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The Big Three
The other day my boyfriend asked me why more people don’t use the natural approach to skin care and home care products we have adopted. These things work very well, they are gentle on the environment and our health, and they are also very budget friendly; so what makes people keep putting chemical ingredients on their skin, hurting their bodies, and even paying to make themselves sick? Those products are designed not to work, actually, but their manufacturers have convinced us that it is not their fault. You need a cleanser that will strip your face from natural moisture, then you need a harsh toner to balance your skin pH, and then you have to buy a moisturizer that will add the moisture back into your skin. You also need primer before you put on your foundation, concealer to hide your imperfections, and a powder to set your liquid foundation and have a shine-free mask sitting on your poor, suffocating skin for at least 8 hours (or more, we want these products to be long-lasting, water and sweat proof, and looking fresh all day long!). Treating our skin like this backfires on us with acne, dry patches, discolorations, and more health concerns that are actually not visible on the outside, as we learned previously.
A healthy body is covered with healthy skin, and healthy skin doesn’t need an arsenal of expensive products. But makeup and skincare companies need us to buy their products, just like pharmaceutical companies need us to buy their pills and capsules. Nobody makes money on healthy people, inside or out. If people are healthy and happy with the way they look and feel, they don’t need to buy wrinkle creams, fake eyelashes, or skin color correcting lotions. If people start embracing their individuality, stop seeing their originality as flaws or imperfections, and love themselves the way they are, they will stop using makeup, hair dyes, eyebrow pencils, and artificial nails. And they will be healthier because of it!
But companies do not want that, they cant let this happen. Just imagine how many people would lose their jobs if all of a sudden people started loving themselves the way they are. The beauty industry would be doomed! That is why full page ads in magazines, TV commercials, and social media inspirational posts are targeting the most vulnerable audience they could: young people, specifically young women. It is all about the money, it has always been and it always will be. This is not something that can be changed from above; no big company that basically makes money on making people feel bad about themselves will ever say hey, this is wrong, we should not be doing this, this is not okay, we are hurting people and making a profit on of their pain, we are pure evil, lets change things up and make a difference, lets just shut down all the factories,and start, lets say, sustainable farming.
This is never going to happen. There is only one way to change things up, and that is by leading by example. If each of us start in our own homes (bathrooms, kitchens, etc), if we start teaching our kids from a very early age about the best, the healthiest, and the most sustainable choices, then we can potentially make other people reconsider their approach, then we can start breaking the corrupted system and make the change from the bottom up. Nobody will ever stop manufacturing aluminum based deodorants until people stop buying them first. What if I told you there are three simple things that can take over your daily routine from skincare to household cleaning? Three simple ingredients you probably already have at home; no chemicals, no toxins, no additives, colorings or artificial fragrances, just three inexpensive things I like to call The Big Three: coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda. Too simple to be true? Keep reading!
Coconut oil is the most versatile fat on the planet. It is a highly valued, stable, and nourishing fat, very easy to digest, high in lauric acid, and rich in antioxidants. We love it so much we even dedicated a whole post to it already with all the fantastic details, so be sure to read that one too! There are a few types of coconut oil, as you will learn, but the one we are most interested in is extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil that has a natural light coconut scent and has not been chemically processed to remove the scent and flavor. Coconut oil is perfect for cooking due to its high smoke point, and also as a quick source of energy for the body because it is very easily digested. A teaspoon of coconut oil every day makes a huge difference in treating inflammation, boosting energy, improving mental sharpness, and of course skin health.
Coconut oil has antibacterial, antimicrobial, and antifungal properties, so when applied topically, it is a perfect treatment for acne, dry skin, eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis, dandruff, itchy scalp, or simply as a daily moisturizer. Apply a little bit on your chapped lips to give them relief or treat your dry elbows or feet with it. A little bit goes a long way, and coconut oil is well absorbed into the skin without leaving a greasy film behind. Coconut oil has a natural SPF 4, giving you the benefits of sun protection without the unnecessary chemicals in traditional sunscreen. Coconut oil is an excellent makeup remover use it for oil cleansing like you would any other oil. It will leave your skin super soft, moisturized, and nourished, and as a nice bonus it will work as a gentle eye cream and lash conditioning serum. All at once, with just one application! Coconut oil also reduces stretch marks, the appearance of scars, and redness on the skin. Using it as a cuticle cream and hand lotion is a great idea as well, especially in winter when skin tends to be more dry and fragile.
Mixed with sugar, sea salt, or coffee grounds, coconut oil makes a perfect, gentle (and yummy!) skin exfoliator for the body (not the face sugar and salt might be too harsh), helping to remove dead skin cells on the feet, increasing blood circulation, making skin softer, smoother, and even helping with the appearance of cellulite. Coconut oil works perfectly as a shaving lotion it makes the razor glide easily over the skin and it will leave your legs (or a mans face) smooth and soft. Bonus if you happen to cut yourself with the razor, coconut oil will help speed up the healing as well as protect the wound from infection. The deodorizing effect of coconut oil is very useful if you shave your armpits using coconut oil too.
Lets not stop with the skin though! Coconut oil is an excellent hair treatment. On its own, it works as a nourishing hair mask for reducing hair loss, lice treatment, anti-frizz treatment for curly hair, and of course nourishing the scalp. Leave the coconut oil in your hair for a few hours (or even overnight, but in this case make sure you wear a cap or something similar to protect your pillowcase), and then shampoo as usual for a extra conditioning boost. Coconut oil really penetrates the hair, nourishes the hair follicle, and locks in the moisture. For men, using coconut oil as shaving cream or as a beard oil is a great option. Condition that mustache and keep it kissably soft!
We will focus on oral care in detail very soon, but it is fair to mention that coconut oil is one of the best ingredients you can use for healthy teeth and gums. Mixing a teaspoon of coconut oil with the same amount of baking soda makes the easiest homemade toothpaste that will protect your gums, get rid of bad bacteria in the mouth, and gently whitens your teeth. Adding a drop of cinnamon oil to this simple mixture adds even more benefits to your very own toothpaste! For more uses of coconut oil, check out our previous post and also this long list by the Wellness Mama!
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Apple cider vinegar is the second member of The Big Three, and just as with coconut oil, we love it so much that we already discussed most of its benefits in a separate post about ACV. In this post, we focused mostly on the benefits of ingesting ACV and using it for cooking or baking, but today we will point out some interesting ideas for topical use of apple cider vinegar. ACV is a fermented food actually, and like others, it is a valuable probiotic. It is made from crushed apples (or apple scraps, peels, and cores), and basically it is nothing more fancy than apple cider that was left to ferment a little too long. The ACV we are interested in is the raw (unpasteurized), organic, unfiltered option. This type should be always sold in a darker glass bottle (green or brown) and should be cloudy, light in color (darker than the picture in this post, that one is mixed half and half with water), ideally with some visible bits of a friendly bacteria floating around in the bottle.
Even though these gooey pieces might look gross to some people, it actually is the key part of the ACV story it is this bacterial colony that gives the apple cider vinegar its probiotic properties. It is very similar to the mother colony that is used to make kombucha, another amazing probiotic source. You canmake your own apple cider vinegar at home, if you want! For the rest of you always look for a hint of the mother in the bottle and the words unfilteredand unpasteurized on the label, that is a sign your bottle is full of beneficial bacteria and enzymes and not just an acidic liquid that tastes like spoiled apple juice. ACV is a miracle, and not just for skincare! But first, lets take a look at the topical use. Apple cider vinegar is the best facial toner because it has a natural pH below 5, helping your skin restore the correct pH balance for its particular role in your immunity: to neutralize the bad bacteria on the skin and support the good bacteria instead. That is why it is important to use unfiltered ACV the filtered version has no probiotic benefits.
Conventional toners are full of alcohol and harsh astringents that strip the skin of its natural oil and moisture. Apple cider vinegar helps to sooth the skin, relieve dryness, fight microorganisms and fungus, dermatitis, psoriasis, redness, and skin irritation. The most basic toner can be made with just ACV and water. I keep mine in a glass spray bottle and use it on my skin after my oil cleansing routine. It has a strong smell at first, but it goes away completely once it dries. The more oily your skin tends to be, the more ACV you can use in the mix. A 50:50 ratio is ideal for oily skin. If your skin is very sensitive, use less vinegar. Always test it first on a smaller patch before spraying it all over your face (pro tips: close and avoid the eyes, and exhale or hold your breath as you spray). You might have to experiment a little bit before you find your ideal ratio. If you really cant stand the smell of ACV, I recommend adding a few drops of an essential oil of your choice in the bottle, like lavender or rose. I also like to add a splash of apple cider vinegar to my homemade facial mask. Another level of skin toning would be adding herbal teas like nettle or chamomile, instead of water, along with some specific essential oils like tea tree, geranium, or lavender. Apple cider vinegar can be applied directly onto the skin as a spot/pimple treatment, and this is the only reason I would recommend using it undiluted on the skin.
Apple cider vinegar rinse is very popular among those who take a natural approach to hair care. A method called no poo (short for no shampoo, there’s nothing nasty about it) recommends using ACV mixed with water as a quick rinse solution that promotes healthy, shiny hair and balanced pH on the scalp. Depending on your hair length, use one to two tablespoons of ACV, add at least one cup of warm water, pour the mixture over your head and rinse immediately don’t leave it in. Just like with other relatively drastic change in routine, this method can have a fairly long adjustment period (mine took over two months, but the results were so worth it), and before your hair and scalp adjusts, you might experience something that my grandma would describe as combing your hair with a stick of lard. Your hair might look and feel very oily and almost plasticky at first (kind of like the hair of a Barbie doll or cheap costume wig), but I promise, one day after your rinse, the magic will happen. We will cover this method in more details soon in a Hair Care guide. ACV also works as a very effective produce rinse: just add one tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to every cup of warm water and soak your fruits and vegetables in this acidic bath to remove bacteria, dirt, insects, and pesticide residue. I also keep a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar with water in a 1:1 ratio in the kitchen to spray over any surface and wipe with paper towel to clean countertops, oven, sink, or even cutting boards. Want more tips on ACV use? Check out our previous post!
Baking soda, known as sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline salt sold as a white powder. Despite the name, it is not used exclusively for baking it has so many benefits and uses! Baking soda is not the same as baking powder (soda is one of the ingredients of baking powder). Baking soda reacts with acids (like vinegars), producing carbon dioxide gas, which is what gives a fluffy texture to recipes that use soda and vinegar. Baking soda is also not the same as washing soda, even though it can be used as a replacement (but not the other way around washing soda is much stronger and is not recommended for cooking or topical use).
In skincare, we use baking soda as an exfoliant: its gentle abrasive properties make for a great toothpaste base and it also has deodorizing qualities that are useful in homemade deodorant recipes. First, lets focus on the exfoliation of the skin. Mixing some water with baking soda creates a thick paste, which once applied to the skin and gently massaged in, removes dead skin cells from the body and helps with blood circulation. This massage can be used for the face and for the body, though I would not recommend the facial exfoliation daily. Twice a week should be okay. For even more benefits, mix baking soda with your favorite cleansing oil, instead of water, and use gentle pressure with your fingers when massaging the skin. This routine is best when performed after oil cleansing, when the skin is already clean, and followed by a toner (as described above, just be sure to rinse the mask thoroughly first so the vinegar and baking soda don’t react with each other).
We already mentioned the no poo method for washing our hair the natural way, and using baking soda to wash our hair before the vinegar rinse is what makes this method complete. Mix one to two tablespoons of baking soda with one cup of warm water, pour it over your wet hair and gently massage it into the scalp before rinsing it well with water. This process increases the alkalinity of your scalp to an unnatural level, so it has to be followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse to restore the pH balance. It is my favorite way of naturally washing my hair. I keep two mason jars in my shower, one for baking soda and one for ACV; I get the solutions ready before I hit the shower and I use this method instead of using a regular shampoo. It took me a long time to adjust (and I also had to wrap my mind around the fact that it doesn’t lather at all), but my hair has never been happier and healthier. It might not be for everyone, but it is definitely worth trying.
My most favorite use of baking soda is in homemade deodorant. We talked about how aluminum in conventional deodorants messes with our hormones, and that switching to a natural deodorant option will do you a huge service in the long run. I really mean it. I have been using my homemade deodorant for five years now. There are a few more sophisticated recipes online (and I am going to be sharing some of my favorites with you soon), but the easiest thing you can do is mix coconut oil and baking soda in a 1:1 ratio, apply a small amount to your armpits, and you are good to go. Baking soda is great at neutralizing odors, and coconut oils natural antibacterial properties kill any bad bacteria in your armpits. Conventional deodorants either try to cover up the bad odor of the sweat, or block your ability to produce sweat (which is a natural process our bodies use to flush away toxins). This natural option is a safe and gentle way to reduce any potential body odor, that doesn’t have any negative side effects. The only thing you should keep in mind is not to use this deodorant right after shaving your armpits because baking soda can be too harsh on the exposed skin and can cause irritation and itching (been there), so wait at least half an hour before applying this paste to your armpits. Baking soda is naturally aluminum free, but there can be aluminum present in baking powder, so as always, read your labels.
In your kitchen, you can use baking soda for cleaning almost anything, from greasy baking sheets to the inside of the oven, grills, the bottoms of cooking pans and heavy pots, stains in the sink or a bathtub… the possibilities are endless! Soda is a very effective cleanser; if you mix it with water and apply it to a greasy or stained surface, allow it to sit and do its magic for a few minutes and then wipe it off, it works like a charm. Because it is a natural odor neutralizer, it helps to remove any kind of odor, stink, or unpleasant aroma from the house (or fridge). Even though my grandma loves her cat, the air around the litter box is not always the freshest, but placing a bowl filled with baking soda in the room always helps. Washing soda is even more effective for cleaning, but baking soda works well too. If you want though, you can easily turn your baking soda into washing soda, following the recipe here. You can add a bit of baking soda to your laundry to make your whites brighter, or combine it with vinegar to clear minor clogs in your sink.
MAKING A CHANGE
With skincare products, just like with every other industry, the offer always meets the demand, but nobody demands toxic chemicals in products of daily use we were taught to believe we don’t have to worry about them and just stop thinking about it. Sure, those companies would never risk selling something that can potentially hurt us, right? Wrong. Do they not know? Are they not aware of the danger? I don’t think so (or at least I hope so), but for sure I know one thing: they care about money more than they do about the people. Putting our money into their pockets gives them so much power. Our power, on the other hand, is knowledge. We must cut the cord that leads from Big Cosmo (and Big Pharma) to our wallets and we have to do it now. Imagine, that from now on, you will never purchase a factory made, toxic, and chemically loaded product. We aren’t asking you to become vigilantes over this, but set an intention and make deliberate changes.
Imagine, that from now on, you will not put anything on your skin you would not be willing to eat. Imagine that you will not only save a lot of money, but also make yourself and your family healthier and happier. On top of all that, you will help to protect the planet for future generations. You might think that one single person like yourself cant make a big difference, but every big change starts with a small step. One tiny cell in our body is capable of so much, and millions of tiny cells create something as marvelous and intricate as the human body. You can be like a single, but very important, cell in this movement that can make a massive change, that will most likely have a significant positive impact on the life, health, and happiness of you, your family and future generations of their offspring. Some people save money for their children to inherit, some build huge empires for their descendants to rule. Let health be your legacy, happiness your heirloom.