Friday, January 23, 2015

Why Replacing Facebook with Failbook Needs to Be a Thing

I joined this mom/woman/church group a while back. It meets twice a month. There's free food and childcare (translation: worth my time). At our most recent meeting, another mom spoke up about Facebook posts and it went something like this:

"Does everyone really need to know about every single milestone your baby reaches? I mean, I feel like every time I go on, my news feed is filled with achievements, like this baby rolled over, this one said another word, this one can read a dictionary. Moms of older kids, has this gotten worse over the past few years? I feel like it's getting worse! Is it getting worse? What is going on?"

Now this particular mom is one of my favorites. She is the sweetest, most articulate little thing this world's ever seen. Coming from her, this was somewhat of an outburst. I'd never heard her sound irritated. My heart ached for her. I knew what she was feeling.

She'd been sucked into the Facebook pit of doom.

We've all been there. Annoyed, irritated, and feeling like deactivating our accounts...tired of people and posts and pictures. On the surface, we say it's because we're just "tired of seeing it!"...but why are we truly tired of seeing anything our supposed "friends" post? What is it that's really driving us nuts and making us want to block people? Sometimes it's because friends and family don't always share our belief system (I can name at least 3 people who continually make me scream "MORON!" at the top of my lungs).

But I don't think my mom friend was talking about that. She wasn't bothered by the beliefs of the other moms. She wasn't saying they were idiots for hitting milestones. No, she was bothered by the perceived boasting....the in-your-face attitude....the "look at me, look at me" behavior.

I've come to the conclusion that Facebook can absolutely break down self-esteem and turn perfectly normal people like me into stalkers. I'd say 50-60% of the time, I leave my Facebook page feeling awful.

Whoa, how is she still so skinny?!
Alright who is this hooker my ex is dating...
Um, crazy that they can afford that?

And to take it one step further, when you're in charge of directing and guiding and creating another person, the potential for Facebook damage is taken to a whole new level. Yes, I'm suggesting Facebook harm can be even more daunting, even darker, even more harmful for those trying to raise little people.

Her kid willingly eats vegetables?
Huh. I wish my husband would do that with our kids.
Another family vacation??

Now this topic has been beaten to death by bloggers all over the country. Stop comparing yourself to others - the New Years resolution for millions of us. But how many of us actually do anything about these feelings? How many of us willingly put ourselves out there, flaws and all, and let people see the reality of our lives? Is it really all that gross? Is it really all that terrible? Would it really hurt to only keep people in our life who accept us, crazy faces, misbehaving kids, and all? Could we potentially change the face of social media comparison by posting less pictures of perfection...and more pictures of imperfection?

Yep. That is exactly what I'm suggesting. Instead of posting only the good, the beautiful, and the perfect, let's flip the switch and post our epic fails, our uggo moments, and the imperfection that encases every one of our lives. I'm not saying no pretty pics, or successes, or fun times.....but how 'bout less Photoshop, more insane face pictures? I think there's a thing called Snapchat for that.....but why only a few seconds of funny? How about saving that moment for all time? How about making someone laugh? How about making ourselves laugh?

If you scroll through the contacts on my phone you'll see all assigned contact pictures are INsane. My girlfriend went running and was hit on by some dude so she snapped a picture of herself looking all sweaty and said, "Really?" Bam. It's now her contact picture. I think she looked gorgeous. My buddy used one of those crazy photo editors to make his nose abnormally long and freaky looking. BAM. His contact picture. He is totally handsome, partially because he can make me laugh at my saddest moments. My sister sent me a picture of herself in front of a gym mirror, no makeup, making a totally crazy face. Contact picture. My sister, the little kiddo I grew up with, does not need makeup to be one of the most stunning, kindhearted persons on this planet.

Are you catching my drift?

These pictures light up my life. They are the real people I've come to love and know and treasure with all my heart. They are the imperfect, flaw-filled loves of my life. I don't mind seeing professional pics and updates on how great your kid is doing....but when push comes to shove, those moments don't remind me of the reasons why I love you.

I have one Facebook friend who talks about getting her period and dying under a plate of nachos all the time. Another friend purposely closes her eyes in every picture she posts. Hilarious. This is what I'm talkin' about, people. Turn Facebook into Failbook. Believe me, everyone wants to see your mistakes. And no, I'm not talking about those emo, moody posts with some creepy song lyrics and an open-ended phrase that leaves everyone wondering if you're somehow mad at them. I'm talking about real, honest-to-goodness life fails. Reality.

Like when you're doing a rare workout and your little one stacks her ice-cream-lookin' legos next to you and you instantly want to eat them even though you know they are plastic.

And when you buy your daughter sparkle powder and then realize it's a poison pink cloud of shimmer and shame that wont come off your skin and gets literally everywhere.

Or when you try and schedule time to read to your kid but you take so long at the computer that she ends up reading books without you.

These are the real stories of my life. And we all have them. The woes my brave mom friend shared that day during our meeting resonated with everyone in the group. We now have a thread dedicated to posting our fails. Some of them are hilarious. Others are gut-wrenching. All are relatable. Knowing you aren't alone is the best feeling in the world.

And you know what else? You have the power to remove yourself from situations that you feel are non-conducive to positive self-image. I chose to narrow down my friend list dramatically, keeping primarily those people who add value to my feed (I'm still working up the guts to delete all those who add no value....I'm sucha sissy). I also choose to follow bloggers who celebrate imperfection and write about interesting, thought-provoking topics. I am slowly weeding out the "perfect mommy" blogs from my feed and instead dedicating my online reading time to improving myself and my flaws.

Life isn't a one-size-fits-all garment, nor should it be portrayed as such. We are each so unique and so powerful in our own way. We all struggle, even the moms with the perfectly-advanced kids. Who knows, maybe her marriage is in shambles. Maybe her kid can read a novel but still wets the bed. These are the things Facebook doesn't tell us...and we sometimes need to remind ourselves that regardless of how perfect it looks, everyone is struggling. Everyone. So add some comfort to the Facebook feed and toss out your latest fail. I guarantee it will make somebody's day.

Have any of my readers experienced problems with Facebook comparisons (or Pinterest, or Twitter...)? I know I've got some strong souls out there but let me have it - how many of you sign into your social media and feel awful when you're done checking your feeds? Tell me about it in the comments down below. As always, thank you so, so much for reading :)


Friday, January 16, 2015

Is the Crunchy Life Worth It?

The beauty product crunchy life experiment is over, dear readers. I made face wash, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and lotion, and I must admit, I'm a complete convert.

I LOVE making my own crap. I thought I'd be stressed by it....another thing I need to do with my time? But no. No, I actually really enjoy it. I feel good about the ingredients and the product I create. I get a little excited about trying a new recipe. I love hearing from friends who've tried it and found their own success. It is awesome.

But I know what you're thinking. 

Great Jen, glad about your feel-good crunchy feelings...but what about some tangible benefits? 

Has it impacted my health? Have I noticed any significant changes in my bank account? How do I feel physically? Do I sleep better? Do I have more energy? Do the products actually work? What do my doctors think? ANY positive effects other than, "Ooo, goodie, look at me! I'm crunchy!"

Well, in one word, kinda.

Feel Healthier?
I have to admit, aside from feeling mentally calm and more emotionally stable, I feel, physically, much the same. My new toothpaste doesn't make my teeth any cleaner or whiter. It cleans them really well and my mouth tastes and feels great, just like when I used regular toothpaste. My face wash has impacted my skin health - my skin has never been more blemish-free and smooth. My hair bounces between terrible and great. Right now it's having a great moment, but that could change tomorrow. My armpits can't tell the difference. I rarely, if ever, use the lotion.
Basically, I feel pretty much the same. I don't regularly get blood work and I can't test my internal toxicity. I did get that terrible respiratory flu, so take that for what it's worth. I haven't needed to go to the doctor, but then again, I rarely go to the doctor for anything. My weight hasn't changed at all. Basically, I feel, physically, pretty much the same as I did before I tried the crunchy products.

More Money?
I have not seen a significant difference in my bank account. Granted, I have yet to go through one full container of anything I've created yet....I might end up seeing some changes down the road. But right now, no - I am not raking in the dough from making my own products. I haven't felt a difference at all. 
Sleep and Energy?
No difference here. I am not jumping up and down with bountiful amounts of energy and I'm sleeping like I always do...about 7 hours a night, waking up maybe once in the middle of the night, no real problems falling asleep, and I always, always wake up groggy. I have never woken up like the Folgers wife. Ever. 

Do the Products WORK?
Check out the individual posts for more details...but in a nutshell, yes. The products do what they are supposed to do. My toothpaste cleans, my face wash cleanses and softens and controls acne, my deodorant leaves me stink-free, my shampoo cleans my hair, and my lotion moisturizes. They do what they're supposed to - in some cases, they work better than the commercial products I was once using....but in most cases, they work the same. Nothing crazy to note.

What do Doctors Say?
I have only seen one medical professional since starting my experiment...and to be honest, I wasn't even the patient...the patient was my older daughter. She's been using the toothpaste. She saw the dentist. Perfect teeth, needs to floss more. These are the same dental visit results she's always had. No cavities. Same.
So there you have it. If you ask me in terms of tangible, scientific, measurable results, I can honestly tell you I haven't seen much of a difference.

But if you ask me how I feel about it all? How does my heart feel? How happy do these things make me? Is there a difference in my overall life?

Huge. Enormous. Significant uptick in personal satisfaction and emotional well-being. I feel wonderful about it. I feel safe. I feel secure. I feel self-reliant and independent. I feel smart. I feel like I'm doing something good for my kids. I feel like I'm standing up for what I believe in. 
In that regard, the emotional one, commercial products don't stand a chance against the crunchy life. I am hooked. I am actually pumped about growing my own herbs this spring and creating my own infusions for next year's cold and flu season. I feel like I'm teaching myself something I can pass to my own kids, and maybe grandkids. I'm learning new things and feeling wonderful about it. I am not afraid of putting lotion on my kids anymore. 

It's freeing....and all other reasons aside, that feeling of freedom deems the crunchy life absolutely worth it to me. It's worth the time and effort and research to feel this good about the things I put on my body everyday. I may not have lab results and dollar signs to prove it....but I've got a lighter heart, a more knowledge-seeking soul, and a happier spirit. 
So, I hereby conclude Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment, Personal Care Edition. I hope you've enjoyed yourself as much as I have. I will post updates as I continue to tweak recipes and formulas. Thank you so much for learning along with me! 

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment: Homemade Lotion

You may have figured this out already....but I'm a bit of a homebody. One of the main reasons I like winter is because I relish the excuse to stay home.  I like being inside my house, with my family and my animals, doing things, or doing nothing. And as much as I hate to admit it, plans are normally met with a knee-jerk, "panicked" reaction.

It's not that I don't want to see people. I'd just rather do the things my heart tells me I need to take a full hour to sit with my kids without looking at my phone. Or remember what life is like when you scrub away the constant attempts to be the perfect daughter, sister, wife, and friend. Or making time to cook a meal that takes close to 3 hours simply because I've always wanted to. I like these things. I love the freedom of a wide open day. Makes me feel calm. And so for me, winter is perfect.

Snowstorm, sorry, can't hang. Frozen temps, sorry, can't come to your meeting. Power outage, my bad, can't send that email.

Yep, beauty aside, I treasure winter for offering me a break...especially after the holidays. It's like releasing the pressure valve...if only for a few months.

But amid all the bliss of the winter season, there are two things I do not enjoy, two things that really "chap" my ass, if you will....

1. Dry skin
2. Lotion

Funny, isn't it? Try as I may I cannot stand the feeling of lotion. So why would I have a homemade lotion recipe? Well, because the rest of my family is obsessed.

My kiddos use lotion in various forms, from baby lotion, to diaper rash cream, to windburn prevention, and sunburn treatment.

My husband uses lotion every single day to take care of dry, flaky skin on his face and to calm his frequent razor burn.

Both my man and my kids have uber-sensitive skin that is prone to redness and irritation. Winter is what you might call the Skinpocalypse of our home. Despite using a number of lotion brands, strengths, and therapies, they needed something different. And so I thought I'd make 'em their own.

The Procedure
1. Decide your application preference. I was looking for a lotion I could use anywhere - hands, feet, booty, lips, you name it. This is the recipe I ended up working with, courtesy of the Wellness Mama.

  • 1/2 cup olive oil (I buy the California Olive Company olive oil from Target)
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (I use the organic kind from Target)
  • 1/4 cup beeswax (I purchased some pellets from Amazon)
  • 1 teaspoon Vitamin E oil (got mine from Amazon)
  • 2 Tablespoons Shea Butter (another Amazon purchase)
  • **I did NOT add any essential oils to my batch - I wanted it to be fragrance free. It smells like wax! Next time I will add lavender oil!

2. Stick everything into a large mason jar.

3. Put a few inches of water into a saucepan and stick it on the stove over medium-high heat. 

4. Cap your mason jar (not too tight) and stick it in the saucepan. Congratulations, you've just made yourself a makeshift double boiler. 

5. Stir every now and then as everything melts. This took a while for me - the beeswax took to liquefy. 

6. Once everything has melted, pour the jar contents into containers of your choosing. I chose two medium-sized jelly jars. They work awesome. 

This is a creme lotion, not a pump lotion, so keep that in mind. No pumpin', people. You can use this for up to 6 months...if it will last that long in your house!

The Cost
I only did a cost analysis against my husband's most recent lotion brand. The homemade lotion, however, also takes the place of diaper rash cream and cocoa has many uses that are not included in the following breakdown.

Here are the lotions we were using before:

Now the Organix lotion cost $6.29 for 13 ounces, or $0.48 per ounce.

The total for all lotion ingredients is high - $47.64. Break it down further by dividing the price by what the recipe calls for and the ingredients cost $4.59. The recipe makes 8 ounces, so the total cost is $0.57 per ounce, or $0.09 more per ounce. Negligible, but an increase in cost nonetheless.

Health Factors
I checked up on the ingredients of all 3 products shown above. Ready? Here's some highlights from EWG.

  • Fragrance: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
  • DMDM Hydantoin (Formaldehyde Releaser): Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (FORMALDEHYDE), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs)
  • Idopropynyl Butylcarbamate: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
  • Phenoxyethanol: Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards, Use restrictions
  • Triethanolamine: Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (NITROSAMINES-in the presence of nitrosating agents), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
Butt Paste:
  • Fragrance: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
  • Boric Acid: Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
  • PEG-80 Sorbitan Laurate: Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (ETHYLENE OXIDE, 1,4-DIOXANE, ETHYLENE OXIDE, 1,4-DIOXANE), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
Palmer's Cocoa Butter (Fragrance Free):
  • Methylisothiazolinone: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Neurotoxicity, Use restrictions
  • Propylene Glycol: Enhanced skin absorption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
  • Tocopheryl Acetate: Cancer, Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (HYDROQUINONE)
So glad I smothered my pregnant belly and baby's booty with chemicals that are known to cause cancer, allergies, and developmental/endocrine disruption! Mind you, those are just a FEW of the ingredients in each product. Check out the rest if you feel like crying.

What about the side-effects of the ingredients in our handmade lotion?

  • Olive oil: hypoallergenic, shown to protect against sun damage and cancer
  • Coconut oil: helps skin retain moisture, disinfectant/antimicrobial, repairs tissues/cells
  • Beeswax: protects against irritants, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral, smooths skin
  • Vitamin E oil: antioxidant, fights free radicals, protects against cell mutation, moisturizes
  • Shea Butter: moisturizes, heals, aids in treating blemishes, eczema, and burns, anti-inflammatory
My family loves this lotion. I use it on diaper rashes and to protect faces when we need to go outside in the cold. My husband uses it every day and says for the first time ever, his dry skin has cleared up. 

The texture is at first very off-putting, perhaps because I hate lotion to begin is thick, almost waxy. I think it's that beeswax forming the barrier or whatever. Give it a few minutes, though, and your skin absorbs the ingredients. The waxiness does disappear. 

This is a thick, protective lotion, not some wamby-pamby pump bottle filled with watered-down hydrochemicals. Think emu oil, or udder balm...not milky in the least. I get the worst gardeners hands ever so come this spring, I may be using this stuff a whole lot more than I am now. But until then, I will continue putting it on my kiddos bum and packaging it up as a gift for new mommies. This one is a keeper!

Do you have a favorite lotion? Would you consider giving a homemade recipe a try? Why or why not? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below! Thank you so very much for reading :)

And in case you missed the other subjects of my experiment:


Friday, January 2, 2015

Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment: Homemade Toothpaste

I'm very excited to share this particular portion of the experiment with you guys. I love teeth.

Now before I get started, I want to disclose a few things about myself, mainly for the benefit of anyone who might read this post and think "WHAT A QUACK!" I had no idea toothpaste and dental care could ignite such a debate between bloggers and dental professionals and as such, I feel compelled to inform anyone reading this of my experience and qualification level.

1. I am not a dentist, nor do I hold a medical degree of any kind.

2. I was a dental assistant to the best pediatric dentist in the Chicagoland area for many years. I also assisted in general family practice dentistry for a number of years shortly after having my first child. I was required to take classes for assisting, coronal polishing, and sealants, at an accredited community college. I was also mandated to complete yearly refresher courses and as one of the leading providers in his area, my pediatric dentist was constantly implementing new technology and sharing new information with his team.

3. I love teeth, and health, and anything having to do with the human body. I am very open minded and welcome debates, although I must insist they are respectful and considerate. Any assholish comments will be deleted.

All right! So let's move on to the fun stuff :)

We all need to brush our teeth. It's kinda imperative. After finding out Crest embeds plastic in our gums last September, I started to wonder whether or not it was really all that intelligent of me to research the crap out of my food, but blindly purchase my beauty products. Toothpaste was the very first thing I switched out when deciding to take the plunge into the crunchy life experiment. So let's do this.

The Procedure
1. Pick your recipe. My aim was to create something my kids (ages 2 and 8) and husband would like, a very tall order considering each one is inherently picky about tastes and textures. I ended up slightly tweaking a recipe I found online from Wellness MamaLive Simply also has a great recipe.

  • 2 Tablespoons xylitol (this is to sweeten it - be sure to check labels - get the real, 100% birch stuff!)
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil (I get the organic kind from Target. *Bonus* - you can use the jars later!)
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 2 Tablespoons bentonite clay 
  • About 5 drops of peppermint essential oil 

2. Mix all the ingredients up. Wellness Mama gets all fancy and incorporates stuff and uses a food processor and only plastic spoons blah blah blah but I just threw that crap into an old glass honey jar and stirred. I had great consistency without adding water, but they say you can add water if it's too chalky.

Some folks get a little nervous using metal spoons to stir because they say bentonite clay shouldn't come into contact with metal as metal diminishes potency. After reading and reading and reading some more, I've found mixing the clay with stainless steel is perfectly fine - in fact, they use stainless steel instruments to remove the clay from the earth for our consumption. All good. Also, bentonite clay is safe on amalgam (metal) fillings, as these fillings are designed to withstand pretty much everything. Awesome.

3. Store your toothpaste. I bought some travel tubes (first picture, above) made of silicone (less leaching = more good). I wash them out between uses so I don't have some old stuff just sitting in there. One travel-size GoToob will last about 3 weeks if you brush twice a day.

Here's a picture of the mixing jar after I filled up my tubes - I wanted to show you for texture reasons. It's really easy to scoop out...very paste-like consistency.

The Cost
I was using this paste for year and years and years:

The cost of this toothpaste per ounce is $0.51.

My kiddos were using this toothpaste:

The cost of this toothpaste per ounce is $0.83.

I added up the ingredients for our homemade toothpaste, divided by recipe usage, and came out to a price of $0.93 per ounce. So when comparing to my old whitening adult paste, I am paying $0.42 more for my homemade product, and when comparing to my kids' old paste, I am paying $0.10 more per ounce for my homemade product. Paying more any way you slice it.

Health Factors
So here's where it gets messy for me, the dental assistant who was taught fluoride and toothpaste are critical for health. I went on my favorite website, EWG's SkinDeep database, and was pretty shocked to see some hefty charges against my favorite toothpaste.

  • Triclosan: Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (CHLOROFORM, DIOXINS), Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Persistence and bioaccumulation
  • Sodium Fluoride: Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Occupational hazards, Use restrictions
  • Sodium Hydroxide: Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
  • Propylene Glycol: Enhanced skin absorption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions

Wait wait wait....what? Fluoride? The same stuff I would smear on little kids teeth and make them sit with, holding it in their mouth so it could effectively be absorbed?? There are actual studies showing this may not be safe for our bodies? For our developmental progress? Our allergies? Our endocrine systems? As someone who's consistently battled hormone imbalances her entire life, and has two kids I'm just trying to raise right in this world, this makes me furious. I worked with dentists. I believed in what I was doing. The stuff is in our water, for crying out loud. It can't be toxic!

Oh, but it is. Not only is it responsible for causing fluorosis (which I unfortunately suffer from), but it's also shown as having no positive affect on cavity reduction...none. Honestly blew my, the dental professional. We laughed at the parents who refused fluoride. "Irresponsible," we called them. "Easily-frightened women who refuse to look at science." How the tables have turned. Flaws, forgiven indeed.

And our ingredients? Aside from no crazy chemical toxicity, they have the following benefits:

  • Coconut oil: antibacterial, shown to prevent tooth decay, incredible for your immune system
  • Bentonite clay: absorbs toxins, repairs gums, remineralizes teeth
  • Xylitol: protects teeth, kills sticky, cavity-causing bacteria, promotes growth of healthy bacteria
  • Baking soda: eliminates surface stains, whitens teeth
  • Peppermint oil: freshens breath, reduces plaque bacteria, whitens teeth

Of all the products I've tried and experimented with, this one was by far the most widely-accepted by my kids and husband. My entire family loves this stuff. The flavor is very mild - only a hint of mint. When I make it again I am going to add more peppermint oil.

I pay a little more for it. It's a pain in the butt to stuff tubes and clean green dots off my white sink, but I do it all, and will continue to do so, gladly.

I feel duped, maybe more so with this particular product than any others because this was my profession, my expertise. I taught others the right way to do things and those little cuties trusted me, as did their parents. Am I glad I found a toothpaste my whole family can enjoy, toxin-free? You betcha. But what impacts me the heaviest, what gives me more reason to pause, is the possibility that you, the reader, will learn something. This post won't make up for the hundreds of lives I contaminated with my ignorance, but it might make a difference for one of you. Oysters in the ocean and what have by matters to that one.

Overjoyed to have you with me, and as always, thank you so much for reading. Tune in next week to read about homemade lotion - perfect for these cold, dry winter months!

Miss my other Crunchy Life Experiment Posts? No worries. Check them out in the links below.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment: Homemade Deodorant

I'm what you might call a sweat hog. Hate to admit it, truly I do, because I consider myself a "fit" person for the most part.......but lemmie tell you, even the slightest exertion will cause me to sweat as if I am surrounded by a blazing volcano filled with shirtless firemen and 150 people wanting to attend a dinner party at my house.

I sweat. I sweat a lot.

Now most of my adolescence, I was desperately trying to cover up this non-feminine, horrific act of disgusting humanness. I tried multiple different deodorants, each one more flowery than the next, and although I succeeded in not smelling bad, I was consistently that chick with sweat under her arms, soaking through her shirt.

As I got older I continued to change deodorants over and over, cycling back and forth between various brands, thinking each time that eventually, something was going to work. This is my most recent commercial brand.

Funny, it seemed like my skin would "get used" to a certain brand and I would need to change it up to keep my sweat hog nature in check. Regardless of my tricks, my body would always revolt, causing me to second guess my ability to be attractive while simultaneously making it nearly impossible for me to wear any white tops. I rock an A-line Hanes undershirt instead. They are made for men. They absorb sweat great, in case any of you wanted to know. And when they start to turn that inevitable yellow color under the arms, you can just toss 'em away. Gross, but true. My truth.

Now commercial deodorant products, as you'll read below, have variable percentages of chemicals that are not just a little bad, but super bad for the human body. I, of course, had no idea, and still sometimes eye my armpits suspiciously, wondering just how many chemicals they've absorbed over the years. Stinky lil' things.

So between the chemicals and my relative failure with commercial deodorants, I really had nothing to lose with this experiment. Here we go.

The Procedure
There are many, many voices in the Crunchy Life choir and honestly, it was very overwhelming to figure out which recipe to try first. I settled on a deodorant recipe for sensitive skin from Oh Lardy.

5 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp baking soda
6 Tbsp arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp bentonite clay
5-10 drops of essential oil (I used tea tree because it's what I had)

You mix it all up and put it in a jar. No heating necessary.

Now Oh Lardy has this super gorgeous picture of a creamy, delightful looking end product. I don't know where they live, but here in the northern Midwest, my house gets cold in the winter. Coconut oil is solid at colder temps and my end product came out looking like this:

It is absolutely more of a paste than a cream....I would even venture to say this stuff is a little too dry for my liking. It warms up, obviously, the moment you start to apply it to your armpits - especially when you've got sweat hog blast inferno pits like me. It transforms into a delightful, green cream that is easy to wash off your hands. Getting it out of the jar, however, is a little tricky and I often have to dig into it with my nails (***shudder***) to get the product out. Maybe warming it up ahead of time with a hairdryer would help....but we both know I'm not going to unravel that stupid cord each morning for deodorant. You will not see me blowdrying my deodorant. Ever. So flaky paste it is!

The Cost
My old deodorant cost me $3.89 for 2.6 ounces, or $1.50 per ounce.

This recipe made 7 ounces of product. After adding up the cost of the ingredients ($31.78) and dividing by the ratios used in the recipe, my total product cost was $2.78, or $0.40 per ounce. So by making my deodorant myself, I am saving $1.10 per ounce on the crap that's going on my armpits. That, dear ones, is wonderful.

Health Factors
Remember those pesky little toxins I mentioned earlier? Here are some of the major offenders of my last commercial deodorant brand (taken from EWG site):

  • Fragrance: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
  • BHT: Cancer, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
  • Cyclopentasiloxane: Cancer, Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Neurotoxicity, Persistence and bioaccumulation

**Now one chemical EWG mentions, but does not list as a high-risk toxin, is aluminum zirconium. Many people believe this ingredient, with its estrogen-like properties, causes breast cancer. There's also a potential link between Alzheimer's and aluminum, although those studies are much less conclusive (check this article for more info and direct links to the sources of these studies). I dare to hypothesize the reason EWG, a study/research-based organization, does not list this ingredient as high-risk is simply because aluminum zirconium is a difficult element to source. Who's to say the residual aluminum found in the bodies of the deceased didn't come from other sources of absorption (food, water, beer, utensils, etc.)?

The EWG won't post a chemical as "risky" until the studies back up the claim. Not that it really matters. While aluminum might be questionable, the high-risk chemicals they do list hammer the nails into my commercial deodorant's coffin. Sianara schweethaawt.

This stuff is easy to make, but hard to dispense. It is nothing like commercial deodorant. It doesn't "glide on clear"... it more, "clumps on green." If I put too much on it gets very, very clumpy and it goes without saying, this isn't the best recipe to use when you're concerned about how your armpits look. It is, quite literally, green. It looks like your armpits are getting a clay mask treatment or something.

Also, you will sweat. Those chemicals I listed up there? They pinch your sweat glands shut and keep them from excreting what they need to excrete. Apparently my sweat glands are super strong because they've never, ever been squeezed shut by any deodorant, so switching to homemade deodorant was not that of a big difference for me.

But, as usual, although I sweat, I do not stink. Not even after a workout. It took time for me to adjust, though. I stunk for the first few days. But I'm all better now. Stink free, perhaps because I'm slowly detoxifying my body bit by bit? Intewwwesting....

So when all is said and done, I'm right back where I started, minus the chemicals and plus a few extra dollars in my pocket. I'll be sticking with homemade deodorant but will be trying another recipe once I use this stuff up. Going to try and get a better consistency...and also aim for a deodorant I can wear in the summer should I (gosh forbid) want to raise my arms and wave at someone without causing a car wreck.

Anyone out there ever try homemade deodorant? What recipe did you use? If you haven't tried it before, what's stopping you? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below. 

Just in case you missed the other posts in Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment installment:

Check in next week for the king of all homemade crunchy products.....toothpaste!

And as always, thank you so much for reading :)


Friday, December 19, 2014

Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment: Homemade Shampoo

I've got a "thing" for Christmas. Lights and kids and singing....and snow and blankets and conifers and deer tracks. It's all good - all of it - and I look forward to it each year.

But I don't look forward to the dryness. Every year, without fail, I get flaky skin....especially on my head. Now hear me out, this isn't your average dry scalp. No, this is a grease-scalp that also, somehow, flakes. I know. It's gross. I completely concur. 

To combat the grease and itching, I would wash my hair every-other day with a shampoo and conditioner like this:

I switched to some lesser-known brands, then back again, then tried another brand, then another....but it seemed no matter brand, type, or conditioner, I would always end up with dry, brittle ends, flakes, and, much to my dismay, greasiness. 

Now where I live, winter is cold. It's frigid outside. What better way to stay warm than to literally let your hair down? My hair is long and covers my neck all scarf-like. It fits nicely under a hat when I wear it down and it gives me the chance to grow out that semi-permanent ponytail bump I imprint on my hair all summer. 

But between the itching and the flakes, I didn't feel much like letting my hair down.

There had to be a better way, I thought. I'd tried literally hundreds of shampoos and conditioners, but wasn't willing to blow huge amounts of money on either. I even got a boatload of free Wen shampoo from a family member and thought "EUREKA! THIS IS IT!".....until it, too, made my scalp oily and impossibly itchy. 

After a few cycles of trying and failing, flaking and feeling gunky, I decided my scalp was broken. Maybe it was time for a reset.

So I stopped - completely. I stopped shampooing. Stopped conditioning. Stopped putting product in my hair. I stopped. They call it no-poo on all the other blogs....meaning no shampoo.

So let me tell you about my no-poo experience. I used baking soda in the shower three times a week, followed by an apple cider vinegar rinse. Immediately, the itchy scalp stopped. I mean literally overnight, after the first wash, my scalp no longer itched like crazy. It was still greasy, but I'd read this was to be expected for the first few weeks. 

About a month into the process my scalp wasn't as greasy, but the flakes increased. I was starting to get a little irritated (see what I did there) at this point and decided I needed to find a gentler cleansing method that didn't rely on straight baking soda but also didn't depend on expensive organic shampoos and crap. 

I needed a new hair care routine.

The Procedure

There's a couple thousand homemade hair care recipes out there. Let me tell you what went into my decision-making process.

1. I have white hairs peppered among my dark brown hairs. I do not, I repeat, do not, care about these hairs. In fact, I actually really love them and secretly believe each one holds a memory like that creepy whispering tree in Avatar. I get pretty mad when friends offer to pluck them out. One day, I think, I will have a silver mane like the most badass unicorn ever born and I don't want anyone hindering my progress to that destiny. So needless to say, I do not color my hair. 

2. My number one priority was to reduce my cleansing needs while retaining comfort and manageability. 

3. I care very much about the strength of my hair and it's ability to go from pile-on-head to waves-draping-down without a ton of breakage at the crown. I needed something that would inject my hair with a little bit of moisture but also leave it de-greased and shiny.

4. I hate, and I mean hate, tangles. 

So first, the shampoo replacement.

I found this recipe by The Wellness Mama and adjusted it just slightly:
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (I use canned, regular stuff from the bottom shelf of Target)
  • 1/3 cup castile soap (I use peppermint Dr. Bronners)
  • 5 drops of peppermint essential oil (way less than what she recommends - the soap's scent is strong enough)
  • Pinch of baking soda (just cuz I really do love how it makes my scalp feel)
I did NOT add vitamin E (it's optional but I didn't have any, you know, lyin around). I also have not tried adding olive oil yet, but think that would help with some of the dryness.

I mixed up all my ingredients and tossed 'em in a blue clearance-priced hand soap bottle from - you guessed it -  Target. Baddahbing baddahboom. 

I wash my hair on Wednesdays and Sundays, using a very small amount. This shampoo goes suds-to-tha-wall like a mother trucker - very foamy stuff. Also the peppermint castile soap tingles, something I didn't expect, for some reason. Very minty-fresh and so clean-clean.

I use an apple cider vinegar rinse afterwards as a detangler and shine-enhancer. I just pour a couple tablespoons of vinegar into a squirt bottle and fill it up the rest of the way with tap water. Apple cider vinegar truly is an amazing detangler, I had no idea. And while it does smell in the shower, your hair does NOT smell like vinegar afterwards.

I started using a boar-hair brush to help distribute the natural oil in my hair. I brush before I get in the shower, but never afterward while the hair is wet. I also brush in the mornings every-other day or so, when I can remember to do it or want to style it later.....although, let's be honest, my version of styling these days is just wearing my hair down, naked and maybe only slightly curled at the ends. Fancy Jen - lookout!

The Cost
So I'm going to give it to you straight. With the amount of cheap shampoo there is out there, including the Suave Kids brand I let my kids use up until recently, there's no way you're going to spend less making your own shampoo. If you go no-poo, maybe....but if you're using one of those 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner products that cost $1.99 at WalMart, don't expect to pay less for the homemade shampoo ingredients. It won't happen. 

My old shampoo cost $6.69 for 33.8 ounces, or $0.20 per ounce.

My homemade shampoo, with all ingredients added up and divided out according to the recipe, costs $0.99 per ounce - a difference of $0.79 an ounce....which means if I were to buy it like I did the old stuff, it would cost me more than $26 for the same amount of product.


But allow me to walk you through the way I justify this expense in my head....

#1) I use less product with each wash
#2) I wash less
#3) I don't need to buy add-in products (mousse, foam, leave-ins, masks, whatever)

Plus, there's those pesky toxicity levels in commercial products (taken from

Health Factors
  • Propylparaben: Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Miscellaneous, Use restrictions
  • Fragrance: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
  • Octinoxate: Enhanced skin absorption, Biochemical or cellular level changes, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Persistence and bioaccumulation
  • EXT D&C Violet 2: Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Use restrictions
  • Diazolidinyl Urea (Formaldehyde releaser): Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (FORMALDEHYDE), Use restrictions
  • Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), Use restrictions
  • SD Alcohol 40: Enhanced skin absorption, Cancer, Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Contamination concerns (BRUCINE, T-BUTYL ALCOHOL, BRUCINE SULFATE, QUASSIN), Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
And I'm gonna stop there. The list CONTINUES, though, people. It continues and it's scary as hell to think I've exposed my kids to this crap for their entire lives. 

But moving on. Lets' talk about our homemade shampoo ingredients.

Coconut milk: 
  • High levels of calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc
  • High levels of Vitamin C and E
  • High levels of essential fatty acids and antioxidants
  • Moisturizes hair, promotes growth, and can control hair loss
Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap:
  • Vegetable oil-based (no detergents)
  • Certified fair-trade and organic 
  • Ethical sourcing
  • No artificial or petroleum-based additives
  • Biodegradable
Peppermint oil:
  • Reduces hair loss
  • Moisturizes dry scalp
  • Promotes hair growth
I am now down to washing my hair twice a week - unheard of in previous winters. My hair is manageable and shiny, but I do have some residual dandruff. I am hoping to get it cleared up by adding some olive oil to the shampoo blend and mixing up my ratios a little bit.

All in all, I feel better about putting this stuff on my head, on my kids' heads, and on the head of my husband. Although my hair is far from runway-ready, it feels ten times better and I am much more comfortable than I've been in years. I will not go back to conventional shampoos, although I may continue tweaking my homemade recipe and trying new ingredients.

Any of you try homemade shampoo or the no-poo method? How did it work out for you? Why did you stay on it? Why did you quit? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading.

Tune in next week as my experiment continues with homemade deodorant! Yesssssss!

And in case you missed Part 1 of my Crunchy Life Experiment:

Friday, December 12, 2014

Jen's Crunchy Life Experiment: Homemade Face Wash

The very first stop on this all-natural, handcrafted journey is Facetown, pop. a million bumps of terrible.

I've always struggled with my skin. Take a group of uncontrolled hormones and mix them with a gang of pretty mean genes and you've got Jen, the Queen of Breakouts. I've tried everything from antibiotics to birth control to four courses of Accutane (scary, I know) to retinols to peroxides. Nothing, and I mean nothing, ever helped.

In fact, the only thing that ever truly makes a difference with my skin is my green smoothie obesession. I still drink those suckers and lemmie tell ya, they will blast hormonal acne right outta town if you drink them regularly.

But I still need to wash my face, right? Smoothies take care of the inside, but what about the outside? My normal cleansers were leaving me with combo skin - dry around the eyes, hairline, and cheekbones, but oily everywhere else. Like a shiny, flaky little mask of irritation. So naturally (see what I did there??), I decided to start my crunchy life experiment with a homemade face wash. 

I found about ninety-thousand different methods and settled on the oil cleansing method, swiped right from the Wellness Mama. I was intrigued by the science here....oil dissolves oil, yes? Absolutely, totally, 100%, yes. Best part? When you wash with oil you give yourself like a 5 second spa session. Check it out.

The Procedure
Step 1: Figure out what oil combination you want to use. 

I use castor oil and olive oil in a 1:3 ratio, and drop in a little bit of tea tree oil. Olive oil is cool because I can buy it from the same store I buy my groceries. Easy. I use this castor oil from Amazon. 

Castor oil can be drying so you gotta watch your face and adjust fire as necessary. I normally use a 1:3 ratio with castor and olive oil, but decrease the castor a tad when my skin is feeling tight. Different skin types need different oil ratios. Wellness Mama breaks down various oil combinations in this link

*Side Note: I researched olive oil ahead of time because a ton of the popular brands out there are not, in fact, olive oil at all. They're like some vegetable/canola/watered down blend of oil or something. Really disappointing, but hey...this is America's food system here, am I really that surprised? Happy to share that after all my research, I found California Olive Ranch, sold in Jewels, WalMarts, and Targets, is truly, really 100% olive oil. Hurrah!

Step 2: Put your oils in a container. 

I use an old glass honey container with a lid. Mason jars work, too. Use something you can close and pour into the palm of your hand easily. 

To avoid needing any instructions whatsoever, I keep my oil ratio super simple....I stick with tablespoons. So I pour 1 tablespoon of castor oil and 3 tablespoons of olive oil in the jar, and then I put some drops of tea tree in there, and whammo. Those four-ish tablespoons of oil literally last me over two weeks, with washing 1-2 times a you'll see in the next step, you don't need much to get the job done!

Step 3: Using only a quarter-sized amount, gently rub the oil onto your face. 

This is phase one of the spa treatment. Rub in circles, gently, getting all the way to the hairline. Ooooo-saaaaah. Also remember to only use a quarter-sized amount, an element of this method that rocks my socks off. The oil lasts such a long time because I don't need a ton of it to cover my face. 

Step 4: Give your face a mini-steam treatment.

Take a washcloth and stick it under hot water - as hot as you can tolerate with bare hands. Then squeeze out the water, and as fast you can without hurting yourself, tip your head back a little, and put that washcloth right over your face. 

This is, perhaps, the best, most self-indulgent part of my day.

I sit there under that washcloth until my breathing makes the cloth cool down, then I stick it back under the hot water, wring it out, and flip the opposite side over my face. It takes maybe 2 minutes, but it is so, so nice. The tea tree oil smells awesome.

Step 5: Gently wipe off excess oil.

Using the corners of the cloth, gently wipe off excess oil. Be gentle and love on your skin a little. 

My face feels awesome after I wash it. It feels good, clean, happy. Want proof? Well, as scary as this is, here are some lil' pictures of me from this morning, immediately after washing my face. No makeup, no filters, just happy face Jen, acne scars and all. 

The Cost
One of the things I promised to deliver during this experiment was the price of the homemade version versus the store bought version. Not all homemade products are cheaper, as you will find out in the next few weeks. Of course, your cost savings will depend on what products you used/will use, but in my case, homemade face wash a landslide. Let's break it down.

My store-bought skincare routine consisted of these products (and please don't cringe at the eye cream...I got it for free one time and then got hooked.....flaws, forgiven, people, flaws, forgiven):

 Facewash: $5.59

Moisturizer: $8.79

Eye Cream: $40.00

Now if we break that down per ounce of product, we get these numbers:
Face wash: $0.76 per ounce
Moisturizer: $3.52 per ounce
Eye Cream: $80 per ounce (INsane, I know....I know....)

Homemade face wash initial cost:
$12.39 for 16oz of castor oil
$10.99 for 25oz of olive oil
$9.99 for 1oz tea tree oil

So just divide to see how much I paid per ounce...
$0.77 per ounce for castor
$0.44 per ounce for olive
$9.99 per ounce for tea tree

And then factor in the recipe - we're making 4 tablespoons, or 2 ounces, of product here. So using the 1:3 ratio in tablespoons, and with only a few drops of tea tree in a bottle holding 600 drops, the per ounce price is:

$0.59 per ounce

($0.39 for castor, $0.66 for oil, and $0.12 for tea tree, divided by 2)

And the best part? I don't need the eye cream and moisturizer anymore. The areas around my eyes aren't dry, my skin isn't flaky, and contrary to what I expected, I am not breaking out like a madwoman. So really, I am saving $0.17 per ounce on the face wash, but also $3.52 per ounce on moisturizer and $80 an ounce on eye cream. That's a slew of nonexistent ounces right there.

Health Factors
Let's talk toxicity. One of the most attractive elements of homemade beauty products is the safety of the ingredients. My old products didn't do so hot on the Environmental Working Group toxicity scale. Here are some of the most surprising hazards I read about:

Face wash:
  • Fragrance: Ecotoxicology, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Miscellaneous, Organ system toxicity (non-reproductive)
  • Salicylic acid: Enhanced skin absorption, Multiple, additive exposure sources, Irritation (skin, eyes, or lungs), Use restrictions
  • Propylparaben: Developmental/reproductive toxicity, Ecotoxicology, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Miscellaneous, Use restrictions
  • Diazolidinyl Urea (Formaldehyde releaser): Cancer, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Contamination concerns (FORMALDEHYDE), Use restrictions
  • Methylparaben: Biochemical or cellular level changes, Endocrine disruption, Allergies/immunotoxicity, Use restrictions
Eye Cream:
  • Mary Kay won't publish ingredients to their buyers and as such, a lot of "underground" work has been done to figure out what these lotions and potions actually contain. I read a number of interesting things about Mary Kay products, including their heavy use of parabens (check out those parabens listed under my old moisturizer -  they sound fun!). I'm gonna go ahead and conclude Mary Kay is pretty damn awful, despite the pink cars. 
Alternatively, our homemade face wash has some pretty awesome ingredients with some pretty awesome benefits.

Castor oil:
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial
  • Supplies fatty acids for cell membrane repair and health
  • Full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals
Olive oil:
  • Anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, antibacterial
  • Full of antioxidants 
  • Natural exfoliant when mixed with sugar or salt
Tea Tree Oil:
  • Anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal
  • Pain reliever
  • Soothing scent that makes you feel like you're in a spa even though you're in your bathroom holding the door closed with your foot because a small person is inevitably banging down to door and telling you about her poop
Success! This homemade face wash routine absolutely works for me. I love it, love it, love it, and highly suggest it to my fellow SkinSux club members. Maybe after some consistent oil washing, we can change the name of our club to SkinRules? Eh? EHHHH?

Stay tuned - the experiment continues next week with homemade shampoo! And as always, thank you for reading :)