Your mission, if you choose to accept, is to read your soap and cleaning labels, seek out “sodium lauryl sulfate” and “sodium laureth sulfate,” then begin to look for natural alternatives. (Can you see why I just wrote “SLS” in the title?)
Since last year’s natural personal products complete list, I’ve continued to make changes the baby step way. I just do one little thing at a time, and by the time a year is up, I’ve seen big improvements. (photo source)
Back in college when I researched soap, I understood what the sulfates did, but I didn’t realize they were an environmental problem. I was too focused on triclosan and how nasty it was, and much of the information didn’t pinpoint SLS. I just logged it away as “an ingredient in all soaps.”
Since then, I’ve seen murmurs of SLS being on the “no” list for green personal care products, and just recently I came across this article at Natural News that kind of put it all into perspective:
“Sodium lauryl sulfate did not start off as a detergent that was meant for use in consumer products. It was initially sold as an industrial strength detergent primarily used for heavy duty cleaners and degreasers. It is now found in products which are in close and frequent contact with human skin.
The reason it is used in so many products today is that consumers have come to expect abundant lather in products that are supposed to cleanse in some way. It is one of the most largely manufactured chemicals in the United States since many companies use it as a cheap lathering agent.”
The other reasons listed for sodium lauryl sulfate’s transgressions include:
- irritates and dries out skin
- allows toxins to penetrate
- is toxic
- erodes eyes, gums, and hair follicles (yep, gum disease from toothpaste and hair loss from shampoo…makes sense, right?)
As far as I know, sodium laureth sulfate should have the same problems, unless someone can set me straight. Read the whole article here.
I’m excited that I get to give away a humongous package tomorrow, including many of the items I’m about to talk about plus those from last week’s natural cleaning update.
Although I’ve continued to use the shampoo-free method of washing hair, using baking soda and apple cider vinegar, there are a few reasons I was pretty excited to try NaturOli‘s soap nut based shampoo:
- My hair gets kind of dried out at time with no ‘poo.
- I like to have a regular shampoo on hand for about once or twice every two weeks when I’m doing no ‘poo.
- I hear from readers who say that either shampoo-free just didn’t work for them OR they simply want something that lathers up and smells good in the shower.
So for me and those self-described “girly girls,” I’m pleased to report that I like NaturOli’s shampoo.
I’m glad they sent both the “oily to normal” and “dry to normal” versions, because when I started with “oily to normal,” I was initially disappointed that my hair seemed to get greasy after just a day. With no ‘poo, I was used to going 3 or more days without washing my hair and not experiencing such greasiness.
Luckily, the second version “dry to normal” has done much better. Although it doesn’t lather up with a ton of suds, I do like the way my hair looks. It still gets greasy faster than no ‘poo, but I think anything is going to do that. Also keep in mind that I have weird postpartum hair, so anything I say about shampoo can be taken with a grain of salt!
Bottom line: NaturOli shampoo is an awesome SLS-free option. The only disadvantage is that it’s pretty pricey.
Face – Cleaning
Last year I said that my personal Monday Mission for that week was to try the oil cleansing method once and for all. I did, and it was fine, but it admittedly takes a few minutes longer than a quick scrub with a bottled cleanser. I also struggled to determine whether I should change the ratio of castor oil to olive oil, and I just didn’t want to have to *think* that much about cleaning my face.
Enter the Hydramitt. This little microfiber mitt was such fun to test out. It claims to get makeup and dirt off with just water, so naturally I was skeptical. What a pleasant surprise! Even though it’s not hard to use coconut oil to get eye makeup off, it’s far easier to just grab the Hydramitt, wet a dab, and rub the mascara smudging under my eye away. It really does work.
To take off all eye makeup, it does require quite a few swipes across the eyelashes, so I might rather just use oil, but for those annoying end-of-day smudges right under the bottom lashes, and quick wipe with the Hydramitt was a welcome option.
- Seems to make a small amount of facial cleanser go further
- Does a great quick lip exfoliation
- Dries quickly
- Takes up less space on the towel rack than a washcloth
- One more thing to buy
- Super expensive
- Microfiber is made of plastic
I did, of course, try my regular microfiber cloths, and the Hydramitt worked better on the pesky eye makeup.
Just water seems like the most natural and safe option one could imagine, but if the Hydramitt isn’t speaking to you, you might be on the lookout for a creamy facial cleanser. I just started using one from Skin Free, and check out these simple ingredients:
Saponified oils of Prunus amygdalus dulcis (Sweet Almond), Olea euporea (Olive) seed, Ricinus communis (Castor), Butyrospermum parkii (Shea Butter) fruit, citric acid
I haven’t been able to test it out on my changing postpartum skin long enough to really say whether it’s causing or reducing blemishes or anything, but here’s the best part about this brand: it’s a truly natural brand (rather than one that says “natural” but still contains SLS, which happens more often than I’d like) that you don’t have to order online. Skin Free can actually be found at Walgreen’s! Have you ever seen it in yours?
Face – Blemishes
I can remember reading something about salicylic acid being unsafe for pregnant women when I was expecting my first. I asked my OBGYN about it, and he was completely clueless but said something on the face should be just fine for baby. Salicylic acid is a drying agent in many, many facial cleansers and acne treatments. Many of them are meant to be left on the face overnight, including the one I was using when pregnant with Paul.
My new solution is Redmond Clay‘s Facial Mask (or you could mix your own clay with water). I leave a thick dab on blemishes overnight, and as the clay dries, it pulls out toxins and redness from the spots. You just have to remember to wash it off in the morning, or you’ll look awfully funny:
(Here’s the article that goes with the photo, by the way…)
A year ago, I was still using standard store toothpaste with fluoride. I’m quite excited to go 100% fluoride free for a spell after I get my Berkey water filter, so finding a new toothpaste was imperative.
I started with Tom’s of Maine from a regular pharmacy. That gets rid of the fluoride, but it still contains sodium lauryl sulfate (which is why it foams and feels like a totally normal toothpaste) and “hydrated silica,” which, according to a reader at the oil pulling post, coats the teeth and doesn’t allow our own saliva to do its job.
My next was called tooth chips – they’re free of everything listed above, but they’re far from regular toothpaste. Can you see in that photo to the left that they’re actually little shreds of soap?
To brush, you take one little shred, about a centimeter long, and press it either into your back tooth or your toothbrush. It foams up pretty well with water, but it takes a few seconds longer and a bit more concentration each brushing, so that you don’t just knock the tooth chip off your tooth and spit it out! My husband hated them – too much of a hassle, too weird – and my kids thought they were a really fun novelty for a while, then stopped asking for them.
- free of nasty chemicals
- still foams up and makes teeth feel clean
- small container GREAT for travel
- flavors are tasty
- new routine to learn
- have to have clean hands to brush teeth
- easy to spit out or knock down the drain
- pretty expensive
My latest tester is from Tropical Traditions, a tooth cleaner made of coconut oil, baking soda, xanthan gum, myrrh powder, stevia, and cinnamon and clove essential oils (in the cinnamon flavor; they also have mint).
- no nasty chemicals
- squeezes out onto toothbrush
- I love the cinnamon flavor (and clove essential oil is supposed to help with tooth pain, too)
- if even a little water hits it, the whole plop goes right down the drain. You need to change the habit and get the toothbrush wet before squirting.
- no foaming action – so even though it’s probably working wonders, it feels like it’s subpar because we’re so used to lather – but this isn’t a real disadvantage, just a perceived one. Mind over matter…
I know a lot of people make homemade toothpaste – my father-in-law even does, just using baking soda and hydrogen peroxide – but it’s not something I’ve ever tried. Many recommend at least knowing how to do it and having a recipe printed as a preparedness strategy. Any success stories with homemade toothpaste?
Skin Free also makes a deodorant with zero weird, unpronounceable ingredients. It uses the essential oil niaouli, which has antibacterial properties. I’ve used it on my stinky armpits for about a week, and I’m so impressed. I didn’t get stinky after some physical exertion nor after a nervous hour-long live webinar for GNOWFGLINS eCourse on snacks last week.
Only once did I smell some of that detoxing stench I mentioned in the deodorant update last week, and I have to say: that was on the second day I’d skipped my oil pulling. Coincidence? Maybe. I pulled oil that night, and the next day, the deodorant did its job again.
My only beef with it is that soy is one of the top ingredients. I’d much, much rather see a carrier oil like coconut oil mixed with beeswax, thankyouverymuch. (Soy is estrogenic, so not the best thing to consume or leave on skin.) However, for a deodorant that isn’t crumbly, doesn’t melt in the summer and I don’t have to make myself but can pronounce all the ingredients, I’ll take it!
During the winter I’ll probably go back to my homemade deodorant, but in this busy season, I’m happy to have a backup upon which to rely.
Hands and Bodies (soaps)
We talked last week (with great discussion in the comments) about the safety of alcohol-based hand sanitizers vs. soap, and we all know that, when it’s possible, soap and water with lots of rubbing is the most effective way to get clean hands. There’s no need to kill bacteria, just get them off and down the drain.
I would think that a great many small, artisan soap makers are creating safe, natural soaps around the country. Look for one local (and just know what to ask – no SLS, no triclosan, etc.) or check out Graham Gardens for some of the best-smelling and unique soaps ever.
The Skin Free soap was a new tester for us. My reviews:
I think it’s a very high quality pump and am hoping it will last for some refills. I like the smell – related to tea tree oil, smells very clean, aromatic. Almost like I’m getting aromatherapy just by washing my hands, especially when I use hot water.
My husband’s reactions: “smells like Vick’s or something, pump really shoots out!”
I don’t know that the scent would be for everyone, but there are other essential oils to choose from. And did I mention they’re sold at Walgreen’s? Love.
I’ve already written about what we’ve done naturally with Jonathan, including:
Getting Rid of Cradle Cap
At three years old, my daughter still had awful cradle cap. I wish I would have thought to take a picture, but just imagine: thin, blond hair, the face of a cherub (oh, if only her attitude matched!), and thick, scaly, yellow, dry flakes all on top of her scalp.
I picked at it often and pieces came off easily, but it never seemed to make a difference. A few years ago I had read that applying oil to the scalp in the bathtub would help, and I was able to slough off more scales, but her head was so very greasy, and the cradle cap just came back.
This time, I used a few drops of tea tree oil in a bit of unrefined coconut oil, rubbed it all in her hair while she was playing in the tub (really should have taken a picture of that wild ‘do, too, but I never thought I’d be posting on it!) and let it sit about 5 minutes.
This photo happens to have the greasy, pulled-back hair…and a cute baby brother!
I scraped as much cradle cap as I could off in the tub, then washed her hair with shampoo. The shampoo can only do so much with the oil, so she was still pretty greasy afterward. We just pinned her bangs back with barrettes and I told myself it was much better to have a few days of weird greasiness than the rest of her life with yellow scales.
I did the process twice and wanted to complete a third application but kept forgetting at bath time. I managed to get all the scales sloughed off, and guess what!?! It’s been a few weeks, and they haven’t come back. Her scalp is a little dry, but no scales. If it does start to come back, I just feel pretty confident that once or twice more will knock it out.
I must tell you that this is after multiple times asking the pediatrician if she had any ideas for the cradle cap, and “wait it out” was all we came up with. Now I’m excited to share this remedy with her so she can tell other patients!
I’m really starting to buy into the power of essential oils; I think it’s going to be my “thing” for the winter (in my free time after moving into our new house – we closed Friday, whoopeeeeeeee! – and figuring out cloth diapers). I also used a drop of melaleuca (really fancy tea tree oil) in water to gargle and my sore throat stays more or less at bay.
Men – Shaving
This is more of a question than an answer – anyone have good ideas for a natural option for shaving cream/gel for men? The only thing I could do in the store last week was get the one without synthetic fragrances…and I got the “evil eye” when hubs saw the bottle. “No smells?” *pouty face*
At least he did like the NaturOli shampoo bar for his own hair, so I’ve made some progress…
Remember to check the original natural personal products post for the complete list of head to toe choices, updated with these later today.
Disclosure: I received products for review from most of these companies and bought a few on my own. Either way, you’ll get the real scoop on what I think, because my readers are way more important than some company selling cleaning products out there. I do get commission from NaturOli, Mountain Rose Herbs and MadeOn if you end up making purchases there. See my full disclosure statement here.