I’ve never been what you might call a “beauty junkie”. Growing up I didn’t get expensive haircuts or manicures. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup until I was 15 or 16. I never felt deprived – that was just how it was. However, as an adult I have often been envious of women who indulge in multiple beauty rituals. A trip to the salon every month, a fresh mani-pedi every week…it seems like the ultimate luxury to me. Since I never grew accustomed to any of these things, I’m happy that they don’t factor into my current budget. If I had unlimited funds, however, I’d be all over it. (Hair extensions, eyelash extensions, laser hair removal…don’t even get me started!!)
When I became financially independent, I enjoyed taking trips to Duane Reade to buy various soaps, scrubs, and shampoos. If one of my roommates had some new product in the shower, I inwardly “oooooed” and often went out to buy it for myself. It was never anything crazy. These were just simple little ways to feel pampered. Every woman likes to feel pampered, right?
Let’s fast forward a few years. I am post cancer and a student at IIN. After many revelatory experiences surrounding food, I encountered an entirely different monster: beauty products. I’m not going to lie, it was a huge bummer to realize that most of the products we use daily contain some questionable or even scary ingredients. The worst (and most practical advice) of all: don’t put anything on your skin that you wouldn’t eat. Whaaaaat?
It’s a staggering concept, to say the least. I think that in recent times huge progress has been made in making healthful, local, organic food more readily available to the masses. But healthful beauty products? Not so much.
Let’s say you did have the time and energy to devote to seeking out these less offensive products. They are expensive as hell. And most of the time, they don’t feel as good, they don’t smell as good (they might even smell terrible), and they might be less effective than the product you’re trying to replace. I did try a few of these before I accepted that, for the time being, this wasn’t a sustainable routine.
So I took a step back before I got completely overwhelmed. Okay. I was not (nor am I now) in a position to be dropping all kinds of money on products like that. So what were the alternatives?
I know! I can make my own beauty products!
I use the word “make” loosely here, because it required very little effort to redo my routine. My shampoo and conditioner were replaced with something called the “no poo” method. Baking soda + water to wash your hair. Apple cider vinegar + water to condition your hair. I bought an all natural, olive-oil based soap that contained exactly 3 ingredients. If I needed to shave, I used coconut oil instead of shaving cream. After I toweled off, I used a homemade deodorant made of a mix of baking soda, corn starch, and coconut oil. And guess what? I didn’t smell.
One little disclaimer – I made these changes when I had very little hair on my head, so my showers were already pretty quick.
I admit, I took some weird sort of pride in these chemical free, utilitarian showers. (Feel free to laugh at me here, but bear in mind – since my teenage years I’ve been really bad about time management in the bathroom.) After I’d been using my homemade products for a few months, surprise, surprise…I found out I was pregnant.
Great! I thought. Even better incentive to make sure everything I’m using is safe.
It was great and easy to maintain. No problem. And then came baby!
If you’ve read my blog at all before now, you know what I’m going to say next. I think I’ve referenced how childbirth ravaged my body in almost every post I’ve written. (Sorry, Willow.)
When my baby arrived, I’d been growing my hair for 9 months. I figured I’d feel more attractive as an exhausted new mom with longer hair. I really enjoyed the way pregnancy hormones made my hair stronger and thicker. Then guess what happened, guys! After giving birth your body experiences a shitstorm of hormonal changes, causing an incredible amount of emotional and physical stress. One lovely effect of these shifting hormones is that all that great hair falls out.
Mine didn’t just fall out, it started breaking. It seemed incredible that I had any hair left on my head at all. My problems didn’t stop at my hair, though. My skin was uncomfortably dry. My lips were always chapped. And thanks to the aforementioned hormones, my homemade deodorant just wasn’t cutting it anymore. Ew.
Like every mom knows, showering every day just wasn’t an option in the beginning. When you’re sleep deprived beyond all reason, any chance you get to sleep, you take. Priority #2 was eating.
When I did get the chance to shower, it made me so happy I might as well have been going to a spa. It felt like the ultimate luxury…except for my crunchy granola “products”. I just wanted to deep condition my ruined hair, damn it! I wanted to use body wash! Shaving cream?? Could there be anything more glorious?!?
It took me all of a minute to decide that I deserved an enjoyable shower, chemicals be damned! It was with a juvenile giddiness that I began to restock my shower with Pantene Pro-V and Dove.
Now, you may be thinking: what about all that unnatural, chemically laden business you mentioned before? I know. It’s still there, and I’m not turning a blind eye. The sad truth is, even though my daughter is now 7 months old, showering is still something I look forward to. For a few relaxing minutes a day, I get a break from my very full time job of motherhood, and I’m just a girl….standing in front of a shower head…………….okay sorry, I didn’t really have an exit strategy with that joke!
I’m reminded of a moment from the very first birth class that Tom and I attended. One particularly anxious father-to-be was asking a series of questions about undesirable substances in everything ranging from Purell, cologne, clothes, and even plastic tubing that a baby might need for life support in the case of an emergency. Our teacher first calmly pointed out that if his baby were on life support, his first concern probably shouldn’t be what chemicals might be in plastic tubing. Secondly, she said that you can drive yourself crazy if you want to. Instead, try to focus on what’s immediately important and go from there.
She was right. Trying to live an all-natural-all-the-time lifestyle can lead you down a never-ending, discouraging rabbit hole. It’s not about willful ignorance. You just have to do the best you can with the information you have. Try to master one thing at a time.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m exercising daily, taking my vitamins, watching what I eat and drinking more water. I’m also taking care of a tiny person all day, so frankly, I think that’s enough for now. There will be plenty of time in the future when I can focus more energy on what happens in my shower.
Besides, my hair feels sooo good right now.