Do you ever worry that the products you put on your body are giving you cancer, destroying the planet, and stealing your soul? No? Just me, then.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the hidden dangers of beauty products. Not that I use beauty products, unless deodorant counts. I wear makeup once a week (on a good week), and I never use creams or gels or hair products or whatever it is that some people use to look prettier. But I do wash my hair. And shave my legs (occasionally). And wear deodorant.
All of which, apparently, is slowly giving me cancer.
I remember the first time I heard that it was possible to go without shampoo. I was working at camp, and somebody told me that if you quit washing your hair for long enough, your head will stop producing grease and your hair will just naturally clean itself. Which sounded like an awesome idea when I was living at camp and the showers were in outhouses. Just imagine how nice it would be if you didn’t have to walk to the shower in the dark with a flashlight to wash your hair. So I figured I’d try it. What better time than while you’re at camp, right? No one will even notice if your hair is gross. And you’re wearing a bandana on your head all the time anyway.
This friend neglected to tell me that you’re supposed to wash your hair with something. Water, at the very least. She also neglected to tell me that there is an adjustment period during which your hair produces more grease. As you can imagine, that experiment didn’t work out very well for me.
Fast-forward 15 or so years, when one of my mom friends asked my advice on using baking soda to wash her hair. Because, obviously, I was such a hippie mom that she assumed I was already using baking soda to wash my hair.
Except I guess I’m a total loser of a hippie mom, because I use Herbal Essence.
Ever since that conversation, I’ve been flirting with various alternatives to personal products. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that most of them require an adjustment period. They don’t work very well when you flirt with them. You have to go all the way.
Which I haven’t done yet. But I will. I’m just working up to it. Someday I will earn my merits as a hippie mom and get the No-Toxic-Personal-Products badge.
Hopefully, I’ll manage to make the switch before my kids get used to the bad products, so they can grow up using healthy, cheap stuff and never go through the adjustment period.
Here are the product switches at the top of my list for the next few months.
1. Baking soda instead of shampoo. I love the concept of this. I basically love anything that involves using normal household products like baking soda. Actually, I just love baking soda.
But I haven’t had such great luck with washing my hair with it. Yet. This is probably partly because my hair is really long. I’m working on that too – I’m having a haircut party tomorrow – and I think this might work better for short hair. The concept is that your scalp actually cleans your hair naturally, so you really just need to get dirt and grime out, not grease. After the adjustment, of course. But shampoo causes your scalp to produce too much grease because it strips your hair every time you wash, so when you switch, it takes a while for your scalp to figure out that you’re not stripping all the grease — oops, I mean “natural oils” — anymore. Hence the adjustment period, during which your hair will look like the Fonz’s.
But the real challenge I had with baking soda was applying it. I put some in a little travel shampoo bottle – I didn’t want to make too much in case I didn’t like it – but pouring it over my head and then scrubbing was difficult. I think it will work better with a spray bottle.
I’m going to try again as soon as I finish this bottle of shampoo. And cut my hair short.
2. Vinegar instead of conditioner. Regular conditioner over-compensates for the fact that you use shampoo and your hair is stripped of oils. If you’re not using shampoo, then you don’t need conditioner. But you do need something that will help you get the tangles out. Vinegar works really well for this. It also makes your hair feel really silky and soft, without feeling at all heavy or greasy. I first discovered this as a way to get tangles out of my daughter’s hair without having to actually give her a bath. But it works great on my hair too, and I’ve been really happy with it when I’ve used it. Again, though, you really need a spray bottle. Pouring vinegar over your head is wasteful and scary.
I think the general recommendation is to use apple cider vinegar. But I’ve only used white vinegar, and it works great.
The smell washes right out — you won’t notice it at all after you rinse.
3. Vodka instead of deodorant. I just discovered this one recently, and it’s still kind of blows my mind. (It seems appropriate somehow that vodka has approximately 3,672 alternate eco-friendly uses. I mean, vodka. What’s not to like?) A friend of mine made some vodka deodorant for a craft swap I went to. She mixed a couple cups of vodka with a few drops of lavender essential oil. It smells great, but I haven’t really decided yet if it keeps me smelling great. As with shampoo, there’s an adjustment period. I don’t think I’ve used it regularly enough to adjust. And this is going to be even harder than adjusting to no shampoo, because having greasy hair is one thing, but being smelly is something else entirely.
On the bright side, my kids probably won’t care at all and will still stick their noses in my armpits on a regular basis, no matter how bad I smell.
Nothing like a kid’s nose in your armpit to make you feel unconditionally loved.
4. Castile soap or soap nuts instead of soap. I tried Castile soap for a while. I was not a fan. I think I didn’t have the concentration right, because it was much too strong. You need to dilute it a lot, which is nice because it lasts a long time and is very cheap if you use it correctly. Used incorrectly, it practically burns your skin. That stuff is strong.
I have never tried using soap nuts to wash my body, because I’m too lazy to even make enough soap nut soak to keep up with my laundry, let alone make extra to shower with. Maybe someday.
5. Coconut oil for lotion, scrub, shaving cream, and just about anything else. I have some mom friends who are obsessed with coconut oil. According to them, it’s the magic answer to everything. You can use it for everything from cooking and cleaning to moisturizing and lubricating. I am ashamed to admit that I have not tried it for anything yet, but this is not my fault. I can’t find any. Anywhere. Supposedly they sell it in all the grocery stores, but I have yet to see it anywhere. I looked in Kroger, Target, and Trader Joe’s.
I know why, though. It’s because my friends have bought all the stores out. But I am planning to get some today. At Trader Joe’s. So if you go there and you see some, leave a jar for me, okay?