Part of my ongoing battle with celiac disease includes a series of skin sensitivities and conditions. While I thankfully have yet to experience continual skin side effects like eczema or psoriasis, I’ve had a few acute skin freak-outs that rank in the top five worst experiences of my life. One occurred last spring when, out of basically nowhere, clusters of pus-filled cysts appeared on the whole of my scalp. They hurt like cystic pimples and when they drained (sorry, gross—if you have a weak stomach, stop reading), they bled, scabbed and then itched like chicken pox. The cycle concluded with the healed pustules flaking off in small sheets, like a sunburn.
I couldn’t lay my head down on a pillow to sleep, they were so painful. If anything touched my scalp, however gently, I’d howl like a puppy who’s just had his tail stepped on. I had a constant, throbbing headache that made doing any sort of work-related tasks nearly impossible. And, to top it all off, my hair started falling out as my scalp flaked off. I still have a small bald spot above my right ear.
After my nothing my naturopath tried worked, I took my first round of antibiotics in more than six years, as prescribed by a dermatologist who was less interested in finding out what had caused the cysts, than he was in getting rid of them (that’s another story, for another time). I was sleep-deprived and desperate for anything to alleviate the pain and rid my head of this attack. And the antibiotics (plus the plethora of supplements I took to counter-balance the negative side effects of the prescription) did both of those things.
During all of this, I felt incredibly helpless. Usually, multiple trips to my naturopath, rounds of supplements and some topical product pulled from my stash of skincare at least makes a small dent in my symptoms. This time, none of my tried and true tricks worked (though Hope Gillerman’s Tension Remedy, which I mentioned as a tool to combat getting glutened, sort of saved my life during nights when the pain kept me awake—that little bottle is a miracle worker).
So, I started trying a few DIY hair and scalp oils to simultaneously help heal my head and promote some hair regrowth. Here’s the one that I use even now as a pre-bath or overnight treatment to help clear away some of the flakes I still have (yep, things are still a little dicey) and to stimulate hair growth.
DIY Hair and Scalp Treatment
- 2 oz. oil (I’ve used a few different kinds here, depending on the day, the severity of my itchiness/dryness and how many times I want to shampoo to remove it. Castor oil is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, plus its high concentration of fatty acids makes it great for increasing circulation to your scalp, which can be soothing, and promoting hair growth. It’s just THICK and takes a few shampoos to remove. Sweet almond oil is nourishing and smoothing, helps promote silky hair and is high in monounsaturated and saturated fatty acids, which help moisturize from the root out. Olive oil is incredibly moisturizing, and an emollient, so it penetrates your hair really well. It also contains antioxidants that protect hair from free radicals—great for lackluster or aging hair. Coconut oil is always a great choice for its antibactierial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, cooling properties. Plus, it’s rich in lauric acid and other fatty acids that strengthen hair.)
- 2-3 drops rosemary essential oil (It stimulates hair growth, boosts mental activity and reduces pain—all important for me in this process.)
- 2-3 drops tea tree essential oil (It’s anti-viral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, treats dandruff and can help curb hair loss.)
- 2-3 drops basil essential oil (I’ve used this to help treat headaches and muscle pain, plus it’s antibacterial and has a refreshing aromatherapeutic effect).
- Add your EOs to your carrier oil of choice, either in a bottle with a squeeze cap or in a small bowl. Mix well.
- Section off your hair (kind of like when you sprinkle in dry shampoo) and apply directly to scalp. I like to dip an old foundation brush into the mixture and paint it on my scalp to avoid a giant mess.
- Massage your scalp gently, in circular motions, for at least 30 seconds.
- Run your fingers through your hair to distribute extra oil from scalp to strands. Add more oil to your hair shaft if you want a full hair treatment.
- Leave on for at least 20 minutes, but overnight if you want (sleep with a shower cap on or put an old towel on your pillow case to avoid oil stains)
- Rinse out and gently remove oil by shampooing (once or twice, depending on how oily your strands were)
Have you tried a DIY hair or scalp treatment like this one? What works for you to treat scalp conditions?
For the winter, I’ve made the switch from my holy grail cleanser to oil cleansing. By far, my favorite oil for that purpose is coconut. I know some of you don’t use coconut oil on your face due to breakouts, but my face loves the stuff. There’s an immediate “Ahhhhhhhh” when I put it on. And it does a smashing job of cleansing.
This year, I decided to add some healing EOs to my coconut oil cleanse experience. I discovered a new product from an old favorite brand, plus had a major DIY success.
Evan Healy Coconut Cream Cleanser: This is a very high quality oil, super smooth and with a cream-like texture. With the sweet orange, vetiver, and neroli essential oils, the scent is just dreamy. I have to admit I find it a little pricey for what it is (more than $30 for just under 2 oz). I know Evan Healy uses the highest quality ingredients, but it’s a pretty simple mix. I’ll probably buy it again at some point, but it definitely inspired me to try a DIY.
DIY Coconut Cream Cleanser: For this, I used my favorite coconut oil that I get from Whole Foods, International Harvest’s Lanka Sun Organic Coconut Oil. This stuff is super creamy. I melted it down in pyrex measuring cup in a pan of heated water on the stove, very slowly heating and stirring with a bamboo spatula. Once the oil was thoroughly melted (but not overheated), I stirred in Hope Gillerman’s Neroli Oil (about 1/3 bottle to nearly 3 oz coconut oil). So I guess since I’m using Hope’s blend, this is only semi-DIY. I love the HG Neroli, but I hadn’t used it in a while, and was thrilled to find a new way to incorporate it into my routine. I poured the mix into some glass jars and set them in the freezer until they solidified. This step is really important – if it cools too slowly it can get grainy. It will still perform, but I just prefer the luxurious feel of a super smooth product. And it smells like heaven. You can do this with any EOs you like, or even add some different carrier oils (that will change the texture, so be willing to experiment). Even if you prefer plain coconut oil, I still recommend doing the melting and freezing if you want a creamy texture.
Are you a coconut oil fan? Would you rather buy a product like this, or DIY?
It’s December, people. And though some of us maybe finished our holiday shopping over the long, sale-filled holiday weekend, others of us may not be that on top of things. Enter this gift guide.
I love gift-giving. I have an entire secret Pinterest board dedicated to gifts for others so when my husband or sister or best friend mentions something they’ve been coveting, I have a safe place to stash the idea for later. This year, I’m doing beauty-related gifts for many friends, so I wanted to share a few of my fave pressies. Check them out below (for all budgets, for all kinds of beauty gals).
For the clean beauty skeptic: Since swapping clean products into my whole beauty caboodle, I’ve tried to convert as many friends as possible to the clean beauty movement. Some are more hesitant than others, and the ones who I have the hardest time convincing are the ones most concerned about cost. So I point them to a multi-tasker that usually woos them to trying more clean products: Acure Organics’ Argan Oil. It’s a hair-smoother, a cuticle oil, a face moisturizer. And it has a friendly price point if they want to repurchase for themselves.
For the beauty aficionado: The Elizabeth Dehn for One Love Organics Winter Glow Gift Set. I’ve talked before about how much I love the Vitamin D Mist, and this set boasts that toner, plus a yummy Vitamin C serum that even my mom loves (and she used to use only Vaseline to moisturize her face). Top those off with a colorless face powder and angled kabuki brush help you hit this season’s matte face look and you’ve got a great combo for a girlfriend who’s a tad more in-the-know.
For the makeup maven: I can’t say enough about loving Alima Pure’s wide range of mineral foundations, but now I love their eyeshadows and mascara as well. Their holiday set, Me Encanta, comes from a collaboration with green makeup artist Kristen Arnett. I love love love the navy shadow included in the kit (I used it as a liner) and the blush is my all-time favorite color (I wore it for my wedding, for Pete’s sake). There’s even a how-to video on creating a subtle look with the liner, contour powder and blush. Fool proof. And a perfectly well-rounded present.
For the jet-setter: This Travel Therapy Botanical Mood Booster from La Bella Figura Beauty is one of those things I’m not sure how to make it through the day without. It smells like sunshine, it sticks around for a looooong time and I’ve gotten dozens (not exaggerating) compliments on how I smell, even after not showering for four days, when I’m wearing this puppy. It calms me—and anyone who smells me—down and makes every hurried day, full of airplane travel or just regular old commuting, better.
If you’re on a budget: Much like I am. Alexandra once blogged about why she loves gifting aromatherapy, but let me add to her points by saying it’s a super easy way to customize gifts and to not have to pick out makeup colors. You know your best friends; you know what’s bugging them. Therefore, you know what aromatherapy might benefit them. (Plus, we have a kick-ass deal going on with Essence of Vali until the end of the year. Save your dollar bills and give gifts your peeps will love.)
Or, do a little DIY for the holidays. Get some cute plastic bottles and fill them with a DIY dry shampoo. Or a body scrub. Or a lip balm. The thought goes a long way (and if your friends are like mine, they’ll be thrilled you took time to make them something, not just swipe your credit card.)
For the boy: Olie Biologique JUST released a Whisker Oil for before and after shaving. It smells manly and helps reduce redness and irritation. Or check out the body soaps from Osmia Organics. I only got my husband to switch from Dove when he smelled these babies. (Get a body oil for yourself while you’re at it—Water Lily is my fave and I started wearing it as a perfume.)
What did I miss? What are you snagging for friends, family or S.O.s?
Meet Rachel and her eclectic routine that mixes DIY with off-the-shelf, and a lot of clean with a little dirty. She also blogs about clean beauty! Woot. (PS you guys, it’s supposed to be stars from the distant past, but these Canadian twins are pretty adorable so we’re letting it slide… :)
Hometown: St. Paul, MN
Weather: Winter. It’s mostly been below zero, but we’ve had a few warmer days. Mother Nature can’t make up her mind!
Hair: Shoulder length, henna-ed, limp and fine
Skin: Mostly clear, thanks to an 8-month round of low-dose Accutane I did about a year and a half ago (I know, I know… I hope you can trust me when I say I had previously tried everything and nothing helped. It truly was a last resort). After Accutane, my dermatologist put me on a prescription anti-acne topical cream to keep things clear. I stopped using it a few weeks ago, and I recently switched from the pill to a copper IUD, so I do have a few blemishes right now. Nothing serious. I do have some scarring and general sensitivity, and I blush easily (oh, the joys of being a fair-skinned redhead).
Favorite star: Tegan and Sara (sorry, I had to pick both, they’re kind of a package deal…)
In the shower…
I start out with a DIY sugar/argan oil/honey scrub and I tackle my face, pits, knees and elbows. I shampoo and condition with Acure (the mint version for fine/limp hair). While the conditioner works its magic, I exfoliate the rest of my body with a Shoba exfoliating cloth. I only use bar soap on my pits, feet, and nethers (right now it’s Shea Moisture Frankincense and Myrrh but I switch soaps after each bar). For shaving my pits, there’s usually enough oil leftover from the scrub for a smooth shave. Everywhere else, I just use soap.
I usually only shower every other day. On my off-days, I cleanse my pits and nethers with a hot washcloth, rinse my face with warm water, and use Acure dry shampoo in my hair. I really can’t get away with washing my hair less than every other day. It’s just too fine and it starts to look pretty greasy, especially in the bang area.
Outside the shower…
I moisturize my entire body with whatever carrier oil I’m in the mood for (I tend to rotate between grapeseed, apricot kernel, and just this week I started using coconut oil, which I LOVE). I make sure to moisturize my pits, either with coconut oil or a DIY cream I whipped up (made of shea butter, coconut oil, grapeseed oil, and essential oils). Using one of these each morning seems to boost the effectiveness of deodorant. I use Soapwalla cream deodorant most days, and on shaving days I use one of those salt crystals you wet down. On my face, I use Pangea Organics Rose/White tea eye cream and 3 drops of argan oil all over my face. I do need to start incorporating sunscreen into my daily routine; I’m not getting any younger, and besides, I burn pretty easily. That will be my next project!
This is where my routine takes a turn for the dirty. I can’t seem to give up perfume or make-up. I enjoy them too much! I have switched some of my make-up products to slightly cleaner brands, but I know I can probably do better.
I use Tarte for most of my make-up products (undereye concealer, powder, bronzer, blush, eyelid primer, eyeshadow, and mascara). For eyeliner, I tend to alternate between Physician’s Formula, Urban Decay (both pencil), and Eyeko (liquid). To fill in my brows I use Alima Pure loose eyeshadow. I use S.W. Basics of Brooklyn (formerly Sprout) lip balm like it’s going out of style — it is hands-down the best lip balm I’ve ever used.
I don’t put any other product in my hair, I just blow it dry and go. On days/nights when I plan on going out or looking fancier, I use a bit of hairspray and gentle teasing to try and boost volume at the roots.
At night I remove my make-up with S.W. Basics make-up remover and a cotton ball and I wash with local raw organic honey. I just started mixing coconut oil with the honey before applying it to my face (it smells so good!) and I find that is a very nice touch for winter. Then I use eye cream and argan oil and I call it a night.
There you have it!
Happy cold and flu season!
Here’s something I think about every day: When it comes to my health, I’m really pretty lucky. I almost never get sick. I’ve never broken a bone. For years I was convinced that as a little girl, I’d dislocated my shoulder playing Ring Around the Rosie, but that one didn’t make it through fact checking (my mom). Turns out I just did the fall-down part too early and my shoulder got yanked. It hurt, and we went to the hospital, but I was fine.* Fine.
I know how rare this is. I work at a major health magazine, Prevention, where we think about the diseases that affect our readers—and Americans in general—every single day. (Come to our website! I’m biased but it’s awesome.) We run this healthy-living and beauty site in our spare time. And I’ve seen so much illness in my own family that I don’t know where to begin, nor do I want to. Point is, I’m blessed and I’m grateful.
That’s why it’s sort of lame that I become a big fat whiny baby every time I feel a slight burn behind my eyes or a tickle in my throat. No one especially likes getting sick the same way no one especially likes raw eggplant, or condoms, or conference calls. But I know plenty of people who tolerate the common cold better than I do. Me, I panic, then I pull out all the stops. I’d invent my own snake oil and buy it from myself at a premium if I thought it would work.
I don’t have to, though, because I’ve come to rely on a few strategies that I’m convinced make a huge difference. Being proactive about health and focusing on prevention whenever possible is my MO. But am I actually onto something or is this just another episode of Siobhan Plays Placebo and Hopes For the Best?
I decided to, like my mom, do a little fact checking. Here, the 6 tricks I use to fight off colds—plus, a little research to confirm how on (or off) the mark these natural tricks are. Here’s what I found.
1. Ginger everything Health nuts love to put the stuff in their tea and smoothies when they’re getting sick so I was shocked to find that science doesn’t appear to support it. There’s some decent data that says it’s helpful for nausea, morning sickness, upset stomach etc. There’s also great new research about its possible ability to blast cancerous cells. But it’s not, from what I can tell, the everyday “immune booster” we like to think it is. That being said, I go crazy on the stuff whenever I feel a little something coming on. The other night, I made carrot-ginger soup and ate it at every meal for three days. Today, I asked the juice lady to put extra ginger in my smoothie. Before bed tonight, I’ll probably grate some into a mug of piping-hot water. I don’t know if it works, but I think it does. Tasty, too.
2. Hope Gillerman’s Travel Remedy We have told you before how much we love Hope’s essential oil blends. I keep a few handy, and as soon as the season started changing here in New York, I was super drawn to her Travel Remedy. I’d heard it could help with seasonal shifts, but I thought that was mostly in promoting wakefulness when it’s dark out and deeper sleep at night. I’ve used it for jet lag in the past (it works), but a few weeks ago, I started massaging some of this oil to my chest and shoulders before I shower in the morning. It smells unreal, and it’s a lovely way to start the day, but I wanted to know if I was onto something or just flying by the seat of my pants for no reason. Here’s what Hope said:
“You are not just placebo-ing. You are using a perfect oil to support the immune system and ward off cold and flu this time of year!”
Oh reeeeeally. Here’s what else she said: “Litsea, the lemony oil you smell, is an important oil when you get sick during seasonal change or when weather becomes damp and cold. Plus this blend is antibacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral for super immune support.” Well I’ll be damned. I’m 1 for 2.
3. Sleep Right. So when I feel like I’m getting sick, I tend to cancel plans a lot, drink less wine, and sleep more. I believe this works, and science supports me on that. You know this already, and I do too.
4. Massage, yoga, sex I lump these together because they have proven immune-boosting benefits, can help balance your hormones, and feel really, really good. As long as you have enough energy to make it to class or the spa, or have a buddy around who isn’t a germophobe, I say it’s worth a shot. No hard science on cold-prevention, though.
5. Honey You already know that honey is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. So at the very first sign of any throat discomfort, I recommend sucking on a spoonful of raw honey (with the propolis and enzymes, naturally). The science here is equivocal, but it’s been a folk remedy for millennia, and I think history might beat peer-reviewed double blinds in this case. And if you’re already sick, a cool new study showed it to be an effective cough suppressant, too.
6. Turning your head when other people cough or sneeze. I dug up an interesting bit of research that supports my very strong urge to move to another car on the train when some guy sneezes not into his shirt sleeve. We’re coded to react this way in order to protect ourselves from catching whatever contagious sick people have. Another bit I heard recently—from an expert, though I don’t have the supporting research—is that turning away your face when someone coughs or sneezes can mean the difference between feeling fine and wasting a weekend in cold-and-flu hell. That’s because your eyes, nose and mouth are how most bad airborne germs make their way into your body. Shield these three entry points and you have a better chance of staying healthy.
So I’m 4 for 6. Your turn! What do you swear by to fight off colds—or cure them once they’ve started? Everyone does something. DIY? OTC? Herbs? Magical spells? We want to know what YOU do.
* Yes, I knocked wood like 10 times while writing this paragraph.
Crop of one of my favorite Richard Prince paintings, Nurse In Love, via his site