This post is based on a question from a reader, and I’m glad she requested it because it’s something I’ve been meaning to write on for a while now (I’m sorry it took me so long to get this out, I know I told you I’d have it out within a day, and now it’s like, a month later… But better late than never, right? Right?? 😉 )
To be honest, I’m no beauty expert (please, hold your audible gasps). I’m just a simple writer who sometimes likes natural things. But I am a minimalist at heart (when I’m not indulging myself in thoroughly unnecessary extravagance), and I have that to recommend me.
Here are some of the things I’ve used instead of traditional modern beauty products. These natural alternatives contain less additives, or none at all, and I believe are just as good, if not better than their chemically-laden and often more expensive counterparts.
The No Shampoo Method:
I got this idea of going shampoo-less when I was going through a hard-core minimalist phase. Anyone who knows me, knows I am often in a state of vacillation between minimalism and extravagance. Hence, the line of dresses I designed (based off Kate Middleton’s timeless and exquisite style) last spring … versus the other day, my sister mistook me for a homeless person on the side of the road.
I don’t take pride in this erratic behavior, but it’s a simple fact I’ve come to terms with. Every time I try to keep the pendulum in one direction, it seems to swing as distinctly far into the opposing range (couture versus homeless bum– I try to pass as boho chic but there’s really nothing chic about those days). Anyway, back to shampoo. Or I guess I should say, No-Poo.
So this whole No-Poo thing came up last summer when I had plans to move into a van (then an Acura sedan, now magically turned into a Honda Odyssey) with my dog (then imaginary, now embodied and named Blue) and I was trying to figure out how I would rough it on the road. One of the ways I imagined would help would be to do away with shampoo.
When I first heard of the “No-Poo method”, I imagined that entailed being able to go simply without washing my hair. That sounded pretty handy. But then I realized the “No-Poo” method was actually one in which people stop using regular shampoo and switch to a regimen of baking soda and vinegar. It sounded minimalist enough for me (and Google hadn’t turned up any reliable ways to ditch hair-wash altogether, apart from growing dreads), so I gave it a go.
I just have to say, I love this no shampoo method for cleansing my hair. And the only reason I’m not currently doing it is because I ran out of baking soda and I have a ton of shampoo left over– most of it natural, but still not as natural as baking soda and vinegar. So I will go back as soon as I run through this current shampoo supply.
The good news is that I use my shampoo on my dog every time he rolls around in dead things, so at this rate, it will be used up more quickly than originally expected.
There are a lot of “No-Poo” methods out there to be found, but I got this from Amanda on her blog at Living In Another Language. Mine routine is slightly varied, but just because I relaxed the measurements. I don’t really like to measure things, especially not in the shower. Oh, I guess that might sound kind of dirty.
The No-Poo Method, Uncovered
Things You Will Need:
Two Mason Jars– Or some other sort of containers, like Tupperware, squeeze bottles, etc.
1) Put baking soda into the jar. (I usually just fill the jar. But you’ll need a few tablespoons for just one shower.)
2) Put a few tablespoons of vinegar into the other mason jar and put the top on it.
3) Take them into the shower with you.
4) Wet your hair.
5) Grab some baking soda from the jar with your hand and mix with water to form a sort of paste.
6) Rub this paste into your scalp.
7) Continue creating more paste with the dry baking soda and the water, covering your scalp (basically, this is where the cleaning happens, so use this on the greasy part of your hair– the rest of your hair does not need it)
8) Leave the paste on for about two minutes. It will feel “slippery”, as Amanda said, and she was surprisingly accurate. Once you feel the slip, rinse it out. Don’t leave it on too long– make sure you keep an eye on it. Or else! (Or else… I don’t rightly know; my hair was always fine but I think sometimes it can dry your hair out if you leave it on for too long.)
9) After rinsing the baking soda mix, uncap the vinegar jar and fill it with about a cup of water (adding the water to your vinegar).
10) Tip your head back like when your mom used to rinse your hair out in the tub, and pour the vinegar and water onto your head, starting with the scalp. Make sure the vinegar rinse gets to the part o your hair which will need it most– the ends!
11) Leave the rinse on for the rest of your shower.
12) Rinse the rinse out at the end.
13) Voila! (This probably isn’t actually a step.)
I’m pretty shitty at enumerating steps in any process, because I add in a lot of unnecessary information and leave out a lot of pertinent stuff. But… do the best you can and refer to Amanda’s site if you need help because it’s more professional and serious than mine.
By the way, make sure not to get the vinegar in your eyes. It stings. My friend tried the method, and I forgot to warn her. Later, when she sent me a text saying something like, “Note to self: vinegar stings”, I knew exactly what she was talking about and it reminded me to remind her not to let it get in her eyes, though somewhat too late.
If you are looking to remove a source of skin-to-skin contact with chemicals in your daily life, I would recommend trying this method. I actually liked the way my hair turned out by skipping shampoo. It had much more volume and it didn’t go from drastically “clean” to drastically “dirty”. It always just felt kind of neutral and naturally clean.
Going back to regular shampoo has only increased my appreciation for the cleansing power of baking soda. Now with normal shampoo, I still feel like there’s some sort of residue on my hair and scalp that wasn’t there when I was just using baking soda and vinegar. It doesn’t feel as refreshingly clean as the baking soda made it.
The only downfall for this method for me, is that I do like the perfume-y way my hair smells from the shampoo, and I don’t get that with the no-poo method. But the whole point behind the No-Poo is less chemicals, so it’s a fair trade-off.
I suppose I could scent my no-poo method with essential oils. Maybe someday I will. And by the way, I know the vinegar smells kind of rank in the shower, but my friend smelled my hair one time after I asked her if I smelled like fish n’ chips n’ vinegar, and she promised me she couldn’t smell it (no word on the fish n’ chips aspect of my scent). And no one else I talked to seemed to be able to smell it, either. So, just trust that you won’t walk around smelling like a pickled herring.
Now, for a few of my favorite things.
There are a lot of products you can buy these days that are organic, all-natural, etc. We are rather spoiled for choice, which is great. I’m glad companies are jumping on board and that consumers are willing to spend a little more to ensure their products are green, both for themselves and the planet. The health food store in my town is like a candy store for this type of thing. But I personally prefer not to get too specific as far as products go, and stick to multi-purpose, single-ingredient things. Here are some of them.
I have become an oil freak. Literally.
I use coconut and jojoba oils daily, and olive oil quite often too (but that’s mostly on my food). Coconut oil, I use mostly for my dog– both feeding it to him for its nutritive value (it also helps with his itching dry skin– from the inside out*), and slathering him up with it to prevent ticks and fleas, but now I’ve also begun to use this magical oil on my forehead and around my eyes as an anti-aging moisturizer.
[Blue was itching for the last week or so, but I knew he didn’t have fleas. I wasn’t sure what was going on and I thought it might be a food allergy. Then a friend of mine mentioned that his dog got itchy skin in the winter. I started feeding Blue 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day and within literally hours, his itching had reduced. Now he’s barely itching at all and it’s only been three days. It’s amazing stuff.]
Since seeing some fine lines on my forehead the other night while glancing in the mirror, I realized that now, at the age of twenty five, it is finally time to start taking anti-aging seriously. I’m not a huge fan of the idea of plastic surgery or other invasive-types of anti-aging procedures. But I am definitely in favor of aging gracefully– with all the help of natural ingredients you can get! So including my new running routine (sprints), and beginning an alkalizing diet, I’ve also started taking my skincare routine a lot more seriously.
I believe in the merits of oil to keep skin looking youthful. I’ve seen that dry skin equals fine lines and wrinkles, and greasing it up at night leaves you with a glow in the morning. We all know that over-drying skin, just like a leather bag, will lead to aging more quickly. So now, every night I make sure to oil my face up before bed, and also in the morning (with jojoba oil– which does not break you out, and I discuss the use of that below).
This is also why I prefer jojoba oil for acne, instead of extremely drying products like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. I realize that acne sucks. Hard. But it also sucks if you’re aging your face at the expense of clear skin. I believe there is a middle-ground, and I think jojoba oil is part of it. More on that below.
I basically use coconut oil for everything. First of all, I slather it on my puppy every morning as a natural flea and tick preventative.
So he gets buttered up with it every morning on his fur, and I feed it to him in small doses throughout the day (when he listens to me after a command, or as bribery to do so). I guess you could say my dog is being raised on coconuts. People at the dog park always ask me, “What are you feeding him!?” because I carry a little tupperware container of it with me. An added bonus is that, kept in a sealed-tight container, it doesn’t give off the scent that other dog treats do– I’ve gotten in trouble for absent-mindedly bringing the biscuits to the park. Not fun. It made me appreciate this oil all the more.
This time of year (Fall/Winter) it’s solid, like refrigerated butter. But in the warmer months (you know, all three of them), it turns to liquid.
And as far as for human use, it’s also great. I’m getting to the point in my life where I just want everything to be as simple as possible. I don’t have to make as many “beauty product run’s” to the store , because I just buy a huge tub of coconut oil and I can use it for almost everything.
Almost all of my body/beauty products are multi-use, all natural, and last for a really long time. I find this not only cost-effective, but also all-around convenient and time-saving, as well.
You can use coconut oil in the shower, in place of soap. Its antibacterial properties work here. Also, it’s got a great, neutralizing scent. It’s a different feeling to get used to, using oil as soap, but I never had to moisturize afterward. It seemed to trap moisture into my skin.
And for the obvious use, you can use it as lotion after your shower or at any time. It works well for that. And also, I really like to use it as a shaving cream. You really don’t even have to rinse and your skin is totally conditioned after that. Also, you may seem a bit greasy at first, but it does sink into your skin. Just give it some time to penetrate.
But really, your legs will look great.
You can also use a little bit of it in your dry hair. It’s great as a leave-in-conditioning treatment, or a frizz-smoother. Just make sure not to go too heavy on it, as it is rather oily. What, with being oil and all.
I’ve written a couple of posts on this stuff. I love what it’s done for clearing my skin (in addition to giving up dairy, and adopting a more alkalizing diet– which I think also helped).
This oil apparently works on anything you need– face, body, hair, lips. I’m always focused on skin, but it works wonderfully as a leave-in conditioner for hair. It makes it shiny, smooth and soft and prevents frizz. It’s also lighter-weight than coconut oil, so you don’t have to worry quite so much about over-greasing your hair or skin.
One time I went nuts and bought a bunch of these magical little containers of various essential oils from Amazon. I still have most of them (a few drops go a long way), and they’re really fun to play around with.
Just mix with some water (spring is best, but regular is fine if you don’t have the option), and some essential oils in whatever combination you like, in a spray bottle.
I should warn you: it’s a real gamble whether or not your roommates will approve. My ex Leo used to do everything short of refusing to go into a room in which I had sprayed this stuff. And he got offended whenever I tried to use Lavender on my pillow to fall asleep. (Like, literally, offended at my audacity to be so cold-hearted as to subject him to the malicious scent of lavender. Gosh, he had it so rough.)
On the other hand, one time I sprayed some of my essential oil potion around our house, and my sister freaked out (just as much as Leo used to, except in a positive way). She told me that was the same smell she’d always loved in my and Leo’s old apartment but could never put her finger on what it was. (I wish he had been there to hear that.)
You can also add a few drops of these oils to the top of a plain candle. It will blend in with the wax and will scent it naturally. I love this because you can use one candle and kind of always be switching up the scent. Also, I haven’t really looked into this particularly, but I’m sure plain candles are less expensive than the factory-scented ones people seem to be willing to pay out their… wallets for. And you’re not burning chemicals in your home. Another a win-win. 🙂
Here are the reasons I love this:
1) It’s natural (and no Aluminum, which has been linked to cancer)
2) It lasts forever– very, very cost-effective (I think I picked mine up at a store on sale for less than $3 and it will probably last me a year or three)
3) It works. It not only keeps me from smelling (when I remember to put it on*), it keeps me from smelling like sweaty flowers or fruit.
4) It doesn’t smell or look like anything. No white marks on clothes, no added perfumes. It’s like not wearing deodorant. So you can smell like your actual perfume, instead of some weird scent on your pits, plus perfume.
*Good thing I was always better at birth control application.
Use baby powder or corn starch. I don’t use this very often, but my sister goes so far as to carry a mini-bottle of baby powder in her purse everywhere she goes. And her hair is awesome. You don’t need to buy expensive dry shampoos, which I have done in the past. They smell great, but they’re usually just a bunch of chemicals. Cornstarch is natural and scent-free, which isn’t a bad thing, and it’s also much less expensive. And it does the same exact thing.
I actually don’t use hair spray anymore. I never made an actual decision to stop using it, I just kind of realized one day I hadn’t used it in like, a year. Generally speaking, I don’t spend any time on my hair except for whatever happens in the shower. I don’t own a brush.
Basically all of the hair products I used to buy, like leave-in conditioner (I now use oils for that), hair spray, dry shampoo, frizz-smoother (I know there’s probably another name, but now I use jojoba oil for that), and all those other balms and sprays, I don’t use anymore. And I don’t miss them at all. I let my hair dry naturally, so I don’t use a blow dryer, except for the occasional blow-out for when I need it to look really put-together.
*My ex Leo, on the other hand, had perpetually-amazing hair that always looked as if he’d just gotten a blow out. (Not fair, Leo, not fair.) But it was good fun, talking about his great blow-outs.
I also stopped coloring my hair. I realized I liked my natural color, and also that the color was damaging it. I like my hair color now. I think it’s the best fit for me. (Yes, I’m boring.) But I’m also more care-free. It really does take a lot off your plate to have one less thing to worry about doing every several weeks. It took that four-to-six week color schedule off my list, took away an expense, chemical exposure, while also adding health to my hair. For me, it was kind of a no-brainer once I realized it.
Also, isn’t it kind of funny how we spend so much time and money coloring our hair to make it look “natural”? I know it’s crazy but… You’ve got a pretty natural hair color all your own once you stop covering it up with the fake ones. 😉
My whole theory on beauty products and going green can be summed up like this: we are animals. We are organic creatures. So the less products and chemicals you can put on your body, the better. At the same time, I really sympathize with the luxury and pure satisfaction of using a really great hair or beauty product– even one that perhaps isn’t so green. It’s like one of life’s most visceral pleasures, to really love a lipstick or mascara or perfume. I’m a real sucker for a great beauty product, and if it’s that good, at that point I hardly care if I’m slathering myself with rat poison. Just kidding. (Sort of.)
So, like most things in life, it’s about balance. It’s picking and choosing your battles. If you really love your current not-totally-natural shampoo, but are cool with switching to some Burt’s Bee’s lip gloss for instance, go for it. I do think that every little bit counts. Our bodies are meant to work with nature and with natural products (since they themselves, are a natural product). But until Chanel starts making chemical-free organic perfume, I’ll be on the naughty list for non-green beauty products, too