This is a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for awhile. At the risk of sounding like a total hippie, here it goes… Why I Use Coconut Oil, Baking Soda, Apple Cider Vinegar for Body Care.
Over the past year or so I have gradually moved away from using chemical laden health and beauty products in favor of more non-toxic, earth and people friendly products. Through numerous (and expensive) trials with different deodorants, shampoos, and moisturizers, I came to find that my kitchen is stocked with the items that work the best and also happen to be the most cost effective. These items are: coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda.
Here is what I do with them:
Shampoo and Conditioner Replacement
There’s been a lot of talk in the blogosphere about “no-poo”. I had been really reluctant to give it a go as my hair is fine and looks greasy and stingy if it wasn’t washed every day. After attending the Ancestral Health Symposium 2011 and reading Liz Wolfe’s article “The Best Things Come in Threes” from the July/August 2011 issue of Paleo Magazine, I decided I needed to give it a go. During Richard Nikoley’s talk at AHS11, he mentioned that he no-poos and does not use soap. A few women sitting behind me, who had beautiful, shiny, full hair, noted that they also no-poo. I was amazed. I had always felt guys could get away with this much easier then gals, but was now compelled to try it for myself. After all, self-experimentation is the best way get honest answers for yourself (see Richard’s talk for more on this).
Liz suggested in her article to “shampoo” with baking soda and “condition” with apple cider vinegar. After playing around with proportions, here’s what works for me. My hair is fine, but somewhat full and about shoulder length. To shampoo, I use 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with about 4 tablespoons of warm water. This is not exact, I eyeball it and add the water in the shower (ratio of about 1:2). I apply it to my scalp and massage it in, working my way down to the ends of the hair. Rinse thoroughly with warm water. To condition, I turn the shower to cool water (also a refreshing way to end a shower) and mix 3-4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with about 1/4 cup of the cool water (again, eyeball it). I slowly pour it over my hair and massage it through to the ends. I rinse while running my hands through the hair for about a minute. You may have a slight vinegar smell immediately after your shower, but it will fade away quickly. Air dry or style as usual!
I have been using this method for about 2 months and am absolutely thrilled with the results! My hair is shiny, healthy, and fuller. And NOT at all greasy! I have even been able to go 2-3 days with just a cold water rinse and not feel like I need to “shampoo”.
A few things to note: I highly recommend shaving your legs after rinsing the vinegar out of your hair. Otherwise, be prepared for a little burning sensation (a la Home Alone) on the freshly shaven skin! Also, baking soda fizzes when mixed with vinegar (think middle school science lab). Although not an unpleasant feeling on your scalp, I’m not sure if it’s a great thing for your skin. Just rinse thoroughly after applying the baking soda and you’ll be fine!
I haven’t bought toothpaste in over a year. I searched high and low for a product that did not contain Fluoride or other questionable ingredients. The closest I came was Trader Joe’s Antiplaque Toothpaste with Fennel, Propolis, & Myrrh. It worked well enough, but was often out of stock when I needed a new tube. Since I don’t plan ahead and buy extra, I was left without a good replacement. Alex and I decided to try baking soda. It’s added to a bunch of grocery store toothpastes, why not use it straight up?
Now plain, old baking soda doesn’t have the most pleasant flavor on it’s own, but I found that I got used to it quickly. If you find the taste disagreeable, add a few drops of pure peppermint oil to the baking soda to mask the flavor and add an extra little freshness to your breath. I keep a small covered dish with a few tablespoons of baking soda in my bathroom. To brush, just wet your toothbrush and dip it into the baking soda. A light coating on you brush is all you need. Brush away!
I do use a Sonicare toothbrush two times a day (as I have for years) and I floss once a day. At my last dental hygiene checkup, my hygienist noted that “There isn’t much for me to do here.” I was in and out in 30 minutes. Awesome!
Okay, here’s my big confession: I don’t use deodorant. I have tried a bunch of natural and aluminum free products and hated them all. I think some of them actually made me sweat more. Weird, I know. For awhile, I was using a homemade concoction (recipe to follow), but finally decided to go without. I will admit, there was about a month of adjustment time (some underarm wetness during the day), but now I will never go back. I very rarely have any underarm wetness, unless I am working out heavily and even then it’s no where near what it was in the past. I do not smell. I’ve checked, Alex has checked, and no one has said a word to me about it. I wasn’t totally sure why this was the case, but in a The Healthy Skeptic Podcast (released on 10/18/2011), Chris Kresser answers a question about body odor. Apparently one of the reasons we sweat is to expel toxins from our bodies. Obviously, eating better diets full of healthy, real foods significantly decreases the amount of toxins present in our systems. The actual body odor comes from the consumption and processing of these toxins by colonies of microorganisms naturally present on the surface of our skin. Fascinating!
If you find that you just cannot let go of slathering something on your armpits, here’s a pretty good homemade solution:
In a small saucepan, melt together 2 tablespoons of each of the following – shea butter, coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch. Once throughly combined, pour into a small jar and let it cool to room temperature before using. A very small dab rubbed into each side is all you need. If you like a little scent, add a few drops of essential oil to the mix.
Moisturizers, Lotions, and Lip Balm
Coconut oil can replace all of your regular creams, lotions, chapsticks, etc. I love a thin layer applied to my face as a moisturizer. I use it day and night and my skin actually looks smoother and more radiant. I apply a light coat under makeup in the morning and a slightly thicker coat at night before bed. I’m not prone to acne and neither is Alex, but when either of us gets a zit, it’s usually a honkin’ one. A big dab of coconut oil right on the blemish makes fast work of healing. Redness is lightened and the bump disappears faster. Coconut oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties that make it the perfect replacement for cabinet full of expensive sub-par lotions, balms, and creams.
Although I still carry a tube of lip balm in my purse, when I’m at home I apply a light layer of coconut oil. It relieves dry, chapped lips and it also tastes and smells great!
For years, I have dealt with a condition know as Keratosis Pilaris (AKA “chicken skin”) on my upper arms. It’s embarrassing and nothing worked on it for more than a few days. I tried numerous expensive lotions and scrubs without improvements. One day, I thought to my self “Why am I so concerned about what I am putting in my mouth, but not what I am putting on my skin?” We hear it all the time – the skin is one of the largest organs of the body. Without a doubt, what we put on our skin can easily be affecting the rest of our body. On a whim, I rubbed on some coconut oil after my shower rather than my usual Aveeno lotion. No kidding – by the next morning, the bumpy skin was significantly improved. I thought it was a fluke, but the more I used, the better my skin looked. Without mentioning a word of what I had discovered, a friend who also deals with this condition asked my what I was using to improve my skin! She was skeptical, but was willing to give it a try. She got the same results!
The one body care item that I haven’t made a clean break with is soap. I still use it when I shower. I love the “clean” feeling I get from soap. Maybe one day I’ll come across a better option, but for now I’m sticking with it. I use Whole Foods 365 brand of French Milled Unscented Soap. It has 3 ingredients: Coconut oil, palm oil, and vegetable glycerin. I can deal with that.
So there it is. I don’t wash my hair or use deodorant and I regularly slather myself in coconut oil. It might sound weird, but I feel great and my hair and skin look better then ever before. Just like you may have had to talk yourself into deserting the Standard American Diet in favor of adapting an ancestral approach to food, all I can say is try it for 30 days. You can always go back, but I betcha you won’t!
This blog post was shared at Food Renegade.
Related articles you may enjoy:
Why I Don’t Wear Deodorant, and Neither Does Cameron Diaz by Divine Health From the Inside Out