I never gave much attention to the products I used on my body. When I went to the store to purchase things like shampoo or body wash, my decision of what to buy was usually determined by things like scent, price and the promises it made. I looked for shampoo that would protect my colour-treated hair and tame the frizz, I wanted body wash that was moisturizing and smelled great and deodorant had to keep me feeling and smelling fresh all day long. I was highly influenced by things like marketing campaigns, media hype and brand familiarity. I’d go to the store, read the description on the back of the bottle and if it sounded convincing, I’d buy it. Truthfully, I don’t think I ever noticed that there was an ingredients list. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t alone. As long as the product did what it was supposed to do, I was happy. I never once thought that there might be something harmful hiding behind the pretty labels and inviting smell.
In my last post, I introduced you to the idea of changing up the products you use in your home and on your body and replacing them with natural alternatives. Today, I want to share with you the experience I had making the change, specifically with body products. When I decided to take on this project, I went in with rose-coloured glasses. I thought, I’ll just replace my existing products with greener, cleaner versions and everything will be great. I didn’t realize, however, that there was more to it than that. People love to talk about the benefits, but there aren’t a lot of people who address the challenges you face during the process. It was not just as simple as buying different products and going on as normal. That’s why I’m writing to you all today. My belief is that if you go into it knowing all the facts, you’ll be more successful and more likely to stick with it.
**Note: Not everybody has the same experience when switching to natural products. Some don’t experience any issues and others have problems that persist longer than mine did.**
Now, it’s time for me to lay down some truth talk: I deal with some fairly typical issues. I suffer from dandruff that usually worsens in the winter. It’s super embarrassing and something I’m pretty insecure about. I also have a problem with overactive sweating. When I was 19 I actually got botox injections (something I could never imagine myself doing now) to try to control it. The deodorant I used was clinical strength and was a deodorant/antiperspirant-in-one. I have very dry skin on my body, but oily skin on my face. My hair is naturally curly and frizzy and I’m paranoid about pimples so I used prescription strength creams to zap breakouts fast. It took me years to get into a regime that worked for me. The idea of starting from scratch was daunting and I didn’t even know where to begin. I was conflicted in the beginning, but ultimately decided my family’s health was more important.
My rules were simple: Commit to each new product for at least 30 days. If I wasn’t loving it after one month, I’d move on to something else. Prior to the change, I was using popular brands you would typically find in any drugstore or big box store like Wal-Mart with a couple of products that I’d buy from a hair salon or specialty beauty supply store. Big box stores often have a “natural” section of their beauty department dedicated to natural body products. This is where I started my shopping, but noticed that this area was quite misleading as many of the products marketed as “natural” were actually rated very high on the Think Dirty app, most often due to their use of fragrance. On my first shopping trip, I spent about 30 minutes of product scanning and label reading before leaving the store with new products: shampoo and conditioner, deodorant, facial moisturizer, body lotion, hand soap and toothpaste. Here’s how the transition went:
Shampoo and Conditioner
Day 1: After the first wash, I noticed my hair felt like it had been stripped clean. I was used to the slick feeling I’d typically get where my hair would just slide out of my hands. I went about styling it as normal: I let it air dry for about 10 minutes and then dried it with a blow dryer and straightened it with a flat iron.
Day 2: My ends felt crisp and dry while my roots were heavy and oily.
Day 3: With my old products, I could wash my hair 1-2 times a week without it getting oily in between. On the third day, I decided I couldn’t wait any longer. The back of my hair felt very oily at the scalp, but dry and brittle throughout the hair and at the ends.
Days 4 – 7: I began washing my hair every other day for the first week because it felt greasy and was next to impossible to style. By the end of the first week, I noticed that while my roots felt and looked greasy, my scalp was flaky from an increase in washing and styling my hair with heat. It was at this point, I wanted to go back to using my old products, but I persisted.
Days 8 – 14: I was able to prolong the amount of time between washes to 3 days. My hair no longer felt greasy, but it was still very dry on the ends. That’s because the parabens that are usually in your conditioners that give your hair a silky soft texture were no longer there.
Days 15 – 21: I was back to washing my hair 2 days a week and my dandruff was no longer flaring up. In week 3, I noticed my hair texture became softer and my ends weren’t as dry. It took about 3-4 weeks until my hair got to the point where it is right now.
Benefits: After my hair went through this transition, I can clearly see that my hair looks and feels healthier than before. My biggest worry when switching was that my hair would look dull and feel very coarse. These days my hair is full of body, easy to style and just as soft and shiny as before. I have much less hair fall and, surprisingly, I don’t get nearly as many split ends. It’s been safe for my colour-treated hair and has actually improved the condition of my dandruff. The products I use still smell great but are infused with essential oils making them not only safe, but great smelling!
Drawbacks: It takes a little bit of experimenting to find a brand that you like best, but I think that can be said of regular products as well. It takes a bit of getting used to at first: Your hair won’t be silky soft and shiny for a few weeks, but don’t worry – it will rebound.
Because I apply deodorant everyday (sometimes more than once), it took me a little longer to go through the detox period. Luckily, I started this in the winter because the process of transitioning usually involves increased sweating. During the first couple of weeks, my body was releasing all the toxins that had built up over the years and the only place for it to go was through my armpits. I was sweating much more than normal and I noticed a slightly stronger smell. It’s not like I stunk of B.O. for a solid month, but when I did, it was different than before. By the time I was 3 months into the transition, my sweating was back to a normal level and the body odor smell had significantly improved. In fact, it was an even fainter smell than before the switch.
Benefits: For the first time since puberty, I don’t have excessive sweating. I went from being someone who would have sweat marks just sitting on the couch watching TV to a person who actually stays dry all day long. And that unpleasant smell has completely disappeared. I never thought that the answer to my overactive sweating would be a natural deodorant instead of prescription strength chemicals.
Drawbacks: The transition process isn’t always pleasant and can be lengthy for some. It can be problematic to worry about how much you’re sweating or worrying about whether others can smell you, but I promise, it’s worth it.
There wasn’t much of a transition period for natural toothpaste. On the one hand the texture is a little bit more “gritty”, but the flavour is much milder and doesn’t burn as much as others can. There are lots of varieties out there in all kinds of flavours. I chose to go with a typical peppermint flavour that was fluoride free. You can easily find safe whitening toothpastes. The natural toothpastes I’ve tried are all just as effective at cleaning, and preventing cavities and gingivitis.
Hand soap, Body Lotion and Facial Moisturizer
I didn’t experience a transition period for any of these products. For me, soap is soap. It all comes down to preference of scent (from natural essential oils) and how “sudsy” it gets. I’m still not brand loyal to a hand soap – I like to mix it up and experiment often. In terms of facial moisturizer and body lotion, I tried out a few different brands and didn’t have any “detox” experiences at all – t’s mostly trial and error until you find the one you like best. I was really fortunate that my sensitive skin didn’t breakout, get overly dry or oily or develop a rash.
So there you have it. My transition process wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies, but these days I spend less time getting ready because I’ve cut the products I use in half! I’ve also saved a considerable amount of money because I don’t need to use all kinds of products to make my hair do what I want or load on five different creams to moisturize my skin and act as a sunblock. Shopping took a little bit longer in the beginning, but it has since saved me so much time and energy. Making this change has encouraged me to take control of my life. Instead of using products to “fix” common beauty issues, natural products have actually helped to reverse the damage caused by chemicals and has brought me back to a natural state.
It’s been so refreshing to hear from so many of you that have taken on this journey or are thinking about making the change. Coming up next, I plan to share some products I use in my home and on my body. Leave your suggestions in the comments below for your favourite products so I can share them with everyone! Also, I’d love to hear about your experience making the switch! Connect with me on Instagram and Twitter @kels_blisslist for both!