Category: Natural Beauty

Sep 05

I Heart Argan Oil

Dear RSO (Rosehip Seed Oil),

You haven’t seen my face for about a year, so it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that there’s someone else. You see, Argan Oil and I were introduced at about the same time you and I started having troubles. I thought it was a rebound thing, at first, or maybe infatuation, but it’s real. Everyone has an oil that’s right for their face, and as much as I love you, Argan is the one for me.

Image via pixabay/oceanverde

Argan Oil has staying power, not that you don’t. Still, women in the Mediterranean have been pampering their skin with it for centuries. It’s full of Vitamin E, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids, plus it’s great for my hair. That makes it multi-faceted, a truly deep kind of oil. It’s generous, too–it helps with anything from eczema and rosacea to fine lines and wrinkles. You can’t find support like that just anywhere. Not to mention how light an oil it is, or how easily it absorbs into my skin. It’s like wearing nothing at all…very freeing, you understand.

I know some people pay a fortune just to have Argan Oil in their life, but I still get mine from *Mountain Rose Herbs. They’re every bit as trustworthy as when I first discovered you among their online shelves, Rosehip. I believe in my heart of hearts that others will find you there, too, and appreciate you for all that you are.

Before you ask, of course I still need a third, for the moisturization to be complete. Water has been fine–I’m sure you haven’t forgotten that I always begin my moisturizing with clean, damp skin–but I think Argan and I have found something that takes what we have and makes it even better. White Rose Hydrosol…maybe you’ve heard of it? I understand, the rose thing probably hurts a bit, but you know the scent of roses has always been one of my favorites. It always will be.

Dear Rosehip Seed Oil, please try to remember: it’s not you, it’s my face. Honestly, I’d love to stay friends and keep you in some of my other skin products, but I’ll understand if you’d prefer that we go our separate ways. No matter what, we’ll always have body butter!

Love you, my special friend.

HAO

 

See what I mean? Even goats love Argan.

Images via pixabay/jackmac34 and remilozach

*Mountain Rose Herbs is not a sponsor; I’m just a fan. Natural products are not regulated, so it’s difficult to know if you’re getting what you pay for. I trust MRH and have always been pleased with whatever I’ve ordered from them. Just an FYI, in case you’re shopping around.

Jun 05

Homemade Happenings…with Aroma Foundry Essential Oils

I recently received an invitation to sample some essential oils from Aroma Foundry, so of course I immediately broke into my mad scientist laugh and began plotting world domination planning what I would do with them. *Here* (<- click) is an accurate portrayal of my reaction. No lie. 😉 (Anyone who loves essential oils will completely understand.)

CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=638306

I cackled and paced my way into some semblance of self-control, and then I whittled down my intentions to a few favorites (which, by the way, I’ve listed below.) Before sharing them, though, I wanted to mention some of the things that are particularly exciting about Aroma Foundry’s Essential Oils. They are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*100% pure–undiluted, with no synthetic additives

*Sourced in individual locations–in the US or wherever the native habitats are (each source location is shared on the website and individual bottles)

*Hand-bottled in the US (Sunny Cali)

*Guaranteed to be of consistent quality

*Produced in small, artisanally crafted batches

*Reasonably and competitively priced

*Good looking! From the bottles, to the labels, to the individual boxes

*They’d make great gifts (*wink wink, nudge nudge*)

Now, get ready…’cause we’re cookin’ with oils! 

Bergamot

Image via pixabay/JPSSantos
*Warning: cold-pressed Bergamot is phototoxic, which means it can produce a bad burn if left on your skin and exposed to the ultraviolet portion of sunlight. For safety’s sake, I’ve opted to use it in a soap recipe.

Citrusy and Simple Bergamot Soap: (formulated using the lye calculator from soapcalc.net)

8.36 ounces distilled water

3.24 ounces lye (NaOH)

10 ounces coconut oil

8 ounces grapeseed oil

4 ounces olive oil

0.5 ounce Aroma Foundry Bergamot Essential Oil

optional–approx. 1 tsp clay (e.g. rose, kaolin, bentonite, etc.)

optional–mica (as desired, for color)

Directions: add the lye to the water (NOT the water to the lye)–*Important: lye/water solution will heat up quickly and give off fumes, plus it can burn skin (so, do this step in a well-ventilated area, wearing protective eyewear, gloves, etc., and allow the solution to cool quite a bit before using–I find it easiest to work at somewhere between room temperature and 100 degrees F). (Note: lye reacts to aluminum, so don’t use any while soaping.)  Melt the oils together over a double boiler, add clay (if using; clay can also be added later, with the essential oils). Once the lye/water solution has cooled, mix into the oils, using an immersion (stick) blender. Add essential oil. Color with mica (if using). Pour into a soap-safe mold and allow at least 24 hours for soap to set and 4-6 weeks before use.

Eucalyptus

Image via Unsplash/Annie Spratt
Mentholy-Mix Balm: (*adapted from humblebee & me’s “Cool & Clear Eucalyptus Balm”)

.4 ounces beeswax

1.28 ounces olive oil (*mine was infused with broad leaf plantains–I have a how-to video on infusing oils, here)

15 drops Aroma Foundry’s Eucalyptus Essential Oil

5 drops Aroma Foundry’s Lavender Essential Oil

5 drops Aroma Foundry’s Peppermint Essential Oil

5 drops Aroma Foundry’s Rosemary Essential Oil

Directions: melt beeswax into olive oil over a double boiler. Add essential oils, stir. Pour into a container. (*I’ll use one of my Infinity Jars, so it will keep as long as possible.) Allow to cool before using.

Lavender

Image via Unsplash/Callum Cockburn
Lavender Lotion Bars (*adapted from The Nerdy Farm Wife’s Calendula Lotion Bars)

3 ounces beeswax

3 ounces shea butter (or other butter of your choice)

3 ounces sunflower oil (an infused oil is even better–I used a wild violet infused oil. Watch my YouTube video on infusing oils, here).

10-20 drops Aroma Foundry’s Lavender Essential Oil

Directions: melt beeswax, butter, and oil together over a double boiler. Mix in essential oil and pour into small molds. Allow to cool before use. Refrigerating will extend the life of your bars.

Ylang Ylang

Image via pixabay/mayapujiati

Ylang Ylang Body Butter (*adapted from Wellness Mama’s Natural Whipped Body Butter)

6 ounces shea butter

6 ounces cocoa butter

6 ounces coconut oil

6 ounces sweet almond oil (or other skin-friendly, light oil)

10-20 drops Aroma Foundry’s Ylang Ylang Essential Oil

Directions: melt oils and butters over a double boiler. After heating, stir in essential oil. Chill until oils begin to harden, then whip until light and fluffy. Store in containers and refrigerate to prolong the life of the body butter. *Remember when applying: a little goes a long way; best when used on damp skin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hope you have fun with these recipes if you get a chance to try them! Can’t wait to get to work! Mwuhahahahaha… 

Apr 09

Infinity Jars (Make Me Infinitely Happy)

Guess what came in the mail today! Yes, it was a present from Infinity Jars! Seriously, how did you guess right on your first try? Oh, I get it. You, too, like to store things and have already heard of the awesomeness that is Infinity Jars.

The beginnings of my new Infinity Jars collection

I have so many plans for these guys, but I know they can stand up to the pressure. They’re Infinity Jars, am I right? Herbs, spices, lotions, creams, maybe some frankincense and myrrh…. I’m telling you, the possibilities seem limitless–infinite, you might say.

Why am I so excited about these little beauties? Oh, let me count the ways:

*They’re made of gorgeous, violet glass, like the kind ancient Egyptians used thousands of years ago to preserve their treasured herbs and oils (Can I get a wow?!)

*The special pigmentation of the glass blocks all harmful visible light rays, preventing them from breaking down and decaying the natural products we want to preserve

*Meanwhile, the glass allows UV-A and infrared rays to pass through, which actually benefit our products–preserving them and extending their shelf life

*The jars and bottles are guaranteed to preserve freshness for at least six months, but depending upon what is being stored, can preserve some products for much, much longer (think: two years!)

*They’re air tight, whether topped with screw-on lids or the glass-on-glass tops of the gorgeous apothecary bottles (which I’m in love with, by the way–click to take a peek: they’re fantastic!)

*They’ve had laboratory tests conducted to prove how well they preserve natural products (click here to see the seven-month tomato test and two-month chive test!)

*They’re scent proof, which means they keep aromas locked in, right where they should be

*They’re perfect for storing and preserving all kinds of things, like:

*spices

*herbs

*teas

*baking ingredients–flour, sugar, etc.

*essential oils

*DIY products, such as lotions, creams, salves, lip balms (I could go on and on)

*cosmetics (including my favorites–the homemade kind)

*perfumes or sprays (I’m thinking…soothing rosewater, mmm)

*and…you guessed it…common lawn weeds! (yup, you read that right…more to come in my next post)

100 ml jar, perfect for storing weedy treasures

*Plus, Infinity Jars are sleek and stylish and deep, deep violet (to me, they look like a really rich black color, although you can catch the violet in the sunlight)

*They offer a variety of different size and style options (from small, lip balm-sized jars and cosmetic applicators with roller balls or droppers, all the way up to two liter apothecary jars. Have I mentioned I’m a fan of those? Oh, and I also love their cooking oil bottles and spray bottles and the covered dish and…)

*The jars arrived in safe, protective packaging, with two unexpected bonuses: soft cleaning cloths for maintaining their gleaming gorgeousness, and a sweet little packet of labels

I was so excited they’d arrived, I took a photo!

No wonder my kids think I’m weird 🙂

*The customer service was great (Thanks so much for your help, Tania!)

*They arrived quickly (so I didn’t have to wait with bated breath for long)

*They sell discounted variety packs and multi-packs, so you can get more for less (which I took them up on, of course)

*They’ve already had tens of thousands of customers and, before I agreed to try out and review their product, I did my homework. I checked reviews (on Amazon, etc.) and they had such great feedback from highly pleased customers, I felt sure it had to be a quality product. I was right! (Honestly, I wouldn’t share it with you, otherwise.)

When the nice folks at Infinity Jars invited me to sample their wares, I was a little greedy (and they were great about it): I chose a three-pack of 100 ml jars and a 15 ml glass push pump bottle. I picked the jars specifically because I’m planning to harvest and dry some medicinal leaves, and I wanted the natural ingredients to last. Also, I’ve long wanted to make a homemade lotion, but was afraid it might spoil quickly. With my new pump bottle, that no longer worries me.

Just waiting to be filled with a natural, DIY lotion

Seriously, Cleopatra would be envious of my new Infinity Jars. I don’t blame her, because at the top of my wish list are…more Infinity Jars. All those shapes and sizes to mix and match. I can see it now: shelves filled with gorgeous, violet glass jars and bottles, all brimming with natural, well-preserved loveliness! Do you hear a choir singing somewhere, or is that just me?

14th century pharmacist, totally jealous of me and my new Infinity Jars.

Should I tell him where to order? (Hint: click here <–)

L0005335 A pharmacist dispensing syropus acetosus in his shop.
Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images images@wellcome.ac.uk
http://wellcomeimages.org
A pharmacist dispensing syropus acetosus in his shop. School of Giovannino de Grassi, Lombary, late 14th century.
Miniature late 14th century Theatrum sanitatis Ibn Butlan (‘Elluchasem’)
Published: – Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Nov 14

Just the Pits – Natural Deodorant Options

Are you looking for a deodorant that works well and doesn’t contain potentially harmful ingredients? I know the search, and it can be the pits. (Sorry, had to go there.)

Finding a healthy deodorant option doesn’t have to be so difficult, though. Here’s the lowdown on armpit alternatives:

pixabaypeterkraayvanger

Pamper your pits, for the good of you and those closest to you

Image via pixabay/Peter Kraayvanger

Natural deodorants – Since there are oodles of options, narrowing down the field can be a big help. That’s why I was really interested when Jessica from Reviews.com reached out and told me they’d done a broad comparison of different natural deodorant brands to come up with the most pit-pleasing results. The info they presented was definitely worth a share, so I welcome you to check it out: *The Best Natural Deodorant*.

Storebought natural deodorants are a great option, but some can be pretty pricey. Another possibility, especially if y ou’re a DIYer like myself, is to make your own version. I recently made a video of how I make my homemade natural deodorant, with ingredients like coconut oil, baking soda (optional), and arrowroot powder. (You can watch it here.)

*Note: as I mention in my video, some people find that baking soda irritates their skin. Personally, I find that applying a bit of milk of magnesia (see below for more info), seems to prevent me from any sensitivity towards the baking soda. Another option would be to leave the baking soda out of your homemade recipe or, before applying a baking soda-containing deodorant, spray/pat some apple cider vinegar onto your armpits and let it dry. The acidic vinegar and alkaline baking soda should balance one another, which will benefit sensitive skin.

freeimagesslawomirrodak

Image via FreeImages.com/SlawomirRodak

Milk of magnesia – Yes, we’re still talking about deodorant. Milk of magnesia is otherwise known as MOM in the “crunchy world.” I swear by it, as do many others. Most days, I swipe some milk of magnesia under my arms and am ready to go. Other days, I add a little of my homemade deodorant and everything’s peachy. I apply the MOM wet or as a thicker cream.  (*I make the cream by pouring a small amount of the milk of magnesia into a cup–the little cup that comes with the bottle works great. Then, I wait for a day or two, while the excess water evaporates.) You might think it’s icky, but I simply apply it with my fingertips. They work better than cotton balls and I’m left with no waste. Whether I apply it as a liquid or a cream, I let it air dry and I’m on my way.

*Note: if you give this a try, you’ll want to buy the plain milk of magnesia (not mint or cherry) and check the inactive ingredients to be sure it doesn’t contain sodium hypochlorite–not all brands do.

pixabayartemtation

Images via pixabay/artemtation

Apple cider vinegar – This may work well, especially if you’re someone whose skin is irritated by the alkalinity of baking soda. The vinegar is acidic, which might be just right for your body’s needs, and it’s also a natural antiseptic. The vinegar scent is pretty pungent at first, but will fade as it dries. Consider spraying this under your arms rather than applying with a cotton ball; it’ll reduce waste.

unsplashanniespratt

Image via Unsplash/Annie Spratt

Lemon juice – This works on the same principle as the apple cider vinegar. It may require a bit more effort to spray or dab your armpits daily in lemon (or lime) juice, but some people prefer the fresh scent. Just watch out for anything acidic if you’ve recently shaved!

unsplashtirzavandijk

Image via Unsplash/Tirza van Dijk

Plain coconut oil – All hail coconut oil, right? While it doesn’t cure cancer (although that might be worth investigating?), it does help combat a lot of ills. For instance, being antimicrobial, coconut oil should kill some of the odor-causing bacteria in your armpits. On its own, though, the oil can be…well, oily, so a little might go a long way. As I mentioned above (and below), you can also try mixing it into a paste with some baking soda.

pixabaymanueltapi

Image via pixabay/manueltapi

Baking soda – You can make a paste of this by mixing it with some water or coconut oil, or you can try mixing a little baking soda into some organic cornstarch. When applied to underarms, the baking soda should help prevent odors. (Cornstarch should help absorb wetness.)

pixabayevitaochel

Image via pixabay/evitaochel

Rubbing alcohol – Rubbing alcohol (or vodka) sprayed under your arms should help kill odor-causing bacteria. It can be used alone or along with a few added drops of tea tree oil or skin-safe essential oils. Again, this may sting for a bit if applied to skin that’s been shaved recently. I sometimes use EO’s deodorant spray in lavender (ethanol + essential oils) and really like it.

freeimagesjayeshnair

Image via FreeImages.com/Jayesh Nair

Witch hazel – Witch hazel is an astringent and will help rid your skin of any trapped oils or moisture. Like rubbing alcohol, it will help kill odor-causing bacteria and can be sprayed alone on your armpits, or mixed with a few drops of tea tree oil, lavender or other skin-safe essential oils.

pixabaycondesign

Witch hazel flowers

Image via pixabay/condesign

Crystal Deodorants – These are large crystals of potassium aluminum sulfate. It is believed by some that the larger molecules of aluminum in these crystals will not be absorbed through skin. Others don’t feel comfortable using aluminum at all. Personally, I tried a crystal deodorant many years ago and didn’t have any luck, but I’ve heard it works well for some.

pixabaywingsofcompassion

Image via pixabay/wingsofcompassion

Be warned, it may take a little while for your body to adjust to going au naturel, but an armpit detox can definitely help speed up the process. I found this great one on wellnessmama.com, which is made up of bentonite clay, apple cider vinegar, and water, and should help rid your pits of toxins. I find that sitting with arms akimbo, airing your clay-ified pits has the added bonus of providing some family entertainment. Never a dull moment when you’re trying to live on the crunchy side of life.

pixabayglisando

Embrace yourself, pits and all

Image via pixabay/glisando

Just to add a few quick disclaimers, these are all deodorants–not antiperspirants–so they won’t keep you from sweating. That said, you do know how chemical-based deodorants keep you from sweating, don’t you? That’s right. They stop up your pores with aluminum. Kind of makes sweat seem a little more benign.

So, when it comes to your pits, I hope you’ll decide to pamper them. Remember, our body absorbs a lot through our skin, so going with something more natural should benefit your health. There are plenty of options out there. It might just be a matter of finding which one works best for you, so you don’t end up smelling like…the pits. (Sorry again. I blame the subject matter.) 😛

Sep 02

Natural and Noteworthy: Aloe Vera

My thumb isn’t exactly green, but it has developed a vaguely-greenish tint over the years. It’s maybe a chartreuse by now.

(Side question: how many of you think of chartreuse as being a color in the pink-red-purple range, instead of the yellowish-green that it is? I’m genuinely curious, because it seems to be a “thing.” I’d love to hear from you in the comments!)

via FreeImages.comSarah Williams

Image via FreeImages.com/Sarah Williams

So that’s chartreuse??

Back to my chartreuse thumb–I love plants, but I have a system of what I loosely label “natural selection” happening at my house. If a plant can survive my sometimes-sporadic care, it is welcome to stay and thrive all it wants. If it doesn’t make it? Cue the guilt.

Aloe vera is a plant that falls somewhere in between for me. I can keep an aloe plant alive for a fairly long time, but then, all of a sudden, the decline begins and I start covering mirrors in my house. (No, not really.) Still, aloe vera is a wonderful, multi-purpose plant, so I love to have one here.

*NOTE: Aloe vera is toxic to cats and dogs, so if you choose to have an aloe plant, keep it somewhere pets can’t reach! If you’d prefer not to keep an aloe plant at all, aloe vera gel is available. Just check the label, to be sure it’s pure.

How do I love thee, aloe vera? Let me count the ways:

via pixabay courtesy of unsplash

Image via pixabay/unsplash

  1. Helps to treat minor burns, including sunburns–This is why I usually keep aloe handy, somewhere in the vicinity of my stove. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, aloe compounds help reduce pain and inflammation, while promoting skin growth and repair. Just snip off an aloe leaf (as close to the base as possible, without disturbing the roots–although I sometimes only take the tip of a leaf), split it open to access the gel and rub the gel over the burn. DON’T apply to open wounds.
  2. Bug bites or minor skin irritations–As with treating minor burns, aloe’s antibacterial properties can help heal skin irritations and bring relief to bug bites (it helps with pain and discomfort very quickly).
  3. Bruises–Aloe is said to speed up recovery time when applied to bruises, by sealing the skin and offering healing properties.
  4. Rashes, cold sores–Since aloe has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, it can help heal minor rashes, itchy spots, and cold sores. Simply apply the gel to the area three times a day, until the rash, etc. has healed completely.via pixabay courtesy of Birgit_H                                         Image via pixabay/Birgit_H
  5. Acne–Aloe has been shown to help heal existing acne and acne scars, but it probably won’t prevent future breakouts.
  6. Moisturizer/aftershave lotion–Although aloe vera is not sufficient to moisturize skin properly on its own, it can act as a soothing component to a moisturizing system (when combined with emollients–e.g. jojoba, rosehip, or avocado oils; shea or cocoa butter–and humectants–e.g. lecithin, glycerin, or panthenol/Vitamin B5). Such a moisturizing system would work great as an aftershave treatment, as well.
  7. Face mask–To improve skin’s color and texture while reducing inflammation, apply a thin layer of aloe vera gel to your face and let dry, then remove with warm water and a wash cloth. Some people may find this drying to their skin, so be sure to follow with a moisturizer (see above).
  8. Anti-aging treatment–As part of a moisturizing treatment (see above), aloe is believed to help reduce and/or prevent wrinkles.

via pixabay courtesy of PollyDot

Image via pixabay/PollyDot

More about aloe vera:

Aloe vera is a succulent, one of hundreds of varieties of aloe plants. Though cactus-like in appearance, it is related to lilies and onions.

In caring for your aloe vera plant, you can mix some sand in with your soil and allow it to dry between waterings. Drench the soil completely when it’s time to water your aloe, but make sure the soil drains well. Aloe plants do not like standing water.

Aloe vera does not need to be fertilized, but if you choose to add a fertilizer to the soil, do it once a year (in the spring) and use a very diluted version of the fertilizer (if using your aloe for medicinal purposes, make sure you use a fertilizer for edible plants). Aloe plants are accustomed to growing in harsh conditions and usually do better in similar environments within your home.

To propagate, remove “pups” or small offshoots with their roots intact and replant. Wait until the pup is about one fifth the size of the mother plant before separating. (Sometimes they will need to be cut away from the mother plant.)

Propagating the plant through cuttings can also be done, but it is tricky and not often successful. Cut the leaf close to the base of the plant, allow the cut area to dry (one week) before replanting, to avoid infection. Dip in a rooting hormone and replant.

**Some people recommend taking aloe internally, but not enough research has been done to convince me. It is known to be dangerous when taken internally by pregnant (also possibly lactating) women. I feel similarly reluctant about using aloe to treat dental or mouth issues. Also, some people are allergic to aloe, so you should stop using it if you develop a rash or any other symptoms of an allergic reaction.

***This post is intended as a reference only and NOT to take the place of any medical advice. Always check with your doctor before trying any new treatments, including natural ones.

via pixabay courtesy of strecosa

Image via pixabay/strecosa

So, do you keep aloe vera in your home? Have you tried using it for any of the above issues? Any last thoughts on the color chartreuse?? 🙂

May 29

Hair and Now

Am I the only one who caught an ear worm from that title?  Luther Vandross?  1989?  Here and Now?  Pretty sure it was played during at least one of my proms.  Anyway, I’m showing my age, time to move on….

Today’s post has nothing to do with Mr. Vandross or with music of any kind.  This one’s about … how’d you guess it?  Hair.

My hair has a long history of crimes and misdemeanors: frizz, dryness, notoriously awful haircuts (some committed by yours truly), extreme brassiness when mixed with the wrong colorants, etc., etc., etc.  These days, though, it’s behaving much better.  Why?  I think it’s mostly because I’m treating it right.  While I’m no expert on haircare, I’ve done plenty of research and loads of experimentation (a.k.a. cruel and unusual punishment), so I’m pleased to share the route I’ve found to happier, healthier hair, here and now.

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Behold the Sandalwood Comb, in all its glory

Combing/Brushing

Can I make a confession?  I’m a little in love with my brush and even more with my comb.

My brush is made with boar bristles.  (*Some companies sell humanely-harvested versions.)  Can you say volume??  After flipping my hair over (brushing outward from the nape of my neck), I flip it back again to admire my spot-on impression of Sideshow Bob.  Despite boar bristles’ ridiculous effect on me, they’re very kind to hair; they spread out oils to reduce dryness and frizziness, while adding shine and improving texture.

My comb–ah, my comb.  It’s wide-toothed, so it can be used on wet or dry hair.  My favorite part, though, is that it’s made of lovely-looking, lovely-scented sandalwood.  It’s great with detangling, doesn’t cause static, and its nearly-invisible seam won’t catch in my hair.  I use it both before and after brushing, to rid my hair of tangles and also to help bring out my hair’s waves and shine.  Plus, did I mention?  Sandalwood smells divine.  Trust the comb-sniffer on this one.

Shampoo/conditioner

Let’s talk process.  So, you think you know how to wash your hair?  Could be.  Depends on how well you follow instructions.  I’m talking the whole “Lather, rinse, repeat” bit.  Do you do this?  If not, do.  Do do it.

Also, when working the shampoo into your hair, focus mainly on the scalp.  Your first wash will loosen sebaceous oils; your second will send them packing.  *Bonus: massaging your scalp stimulates blood flow, increasing the health of hair and scalp, while encouraging hair growth.

You may have heard some talk about low poo or no poo–yes, we’re still talking about hair.  This is referring to the shampooing spectrum.  It exists, really.  I’ve seen graphics.  I won’t go into too much detail, but basically, at one end, there’s traditional shampooing and at the other end, there’s no poo, or a “wash with water only” method, which–let’s be honest–I never intend to try.  In between, there’s a “wash with baking soda/rinse with apple cider vinegar” method, which also sounds a little too hard-core for me, and a “wash with shampoo bars” method, which I have tried with little to no success.  (Granted, I did make my own shampoo bars, which could have been an issue, but the apple cider vinegar-rinse didn’t work for me, either.  Every time my hair got wet, I smelled like a salad.)  Moving on up, there’s the “natural shampoo” option, which is where my hair and I are currently living–very happily, I might add.  I’ve even dragged my husband and kids into the natural-shampoo zone and, I promise, we’re all very well adjusted.  Which reminds me: if you want to join us in natural shampooing, it will take some time for your hair to resume its natural balance of oils.  After that, it should be all smooth–and shiny–sailing.

In case you’re wondering what I mean by “natural shampoo,” I also like to call them “NO” shampoos.  (Really clears things up, doesn’t it?)  As an example, my current bottle of Shea Moisture’s Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo has this list on its label: No Sulfates, No Parabens, No Phthalates, No Paraffin, No Propylene Glycol, No Mineral Oil, No Synthetic Fragrance, No DEA, and No Animal Testing (yay for this!).  All these negatives add up to a great big positive, if you ask me.

Oscar Keys

Image via Unsplash/Oscar Keys

Bad hair day. Don’t look at me.

Dry Shampoo for Oily Hair

In the past, I could not–I repeat, NOT–skip my daily shampooing.  Now, though, my hair loves its in-between washing days.  Nonetheless, if any surprise oils do crop up, I have another natural tool in my arsenal to deal with them: dry shampoo.  I work a small amount through any oily areas (moving from the scalp, outward) and brush it through my hair to blend.  Since dry shampoo can be costly, I’ve been making my own:

1/4 cup arrowroot powder or non-GMO cornstarch

1/2 TBSP colloidal (finely-ground) oatmeal (optional)

2 TBSP cocoa powder (optional–I use this to darken the powder for my brown hair; it can be left out for lighter hair)

5-10 drops lavender essential oil (optional–I use it for its fresh scent, but other skin/hair-safe essential oils can be substitued, such as peppermint)

Argan Oil for Dry or Frizzy Hair

Warning: a little goes a long way!  I keep some argan oil in a little spray bottle, scented with 5-10 drops of lavender (or peppermint) essential oil.  If my hair is frizzy or dry, I wet my hands a bit, spray a very, very small amount of the oil solution into the center of my palm, rub my hands together and then lightly pat my palms over any dry areas of my hair.  Keep in mind, though, my hair is curly-ish, so to avoid making straight hair look greasy, it might work better as a night-time, pre-wash treatment to bring the extra shine.

FreeImages.com-Ewerton Thomeu

Image via FreeImages.com/Ewerton Thomeu

Fight the Frizz!

More Hair, Now

Well, maybe not now, but soon.  In searching for ways to help thicken my fine air (and to help my husband’s hair regrow where it was thinning), I researched natural ingredients.  These are reputed to encourage hair growth and/or maintain the health of hair and scalp: castor oil (cold-pressed and cold-processed is best), rosemary essential oil (**NOT to be used by pregnant women, children, or those suffering from epilepsy or hypertension), lavender essential oil and dry nettle.

They can be mixed in a glass bottle (about 2 oz. castor oil, 5-10 drops each of rosemary and/or lavender essential oils, 5 or so capsules’ worth of dry nettle).  Gently massage a small amount into scalp, leave on for a while (overnight works well), and later shampoo from hair.  If it’s hard to remove, work in some conditioner first to loosen the heavy castor oil, before shampooing.  That’s it.  Easy, peasy.  After using it, my hair seems thicker and, as my husband’s barber, I can attest to seeing more hair where, previously, there had been less.  (*The Shea Moisture Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo I mentioned earlier is also a great one for promoting hair growth–no, I’m not affiliated with the company.  I just love their products.)

Grow, grow, grow your hair….

Henna

Due to health concerns and the fact that chemical colorants don’t like my hair, I switched to coloring it with a combination of henna, indigo and amla powder.  I’ve been getting a lot of compliments on the color, which is a warm brown/auburn, and my hair is shinier than ever.  For more details on my henna experience, please check out my previous Henna Gabber blog post.

Image via Unsplash/Ashley Bean

The goal: hair zen.

So, there you have it, my tried-and-true methods for pampering my hair the best way I know how: naturally.

If you give any of these methods a try, it would be great to hear whether or not your hair falls in love.  (I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that it does!)  Also, if you have any other methods you’d like to share, it would be great to hear that, too!

 

**A FINAL NOTE ABOUT ESSENTIAL OILS: It is always best to check health warnings before using ANY essential oils and I NEVER recommend ingesting essential oils or applying it neat (undiluted) to the skin.  Use EXTREME caution when exposing children to any essential oils (diffusers, etc.) and NEVER use with children under two years of age.  Here’s a good post on essential oil use with children, in case you’d like to learn more: http://naturopathicpediatrics.com/2014/09/08/essential-oil-safety-danger-essential-oils-seizures-children/ and one for adults: http://www.aromaweb.com/articles/safety.asp

 

Feb 17

Homely Beauty

That’s right.  I’m pretty proud of my homely beauty.  I love that many of the products from my beauty routine come right from my home.  In fact, most the things I’m wearing on my face today are edible.  No, I don’t eat the leftovers.

Prove it, you say?  But of course.  Here’s a summary of my daily beauty routine:

If I’m feeling a little rough around the edges, I start with a sugar scrub to buff away the sins of old.  (You can make a basic one by mixing a little white and brown sugar with olive oil and honey.)

Then, I shower with one of my homemade soaps.  While these incorporate such ingredients as coconut milk, oatmeal, green tea, or pumpkin puree, a super-simple soap could be made with just olive oil, distilled water, and lye (100% sodium hydroxide).  Another option is to dilute a castile soap like Dr. Bronner’s and use that in place of shower gel.

After showering, I slather on one of my homemade body butters, but another option would be to use a small amount of high-quality, plant-based oil, such as extra virgin olive oil or grapeseed oil.  Coconut oil is another favorite, but some people (myself included), find it drying when used alone. *You’ll optimize moisturization by applying oils or body butters to damp skin.

Before continuing, I should warn you things are about to get a little bizarre (or maybe bizarre-er).  For my deodorant, in order to avoid villainous aluminum and other additives, I use…don’t laugh…plain Milk of Magnesia.  (*NOTE: Some brands add Sodium Hypochlorite–aka bleach–as a preservative, but I’d definitely stick to the ones which contain only Magnesium Hydroxide and water.)  Okay, you can laugh–especially when I add that I sometimes need to help along the drying with my hairdryer.  If you happen to give this a try and are less than successful at first, you might want to go through an armpit detox.  I haven’t tried it yet, but I hear it works wonders.  Are you laughing again?

After my questionable deodorizing, I swipe on a little witch hazel as my facial toner.  It’s not only all-natural and non-drying, but also cheap.  I have to admit, though, it can be slightly embarrassing to buy witch hazel (the main ingredient in hemorrhoid medications, I believe), along with Milk of Magnesia (a digestive-ailment cure) and the castor oil I use in making lip balms (another digestive-ailment cure) all in the same shopping trip.  You’ve been warned, in case you decide to shop similarly.

Time to finish where we started, with my mostly edible face. Recently, I’ve dabbled in making up my own makeup (see what I did there?)  My powder foundation is a mix of colloidal oatmeal with a hint of cocoa powder and turmeric for color.  My eyeliner is made of activated charcoal powder, mixed with a little arrowroot powder.  The color of this could be softened with a little cocoa powder, but I find it works well as is, especially when applied with a narrow brush just along the eyelashes.  This could also work as an eyeshadow, particularly if you’re going for a smoky effect, but my eyeshadows tend to be lighter, more natural shades, made from a base of eye-safe mica, mixed with some arrowroot and cocoa powders.  My blush is comprised of hibiscus powder (ground from the flowers–I purchased it this way), plus some cocoa powder to tone down the color and a little arrowroot to smooth out the mix.  My lip balm includes the previously mentioned castor oil, as well as honey, coconut oil, etc.  Like I said, my face is only mostly edible … although, it might smell good enough to eat.

Before we leave the topic of food, there are of course some other tried-and-true home remedies, such as the face-adoring combo of an oatmeal and honey mask or using yogurt and eggs to make hair shiny and happy.  Also, hasn’t flat beer been recommended as a hair treatment since the ’70s?

The moral of this story? Choose what you will for your beauty routine, but remember, you don’t have to look far for homely beauty.  At least I don’t.

*As always, use your own best judgment in figuring out what works for you.  I’m not a medical professional and this blog is offered as a reference only.  Any questions you have regarding the information presented here should be directed to your doctor.

 

Feb 17

Natural and Noteworthy: Rosehip Seed Oil

I’ve never been much of a trend follower.  In fact, trends have a habit of getting on my nerves…unless they happen to coincide with my own tastes or wishes, that is.  Maybe that makes me a trend hypocrite.  Either way, I recently stumbled upon a beauty trend that has fallen right smack into the middle of my favorite things: NATURAL OILS.

These days, people seem to be using natural oils for anything from aromatherapy (with essential oils), to moisturizing, to cleaning their skin. (I know, that last one sounds counter-intuitive, but seems to be met with success.) Since the vast world of natural oils is more than I care to tackle in one sitting, I’d prefer to showcase my current love: Rosehip Seed Oil.

Image via Unsplash/LoboStudio Hamburg

I was introduced to this oil when people began mentioning it in an online group I follow.  I sensed a sprouting trend and reacted to it with my go-to response: *ignore.*  Again and again, though, it found its way onto my online newsfeed.  People were discussing it like it was the answer to facial happiness and, gradually, curiosity wormed its way into my jaded shell.  What was this oil?  Finally, I cracked.  My first order was placed.

Well, let me tell you, it was not love at first sight … or smell or use.  Actually, it looked fine.  It’s a pale amber-colored oil, so no trouble there.  The scent left something to be desired, however.  I was searching for the aroma of roses, but–trust me–it wasn’t there.  The use is where I really felt betrayed, though.  I massaged it into my winter-dry face and…the driest places on my skin only became drier.

This oil of oils had finally entered my life and it didn’t even like me.  I was a little crushed.  Then, I read that some people were experiencing the same problem.  I learned that it’s important to apply the oil to damp skin, in order for it to hold in moisture. Also, some people find it useful to combine it with a little jojoba oil (not a true oil, but a wax, which closely mimics the sebum of our skin).  I followed suit and…success!  Love had at last bloomed.

Now that the winter has passed and my skin is no longer at its driest, I’ve had to dump jojoba and devote myself entirely to my first oily love again.  Twice a day, I massage about four or five drops of the pure, undiluted rosehip seed oil into the damp skin of my face and neck.  Since it’s a “dry” oil, it absorbs into my skin pretty quickly.  That’s it.  Routine est fini.

Why is this oil from the hips of roses so swoon-worthy, anyhow?  Well, I did mention that it’s natural, right? In other words, NO CHEMICALS.  It’s simply oil, extracted from rose bushes which grow, most often, in Chile.

Also, according to the research I did before trying (I am a skeptic, after all), rosehip seed oil is loaded with all kinds of skin-nourishing goodies: antioxidants (Vitamins A and C), lycopene, Omegas 3 and 6, etc.  It is said to rejuvenate skin, help correct pigmentation issues, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, scars and stretch marks, serve as an anti-inflammatory and just overall kick butt at treating skin the way it deserves to be treated.

Image via Unsplash/Ananda Escudero Gomes

Personally, my skin is super soft these days (baby bottoms would be jealous). Its tone is more even, too, and I’ve seen a reduction not only in the fine lines of my face, but also the appearance of my pores.  Having had one disappointing experience after another with typical, chemical-filled, over-the-counter moisturizers, these results impress me to no end.  Is it really any wonder that I’ve fallen head over heels?

I suppose I should end with a few extra notes: although some may associate quality with price and choose to spend $20 and up per ounce, I’ve been very happy with my 4 oz/$20-something bottles (which I purchase from Mountain Rose Herbs).   They last forever, since you only use a few drops once or twice a day (unless your husband discovers it and decides he doesn’t hate its effects).  I opt for organic oil, which has been cold-pressed, because more of the nutrients are preserved during this type of extraction process.  Also, refrigeration is encouraged, as it will prolong the oil’s shelf life.  I prefer to transfer some whenever needed to a small, refillable bottle which I keep at room temperature in my master bath (because, really, who wants to slather cold oil all over your face?)

Also, if you are someone who has allergies or other concerns, such as acne-prone skin, this may or may not be the oil for you.  I would suggest doing your research before trying and, if it doesn’t seem destined to be a wonderful fit, there are some other greats worth investigating: argan oil, tamanu oil, or neem oil, just to name a few.

Personally, I may try experimenting with another oil or two some day, but for now it seems my affection for rosehips is the deep and abiding kind.  I guess sometimes it pays to be a trend hypocrite.

*As always, use your own best judgment in figuring out what works for you.  I’m not a medical professional and this blog is offered as a reference only.  Any questions you have regarding the information presented here should be directed to your doctor.

 

Feb 17

Henna Gabber

Sorry for that title, there was a Hedda Gabbler reference there and I had to take it.  (The college professor who taught my senior seminar on Henrik Ibsen would be proud.  Nah, he probably wouldn’t.)  Anyhow, I seriously digress…

So, I come to you today from my sofa with my head coated in grassy-scented, brownish goop, wrapped in plastic and topped off with one of those mohawk-looking knit caps.  Why the hat?  Because if you must have your head covered in goop and plastic wrap, why not go all the way?  Besides, I need to keep my head warm at the moment (read on to find out why…) and this hat is just too ugly to be worn for any other occasion. Never mind the hat or the plastic wrap, though.  It’s the barnyard-reminiscent goop we’re focusing on today: henna.

Despite how I’ve just made it sound, henna is lovely–lovely–lovely.  (More apologies, Mr. Ibsen.)

Image via Unsplash/Christopher Campbell

How not to apply henna

Since I’m relatively new to the world of henna, I sought some advice from someone who has been coloring her hair with it for years, my cousin Kristie, who is far lovelier than henna or Hedda combined.  Kristie was kind enough to share some words of henna wisdom, and stressed, first of all, how important it is to buy your henna from a reputable source, making certain it contains only the dried and powdered leaf.  I couldn’t agree with her more.  Kristie uses a company called Henna for Hair, which sifts and tests all their products, and I’ve had some success with Morrocco Method, who likewise promise that their henna products are 100% plant material, free of chemical additives or irritants.  I’ve heard people recommend the hennas sold by Mountain Rose Herbs and hennasooq, as well.

What is henna, anyway?  Henna refers to a powder made up of the leaves of a tropical shrub, Lawsonia inermis, which acts as an orange/reddish dye to color the hair or skin.  It has been used for this purpose and for dyeing various fabrics since ancient times.  I’ve heard claims that Cleopatra and Nefertiti dyed their hair with it, and if it was good enough for them…

Why is henna good enough to color the hair of queens?  I won’t bash chemical colorants here; I’d prefer to focus on henna’s strengths, instead: rather than chemically changing the hair structure and weakening it, henna binds with the hair’s keratin, to condition and prevent weakness.  Hair quality generally improves with use.  It’s also able (along with some other plant-based colorants) to produce a variety of shades, as I’ll discuss below.

How long does henna last?  It’s a semi-permanent colorant and should gradually wear off in 8-12 weeks. However, each time you use henna, if you reapply to the same areas (rather than only the roots), it will have a darkening effect over time.

Can you achieve results other than Lucille-Ball Red?  You bet.  For blondes, cassia (like henna, but without the dye), is an option, and when combined with other plant powders, like marigold and chamomile, can produce a pretty blonde.  Indigo (another plant, used for dark blue dye) can be combined with henna in varying ratios to create anywhere from light to dark brown hair.  Amla powder comes from another plant and can be used to bring out cooler tones in henna, enhance its bonding with the hair, and prevent relaxation of curls or waves.  *Beware of anything labeled “Black Henna,” as Kristie pointed out, which may use heavy metals to achieve this color.  It’s important to do your research regarding this.

How does one go about henna-ing?  Simple. Follow the instructions recommended by your particular henna supplier. Usually, there’s quite a bit of sit-around-and-wait time, while the henna does its thing.

Image via Unsplash/Tim de Groot

Do we think henna is worth its weight wait?  I think Kristie would answer that with a resounding, “Yes.”  She did say, however, that it can take up to three days for the henna color to oxidize completely, so if you look like a Weasley for a couple of days, don’t freak out.  I didn’t press for details: her hair has obviously darkened and she’s happy with the results.

I don’t know yet if my hair will have the same degree of henna-success as Kristie’s.  It’s too early to tell, because I see my henna experience in terms of a Three Act Story (there’s the Ibsen connection, after all).  The First Act opens with me, unhappy, searching for salvation from my chemical colorant and its brassy-tinted results.  Enter henna, to the rescue!  Exit, brassy tones!  Actually, they haven’t completely vanished–the henna color is brighter where the brassiness was strongest, so I’ll be happier when the last traces of my chemical dalliance are gone.  Which leads me to …  Act Two: all henna, all the time.  I’m looking forward to this part of the story, when the last vestiges of my chemically-damaged hair have been clipped away and I can relax in my healthy, happy, warm brown-ness.  Act Three: I don’t know when or if I will reach this act, but my long-term plan is to let my hair go au naturel (sparkling strands of wisdom and all), once I’ve tired of henna or its plant-based colorant buddies–if I ever tire of henna and company.

What review would we give Henna?  If Henna were a play, I think Kristie and I would each give it four stars.  It might even deserve a standing ovation–I’ll let you know my feelings on that once I see how the story ends.  Hopefully, it’ll come to a much happier conclusion than Hedda Gabbler did.

 

* As always, this blog post is meant to act as a reference only.  If you decide to start coloring with henna, please do your research, find a reputable dealer, and then follow their specific instructions.  Also, if you’ve been using a chemical colorant on your hair, it is highly recommended that you wait at least 6-8 weeks before using henna.  If, on the other hand, you’d like to switch from using henna to a chemical colorant, you should again wait 6-8 weeks or more to do so and be warned: since the henna can wear off gradually and at uneven rates, the chemical colorant’s results may be unpredictable, especially if it’s combined with something else, like indigo.  (Hint: indigo + bleach = green hair.) I don’t plan on returning to using chemical colorants, so I’m not too concerned about this part.  Whatever you decide, good luck and happy, healthy hair to you!