Why You Might Turn Your Bathroom Into the Baking Aisle, Too

For years I’ve been denying allegations that I am a “hippie.”  I suppose it’s because my foundations were poured in a very conservative state.  aHow conservative?  On the day America’s first black president was voted into office, the front page of the state’s biggest newspaper ran a photo of… the conservative competitor. Delivering his consolation speech.  With a caption along the lines of “Well, we may not have won, but at least we were among the top supporting states!”   You’ve heard “you can take the girl out the the trailer park…” – right?  Well, you can’t take the upbringing out of this woman… and where I’m from “we” don’t really like hippies.  They are lazy, drug-using, societal mooches who do lots of weird shit like live out of cars, over-enjoy life, wax poetic about “deeper meanings”, hate on corporations, and get their panties in a twist about what’s in the food supply and lots of other stuff that most people can’t be bothered to worry about.

Well, in 2014, my new year’s resolution required turning my bathroom into a baking aisle.  It required weird-hippie-shit.

And I.. I…. umm… I… uh…

I like it.

top slow travel blog half the clothes author Jema is, unfortunately, probably a hippie

Oh god. It’s happening. I’m growing up ‘the type my parents warned me about.’ Shit.  photo: pixabay

With my new bathroom additions you can:

  • bake cookies
  • make a delicious breakfast
  • luxuriate in amazing chocolate
  • make this awesome cucumber salad from my childhood
  • have Christmas in your mouth every single day

You could also:

  • dissolve hard water like Cinderella on steroids
  • save lots of cash – especially in Australia/New Zealand/UK
  • never have smelly armpits ever, ever, ever again

And some other stuff…

So what’s the resolution?

Stop using bath and beauty products full of chemicals I know nothing about.

Why?  Who cares?  If you’re asking, you’re probably not a candidate for hippie status, at least in my book.

Look… maybe it doesn’t matter that the mattress you sleep on, the furniture you sit on, the car you drive in, and the carpet you walk on are full of flame-retardants.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that many of the things you put in your mouth every day are bathed in pesticides.  Maybe it doesn’t matter that the biggest health and beauty product producers are motivated by maximum profit and that the industry is barely regulated.  Maybe none of it matters.

But maybe it does.

Christmas and Easter Hippie

I’d read enough and seen enough over the decade of my 20s to be motivated to try “Health and Beauty” alternatives.  But my efforts weren’t always… uh… successful.  Eg:

  • “Natural” shampoo and conditioner was okay, but boy does that tea tree sting on anything but your scalp!
  • “Natural” toothpaste only costs an arm and half a leg… seems reasonable.
  • “Natural” soap is probably the easiest, most transparent thing to track down and my only real “win.”
  • “Natural” lotion is rad.  And radically expensive.  But smells nice.
  • “Natural” deodorant… can go take a flying leap.
natural deodorant can take a hike, says top slow travel blog half the clothes

“Natural” deodorant doing battle against B.O. (a.k.a. body odor). Poor guy never stood a chance. photo: gratisography

None were noticeably different, but surely paying more means I’m safe from the scary chemicals?!  The thing is, I always meant to convert my whole bathroom.  But in the end it was just easier to keep doing what I’d always done.  Which meant the closest I’d get to converted hippie was some alternative product showing up among my Herbal Essences and Colgate.

Ultimately, the fiscal conservative in me prevented the forking over of extra cash for products I didn’t actually know or believe were better.  I consoled the “hippie” in me with never-ending promises of “next time.”  Next time you’ll start using only expensive natural shampoo for good.   Next time your toothpaste runs out you can permanently convert to the g$$d stuff.

2014 was supposed to be the year the hippie would shut Ms.-Fiscal-Conservative up for good.

Preamble to Getting Serious

Ms.-F-C insisted that if I was going to fork over exorbitant amounts of cash for the rest of my life, I had better damn well be positive that what I was buying had all the super-powers I thought it did.  After all, the “natural” product labels are just as full of unpronounceable ingredients as the big-scary-”chemical laden” products.

Luckily, I wasn’t starting from zero.  Pre 2014, in Hawaii, I met an awesome woman:

  • interior designer
  • whip smart
  • gorgeous blond ringlets
  • excellent fashion sense
  • mini-van driving
  • independent
  • energetic, with adorable four-year old

… seriously, this woman was girl-next-door meets beauty queen.  She was awesome.

And she didn’t wash her hair.  Ever.

She put… BAKING SODA.  ON HER HEAD.  EVERY TWO WEEKS.  What?!  No way.

Months later I would meet a fashionista foodie who could be a Disney princess (with her doe eyes, mile-long lashes, perfectly-even skin, heart shaped lips… I could go on).  To prove that this woman seriously cares about her appearance I will point to exhibit A – while she loves traveling, she genuinely laments having to wear the same clothes all the time.  However, by both profession and passion she also loves the environment.  She convinced me to try a “shampoo detox” – no suds in the shower for a week – followed by a regime of only scrubbing my locks every four days.  It was… okay.

Go Big or Go Home

Enter 2014 – year of no more putting weird crap in my body to benefit the bottom line of both my pocket book and those of America’s health and beauty giants.

I tackled shampoo and conditioner first.  I spent hours reading about all the weird shit you can put in your hair.  (“No ‘Poo” is a huge alternative health and beauty trend.  Google it.  I dare you.)  I read through dozens of recipes and other women’s experiences.  Changing a habit would be hard enough.  Whipping up my own concoction was more than I wanted to take on.  The low-hanging fruit seemed to be either raw eggs or baking soda dissolved in water for shampoo and vinegar for conditioner.  Yeah.  Vinegar.  Conditioner.  That’s what I thought, too.

Going no-poo is quite the adventure, and top slow travel blog Half the Clothes recommends doing it when you're going to be in one place for awhile.

“I can’t believe I’m pouring raw breakfast all over my head. The people are right. I am crazy. Capital C.” photo: pixabay

Five months Years later I can tell you this: baking soda or beaten eggs followed by vinegar once-a-week-ish is actually pretty freaking awesome.  bFWIW, not everyone loves baking soda.  Some people say it just didn’t work for them.  My hair no longer turns so-greasy-it-looks-wet if I go more than 20 hours without a shower.  It is no longer lifeless and flat against my scalp.  Dried out?  Split ends?  Nope.  I get all the promises alleged by Pantene-Pro-V commercials and only have to “wash” my hair… well… really whenever I want.  Every week?  Every ten days?  (Don’t be a hater… I rinse it out basically daily.)  And to top it all off, it’s pretty cheap.  Now I’m torn between beautifying myself, making salad dressing, cooking breakfast, and baking a cake!

Update 2017: With the three years of baking soda, stylists were always telling me what amazingly healthy hair I had.  But in the back of my mind, I always thought about the solid group of people who didn’t have great experiences with baking soda “no ‘poo.”  I continued to wonder about alternatives… in a don’t-actually-want-to-put-in-the-effort-of-action kind of way.  Now: I’ve gone even crazier with my locks.  I’ve stopped washing them.  Yup.  That’s right.  I’m pretending it’s 1910.  Or 1820.  Or 1735.  Or 1400.  Or 8000 B.C.  Or any of the other times in the past 200,000 years that humans were doing pretty alright without shampoo.  Oh sure, the adventure involves an awkward learning curve and a few bad hair days.  But fewer than I had in the life of washing-my-hair-every-damn-day.  This woman has all the juicy details and how-tos.

(Inadvertent) Step Two: Deodorant.

I’m probably not the only woman out there who feels (felt!) like her secret nickname could be “Sweaty-stinky-señorita.”  I’m definitely the type of person who always has (had!) a stick of please-god-don’t-let-me-smell-like-b.o. handy

Knowing that other people might be subjected to your b.o. can make you want to run and hide.

Me when I get got stuck without deodorant somewhere: “Ahhh!!!  Don’t come any closer!  Pay no attention to the woman behind the glasses and mustache!”  photo: gratisography

A long time ago I wondered why some deodorants were so proud to be, among other things “aluminum free!”  Now I’d find that said ingredient basically causes your sweat glands to swell shut.  On the one hand – no sweat comes out, so hopefully no-stinky!  On the other – wtf!?  Shut down the body’s system for cooling/expelling waste, etc.?!

While I don’t want to be a sweaty beast, endure arm-pit stains, or smell like a walking garbage heap, I also don’t want to stand in the way of body functions that have been automated for several hundred decades.  Who would ask to breathe less, have fewer heartbeats, blink less, or stop getting rid of waste?

But many of us know the shame of being in a social setting, arms plastered firmly to side, natural gestures muted, fear of anyone picking up the dreaded B.O. we are giving off or seeing the giant wet  circles under our armpits  even though we just reapplied deodorant five minutes ago.  Or the disappointment of having a new, favorite, light-colored t-shirt go from beautiful, to “I can never lift my arms while wearing this lest anyone spy the gross, yellow, armpit stains that seemed to have appeared overnight.

What is wrong with me? Why can’t I be like other people? Is this my fault? Am I being punished? Do I have bad karma? Low magnesium?  photo: pixabay

Folks, I’ve tried EVERYTHING.  Any kind of “natural” deodorant in the same familiar package – check.  The weird crystal stick that you have to get wet and then rub on – check.  Not wearing deodorant – check.  Strong enough for a man, but made for a woman – check.  Check. Check. Check. Check. Check.

So imagine my reserved enthusiasm when, in researching the baking soda/shampoo thing (because some people totally hate it, btw), I discovered a woman who said baking soda worked great as deodorant.

Well,” I thought, “I am in the market for something not-filled-with-corporately-profitable-unpronounceable-chemicals.  And I do already have a container of baking soda hanging around my bathroom.  So… what?  I just… dip my fingers in the powder and rub it into my armpits?  Like this?

Yes.  Just like that.  And I have had absolutely ZERO body odor ever since.  ZERO.  You know how with most deodorant you end up smelling like sea breeze and b.o.?  Or floral jasmine and b.o.?  Or arctic fresh and b.o.?  Baking soda rubbed on my underarms leaves me smelling like… nothing.  No t-shirt pit-stains, no embarrassing stinky… just a huge dose of nothing.

It’s amazing.  I love it.

Can It Get Any Better Than This?

Next item on the beauty agenda: face cleanser.

I put off the face-cleanser challenge for a long time.  Weeding through all the literature about alternatives is such a chore.  And then there is the self-experimentation.  Again I found elaborate recipes one can whip up.  I read all sorts about oatmeal, honey, lemon, brown sugar, coffee grounds, white sugar, olive oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, yogurt, almond meal, tea, apples, cucumber, mint… basically if it sounds kind of yummy, why not try putting it on your face?!

Wait. I thought I was making a latte. You want me to… rub this stuff into my skin?  photo: pixabay

My personal barrier was an addiction to scrubbies.  A long-time fan of St. Ives Apricot Scrub, I just didn’t know how my face would ever feel clean without the assistance of ground walnut shells.  The closest alternative I found in the au naturel world was sugar crystals mixed with myriad edibles – not exactly shelf-stable and therefore not exactly vagabond-lifestyle friendly.  But then I read about…

… oh no you didn’t.

Baking soda.

Am I being punked?!

“This is ridiculous,” I thought.

“This is impossible,” I asserted.

“This is just too good to be true,” I doubted.

But next time I stepped in the shower, I hesitantly lowered my damp fingers into my container of dry baking soda, covered the tips in white powder, and started scrubbing my face like usual.  Just like I’d read, the baking soda crystals had my required “scrubby” (exfoliating) effect.  When I rinsed, my skin had the exact same feel achieved post-soap or post-cleanser.  My complexion and skin haven’t changed.  It’s been weeks years, and so far the only difference is my face cleanser costs $1 a box instead of $5 a tube.

Brusha, Brusha, Brusha…

On to toothpaste.  Oh, the dreaded toothpaste.  I knew I was going to have to succumb to donning a beauty chef’s hat.  The basic alternatives I’d heard about – namely salt and baking soda – both taste horrific.  Which left me no choice but to mix a bunch of stuff together into a palatable and serviceable concoction.  To the internet I went, researching like a fiend.  And then to the brewery supplies store cthe cheapest place to purchase these items – you’ll pay up to five times more at a health food store I went purchasing things like calcium carbonate and bentonite clay powder (a flavor-influencer/vitamin supplement and a wine clarifier respectively).  Of course I wasn’t at all surprised that my homemade remedy called for baking soda. Definitely being punked.

I feel like I’m in the Truman Show. But… I kind of like it. Baking soda. For reals.  photo: pixabay

The toothpaste recipe also claimed to cure cavities, eliminate cold-sensitivity, and whiten your teeth, on top of doing the regular cleaning job.  I was skeptical.  As long as the stuff did at least as well as the Aquafresh and Colgate I’d been using for years, I’d get onboard.  To the “what’s that?” ingredients listed above, I added cinnamon, clove powder, coconut oil, baking soda, and vodka (far more shelf-stable than water).  It turned into a brown paste the consistency of cookie dough before I shoved it into dispensing tubes.

A few weeks years later:

  • my mouth feels just as clean as it ever has
  • the intense sensitivity where my dentist told me I’m developing a cavity has disappeared
  • I am no longer reduced to cringing pain when even-slightly-cold anything washes over the wrong areas of my mouth
  • my teeth are whiter.  No shit.  Like Crest White-Strips-commercials whiter.

It will be awhile before I get a I’ve gotten the dental stamp-of-approval.  Several times now.  And I get Christmas in my mouth at least twice a day!  I’ll be sure to let you know if all my teeth fall out next month someday.

Update 2017: I’m now using most of the above ingredients in an adapted version of the Wellness Mama’s Tooth Powder recipe.  (Because I didn’t like how hard it was to get the paste out of tubes when I was living out of a truck dand actually very depressed because of my proximity to an autonomy vampire, but… I digress.)  I cut Wellness Mama’s recipe down to this, and it’s been working for years:

  • 4 Parts Bentonite Clay
  • 3 Parts Calcium Carbonate
  • 2-3 Parts Super High Quality Cinnamon (to taste) eOh brother is there a difference between $2 cinnamon and $30 cinnamon.  I usually get just the amount I need of the g$$d stuff from the bulk food section at a health food store. 
  • 1 Part Baking Soda (the kind I link to here hasn’t been burnt out of ore and then treated with carbon dioxide)

I also got converted to this toothbrush – the benefits of electronic without the price tag or the international voltage issues!

Full Conversion Pending

Next up:  I’ve just started tackling lotion, and I barely started thinking about how I’ll replace lip balm and sunscreen.  Lucky for me, I gave face make-up the finger after a milestone birthday, so my bathroom makeover (ha ha) is nearly complete!

Update 2017: turns out lotion and lip balm replacement are a two-in-one.  Cocoa butter.  I buy a small jar (think non-GMO apple), it lasts at least a year.  I melt it into chunks and rub it between my palms for lotion.  I rub a chunk straight onto my lips for lip balm.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.  I still haven’t bothered with sunscreen.  I just slip on a hat, slap on a shirt and call it good.

In the meantime, I’m going to take my thirteen pound bag of baking soda from Costco and keep getting all sorts of cleaned and deodorized.  I dare you to bring this topic up with me in person and not end up semi-converted.

For my next trick, I will start eating only raw foods and begin dousing myself in patchouli oil.  Hahahaha… kidding!  Er…prob…uh… maybe. ♣

Amazing footnote: many of these basic ingredients that make up the bulk of my beauty routine come from my home state – Wyoming!  Some of the best bentonite in the world comes from Newcastle, Wyoming – 90 minutes from where I grew up.  Most baking soda in the U.S. and 25% of the baking soda in the world comes from Green River, Wyoming.  So I guess what I’m saying is… seems like maybe I was born to be a hippie?!

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