Saturday, July 26, 2014

First Steps to Limiting Chemicals

So in my first ever post on this blog I mentioned that we were limiting chemicals in our home a little bit at a time.  We've been playing around with that idea and considering it for a few years now, but we really got started actually acting on the idea a couple months ago.  It kind of hit us as we were beginning to pick fresh produce grown from our garden. 

God had blessed us with food.  Food we were able to grow and eat at almost no cost.  While we didn't take the necessary steps to have an all organic garden, we at least knew that our food hadn't been covered in pesticides or chemicals.  It hadn't been genetically modified.  It was homegrown and fresh.  I felt totally comfortable eating it fresh from the garden with no need to try and scrub the chemical contaminates off.  I began to think about things differently.

As we were driving home from church one Sunday a couple months ago, we were listening to NPR.  They were doing an interview with a variety of people about the different chemicals found in the products we use on our bodies each day.  It was scary.  Am I really using that many things I can't pronounce?  I looked at my variety of bottles and the answer was astounding.  Yes, yes I am putting that on myself.  I've always known the my skin was an organ.  It absorbs everything it comes in contact with.  However when I really began to digest that that means when I slather shampoo, lotion, body wash, acne medicine, and heavy makeup on myself it doesn't just stay on the surface.  It leaches into my body. HOLY COW!

Anyway back to the interview.  The people ranged from those who never ever bathed, one described her smell as one in which people either complimented her "natural" aroma or stayed away, to those who had actual practical solutions to the problem. I had heard about a few of the alternatives already but thought they were jokes.  If you've ever clicked on the "health and beauty" tab on Pinterest you have surely seen something called "No Poo".  It's a trendy name for going without shampoo.  I had never bothered to actually read the things about it, and merely assumed anyone who didn't wash their hair with shampoo was a crazed hippie who must surely not have a real job.  Until I heard this interview, I never thought it was something for me, but what the people had to say about it made sense.  

I immediately began googling as soon as we got home.  The articles I read said that "No Poo-ing" would leave your hair shiny, gorgeous, strong, and chemical free.  The chemicals found in most commercial shampoos are actually quite strong and result in dry hair and scalp - hence the need for expensive creams and conditioners.  The blog posts were a bit more honest.  They said that it would take time, but eventually you would love it, but you had to hang out through the "transition".  They stated that if your hair was used to being washed every single day that you needed to slowly transition into no-pooing or you would seriously hate your life as your head would be just one big giant ball of greasy messy nastiness.  They also said that if you have chemically processed hair this likely isn't something you should try.  Dyed hair doesn't react well to no longer having the strong chemicals that keep it maintained as the chemicals used to dye it leach out the natural oils and dry out the hair even more than the regular shampoos.  

Luckily neither of these conditions applied to me.  I'd already learned that I could not wash my hair daily.  It was much too fragile and thin to stand up to even gentle shampoos, and my scalp was too sensitive and flaky.  I also vowed to never again dye my hair about 3 years ago.  I like my natural color much better than spending a fortune trying to change it and keep it looking nice and non-rooty. (It may be the color of dirty straw, but God thought it was pretty enough to give it to me, so I'll smile and call it "golden".)

So after reading tons of articles and blogs I decided to go for it.  The method I chose to try first was the simplest.  All I needed was 2 applicator bottles (I found mine at Sally Beauty for $2 each, but I've recently found empty condiment bottles at Walmart for just $1 each that will do the same thing.)  I had everything else in my pantry.  Jared and I have both been using it exclusively for at least two months now.

The bottle on the left (clear) is a mixture of baking soda and water. I'm still working on the perfect mix for us but right now I'm using:

1 1/2 T. Baking Soda
8 oz. of water
I apply it directly to my roots, scalp, and the first couple inches of my hair then comb it through using my fingers.  I do this first thing after wetting my hair so that it can sit on my hair for a few minutes while I take care of other shower activities, then I rinse it very thoroughly.  You don't want to leave any on your hair as it does leave a bit of a build up behind if not rinsed well. Make sure you gently shake the bottle before applying.

The bottle on the right is used as a "conditioner/clarifier" for the rest of my hair.

I fill the bottle about halfway (4oz) with apple cider vinegar then finish filling the bottle with water (4oz).

I then apply it to only the length of my hair taking care to avoid my scalp and roots most of the time.  (The only time I apply it to my roots is if I've had any sort of chemical build up, such as hair spray, since the last time I washed my hair.  I'm generally a brush go and kind of girl so this isn't very often.)  I again run my fingers through my hair making sure to coat the strands evenly and let it sit while I finish the rest of my shower and then rinse well.

I'm not gonna lie, while in the shower it does smell like vinegar, and even once I'm out of the shower my hair has a faint, but not unpleasant smell of it as well.  However, once my hair dries (I no longer use my hair dryer unless it's a hair emergency) it has no smell at all.  

So our results:

Our dandruff/dry scalp isn't gone, but it's SOOO much better.  No need for gory details of the before, but in comparison it's totally manageable.  My hair isn't thicker, longer, and more gorgeous as some the misleading articles would claim.  I didn't become a super model overnight and gain hair extensions, but after just the first use my hair was much softer.  It's stayed that way too. It's softer and healthier looking.  Even though my hair wasn't as used to as many chemicals as most women's, I did have about a week of extra oily hair as my hair got used to it.  My scalp had to readjust to not having the onslaught of the chemicals found in my previous hair products, and now that it's adjusted my hair is softer and less oily.  I can go longer without washing my hair (about 3 days, or 4 if I use a spray dry shampoo on the 4th) and it has more body.  It's still not going to hold a curl or do anything super fantastic on it's own, but it's not sad and straw-like anymore.  

Jared says he hasn't noticed a huge difference with his hair, just his scalp, but he's definitely won over with the price difference.  We never spent a huge amount on shampoo.  Usually about $6 for a good size bottle every couple of months, but now it literally costs us pennies each month.  I know that it doesn't seem like a huge deal saving about $3 each month, but that adds up to about $36 a year or $360 every 10 years.  Still not a huge amount for us, but if you are someone who is used to washing your hair daily with nicer shampoo this could end up being a huge cost saving measure.  We are also using other home made products now that are adding to our cost savings gradually, but those are posts for another day.  So far I've swapped almost all my acne/skin care, shampoo, body wash, dish detergent, and even our all purpose cleaners have been supplemented to limit the use of chemicals.  I'm looking into more things to swap out as we run out of the products we have been using.  For us it isn't just about saving money.  It's also about living a simpler life in a world that has become too harsh.  It's about living a life that matters.

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