“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made, and forgot to put a soul into.” ~Henry Beecher

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Impact of Beauty

Not too long ago, I mentioned in a post that over the last several years, I’ve simplified my life by eliminating the amount of “stuff” I have. Well, this goes for my beauty routine and products as well. After years of experimenting with products that either didn’t work for me or were simply unnecessary, I’ve pared down my routine to a few simple, yet essential items. The benefits of this are many fold:

1. Less of an impact on your body. You may be thinking, No, I want my products to have MORE of an impact on my body! With regard to the positive benefits, yes; however, the less so-called beauty products you put on your skin, the less ingredients you’ll absorb into your body. Many products have synthetic or toxic chemicals that have no business in your bloodstream or in your organs. I currently use a wonderful soap that I found from a local soap maker called Sunflower Farm. Their soaps are made with real, wholesome ingredients like goat’s milk, coconut oil, and shea butter. One of my favorites is “Honey Bee My Soap”. It makes a rich creamy lather and leaves my skin feeling like silk, including my face, which means that I no longer use separate products for my face and body. It’s great for shaving as well and it even leaves my hair shiny and silky. And as far as exfoliants go, I’ve found that an old, knobby washcloth works as well as any scrub you can find. I just use it gently to avoid pulling my skin and it leaves my face glowing.

There are a multitude of sites online that list recipes for make-yourself, at-home personal care products. What works for one may not work for another and it’s a matter of experimenting with different recipes to find the ones that you will like. I do a few simple things that work well for me that I’ve listed here:

Exfoliant - If I do choose an exfoliant or a scrub or a mask, I make it myself with ingredients in the kitchen. My favorite face scrub is a mixture of coconut oil, honey (a humectant which adds moisture) and ground flax seeds or nut meal. I’m using a wonderful, bright yellow sunflower honey right now. Mix about a teaspoon of each into a paste, then massage the mixture gently into the face, avoiding the eye area. Leave it on for several minutes then rinse off with warm water. It leaves my face dewy and fresh looking. This can also be used on the rest of the body.

Hair - A simple trick for incredibly shiny hair is this. Lather your head, then pour a cup of milk into the lather and work it into the hair. Leave in for a few minutes then rinse. The lactic acid helps to remove all the dulling residues that hair products and shampoos can leave behind. If you tend to use lots of sprays, gels, or pastes, another great way to remove the buildup from your hair is a teaspoon of baking soda in your shampoo. Mix it in before you lather your hair, then rinse as normal. No need for a clarifying shampoo! For a deep condition, I work a little bit of coconut oil into my hair (and leave it there during my hot yoga class!). If you won’t be entering a steamy, hot room, wrap your hair in a warm, moist towel for about 30 minutes then wash it out. Just lather hair before wetting, to better remove the oil afterwards.

Body moisturizer - Several oils, such as olive, sesame, and coconut work great on the skin. In the winter months, I use refined, expeller pressed organic coconut oil or even pure cocoa butter on my body – before or after I shower. In the summer, I use sesame oil.

These are just my favorite and most effective tricks that I’ve found that work for me. The key is that you will probably have many of these items in your kitchen and they’re items that you’ll have no problem putting into your body. You can also think of them as your external diet and if you’re like me, you are committed to feeding your body in the best way possible. Which brings up an important point: No product, natural or otherwise will make skin glow and hair shine if it doesn’t want to. The best foundation that will allow any product to have a positive impact is a healthy diet. In fact, a healthy body will glow on it’s own, even without all the potions.

If you’d like to know more about the safety of the personal care products that you do buy, you can look them up in the Skin Deep database provided by the Environmental Working Group. It’s a great resource that breaks down each product into its individual ingredients that it rates separately. It also assigns an overall safety rating to the complete product.

2. Less of an impact on your wallet. By freeing yourself of superfluous or redundant purchases, you’ll clearly save money. I can’t imagine how much money I’ve spent in the past on products that literally sat untouched on the shelf. Once you eliminate all of those, you can spend a little more on a couple of good products that you love. I use a nice, all-natural face cream and a few all-natural makeup products, if and when I do wear makeup. Because if my skin is glowing, the last thing I want to do is cover it up with a foundation!

3. Less of an impact on the environment. The products that you use do not stay confined to your bodies. They get washed down the drain when you shower and the packaging and residual product gets dumped into landfills. Less product means less chemicals and waste in the dumps, less chemicals in the water, and less product taking up space on your shelves!

Simplifying my personal care routine has had a tremendous impact on me overall. It’s something I don’t have to think too much about anymore or even maintain since whatever I need is usually available. It’s helped me to drastically reduce the number of unnatural compounds that I put into my body. And it’s saved me time, which means I have more to do the things I want to do. It can’t get much better than that!

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