Posts Tagged With: phthalates

Make It Yourself – Simple & Sweet – ONLY 6 Days ’til Christmas!

ornaments

I know! It’s crunch time! Only six days left until December 25th! You have gifts to give and not a lot of time to go hunting down special items to give to friends and family that are in keeping with the whole “green & healthy” thing you are trying. AND you are probably thinking you don’t have time to make stuff, either, because “OMG the mess!” or you think of yourself as “craft-challenged.” Or maybe you think your unconvinced giftees won’t want your homemade crafty crap. And maybe they won’t (because, hey, some people are just like that—whatevs).

But maybe, JUST MAYBE, a Christmas miracle will happen and that anti-green Scrooge in your life will realize that the simplicity of your gift is a perfect representation of the spirit of the season. Or that the freshness of essential oil fragrances are not only sweet to smell, but also elegant in their homes, and uplifting to the spirits. Or—and this would be the best realization—that these homemade things are really superior to the chemical laden versions they are used to buying in the stores. AND, you can even let them in on your crafting secret, if you so choose, and share the cost savings with them, because srsly, people…a little goes a long way.

And it’s not hard, I promise. If you can melt stuff, you can make some amazing gifts for people. Here’s a guide to making candles and a balm that is commonly referred to as “un-petroleum jelly” but works well for lips and soothing chapped hands. I *could* go into making soap, but that’s pretty involved and you don’t have time for that, but tune in during January and I’ll share my soap-making secrets with you, too.

Making Candles
First, you DO have to go to a decent craft store or some location where you can buy wicks, soy wax, and/or beeswax. Also, you need some containers. I used recycled jars with the labels soaked off (a little orange oil will take off any sticky remainders, and alcohol will take off any inky date-stamps). Beware that the size wicks you need to buy are dependent upon the diameter of your jars. For example, your average spaghetti jar is somewhere between 3-4 inches in diameter. Just look at the wick package–it should tell you what size container they are for.  Be sure your wicks are lead and zinc free, and for the sake of ease, look for the kind with the “pre-glued” metal disk (also called a “tab” in the candle-making world) that you can stick to the bottom of the jar. If they don’t have the pre-glued kind, pick up a pack of the candle wick stickers or Stickum that should be in the same candle section of the craft store as the wax.

Now you have a choice at this point to splurge on a wax melter like this (also called a pouring pot):pouring pot

Or just use your own pots/pans to do this. Most of your ingredients are food grade, and should clean up readily with the help of paper-towels and heat, so you can opt to use what you have, or head over to Goodwill and pick up some cast-offs. Your choice. I bought a wax melter because I am serious about making these things for a good long time and wanted the handle and pour spout to make my life a little easier. You need to set up a double-boiler situation, for this project (a larger pan with water in it, and a smaller pan or bowl goes over this to melt the wax with the boiling water’s heat, not direct stove heat).

If you have a vegan giftee, please note that you should avoid using beeswax in your candles.

Now, for calculating how much wax you will need, there’s a formula. Each pound of wax (16 ounces by weight) will fill about 20 ounces of volume. You could, in this instance, make it super easy on yourself and find some 20 ounce jars for your gifts—that way you just have to melt a pound for each one. But, if you’d like a formula with more explanation, check out this blog post.

For the sake of making this quick and easy for you, I’m going to assume you will be using a 16 ounce jar (this is a pint-size canning jar (aka mason jar), which can be found at your local grocery or craft store). I’m also going to assume that you just want to make one candle, but you can just increase the recipe by however many times for more candles.

You will need:
Double Boiler
1 16-ounce glass jar, preferably intended for canning or previously used as such
1 tabbed wick, at least 2 inches taller than the height of your jar
1 wick sticker (to attach the wick to the bottom of the jar, if needed)
2 drinking straws, chopsticks, pencils, etc. (to help you stick the wick to the bottom of the jar, and to hold the wick upright during the cooling period)
4 ounces beeswax (if vegan, just replace this four ounces with additional soy wax)
9 ounces soy wax
Essential oils in the following combination:
25 drops of clove
22 drops of lemon
15 drops of cinnamon
10 drops of eucalyptus
8 drops of rosemary
(this is a historical blend of essential oils that has the reputation of not only smelling amazing, but also working as an effective anti-bacterial)

NOTE: If you don’t have these essential oils on hand, you can work out your own blend, but it should be about 80 drops per 1-jar recipe. Be advised that most essential oils are flammable and need to be kept away from open flames.

Prepare your container by ensuring it is clean, dry, and sitting near your work area…you want it to be a little warm when you pour the wax in.

Get the double boiler set up and the water heating.

Attach the wick tab to the bottom of the jar with a wick sticker or stick-um, using the straw (or chopstick or pencil) to help you really push it down. Make sure it is centered in the jar for even candle-burning.

Add your wax to the top of the double boiler, and wait for it to melt. You can stir the wax around a little to help it melt, but don’t do so too vigorously or you will end up with a bubbly candle that burns unevenly. Don’t walk away from the wax at this point. It shouldn’t take long for all the wax to melt. Make sure the double boiler doesn’t run out of water, but also be sure that no water gets in your wax, or again…uneven burning or a wick that won’t work.

Once all the wax is melted, you can turn the heat down on the double boiler, but leave the wax over the hot water. Add your essential oils and stir well to distribute the scent throughout the wax. Pour this mixture into your prepared jar. Leave the jar in a place it will not be disturbed and wait for it to cool. Use your tools of choice to prop the wick to an upright and centered position in the jar.

DON’T clean up yet! As your candle cools, you may notice a “well” developing in the center of your candle around your wick. All you need to do is melt a little more wax, add a few more drops of essential oil, and pour it into this well. Depending on how warm or cool your house is, it should take about an hour for the candle to solidify (at least mine did). At this point, you can trim your wick, to about a ¼ of an inch and decorate your jar for gifting.  Voila! They’ll look something like these from the gardentherapy site

BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!

For the balm I mentioned above, aka “unpetroleum jelly,” you can go through the same double-boiler process of melting stuff together, but this time it’s going to be a little bit of wax mixed with your oils and/or butters of preference. This is my recipe:

For 8 ounces of balm:

2 4-ounce jars (like baby food or pimento pepper jars)
1 ounce of beeswax (or soy wax for a vegan balm)
1 ounce of cocoa butter
4 ounces of coconut oil
1 ounce of olive oil
1 ounce of Vitamin E oil
40 drops of your essential oils of choice (I use the same combo as above, but half of each oil)

NOTE:  You can also use shea or mango butter instead of cocoa butter, if you prefer.

Prep your jars…baby food jars are a great size for this product—you will need two. Or if you can find smaller glass “pots” for a purse-sized, use those. Make sure they are clean and dry.

Melt the beeswax, cocoa butter, coconut oil, and olive oil together in a double boiler. Once everything is melted, turn the heat off the double boiler, and add the Vitamin E oil and essential oils to the still-hot mixture and blend well.

Pour the mixture into the jars and let solidify.  Decorate the jar to your liking!

BAM!  A second homemade gift item, just like that!

I LOVE this balm. I put it on when I sleep at night and wake up with perfect lips every morning. Do be careful with some essential oils—they can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. If you use one such essential oil in this balm, be careful not to let your lips get sunburned when you use it outdoors.   Please note that this is going to be more solid than actual petroleum jelly, but it works wonders, I promise.

So, there you have it. Two amazing gifts you can give to friends and family. You can add a store-bought soap (South of France brand is a fave of mine), or a clove-studded orange (which becomes a pomander once it is fully dried), and you have the perfect green and healthy AND homemade gift.

Whew! I think this post might be my longest yet, but it’s so worth it!  Good luck with your crunch-time gift making!

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What Matters Most?

Since we are getting close to the new year, I’m planning my future research and product reviews and wanted to pose to the people: What matters most to you?

I’ve listed the top-ten most common things that crop up as questions regarding the healthful qualities of a better-for-you product.

Please let me know what matters to you and I’ll put those things highest on my list to delve into this coming year.

And thanks in advance for playing along!

The Southern Girl

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Green ‘n Healthy Gift Baskets Ideas – Part 2 (Minty Spicy Delights!)

So, last time I wrote, I recommended a slew of “beach-themed” gift-basket fillers for the person on your gift list who yearns for summertime year round. For something more seasonally appropriate for winter and holidays and warm-feely-good feelings, you might be looking for gifts that have more some traditional fragrances like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, mint, or pine. Try some of these green & healthy products for a wintery-basket for those who relish the season of snow!

For some sweet, Christmas-y perfumes, look no farther than Demeter. Demeter makes all kinds of crazy scents that are “at least 95% derived from natural and sustainable sources, and…use no artificial color or phthalates or parabens” (from their website). The best-reviewed holiday-themed fragrances are: Egg Nog, Christmas in New York, Cinnamon Toast, or Fraser Fir. They also came out with a Candy Cane Truffle this year. Sounds delish! This is a very affordable perfume line and the fragrances are great for layering. I recommend spraying this perfume on clothing, rather than skin, for a longer-lasting effect. Since Demeter doesn’t use the harmful phthalate-based chemicals, these fragrances do tend to volatilize faster than non-natural perfumes when sprayed directly on the skin.

candy cane truffle

For a good body wash, look for JASON Orange Clove, Cranberry, or Frosted Plum. I’ve seen some combo packs with a natural sponge included for about $6. JASON is a company created and committed to the purpose of providing healthy products based upon scientific knowledge and human-based testing, only. This product is terrifically moisturizing, too, which means it will not only smell great, but also chase away the itchiness of the dreaded winter skin. Hooray!

You might also want to try Nourish Organic’s Spiced Citrus body wash paired with the Spiced Orange Hydrating & Smoothing lotion…these products are certified organic and come highly recommended not only for the lasting and delicious fragrances, but also for the product effectiveness and extremely high standards of purity. Nourish Organic also promises the following: “No parabens. No phthalates. No sulfates, petrochemicals, synthetic dyes, or silicones. No propylene glycol, mineral oils, synthetic dyes, triclosan, EDTA, or aluminum. And absolutely no artificial fragrances or preservatives. Period” (from their website). They are also cruelty free, use recycled packaging, and most products are vegan (except those containing beeswax). They also have several products in Lavender Mint, which is seasonal, but also can be used year-round.

spiced citrus

Everybody knows Aveda, right? They are preferentially featured in fancy hotels and chic hair salons and their Rosemary Mint is a great, greeny-wintery fragrance that works well for men and women. You might be a little reluctant to buy hair products for your giftee because everyone has hair product issues, but you should be fine getting the body lotion and maybe even a bar of soap in the Rosemary Mint. According to their website: “Aveda’s products are formulated without parabens, phthalates and sodium lauryl sulfate.” And their “definition of a green ingredient requires that it meet at least one of the following criteria: Be naturally derived, which we define to be those for which more than 50% of the molecule comes from a plant, non-petroleum mineral, water, or some other natural source; be certified organic; and/or be sourced from sustainable or renewable plant-based origins, and does not negatively impact the ecosystems from which they are sourced.” And because they do specialize in hair products, look for the travel-sized sampler—enough to try and still experience the splurge of a special product.

And you might like to try a few things from Love + Toast, which touts its products as having “No parabens, no phthalates, no mineral oil, no propylene glycol, no retinol, no synthetic color, never animal tested.” Sounds cool, right?

Wait. I just realized something.

Maybe you’ve noticed a plethora of citrus-y things on this list…It just now occurred to me that “citrus” might not seem Christmas-y to many people. Well, before I recommend yet more citrus for this list, let me explain. When I was a kid, on Christmas Eve, there was always a big church pageant with the kids and a candlelit “Silent Night,” and when we left church all sleepily excited for Santa (yes, the cultural amalgam of religious/secular Christmas was completely, overwhelmingly, and magically confusing), some dear soul at our church passed out mesh stockings full of oranges, grapefruits, apples, uncracked nuts, and hard candy. The smell of those ripe oranges and grapefruits in the midst of the cold, quiet hush before bed has been burned into my olfactory memory forever. Put my grandmother’s orange-spiced tea recipe with that and I’m in Christmas heaven. That’s why oranges and grapefruits equal Christmas. Sorry if it doesn’t for you (but get these things anyway, because hello, they smell delicious!)…

ANYWAY, Love + Toast has a “classic” collection called Mandarin Tea that features a blend of these fragrances: African rooibos, Pomegranate, Neroli, and Orange blossom. YUM. The collection includes one of each: Handcreme, Eau de Parfum, Little Luxe Eau de Parfum, and Vanilla Chai Lip Balm.  They also have a classic scent called “Sugar Grapefruit” that just sounds good enough to eat!  One of their newer fragrances is Persimmon Plum, a wonderful blend of fruity + woodsy that will be sure to remind your giftee of a delicious, juicy winter punch. They have body butter and sugar scrubs among other body care items to choose from. Sounds marvelous!

persimmon plum

And again, fill your basket or stocking with some all-natural extras like a pumice stone or natural-fiber wash cloths, a loofah or a natural-bristle nail brush to round out the gift set.

Next up: MAKE IT YOURSELF! (I promise it’s easy and people will be so impressed)

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WHAT? Only 7 Shopping Days Left?!

AAAAAAHHHHHH!  How did this happen?!  Time is flying!

All the more reason to make living greener a priority now.

My whole blog started a year and a month ago, because I watched “Bag It,” the documentary.  And I started learning about all the harmful chemicals we have around us, not only in toys and products and all things plastic, but everywhere.  It takes a real commitment and continued vigilence to start living a cleaner, greener life.  But it doesn’t have to be hard.  That’s the part where I think a lot of people get overwhelmed.  I think blogs like mine and stores you should have near you (and yes, online stores, if you are more rurally-located) are making it much easier to live healthier, less polluted lives.

So…with 7 days left until Christmas, I am going to point  you in some directions for last minute shopping, if you haven’t already found them yourselves.

1. Sprouts/Whole Foods/Central Market – These grocery stores have a wide range of all kinds of products that are suitable for stocking stuffers and gift baskets.  Each of these stores have quite the treasure trove of natural/healthy personal care products in all sizes and for all purposes.  Even a gift card for one of these stores could be a most excellent gift!

2. Target/Walmart – I KNOW most of you are close to one of these stores.  If you are looking for personal care products that might be nice for gifts, I have had luck finding Burt’s Bees products in most Walmarts.  They also usually have “Yes to” products.  These are normally in the cosmetics aisle, not where shampoo or lotion are.  Depending on your store, they may have much, much more to choose from–this seems to be especially true for Target.  Not only do they have Burt’s Bees and “Yes to” goodies, they may also have Shea Moisture (a luxurious line of bath and hair products), Dr. Bronner’s liquid soaps (Peppermint is a nice wintery zing!), natural candles by Mrs. Meyer (in Iowa Pine!) and Beeluxe (Mandarin Clove is a awesome seasonal scent), and I even found some Caldrea products (on sale, no less!).  Take a tool around the aisles and see what you find!

3. Your Local Department Store – Okay, so call me crazy, but TRY IT.  You might be surprised.  There are a few premium brands that are healthy and you never know what your store might carry during the holidays.  It seems like Origins might be your best bet for a higher end product line that “are formulated with natural and certified organic ingredients and 100% natural essential oils.  And formulated without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients.  We manufacture using a combination of renewable resources, wind energy, and earth-friendly practices.”  They have lots of great gift sets that are probably perfect for someone on your list.  Maybe yourself? (I totally bought myself a gift box of this stuff on Black Friday…shhhh…don’t tell).

4. Sephora/Drugstore.com/iHerb.com – All of these places have a bevy of products with a lot of information about ingredients (usually in separate tabs on the product pages).  You can get reviews at these places, too, to see if you really want to get something.  If you are going to buy something here, though, you better do it asap because they do have to ship it to get it there before C-Day.  Sephora is probably the best bet for sussing out perfumes and specific products within a brand line (like Philosophy) that are better than others.  Drugstore.com has really huge variety of things, especially things that are hard to find in a store.  iHerb.com has more “regular” products, but you can find some items at super awesome prices.  Give ’em a whirl…but do it today!

5. Amazon – Same thing goes with Amazon for the shipping, but this is (as most of us know), the new general store of the world.  Because individual vendors can post their own products, you really can find almost anything.  I was looking for more BeeLuxe products, and that’s where you can find them.  Of course you can also get books and media and other things…where Amazon started it all.  Look up some books about natural products and/or how to make your own products for the craftier folks on your list…everyone likes new know-how and recipes (at least I do).

6. Pinterest – Okay, so maybe you have some time to do some last minute creations…go perusing for ideas here!  I think I just might go find some of the more excellent recipes, print them out on some nice paper, create a little box or book of them, and use this for a stocking stuffer for some of the cooks/bakers in my life.  It doesn’t have to be super elaborate…maybe even write a few recipes out by hand and tie them with a ribbon.  Or, heck, make some of those marvelous creations and take them with you to the office party or give out samplers to your friends in lieu of “stuff.”  Your only limitation at this point is time!

7.  Etsy.com – Again, time/shipping is of the essence, but this website is the website of crafters the whole world wide.  You can buy anything from art to  jewelry to homemade soaps or purses or shirts or even vintage items…just anything really at this site.  Individual crafters/collectors have their own pages, so you will be paying them and they will be shipping the items. HOWEVER, there is a “search by” feature that can limit your options to a zip code or town.  I can’t guarantee that a seller would be willing to have you come over to their home, but you can communicate directly with people via a messaging system (if you create an account)…you could probably work out some sort of “pick-up” method.  This way you can get something super-special and unique from a local crafts person AND avoid the shipping (thereby reducing your carbon footprint).  You might even make a new friend or become a loyal customer if you find the right craftsperson.  You never know until you look.

I hope this gives you some ideas at the very least…GOOD LUCK, Last Minute Shoppers!  Go get ’em!

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Endless Summer…Coconut and Mango!

I think I have well established the fact that I am addicted to fragrances. I use them to affect a mood that makes me feel…happy (hopefully). Since the scent-center of the brain is so strongly bound with memory, coconut (or coconut-inspired) scents are like summer in a bottle for me. Put a little bit of mango with that, and I am whisked away like in those old Calgon ads, except to a tropical island drenched with sun and sweetness. And in the face of the impending time and season changes to something ever more dreary and less sunshine-y, I intentionally cling to my summer with coconut and mango inspired products.

I know most people are all into the “pumpkin spice” or chocolate or mint or other seasonally appropriate scents, but not me. Not yet. So…let me, as your all-natural product guide who is also addicted to summer, offer some things worth trying and some things to avoid.

Let me first start by admitting that Alba Botanica is the brand that first introduced me to “good for you” products in the form of it’s Honey Mango Very Emollient Bath & Shower Gel.  This product literally smells good enough to eat.  When you look at the details of the ingredients, you will even find that there is no actual honey in the product, meaning that it is vegan (the company also conducts no animal testing and is cruelty-free).  This bath gel creates a creamy, moisturizing lather that seems to work (for me) against the drying powers of more wintery weather.  You can find a 12 oz. bottle for about $8-ish in natural stores and probably for less online.  If you aren’t super excited about a “honey mango” fragrance, they do have other scents like French Lavender, Island Citrus, etc.  I haven’t tried ’em, but I am sure there is something everyone can love.  I give this product a “Hooray!”

And just as a refresher, straight from the company’s website:

Alba Botanica® products are formulated without: parabens, phthalates, artificial colors, propylene glycol, aluminum, mineral oil, petrolatum, oxybenzone, PABA, nano-particles, DEA, MEA or TEA, PEGs and PEG derivatives, ethoxylated ingredients associated with 1,4 dioxane, formaldehyde donors, or GMOs.

Which leads me to the second Alba Botanica “Endless Summer” selection:  “Coconut Milk” Shampoo and Conditioner for “mega moisture.”  I bought a dual-pack of these two (also in a 12 oz. size), for around $11 at the end of September.  I expected something that looked, well, like coconut milk.  I also expected it to smell like, well, like coconut.  So, the shampoo is clear and gel-like and smells like coconut mixed with something that reminds me of that oh-so-popular potpourri fragrance:  mulberry.  Now I like the smell of mulberry, but I don’t think it smells like coconut, and I’m not sure how they arrived at that fragrance given the ingredients listed like pineapple and papaya and ginger.  Must have been a magical alchemy of sorts.  The shampoo works to clean my hair, but it seems to take a bit more than usual to get a good lather going and I sometimes feel compelled to “wash, rinse, repeat.”  So, that’s a bit wasteful.  The Coconut Milk conditioner is very thick and creamy, coming out of the bottle very “dollopy” instead of runny.  It smells like a lighter version of the shampoo, which is fine.  Still not too coconutty.  It does a good job at detangling and moisturizing without weighing my hair down.  So.  I’ll give this duo a “Yay.”  It does the job, and it smells fine, but just not what I’m looking for to satisfy my “coconut” craving.

On to Desert Essence, another brand I have featured before…they are dedicated to natural products that are phtalate-free, cruelty-free, organic, etc.  The Coconut Shampoo/Conditioner (Nourishing for Dry Hair), is also specifically touted as having no:  “parabens, sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfates, Phthalates, artificial fragrances or colors, silicones, EDTA, glycol or petroleum based ingredients (from drugstore.com’s product details).”  For about $7.49/8oz., I think this product (on sale) is a bit too expensive for me.  But I wanted coconut shampoo and it was on sale!  This shampoo is also clear, but lathers really well…I’d say it’s just like “regular shampoo” with a nice rich lather that really leaves my hair feeling clean.  Unfortunately, I think the fragrance is…terrible.  I’ve really tried to like it, but I just can’t.  Again, it is another instance of coconut not being the “superstar” of the fragrance.  This was meant to smell like a pina colada, I think, but…sigh.  Okay, I’ll tell you what it smells like to me.  You know that white shoe polish people use to write on their car windows?  Yeah.  That’s what it smells like to me.  If I *try* to think about pina colada, I can kind of get it, but no.  White Shoe Polish.  The conditioner is similar to the Alba Botanica above, thick and rich, moisturizing without being heavy.  The fragrance is much diminished in the conditioner and I WOULD consider using just the conditioner with some other shampoo.  So…in the end.  This shampoo gets a “Not So Great” and the conditioner gets a “Yay.”

And now, the piece de resistance…the one that has NOT let me down, once again…Pacifica Perfumes, I love you.  I swear they are not paying me.   This IS summer in a bottle, to me.  It is a “true” coconut in my mind, not mixed with a variety of other fruity fragrances that detract from the star of this show.  There is some vanilla in the mix, but even with the dry down, coconut is the feature of this perfume.  I also think that this particular perfume lasts longer than some of the other, more citrusy fragrances that I love from Pacifica.  Here it is 3pm on a warm day and I still smell great.  One of my friends says it smells like sunscreen…which is just fine with me.  I wish they sold “Coppertone” as a fragrance.  All those childhood memories of my favorite time of the year come rushing back when I use this perfume.  Winter-schminter…now I can keep it summer all year long (which makes me happy–mission accomplished)!  So, if you haven’t guessed…this one gets a “HOORAY!”

I am still on the search for a natural shampoo/body wash that will really strike home that coconut summer of love when January rolls around.  If you have any favorites that achieve that feat, please DO share!  Stay tuned…I’ll share if I find some other good ones!

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Is it Christmas, or is it just me?

Since I have recently been avoiding the pollutant-laden products that I have been accustomed to since…I dunno, BIRTH…I have begun to notice some changes.  I was hoping one of these changes would be some instantaneous weight-loss, but no such luck.  Oh well, I will keep my fingers crossed on that one.

1.        I have always had what I dubbed “sensitive skin” meaning a variety of things seemed to make my oily skin break out in “blemishes,” as my mother calls them.  I saw Dr. Murad on some morning show once where he first clued me in to the break-out evils of “isopropyl miristate.”  This extreme surfactant might as well be labeled “zit maker” for me. 

 So, that’s what first started me label reading.  From time, to time, however, I would break out and chalk it up to stress or hormones or whatever.  But now that I am washing with home-made soap and facial toner, and applying an all-natural moisturizer (Desert Essence Daily Essential Moisturizer), it seems that my skin is having a reaction.  And it’s not from extreme surfactants this time.

I am told, by other natural-product-using friends, that this is just my body re-balancing itself.  All those accumulated toxins are making their way out of my skin, or my body is deciding to expel them.  While this was always the ultimate goal and something I certainly want to happen, it’s not much fun to look at myself in the mirror in the morning and see Rudolf the red-nosed 37 year-old.  I am not gonna let it bother me, though.  I’m getting healthy, and if this is what happens on the way there, whatevs.  Anyone who wants to judge can just…well…stuff it.

2.       I have always had (what I thought was an extension of my oily skin) oily hair.  Oily, fine hair that tangles very easily.  Now, I will confess that I color my hair.  This is a blog for another day, but regardless, my hair has always been something to deal with every morning.  It has to be washed and conditioned at the least.  I have been known to throw it in a bun or ponytail while it is wet and just go to work that way.  If I don’t put it up, though, it has to have some sort of “holding” product like gel or styling cream, be blow-dried, and maybe touched up with a flat iron, and usually hair-sprayed into place for me to feel like it is “presentable” by normal southern standards. 

So, I’ve been washing my hair with Nature’s Gate Awapuhi Volumizing Shampoo.  It is spectacular!  Smells great and contains none of the following:  “artificial color, alcohol, animal-derived ingredients (with no animal testing ), parabens, or phthalates.”  The formula I bought, which may be a newly improved version (check the ingredients if you want to purchase this shampoo), also contains no sodium laureth sulfate.  My hair really used to feel like straw no matter what products I put in it.  Now it is soft, manageable, and shiny.  I’m sold.  And did I say it smells great?  It does.

One of the salvages from my product purge was also Nature’s Gate Sunflower and Pomegranate Conditioner.  It’s similarly lacking in “bad” stuff and is recommended for colored hair.  It doesn’t weigh my hair down and yet leaves it detangled and easy to comb through.   When the bottle is empty, I might have to go get the Awapuhi conditioner just to try, but not until this one is all gone!  No need to have 15 different types of conditioner again.  Cross my heart.

I have been using Aubrey Organics B5 Design Gel for styling purposes.  Now, let me tell you, I have medium length, very fine hair, and I am only interested in keeping it from flying around too much.  Honestly, this product smells…well…“medicinal” at best, but I think most people would say it stinks.  I only use about a dime-sized amount of it, and honestly (I promise), when I’m done blow-drying it, there is no smell of it in my hair.  If you want your hair to be more “gelled,” or if you have courser hair, I’m not sure how it will work.  However, it’s doing the job for me now, so I’ll use it until it’s gone.  This will likely take a while considering I use so little.  I have discovered that if you go to the Aubrey Organics website, you can buy smaller sizes than what is available at the stores…so you can buy a half size to try if you don’t want to commit to a full-size product. 

3.  The oddest thing though—is really odd.  Especially considering all the “blemishes” that are happening on my face right now.  Maybe my awesome hair is compensating for that.  Or maybe, since I’m not covering up the way I smell with a bunch of harsh chemicals, my pheromones are working to…attract the opposite sex.  Now, I’m not looking for anyone, because I have someone whom I love very dearly, but I have noticed complete strangers, like…smiling at me and holding the door open for me and talking to me out of nowhere.  Of course, at first, I thought maybe I had spinach in my teeth or something.  And honestly, maybe it is just Christmas and people are being more friendly than usual.  Or maybe this whole detox is cleansing my aura in such a way that I am more approachable.  I don’t know. 

But I noticed.  Maybe it’ll be a nice side-effect for you, too, if you try to cut some of the pollutants out of your life.   You never know.

Categories: hair products | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2.5 out of 3 ain’t bad

It’s been a while since I last posted, and of course I have a hundred new things I want to write about. But let me start where I left off.  I had contacted three companies to ask for information, further confirmation, that their products were indeed phthalate-free.

1. Kuumba Made fragrance oils have been CONFIRMED as phthalate-free. The actual language from the e-mail went like this: “Our fragrance oils are created using the finest oils and resins of flowers, plants, roots and trees. They are free of any dilutants, alcohols, petroleums, phthalates, and animal products. However, they are not 100% natural, some items such as musk is not available naturally.” Good to know they aren’t using animal musk. However in the artificial musk world, there are three types…two are questionable, much like phthalate, and one is considered safe. CRAP! I guess I need to press them further about which type of synthetic musk they are using. That will be a blog for another day. But it seems safe to assume that the non-musk fragrances are 100% good to go. I personally like Water Lily (and Egyptian Musk…so now I have more research to do).

2. Pacifica skin care, including perfume, is, according the e-mail response I received from customer service, “made without: Animal testing, animal bi-products (sic), phthalates, parabens, sulfates, propylene glycol, benzene, GMOs, mineral oil, peanut oil, and triclosan. All Pacifica products are cruelty-free.” So this is more good news. The body butter, in Mediterranean Fig is still quite nice, but once I found out that their perfumes were 100% safe, I went on down to my Central Market and sprayed nearly every inch of my arms with a sample of their fragrances. Now, the selection on Pacifica’s site is much broader, but at my local store, there are approximately 8 scents. I purchased Waikiki Pikake, a light, white floral. But I’ll be going back (or asking Santa?) for Mexican Chocolate and Malibu Lemon Blossom. They are seriously yum! And free of nasty chemicals, which is the best part, I think.

3. After e-mailing customer service at Teva (the maker of sandals and flip-flops and, yes, even more complicated shoes), I got a reply indicating that they didn’t have material details about the products, but they did provide a handy phone number I could call. So I called, I asked my question of the helpful customer service staff, and she put me on hold for quite a while, but eventually came back with good news! Teva uses EVA plastic for the footbed of their products, and polyester for the straps. EVA is a type of plastic that does not require further plasticizers to make it bendable and “squishy,” and is actually considered to be inert enough to make children’s toys from in lieu of phthalate-based “squishy” plastic. This is good news since I live in my Tevas much of the year. By the way, I prefer this brand because they make durable products that can last for years and years. It’s worth the investment over cheap-o flip-flops, for sure. Not only are the straps fashionably cute, they last, and now we know they have no phthalate to absorb through our skin. Yay for Teva!

So, have I had any regrets about pursuing a hippy/natural-product lifestyle? No, because I think I am on the road to being healthier.  When you know better, you do better, right?  There’s really no going back for me now, and actually a broad door of questioning products everywhere has opened, and I am concerned not only for my own health, but the health of my family, friends, and yes, even perfect strangers.

I will confess that overcoming vanity is part of the process. I would still like to look nice (and smell nice) and this has suddenly made that task a little more challenging.  From my purging of grooming products, the product I regretted having to throw out the most (so far, that is, since I haven’t yet culled my perfume collection)? Don’t laugh at me, but it was a stash…yes, a stash…of discontinued Dove Straight and Soft Sleek Styling Cream. I LOVE this product so much that when it was discontinued, I went on ebay.com and bought 10 tubes. I KNOW! This makes me *almost* a hoarder…but it works so well on my hair! When you research its ingredients, this product is somewhere on the scale of about a 5-6 where 0 is pure water and 10 is considered extremely toxic/carcinogenic/allergy-causing/etc.  So I haven’t really found its replacement, but I am trying a styling product I’ll blog about tomorrow.

I do want to extend an offer to research the toxicity of your favorite product and perhaps offer a replacement product of similar qualities. Just leave a comment and I’ll start the search. First up, as requested by my co-worker, is Philosphy products. Tune in next time…

Categories: endocrine disruptors, hair products, perfume, phthalates | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Coming Clean

I recently got struck by a lightning bolt of knowledge when I watched “Bag It,” a documentary by Jeb Berrier.  I mean, I know plastic is not the best thing in the world, as most of us do.  Yes, we should recycle, but do we?  There was that whole discussion/uproar about BPA (Bisphenol A) in baby products a few years back.  And yes, of course, we know plastic persists in the environment and that it’s bad for all kinds of animals, especially marine animals who end up consuming it.  But for some reason, I’d never heard about phthalates

Now phthalates, it turns out, are not just found in plastics.  This is a class of chemicals that is used in all kinds of products.  Parents should be concerned because “squishy” plastics can consist of more phthalate than the actual plastic…they could be BPA-free but still dense with phthalate that can be easily transferred to the human body, especially when it (as kids are known to do) is put in the mouth.  In Jeb’s movie, a rubber ducky is equated to a “phthalate lollipop.” 

Even if you avoid plastics containing phthalates, however, you are probably still exposed to them.  They are commonly used in fragrances as a solubilizer and stabilizer.  Any product with a fragrance may contain phthalates without disclosing them on the label because, as it turns out, fragrances are considered to be trade secrets, and this includes the chemicals used to create the fragrance (like ingredients that solubilize and stabilize).  This is especially alarming for me since I am a perfume hound…I have 18 different kinds of perfume and 15 different kinds of body spray (I know! I have a problem!).

Additionally, here is a list of the other most common places you can find phthalates:

Coatings on pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements, adhesives and glues, electronics, agricultural applications, building materials, personal-care products, medical devices, detergents, packaging, toys, modelling clay, waxes, paints, printing inks, food, and fabrics.

Why, you may be asking, do we need to avoid these two chemicals, BPA and phthalate, specifically?  They are both considered to be endocrine disruptors and can affect the body in numerous ways that can include birth defects, disruption of thyroid function, increased incidents of cancer, abnormal obesity, insulin resistance, asthma, potential links to attention deficit disorders and autism, and more.  Anyone notice how there have been increased rates of obesity and autism?

It seems easier to avoid BPA…plastics labeled 1, 2, 5 and 6 are free of BPA (or should be).  Don’t eat or drink anything out of other plastics.  Ideally, you should drink out of glass/ceramics when you can, and try to avoid cooking anything in the microwave even in these plastics.

Phthalates, however, are everywhere.  It’s easy to get paranoid about it.  I have.  I am trying to combat this sense of paranoia, though, by purging offensive items from my house, and replacing them with more natural and hopefully more organic items.  I can’t really do anything about the paint on the walls and the floor coverings, except, I suppose to wear shoes in the house (wait, do my shoes have phthalates in them?).  

As the days and weeks progress, I will be snitching on offensive products and offering up better products.  It is an expensive undertaking, unfortunately to buy the better products, but if you do it bit by bit, you can start to make a dent.

Today’s cheap find:  Bon Ami powder cleanser…to scrub the countertops and the bathtub/shower.  Five ingredients! Limestone, feldspar, biodegradable cleaning agents (from coconut/corn – I suspect this is a powdered soap from the oil of these plants), soda ash, and baking soda. $1.69 at the fancy natural grocery store.

The most expensive thing I bought today:  Pacifica brand body butter in Mediterranean Fig scent.  It is free of animal products (this company does not test on animals either), parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral and peanut oils, and artificial color.  This cost $16.99 at a different, fancier grocery store.  If you go to Pacifica’s website, they clearly indicate that their skin care is free of these things, but they do NOT clearly indicate that their fragrances (perfume spray/solids) are phthalate free.  Which seems a bit suspicious to me.  I have e-mailed their customer service to find out the “word” regarding this suspicion, and I will dutifully report back with any response I receive.  In the meantime, this fragrant lotion will be one of my “perfume replacers.”

The other e-mail I sent today was to Kuumba Made.  These perfume oils are commonly found in the fancy grocery stores for not too much money (about $8) and they smell pretty (I especially like Egyptian Musk).  They claim to be natural, but there is almost no information about ingredients.  I have asked if there are phthalates in their products, so we shall see what they say.

In the future, I’ll probably also reveal other terrible chemicals we’d all be better off avoiding.  And possibly I’ll start petitions and “writing” campaigns to get the mainstream manufacturers to start cutting the crap out of their products to make this place healthier for all.  United we stand, people.

Finally, my Environmental Protection degree is coming in handy!

Categories: endocrine disruptors, phthalates, plastic | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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