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The following is part of an Organic Living Journey Guest Post Series now written by Mariana who has a mother’s heart and scientist’s brain.
A while ago , we talked about more natural deodorant options and why you might want to think twice before using anti-perspirant. You all had some great comments to share! Today, we’re going to talk about a couple topics. First we’ll take a quick look at body lotions. As I started researching lotions, it felt like a lot of repeat information: the same concerning chemicals, the same reasons to avoid them, and (thankfully) lots of great, healthier options. So, in addition to the lotion summary, I’m also going to take some time to share about the changes I’ve tried over the past few weeks…what I liked, what I didn’t like, and what changes I’m making for good.
Body Lotion Addict
I’m accustomed to using some kind of body lotion year-round. Up until recently (details coming up), I would put on a layer of body lotion after showering and reapply during the day as needed. I wanted to start my research with why the skin needs extra moisturizing at all, or does it?
Dry skin can be caused by many factors. Environmental factors like weather, humidity, and sun exposure can make your skin more dry by removing the moisture from it. However, some dry skin is self-inflicted. Here are some practices that can cause dry skin:
– hot showers
– strong soaps or cleansers
– excess exfoliation
– toweling off after bathing
– frequent swimming in chlorinated pools
– central air conditioning or heating
– fireplaces, space heaters
In addition, some medical conditions such as hormone imbalances, allergies, and dietary sensitivities can cause skin dryness and other more serious skin issues.
Soothing the Skin
Dry skin is uncomfortable, annoying, and (sadly) a normal part of life. So, how do we soothe the dry skin problem?
Historically, it seems as if some form of skin moisturizer has been around since the beginning. In the most basic of times, people would use animal fats to soften the skin. As civilization progressed, olive oil became a widely popular skin treatment, both for cleansing and softening the skin. In Homer’s lliad, Hera used a scented oil to attract Zeus. Roman baths used a basic oil for cleansing the skin which was then scraped off and then followed with a fine, fragrant oil. So, it seems as if we’ve enjoyed the benefits of extra skin moisture for a while now.
Modern moisturizers use combinations of ancient ingredients (oils, fats) with modern ones (petroleums, mineral oils, various chemicals). Much like the other topics we’ve recently discussed, lots of these modern ingredients leave cause for concern: parabens (a preservative and known oestrogen), phthalates (plasticizers, fragrance fixatives, and known hormone disruptor), urea (preservative that can cause dermatitis), petrolatum (can hinder your skin’s moisturizing ability).
What are some good choices for healthy, moisturized skin?
I’ve been on a journey for healthier skin care options for a couple months now. This body lotion article came at a great time. I’ve learned some good lessons and finally gotten my skin into a healthy routine! Here are my thoughts:
- Water – I turned my water temperature down a good bit and made a point to take shorter showers. Bonus, it’s great for water conservation! Hopefully, I can keep this habit up during the winter months.
- Soap – I switched my soap to an all natural option I found at the store…and then my skin was horribly dry. We’re talking white, flaky…awful. Eventually, I changed my soap to a very oil-rich option. Problem solved! If you have dry skin issues, start by switching up your soap, not your lotion. I’ve learned that the right soap will leave your skin feeling clean and soft but not dry. I cannot emphasize this enough! Change your soap!
- Pouf – ok, I’m probably dating myself here, but I remember when shower puffs (aka shower poufs, shower scrunchies, shower scrubbies) were relatively new concepts. Ditch it. The constant resurfacing of your skin can leave it dry and starving for oils. Your skin does not need to be rubbed and scrubbed clean every time you wash. Gently wash with your hands or a soft washcloth (using your gentle, oil-rich soap).
- Pat Down – give your towel a rest. After showering, gently pat dry, but leave your skin damp. Dry off just enough so you’re not dripping. Dripping would be dangerous.
- Moisturize – when your skin is still damp, apply your moisturizer. I’ve found that I use a LOT less product with this new routine. What a nice money-saving perk!
- Air Dry – let your skin air dry the rest of the way. Again, I hope this is a habit I can continue through the winter months! Yikes.
Some of you may be wondering about exfoliation. When my skin starts to look a little flaky, I use a salt scrub, not more than once a week. You can buy salt scrubs, but it’s so easy to make your own! I’m going to share my own salt scrub recipe. It’s a breeze to make and smells great.
Mariana’s Salt Scrub
½ – ? cup fine salt (I use a pink salt), more or less for your desired consistency
2 tablespoons coarse salt
¼ cup oil (I use coconut oil)
2-3 tablespoons of fresh citrus juice (preferably a lime/grapefruit blend)
a little bit of lime zest or oil from the peel
Directions: The easy way – just mix it all together. The fun way – slowly drip the juices into the oil while whisking, making an emulsion (like making mayonnaise or a salad dressing). Fold in the salts and zest. Note: because this recipe uses fresh ingredients, it should be stored in the fridge. Enjoy!
Finding a Quality Lotion
As you start shopping around, start by reading the labels! If you see parabens, phthalates, dyes, or synthetic fragrances (a hiding place for phthalates), consider a different product. You’ll probably end up looking in the “organic” section for a more natural option, and there are lots of them! Personally, I have tried 4-5 different brands and been happy with most of them. The ones I didn’t like were because of personal preferences, like the scent. The one I’ve used the most and repurchased is Dr. Bronner’s Organic Lotion. It’s oil-rich (coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, hemp seed oil), has a very clean ingredients list, and is about $10 for 8 ounces (a little cheaper on Vitacost). Have you tried anything you absolutely love?
The chemistry student in me loves home experiments. Even as I kid, I would mix random stuff together, trying to invent something awesome (sorry, mom). Thanks to some smart people, there are dozens of homemade lotion recipes you can try! I gave this body butter recipe a try and loved it. It uses three ingredients (cocoa butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil). I added some essential oils to make it smell nice. Since the recipe uses no water, it should stay stable at room temp for a long time. Other recipes may include beeswax, some use aloe vera gel. There’s a recipe out there that will suit your personal tastes (metaphorically speaking… don’t eat lotion).
Perspective and Summing Up
Over the past few weeks, we’ve covered soap, shampoo, deodorant, sunscreen, and bug repellant. Today, we’re going to wrap up the body care topics for a while and switch gears next week! Before we move on, I thought I’d share a bit about what changes I’ve made and how I’ve prioritized my body care spending.
As you may have noticed, natural or organic body care products are expensive…or really expensive. A friend asked me how I buy organic products without completely blowing my budget. Awesome question! We all want to make healthy choices, but the cost can be prohibitive. It’s a reality we all understand.
If the cost is overwhelming you, prioritize what’s important to you and your family. Let’s remember “toxic load”. What are you using that has a lot of toxins and has a long exposure time? Prioritize a product like that.
Maybe you can’t, or don’t want to, change everything right now. Pick which item is most important to you, and go for it. Feeling like you really want to change everything, but can’t make the budget work? Wake up your inner chemist! Try some homemade recipes.
For our family, the change has been gradual. Here’s my personal roundup of organic body care priorities, from least to greatest importance:
6. Shampoo & Conditioner – Confession time: I lasted about one week with my baking soda shampoo solution. It cleaned my hair well, but I never felt like it looked “good”. For now, I’m using a shampoo and conditioner I found at Whole Foods. Obviously, shampoo didn’t place too high on my priority list. However, it is a high priority in my kids’ bathroom. They wash their hair and sit in soapy bath water for 10 minutes, because of the increased exposure, I make sure their shampoo is clean of the bad chemicals.
5. Insect Repellant – I’m still using my Burt’s Bees repellent (from last year). Since writing this section, I’ve also learned that taking chlorophyll (supplement available in health stores) works amazingly well to prevent bites. I’m taking that daily now and plan on trying it with the kids too. I don’t use a lot of insect repellent, so buying a quality product once every year isn’t a huge deal.
4. Sunscreen – well, Georgia’s summer has been unseasonably wet this year, so we haven’t been outside much. When we do find a sunny day, I have been using All Terrain’s sunscreen, the same bottles I bought at the beginning of the summer. I have placed all the ingredients for the homemade sunscreen in my online cart, and once they’re on sale, I’m going to invest in those ingredients for next summer. I’m hoping for a sunny one!
3. Soap – I am so thankful I changed my soap! I was spending $13/chunk for (what I thought was) a good product, but my skin was a wreck. I’m now using a locally made bar soap for $8 and my skin has never felt better. It has also replaced my facial cleanser. This is high on my priority list, simply because of the benefits I’ve gained since using it. Unless you love your soap like me, it might not merit such high priority. But…if you use your soap in a bathtub (as we do with the children) or leave it on your skin for more than a minute, I’d prioritize a healthy product because of the increased exposure time.
2. Anti-Perspirant & Deodorant – I’m still using my Tom’s of Maine deodorant and won’t be going back to anti-perspirant, because keeping aluminum away from my body is a priority. Plus I just don’t “need” antiperspirant so why use it?
1. Lotion – it spends a lot of time on your skin and is designed to be absorbed. If you’re going to prioritize your healthy body care purchases, I’d keep this one at the top of the list. The exposure time is the longest out of all the other products we’ve discussed.
What does your priority list look like?
We’re moving on to the most wonderful time of the year…back to school season! I’m going to start with the lunch box. We’ll take a look at what “green” options are available for lunch boxes and why it is (or isn’t) something you should consider changing. From there, we’ll discuss plastic baggie alternatives, healthy lunch and snack options that kids (and grown-up kids) will actually want to eat, and some healthy school-day breakfast ideas.