Using Natural Oils to Clean Your Skin

OK, so I'm about a year and a half into using the oil cleansing method of face washin' and I have to say, I really love it, and don't see myself switching back to soaps and lotions anytime soon!

Here's the deal: Soap is drying, even the best of soap, so there's no reason, especially as we get older, to continually scrub off our natural oils and dry out our skin. I use an all natural glycerin-based soap for the rest of my body but not for my face. At nite when I wash my face, or if I take a shower before bedtime, I use the oil cleansing method, and I love it! Here's the rationale:

"Almost every facial soap sold in drug stores contains synthetic chemicals and artificial ingredients, despite the number of brands that claim to be “organic” or “natural.” These soaps can be toxic to your liver and other organs with long-term use - and, even in the short term, they can do real damage to your skin."

My reasoning is this, it's natural, it's cheap, I don't have to buy anymore little containers of this or that. My plastic/packaging consumption drops down another notch. I can alter it to fit the chemistry of my skin, it makes me feel, well, OK, sometimes hungry for pasta, but also connected to tradition. And it leaves my skin ever so soft. Oh, and it tastes better than that Oil of Olay stuff that I had recently started using. I mean seriously, if you get that near your lips?...gross.

Also, did you know Oil of Olay changed the name of their products to just "Olay"? Apparently their consumers weren't happy to learn they've been putting petroleum on their skin all these years in the form of mineral oil (which, according to this article, is very bad for your skin because it interferes with your bodies natural moisturizing system, can clog your pores, and lead to an increase in your body's toxin loads). And the smell...I couldn't finish the last jar of Olay I bought because I couldn't get past the smell, and I certainly didn't realize the oil in it was the black tar variety. Whenever possible I think it's best to avoid putting our money towards more oil consumption, especially when there are so many alternatives.

Just for kicks, here's other ingredients in Oil of Olay (which I'm sure is similar to most other namebrand moisturizers, perhaps minus the petrolatum):

ACTIVE INGREDIENTS: 3% OCTISALATE, 3% OCTOCRYLENE, 2% AVOBENZONE. Also contains water, glycerin, cetyl palmitate, mineral oil, petrolatum, cetyl alcohol, glyceryl hydroxystearate, stearic acid, steareth-100, dimethicone, octyldodecyl myristate, fragrance, potassium hydroxide, DMDM hydantoin, Iodopropynl butylcarbamate, tetrasodium EDTA, acrylates/C10-30 alkyl accrylate crosspolymer, carbomer and red 4.

(they're also owned by Proctor and Gamble...just sayin')

And just like with shampoo, this stuff doesn't just sit on your skin, it's ABSORBED into your body.

My skin story is I have sensitive skin. I was told when I was younger because I have sensitive skin that I should avoid all face products and makeups that have mineral oil in them (lots of pressed powders have mineral oil, fyi). I think as I've gotten older my skin has gotten less sensitive so I don't worry so much about that anymore, but I do avoid products with fragrance and oily based makeups for this reason. But looking at this list, I don't think it's just mineral oil that we need to be looking out for when it comes to sensitivities.

The OCM has 2 ingredients: olive oil and castor oil.

Now, the thought of putting olive oil and castor oil (castor oil, BTW, is vegetable based, comes from the castor bean) on my face did freak me out at first because of my skin sensitivities. I thought for sure I'd have a face full of red bumps the next morning. I've had this happen many times in my life when I've switched to a different brand of powder or lotion (particularly with lotions) or eye makeup, soap, etc. Scented laundry soaps can cause me to itch all day. Even using a fragranced oily kind of sunscreen can send my skin into a tailspin for a few days. So needless to say, I was concerned.

But it didn't happen. In fact, the opposite happened. I think my face is softer, and less prone to breakouts. Now, I have also significantly changed my eating habits over the past few years cutting out processed foods, white sugar, meat, cow's cheese, cow's milk, etc and I've heard there's a connection to dairy and skin problems so it's possible just cutting down on cheese consumption can make a difference in your skin. But, lets say that's a stretch and are unrelated...then the OCM is working. I've not had any problems with allergies or sensitivities so far and have enjoyed softer skin. AND I love the nighttime mini facial that comes with it!

Even, ahem, during that time of the month, it doesn't irritate my skin. I do use it less during that week because our skin naturally produces more hormonal oils so less is needed to maintain balance (as long as you're not scrubbing it all off every nite with soap, which BTW, could be causing you to produce MORE oil to offset the disruption with the natural order of things). It's best to just let our bodies do what they are supposed to do.

So I only do the OCM once every other day, and always at nite. Skin repair happens at nite and I like going to bed with clean soft non-greasy non-smelly skin. So far so good! Now I have noticed if I get too much around my eyes there's a bit of irritation. I've heard this from others as well. So when using it to take off eye makeup, make sure you don't gob too much around your eyes, and rinse well.

I watched a show a while back about women who look younger than their age and they talked about some of their beauty secrets. Several of them said they never wash their face with soap and several others said they only use natural oils (coconut oil, olive oil, etc) on their skin. I think there's some wisdom in this. Try it out and see what you think. I know it seems freaky, but hey, not nearly as freaky as giving up shampoo, right? (snicker snicker)

I'll leave you with a few links here and here and here and you can read up on why this method works and why it's good for your skin, and how to mix up the oils, etc. Start your new year off right!


A Cruelty-Free Christmas

This blog post was something I wrote last year for a different blog. Just moving it over here to keep everything in one place. Happy Festivus!


One of my goals this holiday season was to bake with compassion, cook meals that were consistent with my values and eat as cruelty-free as possible. I work toward these goals most of the time anyway, but I specifically wanted to try to get thru the holidays keeping this in mind. It's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season and loose track of our ideals. Our society seems hell-bent on doing everything possible to get us to stumble - by heavily marketing products in order for us to buy more stuff we don't need, and by pushing baked items, cheese balls, and meat trays on us everywhere we go. Just about everywhere you turn during this time of year you run into something that screams of wastefulness and lacking compassion. So annoying. And one of the many reasons the holiday season has moved to the bottom of my Favorite Time of Year list. It's become more about survival than actual enjoyment. Surviving the house-guests, surviving the trips to the mall, surviving the gastro-intestinal hell we put ourselves thru...ugh.

Sadly, I can't say I completely avoided getting caught up a buying frenzy, however I can say I never stepped into a mall (or a Wal-Mart for that matter), shopped local when possible, handmade all the gifts for friends and family, have only handmade ornaments on our tree, strung our own cranberries, and tried to keep the plastic toy binge-buying under control. Could I do better? Absolutely. A lot better. But it's a start.

So here are a few things we did this year to make our holiday season as cruelty-free as possible:

I baked many different kinds of cookies and muffins, from snickerdoodles, to gingersnaps, to decorated sugar cookies to apple-bran muffins - all with only cruelty-free products. Any cookie, cake, muffin, pancake, waffle, cornbread, or any other recipe that I followed that called for butter was replaced with a non-dairy version. I used only almond, hemp, rice or coconut milk if a recipe called for milk. If a recipe called for cream I used soy yogurt mixed with some water or I used hemp or almond milk. In my cream cheese dips and cookies I used a non-dairy cream cheese, and if regular cheese was consumed it was made from goat-milk or was of the vegan cheese variety. For guests who will only eat veggies with ranch, you can make ranch dip with tofu and hemp milk (blended with the spices) or you can just buy dairy-free sour cream to mix spices with.

I made chicken n dumplings one night for visiting family using veggie protein patties instead of chicken. My meat-eating guests couldn't tell a difference. I followed the recipe straight from the Betty Crocker cookbook, making exceptions when necessary. For Christmas day we had a curried chickpea stew, quinoa salad, oatmeal bread and homemade hummus. Did we miss having meat?

Not even a little.

One day we made these little tofu cuties. It's basically pressed tofu cut into shapes, dipped in batter (which was made with ground up cheerios) and baked in the oven.

I guess my point is, it's tough to visit other people's homes and eat consistent with your values when so much of what is served during this time of year is made with some sort of animal product. Having recently become lactose intolerant I'm learning daily how incredibly hard it is to avoid lactose in this country. And I'm consistently shocked at how dependent our country is on products that specifically come from cows: milk, cream, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, ranch dip - just about every recipe I picked up called for some version of it. It's out of control and so unnecessary - and so not good for us. I hope next year, and throughout 2012, you'll consider at least replacing some of your baking ingredients with items that are cruelty-free. It's really not hard. Initially it might take a little extra effort, and yes, you do have to get used to things tasting at least somewhat different, and maybe having different textures, but I can promise you the pigs, turkeys, chickens, and cows - especially the dairy cows - greatly appreciate your efforts.
Be wrong in all the right ways...

Happy Holidays!

Recycling Eggshells

I love my hens. They are sweet, hard-working, hysterical (and chatty!) ladies. Heck, even the deer find them curious.

And they produce for us the most beautiful and delicious eggs. It's hard to crack them open some days I love looking at them so much. I'm so thankful to the ladies for all their hard work making them (though, let's face it, they're quite spoiled in return). And nothing is wasted. We return their calcium back to them.

Here's how.

First, little mama lays an egg.

Well, I suppose technically it starts here.

But eventually we get to here.

Which brings us back to here.

and here.

And eventually to here.

See, I keep all those beautiful eggshells. I rinse them out and collect them till I have enough to fill a pretty Pyrex. Then I put them into the oven at a low temp and bake them for about 20 minutes.

And then I crush them.

This is very therapeutic, by the way. You should try it. No, really. Try it.

You crush them and mash them and smush them until all the grumpy energy that has collected in your body over the week dissolves (or until the shells are reduced to tiny little bits, whichever comes first).

Then you feed them back to the sweet hens. And the circle of life is complete.

Actually, I add about a mason jar full to their feed every few months or so (instead of paying money for oyster shells - calcium is calcium, and I kinda like the free recycled kind) (jar on the left).

The jar on the right is also egg shells. These I run through the coffee grinder (pffft, who needs to grind coffee beans, anyway?) until they are in powder form. Sorta like bonemeal. Bonemeal is also expensive to buy. This is a very cheap way to make it yourself. It's pure calcium, but without all that unnecessary phosphorus. I use it for the homemade cat food I make our cats. Something I've been making off and on for about 15 years. The recipe calls for bonemeal and suggests making it yourself with ground up eggshells. Hey, I have eggshells! You can even use it for yourself as a calcium supplement. Or you can sprinkle it around your tomato plants. They love eggshells, too. Yes, it's an extra step that needs to be done every few weeks. It takes a whole half hour of my time. Somehow I don't find I'm too busy. It's not always fun, and yes, there's always something else I could be doing. But it's a rewarding process all the same. And it's rewarding to have less things to buy from the store - and less to throw in a landfill.

Take the time. It's worth it.

You can read more about re-purposing eggshells here and here.

The catfood recipe I use comes from Dr. Pitcairn's book: Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. You can also google dogs (or cats) + eggshells to find out more.

Happy Eggshell Recycling!


And RIP to Sally, our green egg-laying Ameraucana who past away last week. You may have looked like a crazy tiny dinosaur but you had a big heart and made us laugh, and your flock-mate, Lily, misses you (as do the humans who were lucky enough to be a part of your world). See you on the other side, sweet chicken.

To Be Grandly Related

In the streets and in society I am almost invariably
cheap and dissipated, my life is unspeakably mean.
No amount of gold or respectability would in the least
redeem it. But alone in the distant woods or fields,
in unpretending sprout-lands or pastures tracked by rabbits,
even in a bleak and, to most, cheerless day, like this,
when a villager would be thinking of his inn,
I come to myself. I once more feel myself grandly related,
and that cold and solitude are friends of mine.
I suppose that this value, in my case, is equivalent
to what others get by churchgoing and prayer.
I come home to my solitary woodland walk as the homesick go home.
I thus dispose of the superfluous and see things as they are,
grand and beautiful. ~ Thoreau

Homemade Laundry Soap

Yep. Homemade Laundry Soap. I'm pretty sure that vaults me right up to the top of the freak-zone (and here I thought not eating cheese would be the topper). Actually, I think the lack of cheese in my diet was trumped by my decision to abstain from shampoo, based on the reactions I've had. Some have actually reached over and touched my hair after hearing my no 'poo determine if my hair was, what? normal? (gimme a break).

It's time to wake up and smell the chemicals, people.

And don't even get me started on cheese...

So, laundry soap. OK, I did the most research on this because it seems to me this is a fairly important product in our households. Also, one of my goals was, as usual, simplicity. I wanted to be able to argue against walking into a store and buying an organic healthy irritation free laundry soap vs making one myself. Meaning, there's no beating walking in and buying. That's pretty simple stuff. So I was on the hunt for something EASY. Manageable. Doable. Realistic. And cheap.

What I discovered in this search was essentially the same basic recipe, with about 210,587 different versions. And at the end of the day you can't beat walking in and buying in terms of simplicity. You're still going to have to walk in somewhere and buy these basic ingredients, and you're still going to have to take the 10-30 minutes involved in mixing it up. However, you will save money, you will have to walk in and buy less, you get to tweak it how you want, make it smell how you want, and have less crazy chemicals absorbing into your skin (and into your kiddos). AND you get hippie-chick, freak-zone credit for making it yourself. So there. And for about 3 pennies a load...BEAT THAT!

So here's the basic recipe (from The Naturally Clean Home book - in addition to about 24,000 different blogs I found):

Basic Laundry Soap Powder
1 cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda (which can be scented with essential oils)
1 cup soap flakes or finely grated bar soap (1 bar made about 2 cups grated)

Blend all ingredients and store in a heavy container, such as a large plastic tub, or a pretty glass jar. Use about 2 tablespoons per average laundry load.

OK, so the tricky parts: soap flakes. I couldn't find soap flakes. Hobby Lobby might be the place to look. Or online. I didn't want to have to grate my own soaps, but after giving this some thought I decided I kinda like the idea. This way I can pick my own soaps, making sure they are pure and smell the way I want. Don't use oily soaps, BTW, such as Dove (which also contains tallow). From what I've read, oily moisturizing soaps don't work well for laundry. I use Dr. Bronner's castille bar soap. Sometimes I use Ivory when I'm in a pinch. I've even used homemade soap made from goat's milk. Anything that's pure will work fine. Personally, we don't buy soaps (or any products) with tallow in them (tallow is made from ground up animals: cows, dogs, cats, lambs, and sheep - super ick - so for this reason also stay away from the Fels Naptha soap - which contains pig fat). Otherwise, experiment and try a variety! That's what's exciting (yes, exciting!) you can pick something different each time. And yes, you can use your kitchen grater.

*Note: if you only wash in cold water (I do) then you want to use the fine side of the grater, or after mixing all the ingredients together you can throw it all in the food processor for a few seconds to get the soap flakes even smaller. The point being that in cold water the soap may not break down as it would in warm or hot water. I think it depends on the soap, as well. I haven't had this problem but have read it from others so thought I'd mention it.

I've read, too, that it's a good idea to make a huge ginormous batch that will last a while. Say, 6 months. It stores well. So spend an afternoon grating soap bars, or better yet, pay your kids to spend an afternoon grating bar soaps, then mix up a bit ol bucket o' laundry powder and cross that sucker off your grocery list!

Oh, and I found the washing soda with the other laundry powders at our local grocery store. And that's also where I found the Borax.

For a Natural Homemade Fabric Softener: 2 cups white vinegar + 10 drops of essential oil (again, choose your favorite smell...I used a lemon/orange combo). Add 1/4 -1/2 cup to the rinse cycle. Viola! - softness and smell-good-ness. In fact, repurpose an old large vinegar jar to mix this up in and just pour a bit in when you need it.

My only problem with the vinegar rinse so far has been remembering to catch the rinse cycle. But living in San Antonio, with our hard water, this vinegar rinse is necessary, really does work, and is much appreciated. Don't even get me started on dryer sheets. Ick.

Here's the Liquid Laundry Soap recipe that's in the book. I had a hard time finding one online that didn't involve boiling soap or water first. That just shuts me down quick. I haven't tried this one because the powder version seems the most cost-effective, but this one looks doable.

Basic Liquid Laundry Soap
1 oz liquid castille soap (Dr. Bronner's is my pick)
2 T glycerin
1 cup washing soda
1 cup baking soda
2 cups warm water
10 drops essential oil

Combine all ingredients in heavy container. Mix well. Use 2 T per load.

And for those of us here with hard water. This is the laundry soap powder I've been using for about two years now.

Hard Water Laundry Powder
1 cup soap flakes (grated soap)
1 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax

Combine. Mix. Etc, Etc.
(and use the vinegar rinse!)

Whew! See? Exciting!

More info here. And more tips and recipes here.

and dishwashing liquid recipes here

(you'll learn a lot by reading the reader's comments on all these pages).

Happy Soap Making!

November Reading

So here are a few of our library books from November...for the monkeys: Robin Hood, Canterbury Tales, Crusaders, and Animals and Art Activities (you can see some of our arty facts projects here). For their monkey mama: Eco's History of Beauty, and a book about Celebrating the Great Mother (Earth-Honoring), which was actually kinda interesting. Eco's History of Beauty was probably also interesting but I couldn't get into it. My mind is off in lala-land these days and it read too much like a textbook. It was painful just to turn the pages. So I stopped. I think on page 4. 

In this stack, well, you can see I had high hopes for myself in terms of fiction. I have to be in the mood for certain genres, at least these days. Historical fiction I adore and hope to even write a little of that myself some day, but random fiction, not so much. It's not a matter of liking it - I don't know, I think it's more of a patience/time issue. Let's just go with that for now.

The monkeys and I started reading the The Black Stallion together. So far so good. We got about half way thru Winnie the Pooh before quitting...I couldn't take the begging any more ("Pleeeeease stop reading Winnie the Pooh to us! Oh, have mercy on our souls, Great Mother")...dude, it's Pooh...oh, whatever.

I did manage to finish Donald Miller's book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. About half way I asked myself why I was reading it, but something compelled me to continue. It didn't rock my world but some of his philosophical rants ended up resonating with me. In fact, while I wouldn't call it shelf-worthy, I would say I actually kinda liked it and needed to read it at this particular time in life. 

I also stumbled thru Gilbert's book: The Last American Man. Interesting dude. Awful biography. Actually, you could probably switch those adjectives and it would still be accurate. Meh. I mean seriously, this Last American Man has his own Facebook page. Irony? Hypocrisy?

Quantum Psychology was fun and clever and way over my head. Still working on Deconstructing Jesus, and Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark. The others I simply returned. They actually look like interesting books (The Dovekeepers and The Lady of the Rivers). Maybe I'll try them again after the holidays - unless someone can convince me otherwise.

The last few on the bottom relate to where we are now with our history studies (we've traveled east a bit): Marco Polo, Genghis Khan, Liang and the Magic Paintbrush (another lovely Demi book), Fa Mulan: The Story of a Woman Warrior, and The Paper Dragon

After Christmas we head back to England for a brief study of The Plague. I know, exciting isn't it?

We're also planning to detour a bit into medieval herbs and medicine at some point so I've been researching this topic lately...which has led me to this (a recommendation I found in the Great Mother book): Common Weeds: A Coloring Book, and this: Medicinal Plants Coloring Book, and this: Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game (a recommendation from this most interesting dude: Merriwether's Foraging Texas, who I had the privilege to meet at the Texas Renaissance Festival this year - thru fellow homeschoolers and friends). I'm mentioning these now because (warning: nerd alert) I think they might make swell holiday gifts (you were warned).

I'm sure my kids will disagree, but well, adversity creates character, eh?

Happy Reading!