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!

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 🙂

Natural Deodorant Review: Kopari & Alaffia

It’s been years since I found out how dangerous and toxic regular antiperspirant deodorant is, and since then I have been on a mission to find a safe, natural alternative that actually works.  I’ve tried A LOT of different kinds and brands and most have worked for awhile but seem to lose their effectiveness over time.  Maybe that’s the way natural deodorants go?

img_2309

I’ve been using a new natural deodorant for the past 6 months, through the hot Texas summer, and I’m still loving it, so I hope it’s okay to finally share this recommendation.

Kopari Deo has none of the bad stuff- aluminum, silicon, parabens or phthalates.  It does, unfortunately, contain fragrance, but I haven’t had a reaction to that like some do. It also doesn’t have baking soda, which makes it less of a skin irritant.

I do find that this deodorant lasts the full day. I wore it to Sea World this Summer and it passed that test! I love how smooth it is and easy to apply (more like a “normal” deo you would get at the store- I missed those). I love the very light scent. And I feel like this is a hydrating (coconut oil), non-irritating option that I can actually apply right after shaving.

Kopari has an auto-ship program that gives you a discount on the product + free shipping, so I get this delivered to my door for just $12 every 3 months. If you would like to try it for $10 off your first order, use this link. Plus – if you don’t love it, you can return it for free!

I also find that I generally need to switch up the deodorant I use, at least a couple times a week, in order for it to stay effective. I’ve been switching off with Alaffia Lavender & Activated Charcoal Coconut Reishi Deodorant. Alaffia is also free of parabens, phthalates, sulphates and aluminum, with the added bonus that it has no artificial fragrances!

There isn’t enough charcoal in this to irritate the skin (it is still a super smooth stick), but enough to provide a bit of an antiperspirant effect. It feels very hydrating and I love the light, natural scent in this one too.  I also like that you can get this at the grocery store for only $6, so makes it cheap and convenient. The only reason I don’t use it every single day is that it doesn’t last for an entire day like Kopari, but it is a really good “relief” option.

If it helps, here’s a list of what I’ve tried previously that worked at least for a bit:

    • Primal Pit Paste – my favorite in terms of the ingredient list, but didn’t last through an entire day.
    • Tom’s, Silver Shield & Lafes Crystal – all just simply stopped working over time.
    • PiperWai – the most effective natural antiperspirant I’ve found BUT I had a reaction to the charcoal during pregnancy and I’ve never been able to wear it again without major skin irritation (hormones??)
    • YoungLiving AromaGuard – actually very effective but I don’t like the price + shipping and the scent is a little strong to me.
    • Schmidt’s Rose Vanilla Natural Deodorant – I really wanted to love this one as it is easily available at the grocery store, cheap and smells great, but it just didn’t last a full day for me.

 

I’m always open to suggestions! Native is currently next on my list.

Let me know what you think!

2018 Recap

Family ChristmasIt’s almost 2019! My daughter is almost 2… so hard to believe! This year has been spent finding balance with being a mom and wife, working, caring for others and refocusing on my own health. I recently made some big changes to my diet and fitness routine and lost quite a few pounds and inches… I’ll be sharing more about that soon!

I like to do a recap each year with a list of all my posts to share with anyone who missed them.  Here it goes:

The most popular reader post this year was: What the Bible Says About Essential Oils

Recipes:

Product Reviews:

  • Greenlife Ceramic Cookware – ditch your toxic non-stick cookware!
  • Monat – loving this safe shampoo, conditioner and styling products
  • OraWellness – the best, most effective oral care that’s healed cavities!

For New/Expecting Parents:

Health Stories: Navigating health stuff can be challenging, and dealing with chronic or unknown/undiagnosed illness feels isolating.  Last year, I started sharing health stories, which I hope make you feel encouraged and less alone. I would love to continue this series next year, so please let me know if you have a story to share (anonymously or not).

Wishing you a healthy & hopeful new year!  May the Lord bless you abundantly!

*Photograph by Jessica Doffing Photography

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!

 

Effective Non-Toxic Oral Care

Happy Shark Week!!

5 years ago during Shark Week, I shared about my experience using OraWellness to brush my teeth.  I get asked constantly what natural products I use for oral care, so I thought I would write a follow up post.single-bottle-original

I originally chose OraWellness because it was free of fluoride, added sweeteners and other chemicals that most commercial toothpastes have.  It is a completely natural product that’s simply a blend of essential oils.  It took a few times to get used to brushing my teeth with oil instead of paste, but since it leaves you with the same clean feeling and minty freshness, it was an easy switch.

Since I was so sick during pregnancy, I went over a year without a dental cleaning.  I was eager to visit the dentist after my daughter was born because I knew that pregnancy can cause more rapid tooth decay with hormones inhibiting the body’s ability to fight plaque.  I ended up having one small cavity (I hadn’t had one in years) and asked my dentist if we could delay the filling to see if I could heal it. She laughed at me, but agreed it could wait.

Shine-cinn-with-scoop-scaledI decided to try a new product OraWellness had just released called Shine – a remineralizing powder that also helps whiten your teeth.  I started using it each night right after brushing with the oil blend; you simply add a bit of powder to a wet toothbrush and brush again. It’s made of the same minerals our teeth are made of to help restore what’s lost through our diet.

1 year later, my teeth are whiter and my dentist was simply shocked to find my cavity had disappeared!  Also, all signs of previous gum-disease are still completely gone.

Seeing my success using the OraWellness HealThy Mouth blend, I convinced my husband to try it (a hard sell!) and he’s now been using the product for 5 years with me.  He just visited the dentist this week after not going for over 2 years and after almost always getting bad reports, they said his teeth and gums looked fantastic!

If you are experiencing any issues with your mouth / bad reports from the dentist, I highly recommend you check out the OraWellness website. They have some phenomenal resources and blog posts with practical tips on how to prevent and reverse a variety of oral health problems.  I wish this post was sponsored, but it’s not. I just love and believe in this product! I share in hopes you’ll try it and experience the same healing.

Cloth Diapering

My mom used cloth diapers with me and I always assumed I would do the same.  Seemed an easy way to save some money, while also giving my little one less exposure to harmful chemicals.  Plus, it is a great way to help out the environment a bit, keeping (on average) 6,000 diapers out of the landfill.

When I was pregnant and started to research it, it was beyond overwhelming.  There were so many different brands, types of diapers, opinions on how to wash, etc.  I had some friends give great advice to get me started, did a lot less research and decided to keep things as simple as possible. If you have been considering trying cloth diapers but have been scared that it would be too difficult or complicated, I want to share the easy way to cloth diaper that’s worked for me.

Newborn Days: We did not start cloth diapering until my daughter was around 3 months old for a couple reasons:

  1. Newborns don’t fit in cloth diapers until they are a bit chunkier.  You have to buy special newborn cloth diapers, which didn’t seem worth the investment to me. My daughter struggled to gain weight in the beginning, so it took her a few months for her skinny legs to fill them out.
  2. Life with a newborn can be hard. I did not have the emotional or physical energy or time to cloth diaper with the amount of diapers babies go through in the first weeks.  Once the diaper count slowed, it felt much more feasible.

We got lots of disposable diapers as gifts from people, so we just used those.  I will say that it is amazing how using cloth prevents blow outs SO much better; that reason alone may convince me to start earlier with another baby.

Saving Money: Cloth diapers can be a bit of an investment at the beginning, but overall it is much cheaper in the long-run.  There are a several ways to save on costs:

  • Register for them. When you create a gift registry for your baby shower, add cloth diapers to the list.  The covers can be cute like clothes and people like to buy them.  This saves you a ton in the up-front investment and was how I built my own stash.
  • Choose a cheaper type and splurge on the brand. Cloth diapers come in all types, with all-in-one and pockets being much more expensive than the prefold + covers. Brand matters too- I suggest choosing a top quality brand that lasts many washes and wears to avoid future replacement costs.
  • Buy gender-neutral. If you can use diapers for multiple kids, that helps save a lot on the investment.  I have some super girly options, but most of my patterns and colors are more gender neutral for more flexibility in the future.
  • Get them second-hand. I did not do this but wish I had known about the huge market for used cloth diapers.  You can strip clean used diapers. Or, if that is unappealing, I am constantly seeing people selling their stashes that they’ve never even used because they bought and never actually tried it.

My Routine:  I use prefolded cloth diapers in covers during the day.  There are lots of ways to fold the prefolds and it really depends on your baby’s gender and habits.  I have found that the angel fold has worked best so far for us.

Since they have wetness protection, I usually only change the covers when it is a poopy diaper.  Wet diapers go straight into a wet bag.  Before 6 months (starting solids), dirty diapers also went straight to the wet bag.  Now, I use a diaper sprayer attached to my toilet to rinse out any solids before putting in the wet bag until laundry day.

I use cloth wipes so that I can keep everything together and not need both a trash can and wet bag.  Cloth wipes are much better at wiping and more gentle on the skin anyway.  I put the wipes in a diaper warmer with a homemade solution of coconut oil, lavender essential oil and water.

At night, I use pocket diapers with extra hemp inserts for additional absorbency.

Laundry Routine: I end up washing my cloth diapers every 3-4 days.  I dump everything in the wet bag into the washer and throw the wet bag in too.  Wash cycles vary greatly based on your type of washing machine and hardness/softness of water.  I would recommend searching for your machine type on the Fluff Love University website for detailed instructions on the best way to clean your diapers thoroughly and keep them lasting.

For detergent, I prefer to use powder because I have to add Borax to my washes to prevent mineral build up with the hard water at our home.  You can see a list of recommended options here, but I generally use either Seventh Generation or Tide Free & Clear.  I have been able to get rid of all staining by laying the items in the sun; I have never used bleach on my diapers.

Using prefolds & covers helps reduce drying time.  I always air dry my covers on a rack to preserve the elastics and my wet bags too.  Inserts & prefolds can go in the dryer and it usually takes 2 cycles to dry them.

Traveling: I still use disposable diapers if we are traveling or will be out and about for a few hours.  Generally if we are just going to the grocery store or somewhere short & nearby, I will keep her in a cloth diaper.  I do keep a small wetbag in my diaper bag just in case.

Getting Started:  People definitely have their preferences for what style and brands to buy.  My goals were to save money and make things as simple as possible.  And I had two main things I looked for in deciding on a brand of covers:

  1. Double gussets = two layers of elastic around the leg holes. Gives a great, flexible fit even for a kid with skinny legs and I have never had a problem with leaking.
  2. Snap closure.  Velcro just doesn’t last and it sticks to everything.

Here’s what makes up my  stash of cloth diapering supplies:

Are cloth diapers something you would be willing to try?  What other questions do you have?  I would love to help you get started!