My 5 ways with … posts have always been about a glut of allotment produce before now. Today I wanted to continue the theme with natural beauty products after having the thought ‘‘I shouldn’t be using anything on my skin I wouldn’t put in my mouth”. I recall my Chinese medicine Doctor telling me my skin was my third lung so it makes sense to be more considerate of what I smother it with. I’ve been making very conscious decisions about what I eat lately (with good gut health, improved hydration and longevity in mind). Eating more mindfully has made me question what I put on to my body in the name of taking care of myself. My bathroom cupboard is a contradiction of natural skincare products from brands like Weleda and Dr Organic, home made mixtures and artificially pumped potions promising x y and z while being cryptic about what ingredients will make that happen. Most of the items in my bathroom cupboard, natural or otherwise, don’t have the ingredients listed on the tubes or pots once the outer packaging has been discarded. So I resolved to Konmari my toiletries and ditch anything that didn’t ‘spark joy’. For me that meant meeting all 3 of these criteria – smelling lovely, feeling amazing on my skin and leaving me in no doubt as to what made it smell and feel so good. This post is a summary of some of the things I was left with – my 5 favourite 100% natural ingredient products to love my skin.
1/ Epsom salts (magnesium sulphate)
I first came across epsom salts when I started allotment gardening. I read about how beneficial an epsom salts solution was for plants as soil is often depleted of magnesium, a vital mineral for healthy plant growth. I also read how helpful epsom salts are for achy muscles after a day of gardening so each time I remembered to feed the soil I’d have a soak in the bath. I found it so helpful I started to research more about the benefits of epsom salts and looked into sourcing larger quantities. This is when I discovered not all epsom salts are equal. Buying a good quality organic, food grade epsom salt was more important than saving on price. And as you’re absorbing the minerals through your skin it makes sense to source the most natural version you can find. For a few years now I’ve been buying organic food grade BitterSalz from a company in Germany via Amazon. A 25kg sack costs £23 with free delivery (smaller quantities available but it’s more cost effective to upsize if you have the storage space). I’ve not found anywhere that can match that price, even poorer quality epsom salts. Don’t be fooled by fancy looking artificially coloured bags of bath salts you can buy on the high street at about £5 for a 1kg bag!
How I use epsom salts
When I have a bath in the evening I add 1-2 cups of epsom salts to the bath water (depending on how much my body needs some tlc). Soaking in an epsom salts bath for at least 20 minutes draws toxicity out of your skin. The warm water opens up your cell membranes and encourages blood to come to the surface of the skin. The heat thins the lymph which boosts your immune system. The epsom salts solution has a softening effect on the skin by removing the scurf layer (skin brushing before your bath can really enhance this effect). An epsom salts bath has a deeply relaxing effect on your muscles so you’re likely to step out of it feeling weary. This is why I only add epsom salts to an evening bath as the process of toxin elimination continues when you go to sleep. When I combine this with an early night the effects are wonderful and I wake feeling refreshed and wonder why I don’t remember to do it more often. If I did remember to do it more often I would reduce the quantity of salts I used which would reduce the effect and be counter productive. A planned Sunday evening bath as a conscious self-care ritual combined with a day of good hydration and an early night has far greater appeal. It’s really important to drink plenty of water before and after your bath and not have the water so hot that you perspire a lot. If you’ve not used epsom salts before I’d recommend starting with smaller quantities and gradually increasing. If you’re pregnant or have high blood pressure research further before making epsom salts a part of a regular regime. Epsom salt baths are safe for children and help relax their tired bodies in the same way as ours. My boys love pouring a small cup of epsom salts into their bath water. At that ratio of salts to bath water there’d be no harm in a little going in their mouth or in their eyes but I always remind them that sicky tummies and stingy eyes may be the result if they get too splashy or if you’re Luca, have a good glug!
2/ Good quality sleep
You’re right, sleep isn’t a 100% natural ingredient left in my bathroom cupboard after the purge. How rich I’d be if I could invent bottled sleep! I’ve chosen it next as a follow on from epsom salts aiding sleep though because the quality of your sleep has a massive impact on the health of your skin. You could use all the products on the market found to aid sleep but if you are permanently sleep deprived your skin will suffer. Stress hormones impact your skins ability to regenerate, its elasticity and its ability to eliminate toxins. When your body is busy producing stress hormones to keep you functioning and you’re tired you’re more likely to reach for stimulants to get you through the day. We all know that sugar and caffeine are no friend to hydrated, nourished, happy skin.
What I do have in bathroom cupboard are a few products that help me to sleep when life is off balance. When my Mum died last year I found it really hard to switch off at night and fall asleep. Or I’d fall into an exhausted sleep only to startle awake a few hours later unable to get back to sleep. Making simple modifications to how I prepared for sleep really helped. I started sprinkling drops of Dr Organic pure lavender oil onto the pillows when I took the boys up for stories (I had it in the cupboard as one of my post-natal birthing essentials – a few drops in the bath is wonderful for healing wounds). When the boys had fallen asleep I’d go downstairs and make a Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime tea*. An hour before bed I’d take a dose of Higher Nature’s Valerian sleep aid.* I also have Dr Organic Lavender Sleep Therapy body oil which the boys enjoy having rubbed onto their legs (I bought it originally for this purpose when Euan was suffering from leg cramps). It contains soothing lavender and magnesium to help relax the muscles and as soon as I smell it I feel like my body lets out a sigh. Fragrances are so evocative and my sense of smell seems to be more sensitive since Mum died (coincidentally perhaps but I’m definitely much more in my body and emotionally reactive to smells)
(*I haven’t found confirmation of these products being organic)
3/ Oil based face creams
As my skin has matured (and aged since having children!) I prefer using oils or oil based creams on my skin rather than water based lotions. If I were to take one of those skin care questionnaires my skin type would be normal with occasional dry patches. 90% of the time my skin is fine but I get the occasional (like years apart) eczema flare ups on my eyelids. Monitoring it over the years suggests it’s hormone related as I’ve had few issues since having children (which balanced my hormones after years of infertility). I also think at it’s worst 10+ years ago it was stress related. Back then I visited the doctor with a particularly bad flare up that was making it difficult to even open one eyelid. He shrugged and said he could prescribe a topical steroid but cautioned ”they don’t really work for a lot of people and as they thin the skin I wouldn’t recommend it on your eyelids for more than a few days. You’re probably better off just using a barrier cream or something like Vaseline when it’s really dry”. I liked this Doctor and although it sounded unhelpful, especially suggesting vaseline for broken skin, I appreciated his reluctance to send me away with a pharmaceutical option. I continued my search for something that would relieve my eyelids as they cycled through tight red swollen skin to dry flaky broken skin. Even lanolin free or natural options stung painfully when I applied them. Thankfully I eventually tried Allergenics Intensive Care ointment which didn’t hurt at all and could be applied over and over and made my skin feel soft and relieved. A few years later I had Euan and my flare ups disappeared. I eventually threw away my out of date tube and when I did get some dry skin over the winter I started using the Weleda baby products I’d bought for him. The Weleda Calendula weather protection cream is amazingly rich for real crisis spots and remarkable for smoothing lines from an exhausted-new-Mum face after a night of little sleep. I now use Weleda Skin Food which is fabulous for any any part of your body, at any time of the day, in any season. I’ve used it for dry chapped allotment hands, cradle cap, cold winter weathered cheeks and sore sun soaked lips. I even use it on dry cracked heels when I can’t find my footbalm!
4/ organic raw cold pressed coconut oil
If I ever found myself on Dessert Island discs with Kirsty Young a lifetime supply of coconut oil would have to be my luxury item. It has so many uses, not least a wonderful moisturiser when weathering life on a remote island! I use it for cooking, cleaning, hydrating and soothing. For example, since having Luca I’ve only needed to wash my hair once a week and do so after my weekly swim. I use a regular shampoo as I haven’t put the work in yet to find an natural product that will counteract the chlorine sufficiently enough* (very open to any suggestions you may have in the comments). I have been feeling the ends of my hair are looking rather dry and it lacks shine as I get older. I purchased The Art of Natural Beauty: homemade lotions and potions for the face and body on Amazon Kindle for 99p and decided to try the natural hair conditioner recommended in there. I applied coconut oil to my hair in the evening and rinsed it with apple cider vinegar (ACV) as suggested. Once my hair was dry I could see it still contained coconut oil residue and I was glad I hadn’t done it in the morning and then gone out as it looked too oily. I showered and washed my hair as normal again and let it dry naturally. It definitely looked and felt in better condition. So while I’ll stick with a conventional shampoo/conditioner wash routine I will definitely incorporate a coconut oil/ACV hair mask treatment from time to time (it would be easy to add into an epsom salts bath soak!). Other less usual ways I use coconut oil: oil pulling to super clean teeth, soothing insect bites, rubbing into fungal toe-nails or rough skin on feet, removing glitter tattoos. I buy this organic raw cold pressed coconut oil from Iceland.co.uk . It’s £4.50 which is the best price I’ve found for such a natural source (equivalent size jar in a health food shop could cost you between £8-£12)
*update – I’ve now bought Dr Organic Rose Otto shampoo in the half price sale at Holland and Barrett. As I receive vouchers from time to time it was practically free! I found it lathered really well for a SLS free shampoo after my swim and left my hair feeling soft and ticking my ”smells lovely” criteria. I’ll have to get back to you on how well it works for rinsing a coconut oil hair mask off!
5/ starting the day with celery juice
I’ve been drinking celery juice to start my day for about 6 weeks now after coming across Anthony William, The Medical Medium, on Instagram. I listened to Anthony’s book Secrets behind chronic and mystery illness and how to finally heal on Audible* and was easily persuaded of the benefits of drinking celery juice on an empty stomach first thing in the morning. I don’t suffer from any chronic illnesses but felt a greater understanding of the symptoms my body creates when I eat certain foods would be helpful. There is so much information on Anthony’s website (which he shares freely – no subscriptions for VIP membership there!) I’m not about to try and summarise it all here. I’ll simply say these are 5 differences I’ve noticed from this easy adjustment to how I start my day:
♥ less bloating, feeling more energised even after poor sleep and brighter skin
♥ fewer headaches, particularly in the morning and feeling less mentally exhausted
♥ no afternoon slump (unless I’ve burnt the candle at both ends and feel body weary). I’m no longer reaching for the pre-school run cup of tea/latte or boosting energy with something sweet
♥ my brain fog is greatly reduced. I particularly seem to suffer before my period but my thinking has been much clearer and I’ve had no dizzy spells this month
♥ greatly reduced PMS symptoms all round. My cycle is usually between 40-45 days but this month it was 31 days which totally took my by surprise because I had no warning pelvic pain or lower back ache.
I crush my celery in my Magimix and then squeeze the juice through a muslin. Buying organic celery juice is preferable when juicing but the cost (it’s twice the price of regular celery) and availability can make that hard. The only supermarket near me that stocks organic celery is Morrisons and a weeks supply is about £8 versus £4 when buying regular celery. I feel the cost is worth it given the health benefits. When you make cleaner food choices it changes your pallette and I find I’m less likely to put ”treats” into my shopping trolley. That said I mostly use regular celery as we only have a small fridge and a Tesco Express over the road. I’ve not noticed a difference in taste between organic and non-organic celery but there’s a noticeable difference in colour. Organic celery produces a lighter, brighter green juice where my regular celery is quite a dark, mossy colour. I guess it tells you something about the different growing processes and what might be in all the water contained in the celery. Anthony agrees that drinking regular celery juice for all it’s benefits is better than not juicing celery at all if you’re not able to source organic celery.
So there you have it, 5 ways I’m giving my skin a bit more TLC and discovering other whole body benefits in the process. If you’re interested in my other 5 ways with posts click here for recipes using apples, beetroot, carrots, damsons and rhubarb.
A final note about Audible
I love books. I love finding things out. I hardly ever read books. Since having children this is especially true. The only books I do read (mostly on my tiny phone screen) are non-fiction related to health and wellbeing or parenting. About a year ago I decided to try the 30 day free trial on Amazon in order to receive ‘‘Listen: 5 simple tools to meet your every parenting challenge” by Patty Wipfler free of charge. I loved having Patty’s gentle wisdom in my pocket and listening to the book while I pottered around the house or walked to the pool. At the end of the free trial I gladly signed up to the £7.99 a month subscription and chose my next book. I’ve not looked back and feel it’s a great way of investing in my own learning and wellbeing each month. The average price of a 250+ page book is £18-£23 so I feel it’s not only good value for money but appeals to my natural audible learning style and reduces books gathering dust on my shelf. There really is no catch with cancelling if after a month if you just want a free book. I’ve added an easy click link to my sidebar (bottom right) so you can go and find out more if curious to see what books are available for your free trial.
Disclosure re. affiliated links
I’ve added Amazon links where available for the products I use. If you choose to buy using the Amazon links it will not cost you any more and I will receive a small commission from your sale.
If you are interested in trying Weleda products please contact me as I’m training as a Weleda Wellbeing Advisor. I will be able to offer 1:1 skincare consultations and special offers on Weleda products.
(post shared with JakiJellz for #TriumphantTales March 2019 – see link in sidebar for more details or to take part)