Safer Skin Care – Soap

Over the past several months I have learned a lot of valuable lessons about how soap is made. Specifically, I have learned that most commercial soaps we use here in the U.S. are full of chemical compounds that I do not know anything about. What’s the point of all of that junk in soaps and shampoos, anyway? I want to use soaps made from ingredients I can relate to, especially since I smear soaps and shampoos all over my skin every day!

About two months ago, after doing quite a bit of research, I switched to using Dr. Bronner`s Magic Soaps (DBMS) on a trial basis. The Dr. Bronner’s company is very straightforward with all of its ingredient and process information. Its Magic Soap products are time-tested, made from basic ingredients (organic, whenever possible), and they really work!  Note: I really did not intend for this post to be all about DBMS, but once I started writing, I realized how important these products have become to me over the past several weeks.

The first switch I made was to try DBMS as a shampoo (why I decided to start with something as visible and obvious as my hair is a mystery to me!). I have thick, straight, coarse, oily hair (which I have worn in a pixie cut for the past several years) that has required daily washing and conditioning since I was a pre-teen. That amounts to a lot of water and chemical agents applied to my hair–and going down the drain–over the last 30 years! I used the liquid unscented Baby Mild DBMS (diluted 1:1 with water, which I find is a bit easier to use in the shower) as a shampoo daily for a couple of weeks, and though I learned that I also need to use a rinse of diluted apple cider vinegar, within two weeks my hair was shinier and softer than I can ever remember.  I had a few odd days where my hair looked a bit dull, but many folks experience a transition phase when making the switch (nearly every review of DBMS out there warns about the transition, but I did not really find it to be a big deal).

Then, since my hair was so incredibly clean and shiny, I got brave and decided to try washing my hair only every other day (something I had only been able to risk in the past while we were camping!). I got fantastic results: my hair easily stays clean for two full days, even after sweaty workouts and wearing winter hats. I still wet it down every day in the shower, just to make it easier to style, but that’s it.

Three weeks ago, I asked my 11-year-old son to switch to the Tea Tree variety of DBMS (his hair is a lot like mine except slightly wavy and with dandruff). Lo and behold, after a week of using DBMS, he, too has been able to go two days between washes, and his dandruff is well under control (he does not need to use the apple cider vinegar rinse). As an added bonus, his hair has no odor and is shiny and very healthy-looking.

I have now switched all of our liquid hand soap to a diluted 1:4 DBMS to water, I use DBMS diluted 1:3 for hand dishwashing (though I have not been able to convince my husband to make the switch…yet), and I use the solid soap Lavender DMBS in the shower, including on my hair. I have also started using the liquid Tea Tree DBMS for my own face wash (but I will discuss my skin care woes in another post) and it is absolutely the best face cleanser I have ever used.

In my neck of the woods, DBMS is available in a variety of formulations at all major grocery and big-box stores, as well as in natural food stores and co-ops. If you live in the U.S., it is available to buy online. If you live in a country that does not have access to DBMS, there are a number of other safe, eco-friendly vegetable-glycerin-based soaps that are most likely available to you. I highly recommend giving this type of soap a try for you and your family.

Leave a comment: which back-to-basics soaps have you tried and how would you rate them? What formulations do you like and what tricks do you use to make them work for you (such as my diluted apple cider vinegar rinse)?


Feeling crummy in a hotel room

Traveling for work, feeling mildly ill, sitting in hotel room in Georgia. Ugh. Things could be worse – at least I’m not stuck at the airport in a snowstorm in the Midwest – still, being sick in a hotel room makes me feel lonely.

I had been feeling blue for the past couple of days, which I attributed to getting back on the road after several weeks of being home every night with my family. While I’m sure this transition back to traveling was part of my problem, it seems that I was feeling blue most likely because I was getting sick. I have been battling a mild case of something which feels like the flu on and off for a couple of weeks now, not quite completely recovering or feeling like myself, really.

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be able to read the signals my body is sending me properly. I knew the headache I had was more than a regular headache, but did I treat it like that? No way! I was too busy in class, working, studying, and prepping for my trip. Actually, maybe my problem is that I know what is going on, I just don’t listen or heed my own instincts.

To tell the truth, since I gave up dairy 18 months ago, I don’t get sick much any more. I used to get migraines on a fairly regular basis, but those have stopped completely, thank goodness! I don’t get many colds now, and I rarely get the many and varied illnesses my kids bring home from school. I am still subject to regular old stress headaches and my tender stomach bothers me yet, but even those have become much more moderate. Overall, my health has improved noticeably since I gave up dairy!

I’d like to hear from you! What do you do when you get sick when you travel? What lifestyle changes have you made that have improved your overall health and well-being? Leave a comment and let me know how you are working to improve the quality of YOUR life!