It’s almost hard to remember what life looked like before going clean.
I know my skin was sensitive and blotchy from trying weird acids and exfoliants. It was also prone to breaking out. I know my hair required a handful of conditioner and other leave-in products to not feel totally dry and a mess. I know I was deeply worried about aging, and tried many products and treatments to prevent it, even though I had yet to turn 30.
It’s been over four years now since we started researching the book—is that right??—and I think the switch to clean products has had both physical and psychological effects.
The three big changes for me are these…
1. My skin…
It’ss WAY less reactive, more even, and generally has a better look and feel to it. When people tell me I have nice skin (nice skin???) my first reaction is think that they’re either lying or talking to someone else. But I guess I do have pretty nice skin now—I mean not the perfect poreless skin of a baby that we’re all promised and will never have, but like nice grown-woman skin with some lines and scars from the battles of being a living person who still picks a pimple now and then.
2. My hair…
I mean, I don’t even know where to start here. To the naked eye, my huge curly hair is just that: huge and curly and has always looked the same. But the amount of product I used to put into it to make it “presentable” kind of makes me want to gag. Now, most days I put nothing in it, or a bit of some clean leave-in. I almost never wash it, and I don’t even wet it every day. It’s become completely low maintenance and most days pretty much does what I want. Which, for a girl with curls, is kind of a miraculous statement. We are raised to think the only way to have this kind of hair is to is to live in some constant battle with it: taming, maming, brushing, washing, braiding… Turns out, our moms may have been wrong on this one.
3. My head…
Something in my head shifted when I went clean. Siobhan and I used to talk a lot about “chasing the beauty dragon”—this elusive promise at the bottom of every new bottle. And while clean beauty still comes with plenty of promises, they all involve working with what you have rather than trying to completely alter yourself. Anyways, some combination of going clean and getting older has helped me be more accepting of myself. The chase is no longer on, and I’m generally quite fond of aging. The barely-there wrinkles that plagued me in my twenties? I’m sure they’re there and deeper, I just don’t stare at them anymore.
What has changed for you both physically and psychologically since going clean?
P.S. We have yet to announce the winners from this Friday Deal, because we are total ding dongs. We will post them this weekend and get you your sponges!
P.P.S. Yes that is a picture of women burning their bras. Just seemed appropriate.
Eczema can be one of those real eff-my-life conditions. Sometimes it behaves similarly to an allergy, and even shows up in conjunction with other reactions. Yet in many cases it has no known cause at all. Which offers a whole lot of shrugs to those who suffer from it.
My husband, we think, used to get it on his scalp. Never officially diagnosed, it would come and go. When I forced clean products on him, it seemed to help, but didn’t eliminate the problem completely. Then one day he shaved his head and stopped using shampoo entirely, and boom, it totally disappeared.
My lay theory there: It was the lack of shampoo and the addition of direct So-Cal sun on his scalp that was helping. Many people claim sunlight is a boon for eczema, including our reader below. At any rate, it’s mostly gone now for him even though he has longer hair again and shampoos (with Acure) every few days. While we never tracked it closely enough, I suspect certain dietary and lifestyle changes have improved it—namely more golf (there’s that sun again) and less stress.
What do the experts, like the trusty Dr. Weil, say? First and foremost: Reduce stress, an aggravator in most malaises. Try hypnotherapy, meditation, visualization, or whatever works for you.
Other key recs: Try aloe vera gel on it, take skin-nourishing gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), avoid soap as much as possible (to that I’d add shampoo, if you can bear it), watch for triggers like a hawk (whether it’s a food or a mood!), and eliminate potential allergens (which our reader has already done). We always think acupuncture and ayurveda can help detect general imbalances that may be causing conditions too.
Here’s the lovely letter we got from Lisa about her case. Pleaseplease, include any tips you have or have heard of in the comments!
Dear Alexandra and Siobhan,
I’m a regular reader of the blog, a follower on OpenSky and Quarterly, and pass your book along to every glam-loving gal and clean-loving guy I can. So I was hoping to source you a little bit on the issue of being a clean girl with eczema, particularly on the scalp (seborrheic dermatitis). In the toxic old days, I would slather on a shampoo with coal tar…which sounds as gross and stinky as it is except, darn it, it really works! Since going clean, I’ve tried ACV rinse (which was nice, but made my scalp more oily and didn’t kick my undesirable flakes and itchiness. Nor has doing oil soaking on my scalp – I’ve tried virgin coconut and olive oil and though it is soothing, it doesn’t stop the problem. I have tried shampoos with neem oil, but it made my scalp worse :(
I used to have more problems with eczema in general, but since going clean about a year ago, my skin really does look and behave better. Evan Healy is my hero, and rosehip oil is my salvation. It’s just my scalp that is going crazy! The only thing that helps for sure is lots of water, sunlight and no winter, and only one of those things is something I can definitely control. With the onset of Spring, things will surely improve, but what will I do next winter? I have heard some people have success with food elimination and am open to that, though it would be difficult – I am an omnivore, but we already eliminate all nuts, most dairy and all fish due to my husband’s allergies. No one really knows what causes eczema, so it’s hard to pick a successful strategy here. Right now I wash my hair every other day with Yarok or Acure and air dry, sometimes with the John Masters Sea Salt Spray as a leave-in (which is probably terribly drying as well, but I was having trouble well before I started using it.) Ironically, I’m having the best hair of my life, even it comes with the worst scalp. :)
Thanks for all you both do to help find strategies for living cleaner, happier and healthier!
Thank you for the lovely letter—and all the support! Now, let’s help a girl out. What do you guys know about treating ezcema? Who has some great anectodal evidence if clean tips that help?
In the last few months white-gray hairs have been sprouting on my head like it’s going out of style. Hair color, and especially going gray, is a tricky topic for any clean girl. One we haven’t discussed in some time…
So what are the options? Dirty dyes, magic markers, or long meditations on acceptance? Here’s how I see it breaking down.
The Dirty Way: We’ve always said that this clean thing is an 80/20 game. Siobhan and I both get infrequent highlights, and I truly believe that if coloring your hair is making you happy then that’s worth a whole lot of something. BUT, we wouldn’t be us if we didn’t remind you (and ourselves) that several ingredients in hair dye are known to be carcinogenic in animals. According to current research, the risk that hair dye causes cancer in humans seems slim, but this type of research is notoriously difficult to conduct. That’s why our motto is to avoid these types of chemicals whenever we can. And given that dyes are created to last, even the semi-permanent ones, when you dye your hair you’re living with these chems for a long time.
Do you dye your hair despite the known risks?
The Natch and Semi-Natch Solutions: Rebecca is a big proponent of henna, though even henna has not entirely avoided controversy (most of it around black henna tattoos). Then there are the so-called natural hair dyes (are they ever really natural?), which Siobhan ventured to try when we were writing the book. The results sucked, but that was a while ago.
Has anyone here found a natural dye they absolutely love?
Beyond that, there are the true hippie tricks like using coffee and tea and lemon juices to change one’s hair color.
Does coffee color grays in brown hair?
Diet and Prayers: We believe that what we eat affects how we look at feel, but can certain foods actually reverse grays? I wrote about this a while ago, when I met a woman who had been dosing on kelp—and, lo and behold, her white hair had started growing in brown at the root. Donna Gates, the author of The Body Ecology Diet—who also eats a regimen rich in sea vegetables—is well into her 60s and doesn’t have a single gray. When I met her she told me it was the diet and the twice-weekly colonics she’d been getting for years. You can’t make this stuff up.
Have any of you experimented with diet to reverse or prevent grays?
Acceptance: And last but not least, it seems more and more women are happily rocking their grays. My mother does it, and I think it looks great with her eyes and skin tone. The 38-year-old woman pictured above also looks incredible.
For the moment, I’m practicing semi-acceptance and going to be upping my kelp intake. But I’m not ruling anything out. If these grays continue on their war path, I may just have to take up arms.
So, which camp are you in?
If Meatless Monday is a baby step, Mark Bittman’s vegan before 6 philosophy might feel more like a leap.
I thought I’d take a break from usual MM fare today to discuss this. Are you familiar with Bittman? He was the New York Times food critic when—after years of eating to his heart’s desire—his doctor told him his heart and the rest of him might be in trouble for it.
Bittman was 35 pounds overweight, had sleep apnea, high cholesterol, climbing blood sugar, and other more general physical discomforts. His doctor suggested he become vegan—which is nothing short of a death sentence for a food critique. But Bittman knew he had to take his health seriously. After giving it some thought he adopted this unusual diet: Before dinner he would only eat unprocessed vegan foods. Once dinner hit though, it was fair game. After just three months, eating vegan before dinner, reversed all of his conditions—and he’s stuck with it since. For six years now.
Bittman, in turn, has also become an advocate for healthful, conscious consumption. And at the end of the month his VB6 book is coming out with advice and recipes on how to follow this way of eating. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m reticent about food restriction in general, but I think Bittman’s approach has a lot of merit because it does not force you to cut out any one food or category. It also happens to be very close to how I eat already—unless I order in, I almost never eat meat or fish during the day. (Tofu, lentils, veggies and toast are my daytime staples.)
What do you think of the vegan before 6 approach? Is it something you’d consider adopting?
Let me set this up properly, before I get stoned out of the natural beauty community.
Last Sunday I got home from a two-week work and family bonanza in Canada. First we launched Everlane in Toronto with a big party, which brought together family, old friends, and coworkers. Then it was onto Montreal for Passover/Easter, for lots more eating, drinking, and socializing. In true Canadian form, the company was great and the weather sucked.
Cut to two weeks later: I get back to LA, a shell of a human because, like many, I’m a bit of an introvert and need alone time to feel sane, plus which (and maybe because of?) I tend to overdo it when I’m being a social animal. So, booze+work+all that social energy+no exercise+crappy cold weather… And now I have a nasty cold, which basically happens every time I overextend. But this story is not about my champagne problems. It’s about my nails.
I have a thing for long nails. Always have, since the first set of Lee Press Ons my mum let me buy as a girl. I’ve also been watching that Rhianna Stay video on loop—where a bathing, makeup-free Rhianna wears nothing but her fake nails and some diamond earrings—so that might be clouding my judgement as well.
Anyways, I got home from Canada—nails cracked from the cold, skin dry, energy low, in search of some kind of fix. But instead of going for a Thai massage, I couldn’t shake the idea of getting gels!
I’d never tried them, and in fact didn’t even really realize what the process was. I knew the UV drying machines were bad for you, but I figure one trip to the hand-tanning-bed wasn’t going to kill me. And the chems? Well, we know the chems are bad. But I’ve had about three manicures since we wrote the book and gone for semi-natch highlights twice, so I figure I’ve got some salon treatments in the bank I can use.
The mani itself was less of a to-do than I imagined. I think I had some notion that this would be more like the acrylic nail process I’d peeped at nail salons in days past. This was just a manicure really, with gel polish instead of the regular stuff, and the addition of the mini tanning beds. Which isn’t to say I think this is no big deal—as I said, I’ve actually sworn off all manicures for some time— it was just more familiar than I’d anticipated. The worst part of it was having my cuticles cut—a ritual I’m a bit horrified by now.
So there it is. Yours truly, who gets upset when she has to use hand soap in a public restroom because of the phthalates and triclosan, has a hand full of gels.
Do I love them? I mean, kinda.
They definitely look fake-ish, even in the most subdued color I could find. It’s nice to feel “polished” for once. Conventional manicures usually chipped on me within a day. And it definitely makes me feel like more of a lady…
Have you ever tried gels? And what natural beauty “cheats” have you committed of late?