Sunday, November 14, 2010

Natural alternatives to body care products

A number of events lately have inspired me to take a hard look at all the things I'm putting on my body. I've been working for more than twenty years to eliminate all the artificial and possibly dangerous substances from my food, and it only makes sense to also try to keep such things off my skin, since it absorbs whatever is put on it. That concept is driven home by the fact that there are a number of drugs that are available via dermal patches that are stuck to the skin for a few days, and the drugs are absorbed into the body. It is actually a more effective route of administration that oral medication, because it goes directly into your bloodstream, rather than going through your digestive system first.

If I won't eat food that contains sodium carboxymethylcellulose, then why should I use shampoo that contains disodium laureth sulfosuccinate or hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride? And this is from a company that claims to use natural ingredients. I have sometimes used my homemade soap to wash my hair, and it gets my hair clean, but it's a challenge to style. Then I came upon this blog post about using baking soda to wash your hair, so I thought I'd give it a try. I just put a little baking soda in my hand, get it wet and scrub it around my scalp. It gets my hair squeaky clean. In fact, it dries out my hair and makes it frizzy, which I would have previously assumed to be impossible. Remember Roseanne Rosannadanna? I tried putting the baking soda in my hair and then adding my soap, which works better, but styling is still a challenge.

I mentioned my experiments on the Antiquity Oaks Facebook page, and a few people said that they have completely stopped using shampoo. They simply rinse their hair with plain water in the shower. At first their hair was a little oily, but it was temporary. Some also mentioned using apple cider vinegar as a rinse. Now I am really intrigued and excited to try these ideas and see what happens.

Although my shampoo-alternative experiments have just begun, I started living without a commercial deodorant a month ago. I've known for at least 15 years that alcohol works just as well as any commercial deodorant, but I was always worried that if I used it every day, it would dry out my skin. So, I only used it after shaving under my arms, because I really did not want to put unknown stuff on skin that had just been shaved, regardless of how safe the company claimed it to be. Anyway, I decided to see if I could simply use a bit of alcohol to keep my underarms odor free, and maybe it wouldn't dry out my skin. I've discovered that if I shower daily, I don't need the alcohol, although I did need it the first few days after I quit using the deodorant, which I found kind of interesting. It was as if there was a rebound effect from using the deodorant -- discontinuing use made my underarms stink badly within an hour or two of showering. Now, a month later, I don't smell a thing for 24 hours after showering. I also tried witch hazel, and it worked as well as the alcohol. I just put a little on a cotton ball and rub it under my arm pits.

My next challenge is to find an alternative to toothpaste, because almost all the so-called natural ones have sodium laurel sulfate in them. I found one without it, but it had some tiny something in it that would get stuck between my teeth, which necessitated flossing. It seemed really weird that my toothpaste created a need to floss. Any suggestions?

19 comments:

Haley said...

I make my own tooth powder. Many dentists will tell you that if you don't have toothpaste for some reason, to brush with salt water. I mix six tablespoons of baking soda , 1 tablespoon of salt, and a few drops of peppermint oil together. Then I just dip my wet toothbrush into the jar and brush with that. The peppermint flavor is a little strong for the first few days, then mellows out, so don't be alarmed if it seems a bit strong. The flavor is a bit salty, which can also be a bit alarming the first time you use it, but I have to say that I prefer the saltiness which rinses out easily to the aftertastes of most commercial toothpastes.

The health of my teeth has remained the same or even improved since switching from toothpaste to this homemade powder. I think the woman I got the idea from mentioned making other flavors with other oils (like orange), or you can leave the essential oil out altogether if you want, which makes for a drier but just as effective paste once it is wet.

That was probably more than you ever wanted to know about how I brush my teeth, but there you go.

Anonymous said...

I've heard of tooth soap, maybe google it to find out more. I've used baking soda and salt and it cleaned my teeth well. I don't use deodorant anymore but I do not perspire too much. I am past the big M so I may not get stinky anymore anyway. I have not been happy with any shampoo alternatives. From Abiga/Karen

LindaG said...

Thoughtful ideas. Thanks!

Mama Pea said...

You might want to check out Peelu brand toothpastes. They are sodium lauryl sulfate free.

girlwithasword said...

I have tried both "no-poo" and the baking soda method, and while I have heard great things about them, neither have worked for me. I htink it depends a lot on your skin and hair type. I know some people can use castile soaps or regular soaps as a shampoo, and then rinse with vinegar, but that made my hair SUPER nasty! Well-made shampoo bars are great for me. (I sell them, sell a ton of them actually, but this is not a commercial, just my personal experiences. I have used shampoo bars since WELL before I sold them, and only sell them now because I love to use them :)). Bad shampoos (super-fatted, over-fatted, or full of chemical junk) are icky. So finding one that works for your hair type can really work. I too love and use tooth powder but personally don't use salt in my formulation as I find it too gritty and worry about nail enamel wear (I tend to overbrush as well so it's something I have to be careful about). I use a mix of myrrh powder, baking soda and essential oils. Some people add glycerine and it makes more of a tooth paste, and is also sweeter. I like the bitter taste of the myrrh powder though, call me crazy! I haven't used commercial deodorants in years. I don't usually use any, actually. I think a clean diet and lack of stress helps make me stink less! hah. This is kind of my area, so if you have any questions, let me know. I have tried lots of recipes and things over the years. OH! I also wrote an article years ago for the herb quarterly about non-soap hair cleansers, and had a blast doing research. My absolute favorite is one based on rhassoul clay and honey, but I've also got tried at true recipes for a dry hair shampoo and an egg hair cleanser which is FANTASTIC. :) You hit on a great point, mentioning those trans-dermal medication patches; I alwys mention that when talking to people about why natural bodycare is important. Our skin is the largest organ of our body, it's super important to keep it healthy. In the 12 years I have been making and selling natural herbal bodycare products I've seen a HUGE rise in the number of people developing allergies to different synthetic ingredients, and also have more and more people coming in all the time with undiagnosed skin conditions, or psoriasis or excema. I am firmly convinced that our bodies are just overloaded with chemicals and that is causing the rise in these conditions. Unfortunately many of the treatments for these conditions are loaded with some of the very things that people are often allergic to...

girlwithasword said...

I have tried both "no-poo" and the baking soda method, and while I have heard great things about them, neither have worked for me. I htink it depends a lot on your skin and hair type. I know some people can use castile soaps or regular soaps as a shampoo, and then rinse with vinegar, but that made my hair SUPER nasty! Well-made shampoo bars are great for me. (I sell them, sell a ton of them actually, but this is not a commercial, just my personal experiences. I have used shampoo bars since WELL before I sold them, and only sell them now because I love to use them :)). Bad shampoos (super-fatted, over-fatted, or full of chemical junk) are icky. So finding one that works for your hair type can really work. I too love and use tooth powder but personally don't use salt in my formulation as I find it too gritty and worry about nail enamel wear (I tend to overbrush as well so it's something I have to be careful about). I use a mix of myrrh powder, baking soda and essential oils. Some people add glycerine and it makes more of a tooth paste, and is also sweeter. I like the bitter taste of the myrrh powder though, call me crazy! I haven't used commercial deodorants in years. I don't usually use any, actually. I think a clean diet and lack of stress helps make me stink less! hah. This is kind of my area, so if you have any questions, let me know.

girlwithasword said...

I have tried lots of recipes and things over the years. OH! I also wrote an article years ago for the herb quarterly about non-soap hair cleansers, and had a blast doing research. My absolute favorite is one based on rhassoul clay and honey, but I've also got tried at true recipes for a dry hair shampoo and an egg hair cleanser which is FANTASTIC. :) You hit on a great point, mentioning those trans-dermal medication patches; I alwys mention that when talking to people about why natural bodycare is important. Our skin is the largest organ of our body, it's super important to keep it healthy. In the 12 years I have been making and selling natural herbal bodycare products I've seen a HUGE rise in the number of people developing allergies to different synthetic ingredients, and also have more and more people coming in all the time with undiagnosed skin conditions, or psoriasis or excema. I am firmly convinced that our bodies are just overloaded with chemicals and that is causing the rise in these conditions. Unfortunately many of the treatments for these conditions are loaded with some of the very things that people are often allergic to...

girlwithasword said...

sorry for the crazy double posting??

Haley said...

P.S. My sister says she brushes her teeth with Dr. Bronner's liquid peppermint soap. This sounds weird to me, but it works fer her. I don't usually buy liquid soap, though, because I don't want the waste of the plastic bottle.

Kari said...

The baking soda for shampoo and ac vinegar for a rinse works well for me. I started because of my itchy scalp in the winter. It is drying though.

My uncle used ivory soap for toothpaste for 60 years and bragged about how he never had a cavity.

-kari

Angela Rountree said...

I don't recall the ingredient list, but when I switched to "Squigle" sensitive toothpaste (wheat- and corn-free) and Tom's Mouthwash, I finally got rid of stubborn gingivitis. (Yes, I am allergic to wheat and corn, but never thought to check my toothpaste for wheat and corn derivatives.) I ordered this through Amazon.

Haley said...

I keep checking these comments for ideas, since I am always looking for more natural alternatives to chemical-filled body products! I just wanted to say that for those concerned about enamel erosion from salt in tooth powder, I grind the salt up quite finely with my mortar and pestle, so it isn't really abrasive, although I did not do this for the first year or so and my dentist didn't mention anything.

Alison Russell said...

Instead of straight baking soda, you can try diluting it with water and see if you can get to a concentration that doesn't dry your hair out. I finally settled on 1t of baking soda to 1c water.

Also, if you use baking soda or soap, that vinegar rinse is really necessary - not just an extra! Lots of people refer to it as a "conditioner" (probably just out of habit). It's not a conditioner - it helps neutralize the alkalinity of the soap/baking soda. Hair is a protein fiber which can be damaged by alkaline solutions.

Sharon -- The OKI Stampqueen said...

I hope you'll publish more on this-and the ideas, recipes, etc. you collect in response. Funny thing is-I was just sitting here thinking, "I need a REALLY GOOD, NATURAL something to get some moisture into my skin--soooo many allergies--but my skin is dry, dry, dry and now that cold weather is here---I know who will have an answer--" clicked on your site and what's the topic of the day??! Natural products? Can you play the Twilight Zone song now, please?! Got a good moisturizer?

Deborah @ Antiquity Oaks said...

Wow, Sharon! I hear the music! That's kind of creepy. As for moisturizers, the first key is to use a natural soap so that it doesn't strip the oil from your skin. I used to need lotion multiple times a day after washing my hands before I started making my own soap. If your skin is still dry, olive oil does a really good job as a moisturizer. If your hands are greasy for more than a few minutes, you used too much, so use less next time. You really don't need much at all -- like 1/8 teaspoon for your hands. And if you use too much, it will all absorb in time.

Thanks for all the great ideas and suggestions, everyone!

The Primalist said...

I actually just brush my teeth with water.. to transition from toothpaste I used water with a bit of salt.. but now find I don't need anything.. from what I've read, it's the brushing action that cleans your teeth - the paste is just there for taste/flavour..

As for moisturizer, first of all, I don't use soap.. on my face or on my body.. which stops your skin from being stripped of its natural mostiure.. and then i use a little coconut oil, both on my face and body..

I haven't been able to give up shampoo yet, but I do put in a tiny bit of coconut oil into my hair once it's dry (starting about halfway down the length) as "conditioner"..

Robert Blackburn, Jr. said...

My wife & I have been fairly aggressive in moving to natural or homemade body care products, but there is one glaring product she cannot find a replacement for: hair spray. She tried a recipe for a styling gel by boiling flax seeds in water. It was supposed to produce a gel but it didn't work. Any hair spray alternative suggestions?

hippygirl said...

I will sometimes just dip my toothbrush in the box of baking soda I keep in the bathroom (for cleaning the sink and shower). I like the idea of making a paste out of that and salt and peppermint oil, though. I might even get the kids to try that. It would be frugal AND better than commercial toothpaste.

Coconut oil is also good for dry hair and dry skin, and I sometimes find myself rubbing butter into my hands if I'm baking and my hands are dry. Instead of washing off the oil, I just rub it in. I need to do that now, I think. :)

DangAndBlast! said...

3 comments, 1 positive :)

My boss is an advocate of the no-shampoo, and insists that her hair isn't greasy at all... but it's lank and oily and nasty looking. She just doesn't notice it anymore. But how do you tell your boss that?

And an old schoolmate was insistent that deodorant was a modern conspiracy (I tend to hang out with a lot of conspiracy theorists, for some reason), and that Indian people don't need deodorant but just washing is enough. She had terrible BO, but couldn't smell it on herself. Perhaps she'd gotten so used to it over time that she was inured to her own smell...

So, those are the two reasons I'm not inclined to go no-shampoo and no-deodorant!

But, on the positive side: in India, they use the Neem tree -- aka the "toothbrush tree" -- for brushing teeth. Think about it - you see terribly miserably malnourished and filthy people in India, and they have beautiful and clean teeth. (Well, except for the paan (betel) chewers and heavy smokers, but that's the same anywhere.) I know across India there are companies that produce Neem-based tooth products (I know a woman who would mix some of the tree, ground up, with baking soda and put it on a tooth brush, but there's commercially-produced mixtures too). While you probably won't be able to do what I've done, and snag a bit off the tree and just chew on it, you might be able to find some Neem powder or paste at a health store or some place that carries Ayurvedic products. (Caveat: Ayurvedic doesn't mean healthy -- some Ayurvedic things can kill you quite quickly. And a fair amount contain lead, mercury (esp. the skin-whitening treatments, of course), and, best of all, cow urine. Heck, there's a new cow urine soft drink on the market in India. But not my thing, really. But, anyhow, Ayurvedic just means it's got a history in India, not "ooh it's fancy and organic and must be better for you!" .... I also hang around a bunch of neo-hippies. My friends are odd.)

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