SOAP STORY PART II | HYGIENE PRODCUT UPGRADE
Amanda here following up on my most recent endeavor to better attend to my skin's microbiome. I shared with you last month that where I saw room for improvement in my holistic health game was in cleaning up and greening up my soap and deodorant use. In the last 10 years I've made my own toothpaste out of baking soda, mouthwash out of coconut oil, hairspray out of lemon juice, and face scrub out of coffee. I share this because dropping commercial soap and deodorant use may seem drastic and sudden to most, but the reality is that if you were to truly step into my world, you would know that it has taken a lifetime of learning to make these transitions. AND the transitions I make actually occur at a MUCH slower rate than what they appear to be from the outside looking in.
Not many of us have the budget (or the heart) to toss out every single hygiene and beauty product we have come to know and depend on in exchange for maybe bettering our health. And when you don't fully understand the connection between action and outcome, why bother? So lemmebreakitdownforya. One, the ingredients in most commercial hygiene and beauty products sold in stores are super whack and HAVE been shown to negatively impact our health in more ways than one. Two, get outside and realize what's basic (and I don't mean taking a selfie with a pumpkin spice latte kinda basic). For me, the more time I spend in nature, the more I want to be authentic, real, and raw. The layers of civilization and society's expectations naturally peel themselves away. So, for a moment take yourself out of the context of the modern world and consider where you may have gotten your belief system on living such a sterile life.
Nature often influences the way I think, move and feel and thus informs how I view healing and health. Any lifestyle choice I make usually considers, "how would I naturally interact with the world without the conveniences of modern living?" I'm so happy that this concept has turned into a movement known as "rewilding." Rewilding means: "restoring ancestral ways of living that create greater health and well-being for humans and the ecosystems that we belong to. Many things inspire people to rewild: ecological collapse, economic uncertainties, health problems, a sense of something missing from life, or a desire to “save the world.” Rewilding takes inspiration from the most modern interpretations of prehistory provided by anthropology, archaeology, and ethnobiology. It means returning to our senses, returning to ourselves, and coming home to the world we belong to."
On that note, let's talk about why mainstream hygiene products were introduced to us in the first place... to prevent sweat and disguise our odor. One of my favorite rewilders, Daniel Vitalis, points us to numerous studies with evidence that shows that sweat is a good thing. Our body odor is a proven aphrodisiac and has been found to help regulate women's menstrual cycles (when smelling the body odor of a male). In an article he wrote called "A whiff of wildness" (in Dispatch 5 of Rewild Yourself Magazine) he shares sentiments that I could not agree with more...
A lot of people assume I just went cold turkey on soap and deodorant, but let's talk part one of this journey... evaluating all the ingredients that I allow to penetrate my skin. Hormone-disrupting, documented cancer-causing ingredients? I'M GOOD. If you want to become an ingredient-conscious consumer, do yourself a SOLID favor and download the Think Dirty App. Then, go into your bathroom, go on a barcode scanning frenzy and decide for yourself what potentially toxic products you're willing to let go of. Educating yourself is empowering, so while you're at it read over this Top 10 list of ingredients your skin can live without.
Daily exposure to less than ideal ingredients from our skin care products disrupts the skin's microbiome, which impact the 3 layers that make up our skin:
- Stratum corneum
- Acid mantle
- Lipid layer
Nadine Artemis is a botanical genius and suggests these 3 steps to help heal the skin after years of disrupting it with a modern skin care regime: ... stop, seal, and seed.
- Stop: using products with harsh chemicals (Using face products potent enough to bleach your towels? Take a moment to reconsider)
- Seal: the skin's surface by opting for microbiome friendly products. Also, realize there's a powerful gut-skin connection. Heal and seal the gut by improving the quality of what you eat and drink. Plenty of greens, lots of healthy fats (internal oilation), and fresh spring water are all go-to's for me.
- Seed: re-seed the colon with probiotics and pre-biotics. Better colon health = better skin health. When you're not eliminating on a regular basis your skin becomes congested trying to eliminate what the colon can't. Also, liver congestion and a sluggish lymphatic system can be reflected in different skin ailments.
PURE PRODUCTS THAT UPGRADE YOUR SKIN + OPTIMIZE YOUR HEALTH
- Soap: According to Nadine, washing the with pure pressed plant oils is an ancient way to cleanse and gently exfoliate the skin. On a typical day for me, before I shower, I do my Ayurvedic self-massage (abhyanga) with plain ol' organic coconut oil, and if I'm feeling fancy, I'll use one of banyan herbal infused oils or living libation's the best skin ever. Afterwards, when I step into the shower, I do a quick rinse, as advised by Dr.Jay. Once a week or so, I'll indulge in an exfoliating scrub... sometimes it's as simple as organic coffee grounds, DIY ayurvedic bath powders, and other days it's as luxurious as this. When needed, I like these ayurvedic soap bars that utilize organic and high quality ingredients. I'm not entirely against soap, it's just that, over time, I've reconsidered my relationship with how much I need it, re-evaluated why I use it, and am better at recognizing certain ingredients that I'd rather not have bioaccumulate in my body or environment (<--yes, fish are eating plastic micro-beads found in personal care products. YIKES). I've also realized that by consistently nourishing my skin with pure oils, there's little to no need for daily, whole-body soap lathering sessions. Even the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recognizes that,
Have I minimized daily, whole-body soap use in the shower? YES. Have I completely eliminated soap from my life? No. I am a healthcare professional, and hand-washing plays a critical role in preventing the spread of infectious disease (ALTHOUGH I FIND THIS INTERESTING...they are currently working on making hospitals LESS sterile because they realize the lack of bacteria in hospital settings is actually making people sicker). I also still use soap to wash my hands when handling food (ALTHOUGH I FIND THIS INTERESTING too...An article describing how when Hadza hunter-gathers (who still live a non-modernized life) eat a (freshly killed) animal, they wash their hands with the animal's gut stuff to introduce the animals bacteria to their body before they consume the animal! Note: After a few years of living in the super sterile modern world, our microbiomes are likely no longer equipped with the diverse bacteria required to handle such a feat)...and I still use soap after I go to the bathroom (MORE INTERESTING RESEARCH...fecal transplants, yep that's a thing, have been used to cure gut infections with 90-100% success).
- Deodorant : None (doing it on non workdays is where I started experimenting and then continued adding deodorant-free days from there ) | Living Libations poetic pits (Pure ingredients. Worth every penny and it lasts much longer than you'd imagine) | Schmidt's (I've only tried the jars and loved it. Their sticks may be good for anyone who's working towards using cleaner ingredients, but, mentally, can't get over not swiping their pits with a stick.)
- Alignment tips for BO: Anywhere you have a concentrated area of lymph nodes you have a built in detoxification system for that area of your body. To activate the lymphatic system you need to MOVE. You have several body purifying lymph nodes in your axilla (armpit). Strong odor coming from your pits can be a sign of an overwhelmed lymph system in this region. Masking that scent with deodorant with microbiome disrupting ingredients isn't doing you any favors besides masking the larger issue at hand: you need to improve lymph flow through this area. Take inventory of your alignment and movement habits in this body region by considering these things: if you work at a computer or desk, how many times in your email-answering, phone-filled day do you lift your arms overhead? How many times a day do you hang from your hands? How much walking a day are you doing and are you aware of what your arm swing is doing? Walking is the best lymphatic boosting movement you can do. Biologically it's thought that at a MINIMUM our bodies need the input of walking (on varied terrain! Yes, those steps around your office are good, but your body needs better that just flat and stiff concrete input) at least 3 miles/day. At our upcoming retreat we'll assess if your arm swing during gait is as lymph boosting, muscle building, shoulder and spine mobilizing as it ought to be. PS in my experience, most people's arm swing is being done in such a way that's more dysfunctional than beneficial to the shoulder girdle.
- Shaving cream: organic coconut oil (mindful of my water consumption and of clogging my pipes with oil, I shave outside the shower. I slather what needs to be shaved with coconut oil and get those areas the slightest bit wet. I run my razor under water, shave, tap razor over trash can, wipe with towel, repeat.) | Zen Shave (adds essential oils into the mix and is great for both men + women)
- Face wash powders: turmeric + chickpea powder mask (DIY. Simple. Effective) | Clay mask (I first experimented with clay masks in my teens and haven't looked back) | Rose Lavender oatmeal scrub + face mask | Evan Healy Ayurvedic face powder
- Face mist: rose water
- Face + body lotion: Shea butter, jojoba oil
- Perfume: essential oils + rose water
- Skin exfoliant + lymph booster: dry brushing | organic coffee grinds
- General shower tips: reduce the water temp to be colder...it's better for your skin than daily showers taken with pipping hot water. The eco-friendly bonus that naturally emerges is that you start shortening your shower times. I love to follow Feather, Eagle, Sky for her stance on reclaiming pureness with your health and beauty products and from her it was reinforced that after time spent in a hot spring or sauna (I apply this wisdom to heated yoga classes as well), take a plunge in cold water to help close up your pores and reinforce your natural defenses. Also consider a shower filter to help filter chlorine and fluoride out which are disruptive to the microbiome.
Stay tuned, Jenn's up next sharing her soap story in part III of this series!