Sunday, September 15, 2013

Making our own out of self defense

Before you read this, stop & consider. Once something is learned, it cannot be undone. Proceed at your own risk.

Often when I tell people that I make my own soap, face scrub, & lotion, I get strange looks. “You do what?!” Yep, I make my own. And sometimes shampoo, occasionally toothpaste. Deodorant, cosmetics, & laundry soap are next on the list. The next question is generally “Why?” Because I can’t afford not to.

In 2006 a giant pile of hot, moldy mulch in our driveway took me down. Hard. We had spent an evening spreading it out & moving it into flower beds. The next morning I woke up to eyes so swollen I could barely see. They burned, were tender to the touch, and blistering red. I looked like I had been beat.
The doctor told me it was a reaction to my makeup (idiot), gave me some steroids, and sent me home. Unfortunately that was not the end of it. The allergic reaction to the mold (not makeup, which I had not been wearing) was only the beginning. My body went into hyper attack mode. It started attacking anything that remotely irritated my system. Over the next few weeks I reacted to all sorts of crap. My boss called me “Itchy” & itchy I was. After numerous appointments with various allergists, pollen tests, chemical tests, & building crankiness, the results were in. I was now (or finally at critical mass) allergic to a whole slew of chemicals, a few natural irritants (pollen), and a couple foods.

I was given a list of what I was now allergic to, including all the various name brands of soaps, shampoos, makeup, perfumes, etc. The list is massive. The chemicals I reacted to are in EVERYTHING.

I did some research on the items I showed an allergy to, and to be honest, I don’t want to use those anymore anyway. Did you know that Formaldehyde is a common ingredient in shampoo? Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen & we are bathing in it daily. Eew. Deodorant often has Aluminum & Parabens. Aluminum has been shown to affect the nervous tissue & has been found in the brain plaque of Alzheimer’s patients. Parabens have hormone disrupting effects (they mimic estrogen) & have been found in breast cancer tumors. Our underarm skin is some of the thinnest on our bodies, after the skin around the eyes, making for easy absorption of these chemicals.
Green & blue eye makeup uses ground nickel for coloration. A huge number of people are allergic. Ever get nasty ears after wearing cheap earrings? Yep, nickel. So we put it on our eyes instead. Eep. Baby oil & Petroleum jelly are made out of Petroleum. Yes, I mean oil. Black gold. Refined to clear & sold in the cosmetic aisle. Holy buckets, what are we doing to ourselves?!

My life was changed. Sounds drastic. Try it. Stop using all of your soaps, shampoos, lotions, cosmetics, & perfumes. Put them in a (probably) giant pile, really let it sink in. Then throw them away. Now, take the very short and often expensive list of fragrance free (not unscented – these contain masking scents, I kid you not), no petroleum, no preservative (or natural only), and no artificial dyes products & try to go shopping. How much can you find? I will admit it is easier now than in 2006, when I could only buy a 9 oz bottle of shampoo from the pharmacist for about $15 – 20, but it is still frustrating.

So, I turned to natural care recipe books. I, being the number cruncher that I am, priced everything out to the ounce & compared it to store bought. It actually comes out about even with the stuff priced in the midrange. Not bad.

When I tried my first batch of lotion, it probably took close to an hour & a half. Now, I can make a double batch in 30 minutes or less. I even found that natural scents, aka essential oils, don’t cause reactions & have preservative qualities. Bonus. My homemade adventures have been fun, occasionally messy, once in a while epic fails. The homemade toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride (good because we aren't going to glow), but the homemade toothpaste doesn’t have fluoride (bad because our teeth need it for strength). Tradeoffs to consider. The soap bases often have preservatives I am allergic to. Beware the melt & pour. Shampoo is a challenge in runniness. Still working on that.

Some people may never have reactions. James is probably one of them. But is that better? What is happening inside our bodies as these things build in our systems? I don’t want James to go through the mess I dealt with. Or get sick, or cancer, or dementia. Initially I was dragging him along my journey kicking & screaming. He asked once “why do I have to do this if YOU are the one who is allergic?” But, as I warned above, knowledge is dangerous. He started reading & learning about the ingredients. He started checking labels. And now he is the one finding new, organic products that are safe for us. We will continue to find better products, make our own, or a combination of both for our own safety & sanity.

It isn’t as hard as you might think. Want resources to do your own? Some of my favorites:
Bulk suppliers of herbs & oils (carrier & essential)
Mountain Rose Herbs
Frontier Herbs

My recipe bible
“Earthly Bodies & Heavenly Hair: Natural and Healthy Personal Care for Every Body” by Dina Falconi

Good luck & have fun. Experiment. And know that you are safer.

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