Falling through the rabbit hole

Hey Y’all!  Well, I’ve done it again.  I fell into the rabbit hole and have been happily chasing down one trail after the other in my ongoing effort to simplify and, thus, improve my life.  Let me explain.

After our big move across country I discovered, much to my dismay, that I’d gained another 5 pounds.  What??  All of those convenient and easy take out and restaurant meals were not kind to me.  I’d given myself permission to indulge in treats I wouldn’t normally consume because (a) I was tired, stressed, overwhelmed, _____(fill in the blank) and (b) because I deserved it, gosh darn!

So, because I rarely do things in moderation and because I was feeling tired and stuffed into my clothing, I began to research vegetarian and vegan dishes, which led me to green smoothies and raw vegan foods.  I liked the idea of eating fresh, raw, in-season fruits and all of the veggies I could handle.  I began my own Green Smoothie Challenge.  I immediately lost those 5 pounds, plus one more.  Yipee!  That lasted for five days, then I began to crave cooked food.  I started having two green smoothies a day and then a normal dinner.  One pound came back on, but that’s okay.  Since then I’ve really been working on simplifying my diet and working out regularly at our community center (it is BEAUTIFUL, with all the latest gizmos AND a giant pool with a “river” that I walk against 3x/week – picture me doing the happy dance).  Simplifying and cleaning up my diet gave me fresh inspiration to look at my “stuff” again.  I still have things (clothing, books, kitchen gadgets, cleaning supplies……) that I kept for those “just in case” moments.

With renewed enthusiasm I revisited several minimalist websites, which led me to discover Zero Waste Home, a website by author and speaker Bea (pronounced Bey-a – parlez vous francais?) Johnson.  She has written a book by the same name.  Which led me to rethink my trash and recycling habits, which led me to, once again, take stock of all of my possessions.  Rabbit trails.

Before my move I wrote about cleaning out my closet and drawers.  I successfully donated multiple bags of clothing, shoes, and purses.  However, I found that I still had items that I probably would never wear or didn’t really enjoy wearing.  I’d been meaning to write more about the subject, but, alas, life got in the way.  Very shortly I’ll revisit that topic and talk about the reasons a minimalist (drastically simplified) wardrobe makes sense; financially, environmentally, and time-wise.

Thinking in a conscious and conscientious way about what I truly needed in my life versus what advertisers and marketers told me I needed made me take a second look (or is this third, fourth, or fifth?) at my makeup and personal care products as well.

Soooooo today, I want to talk about those things we unthinkingly and unconsciously slather on our hair and bodies, apply on or near (and sometimes inadvertently in) our eyes and what changes I’ve made or reinstated (when I’m not bunny hopping across the blog-o-sphere).

We’ve been sold a lie, folks.  We are told that only chemists in big, fancy labs know what is best for our skin and hair.  We’ve been told that aging is ugly, all women (and men) should do everything and anything possible to look youthful and 20-something for infinity.  In fact, we need chemicals with scientific sounding names to ensure eternal youth.  Garbage!  The truth of the matter is many of those scientific sounding chemicals are carcinogenic or suspected carcinogens. Do your homework.  Check out websites that do the research and report their findings.  EWG (Environmental Working Group) is just one.  They even have an app for your phone so you can look up what is in that bottle of very expensive cream that promises to take 10 years off of your face in 10 days. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather live 10 years longer with a few wrinkles and an age spot or two than risk cutting my life short by 10 years due to some weird cancer caused by carcinogenic substances.  I think you would, too.

Here is a list of the “Dirty Dozen” chemicals to be most wary of (as reported by David Suzuki Foundation):  The following was cut and pasted from their website (direct link above).

1. BHA and BHT

Used mainly in moisturizers and makeup as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disruptors and may cause cancer (BHA). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

2. Coal tar dyes: p-phenylenediamine and colours listed as “CI” followed by a five digit number

In addition to coal tar dyes, natural and inorganic pigments used in cosmetics are also assigned Colour Index numbers (in the 75000 and 77000 series, respectively).

Look for p-phenylenediamine hair dyes and in other products colours listed as “CI” followed by five digits.1 The U.S. colour name may also be listed (e.g. “FD&C Blue No. 1” or “Blue 1”). Potential to cause cancer and may be contaminated with heavy metals toxic to the brain.

3. DEA-related ingredients

Used in creamy and foaming products, such as moisturizers and shampoos. Can react to form nitrosamines, which may cause cancer. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Look also for related chemicals MEA and TEA.

4. Dibutyl phthalate

Used as a plasticizer in some nail care products. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant. Harmful to fish and other wildlife

5. Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

Look for DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine and quarternium-15. Used in a variety of cosmetics. Slowly release small amounts of formaldehyde, which causes cancer.

6. Parabens

Used in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives. Suspected endocrine disrupters and may interfere with male reproductive functions.

7. Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance)

Any mixture of fragrance ingredients used in a variety of cosmetics — even in some products marketed as “unscented.” Some fragrance ingredients can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife.

8. PEG compounds

Used in many cosmetic cream bases. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Also for related chemical propylene glycol and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., polyethylene glycol).

9. Petrolatum

Used in some hair products for shine and as a moisture barrier in some lip balms, lip sticks and moisturizers. A petroleum product that can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may cause cancer.

10. Siloxanes

Look for ingredients ending in “-siloxane” or “-methicone.” Used in a variety of cosmetics to soften, smooth and moisten. Suspected endocrine disrupter and reproductive toxicant (cyclotetrasiloxane). Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

11. Sodium laureth sulfate

Used in foaming cosmetics, such as shampoos, cleansers and bubble bath. Can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which may cause cancer. Look also for related chemical sodium lauryl sulfate and other ingredients with the letters “eth” (e.g., sodium laureth sulfate).

12. Triclosan

Used in antibacterial cosmetics, such as toothpastes, cleansers and antiperspirants. Suspected endocrine disrupter and may contribute to antibiotic resistance in bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife.

Wanna bet at least one or two of the substances above live in your cosmetic drawer or shampoo/conditioner bottles?  Not exactly encouraging stuff, is it, especially for those who have already encountered medical problems.

Don’t grow faint though!  There is a simple solution.  Eliminate all or as much of the products as you can that contain the chemicals listed above.  Do some research and experimentation and find what natural products work for you.  I am happily using only almond oil on my skin (coconut oil is too oily for these very hot and humid summers).  I’ve discovered liquid castile soap washes my face squeaky clean but doesn’t dry it out.  Used in combination, I apply the almond oil to my eyes to remove my eye makeup (even the waterproof mascara I was using) then follow up with a tiny dab of liquid castile soap on a hot, wet washcloth.  The soap removes the last traces of raccoon eyes and leaves my skin feeling clean.  I was using just almond oil alone, but, again, hot and humid days caused breakouts because my skin was a little too oily.  The soap cleans, but doesn’t dry.  I follow up with a tiny dab of almond oil under and around my eyes and along my lip line.  And, as I said above, the almond oil is a wonderful moisturizer for my entire body.  It soaks in quickly and doesn’t leave any greasy residue.

This is what I’m using now:

Only the 7 items in the foreground will go back into my makeup drawer (soap & oil stored elsewhere)
Only the 7 items in the foreground will go back into my makeup drawer

I’m still working on natural, homemade products to replace my tinted moisturizer, blush, eyeliner, and mascara.  In the meantime I’m doing the research to find commercial products that DO NOT contain any of the chemicals listed above AND come with minimal packaging.  I guess I’ll have to make use of that EWG app I told you about!

Here is what I eliminated – worth a lot of $$$$ for sure.

ALL of this is getting cut.  Too much chemical soup in there!
ALL of this is getting cut. Too much chemical soup in there!

There you have it.  My rabbit hole wanderings that have led me back to living and promoting a simple life!  I’ve already made some giant changes (moving away from SoCal and all of that craziness to a beautiful rural setting), eating clean and simple meals, and revamping my personal care practices.  Next I’ll tackle living with a simple wardrobe, simple furnishings, simple cookware, simplifying and purging all of the paper (2 large file drawers) littering up my workspace, and anything and everything else that needs paring down.

I hope as I share my journey with you you’ll be inspired to try some simple changes of your own.  Thanks for reading thus far!

 

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