Tag: natural

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!

 

Feb 17

Why I Began My Journey to the Natural Kind of Life

This path first presented itself to me when my children were very young. I’d always loved the natural world and my favorite place to be was outdoors in the fresh air. Still, I thought little about our home’s indoor environment. That all changed the first time I read a list of the toxins people were being exposed to on a daily basis, even within the confines of their homes. Short of tearing down our house and building an eco-friendly structure from the ground up, I decided to start where I could.

Looking around me, I found it made little sense to chase germs from the nooks and crannies of my home with strong, chemical-laden cleaners. I stopped buying these products and switched to making my own cleaners with human-friendly ingredients like vinegar and water, baking soda, lemon juice, or castile soap. I’m still just as pleased with these non-toxic cleansing products today as I was back then. Eventually, I discovered even more complicated cleaners like laundry and dishwasher detergents could be replaced with friendlier substitutes. These, too, joined our household.  More recently, I’ve made the jump into creating personal care and beauty products from natural ingredients and am very excited about this new step.

 

I love that nearly all of my ingredients are safe enough to eat and even the ones which aren’t are still pure and non-toxic. If you think about it, our skin is our largest organ, so it makes sense that the products to be absorbed by it shouldn’t fill us with poisons.

Though I can’t erase the presence of toxins in my family’s environment, I can certainly limit them. It isn’t always easier to choose the natural alternative, but in my opinion the effort is worthwhile, if only in terms of the peace of mind it brings. Personally, I’m still learning everything I can about how to create a simpler, more natural life. I am grateful to others for sharing what they’ve discovered and I’m more than happy to pass along what I’ve learned.