Sunday, March 20, 2011

Salt, Oil, and Nuts: How to Be a Hygienic Hippie Without Resorting to Patchouli

I think it's valid to recognize that our skin is our largest organ, and as such whatever we slather all over it will get absorbed into our body. There's a reason birth control and morphine patches work, after all- the drugs are readily absorbed directly through the skin. With this in mind, in the last year I started thinking that as great as free toiletries from CVS are (I played the coupon game, and got pretty much everything to do with bodily hygiene and makeup for free) the ingredients list isn't that great, plus there is a lot of plastic waste associated with those products. I started my foray into natural replacements for conventional products with deodorant. Mind you, this wasn't something I took lightly, because I really didn't want to be that stinky girl that everyone was too nice to say anything to. I looked into Tom's of Maine, but honestly their products were not that different from Secret or Dove. That's when I found crystal stick deodorant- or, to be more accurate, salt stick deodorant.
The sticker on the top proudly trumpets "No aluminum chlorohydrates! Here's a basic overview of what that means. When it comes to body odor, our underarms smell because of bacteria that live on our skin. That bacteria interacts with and breaks down our sweat. Traditional deodorant has various aluminum compounds that serve as anti-perspirants. In addition, there is usually a fragrance to cover up any smells that may arise should you sweat in spite of the anti-perspirant. Salt stick deodorant however, is just that- a stick of salt. It works by neutralizing the bacteria that cause bad odors. It doesn't serve as an anti-perspirant, but I've never had a problem with excessive sweating so that's fine by me.
Basically you wet the top and swipe it under your arms. Conversely, you can swipe it on your wet underarms when you get out of the shower. Either way, after using give it a quick rinse and then dry it off and you're good. I purchased this for $5 at Sprouts over a year ago, and I have barely used 1/4 of it. I also don't have to worry about it melting in the heat. On very hot summer days I'll go back to my old standby Secret as a just in case precaution, but between the two I haven't purchased deodorant in over a year. The salt stick thing totally had me dubious, but it works, and it's cheap and all natural, so for me it's a great option.

About a year ago, I made a second replacement- I ditched my frou frou, scented Bath and Body works lotion and got myself a jar of coconut oil. 100%, pure, organic oil made from nothing but coconuts.
 I also picked this up at Sprouts, and it was on sale for about $7. It's lasted me (and Bobby, since he uses it too) 4 months so far, and I use it every other day.
For ease of use (and to keep it pure since I also use it for cooking and love it for that purpose as well) I scoop out about 5 spoon fulls and put it in this little blue cup, and then keep it on our bathroom counter. I also use it for lip gloss, and at night I put it around my eyes where my skin can get really dry. In all these uses, it rocks. It goes on pretty greasy, but almost immediately dries. I've also melted this down in the microwave to mix in drops of vanilla for a subtle scent. Speaking of scent, you don't smell strongly of coconuts, at all. Honestly I think we've all become so accustomed to hyper strong, fake coconut smell that we've forgotten how subtle real coconuts smell. I would recommend this to anyone as a far superior product for lips and skin than lotion. Also, it's edible. Wink wink.

I made the third replacement around the same time as the second. I had been looking for an all natural replacement for laundry detergent, to avoid the chemicals as well as the problem of the packaging waste. In my search, I came upon soap nuts. After researching them for some while, I decided to give them a try.
 Back in July, we ordered a one pound bag for $18, which included shipping. We still have a little less than half the bag left over- and we do a lot of laundry. Side note- I was pissed that it came in this bag because it was advertised in a canvas, re-usable bag. Oh well...
 Soap nuts are totally natural- they're just dried out fruit, which contains saponins. You can use them in one of two ways. One, you can put about 7 or 8 in a small canvas bag and toss it in the wash with your laundry. I wash all our clothes in cold, but usually I'll give it a quick burst of hot to release the suds. With this method you can re-use the soap nuts about 3 times. You can check if they're "tapped out" by rubbing the canvas bag under the running water- if it suds up, you know they're got some cleaning left in them.
Alternatively, you can make a liquid detergent by boiling a handful of soap nuts in water for about 15-25  minutes until the saponins have boiled out into the water. This liquid can be used in cold washes as well, eliminating the need for a hot blast of water. The amount suggested to use varies, but I just dump in approximately 1/4 of a cup. I've never had a problem with clothes not being clean, and women who cloth diaper their children rave about the cleaning power of soap nuts.

I like all three of these replacements because they are frugal, they are truly all natural, and they work just as well as- if not better- than their traditional counterparts. Once the last of my free-thanks-to-the-CVS-coupon-game shampoo and conditioner runs out I will be switching to the no 'poo method. You can google no 'poo and find hundreds of hits, but here's a good overview of the general idea. The best part is that coconut oil is also great- in very, very small amounts- as a hair conditioner with this method. I already have all the ingredients on hand, I just need to wait until my shampoo/conditioner cache runs dry.

If you try any of these alternatives- or if you have any questions!- let me know. When I give the no 'poo method a try I'll do a second part to this post. In the meantime, at the very least, go find some coconut oil- it's fantastic and is far superior to any lotion/chapstick I've ever used.


  1. I jumped into the no-poo method first...I've only used "actual" shampoo a few times over the last 5 months (usually I'm already in and realize that I've forgotten to refill the baking soda or vinegar containers and am too hurried to jump out and get more.

    I've had back and forth results with the baking soda/vinegar method. Sometimes greasy, sometimes residue that requires an extra rinse or two...but, my hair dries MUCH faster, there is nearly ZERO buildup on my scalp and I've gotten more complements on my hair. However, I am worried that I'm using more water than with shampoo, because of the extra rinsing required.

    As warm weather comes on I usually have to shampoo every day, I'm concerned about no-pooing too often and so, I'm looking for an "every other time" shampoo and comparing them at nomoredirtylooks and skin deep database.

    I've got coconut oil on my shopping list this week to try out as a replacement to my lotion, but never thought about separating it. *thumps head* Glad to see many uses...even seen recipes for using it with baking soda and cornstarch as deodorant.

    I hope to try out the soap nuts eventually, but have a backlog of detergent to use first. Waste not - want not!

  2. My friends who have tried the no'poo method have said similar things- that you can get different results each time you wash, and that they've had to tinker with it a bit. I currently only wash my hair about 3 times a week (it's down to my waist and very thick and wavy, if I washed it every day or even every other day it would probably snap off like straw, lol).

    I wouldn't worry too much about using more water though- from my perspective, I think using a tad more water is probably still better, in the long run, than shampoo/conditioner (production, plastic, chemicals in them, etc.).

    My only concern about the no'poo is that since my hair is so thick it might be difficult to get the baking soda to my scalp so it can clean my head. I read of a few women using a squirt bottle, so I may just put the baking soda mix into my old shampoo bottle when it's gone..

    And I agree, definitely use up the detergent. We're working our way through lots of random CVS coupon game products, and right now I'm using some terrible tasting Crest toothpaste. I can't WAIT until it's used up so I can go back to Tom's of Maine.

  3. I've also got very thick hair with some waves, although not quite as long (middle of my back). I'm in the deep south and am pretty active so in the warmer months, it's either wash it or look sticky and smell worse! In the cooler months, I'd say I wash it 2-3 times a week as well.

    I just wet my hair and then take the cup where I've combined the baking soda/water mix (I create more of a liquidish sludge than paste) and pour a bit in the middle, then a bit on each side. I first tried it on a weekend, so if it created a problem, I'd have a couple of days to rinse it out.

    I just stumbled on your blog(s) last year (you know link to link to link) and added them to my reader. Great posts/recipes....thanks!

  4. I'll definitely try your sludge method over the paste, I think that will work a lot better! And man do I understand about Southern humidity/heat working a number on your hair. It's like I have different hair in Colorado compared to Texas.

    And you're very welcome! I'm always so glad when people like reading =)

  5. Every time I travel I carry around a small bottle of olive oil. Lotion, chapstick, conditioner, salad dressing, cooking oil, and drawer/hinge/lock greaser all in one! Amazing.

    I applaud your efforts; I hadn't heard of soap nuts before, but might try them. My sweaty self and I are going to have to keep using Secret or leave society completely, unfortunately. But the shampoo idea is interesting.

  6. Live Rich- I've never thought to bring along olive oil, but that's a great tip. And if you try the soap nuts I think you'll like them. They don't really smell like anything, so when your clothes come out they're just kind of neutral.

    And I am VERY sweaty as well- I still slather on the Secret when I'm going out to the club, or going to a social get together in the summer months. No shame in my sweat game, lol ;)

  7. Live Rich- I also found some things around the net about combining the salt stick with some cornstarch, for an anti-perspirant quality. I find in the day to day the salt stick alone works well for me, but I sweat a *lot* when I'm active, so I don't know that I'll be cornstarching my armpits before heading down to the club anytime soon. But other people have raved about it.