my mother in law’s old dishes, so we were due for an updated set all our own anyway. We decided to upgrade to Fiestaware, a completely lead free line made in the US by the Homer Laughlin China Co.  I have yet to find a company that makes a totally lead free slow cooker, however, which has been a real disappointment. For now, mine is waiting in the cabinet until I make a decision on what to do with it. 
Annabelle at seven months. Would you like
some lead with that caterpillar?
Sorry, babe.
Much to my surprise, there was something else in our home that I mistakenly thought was totally safe – some of Annabelle’s wooden toys! I have carefully avoided plastic, not only because the Montessorian in me wants everything in Annabelle’s environment to be reality based, and made of natural materials, but also because of concerns over BPA and phthalates. One of the most accessible brands of wooden toys is Melissa and Doug, and we have several items from them. Each is labeled as being finished with “non-toxic paint,” but this only means, apparently, that lead levels are low enough to be considered “safe.” I discovered this when my googling landed me on a few discussions in the Mothering forums that discussed the issue. Looking further into it, I found numerous places where people said they had tested their own child’s M&D toys, but particularly telling is the company’s own safety statement, which harps on the subject of testing to ensure the safety of their toys, but avoids saying that the paint is “lead free,” or free of anything really. It seems that not all natural toys are created equal.
In the news more recently has been the finding that many reusable shopping bags contain high levels of lead as well. It seems that the stuff is everywhere. Unfortunately, we will never be able to protect our children from everything, but we can do our best to limit their exposure to toxins that we are aware of and continue to advocate for change.
I’m trying not to go too crazy testing everything in sight, but I have been considering the purchase of some home lead test kits if I can find them on island, so that I can test a few other things around the house. If you have items that you’re concerned about, this is definitely something to consider!
Know other parents who might benefit from this information? Please feel free to share! Have info on other toxins in the home? Please leave a comment!

My Pantry, My Home Pt. 2: My Pantry, My … Bathroom?

While I have always had and admired my handful of activist friends, I have never been one to hold protest signs, hand out pamphlets, or do banner drops.  It’s just not me.  In lieu of the traditional animal rights activism, what I do love is being quiet about the fact that I’m vegan so that no one has any preconceived notions.  This way, by the time it comes to anyone’s attention, they have already, unknowingly, tasted a number of my signature dishes and seen that they were good.  I get all giddy over the surprised looks on people’s faces when they ask for a recipe and discover that they have been drooling over vegan food(!?) all night.  I have long considered this my quiet activism.  I like to prove that things can be perfectly normal without being the norm.  You don’t need to make unhealthy choices to maintain your lifestyle.

That said, here’s a picture of me and Annabelle this morning.  She only wanted to make silly faces, but don’t we look fresh and clean, and well-kept?! ; )  

I like to think that I can do the same with my new rejection of most all of the standard cosmetics.  Like my overhaul of our household cleaners, this is still a work in progress, but I have learned so much!  It’s sort of liberating in a strange way to be able to ditch some of the things that I used to stress over running out of.  It’s a money saver, too, which makes my husband very happy!  Here’s what I have changed so far.
  • I have gotten rid of shampoo and conditioner.  I know this sounds both disgusting and insane if you haven’t encountered the idea before, but I assure you it is not.  While I’m not a big fan of the term, folks call it no ‘pooing, and no ‘pooers wash their hair with baking soda, and generally rinse it with vinegar (what else, right?).  With our super hard water, I have found that I need to add a bit of salt to my baking soda to get it to work really well.  It removes any build up and excess oil, without stripping the scalp of its natural oils and necessitating a strong conditioner.  The vinegar rinse (and I promise, hair does not retain the vinegar smell) keeps it from tangling and makes it nice and soft.  I like to test these things for myself, so I tried skipping the vinegar rinse once and it left me with a whole lot of static.
  • I have stopped using styling products.  With my new wash routine, I find that I really don’t need them anyway, as my hair is much more manageable.  I just use a tiny dab of coconut oil to tame any flyaways and add moisture to the ends of my hair, where the natural oils can’t quite reach.  My hair has never been more cooperative!  Since I’m naturally blonde, I keep forgetting, but had also been spraying a mixture of chamomile infusion (strong tea, basically) and lemon juice on after a wash.  It was helping the sun to bring out some natural highlights, but since I keep it in the fridge it has been sort of out of sight/out of mind.
  • I have stopped using lotion.  I read many recommendations for olive oil, so I put some in a spray bottle and used it for both myself and Annabelle a few times.  It works great as a moisturizer and is wonderful for the skin, but leaves one smelling a bit like a salad, so I think I’m going to discontinue its use.  Instead, I am awakening to the wonders of coconut oil.  Not only is it great for moisturizing, but it is also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  I have used it with great success in place of diaper cream as well.
  • Makeup, of course, is not necessary and it would probably be best if I ditched it completely, but the truth is – I like it.  So I’m going to continue to wear it.  I have started to take a much closer look at the products I use, however.  The Environmental Working Group has a great resource: cosmeticsdatabase.com, that assigns a hazard score between 0 (low) and 10 (high) to everything from sunscreen to mascara based on the ingredients it contains.  I was surprised to find that even some of my “natural” and “vegan” cosmetics had some not-so-natural ingredients.  I am now using makeup from a company in California called Coastal Classic Creations.  All of their products have a hazard score of 0-1, which means they are free of parabens, fragrances, etc.  Even their containers are BPA and phthalate free.
  • I ditched my Jason deodorant, since even though it is supposedly natural, it still contains fragrances and other questionable ingredients, giving it a hazard score of 5 on cosmetics database.  Instead, I’m using the Crystal Deodorant Spray, which has a hazard score of 0.
  • I’m still working on perfume for when I do want to smell especially sweet.  I’m experimenting with essential oils for natural fragrances.  Until I find something I’m comfortable with, I’m using none.  Toothpaste and mouthwash are two I’m still trying to find a system for as well (don’t worry, I’m using something now!).  I have found a few recipes to make your own, but haven’t tried any out yet.

With these changes, I feel generally better about our home environment and don’t sweat it when Annabelle decides to gum on my chin, nose, knees, elbows, etc – and believe me, she does!  What goes on her skin at this stage is even more important than what goes on mine, so I’m glad I’ve been able to find safe, inexpensive alternatives to keep us both fresh and clean!
Do you have any homemade cosmetic tips?  A favorite natural product?  

My Pantry, My Home Pt. 2: My Pantry, My … Bathroom?

While I have always had and admired my handful of activist friends, I have never been one to hold protest signs, hand out pamphlets, or do banner drops.  It’s just not me.  In lieu of the traditional animal rights activism, what I do love is being quiet about the fact that I’m vegan so that no one has any preconceived notions.  This way, by the time it comes to anyone’s attention, they have already, unknowingly, tasted a number of my signature dishes and seen that they were good.  I get all giddy over the surprised looks on people’s faces when they ask for a recipe and discover that they have been drooling over vegan food(!?) all night.  I have long considered this my quiet activism.  I like to prove that things can be perfectly normal without being the norm.  You don’t need to make unhealthy choices to maintain your lifestyle.

That said, here’s a picture of me and Annabelle this morning.  She only wanted to make silly faces, but don’t we look fresh and clean, and well-kept?! ; )  

I like to think that I can do the same with my new rejection of most all of the standard cosmetics.  Like my overhaul of our household cleaners, this is still a work in progress, but I have learned so much!  It’s sort of liberating in a strange way to be able to ditch some of the things that I used to stress over running out of.  It’s a money saver, too, which makes my husband very happy!  Here’s what I have changed so far.
  • I have gotten rid of shampoo and conditioner.  I know this sounds both disgusting and insane if you haven’t encountered the idea before, but I assure you it is not.  While I’m not a big fan of the term, folks call it no ‘pooing, and no ‘pooers wash their hair with baking soda, and generally rinse it with vinegar (what else, right?).  With our super hard water, I have found that I need to add a bit of salt to my baking soda to get it to work really well.  It removes any build up and excess oil, without stripping the scalp of its natural oils and necessitating a strong conditioner.  The vinegar rinse (and I promise, hair does not retain the vinegar smell) keeps it from tangling and makes it nice and soft.  I like to test these things for myself, so I tried skipping the vinegar rinse once and it left me with a whole lot of static.
  • I have stopped using styling products.  With my new wash routine, I find that I really don’t need them anyway, as my hair is much more manageable.  I just use a tiny dab of coconut oil to tame any flyaways and add moisture to the ends of my hair, where the natural oils can’t quite reach.  My hair has never been more cooperative!  Since I’m naturally blonde, I keep forgetting, but had also been spraying a mixture of chamomile infusion (strong tea, basically) and lemon juice on after a wash.  It was helping the sun to bring out some natural highlights, but since I keep it in the fridge it has been sort of out of sight/out of mind.
  • I have stopped using lotion.  I read many recommendations for olive oil, so I put some in a spray bottle and used it for both myself and Annabelle a few times.  It works great as a moisturizer and is wonderful for the skin, but leaves one smelling a bit like a salad, so I think I’m going to discontinue its use.  Instead, I am awakening to the wonders of coconut oil.  Not only is it great for moisturizing, but it is also anti-fungal and anti-bacterial.  I have used it with great success in place of diaper cream as well.
  • Makeup, of course, is not necessary and it would probably be best if I ditched it completely, but the truth is – I like it.  So I’m going to continue to wear it.  I have started to take a much closer look at the products I use, however.  The Environmental Working Group has a great resource: cosmeticsdatabase.com, that assigns a hazard score between 0 (low) and 10 (high) to everything from sunscreen to mascara based on the ingredients it contains.  I was surprised to find that even some of my “natural” and “vegan” cosmetics had some not-so-natural ingredients.  I am now using makeup from a company in California called Coastal Classic Creations.  All of their products have a hazard score of 0-1, which means they are free of parabens, fragrances, etc.  Even their containers are BPA and phthalate free.
  • I ditched my Jason deodorant, since even though it is supposedly natural, it still contains fragrances and other questionable ingredients, giving it a hazard score of 5 on cosmetics database.  Instead, I’m using the Crystal Deodorant Spray, which has a hazard score of 0.
  • I’m still working on perfume for when I do want to smell especially sweet.  I’m experimenting with essential oils for natural fragrances.  Until I find something I’m comfortable with, I’m using none.  Toothpaste and mouthwash are two I’m still trying to find a system for as well (don’t worry, I’m using something now!).  I have found a few recipes to make your own, but haven’t tried any out yet.

With these changes, I feel generally better about our home environment and don’t sweat it when Annabelle decides to gum on my chin, nose, knees, elbows, etc – and believe me, she does!  What goes on her skin at this stage is even more important than what goes on mine, so I’m glad I’ve been able to find safe, inexpensive alternatives to keep us both fresh and clean!
Do you have any homemade cosmetic tips?  A favorite natural product?  

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