My strategy at home for several years has been to use my household and beauty products until it is finished and then replace it with a more sustainable, less toxic version.   The thinking here is to reduce my overall consumption,  as well as to seek better alternatives.  So over the course of the past year I have changed several of my products, and along with it my habits too.

I am hoping the one thing that hasn't changed is my lovely un-stinky self. Although I know that there were a few days during my transition where that may not have been the case.

Why make all these changes?   I think that this piece  from Environmental Defence  or their Resource on Toxic products can probably cover it better than me.  They provide a glossary of the Toxic 10 ingredients to avoid, companies that are committed to not including the Toxic 10 and a pocket shopping guide.

Deodorant

I timed this switch to not only coincide with my current deodorant running low, but also with winter.  Because switching deodorant in the middle of summer is a high risk endeavour.  And as it took me several tries to find the best one for me, I'm glad it was cold winter and not an overheated summer Zumba class.

My first try was a perfectly awesome Tom's of Maine unscented version.  I am sensitive to fragrance, and have always tried to avoid it. Even before I understood how vague the "fragrance/parfume" term was an ingredient.  As with regular deodorants products work differently on different people, and the Tom's didn't work for me.  So I switched to a Crystal.  It works great...but...

It required some changed in my habits. I have been putting on my deodorant as I get dressed for eons.  Not wanting to get those white stripes on my clothes, it was often the last thing to go on.   Now I need to put it on before I get dressed so it has time to dry.

It also has to be applied every morning.  With my traditional anti perspirant I could "forget" one morning and be fine that day.  Not anymore.  Which I found out the hard way last Wednesday.  Sorry to anyone around me that day.

It also requires a morning shower, or at least a "washing" before application each morning.  As the mother of a pre-schooler I don't often get the luxury of a shower in the morning.  So I need to be sure to remember to do a quick wash and apply my crystal deodorant in the bathroom.   I will admit to having walked several times back to the bathroom from the bedroom because I forgot this step.

My mom uses a natural deodorant that lasts 7 days.  When my current crystal runs out, I might give that a try.  So I can avoid the forgotten days and extra steps everyday.

  • Benefits - Less toxic.  Less packaging.  No fragrance.
  • Cons - More steps involved and you can't forget!

Shampoo

I'll be honest here I didn't wait until I was finished with my existing product. I  had a Costco size bottle of Head & Shoulders that was going to last me until my son graduated high school. So in this case I made the switch when the timing made sense to me.  My girlfriend Alexis switched a few years ago to using baking soda and apple cider vinegar to wash her hair.   As I travelled with her to BlogHer in San Diego last year I learnt more about why and how she did this (you learn a lot about people over 7 days in a car and at a conference).  You can read her thoughts here.

My issue with my hair is that I had to shampoo daily.  And that was stripping my hair of its "asset mantle and its natural barriers" (see my interview with Alain Larivée, John Frieda Canadian Creative Consultant for more hair care as we age).

I have an oily scalp, so if not washed everyday it got pretty greasy.  Plus I have some seriously crazy bed head each morning. So I have tried dry shampoo, but it doesn't help with the hair taming.  I also have an itchy, flaky scalp.   I think my hair was likely addicted to shampoo.

So after I returned from BlogHer last year I quit shampoo cold turkey.  And yes,  my hair went through some serious withdrawal (pick your timing to switch carefully).  And yes, it took some adjustments to get everything just right.  Now after close to a year I only shampoo with a "traditional" shampoo once a month (I use a scalp exfolliant shampoo that has a "fair" rating on the Skin Deep data base).  I use the baking soda shampoo, with Apple Cider Vinegar rinse 1-2 times a week. And sometimes I just do the apple cider vinegar rinse to cut the grease (and tame the morning do) when a full shampoo is not necessary.

The added bonus  is that the apple cider vinegar gives my hair more shine.  Alain Larivée, in our interview, said "...that vinegar is an acid base, and because the acid is so close to your natural PH it will seal that cuticle right up and give hair the shine".

Note that my hairdresser uses shampoo to wash my hair.  That to me is part of the experience of having my hair done.  And I wouldn't give up that head massage during the shampoo for almost anything.

  • The benefits - My hair is softer, curlier and shinier.  My head doesn't feel dirty the day after I wash it.
  • The cons - I still struggle with the dandruff.  I add a bit of tea tree oil to my apple cider vinegar rinse every so often.  And a bedtime cocktail of different oils applied to my scalp the night before I wash it also helps (be sure to put a towel over your pillow).  I also miss the lather of shampoo.  

Toothpaste

So far I have not found a replacement that works for my sensitive teeth toothpaste. I have tried several. One that is for sensitive teeth - but I didn't find it left my breath very fresh. Another which had a great fresh flavour, but the sensitivity in my teeth came back. So I am back to square one.    I never expected these transitions to be easy.  So I will continue to try and find the right solution for me.  My husband and son continue to love their Tom's.

I also use re-usable and washable feminine products from the lovely ladies over at Lunapads.  But as this post is getting very long, I'll leave that subject for another day. 

In conclusion,  I have to remember I didn't find my old favourite products over night. So I can't expect to find my new less toxic versions overnight.   In the meantime, I don't think I smell.  But if I do please tell me, as I continue to collect data on what is working and what is not.

Oh and my Alberta out-laws thought I was a crunchy granola based just on my reusable muffin cups.  Not sure what they will think about me after reading this post.