Archive for the ‘personal care’ Category

A Weird New Goal of Zero Bottles in the Shower   Leave a comment

Not very long ago I was looking at my bottles on the shelf in the shower and realized that I don’t actually think I need any of them. For a long time I’ve been on a slow progression of simplifying my personal care routines (not that I was ever the stereotypical 20-bottles in the shower/over an hour to get ready in the morning woman), and it seems like I’ve reached a point where most of the rest of my products just seem pointless.

When I say slow progression, I do mean that. This story starts over a decade and a half ago, when I stopped shampooing my hair every day and switched to every other day. Over the years that became more like a couple times a week, then once a week. Then a few years ago I decided to try going shampoo free, using the baking soda and apple cider vinegar method. I had to switch back to washing my hair every time I showered (which was so hard as I had gotten so lazy about washing my hair!). Then gradually I was able to BS/ACV my hair only a couple times a week, and then weekly, while just rinsing with water in between. I’ve now reached a point where I don’t actually remember when I last used the BS/ACV, so I’m guessing I use it a couple times a year or so. When I last cleaned the shelf in the shower I realized that there’s really no reason for me to be keeping bottles of the baking soda and apple cider vinegar solutions in the shower, as I can easily mix up “single serve” batches when I feel like using them. Plus then I can customize the essential oil blends mixed in if I feel I need anything. I’ve also got a bottle of conditioner from back in my shampooing days, which I only use after getting a hair cut to make it up to my hair and restore a coating on the follicles. It’s going to take me another decade to finish that bottle, but there’s no reason it can’t join the extra bottle of shampoo for guests in the hall bathroom. So hair care: 0 bottles, 1 natural bristle brush.

The next simplification was a couple years ago when Conan was born. In the days/weeks after his birth I could find the time to splash my face with cold water every day, but not to use the cream cleanser that I’ve been using for years. After a while I realized that not using a cleanser and/or warm water on my face was not causing any breakouts. So why keep buying/using a cleanser? Then I started wondering if I really needed a moisturizer, and found that even my dry skin doesn’t generally demand a moisturizer if I’m only rinsing with cold water. At that point I started wondering about using oil, not a commercial moisturizer. Shockingly, when I switched to using grape seed oil on my face after showers (i.e. rinsing my face with warm water), I didn’t start breaking out. So facial care: 1 small jar of grape seed oil (the bottle lives in the kitchen for cooking), 1 facial brush.

The only thing left in the shower is the shave gel. I wax my legs, so it’s just for my underarms. Now I want to find out if we really do need special shave products as opposed to soap to shave. I suspect that it may be true for those who shave daily, and for legs, but for underarms that get shaved 2-3 times a week I suspect soap will be fine long term. If true that would mean shaving: 0 bottles, 1 razor.

Don’t worry, I’m keeping the soap.

Posted February 21, 2015 by mayakey in frugal living, goals, personal care, simple living, unshopping

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A Plug for EWG, and the Stepwise Approach to Less Toxic Products   Leave a comment

This year’s summer eco-audit was exposure. For the audit I’ve focussed on personal care products, and this year also looked at cleaning products. Previously it has been a bit of a challenge to do this audit as it was hard to find information about safety of the various ingredients in the products I was using. And what resources I did find didn’t really help with the questions “how much should I be concerned about this?”, or “what’s in this product that doesn’t list ingredients?”. But thanks to Environmental Working Group, I was actually able to do a comprehensive audit of every personal care product that Conan and I use this year because if the product itself isn’t in their Skin Deep database, I could search by ingredients. (I only had one bottle from a gift set that didn’t have ingredients listed, and I ended up tossing it anyway because the rest of the set turned out to be unacceptable.) Since Skin Deep includes a 0 to 10 ranking for each product and ingredient, as well as an indication of how much data there was on which to base the ranking, it is a great tool for getting a sense of where to focus my concerns. The Guide to Healthy Cleaning isn’t as comprehensive, but I still found the rankings to be really helpful since I otherwise have no idea if some complicated chemical name is something inert or harmful.

Overall I found that my products are generally pretty well ranked (it helped that I just tossed all my conventional makeup when Conan became tall enough to reach into that drawer, and tossed a couple other things that I had laying around when I found out the ingredients). That made me realize that my “stepwise” approach to reducing exposure to potentially harmful compounds in personal care products works better than I had expected. When I first did this I was completely overwhelmed by the list of compounds that “they” say are “bad” and not to use. Most of those compounds are also things that I would never be able to keep in my mind between shopping trips and I’m not willing to keep a bunch of wallet cards. So I focussed on a couple things at a time. Turns out you reach a point where the products that don’t contain the easy-to-remember chemicals-to-avoid, also don’t contain many of the hard-to-remember chemicals! (It might also help that I’ve all but stopped shopping for personal care products at conventional grocery stores and drug stores.)

My personal path started back in college when I decided that I wanted to avoid mineral oil and petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly) as they are petroleum products not plant products. As time went on I started to avoid D&C and FD&C colors (not necessarily an exposure thing but based on the desire to avoid compounds derived from coal tar), BHT, parabens, and “fragrance” (which is an issue because it can include anything and often includes some very toxic compounds). Lots of “natural” brands do still use the term “fragrance” on their ingredient lists, but for some of those brands I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt since they do explicitly say that they don’t use any toxic compounds (like Aveda, Dr. Bronner’s, and Toms of Maine).

My next step? Aside from “fragrance” in a handful of my products, most of which are companies that I’ll take the gamble with, the only red-flag compound in my list was retinol (vitamin A). Since I need to go to the dermatologist soon anyway, I’ll talk with her about Vitamin A. Apparently, it’s a cancer hazard when exposed to sunlight, and can bioaccumulate to the point of being a developmental toxin. I sort of knew this already from a dietary standpoint: too much vitamin A is bad since it can build up in the body, but eat all the beta carotene that you want (it won’t build up but is easily converted into vitamin A). I’m guessing that the little amount in my lipstick and under-eye concealer isn’t really a concern but I’ll follow up anyway.

I will also add that this is why we need a Safe Chemicals Act! No one should have to worry about whether the personal care products they are using contain carcinogenic or toxic compounds, and we shouldn’t be the guinea pigs used to find out.

My Deodorant Journey, So Far   Leave a comment

I’ve been meaning to write this post for months, and figure that I really need to do it before life turns upside down and I forget everything that I tried on my “deodorant journey”. This journey really started several years ago when I realized that I no longer needed to use an antiperspirant. I was also starting to wonder if there might be subtle health effects from preventing the skin (and major lymph nodes?) from detoxing through the underarm. I was putting a lot of attention on how to best support my body’s natural detoxification systems, and at the best antiperspirant didn’t seem to be something that would be helpful. So I switched to deodorant, buying it at the grocery store. At first I liked the variety of scents much better than those available for antiperspirants, and I found that for the most part deodorant was really all that was needed. But as time went on, I got tired of paying what seemed like a lot of money for these products that have really long ingredient lists and really only provide marginal utility. Plus I was tired of being stuck in between the “feminine” scents and the “masculine” scents.

So a year and a half ago I started a new journey: making my own deodorant. Here’s a list of what I tried and how it worked.

  • Nothing (a la “European”). Hey, it’s a baseline. And you know, some days (especially calm days in winter) I found that bare underarms made it through the day just fine.
  • Straight baking soda. As far as prevention of odor goes – baking soda is amazing! It worked successfully through a hot July day at the State Fair. It’s cheap and readily available, and doesn’t leave any markings on clothing (as long as it is applied first). It is not, however, easy to apply. I tried dusting it on with a facial powder puff over the sink, but there was no way to not make a bit of a mess. The biggest problem? After a while one of my underarms turned dark pink/purple, started to ache a little, and then the skin peeled off.
  • Straight essential oils. Works great, for about an hour. I would put a drop of a safe essential oil (like lavender) directly on each underarm and then rub it in. Smelled great at first, but then wore off and by the end of a work day I think it was worse than nothing.
  • Essential oil in a carrier oil. Same problem as the straight essential oils: wears off quickly and then it seemed like the underarm smell was worse afterwards. I was worried that the oil would start to stain my clothes, but that never happened, at least not that I noticed.
  • Oil and baking soda. Almost a winner, almost. This was an attempt at combining the benefits of the baking soda and the essential oil in carrier oil. I would apply a layer of oil on the skin first, and then dust on the baking soda. It worked great for odor (courtesy of the baking soda), and the oil prevented the baking soda from making my skin peel off. But there’s still the messiness of applying the baking soda. And turning the application of deodorant into a two-step process is annoying.
  • Homemade coconut oil deodorant. I sort-of tried a recipe for homemade deodorant that calls for mixing baking soda and corn starch into melted coconut oil, and then pouring it into an old deodorant stick. I didn’t measure, though, and went purely by consistency. I also left out the corn starch, maybe it would have worked better with the corn starch. There were three problems, all of which could possibly be remedied but I’m not planning to try. (1) The coconut smell isn’t really strong, but it is there, and as I was trying this remedy at the beginning of my pregnancy that was a problem. (2) At temperatures above 70 degrees F coconut oil liquifies and starts to seep out of the bottom of the deodorant tube, making an oily mess. I thought about trying it in old toilet paper rolls with some kind of cap on the bottom where you just tear the paper down from the top. But I got tired of the smell first. (3) After a bit, my underarm peeled again. Apparently mixing the baking soda into the oil isn’t as effective as using the oil as a barrier. Maybe the corn starch would help? I gave up before doing a Take 2.
  • Homemade beeswax deodorant. I didn’t actually try this myself since I already discovered years ago that my skin gets red and itchy when beeswax products are applied to it. My friend Brown Thumb Mama tried this, though. If I remember correctly she did encounter some staining on clothes, though.
  • Crystal. Jury’s still out on this one. I used to think the rock crystal deodorant was a ridiculous idea, but since baking soda was so successful I figured that maybe the crystal would work. I’m not overwhelmingly impressed, but it’s also not worthless. It didn’t fare quite so well through a day at the State Fair, or stressful days at work, compared to the baking soda. But it works fine on normal days. It really only works when applied on fresh clean skin, though, which is a problem after shaving: it stings! The rock is supposed to last over a year, and I haven’t yet seemed to make a dent in it, so I’ll keep using it. I’m saving a final verdict for when I’m not pregnant, in case that changes things.

Posted November 21, 2012 by mayakey in frugal living, personal care, unshopping

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Figuring Out How Important Organic Fabric Is For Baby   3 comments

One of our first decisions to make in the preparations for Baby is our(my) fabric type preference. It’s an interesting decision because it’s the first where I have to make a decision for my child that is separate from the decision I made long ago for myself. For myself I insist on organic natural fabrics. Natural fabrics are plant/animal: cotton, hemp, linen, wool, silk, and to some degree fabrics derived from bamboo or trees. Organic means grown without pesticides. A small amount of synthetic fibers is ok when stretchiness is needed/useful. It’s been almost a decade since I bought anything that was not made of organic natural fibers with the exception of running gear and secondhand clothing. It’s interesting suddenly finding myself in lots of synthetic fabric secondhand maternity clothes. So itchy! I am committed to organic natural fibers or secondhand for myself due primarily to my desire to reduce pesticide usage and impacts on workers and the environment.

But what about Baby’s wardrobe? The situation is different. We need a “full” wardrobe immediately and don’t have years to transition a wardrobe piece by piece from conventional to organic. And while I’m not growing and can plan on wearing any given piece of clothing for 10 years or so, Baby’s clothing will last weeks or months before needing to be replaced. We need to balance financial cost and environmental cost for baby clothes, and other fabric baby stuff. I’ve been mulling this over for a few weeks now and here’s what I’ve decided.

Natural fabrics are a must; synthetic fabrics are to be avoided whenever possible. In my own experience natural fabrics are just SO MUCH MORE COMFORTABLE, and I really don’t need to clothe my baby in plastic. This should be easy for clothing, blankets, and such. However, things could get a little more complicated when we get to car seats and strollers. Stay tuned.

Untreated fabrics are an absolute must. I’m not so worried about dyes here, but treatments like urea-formaldehyde, fire retardants, and any of the other multitude of treatments applied to fabrics in our world. So that means no pajamas, since my understanding is that all clothing marketed as pajamas for babies in the US must be treated with fire retardants. That means no permanent press (treated with urea-formaldehyde). Anything else that might have some kind of treatment can be washed several times before use to try to remove it.  Again, though, things could get a little more complicated when we get to car seats and strollers, so stay tuned.

But what about organic? As near as I can tell there isn’t a concern with pesticide residue on the cotton fibers since the pesticides partition into the oil in the cottonseed instead of the fibers. But there’s just so much at stake that at first I don’t want to take any chances. Newborn babies are still doing so much developing that could be affected by any trace exposure. So I’m thinking that for the “newborn” phase I’ll play it safe with organic cotton, but then relax a little and get secondhand clothes for a while. My preference is organic, but I just don’t see the point of buying new clothes that will be worn for a month or two and then replaced. As long as it’s not permanent press, several washings should be good enough. After the first year I’ll have to figure this out again, I guess. I didn’t like hand-me-downs as a kid. But as an adult I just can’t actually bring myself to walk into a conventional retail store and buy conventional retail clothing for anyone at all, let alone my family.

Posted August 9, 2012 by mayakey in organic, personal care, shopping

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Singing Some of the Praises of Baking Soda   Leave a comment

Last weekend was the start of spring cleaning, starting in the kitchen, and my super weapon was baking soda! I found a couple more uses to add to my list. Here it is so far:

  • Baking soda is a good mild abrasive, although it does require thorough rinsing afterwards. Salt also works as an abrasive, but in my experience it is much easier to accidentally scratch something with salt than baking soda. I wiped down just about everything from countertops to fridge shelves to the blender base and kettle with baking soda. It left the fridge shelves free of those annoying rings that some jars leave behind but that soap and water can’t remove, and gave me a shiny non-spattered blender base and kettle.
  • Baking soda is a miracle worker when it comes to removing baked/cooked-on grease and food residue. To some degree this is due to the abrasive action, but I also think that there must be some chemical reaction in play. If you sprinkle the pot or pan with baking soda and then swipe it around with a sponge some stuff will come off immediately, but then if you leave it on for a minute more will come off easily without the need for hard scrubbing. Use hot water with the baking soda and it’ll work even better.
  • Not only does baking soda remove baked on grease, but char as well. Accidentally burn something in your favorite pot? Cover the char with damp baking soda and let it sit overnight; you’ll be able to wipe off most of the char with one swipe. If you’ve got a thick layer of char it might take a couple applications. Iodine works for this as well, but don’t ask me why.
  • Speaking of char, there’s one chore that I’ve always heard horror stories about but not had a problem with myself: oven cleaning. On a very dirty oven: step 1-sprinkle liberally with baking soda and dampen, step 2-come back in a little while and wipe up, step 3-there is no step three. On a relatively clean oven: step 1-sprinkle a little bit of baking soda and wipe up with a damp sponge/rag, step 2-oh wait there’s no step two. It took me about 5 minutes to clean the walls, base, rack, door and window of the oven this year. No elbow grease, no fumes, no pain.
  • Somehow baking soda cuts grease. I discovered this when I went shampoo-free using the baking soda/apple cider vinegar strategy. I was skeptical about using baking soda as the grease cutting step so I cleaned an oily skillet with no soap, just baking soda. Again, I have no idea why it works, I just know that in my experience it does. And since I’ve been using a baking soda solution to clean my hair for about two years now, I can absolutely say that it does work on hair (with the caveat that if you are used to super dry straw hair it will feel oily).
  • I have no idea how this works, but baking soda bleaches coffee/tea cups. I have a mug that has many many years of tea stains on the inside. All it took was a swipe with a baking soda covered sponge and they were completely gone.
  • Everyone knows that baking soda is a deodorizer, but I’ve also found it to work as deodorant. That story is part of a year-long deodorant search saga that I’ll write up soon, but I can say that baking soda outlasted the State Fair…and stripped a layer of skin off. So while it works, don’t take this as a recommendation.
  • Baking soda has long been used as/in toothpaste. In is better than as. I think there’s a reason toothpaste was developed and we’re not still using tooth powder.

I’m sure I’m missing a few uses. Isn’t there something laundry-related?

Posted April 20, 2012 by mayakey in cleaning, personal care

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I’m Shocked! Shocked About Mislabeled Less-Toxic Nail Polish   Leave a comment

In today’s newspaper there was an article about a report released this week by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control that found that some nail polishes marketed as being free of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate do in fact contain those chemicals. Absolutely shocking, I say! Who would ever believe that a company would have misleading advertising that claims (explicitly or implicitly) that it’s products are healthy/not harmful for consumers? Oh, wait a minute, that’s greenwashing, which is rampant.

The DTSC’s concerns are not primarily exposure of women wearing the nail polish, but the exposure of the salon workers who are surrounded by nail polish all-day-every-day at their jobs. My concern, however, is MY exposure to toxic and carcinogenic compounds in nail polish that I wear. There’s a reason that I stopped wearing nail polish before we started trying to get pregnant. Not only can the volatile chemicals be inhaled, but some chemicals can be absorbed through the nails and skin as well. For the last decade or more I have only purchased nail polishes that state that they are toluene and formaldehyde-free; I think that dibutyl phthalate-free polishes must have come on the market only in the last few years when I haven’t been paying attention. But even without the “toxic trio” as the article refers to them, nail polish still contains a soup of other harmful chemicals. Basically, it is just not possible to make nail polish as we know it today without that soup. I’m highly skeptical that the so-called “organic nail polishes” on the market today aren’t just substituting less-harmful chemicals for the toxic solvents, colors, and other ingredients in conventional polishes. So while it is disappointing to know that there is a possibility that my nail polishes aren’t living up to their marketing claims, since I already consider them to be toxic soup it doesn’t really change anything. I still love me some painted toenails.

Posted April 11, 2012 by mayakey in personal care, pre-pregnancy

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Simplifying My Travel Packing List   Leave a comment

When I was a kid and we packed for trips I was a “what if” person. I packed ALL KINDS of contingency items, extra items, and superfluous items. Of course I didn’t necessarily see them that way at the time. I wanted to put my best foot forward around strangers or infrequently seen family/friends, but was too insecure to really know what it was. I remember a family reunion where my dad yelled at me for packing hair spray. At the time I just kind of rolled my eyes because I was well aware that hair spray was not close to being the most excessive thing that I had packed, I mean at least that was something I used at the time!

Fast forward to today. When I travel I’m probably flying rather than road-tripping, and therefore having to deal with luggage and liquid restrictions. I don’t yet have children. I’m secure in who I am and much prefer to just travel as “me” and not some put-together facade. Oh, and one minor change is that with my desire to live more simply I just have less stuff to pack. All this results in a leaner packing list, and a slightly easier travel experience both in the sense of lugging the luggage and finding things inside it. This does result in the debate about luggage: when everything fits into a carryon-sized suitcase is it a better travel experience to check it and then have to wait for baggage claim or carry it on and have to carry it down the aisle of the plane and lift it into the overhead compartment. I haven’t decided yet, although usually default to just carrying it on the plane.

The best way to simplify what personal care products are needed when traveling is to simplify personal care routines. At home I use a cream cleanser at night for my face, and just cold water in the morning; but when traveling for 3 days there’s no reason not to just use water and a washcloth and not have to find a way to transport the cleanser. This is a two-birds-one-stone situation as well since it means there’s no need to pack a moisturizer for my face either. For my hair I do have a pomade that I got when I cut off my long hair but since I’ve used it less than a handful of times in the month and a half since getting the haircut it was no problem leaving it at home. So hair care required nothing more than a comb. (Note that I don’t wash my hair every day, so just rinsing my head in the shower was fine for a 3 day trip.) Deodorant was a bit more tricky since I’m in the middle of almost a year of experimenting with alternatives (which eventually I’ll write about), but putting a small scoop of coconut oil in a little jar worked for me, and also provided me with a backup moisturizer if needed.

Where do I not simplify? Teeth and eyes. I get headaches when I wear my glasses all day when traveling or at work, so I absolutely have to take my contacts, case, and cleaner. And while I’ve tried leaving my tongue scraper at home, even on a two day trip I’m desperately feeling the need for a good tongue scraping, so along it comes in all its awkward dimensioning. For the purposes of avoiding the purchase of a mini-tube of toothpaste to get me past security I did just bring a baggie of baking soda instead, but that’s not really simplifying.

Where did I REALLY not simplify? Clothes? No, wore 1 pair of jeans all weekend and an easy-to-pack outfit to the wedding. Makeup? No, only brought the makeup that I actually wear on a regular basis. It was reading materials. I brought my entire stack of magazines, plus the Tao of Fertility book, plus the Mists of Avalon book, plus my journal, plus my computer. My shoulder and back do not thank me. They say: next time choose between the 2+ inch thick book and the stack of magazines, and make it an unplugged computer-free weekend. All of my time that wasn’t on a plane or waiting to get on a plane was spent hanging out with family anyway.

Anything that I missed having with me? Shoes, actually, but that’s mostly because I don’t have a really good pair of pant boots right now. I only took my pant boots and my calf boots for dressing up, so when my aunt suggested going for a walk one morning my heels and arches complained for about 2.5 miles of the approximately 3 mile walk. I rarely pack my running shoes since they take up so much space, but my current everyday boots are horrible shoes for any significant amount of walking.

Posted April 3, 2012 by mayakey in personal care, simple living, travel

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