The last thing I want to do with this post – and the website as a whole – is make you think what you’re currently doing is wrong. I don’t know about you, but when someone makes me feel bad about the decisions I make, it makes me want to do them even more.
This makes things a little bit difficult in the health world, because it seems sometimes like my job is to tell people to stop doing things that are bad for them and start doing more things that would benefit their health. It’s usually not that straightforward (I do a lot of educating people about why they’re getting symptoms and what could help), but the fact remains that no one likes having their current behaviours judged in a negative way.
When I was researching whether this was the career for me, I met with a handful of “natural health practitioners” (naturopathic medicine isn’t regulated in NB, so there are people without our education who aren’t legit, telling people that they’re naturopathic doctors). There was one clinic in particular that was particularly memorable because I left it feeling palpably upset.
The owners told me that since I wore deodorant and underwire bras, I was going to get breast cancer. I was pissed. Whether or not it’s true (it’s not), they planted a seed that did nothing to discourage my “misbehavior”. If anything, I rebelled and have since worn deodorant and underwire bras nearly everyday for the last 12 years. Not because I want to get cancer, but because I don’t like being made to feel guilty about my actions (and I like smelling nice and wearing underwire bras).
I’ve found over time that its much more effective to instead encourage people to fill their life with activities that are good for them, essentially making the negative habits fill less of their time. I want all my patients to pick up positive habits that make life simpler, more cost effective, less harmful to the environment and just generally more enjoyable. The trick is to incorporate easy little changes that don’t throw off your whole routine.
Why we should all be kinder to our skin:
– It is our largest organ
– It is our first level of defence and a barrier vs. hurtful substances
– It helps us relieve the body of salt, water and waste – it’s a major detoxifier
– It is porous and permeable, and absorbs much of what gets slathered on it
– It allows us to sense and respond to the outside world. It feels for you, sensing temperature, pain, pressure and pleasure
– It maintains a fairly constant body temperature despite wild fluctuations in our environment, through constriction/vasodilation of vessels and production of sweat to lose heat through evaporation
– It is sensitive to emotions (cold sweats with anxiety, blushes with embarrassment, glows with happiness..etc.), which are often the cause, aggravating factor or result of a skin disease
– It is our first introduction to everyone who sees us
– It teaches us about the importance of self-care and is a reflection of overall health and what’s happening below the surface
Things we shouldn’t do to our skin:
– Strip it of healthy, protective, moisturizing, wonderful oils
– Burn it (full disclosure: it felt like summer in Van yesterday, so sunny, warm and beautiful that I spent many hours soaking in the rays with no sunscreen and am paying for it now. The first hot day gets me every year, it’s in my genes – my Mama worships the sun)
– Pick at it with dirty hands (I’m very guilty of this and I know I’m not the only one. When my skin acts out, I go on the offensive. If something appears that can be picked, squeezed or popped, it will be. I make sure my hands are clean but still regret it immediately when I finally pry myself from the mirror. It’s a form of strange stress relief…exercise would probably be a better option, since lately I’ve been leaving scars behind)
– Drown it in harmful chemicals that irritate, inflame and throw your hormones out of balance (evaluate your current products here to see if they’re safe)
Last post I showed you some terrible photos of my hair and provided some things you can try instead of the standard way of shampoo and conditioning. Similarly, one of the bonuses to detoxifying your skincare product collection, is that it decreases your exposure to nasty toxins that can seep into your blood and enter circulation.
This isn’t an exhaustive list. There are millions of theories and ideas around what’s best for each person’s skin and everyone’s preference is different. That said, when it comes to skincare options, I truly believe in these statements:
1) Less is more
2) The only way you’ll know if it works for you is if you try it
3) Fewer options make it easier to try something for the first time
So, here you go, a list of things I’ve tried that seem to do the trick for me:
Cleansing – I’m a huge fan of the Oil Cleansing Method and use coconut oil, mixed sometimes with castor oil (email me and I’ll forward a hand out if you have questions about what you find on the internet). The idea is based on the principle that oil dissolves oil. Soap on the face is not ideal because it strips good oils and messes with the pH of your skin. I never used to use anything but water to wash my face – I’m very lucky – so this has been an adjustment. Realistically I only do it a couple times a week, unless I put makeup on which is pretty rare. Works for me, but again, everyone’s different. Try it though, I think you’ll be happy with the results!
Exfoliate – I use baking soda in the shower (it’s already in there from No ‘Pooing). A lil scrub every few days seems to help slough off dead cells and brings circulation to the surface.
Toning – Apple cider vinegar and/or witch hazel in an empty spray bottle diluted with some water and kept in the fridge makes for a really nice treat for your face. Do it after cleansing and before moisturizing, or whenever you want. Add a few drops of tea tree oil for its antiseptic properties.
Moisturizing – If I don’t do OCM the night before, I’ll use straight up coconut oil to add moisture if I’m feeling dry. Avocado oil is also nice.
Masks – I like the edible kind, but mud ones are great too. I’ve only experimented a bit, but I’d say doing a mask a week wouldn’t hurt.
Eye Care – The skin under your eyes is thin and particularly prone to getting puffy and/or dark. Cooled green tea tea bags or cucumbers on your eyes are soothing and decrease inflammation. Getting a good night’s sleep and avoiding crap food help a lot too.
Makeup – Except for the days when I feel exceptionally unattractive and raid my roommate’s bathroom demanding something to cover the evidence of my destructive habits, I generally only wear eyeliner, and very occasionally mascara. I recommend using mineral makeups, a great local brand is Earthlab Cosmetics.
Cleansing – It might surprise you to find out that you actually don’t need to clean much of your body with soap. Unless I’m muddy or sweaty and stinky from playing sports, I follow the “pits ‘n bits” rule and use Dr. Bronner’s Castile Soap on just my armpits, feet, lady parts, bum and behind my ears.
Exfoliating – I made a really easy sea salt & lavendar scrub over Christmas and I love it, though I don’t use it too often.
Shaving – I use avocado oil to shave and although it clogs the razor a bit more than soap, my smooth legs thank me and I don’t have to moisturize afterwards.
Moisturizing – Coconut oil works well for me. You could also try olive, avocado…play around and see what you like.
Deodorant – As I mentioned above, I still wear conventional, aluminium-ridded Secret anti-perspirant (how can you argue with the slogan: It’s strong enough for a man, but made for a woman?). I tried to make my own with coconut oil massaged into my pits then dusted with baking soda but stopped because my boyfriend said I smelled bad. I’m open to the idea of finding a more natural alternative, so help us all out and let me know if you’ve tried and loved any particular brand by dropping a note in the comments.
Watch for the next post when I’ll go over how to replace all your chemically-laden home cleaning supplies with stuff that’s less poisonous. Product whores, don’t worry, I’ll be rounding out this series with a fully-linked list of resources where you can purchase pre-made healthy alternatives, instead of having to making your own.
Lastly, hippie-wannabees, I have something for you as well. My very good friend and delightful colleague and coworker Dr. Marisa Marciano is our resident herbal expert and offers amazing 2-hour Medicine Making courses, including one specifically on making your own awesome herbal skincare products. Sign up by calling the clinic!
If you have a DIY skincare story or experience – positive or not – leave a note and entertain us!