5 Clean Products You Can Make Yourself & Some Simple Switch-Outs

// Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This simply means that I receive a small commission, at no cost to you, when you make a purchase using my link. // 

Like everything else these days, beauty products are getting more expensive. Women typically use a lot of products daily: skincare products, deodorant, sunscreen, makeup, hair products, toothpaste etc.  It all racks up quickly when you total it.

The thing is, women consider most of the items they use necessities. I love a simplified life, but I also like to look nice too.

But here’s a scary statistic circling the internet that you might’ve heard: Women apply approximately 168 chemicals on their bodies daily, most of it all before breakfast.

Thankfully there’s been a lot of buzz about what’s actually in our products and WHY it’s important to look into ingredients.  In general, concerned people are getting the word out that there are better alternatives for the things we use every day.

Sites like SafeMama.com, WellnessMama.com and a few others have given me some of the tools and knowledge I need to make smarter, more informed choices. It wasn’t until after I gave birth to my son that I went into full-on mama bear mode and did a lot of research about the products I was going to be putting on him. This had a positive ripple effect which lead me to research other products I had been using.

// I have fortunately already been using great products to clean & disinfect with as smells have always irritated me. Synthetic smells (i.e. plug-in air fresheners, candles, harsh cleaners with a scent, etc.) all bother me terribly…so much so that I will get a headache within minutes of them being turned on or used.  Yuck! //

This reaction in my own body leads me to contemplate why so many people (women in particular) struggle with serious health issues. Autoimmune diseases, infertility, cancer, endocrine issues, foggy brain, fatigue of all kinds, etc. For some people there are definite correlations between what they put on and in their bodies and how their bodies react to those things.

The sad reality is that most people just buy what’s convenient to them and, at times, “cheapest”, although most products are WAY overpriced any way. And the “cheapest” items out there are full of fillers & chemicals. Ick!

The overpriced dilemma in women’s products, partly has to do with this thing called ‘The Pink Tax”. It might be a new term for you but it’s basically the fact that mega companies know that women are the largest majority of consumers in the market and so they drastically hike up prices of women’s items solely because they know the pretty attributes are going to attract their eye (pink, pretty packaging, fancy fonts). Crazy, right?

Seriously, let’s chat about shaving cream for a second.  If you compare, let’s say, the pretty Skintimate container to the “manly” Barbasol one guess how much the difference in price is: 4.37 compared to 1.29 and they do the SAME exact thing.  Insane!

And when you start to do the math and research, like me, you stumble across the fact that you really are only presented with an illusion of choice. Just take a look at this infographic displaying the 10 major companies monopolizing the food and beauty industries (this hasn’t been updated recently & some changes have since taken place, ex. buy-outs):

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Does this seem like you have much of a choice when you are purchasing products at grocery giants? Also, most of these companies bombard the media with their commercials & ads. They pay big bucks to get big representation (Super Bowl, Mass Media) and nobody is ever checking in on what goes behind the scenes.  They all just see dollar signs.

Not trying to be a conspiracy theorist here, or maybe I am? However, there is a lot of corruption high up in some of these companies.  They lose sight of the fact that certain ingredients are harming their demographic. But if they keep making the money why do things really need to change?  As much as they claim to have the customer in mind, a lot of times they don’t…it’s really just a ploy to tug at your “human-ness”.

Part of my heart behind this post is that I want more people to become smarter consumers.

The best example I can give of this supply and demand phenomenon are puppy mills.  Oprah blew the roof off of that despicable industry years ago, but people are STILL purchasing puppies from the store in the mall, or the puppy place down the block that has 8 puppies stuffed in a clear box.  If you don’t purchase from them, they won’t stay open.

The other option that people often want to partake in can be a hard reality. Most families are not made of money.  Some of the companies that make wholesome, organic products that are reputable charge a small fortune (rightfully so, because they’re growing, sourcing and using pure-grade items NOT junk).

Here-in lies the dilemma, but it doesn’t always have to be!

Do some research.

One of my favorite apps is Think Dirty. I don’t use it all the time, but I whip it out when purchasing new products, especially for my son. It’s important to me to check on the ingredients in that item and what those ingredients may disrupt or affect. They rate each item in their database on a scale from 1 – 10. Another good source is EWG Skin Deep which is another go-to of mine to keep informed about all of the toxins that we come across daily, and not just in beauty products. These 2 sources aren’t the be all, end all for purchasing something but they get you processing what actually is in all of our stuff. And they break it down in a way that is easy to understand.

At the end of the day, you know your families issues, what bothers you and what might be a problem area for you. If you’re concerned about something…look into it! Getting a lot of headaches? Look into your fragrances or cleaning products! Baby has a never-ending rash? Look into your detergent or their diaper cream!  Need to purify your stale air? Look into purchasing a natural air-purifying plant!

If you’re overwhelmed, start by looking through your cabinets and figuring out what would be most important to you to switch out.  Some things are low on the “dirty scale” (with a 1-2 rating).  I often will keep those items, or even purchase them again if I like them. The items that rate high (5+) have a lot of chemicals in them that go straight into your blood stream and body.  We all know that our skin is the largest organ and everything we put on it seeps into our body in some way. But, I also think that people sometimes forget this, use what’s convenient and at times, reap horrible consequences because of it. I’d ditch those products immediately, especially if the ingredients are very questionable.

A tip to keep in mind: the term ‘fragrance’ on the back of a product is a dangerous little word meaning the company can sneak in any and every form of synthetics and chemicals to preserve the shelf life of their product, and MASK the smell of something not so good. Once you start checking ingredients in items, you will be shocked at just how many contain this nasty little word. The craziest part for me is that there are no regulations for “fragrance” which means it could be ANYTHING.  The Honest Company does a great job explaining this further. Check it out here.

Even if you don’t switch for yourself (trust me I get it, stuff is expensive), but you’re using something on a baby and it says ‘fragrance’ somewhere in the ingredients…please rethink! Children are up against a lot these days so let’s clean up one area for them that they can’t control anyway!  I am a sucker for fancy smells too, believe me, but I also know that my son’s skin is super sensitive so I have to be careful what I put on him.  The Weleda brand has been our go-to when purchasing skin products for him.  And it smells delicious with calendula as the main ingredient.  We use their Shampoo/Body Wash and love it.

A simple switch I personally made for myself about 5 years ago was to go from aluminum-based deoderant to aluminum-free.  I started to become concerned when I began experiencing strange pains in my breast tissues (not being a hypochondriac here just being vulnerable), as well as burning, itching and irritation immediately after application (not normal). I told my husband who also became somewhat concerned and then I headed to the internet to research a bit.  That was the first time I heard buzz and read about links between metal/toxins and breast cancer, amongst other things.  I began having great conversations with other girlfriends who were making the switch too.  I threw out my aluminum-based deoderant and never looked back. I have tried almost every natural deodorant out there, some were ok, some I hated and a few get a big stamp of approval from me.

That original switch gave me so much peace and would you guess I haven’t had any strange pains since, apart from that time of the month and early pregnancy :). This story isn’t meant to scare or panic people, or make people feel bad for using the deodorant offered in main-stream stores. It’s to inform you and make you aware, so that you can safely decide what is appropriate in your home and what is not.

Take a look at some simple switch-outs you can make for things you are probably already buying!

Simple Switch-Outs:

  • Facial Toner (pore minimizer): Thayer’s – Witch Hazel (Rose <3) – I swear this minimizes my pores so well, also Aloe Vera Gel [I purchase the AV from good ol’ Trader Joes]. You could also simply try the amazing ACV (Apple Cider Vinegar) as a toner as well (it does a whole lot of other great things too).
  • Deoderant:  – The key here is to look for aluminum-free! Native [Coconut & Vanilla scent] is my favorite right now, and I have tried almost EVERY natural deodorant under the sun. Some of the organic ones smell great but do not last long on my body. Here are a few more you could try: Lume [this is my next brand to try], Schmidt’s Deodorant ,  LaVanila  (also on my list to try!), Tom’s of Maine” , Jason , or make your own!
  • Make-up Remover: USDA Organic Jojoba Oil [I buy mine at my favorite store: Trader Joes]. This goes on so smooth and I don’t ever wash it off because it’s meant to moisturize the eye area.  It’s recently gone up in price, so to make it last longer try to use just a dab on a cotton pad.
  • Dry Shampoo: I am a lover of a good dry shampoo and have tried a few brands (found out that they are high in toxins).  The aerosol component always made me uncomfortable – it gets sprayed into the air and then I breathe it all in, doesn’t seem too great. If the ingredients are iffy then this obviously isn’t good for our respiratory system, especially if you already struggle with asthma, reactive airway or allergies. I often use plain old baby powder.  This can also get inhaled so make sure it’s a solid brand without talc like California Baby Organic Powder ! P.S. you can also make your own! See below for a recipe I tried!
  • Shampoo/Conditioner: For this you can easily do a baking soda rinse and ACV as conditioner.  Both of these will level out the pH of your scalp and help with build-up too. You could also be daring and forgo shampoo altogether and join the ‘No-Poo’ crew. I debated it years ago, but was too chicken! Let me know if you’ve done it.  *If you’re thinking of trying it, here is a good place to start.
  • Nail Polish: I LOVE me some nail polish…always have! I have been painting my nails since I’m around 6 years old! However, I recently discovered how many dangerous chemicals are in most nail polish – formaldehyde, toluene and DBP.   Check out this post to see a more in-depth explanation as to how harmful these can be. The easy switch would be to buy a toxin-free brand like: Piggy Paint  or SOPHI(this line has a lot of options!) Right now I am giving my nails a break because I paint them myself all the time. When I am ready to use nail polish again I will be trying out the SOPHI line!
  • Baby Powder: Just use cornstarch or arrowroot starch (if you are paleo)! Want a scent? Add some drops of essential oils (check thoroughly to make sure it’s safe for baby’s skin and DO NOT use oils on babies under 3 months old). Lavender is a go-to for me!
  • Sunscreen: For a child use this Baby Sunscreen Cream  by Badger brand!! I have loved the products of this line for a long time.  They have a regular sunscreen you could also use for yourself, but it’s thick.  If you’re wanting something else for you try  The Honest Company  aerosol brand.

See below for some items you can try to make yourself!

Make These Yourself:

Tip #1: Re-use empty containers from old products! This is the best advice I can give, and when my husband asks me why I have 10 containers saved up I have the perfect answer for him. I then proceed to proudly show him my homemade product!

Tip #2: Invest in good buys that go a long way & can be used in multiple products such as some essential oils, Dr. Bronner’s castile soap, baking powder, distilled white vinegar, cornstarch, ACV etc. If you have some of these staples on hand at all times you can easily make anything you need.

Tip #3: Switch out what you use OFTEN enough that it could be harmful if you don’t. For example: deodorant, dry shampoo or a specific piece of make-up (ex. foundation). If you apply it every day, it may be smart to look into exactly what the ingredients are!

  1. Brown sugar face/body scrub – sugar scrubs are so easy to make and the key is to use what you have on hand!  1 c. brown sugar, 1/2 c. oil of your choice (olive, coconut or even grapeseed), 1/2 tbs. vanilla extract and if you have on hand a few drops of Vitamin E (I popped open some capsules I had in my cabinet and squeezed the goodness out)  *These make great gifts too!
  2. Simple body wash – You can just use Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (my favorite). There are a wide variety of scents you can purchase, including an unscented one.  This is highly concentrated though so a little goes a long way.  People will often dilute it with other things to make it last longer.  1/3 c. Castile soap, 1/3 c. raw local honey, 1/3 c. oil of your choice. You can add in essential oils if you prefer, but I like to keep things simple.  Depending on the size of your (repurposed!) bottle use measurements according to your liking.
  3. Baby Soap – hover over each image for a brief description. *Be careful with essential oils as they can burn tiny eyes! Just omit if you get nervous!
  4. Baby Wipes– hover over each image to read brief description. These were moisturizing for little hands and smelled great! Add a few drops of essential oil into your mixture!
  5. Dry Shampoo – this one I just made and really like! Pour together 2 tbs. cornstarch + 2 tbs. cocoa powder.  I added in a few drops of essential oil and whisked it all up in a pyrex measuring cup.  I then transferred it to an old, plastic salt/pepper shaker I wasn’t using! Works great and blends into my hair well.  If you have light hair skip the cocoa and just add in more cornstarch.

Essential Oils: I have used a few brands but fell in LOVE with Young Living! I am a distributor and my member number is 16601125. You can get to my site by clicking here: oilwith.me/amber

**Diffusing oils into the air is the BEST advice I have to switch from the very toxic plug-in air fresheners, they smell amazing and are good for us to inhale! Win-win!

Wow, thank you for sticking around all the way to the end of this post.  You’ve probably figured out that I love words and writing [I even cut out some fluff because I could go on and on about this] haha! Anyway, I hope you got something out of this post. Know that you are in charge of what you consume as a buyer.  Be smart, make informed choices and always look into what’s in your stuff, especially if you or someone in your family is experiencing health issues!  ❤

Be well,

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An Old Armoire Gets a Makeover!

I have finally documented a before & after piece step by step!! See my post below for all the details:An Old ArmoireGets a makover

 

I have repurposed/repainted quite a few pieces of furniture (one of my favorites being our gorgeous hutch – see the picture below!). [PS. That banner is also created by me…I have a hand-lettering business, but I’ll save more on that for another post ;)]

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Getting back to the armoire! My husband Nick’s grandmother generously gave the solid wood piece to my brother-in-law, who so graciously gave it to us.  We have had our Ikea “furn-a-kit” pieces for 5 years now since we purchased them back when we got married. Ikea is amazing for so many things and we love it there, but our dressers began falling apart and wiggling every time we opened them.  We knew we needed an upgrade, but solid furniture pieces, that you would keep forever, are quite expensive.  When my brother-in-law offered this piece to us we JUMPED on it! Fortunately we already had the two end tables that match!

Once they got the piece into our basement I had to decide what color to paint it. This is always the hardest decision for me, and I let myself grapple with it for a while before I jump in and paint anything. I have to love the color and it must work in the space where it’s being placed.  On Facebook, I’m in quite a few groups that give me ideas and inspiration and also are very encouraging when it comes to a question you have about a design idea.  Disclaimer: I am NO designer, I just enjoy loving on my tiny home and cozying it up!

So I asked the nesters in the exclusive Nesting with Grace FB group what type of paint I should use. They gave me so many great ideas, some of them I had used before and others were new to me.  I got quite a few responses suggesting Fusion Mineral Paint so of course I was intrigued and had to check it out. Guys…..it is amazing and very ‘user friendly’! I searched online where to purchase it and realized that it is a specialty paint so that means only certain stores get the “rights” to offer it to customers (think: Annie Sloan Chalk Paint at Suite Pieces in Huntington) – Side bar: obsessed with that place!  So I googled the paint first and then searched for a store in my area that sold it. I came across a store in Huntington called Crafts Off Main. It was only just having it’s grand opening the day after I found them…how funny is that?

I was going to order it online but then decided that I wanted to see the paints in person and take a look at their cute store.  This place does not disappoint! It sells scrapbooking items, a few different brands of paint and of course what I came for: the Fusion Mineral Paint! I had a color in mind that I chose and loved before I went in, but I had a great time discussing the paint, how it maneuvers, best practices, etc. with the owner.  She showed me a few pieces she painted herself and I loved the richness of the colors!  The color I chose is called: Homestead Blue!

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It is a gorgeous, creamy blue…not too dark and not too light.  Originally I was thinking of going with a navy, but they all ended up looking either too bright or too deep for me.  This color was just the perfect blue hue for our bedroom and tied in some other pieces we already had [win, win]!

I prepped my piece, let it sit for a night and painted it the next day in about 1 1/2 hours (I never track my time I usually just get lost in the project). See my detailed steps below with pictures!

  1. I started by prepping the piece first, unscrewing all of the hardware handles, and ripping out all of the old liner that was glued in (this came out quite easily with a razor blade to help lift the stuck edges).
  2. Then I sanded the whole piece. I used my husband’s sander which worked well for the flat surfaces, but in hindsight I should have just used a piece of sandpaper for the tighter spots. *Sanding a waxy/glossy piece will help the paint to adhere to the surface better instead of sliding around.
  3. Then I wiped the entire piece down with a damp rag and let it sit over night.IMG_0868
  4. The next day I wiped it down quickly with a dry rag and prepped my paint brush by flicking it back and forth to get any loose hairs out.  **If there is one piece of advice I can give it is DO NOT skimp on a paint brush. The cheap ones lose all of their hairs in your work and a decent brush will last you a long time when cared for properly!** I used a Staalmeester #20 for this piece (purchased at Crafts Off Main in Huntington where I purchased the paint)
  5. I made sure to use painter’s tape to mark off any edges I didn’t want to paint. Ex. inside the cabinet, where the original stain stopped, and around anything else you don’t want painted.IMG_0876
  6. I began painting my piece starting with the top and working down the sides (no primer needed because this paint has amazing coverage).  This paint is thick and goes far so you only need to dip half of the paint brush in and wipe off all of the goopy excess!  The paint brush holds A LOT, so doing this will also prevent the paint from getting too thick in certain spots. Once I finished a section, moving back and forth, I moved onto the next.
  7. Once the whole piece was finished, including the tops of the drawers, I let it sit again overnight to dry.
  8. I washed out my paint brush, pushing it down into the bottom of the sink under streaming water until it ran clear.  I straightened out the bristles and laid it flat on a paper towel to dry.
  9. The next day I went back to the piece and checked it over. Any spots I missed or seemed thin I went back over or touched up.  I did not do a second coat as this paint is meant to cover well the first time!
  10. While I was letting my touch ups dry I took all of my hardware and used Rub N’ Buff in Antique Gold to brighten up the fixtures! This dries fast so you have to work fairly quick. I used my hands because that seemed easiest and was able to work the paint into the hard to reach creases.
  11. To clean your hands you will need to use a rag with rubbing alcohol and/or nail polish remover.  It takes a few days to get out of those stubborn areas (around your nail crevices).IMG_0887
  12. There was one drawer where the hardware was broken/missing so I decided to head to Hobby Lobby to find new handles. They have so many adorable choices I always spend a good amount of time in this store anyway, but choosing hardware kept me occupied for a while 🙂
  13. The gold of the new hardware was too yellow compared to the Rub N’ Buff so I used that on the gold parts  and screws of the new hardware, buffed it in and let it sit.
  14. While the hardware was drying I took my leftover Annie Sloan Soft Wax and rubbed it into the armoire with a rag.  This is the most tedious part and takes some time.  You do not have to do this with the Fusion Mineral Paint (they do have their own line of waxes as well), but it is a high traffic piece for us so I wanted to save the paint job as best as possible.  This stuff seals it in and keeps it from chipping easily.IMG_0893
  15. I put all the hardware back in the piece and added in new shelf liner to compliment the color (found at Target).  The shelf liner I flipped over, measured and cut to match using a scissor and a razor blade.  It doesn’t have to be perfect as your clothes will be covering it and brings the whole piece together nicely.IMG_0896

Here is the before and after:

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I am so happy with how this piece came out and I hope you were able to walk away with some tips to go and paint your own piece! It doesn’t take much to make cozy, unique changes to your home! You can do this…have fun with it!!

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