Thursday, February 19, 2009

Going Au Naturale Savvy Style

About two years ago what started as a little itchy spot on my leg, turned into a widespread bump-fest on my body. Little by little dry, red, angry patches spread out everywhere on my body except on my face, and in my discomfort and pain, my vanity was spared. I was not however, spared sleepless nights with burning, oozing sores all over my body. Thank God for friends and family who still loved me in the midst of being grossed-out.

Initially thought to be psoriasis by one doctor, it turned out to be lichen planus, a skin condition that affects about 2 percent of the population and has no known cure. Doctors aren't sure what causes it or what makes it go away. Some people battle with it for the rest of their lives. I've been clear about a year now except for a couple spots that just don't seem to want to go away, but doctors say once it appears, there's always a chance it will come back.

A year's worth of trying steroids, topically and finally internally (I'm not a big fan of medication, yes, daughter of a GERMAN nurse), light therapy (a.k.a. tanning beds), the removal of all my silver fillings and FINALLY, a case of flat-on-your-back-for-3-full-days-flu and it went away, almost as quickly as it started. That said the incident was bad enough to warrant me looking into healthier ways and more organic ways to eat and well, live.

That said, I have come to discover in my "old age" that I am not a person of extremes. There are no major causes I believe in (other than savvy shopping that is). I try to eat healthy, eating as little processed foods as possible, drinking mainly water, but still partaking of things like one cup of coffee and flavored creamer a day and even dessert.

I run around after the kids, maybe take a walk to the park and occasionally pull out the exercise tape, but I am not a 5 day a week in the gym sort of person. I believe that we should do as much as possible to be good stewards of this world we live in so we try to recycle as best we can but do not have separation bins in the garage. Goodness, my thrift store wardrobe is one of the greenest things I do! But see, what I mean? We do a little about a lot of things, but aren't really gung-ho about ONE thing.

Thus, when it comes to organic foods and body care products, while I understand the benefit of it and believe it's something worthy to which I should aspire, it's expensive! Still, with my bout of lichen planus and two growing Superstars I figured I should try to apply my savvy saving talents toward switching to as much organic or hormone free products as possible...without breaking the budget and changing up everything. Thankfully, my husband, who was recently "diagnosed" with high cholesterol, agreed, which always make household directional changes easier. You know, CEO and COO being in agreement and all.

The first thing I decided to work with was skincare items or things that touched our skin on a regular basis: shampoo, conditioner, lotion and body wash. We now use Whole Foods 365 line, and for $10 you can get three large 32 oz. bottles of any of their scents (including unscented) natural body products. They last a long time and so far so good! Everyone's hair is squeaky clean and shiny. The lotion is nice and thick and absorbs well. And though I love the smell of the lavender version, something in it irritates Superstar #1's skin so we've had to move to the unscented version. Superstar #1 has sensitive skin and has nickel allergies (like her Mom, her aunt and great grandmother!).

For an extra special treat Trader Joe's carries great natural salt and sugar body rubs, something I enjoy in the shower that helps keep my skin moisturized and smooth. They have several different scents not only in the scrubs but in their lotion and body wash lines as well. The scrub is just $6 and is truly wonderful. Hey, if I'm going to get a 10 minute shower break, it's gonna be a luxurious one if at all possible!

As for hair products, I use Aveda gel for my hair. It generally costs $15 at the salon when I get my quarterly hair cut. I have found it for around $10 on eBay but it's a hit or miss there, luckily a little goes a long way and one bottle lasts me about 6 months.

Now, I'm going to be honest. I'm still working on a natural way to keep the gray hair at bay. I've used henna in the past and it works fairly well but it sure is messy. Still, having sparingly used over-the-counter dyes before, which are also messy, the henna is a lot healthier - even though I know the dyes won't kill me. It's one of those "choose your battle" type of things for me. At the moment I am considering experimenting with a natural way to eliminate gray formula I found on line: boiling sage and rosemary and then letting the mixture stay in your hair 10 minutes before washing your hair and it helps slowly take the gray out. I'll let you know how that goes!

As for face products, I talk a little about it with my post on my switch to mineral make up and the deal I found on the product on eBay. I admit that I still use Oil of Olay Regenerist for my face care. I'm not ready to switch over to all-natural or organic in that arena yet since it works so well for my skin.

The last thing I'm going to mention in this post is laundry detergent. We switched over the Costco Environmentally Friendly Laundry Detergent, which is not only good for the environment, but also our budget at just $12 for 100 loads worth of washing. It's also rated HE, which is what is recommended for my front-load washing machine. It may not be the greenest or the most natural thing out there, but it's a good money-saving item that puts on a path to more natural products.

That's it for today. I'll let you know as I find more items on this path toward more natural living. If you have savvy and simple hints on how to go more natural with body care products, let me know. You know, the kinds of tips that involve saving time and money in the process!

I'm going to post more on healthy food and snack options later. With growing kids who need snacks at least 2x a day, we're always looking for quick, convenient and healthy ways to keep them from getting cranky their energy up!

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