My Skincare Routine

Anyone else have acne-prone skin?  Even as a 30-something? It is something I have dealt with since puberty.  As a teenager, my dermatologist put me on antibiotics for EIGHT years to clear my skin. It worked, but at great harm to the rest of my body- read about my story here. Since then, I’ve been trying to battle breakouts constantly. While I am somewhat still trying to figure it out, my skin is now clearer than it has ever been, so I’d love to share what I have learned.

First- your skin is usually a reflection of what’s going on inside your body. We can try all the skincare products with little or no results. Stop trying to put a bandaid on the symptoms and find the reason behind your issues.

The majority of people suffer from breakouts due to hormonal imbalances. Whether you are suffering from acne or a multitude of other hormonal issues (inability to lose weight, fatigue, hair loss, blood sugar imbalances, mood swings), I highly recommend visiting a functional medicine doctor who can test your hormone levels.  Our environment, food and lifestyle (hello stress!) are all filled with things that impact our hormones. Most of us suffer from imbalances. It’s super important to understand your levels and find out how to adjust them- there are plenty of natural ways to feel so much better.

Another reason for breakouts can actually be from food sensitivities. Now that I’ve identified what mine are and started removing them from my diet, I realized how much of a symptom it was for me. Beyond food sensitivities, sugar definitely affects our skin (and immune system), so keeping it at a minimum is best.

Of course, there’s also the obvious reasons we break out- a build up of dead skin, dirt that clogs pores and bacteria that irritates pores and causes blemishes.  This is why products to clean, moisturize and protect are still important. We all have different skin types that require different routines and ingredients.

I have been deliberate to remove toxic chemicals from my home to reduce exposure to those harmful ingredients (many are hormone-blocking), both in our food and household products. As I ran out of my skincare products, I started looking for a safer replacement. Through my research, BeautyCounter stands out above the rest- they have a lot of products, they actually work, and clean ingredients are of utmost importance to them.I worked with my friend Kaity to figure out what products I should try based on my skin type (oily, acne-prone) and to prioritize within my budget. She was an awesome resource, so I definitely recommend her as a consultant. Here is the routine & products that have worked for me:

Morning & Night Hormone Balancing: Progesterone Cream – for natural hormone balancing, I use a dab (rubs in like lotion). I established the need for this schedule with my functional medicine doctor. I definitely notice my skin breaks out if I miss just one application.

Morning Cleanser: Countertime Lipid Defense Cleansing Oil – a gentle cleanser that leaves the skin feeling super moisturized.

Morning & Night Treatment: As I mentioned, most people break out due to built up dead skin cells & bacteria. Salicylic acid gently takes off the surface layer of skin so it is the best treatment for the dead skin cells and dirt. Benzoyl peroxide is the leading treatment to kill the bad bacteria on your skin BUT it is super harsh, so cannot be used at the same time as salicylic acid. I remember trying to alternate as a teenager and not seeing results. I really needed them both morning and night.

BeautyCounter uses an ingredient called bakuchiol in their Countertime products that is an extremely effective anti-bacterial without being harsh and drying, so you can use at the same time as salicylic acid. I apply these in this order immediately after cleansing and before moisturizing.

  1. Countertime Tripeptide Radiance Serum – has salicylic acid
  2. Countercontrol All Over Acne Treatment – has anti-bacterial bakuchiol

Morning Moisturizer: Dew Skin Tinted Moisturizer – This has the perfect amount of coverage to even out the skin and has SPF for daytime protection.

Makeup Removal: I am obsessed with this microfiber Makeup Remover Cloth!

Evening Cleanser: Countercontrol Clear Pore Cleanser – I like this for daily gentle exfoliation and it makes my skin feel very clean and refreshed.

Treatment again, then Evening Moisturizer: Nourishing Night Cream

1-2 times/week, I do Deep Exfoliation and Cleansing with a couple different masks:

 

As Needed Spot Treatment – I love these natural Avarelle Acne Patches for when I have a breakout. The blemish disappears or is greatly diminished overnight.

Let me know if you try these products and see results! Good luck!

Potty Training

Before my daughter even turned 2, she started showing interest in going potty on the toilet. As annoying as diapers can be, they somehow seemed easier than a potty-trained toddler needing to visit the public restroom constantly and not making it long on car trips. So I delayed it for a few months, knowing it was time to start, waiting for me to be ready more than her.  In early January, we decided that the cold weather was a perfect time to stay inside for a week and go for it. Success! Our girl was daytime potty-trained before her 2nd birthday.

I had no idea there was so much to learn about potty training. So many ways to do it and opinions.  If you are nearing this stage with your little on, here are a few recommendations:

9781501122989_p0_v4_s550x406FIRST- read the book Oh Crap! Potty Training: Everything Modern Parents Need to Know to Do It Once and Do It Right. It’s a super quick read, and funny, and filled with practical tips.  The author takes a long weekend inside & naked approach for teaching them initially, and then moving to no-undies for a stage until they get it. I appreciated that it taught about the signs your toddler will show, skills I have continued to use since.

She does not use a reward system, but rather simple praise and normalization of using the toilet to make them feel like a proud, big kid.  This worked really great for us.  However, several months into being potty trained, my husband and I went on our first vacation away from our daughter and she completely regressed when we got back. She stopped going on the potty AT ALL. It was so frustrating and it wasn’t until we started using jelly beans or M&Ms as a reward that she started using the toilet again. Eventually, she forgot about the reward and it became normal again, and has been since.  We occasionally still use the treats to convince her to go before a long car trip.

We prepared our daughter & kept her interested in the potty-training idea a couple ways:

  • We started reading the lift-the-flap book A Potty for Me! to her. She loved it and wanted to read it daily / multiple times each day / on the potty.
  • downloadWatched the Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood episodes about going potty & sung the songs from the show constantly:
    • Season 1, Episode 11 is free to watch on Prime. The song goes: “If you have to go potty, stop and go right away. Flush and wash and be on your way!”
    • Season 3, Episode 23. The song goes: “Do you have to go potty? Maybe yes. Maybe no. Why don’t you sit and try to go.”
    • Download the Daniel Tiger Parents app to your phone- you can play the songs there and watch related clips from the show.

And finally, a few must-haves to get:

  • For the very early days of potty training when you may have zero seconds to make to the toilet, it helps to have this portable potty in the room with you. $5 well spent!
  • We liked this removable toilet seat for $8.  We also ended up installing this toilet seat in our downstairs bathroom with a toddler seat built in- it looks much nicer and is super easy to install and to clean.
  • A couple of step stools
  • Wet/Dry Bag – I had these from cloth diapering, but they really come in handy when potty training for the diaper bag. Keep an extra set of clothes in there for accidents and then you can just put the soiled clothes in there to bring home and pop directly into the washer. These are also great for the wet swimsuits coming home from the pool!
  • Flushable Wipes – no one told me these are ESSENTIAL. I ended up getting these delivered via Prime Now the second day we were stuck at home potty training. They live by all our potties and in my purse now for on-the-go.
  • Make some foaming hand soap to make washing hands fun!
  • Coffee & wine. You’ll need it for that first weekend 🙂 You can do it, mama!

Good luck!

 

Ladies- Check Out the Cup!

Ladies – We all know it’s never fun when it’s that time of the month, but I’m about to share a recommendation that can make it a whole lot better!

Cramps and pain have become the norm. It’s not supposed to hurt.  I used to suffer for days each cycle, but have made a few changes that have dramatically relieved the PMS symptoms I experienced for years.  One was adding a natural progesterone cream to my routine. Another change was using magnesium regularly.  Changing what I used during menstruation was one I never imagined would have such a huge impact.

There are risks to using tampons and pads. Of course, the major risk from tampons is Toxic Shock Syndrome. The cotton often contains harmful chemicals and pesticides that can really mess with hormones. And the plastic can contain BPA, another hormone disruptor. The exposure for several days each month is likely more than you think. While going organic could solve those issues, you’ll also spend a lot. Plus, it’s still no help to the environment.

A few years ago, I found out about menstrual cups.  It was a healthier option that was re-usable, so better for the environment, and claimed to be more effective and comfortable. I decided to try the Diva Cup and I’ll never, ever go back to tampons or pads!!

My cramps went away almost immediately and I found it so much more comfortable.  I don’t ever notice wearing it, which is something I could never say about the other options. I also found it so much more effective. It truly lasts ALL DAY – 12 hours – and I’ve never had a leak.  PS- there is no risk of TSS from menstrual cups.

If you are still using tampons and pads, you absolutely must try the Diva Cup. (FYI- there are two sizes, one for pre-kids/age 30, and one for after). Many of my friends are now on this bandwagon and will also never go back.  A few also recommend other brands like FLEX or Luna if you want to check your options.

Skeptical? Let me know if you try it and what you think!

I’m also here to answer those awkward questions… like the “how to use” tips that me and my girlfriends have talked about while watching The Bachelor that I didn’t detail here 🙂

Monat: Natural Product Review

Over the past few years, I’ve transitioned to using non-toxic products for health and home.  Some of the changes were quick and easy, but others have been hard- like hair and make up products. I’ve struggled to find a reasonable replacement, in cost or effectiveness.

effortless-styleToday, I want to share that I’ve finally found a natural hair care line that I can say, with confidence, works well AND is safe.  The product is MONAT (wondering how to pronounce? it stands for modern nature)!

I was initially wary because it is a multi-level marketing organization and I wasn’t interested in distributing anything. Plus, the price was high and it’s not grocery-store convenient. But dealing with terrible postpartum hair, I was desperate to try something that worked as well as everyone raved.  My expectations were low.

First, what I love about this product is the ingredients.  It’s made with essential oils (the products smell incredible!) and antioxidants to support hair health.  And it has none of the super harmful chemicals in almost everything else on the market – there’s NO:

  • Parabens – preservative in nearly all cosmetics that mimics estrogen, therefore disrupting hormone function; studies show it causes cancer
  • Sulfates – foaming agent that dries out your hair and irritates your scalp
  • Cyclic Silicones – makes the product spreadable, but causes lots of build up which is especially bad for curly hair like mine
  • DEA/MEA – a cutting agent you’ll find in most bath products to help mix oil-soluble with water-soluble ingredients; it increases risk for kidney and liver cancer because they are especially tough chemicals for our bodies to break down
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) – helps with product penetration; this ingredient may irritate sensitive skin, but the worse risk is how it helps other toxic chemicals in a product get into your system
  • Phthalates – a dissolving agent and fragrance carrier; disrupts estrogen and testosterone levels linking to infertility, effects unborn babies and young children most due to inability to metabolize through digestive system (source)
  • Phenoxyethanol – a common cosmetic preservative; the FDA has admitted it depresses central nervous system and European studies show it is a skin irritant and potential effects on fertility (source)
  • Petrolatum / Mineral Oil – our bodies cannot metabolize so levels continue to build over use, especially bad because it is linked to estrogen dominance and potential carcinogen (source)
  • Triclosan – antimicrobial that causes gut inflammation
  • Formaldehyde Releasers – common preservative and antimicrobial is known to inhibit the immune system and studies show it is a carcinogen (source)

Now that the SAFETY of this product is clear, let me share my experience with the EFFECTIVENESS…

Monat has several different systems depending on your hair type- a distributor could help you identify the best one for you.  I was wanting to tackle a couple problem areas for myself… through all the products I’ve tried, my hair has always ended up oily, frizzy and easily tangled. A bonus would be for my air-dried hair to look better and be easier to achieve.  For reference- my hair is fine but there’s lots of it, is uncolored and is long and naturally wavy.

Based on this, I chose the Effortless Style/Soothing system. Shampooing with this product is a bit different- you have to put a little bit on first and let it sit- there will be no lather. Rinse and repeat and the second time it lathers a bunch. Let that sit and rinse and your hair will feel cleaner than ever!  Conditioning is normal, except you need to let it sit for 5 minutes.

air-dry-newI used the product for a few weeks and was totally disappointed / felt I had completely wasted my money.  My hair was only slightly less oily, but it was tangled worse than ever and still didn’t air-dry well.  The system comes with a blow-out cream, which I never used because I only blow dry my hair once a month. When I told my distributor about this issue, she switched it for the Air Dry Cream.

The new cream was a GAME CHANGER. Suddenly, my hair was healthy, didn’t tangle and air-dried fantastic. I use just a tiny bit (even on my long hair) after towel-drying and brushing and end up with nearly frizz-free (I do live in humid Texas after all) wavy hair.  While I do still have to use some dry shampoo to go a day between washes, the oiliness is much better than it used to be and continues to improve.

As for the cost, I agree it is super expensive, but I do believe it is worth it.  I became a “VIP” to get that discounted pricing with no obligation.  Also, it helps that it lasts- I bought my first bottles of shampoo/conditioner in mid-March and here I am just halfway through my second bottles nearly 6 months later.

I’m not a distributor of this product, but if you are interested in purchasing, I would be happy to connect you with the friend I buy from!

 

A Recap of 2016

Wow… is it really almost 2017!?!  As I look forward to the huge life change that 2017 will bring, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2016.  If you’ve missed any of my blogs this year, this will be the perfect opportunity to catch up!

2016 was certainly a roller-coaster for my health.  The year started off with me still trying to figure out what was causing my random high cortisol responses and unexplained weight gain.  Then, in May, we found out we were expecting, even though doctors had told me I wasn’t supposed to be able to get pregnant. Pregnancy brought on constant nausea and exhaustion that kept me down and out for a few months, and then a gestational diabetes diagnosis rocked my world.

Here’s a recap of the blogs I wrote in 2016:

Travel

VeniceI’m a huge believer that vacations are super important for your overall health and well-being.  We all need to take a break and relax, and traveling to experience different foods and cultures is great way to relieve stress. The past couple of years, we have taken two trips to Europe that were incredible.  I got so many requests for advice, I just decided to write all about our itineraries and recommendations right here:

My Favorite Natural Products & Organic Grocery Deals

BruschettaHealthy Recipes

Pregnancy:

Essential Oils

Thieves Essential OilHighlighting the benefits of some of my favorite essential oils to both your overall wellness and to creating and keeping a natural home.

Happy New Year!!

2016-recap

Natural Product Review: PiperWai Deodorant

PiperWaiEver since I found out how dangerous and toxic regular antiperspirant deodorant is, I have been on a mission to find a safe, natural alternative that actually works.  I’ve tried lots of different kinds and brands and most have worked for awhile but seem to lose their effectiveness over time – you can see all the ones I’ve tried over the years here.

I finally found a local company that made a natural deodorant that I really liked – Primal Pit Paste.  But it didn’t last long enough and I would have to reapply at least once during the day.  After a couple months of using it, my underarms started getting irritated, itchy skin from the baking soda that’s in it, so I continued my search.

While watching Shark Tank last year, I saw a new product – PiperWai Natural Deodorant – featured that seemed to show promise and I had to try it.  I ordered some online and several months later feel comfortable to share with you my new favorite deodorant!  Watch the Shark Tank pitch and follow up episodes here to hear directly from the creators of this awesome product.

The ingredients list is amazingly simple.  Organic coconut oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and vitamin E oil make it easy to apply and perfect for the sensitive underarm skin – it has not caused me any irritation at all and I often apply right after shaving. But the main ingredient that works to deodorize is activated charcoal – it creates a pH balance that neutralizes bacteria that causes odor.  Plus, that same ingredient is super absorbent and wicks away moisture from sweat, leaving you dry without clogging your pores. (source) It also has 11 different essential oils in it that help fight bacteria and make it smell great.

PiperWai is the best natural deodorant and antiperspirant I’ve found that is totally safe to use without compromising how well it works and how comfortable it is. It comes in a small jar and you just use your fingers to apply- it rubs in quickly and doesn’t leave a residue or any staining on clothing.  It seems expensive at first but one jar lasts me over 2 months applying each day.  Buy it now and try for yourself!

*I have not received a commission or any free products from this post; all opinions are based on my own experience.

A few of my favorite things…

Favorite Natural ProductsMy transition to a more natural lifestyle has been gradual…. I never had a dramatic throw out all products/food moment, mostly because it’s expensive to replace everything all at once.  I first changed my diet for optimal nutrition and as I read more books and blogs, I began to learn how the products we breathe and absorb through our skin affect our bodies just as much as what we eat.  So, I started to change the hygiene and cleaning products that I use in our home. Someday, I’d love to make all my own products… the recipes online are abundant and it’s certainly cheaper, but for now, I buy what I need.  I’ve written about quite a few of these products, but I thought I would put it all together in one easy place for those of you looking for recommendations.  Here’s a very random list of a few of my favorite health and home products:

HIMG_6800ealthy Mouth – Cavities, bleeding gums, root canals, bad breath… chances are that many of you don’t like going to the dentist. Gum disease, in particular, is a serious epidemic now – in 9 out of 10 adults – so, obviously the toothpaste & mouthwash out there isn’t doing a darn thing to help.  The OraWellness brushing blend, made only with organic essential oils, completely transformed the health of my mouth (read more here).  My gum bacterial infection is gone and I’ve healed two cavities – no fillings for me! I also use the toothbrush that they sell – specifically designed with less bristles to gently clean the tooth at the gum line. If you want to give the whole system a try, here’s the basic starter kit.


IMG_6811Living Clay
 – Used by some of the world’s finest spas, this Bentonite clay is not only beneficial for your skin, but has many other healing properties as well. It’s extremely absorptive properties help cleanse the body of toxins – I use it as a purifying face mask, any time I have a rash, as a detox bath, and even drink it in liquid form to cleanse my digestive system when I’m sick. For a comprehensive guide on the many ways to use it, I highly recommend this book – Living Clay: Nature’s Own Miracle Cure; you can also read some excerpts here.

IMG_6810Activated Charcoal – Read my blog post on this amazing substance and how it can be used for teeth whitening, acne, food poisoning, digestive issues, bug bites & stings and even hangovers. Add the capsule or powder version to your first aid kit today.

Coconut Oil – I’m begging you… please throw away those harmful vegetable/canola oils in your pantry and buy this next time you are at the grocery store.  I have replaced all oils in baking and cooking with this – it has incredible healing properties and is really easy to use. And I use it to wash my face and moisturize my whole body; my skin has never been better. Read more about the miracles of coconut oil here.

Natural Deodorants – Last October, with Breast Cancer Awareness Month in mind, I wrote all about some great natural deodorant options that are free of cancer-causing aluminium and parabens.  I recently found another product I love – Primal Pit Paste.  I find the best success in alternating deodorants every other day, so I also currently use Silver Shield Deodorant. Bonus: Both products are made locally and are also man-approved by my husband!

Essential Oils – I’m obsessed.  Sometimes, I wonder what I ever did without them; then, I remember that I took medicine… and suffered for it.  Instead of reaching for side-effect-causing pharmaceuticals, I can now use something safe and natural for my whole family (dog too!). Now’s the time to update your medicine cabinet!

IMG_6804Diva Cup – For women only: that “time of the month” may be a strange topic to discuss, but you should seriously rethink the hormones and chemicals going into your body through the feminine hygiene products you use.  Since the chemical glyphosate is used in growing cotton, you are exposing your body to this cancer-causing toxin every time you use a tampon. I am so thankful for this product; not only is it much safer for my body, but it’s also made a huge difference in the debilitating cramps I used to experience each month.

All-Purpose Cleaners – This is one of the few products I do actually make myself with lemon essential oil because it is just so easy. But, in the past, I have loved using each of these natural products: J.R. Watkins All Purpose Cleaner, Branch Basics, and Young Living Thieves Household Cleaner.  Each of those have great hand soap options as well!

Detergents – Most options you find in the stores have lots of chemicals, and with the items we clean being so close to our skin or even what we eat off of, the ingredients in these products do matter. I highly suggest visiting your local farmer’s market to find a local vendor who sells these as they often work the best, but Seventh Generation makes a couple of mostly natural items I IMG_6802use when I run out and need to buy at the store. The Laundry Detergent can be used in cold water & HE machines effectively and is free of fragrances & brighteners, as well as environmentally-friendly.  The Dishwasher Gel works great too!

Wool Dryer Balls – Did you know that the chemicals in dyer sheets are terrible for the longevity of your clothes and your dryer, as well as bad for the environment? As soon as I learned there was an option that was not only safe in all those aspects, but also dried clothes faster and make clothes softer, I was totally on board.  These are forever reusable and I can add a few drops of whatever essential oil aroma I’m feeling like.  Buy the package of 6 and use them all at once for even better effectiveness.

Do you have any other favorite, natural products to recommend? Will you be trying anything listed above?

*A few of the links above are affiliate links, which means I make a very small commission if you decide to purchase that product.  I appreciate the support to be able to keep this blog going.