Wind-whipped Winter Dry Skin Cured Naturally

Woman in Winter Wind

Is your skin so dry this winter that it itches, flakes, or just hurts? You can lessen the desiccating effects of winter, but you probably still need to find a natural moisturizer to keep your dry skin soft and healthy.

My skin is so dry this winter that I feel like a fish stretched out to freeze dry in the wind. No amount of my regular lotion is helping. The backs of my hands feel sandpapery. Every winter my husband’s hands get so dry that the skin hardens and splits, leaving him with bleeding sores. We live in the high, snowy desert, so it happens every year, but this is a particularly dry and drying year. Age does make dry skin worse for a lot of people, so maybe this is finally age catching up with me.

So, I’ve been looking for the best, fastest, most natural solution to my dry skin.

Even if your weather isn’t harsh, you may be feeling that combination of winter drying with pregnancy tightness, leaving you scratching until it hurts, then waking up at night to scratch some more.

Just change your winter routine a little and look for a natural moisturizer that won’t cause more damage than the wind alone.


Why Winter Is Tough on Your Skin

In the winter, both temperature and humidity fall. Central heating or a wood-burning fireplace can lower the humidity even more. A long, hot shower feels good in the moment, but it ultimately makes the dry, tight feeling of your skin even worse, especially if you use a harsh soap that strips your skin of moisture then rub yourself hard with a towel when you are done. Stop all of this, and you may notice less dryness in your skin.

Inside the house, you could use a humidifier to keep humidity at about 50%. When you go outside, you could cover up your face and hands to protect them from moisture sucking wind.

You will probably still need to supplement these winter adjustments with moisturizing cosmetics. That brings up the big issue of finding natural cosmetics that don’t do more harm than good.


Natural Cosmetics for Dry Skin

There are several things you want cosmetics to do for your dry skin:

  1. Replace moisture
  2. Nourish skin
  3. Create a barrier between skin and drying elements

As I wrote last week about natural deodorants, there are some ingredients to avoid in general. Among common toxic ingredients used in cosmetics, these include parabens, fragrance, and petrolatum.

Look for natural products with shea butter, avocado oil, sunflower oil, and other plant-derived ingredients. We have collected a few natural cosmetic products for adults, and we want to tell you about one of our favorites.


Cocoon Apothecary

We choose all of our products carefully, and we let you know with our Safe Family Promise icons who stands out in the crowd. Cocoon Apothecary stand out as non-toxic and sustainable products handmade by an ethical company. And, they are Made in Canada.

We love that they are signers of the Compact for Safe Cosmetics by the Environmental Working Group. We mention the EWG Skin Deep Cosmetic Database often. All of the Cocoon Apothecary products listed below get a toxicity rating of 0 in the database. They actively avoid toxic ingredients, and the ingredients they do use are high quality, almost all organic.

We love that ingredients for each formula are very carefully chosen for their nourishing qualities.

If your skin is especially dry this winter, your best choice for healthy skin is Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream as a moisturizer and Rosehip Oil Facial Scrum to rejuvenate. If your skin is a little oily, but you still want to try Cocoon Apothecary, use Orange Blossom Facial Cream as a moisturizer and Argan Oil Facial Scrum to rejuvenate.

For Driest Skin (Winter)
Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream
Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Rosehip Oil Contains trans-retinoic acid (extremely rejuvenating retinoid),vitamin E, and essential fatty acids.
  • Shea Butter Contains vitamin A, vitamin E, allantoin, phytosterols, oleic acid and antioxidants.
  • Rose Absolute Soothing, cooling and full of antioxidants.
  • Avocado Oil Contains phytosterols, vitamins and minerals.
  • Camellia (Green Tea) Oil Light emollient with polyphenol antioxidants.

Rosehip Oil Facial Scrum
Rosehip Oil Facial Serum from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Rosehip Oil Contains trans-retinoic acid (extremely rejuvenating retinoid),vitamin E, and essential fatty acids.

For Less Dry Skin (Summer)
Orange Blossom Facial Cream
Orange Blossom Facial Cream from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Argan Oil A dry oil that has high levels of vitamin E.
  • Sunflower Oil Contains high levels of oleic acid (omega 9), vitamin E and minerals.
  • Neroli Essential Oil Regulates oiliness and minimizes pores.

Argan Oil Facial Scrum
Argan Oil skin and Hair Serum from Cocoon Apothecary

  • Argan Oil A dry oil that has high levels of vitamin E.

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DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Make Soap!

Homemade DIY soap

Have you seen soft, milky homemade soap and thought, “I wish I could do that”? You can! The simplest of homemade soap is very easy to make because all you do is melt the base soap, add the fragrance or color you want, and pour the soap into molds. That is why this is called melt and pour soap, and this is the simplest of introductions to this simplest soapmaking.

Some will tell you this isn’t really making soap, and they’re right. You aren’t making soap from scratch, but ignore them anyway. You’re just dipping in to see if you might want to learn more. This is just the beginning.


Why Make Soap?

If all you are doing is melting soap that is already made, why would you want to make your own soap?

Savings. You can save a lot of money. Depending on the ingredients you choose and how fancy you make it, it will probably cost you $.50-$1.00 per bar of soap. If you are trying to save money, this is one more little way to squeeze a few dollars from your monthly budget. It is only a few dollars, though, so saving money isn’t usually the first reason one thinks of to make soap.

Health is an even better reason to make your own homemade soap. Replace mystery ingredients and chemicals with whole, natural ingredients like olive oil and goat’s milk. Especially if you have sensitivities or allergies to chemicals commonly included in cosmetics, making your own soap can be a way to soothe your skin.

Taste and style are easy to match when you add your own color, scent, and texture.

The best reason to make your own soap is just the pure DIY (do-it-yourself) joy of it. It feels great to make something useful, healthy, and beautiful for yourself and your family.


The Process

Basic melt and pour soap couldn’t be easier. You buy a base, melt it, add a little fragrance or color, add texture (like oatmeal for soft skin or salt to exfoliate), pour into a mold, let it cool, then cut.

You will need base soap, fragrance and color (optional), a double boiler, a stirrer (a wooden spoon will work), and a mold. A glass thermometer will also help, and you may already have that for candy making. You may also want to wear gloves. Some molds require lining. You can use parchment or butcher paper to line a square mold, so there is no plastic required.

Look for a base soap that you like. If you can buy it in person, that’s even better because you can touch and smell it to get a better idea of what is available. Olive oil and hemp seed oil soaps will moisturize. Aloe vera and honey are soothing and healing. You will have plenty of choices for natural soap bases.

When you are ready, bring the water in your double boiler to a boil then turn it to low. Cut your soap base into small cubes and add to the top pan. Stir occasionally, and be patient. It takes a while to melt.

Once the base soap is melted, add fragrance oil or essential oil. You can add food coloring, including natural, powdered food coloring like turmeric for a bit of yellow, beet powder for rich red, spirulina powder for green, or cocoa for a light brown. These won’t add scent to the soap, so you are adding it more for the mild color or decorative effect.

It is fun to make clear soap for kids by adding bright colors and little toys. Notice: I wrote “for kids” not “with kids.” More on that below.

When your soap is melted and your fragrance and color is added, pour into a mold. A juice box coated with a light layer of oil makes a great size for a small bar of soap. You can tear your mold off the soap and send it on to the recycling bin after you are done. If you don’t get juice or milk in cartons, you can buy silicon molds fairly inexpensively, and you can make your own beautiful wooden mold quite easily. Try soap making before you jump in and make your own mold, but this is a great way to bring the spirit of DIY to your future soap making obsession.

Let your soap fully dry. If you were making soap from scratch, you would need to wait weeks for your soap to cure, but simple melt and pour soap just needs to cool and dry.

Caution: whenever you melt soap, it is very hot and can be dangerous. Only use with children when you know they won’t grab for it or distract you. That probably means only making soap with much older children. Especially for your first batch, make soap when your children are not around.


Resources

Once you are hooked and confident with melt and pour soap, try cold processed soap making. This is real soap making. You use lye (caustic soda, sodium hydroxide) in the process of saponification, a chemical reaction in which the fats or oils react with the lye to create soap. You need to leave this soap to cure anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months depending on the ingredients you use. You will need more soap making and more safety equipment to make even basic cold processed soap, so melt and pour is a good way to try out soap making to see if you want to invest more time and money.

Don’t have DIY envy anymore. You can make your own simple homemade soap.

Image © Alla Shcherbak | Dreamstime.com

3 Essentials of Belly Skin Care During Pregnancy

Child hugging mother's pregnant belly

The skin on your belly has to expand a lot to accommodate your baby during your pregnancy. That leaves your skin tight, dry, and itchy. The irritation of itchy skin isn’t a medical problem, but it is uncomfortable. You can relieve that discomfort naturally.


1. Don’t Scratch

Yes, if feels a lot better to scratch the itch, but the relief is temporary because this irritates your skin even more.


2. Moisturize

Your main defense against belly skin discomfort is moisturizing. At bynature.ca we carry several natural body butters and skin lotions that work wonderfully to soothe a pregnant belly.

Maintaining the elasticity of your skin can also lessen (or even, if you are lucky, prevent) stretch marks, those little silver lines that show up on belly, breasts, and bottom as they blossom faster than your skin can comfortably grow.

Shea Butter Pregnancy Belly Itch CreamAnointment Natural Skin Care, Shea Butter Cream includes shea butter, jojoba oil, coconut oil, lavender and other natural ingredients. Made in Canada

Anointment Natural Belly Butter for PregnancyAnointment Natural Skin Care, Cocoa Butter includes cocoa butter, grape seed oil, coconut oil, vitamin E, and other natural ingredients. Made in Canada.

Dimpleskins Sweet Cheeks Body BalmDimpleskins Sweet Cheeks Body Balm includes Coconut Oil, Apricot Oil, lavender, vanilla, and other natural ingredients. Made in Canada.

Earth Mama Mama to Be OilEarth Mama, Mama To Be Herbal Stretch Oil includes calendula, chamomile, and other natural ingredients. Made in USA.

Graydon natural body balmGraydon Natural Skin Soothing Balm includes avocado oil, grape seed oil, hemp seed oil, calendula, arnica, manuka honey, and other natural ingredients. Mindfully made in small batches in Canada.

miniOrganics Nourishing Body OilminiOrganics Nourishing Body Oil includes jojoba oil, avocado oil, patchouli, frankincense, and other natural ingredients. Made in Australia.

Motherlove Pregnant Belly SalveMotherlove Nurturing Life Gift Box contains a sample of Pregnant Belly Salve, which includes marshmallow root, rosehips, lavender, chamomile, calendula, and other natural ingredients. Made in USA.


3. Relieve the Itch

You probably already have the best natural solution to itchy belly in your kitchen cupboard: oatmeal. An oatmeal bath can help relieve the itchiness you feel from your stretching skin much the same way it relieves itchiness with sunburn, poison ivy, chicken pox, and other skin irritations.

For a soothing oatmeal bath, start with about 1/3 cup oatmeal. Grind either with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor. You can add herbs or non-irritating essential oils, but you might already be getting those in your moisturizers. You aren’t trying to create oat tea, so don’t put this in a bag. The goal is to create an oatmeal suspension in your bath with the powdered oatmeal evenly dispersed through the warm (not hot) water. Start to run your warm bath then add the powdered oatmeal under the faucet where it can get stirred into the water. Continue to mix the powder into your bath water until milky then get in. You probably will end up with a light layer of the powder on your skin, so just rinse lightly. Don’t scrub it off, since that soft, silky feel is exactly what you need from the oatmeal bath.

An itchy belly is one of those minor irritations during pregnancy that is easy to relieve with a little self care. Unless you have a problem more serious than expanding skin, natural oils, herbs, and grains can provide all of the skin care you need for your pregnant belly.

For a list of chemical ingredients to avoid during pregnancy, see “Safe Skin Care During Pregnancy” at BabyCenter.

Image © Marina Dyakonova | Dreamstime.com

10 Holiday Travel Kit Essentials

Young family at the beach

As you head off for the holiday weekend with your family, be sure that you have all of the items you need to make travel smooth. Sure, you could pull together what you need every time you leave the house, but it saves a lot of time to keep a kit in your bag with your travel essentials.

Pull together your essential items in travel sizes. This is my essential kit, but choose your own by thinking through what you are going to do on your trip and what you use every time you are out.

  1. Sunscreen – Safe, natural sunscreen is the most important item in your kit if you are going to be outside at all.
  2. Bug Spray - Outside, you will probably also need bug spray, which is a close second.
  3. Hat – Keep the sun off your baby with a hat. Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under six months old. If you use a lightweight hat, you can roll it up neatly in a corner of the kit.
  4. Lip Balm – Lips dry out in the wind, and burn in the sun. Lip balm with sunscreen is best.
  5. Water Bottle – Stay hydrated. Fill your water bottle with as much ice as you can fit first, then pour in the water. This won’t fit in the kit, but you definitely need to keep it close by for everyone when you are outside.
  6. Wet Bag – If there are accidents, and there probably will be accidents, you will be happy you have a bag to collect wet pants, dirty shirts, or wet wipes.
  7. Toys – Distraction might help if it takes a while to get to your destination. For your kit, one small toy is enough.
  8. Peppermint Headache Stick – Based on my own experience, a day out with children can be stressful. A peppermint stick is one of those things you really need to try to see how well it works (for a mild headache). I relied heavily on mine.
  9. Natural Hand Purifier – If you won’t have easy access to hand-washing facilities, you will be glad you have a quick and easy way to wash up before you eat and after you change diapers.
  10. After-sun Care Badger Balm – If you or your children do catch the sun, a little after-sun balm with naturally anti-inflammatory ingredients will soothe the heat.

Once you have gathered your items, put it all in a travel bag. Better yet, find another reusable container that will keep everything safe and available.

Reusable Sandwich Bag with Window
Sandwich Bag with window
A sandwich bag with a window leaves everything easy to see so you can grab what you need quickly. This is smaller (7″ x 5.75″), so it is only appropriate if you have just a few items.

Lunch Bots Uno
Lunchbots Uno Stainless Steel box
To keep tubes from squeezing, I like hard containers. Small Lunch Bots Uno, the smallest of the Lunch Bots containers, can hold a small kit at 6.25″ x 4.5″ x 1.75″.

Stainless Steel Lunch Box
Stainless Steel Lunch Box
If you have a big kit, a stainless steel food storage container will give you plenty of space and keep all of your items from squeezing out at 7″ x 5″ x 2.5″. I especially like that the two separate layers let you spread everything out so you don’t have to dig through a deeper container.

Any of these kits is small enough to fit in a backpack, a glove box, or a diaper bag. Pack your travel essentials early and you will find that the travel day will go much easier.

Image © Konradbak | Dreamstime.com

3 Best Sunscreen Brands for 2012

Baby in parent's sunglasses

For babies especially, you need to be careful to protect your children’s sensitive skin from direct and prolonged sun exposure. You don’t want to stay inside all summer, so one answer is a great, non-toxic sunscreen.

Every year I go over the Environmental Working Group’s report Skin Deep Sunscreens. This year, I’ve checked the ratings on our three favorite brands of sunscreen at bynature.ca: ThinkBaby, Badger, and Green Beaver.


ThinkBaby SPF 30+ Natural Sunscreen

ThinkBaby Sunscreen

ThinkBaby is a customer favorite. We love that the company is a member of the Safe Cosmetics Campaign Compact. Broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection.

Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide – 25%
Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012 Score: 1 (low hazard)


Badger Sunscreen, Unscented SPF 30

Badger Sunscreen lotion in Canada

Another all-natural sunscreen our customers love. This one has the essential oil fragrences removed for those with the most sensitive skin.

Active Ingredient: Micronized Zinc Oxide – 20.5%
Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012 Score: 1 (low hazard)


Badger Baby Sunscreen

Badger Baby Sunscreen Lotion

If I say this is another best seller, understand that we’ve only kept our best sellers. Customers do love this one, as well. Mild Chamomile and Calendula scent.

Active Ingredient: Non-nano, uncoated Zinc Oxide – 18.75%
Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012 Score: 1 (low hazard)


Badger Non-toxic SPF 30 All-season Face Stick

Badger Sunscreen face stick

A face stick is the easiest way to apply sunscreen for a baby, but it takes a lot to cover an adult. This is meant for hot spots like nose, cheeks, and ears. There is a mild scent, but there is no added fragrance.

Active Sunscreen Ingredient: Micronized Zinc Oxide – 22.5%
Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012 Score: 1 (low hazard)


Green Beaver Sunscreen, SPF 30

Green Beaver Sunscreen Canadian

Certified organic and Made in Canada. Waterproof and fragrance free.

Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide – 21%
Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012 Score: not included this year


Green Beaver Sunscreen SPF 30 for Kids

Green Beaver Sunscreen for Kids

Certified organic and Made in Canada. Waterproof and fragrance free.

Active Ingredient: Zinc Oxide – 21%
Skin Deep Sunscreens 2012 Score: not included this year

For more advice on keeping babies sun safe, read “5 Tips for Non-toxic Sun Protection for Babies.”

Image © Agg | Dreamstime.com