Soaps, Oils & Sophia Loren

Soaps, Oils & Sophia Loren

In recent months we’ve been hearing a lot about safety issues with body care products. We’ve been told to avoid products with ethylene oxide which generates 1.4 dioxane during use. We’ve heard that parabens including methylparaben and polyparaben have been discovered in breast cancer tumors. We’ve been told to avoid any ingredients that end in "eth" (like myreth, oleth, etc.) as well as PEG’s, polyethylene, polyethylene glycol and sulfates. We’ve been hearing about how widely respected body care manufacturers are labeling their products as "organic" when only a small fraction of the ingredients of a product are actually certified "organic."

This is important, because science is also showing us that our skin is not nearly as impermeable as it was once thought to be. Our skin is more like a semi-porous membrane, taking into our bodies a great deal of the products we apply to our skin.

All this has led me to change my skin care practices. I’ve been slowly changing over to skin care that is less damaging to the environment and, more importantly for me, healthier in general. It also turns out that the way I’m treating my skin now works better! I’ve gone from buying body care products from companies that I trusted, to carefully reading the ingredient labels on everything I put on my skin, in my mouth and on my hair, to using very few skin and body care products and instead using stuff on my skin that I might also eat. My basket of personal care products now mostly consists of bottles of oils and soaps that are also in my kitchen!

As many of you know this path of change started with my hair. "Nottawasiipi and Retro Tech" describes my concern for our river and my personal quest to damage it less. I’m still using the Retro Tech approach and the results are still great. My success with my hair encouraged me to do more thinking "outside the box." Maybe that should be "outside the bottle" or "outside the tube."

My second adventure was with my teeth. I was frustrated while shopping at the health food store when I couldn’t find a toothpaste that didn’t contain some ingredient I was trying to avoid. A friend told me about a website that sold tooth soap and offered to let me try some of hers. The idea was pretty disgusting at first, because I still remember having my mouth washed out with the stuff at the age of 4. No, I won’t tell you what came out of my mouth before the soap went in. Just know that my mom thought it was bad enough to require drastic measures.

I went to the website and looked at the tooth soap ingredients, just out of curiosity. I read a whole lot of positive testimonials on the site too. Nobody mentioned terrible taste, so that gave me some courage. The ingredients in the tooth soap were all things I had on hand, so I decided to mix up a small amount and try it. I used a 1 oz. glass dropper bottle, put in about 1/8th of the bottle volume as unscented pure castile liquid soap, filled it up with water and added three drops of a high quality orange essential oil. Then I put three drops on my toothbrush, braced myself and tried it.

It wasn’t bad. It didn’t taste at all like my experience as a 4 year old. It felt refreshing and my teeth and mouth felt clean afterward. So I used it again. And again. One worry I had in trying this approach to dental hygiene was the sensitivity of my teeth. I’ve been using a toothpaste for sensitive teeth for over 10 years as a way to reduce this painful condition and I expected the sensitivity to get worse without the special toothpaste. Actually, the results were just the opposite. My teeth have grown less sensitive over the months I’ve been using my own dentifrice! A dear friend who was trained as a dental hygienist explained that the concoction I’m using actually promotes a healthy mouth environment that allows teeth to heal as they naturally can. She said that with the right (real) foods and this good tooth care regimen I can expect my teeth to get healthier. Amazing!

My third adventure with body care products was with my skin toner. I like to use something to balance my skin’s pH before I apply moisturizer and I didn’t like the ingredients in most of the skin toners I found. The best ones had good stuff like green tea and witch hazel in them, so I decided to experiment at home. I brewed up a batch of nice strong green tea, then added witch hazel one drop at a time until the pH (according to the test strips I had) was 5.5 like the pH advertised on the commercially produced toners. I put that into a spray bottle and tried it. It was great! I now mix it up one cup at a time, keep it handy in a little spray bottle and store the rest in the ‘fridge. I toss it out and make a new batch if it starts to look cloudy. We’ve all heard about how good green tea is for us, and now I get it through my skin.

My most wonderful adventure in healthy body care started with a tip from Sophia Loren. She obviously knows a few things about beauty, so I take her advice seriously. I read in a magazine that her best beauty tip is to turn her shower into a hot oil treatment for her skin. Yes! She said that before she steps into the shower she coats her entire body (except for the few places that actually need soap) with organic olive oil and gets the water comfortably hot. Then she stands under the spray and lets her skin warm and the olive oil soak in. She washes only the places that need it with soap. I tried that the day after I read about it and it is wonderful! I used that method all last winter and my skin never got the winter "itchies" or flakes of dry skin. I didn’t need any other body moisturizer and my skin feels wonderful. I now often use virgin organic coconut oil instead of the olive oil since coconut oil is particularly good for me. Coconut oil has antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties so it can be helpful for a variety of skin problems as well as provide lush moisturizing.

Last summer I took this a little further but not by conscious choice. I was preparing to spend 3 weeks at our family camp in the wilderness, an experience I treasure with all my heart. Getting there involves a day of car travel and a day of boat travel. I stayed at a lovely bed and breakfast after the car trip and then re-packed my things as I prepared to leave my car behind on the mainland. Somehow my travel case of skin care stuff didn’t make it into my pack for the journey across the water. I discovered this as I was boarding the second boat for the last leg of my journey and my face cream, etc. was a 3 hour boat ride away! I realized I’d need to make do with what I could figure out for substitutes. A swift and gracious helper ran to the little general store in the harbor and picked up a toothbrush for me as we loaded gear on the boat. I knew it was likely that there was a bar of castile soap in camp, which I figured I could use as shampoo, soap and "toothpaste" since my adventure with tooth soap had been so successful. When I got to camp I poured a bit of olive oil from our camp kitchen into a little jar to use as a moisturizer. For those three weeks I shampooed with that bar of soap and the soft lake water, brushed my teeth with a tiny bit of the bar applied to my toothbrush and used the olive oil on my skin morning and night. I also applied a minute amount of olive oil to my hands and rubbed it into the ends of my hair if they felt dry.

I’m sure that the fresh air, good water, physical activity and wonderful experiences I had in that place helped too, but when I came back to the city several people said "You look wonderful!" My skin and hair felt great and all was very well. At first I thought of it as good luck despite my lack of the usual skin cream. Then I realized that it could very well be good skin because of the new/old way I had been caring for it. Even the Finnish woman I consult for skin care, who also knows a few things about beauty, said my skin was in great shape and acknowledged that olive oil is a very good moisturizer. Since then I mostly use olive oil on my skin. If it feels too oily I’ll pat my face with a towel or bandanna to remove the excess oil before going out, but it usually sinks in quickly, just leaving a nice glow. Now it’s winter and my skin is still happy!

My goal is to nourish my body well so that I will continue to enjoy life for a long time to come. It turns out that I can actually nourish my skin, the largest organ of the body, by applying good healthy real food oils to it. In the years I have been eating those fats and oils I’ve watched my skin health constantly improve. Now I’m watching that improvement continue as I use those good things on the outside. I no longer worry about reading the labels on my skin care products and trying to remember all the stuff I want to avoid. I just point my shopping cart to the cooking oil section, keep a supply of unscented liquid castile soap around and make sure I have green tea and witch hazel on hand. It’s much easier and it costs a lot less.

I’ve heard that the best beauty asset anyone can have is a smile. The good ways I’ve found to nourish my skin, teeth and hair with healthy, real oils and soaps help with that part of my beauty routine too.

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