Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring into Clean (sans Chemicals!)

What is around you, is in you. So, look around. What products are around you? Toothpaste full of dyes, chemicals, fillers, flavoring agents, foaming agents, and preservatives? What is in your makeup bag? In your pantry? Your closet? Your fridge? This spring, take small steps to live a cleaner, greener, more natural lifestyle. In this blog entry, I'll offer a few ways to help.

First, don't overwhelm yourself. Pick one category of things to go through, to clean out, to replace with healthier natural products. What are you ready to commit to? Are you ready to green-ify your hygiene routine? Maybe your laundry could use a natural spruce-up? Last year, I went through all my makeup and traded in everything for natural products.....yes, nail polish included. This year I went through my hygiene routine again and improved all my favorite beauty care recipes, some of which I will share with you in this entry. There are different levels of readiness so don't be hard on yourself for not being eager to immediately jump into the water without spending some time wading in the pool first. We are all willing to give up certain things, but don't push yourself too far outside your comfort zone; too much at once can feel overwhelming and often leads to failure. There are different hues of readiness and even some things you may not be willing to give up. That is ok. Embrace your choices, be human, and do the best you can.

If you're willing to peel back the mirrored face of your medicine cabinet and sift through your new, old, and mostly forgotten products, and to replace some with healthier counterparts, check out my review of a few reliable and amazing products below!

For lotion, I use organic, unprocessed, extra virgin coconut oil that can be bought HEREDid you know that what goes onto your skin becomes absorbed into your bloodstream? What goes on the outside ends up on the inside. So, I use only edible and organic products on my body that offer my skin, hair, and nails nutrition rather than chemicals. Extra virgin coconut oil helps minimize the appearance of scars, stretch marks, and it nourishes the skin by supplying vitamin E and omega 3s as well as other antioxidants and polyphenols! It keeps your skin smooth, radiant, and since it is 100% absorbable by the skin, it does not leave an oily film. It nourishes without being slippery, shiny, or greasy. I use it on my face as well and the ends of my hair to prevent the formation of split ends, which occur in dry, overly processed, and damaged hair.

When I don't make my own soap (a labor of love.....but certainly a labor!), I buy soaps that contain high-quality ingredients, natural scents, and no artificial anything. Some great brands are:
Dr. Bronner's South of FrancePangea Organics, and Wild Natural Beauty  soap. All of these brands offer organic ingredients, are chemical-free, use pure essential oils, produce high-quality soap bars that last a very long time, and are hypoallergenic.

Shampoo and Conditioner
What about shampoo? Conditioner? After searching for the best, most pure, simple, and natural shampoo and conditioner out there, I finally found them. The best I have ever used is a small brand whose products are made right here in NYC called Earthly Delight. The only place I have ever been able to find this amazing brand is in NY-state Whole Foods. The shampoo and conditioner boast natural ingredients such as: wheat germ, nettles, avocado oil, and rosemary. Anywhere else in the country where this brand might be difficult to impossible to track down, I always rely on Aubrey Organics, whose lines of shampoo and conditioner have never disappointed me. They are a cruelty-free company who uses certified organic ingredients, vegan raw materials, and never include anything synthetic or paraben-based in any of their products. Their Green Tea Shampoo, Green Tea Conditioner, Henna Shampoo, and Henna Conditioner can be found at any local health food store and  sometimes even at expansive regular grocery stores. Natural shampoo, conditioner, and soaps have no fillers and empty ingredients in them, rendering the products very effective, gentle, but concentrated, so remember the succinct saying,  "a little goes a long way," when using natural products (which hopefully is every day!).

Liquid Soap and All-Purpose House Cleaner
For liquid soap and dish soap, even laundry detergent, carpet cleaner, and soapy sudsy bath scent, you cannot find a better or more versatile product than Dr. Bronner's Liquid Soap. With 18 uses and one concentrated bottle with scents like rose, eucalyptus, and citrus, you can celebrate saving all your money by splurging on some really comfortable organic cotton pajamas that utilize cotton grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides and made without the use of synthetic dyes and materials.

At the top of the charts for natural toothpaste is Auromere Toothpaste. They offer many flavors such as cardamoom-fennel, fresh mint, and licorice. Auromere's toothpaste is pure goodness. They are a little more expensive but their product is very concentrated and will normally last me almost an entire year! They use absolutely no fillers; only the best natural ingredients to protect your teeth and gums. These kinds of toothpastes, however, take a little time to get used to. They foam less (foaming is an experience the hygiene companies created for human pleasure, it actually does not denote cleanliness at all. Foaming agents are usually a chemical called sodium lauryl sulfate). Natural toothpastes also have a slightly different mouthfeel, the product feeling a bit heavier (ie more concentrated), and having less of a smooth jelly texture and more of a paste texture. The earthy color of natural toothpastes can also shock you at first, which is ironic considering the neon hues of modern branded toothpaste. With ingredients like: Fine Chalk (it absorbs chemicals and toxins, whitens, and is gentle yet abrasive enough to thoroughly scrub teeth), neem oilpeelu, rose apple, clove, Indian licorice root, sarsaparilla, and cardamom oil instead of the list of ingredients in conventional toothpaste, which includes a plethora of chemicals: sodium lauryl sulfate (also used as an engine degreaser), sodium fluoride (toxic when ingested and the chemical used in roach and rat killer, used as nerve gas, and used by the Nazis to sterilize women), FD&C Blue #1 (which causes allergic reactions, hyperactivity, and is banned in almost all of Europe), and the allergen, Dioxin-precursor, and endocrine disruptor Triclosan. Why ingest chemicals, synthetic additives....engine degreaser? There are many brands out there that offer extraordinary natural toothpaste are some other wonderful products:
Tom's of Maine Fluoride-Free toothpaste

Peelu Toothpaste

Desert Essence Tea Tree Toothpaste

Jason Mint-Cinnamon Fluoride-Free toothpaste
and one of my all-time favorites: Nature's Gate Creme de Menthe all-natural toothpaste

That was a lot of information to digest. So, take some time, relax, mull over this article, and replace a few things at a time. Baby steps! For those of you interested in  making your own homemade toothpaste, facial moisturizer, hair detangler and shine-enhancing spray, emollient facial scrub, and body scrub, be sure to check out the next blog entry this week which will be a lesson on homemade beauty and hygiene care products. The compete recipes and pictures will also be archived on the website under "INEDIBLES" in the RECIPE tab so you can enjoy making these same products year after year.

Happy spring cleaning!