Non-Toxic, Frugal, & Nurturing Skin Care
I’ve been asked by a few of you to discuss skin care. My main rule of thumb is to use few products with few ingredients - and only ingredients that help your skin. This is a big subject, but I will let you know what I’ve found to work for me…
When I was in college, I had a terrible time with my skin. It was bumpy, red, itchy, and full of acne. Mmmm… Finally I had enough. In my second year of college, I went to a dermatologist.
Honestly, the dermatologist wasn’t a very good one. He gave me a series of different acne creams and for a while I took antibiotics, but honestly his treatments made my face worse – painfully red and irritated. He was as frustrated with the results as I was. Finally, he threw his hands in the air and told me to stop using anything on my face, to use a mild soap, and to only use a little bit of olive oil as a moisturizer and see what happened. I did as he instructed. And lo and behold, my face began to clear up a little bit.
I decided that this was the best information I was going to get from my dermatologist, and set off on my own quest to clear up my skin….
It was difficult to find a soap that wasn’t harsh. My dermatologist recommended a straight glycerine bar soap, but that left my skin pretty darn dry. So I experimented for a while and finally found a pure and simple oatmeal soap. Unfortunately after a few years, that company changed the ingredients in the soap and added quite a bit of fragrance.
So I experimented some more, and found instead a great liquid glycerine soap that didn’t dry my skin! Liquid Green Mountain soap is pure glycerine, made from olive and coconut oils. That’s what I’ve been using for the last few years. I buy it in large 32 oz. containers for $13.75, and pour it into nice ceramic soap pumps on the bathroom sink and in the shower. That bottle lasts several months.
There are several places online that carry it – here is where I buy it – or you may be able to ask your local health food store if they’ll order it for you. It looks like they’ve just started making gallon-sized containers, too, which would last a year! You may be able to find a local source – I’ve just found some local organic, unscented liquid soap I’m anxious to try.
You can also make your own soap. I’ve always been afraid of this caustic process, and I’d much rather pay $14 to have someone else do it. But if you have a safe space to do it and want to give it a shot, Rhonda Jean has good instructions for making cold-pressed bar soap, and if you want to make liquid soap there are very thorough instructions and recipes at Snowdrift Farm.
Olive oil was a bit thick for my skin – it as pretty darn oily! – so I experimented with other oils. When I was on a trip to Hawaii, I visited a small macadamia orchard where a farmer gave me some amazing macadamia nut oil. Wow. It was perfect. I coveted that little bottle until it ran out, and then I couldn’t find it again!
So I experimented some more and finally found filtered jojoba oil. Jojoba oil is the main ingredient in many skin moisturizers, so why not try it plain, without all the extra additives? It works! I buy a huge 64 oz bottle of Heather Loraine Filtered Organic Jojoba Oil, and with my husband and I both using it, it lasts for about six months. (The non-organic is a little cheaper, but again, this will last 6 months or more!)
The filtered oil is clear, and better for lighter skin, the yellow is better for darker skin. There are several places that carry it. I’ve been able to find it in my local health food store, but in the past I’ve also ordered it here.
Occasionally skin gets overly dry due to the climate or indoor air (indoor heating in particular tends to dry out skin). In these cases Matt and I use Vanicream moisturizer for followed by a bit of jojoba oil. Vanicream comes in a 1 lb. container, and again, it lasts a very long time.
Determined to rid my skin of it’s ails, I also went cold turkey with makeup. I know a lot of you are probably cringing, as it is extremely difficult for a woman to stop wearing makeup when she is used to covering up her blemishes, and in general giving herself a polished look. But I had this feeling that if I stopped everything and explored what was giving myself the blemishes, I might end up with clear skin! It was a gamble, and I will say I didn’t go out a whole lot during that time, but I did it. And lo and behold, it worked.
Since I finally did clear up my skin, I haven’t felt the need to wear makeup much. I do wear makeup on occasion (very special occasions like weddings and special nights). So when I wear makeup, I use high quality makeup – and not too much of it – and my skin seems to do fine. For a clear lip gloss, I use straight jojoba oil.
Since makeup is so personal and I’m not an expert, I recommend trying out a few brands with very low hazard scores (0-2) at the Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. And please, if any of you do use makeup regularly, do let us know what non-toxic products you’ve liked!
When I was in the doctor’s office once, I read in Vogue or some other women’s magazine that you should wash your face in cold water. I know those magazines are full of crazy tips, some of which work and some of which don’t. But wow, I thought: could temperature make a difference? It didn’t cost anything to try it, so I gave it a shot. And it seemed to help – my face didn’t dry out as much, it wasn’t as irritated after a shower, and my skin felt softer. After 15 years of washing my face in cool water, I will swear by it now!
A few years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, my asthma began to get out of control. So I worked with a pulmonologist to get it back into control. She recommended that I purchase a few things for the house, including a shower filter. Why? Because when showers heat up, the added chlorine in our water supply becomes a vapor and travels deep into your lungs. Gasp.
Chlorinated swimming pools can also be hazardous, so do try to find pools that use alternative cleaning agents. (It makes sense, since it’s strong enough to change your hair color!)
With further research, I also learned that warm water opens up your pores so that more chlorine and other chemicals can enter your skin. This increases your risk of bladder, rectal, and breast cancer according to the American Journal of Public Health and American Journal of Epidemiology.
While it is important for chlorine to be added to our drinking supply so that microorganisms do not spread diseases, once the water safely reaches our homes, there is no need for it to stick around and make us sick. So we have a shower filter – any carbon filter will extract the chlorine from your shower water. After researching extensively, we settled on this one, which only needs to be replaced every 6 months. We’ve found it locally or on the website, where you can sign up for a free lifetime warranty.
Since we installed our shower filter, both Matt and I have noticed our skin is softer and healthier, and we need less skin moisturizer. And boy do we notice when the filter needs to be changed! We are no longer used to smelling chlorine in our water, so when we do it seems very unnatural. Here is what Environmental Work Group has to say about the hazards of chlorine.
Hair Products, Laundry Detergent & Clothing.
As you can imagine, when you put products into your hair during your shower, some of them do hit your face. The same goes for hair gels, waxes, and sprays. I’ll write more about what I use in my hair at a later time, but I suggest avoiding getting any hair products in or on your face. I generally wash my face after washing and conditioning my hair, so I am sure to remove any hair products. And when I occasionally use hair spray, I cover my face.
I found that wool makes my skin itchy, even soft wool. Other people find that synthetic fibers roughen and chaff their skin. Good old cotton seems to make my skin happiest. Laundry detergent is also extremely important to take into consideration, as conventional detergents are often skin irritants. I’ll also write more about what we use at a later date.
Obviously everyone has different skin with different quirks, and we all live in different places with different climates. So you may not find that what I use works best for you. However, I encourage you to seek out the simplest, least toxic, least expensive, and most rewarding skin care that you can find. Because what you put on your skin can affect how your skin feels, looks, and ages over time, plus some substances can enter your body through your skin and affect your overall health. It’s worth it to take the time now.
What Is The Green Your Insides Challenge?
To start greening your own home.
First, start paying attention to what you put on your body, in your body, and around your body. Right now.
And then over the next few months, put it all into practice: take solid steps to green your indoor environment.
If you don’t know where to start, follow my articles as I talk about what we’ve done over the next several weeks!
What Do You Use?
I know lots of you all have gone through similar quests. What do you recommend? Do you make your own soaps and moisturizers? And for those of you who are new to all this, what are you having trouble leaving behind as you search for less toxic options? What other information can I pass on to you to make this transition easier?