Tag Archives: crunchy

How To Cure Cracked Heels From the Inside Out

5 Dec

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Awhile back I posted about my post-pregnancy struggle with cracked heels and how a weekly Apple Cider Vinegar & Eucalyptus Foot Soak has helped me. While my feet have drastically, and I mean DRASTICALLY changed – my cracks were so bad they were painful and bleeding at times – I’m still on the warpath to baby soft heels.

I’m at the point where my feet are soft, with the faintest traces of lines, but if I stop moisturizing my heels for a couple of days I’ll start to see the lines deepen and begin hardening again. So clearly, soaking my skin till its spongy, scrubbing my heels raw and then slathering on artificial moisture isn’t going to cut it for an actual long term “fix”. I realized I need to get my skin to a place where it can do its job without me feeding it a jar of lotion every month.

So, as always, I became the great Google detective and tried to unravel this mystery of the perpetually cracked heels. And here’s what I found:

Cracked Heels Need To Be Treated From the Inside

Cracked heels occur when unhealthy dry skin around the heel responds to pressure from the weight of walking, or even standing, and the skin simply splits. It could be due to sudden weight gain (like pregnancy), skin that has lost elasticity with age, or just a result of ongoing dehydration.

To understand the problem with dry skin that won’t dehydrate with lotions alone, you have to understand the basic nature of the skin on your feet.

The outer layers of the skin on your heels are designed to provide a natural barrier function, which consists of substances such as oils, cholesterol, fatty acids, ceramides and hyaluronic acid. The stratum corneum, the very top layer of the epidermis on your heels, is made up of cells that grab water using your body’s own natural moisturizing factors, amino acids and other molecules that are designed to absorb water and lock it inside the cell.

Without your body producing its own natural moisturizing factors, it simply CANNOT maintain or absorb the moisture you feed it through foot lotions and oils. At least not in the long term. It’s like trying to pour oil into a cracked cup. You may be able to fill it to the brim (look how oily and shiny my feet are!) but it will all eventually seep out (why are my feet so dry AGAIN?!).

Anyway, the health of the skins natural barrier function is crucial to provide lubrication and protection to your feet. If the barrier becomes damaged or impaired, like in the case of cracked heels, dehydration results. So the only way to get rid of cracked heels for good is to rehydrate the skin – from the inside out. Here’s how:

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Drink Lots Of Water

How It Helps – Sufficient water intake is critical in maintaining healthy cell metabolism. A dehydrated body can’t repair existing superficial epidermal dehydration. The fact is that skin is an organ, and just like any other part of the body, the skin on your heels is made up of cells. And skin cells, like any other cell in the body, are made up of water. Without water, the organs will certainly not function properly or at their best. If your skin is not getting the sufficient amount of water, the lack of hydration will present itself by turning your skin dry, tight and less resilient, which on your feet means lots of lovely cracks and fissures.

Other Health Bonuses – Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water and the functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. It’s pretty much vital to life.

How Much To Drink – The unfortunate truth about drinking water and your cracked heels is that water will reach all the other organs before it reaches the skin. So if you are chronically dehydrated (*cough*me*cough*) you’ll have to really up your water intake to help your body regulate itself and hydrate your poor heels.

While the “8 cups a day” adage is under some debate – some medical professionals say you need less, some say you need as much as 9 to 13 cups a day – it’s best to err on the side of drinking too much water, especially when it comes to seeking tangible results in your skin. Aim for as much water as you can stomach. (It’s extremely hard to overdose on water. Most cases of water intoxication include athletes guzzling after a strenuous workout in the heat.) A good rule of thumb is to drink so much water that your urine has little to no color.

I blogged about my recent water splurge and the importance of drinking filtered water here.

Take a Daily Multivitamin

Not only is this a good idea for your overall health, but multivitamins contain some heavy hitters in the healthy skin arena. Take a multivitamin that contains:

Zinc –

How It Helps – Zinc is a mineral that has been likened to a 24-hour, on-call skin mechanic. It helps repair damaged tissues and heal wounds. Without Zinc, your body’s (and your cracked heels) inside and outside repair time go up. Research suggests that Zinc is particularly effective in treating topical irritations such as cracked heels by helping the cells regenerate.

Other Health Bonuses-  Consuming Zinc ensures proper immune system function, and promotes the maintenance of vision, taste, and smell.

How Much To Take – A daily multivitamin should have 100% or more of your daily requirement of Zinc (ranging from 11-50mg daily depending on who you ask), although you can also boost your Zinc intake by consuming oysters, red meat, poultry, seafood and fortified breakfast cereals.

Vitamin C –

How It Helps – Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is key to the production of collagen, a protein that aids in the growth of cells and blood vessels and gives skin its firmness and strength. Vitamin C also helps your skin repair itself – as an antioxidant it slows the rate of free-radical damage. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage collagen and cause skin dryness and fine lines and cracks (like in your heels). New research shows that Vitamin C not only neutralizes free radicals, but also reverses DNA damage in some cases.

Other Health Bonuses – Vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling.

How Much To Take – While a multivitamin usually contains 100% of your daily Vitamin C requirement (75mg to 120mg, depending on who you ask) Vitamin C is one of the safest supplements to boost up on – the safe upper limits being well over 2,000mg a day. Medical professionals recommend that when taking Vitamin C as a means to boost immunity or skin hydration, it’s best to aim for 500mg daily. I take an additional supplement of Vitamin C with Natural Rose Hips (extra antioxidant boost), in addition to my daily multivitamin.

Vitamin B6 –

How It Helps – Just like Vitamin C, B6 promotes healthy skin by counteracting damage caused by free radicals – molecules that break down healthy cells and contribute to aging and dehydration.

Other Health Bonuses – B6 stimulates co-enzymatic activities, protecting the immune system, and having positive effects on metabolism, premenstrual syndrome, hormone control and emotional disorders.

How Much To Take – A multivitamin should have 100% of your daily requirement of B6, ranging from 1.3 to 3mg, depending on who you ask. You can also boost your B6 intake by eating poultry, fish, and organ meats.

Increase Your Omega’s With a 3-6-9 Supplement

Omega 3, 6 and 9 contain essential fatty acids that are required for good health and hydrated skin, but cannot be synthesized by human body. They MUST be obtained from food or supplements. There are many over the counter supplements (often called 3-6-9 supplements) that cover all of your Omega needs in just one pill.

Omega-3 –

Among the must-have foods for healthy skin, Omega-3 fatty acids – the “good fats” – are well known for for promoting hydration and skin health. Omega-3 fats improve the moisture content of skin by improving cellular health and functioning, and help skin to maintain a smooth, elastic texture. Without essential fatty acids, too much moisture leaks out through the skin – for instance, the perpetually dry cracks in your heels. In short, taking Omega-3 internally as a supplement is as good as or better than applying cosmetic moisturizers.

Omega-6 –

Consuming oils rich in Omega-6 fatty acids can alter the fatty acid composition and eicosanoid content of the epidermis. Studies have shown that diets rich in the Omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid are associated with less skin dryness and thinning. Both Omega-6 and Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids play a critical role in normal skin function and appearance.

Omega-9 – 

Omega-9, sometimes called oleic acid, aids in the proper functioning of the other necessary fats. If there is a deficiency in Omega-9’s, the other Omega’s can’t do their job properly. A deficiency usually manifests in dry skin, hair loss, and decreased fertility. If you are boosting your Omega-3’s and Omega-6’s, boosting your Omega-9’s is a must!

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Where To Get Your Omega’s

Fish Oil – Fish Oil is a great source of Omega-3’s. In addition to promoting healthy skin, it also helps aid weight loss, promotes healthy pregnancy, fertility and boosts immunity. Regular consumption of Fish Oil capsules has been proven to help in reducing moisture loss from the skin.

Flaxseed Oil – Cultivated in Babylon as early as 3000 BC, Flaxseed Oil has been called one of the most powerful foods on the planet. In the 8th century, King Charlemagne believed so strongly in the health benefits of flaxseed that he passed laws requiring his subjects to consume it! A good source of both Omega-3 and Omega-6, preliminary studies show that Flaxseed Oil may help fight heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer in addition to boosting skin health!

Borage Oil – Borage Oil is derived from a wildflower commonly called the “starflower”. It is rich in Omega-6’s and is well known for its skin hydrating properties. A study by the Institute of Experimental Dermatology in Germany found that women who took Borage Oil supplements for 12 weeks experienced an overwhelming increase in skin moisture and hydration that exceeded that of drinking water alone. Borage Oil is also known to decrease PMS and menopause symptoms in women. Can we say win?

Evening Primrose Oil – A good source of Omega-3 and Omega-6, Evening Primrose Oil has been called the most sensational preventive discovery since Vitamin C. It’s most commonly known for it’s positive effects on women’s health, however the gamma-linoleic acid, linoleic acid and other nutrients in this oil are essential for cell structure and improve the elasticity of the skin.

Black Currant Oil – Black Currant Oil is an anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antioxidant. Rich in Omega-3 and Omega-9, this oil also aids immune systems, womens health and urinary tract health.

Be Consistent

These are the steps that I am personally taking to combat my dry, cracked heels from the inside out. I’m aggressively drinking as much water as I can stomach every day, I’m taking a daily multivitamin and I’m taking an Omega 3-6-9 supplement that contains every single one of the oils listed above. I’ve been at it for about three weeks now, and I’m seeing improvement every day, combining both internal and external approaches.

If there is an internal remedy or approach you take to cracked heels that I don’t have covered here (this is by no means an exhaustive list!) please let me know and share below!

Why You Need a Water Filter (And What Kind I Think You Should Get)

26 Nov

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I don’t like water. Never have. It’s bland and it’s flavorless. Its biggest crime is that it doesn’t taste like coffee.

I have lived in a state of extreme dehydration for years now. But recently, I’ve been on a mission to remedy that. The ultimate reason I’ve been reforming my wicked waterless ways is because of my daughter. I want to be healthier for her, so as she grows up I can offer her the best in word, example and deed. I can’t exactly push her water intake as a child while never taking a sip myself, can I? (I mean, I guess I can, but I’d prefer to avoid the douche-bag do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do parenting style.)

The second reason I’m pushing my water intake is because of my struggle with extremely dry skin and cracked heels. That is such a huge topic all on its own that I plan to follow up this blog post with more info on that particular issue later.

So moving on to my quest for more water! In looking up how best to hydrate myself, I stumbled upon this lovely little tidbit of information:

Pensacola has the absolute worst drinking water in the entire United States of America.

In a nationwide study of the safety of tap water in major cities, the Pensacola water supply was found to have 21 chemicals that exceeded health guidelines, including radium, lead, bezene and carbon tetrachloride.

After learning this information, I spent the rest of the week researching water filtration options and ordering the best water filter method for my home. I was in such a hurry to get my water filters, I even signed up for Amazon Prime for the two day shipping. Think I’m overreacting? (Probably.) But check out the full list of contaminants found in Pensacola’s water supply:

Barium (total), Chromium (total), Cyanide, Mercury (total inorganic), Nitrate, Nitrite, Selenium (total), Trichlorofluoromethane, 1,2,4-Trichlorobenzene, cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene, 2,2-Dichloropropane, Monochloroacetic acid, Dibromoacetic acid, Chloroform, Xylenes (total), p-Dichlorobenzene, 1,1-Dichloroethylene, 1,1-Dichloroethane, 1,1,1,2-Tetrachloroethane, Monochlorobenzene (Chlorobenzene), Toluene, Ethylbenzene, Alpha particle activity (incl. radon & uranium), Combined Uranium (pCi/L), Cadmium (total), Lead (total), Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, Heptachlor epoxide, MTBE, Total haloacetic acids (HAAs), 1,2-Dibromo-3-chloropropane (DBCP), Bromoform, Bromodichloromethane, Dibromochloromethane, Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), 1,2-Dichloroethane, Carbon tetrachloride, 1,2-Dichloropropane, Trichloroethylene, 1,1,2-Trichloroethane, Tetrachloroethylene, Benzene, Alpha particle activity (excl radon and uranium), Radium-226, Radium-228.

OMGWTF?!?!??!?! I can’t even pronounce half the crap on that list, and I stopped Google searching what each one was and why drinking it is bad half way through the list because I was getting all twitchy. And this isn’t even the worst of it.

Most people don’t realize that federal law does not require tap water to be safe for long-term consumption. Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 harmful chemicals are found in drinking water in the United States.

Why is this allowed? Because the long-term risks of cancer and other health threats are balanced against the cost and feasibility of purification by each city. The current mindset is that the contaminants are fully disclosed to the public, therefore if you care about your long term health, you will take steps to filter your water to your liking. Your water does not have to be healthy. And in Pensacola’s case, it is decidedly not so. You can check out your local drinking water quality by visiting the EPA website here. 

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So! Are you convinced you need a water filter? Since I’ve spent more hours than I care to admit researching the different options when it comes to water filters, let me share my findings with you. Here’s a simple guide to the most popular methods of water filtration and why I think all but one method sucks:

Distilled Water

How It Works – This process passes water over a heated coil‚ causing the water to vaporize and become gaseous. The steam then rises and transfers to a cooling chamber‚ where it condenses back into a liquid. This process separates water from inorganic compounds like lead‚ calcium‚ magnesium‚ etc. and destroys bacteria.

Why I Think It Sucks – This process does not remove most organic chemicals, since they typically vaporize at a lower temperature than water and are transferred over with the steam. FAIL.

Reverse Osmosis

How It Works – This is a process that exposes water under pressure‚ to a semi-permeable membrane with a very fine pore structure. Because most inorganic contaminants are of a larger molecular size than water‚ the membrane rejects certain contaminants‚ minerals and a large part of the water.

Why I Think It Sucks – Because many synthetic chemicals like herbicides and pesticides are smaller molecularly than water, they slip through. FAIL.

Granular Carbon Filters

This is the most popular home filtration method. (It’s what is used in Brita filters.) Granular carbon filters remove contaminants by adsorption‚ which is the chemical or physical bond of a contaminant to the surface of the filter. Activated carbon bonds to thousands of chemicals, in fact it bonds to almost all known chemicals! Water runs around the carbon granules, and the bad joo joo in the water sticks to the surface of the granules.

Why I Think It Sucks – This type of filter does NOTHING for straining out bacteria. They are worthless in terms of virus and protozoa, which aren’t adsorbed by the granules and just continue on their merry way through the filter and straight into your mouth. Yum yum! Plus, many chemicals that WOULD be adsorbed by the granules can make their way through the filter without being adsopbed if not exposed long enough. DOUBLE FAIL.

Carbon Block Filters (What I Recommend You Use)

How It Works – A carbon block filter is made of the exact same stuff a granular carbon filter is made up of… only it’s in solid block form.

Why I Think It Rocks – It works with the same method of chemical bonding through adsorption, but it has the added element of mechanical straining.

When water is pushed through the solid carbon block, it is FORCED to slow down and increase the contact time with the carbon, allowing the carbon bonding to take place to remove the chemical pollutants like toxins, pesticides, trihalomethanes, chlorine, bad tastes, odors, etc.

And whatever is missed by adsorption – like bacteria and protozoa and heavy metals like lead – are then strained out by the pore size of the block. Basically, it’s like trying to put a basketball through a hole the size of a ping pong ball. The pores in the block of carbon can filter particles down to sub-micron size. That filters dirt, sediment, rust, algae, bacteria, microscopic worms, cryptosporidium and asbestos. And because of the density of the solid carbon block, there is no room for bacteria to grow so this type of filter does not become an incubator for them.

This type of filter is so hardcore, they’re known as survivalist filters. They are what wilderness backpackers use to purify bacteria infested waters on trails. For added safety, you can put a couple drops of chlorine or bleach in your water to kill off bacteria gathered in a stream, and then it run it through the filter. The filter then removes the chlorine and bleach and dead bacteria and your bacteria infested spring water is now safer and tastier than your Pensacola tap water. Uhhh, WIN.

Best part is? They are super affordable! Since Jonathan and I are going to be moving around quite a bit in the future, we can’t really invest in a whole home filtration system. So instead, we’ve purchased a pitcher style carbon block filter (made with BPA free plastic!) for less than $25 and a sports water bottle carbon block filter for less than $20. So far, we are extremely happy with our purchases and will be using our bottles on upcoming camping and hiking excursions!

Do you use a water filtration system? If so, what kind do you use and why? Talk me people, my blog is so much more fun when the empty void I send this drivel into talks back. 😉

Four Harmful Things to Avoid With Disposable Diapers

25 Nov

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So I’m planning on visiting my family in California next month, and my mom is busy making preparations for Tessa and I to visit (poor hubby has to work). I was giving her a list of things to buy so I don’t have to pack as much, and when telling her which diapers to get, I thought – hey! Blog post! Nothing like chattering into a void to help you formulate and better articulate your thoughts and research…

When it comes to diaper selection, I must first clarify that I consider myself to be only a semi-crunchy mom in that my concern is NOT primarily for the environment. (Sorry hippies.) I mean, I will, when given a feasible option, choose products that are nicer to the planet. I firmly believe that God has charged us to be good stewards of the Earth. But I also firmly believe that my little girl comes first. If “saving the planet” breaks the bank or strains my family financially, Earth can go whining to Michael Moore.

My one and only concern is my daughter and reducing her exposure to unnecessary chemicals and toxins.

Cloth diapers, which reign supreme in the crunchy mom circles, are not a realistic option for us. We don’t have a washer and dryer and only do laundry every other week when I have the car to run errands. Frequent trips to the Laundromat, with me dropping husband off at work to have the car (an hour drive there and back) would break our budget at this point. Additionally, our apartment complex has a strict “no hanging clothes out to dry on your balcony or patio” rule that they expect us to adhere to, or face a fine. (Really, it’s like Arcadia from X-Files around here.) And besides those facts, neither Jonathan nor I are overly interested in hand washing poo on our down time.

So with cloth diapers out, when approaching the world of disposable diapers, I’ve discovered that there are four major concerns about what will be placed on my baby’s skin every day for the next 3-5 years. And they are as follows:

Perfumes and “Mystery Ingredients”

Perfume fragrances are sometimes used in disposable diapers, under the assumption that parents would prefer a “spring rain” scented turd in lieu of simply changing a smelly diaper. The scents found in many diapers are strong and chemical-laden, harboring unnecessary irritants with potential to cause such health issues ranging from diaper rash to respiratory symptoms to allergies or worse.

As I talked about in a previous blog post, infants skin is unbelievably sensitive to product. Babies skin is ten times thinner than adult skin and doesn’t have a natural acid mantle yet, which in adults has a pH value of 5.5. The acid mantle protects the skin from irritants, allergens, pathogens, and from drying out. Babies do not have this protection. Additionally, their ratio of skin surface area to body volume is significantly larger than in adults, so their skin soaks up even minute amounts of chemicals, and it directly effects their fragile developing systems.

My biggest concern with perfumes in disposable diapers (and any product I put on my baby) is the “Mystery Ingredients” that get slipped in. As reported in the Huffington Post and elsewhere: “…due to the ‘trade secret’ status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on the label or in any other way.”

As a result, a manufacturer can legally bury dozens of potentially toxic chemicals under a “Fragrance” ingredient listing. (This is how Johnson & Johnson has gotten away throwing in downright toxic ingredients for so long.) Anything with “Fragrance” in it’s ingredient list will NOT be going on Tessa’s skin.

Chlorine Bleach and Dioxins

The process of chlorine bleaching diapers leaves tons of chemicals in the fibers of disposable diapers.  These chemical toxins are called “dioxins.” Based on animal studies, dioxins are believed to have the ability to cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. The Environmental Protection Agency has identified dioxins as a “likely human carcinogen.” You can read all about dioxin from the World Health Organization here.

Dyes and Skin Irritants

Dyes are usually added to diapers to color them. (Duh.) This is really the lesser of all the disposable diaper evils, but still one that I choose to avoid.

The biggest downside to dyes is that they are known to cause skin and diaper rashes and have provoked allergic reactions in some babies. In a study published in Pediatrics in 2005, switching to dye-free diapers was shown to eliminate skin rashes which occurred in areas exposed to colored portions of diapers.

I’m not anti-dye (after all, the fabric on your babies onesie is likely dyed) but when it comes to prolonged exposure on my babies genitals, why not go with a dye-free version? I don’t care if a diaper is colorful and pretty, it’s just gonna get pooped on.

Phthalates and Harmful Chemicals

Phthalates are mainly plasticizers, added to products to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. In some disposable diapers, phthalates may be used as part of the process to create a waterproof outer or inner liner. The problem with phthalates is that they are not tightly chemically-bonded to the plastic, and therefore they continuously release through leaching into liquids.

Phthalates have been a concern in the medical community for its use in bottled water for some time now due to potential toxic effects to endocrine and reproductive systems – to which infants are particularly vulnerable. (This is why phthalates are a main concern with baby bottles and why I will soon be switching to glass bottles for Tessa.)

Not all diapers use phthalates, but here’s the kicker: US law does not currently require disclosure of phthalates. The only way to know that diapers are phthalate-free is if the manufacturer declares that they are.

So the good news is, there ARE natural diapers out there that are free from these four poopy ingredients listed! (If there weren’t I’d be switching to cloth in a heartbeat.) There are a number of manufacturers who offer complete transparency in their diaper ingredients, though not many. You’d be surprised how many companies do NOT practice full disclosure with their ingredients – the biggest brands guilty of this are Huggies and Pampers.

I personally use Earth’s Best brand disposable diapers on Tessa, as it meets all my personal disposable diaper requirements and then some – it’s also environmentally friendly – and it does not break the bank. They are priced only slightly more than the toxic mystery ingredient leading brands. A really awesome source for side by side comparisons of natural disposable diaper brands is available over at Baby Lab in their Battle for the Best Disposable Diapers.

Do you use disposable diapers or cloth? And if so, which ones and why? ^_^

DIY All-Natural Baby Body Wash

16 Nov

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This recipe is so easy I don’t even know if it warrants a blog post. But post I shall, because when I was a 15 weeks pregnant first time mommy browsing the aisles of my local Babies R Us to make a grand wish list of junk my baby may or may not need, I had no clue what to do come bath time.

I had bought into the illusion that to keep my child sparkly clean, I needed to buy the piles of baby bath products lining the shelf of the baby bathroom aisle. Since every single bath product (shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body lotion, etc.) was on the new baby “essentials” checklist the store handed out, I assumed, naturally, that I would be using all of these products on my newborn the moment she popped out of me. If I didn’t, I’d be a bad mother with a dirty baby. Right???!

With the help of wonderful crunchy momma friends (thanks Bree!) and gleaning info from the interwebs on the science behind baby skin and the way it all works, I finally have this whole bath time thing (mostly) sorted out.

Using the giant pile of “recommended” products on your baby isn’t natural or healthy at all. Especially not the majority of products out there. I didn’t discover all of this until around the month Tessa was born. I didn’t even think to question the current status quo of baby bath routines till I discovered the Johnson and Johnson baby products scandal, which I wrote about earlier in my DIY Baby Wipes article.

Basically, it was discovered not too long ago that Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby shampoo contains the formaldehyde-releasing preservative quaternium-15, as well as the chemical byproduct 1,4-dioxane. Formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane are known carcinogens. They’re even freaking listed on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services list of known human carcinogens NOT to be used in cosmetic products. And here we are, slathering this toxic junk on our newborns skin. W.T.F?!

Baby skin is like a sponge. It soaks up EVERYTHING. That’s why you can’t even put sunscreen on an infant. The SAFE chemicals in sunscreen will get soaked up into a newborns skin and literally POISON the newborn with an overload of chemicals that would just safely sit on top of an adults skin.

So all of that said, the fact is, the best way to care for your baby’s skin is to keep it away from products – even “natural” ones, for the most part. A newborns system has to work extremely hard to remove toxins from the bloodstream, so the less you use on your baby’s skin, the better. God has designed our little munchkins so magnificently – they have naturally protective oils in their skin that are better not washed off.

BUT! Every once in awhile, if baby is getting really grimy, you CAN use extremely gentle natural cleansing solutions on your baby to help clean off and sanitize the gunk that can gather in those beautiful chunky baby skin folds.

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Here’s the utra-simple recipe I use for our DIY All-Natural Baby Body Wash:

1 cup of warm water

2 tablespoons Castile soap

1 vitamin e capsule

Castile soap is made by a process called saponification, a process in which an alkali is added to oil. This is how soap had been made for centuries until the recent proliferation of synthetic surfactants, which consist of potentially toxic chemicals. *cough*Johnson and Johnson*cough*

Castile soap made by saponification is safe because none of the unreacted alkali remains in the soap. And since the soap is made with gentle natural oils, like olive oil, it is one of the gentlest cleansing agents you can use on your baby. Used sparingly, the soap will cleanse without drying or irritating delicate baby skin, and what is absorbed into your little ones skin won’t pose a threat to her delicate little system. Just be careful with your baby’s eyes because saponified soap is not tear-free – only baby shampoo made synthetically can be tear-free.

Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant found in many plant and animal based foods. Vitamin E oil closely mimics the natural oils found in your babies skin, and is one of the few natural oils that are safe for direct use on newborns. The tiny amount added to the baby wash serves as a moisturizer and a preservative for your little squirt bottle of baby wash.

And there you have it! I use this stuff sparingly on Tessa, and only when she gets milk getting all grody in her neck folds. Or if she has a particularly explosive diaper. But we try not to use it all the time – and only sparingly when we do use it. For instance, the last two baths were just plain ol’ warm water baths with a wash cloth to gentle wipe away any sticky milk grime.

If your baby appears to be suffering from dry skin, cut back on the frequency of bath times and use a gentle, safe, natural moisturizer like a DIY All-Natural Diaper Rash Cream to spot treat dry patches.

And voila! Bath time with baby, made simple and fun! I am so lucky that my little Tessa loves bath time so much. She giggles, and splashes, and laughs, and watches the water droplets with such wonder in her eyes. It is such a fun bonding time for Jonathan and I as a new little family. I am going to forever treasure our bath times with baby!

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DIY All-Natural Diaper Rash Cream

10 Nov

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I made this cute little jar of diaper rash cream on the same day I made the DIY All Natural Baby Wipes. And I’m just now getting around to posting it, because I’m horribly lazy. (That, and I am a new mother of a two month old… but yeah, mostly because I’m lazy.)

First off, if you need any jars with character that make you feel like a crafty DIY home recipe guru, check out the selection at Hobby Lobby. They have home cosmetic safe glass jars with solid sealable lids for crazy cheap (when you catch them on 50% off days, you can get a jar like the one pictured above for 99 cents) and they all have old worldy charm. I think the jar I’m using for the diaper rash cream looks like an Alice In Wonderland-esque “Drink Me” jar, so I’m already loving this project. Ohhh, the things that make me happy!

This recipe is another slightly tweaked version of a couple different recipes I found on the ol’ Google machine. I like to find recipes that contain ingredients I have close to hand and I pick and choose ingredients based on what I feel will work best for our needs – for instance, since Tessa is not prone to diaper rashes we just needed something mildly drying, and primarily moisturizing.

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So for this super simple and crazy effective recipe you’ll need:

¼ cup of coconut oil

2 tablespoons of shea butter

1 tablespoon of arrowroot powder

1 vitamin e capsule

2 drops of lavender essential oil

Melt the coconut oil, shea butter, vitamin e capsule and essential oil together in a small saucepan and gently stir into a smooth cream over extremely low heat for about 5-10 minutes. Remove from head and use a small electric mixer to slowly blend in the arrowroot powder, one teaspoon at a time.

Pour into a small, clean glass jar and put it in the fridge for about 15 minutes. This will firm up the mixture till it is solid. Pull it out of the fridge, and as it adjusts to room temperature it will turn into a firm, but smooth and airy cream.

Then simply apply as needed! We also use this cream on Tessa after bath times as a moisturizer behind her ears, in the creases on the inside of her arms, and anywhere else the humid Florida air threatens to dry out or rash up. It smells lovely and works like a charm.

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What each ingredient does:

Coconut Oil – This is the main diaper rash fighting ingredient. Coconut oil contains high levels of Vitamin E and is excellent for hydrating skin. It sinks in deep, conditions, moisturizes, and softens skin. Coconut oil mimics the sebum in your skin and so it naturally and gently clears away dirt, grime, and dead skin cells. It even has some antibacterial and anti-fungal properties, killing off harmful bacteria. All must haves for a dirty baby bottom.

Shea Butter – Shea butter contains massive amounts of essential fatty acids and natural moisturizing antioxidant compounds, which makes skin incredibly soft. It is an anti-inflammatory and contains anti-fungal and yeast-killing properties. It is also high in Vitamins A and E, which promotes skin elasticity and soothes irritating and painful rashes.

Arrowroot Powder – Arrowroot is commonly added to moisturizers as a thickening agent and to help active ingredients penetrate the upper levels of the skin. It aids in giving the skin a silky feel and gets the cream to a beautiful, spreadable texture.

Vitamin E Capsule – Acts as a preservative. Vitamin E contains natural antioxidants which extend the life of oil based products. Just a few drops do the trick.

Lavender Essential Oil – Not only does the lavender oil add a nice scent to the cream, but lavender oil is known for its skin healing properties and its use as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic and deodorant!

International Babywearing Week – October 7-13

11 Oct

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It’s International Babywearing Week, so I figured I’d write a little blurb about this fad that’s sweeping the nation.

First off, I have a natural aversion to following fads. Even if they seem perfectly logical and strike my fancy, I have this internal stubborn Statler and Waldorf that opposes falling into line. Gluten free diets? BAH! Detox baths? Humbug! And my internal critic really goes apeshit when the fads are truly nothing more than hype and hogwash. (Eating your own placenta, home and water births, back sleeping babies, etc.) But don’t get me started.

Occasionally, after doing research whilst fighting the tide, I eventually give in and then kick myself for not doing said fad from the very start. Like using coconut oil as a regular home and health remedy, and making natural products for my baby.

Babywearing, however, is a fad that I was lucky enough to convert to from Day 1. And yes, yes, I know that it’s been around for ages and isn’t new and blah blah blah. When I call it a fad, I’m not passing judgment on its history or past use, I’m just commenting on the resurgence in our present society today. Because until recently, wearing your baby was NOT the norm in apple pie America. But even before delving into the world of crunchy mommy-hood, I have always intended to babywear.

Maybe it’s because some of my very earliest memories involve me being worn by my dad. Back in the 80’s, when babywearing was relatively obscure, my dad would wear us kids on hiking trips and on nature trails. Those are memories (and photos) that I still treasure 25 years later. And it’s beyond touching to see my dad wearing my daughter like he once wore me.

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But aside from the inherited tradition,babywearing just makes sense to me. Hell, if I could hang out in a sling and let a giant woman bounce around with me on her chest, I’d do that in a freaking heartbeat. (Kinky.) I mean, that’s got to be so warm and cozy and relaxing. And I noticed that I’ve never really seen any babies fussing or being colicky in a baby wrap. They don’t have time to be fussy, they’re too busy indulging in a drunken sleeping stupor.

The added benefit of having your hands free, while baby hangs out and gets to feel safe and warm and secure sold me on babywearing. I am personally partial to the ring slings because they are just SO EASY to put on and off. The only ring sling I own at the moment is a Maya Wrap and I love love love it! It feels like I have Tessa curled up in a little cloth womb on my chest.

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I’ve also discovered that the wrap makes a perfect nursing cover. I can whip out the ol’ funbags and let Tessa suckle (I call it her mommy pacifier since I can’t produce milk) and no one is the wiser while shopping, walking along the beach, or hanging out at the dog park or wherever.

And! The ring sling is adjustable for others to use as well. My dad used to babywear me on hikes when I was a baby, and he was super excited to wear Tessa on a little day hike along the Trench Trail at Fort Barrancas when he came to visit earlier this month. While my husband prefers a harness style carrier (we don’t own one yet), he’ll still don the ring sling and carry baby Tessa when I give her up. Which I don’t do often because I love holding her sooo much. But DAMN are babywearing daddy’s hot. Observe:

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So yeah. My advice to new mommies is: babywear all the way. To date, we have gotten more use out of our wrap than we have our stroller. No joke.

Why our society isn’t embracing this method of child transportation as the norm, I have no clue. It just makes sense. Tessa loves her sling as much as we do. So yay babywearing! And happy International Babywearing Week!

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All Natural DIY Baby Wipes

10 Oct

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I said I was on an all-natural kick, and I wasn’t joking. After learning about the Johnson and Johnson scandals, where toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde were being used WITHOUT disclosure on the bottles in their baby bath products, I’ve taken to seriously reconsidering what goes in, on, or around my daughter.

A week or two after her birth, I got to thinking. You can’t put sunscreen on an infant because newborns have what is called a high body surface to volume ratio. What this means is that proportionately babies have more skin for the size of their bodies as compared to that of an adult. Sunscreens are made of chemicals. On an adult, the chemical exposure is relatively minimal because the body surface ratio is smaller than a baby. Therefore, babies get a higher “dose” of sunscreen than adults, and babies can literally overdose on the chemicals and have serious adverse reactions.

The thing is, the same is true of every product you put on your child’s skin. The FDA regulate chemicals based on their safety levels for ADULTS. So for instance, while parabens are considered “safe” up to a volume of 25%, putting that “safe” amount on an infant will literally poison a newborn.

So when you think about it, conventional baby wipes contain a variety of ingredients that are being absorbed into baby skin in far greater quantities than you’d expect – and in quantities that these huge companies legally are not required to disclose. And when you consider that the average baby wipe contains parabens, phthalates (artificial fragrance), PEG’s, propylene glycol, phenoxyethanol and a variety of other chemicals, it’s worth seriously reconsidering slathering this junk all over your babies bottom 14+ times a day.

According to the U.S. Health and Human Services and FDA Guidelines, here are some of the known risk factors of the various chemicals that are found in conventional baby wipes:

Parabens – Weakened estrogen production and breast tumors.

Phthalates – Early puberty in girls, reduced testosterone production in boys, genital defects and testicular cancer.

PEG’s – Uterine and breast cancers, leukemia and brain cancer.

Propylene Glycol – Cancer and reproductive dysfunction. Propylene glycol is also a known allergen and eye irritant and can also be toxic to your immune system.

Phenoxyethanol – Shut down of the central nervous system, vomiting and contact dermatitis. It has also been shown to cause reproductive problems, and the FDA has even issued warnings that use of products with this chemical could cause “respiratory distress or vomiting and diarrhea in infants”.

And so on and so on and so on.

Now, I’ve been using conventional wipes on Tessa for the past 4 weeks, waiting on my shipment of all natural and organic ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs. (Most of the ingredients are hard to find in their pure form, with no additives, at the local markets.) So I’m not saying that baby wipes are the devil. But I don’t intend to continue using them now that I have a better, safer and healthier alternative in my home. While she may not be absorbing enough of these chemicals to cause a noticeable reaction or long term harm, why put these chemicals on my baby AT ALL, when there is a better alternative? I firmly believe that my baby deserves the best.

Now, I trolled the interwebs for natural baby wipes recipes, and I finally decided to use a slightly tweaked version of these wipes from Wellness Mama. Here’s the skinny:

1 roll of heavy duty paper towels

Dispenser container

1 3/4 cups warm water

1 tablespoon of pure aloe vera gel

1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons of liquid castile soap

2 vitamin E capsules

1 tablespoon of sweet almond oil

6 drops of lavender essential oil

6 drops of lemongrass essential oil

Cut a roll of heavy duty paper towels (like Bounty or some such) in half. You’ll be using one half of the roll for one batch of wipes. Pull out the center tube, and put your wipes in their container. Next, mix the ingredients together and gently swirl until slightly bubbly. (Note: If you don’t plan to use your wipes right away, use distilled water since tap water can potentially grow bacteria in your container after a couple months. But seriously. NOT using wipes right away? Hahahahahahaha….) Pour the mixture over your wipes and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. For REALLY absorbent towels you may need to mix up another half batch of the liquids. Anyhoo, after ten minutes, close your container to lock in moisture, and voila! Homemade, DIY, all natural baby wipes!

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Why these ingredients:

Pure Aloe Vera Gel – This acts as a moisturizer for babies bottom. It is gentle and suited to sensitive skin. It is also a natural anti-bacterial agent.

Apple Cider Vinegar – The acidic properties of apple cider vinegar effectively soften and soothes dry skin, fighting diaper rash. It also works as an astringent and an antibacterial, killing harmful bacteria and fighting yeast infections.

Liquid Castile Soap – An all-natural, oil-based soap that’s extremely gentle on the skin, cleanses thoroughly, and does not require rinsing.

Sweet Almond Oil – While the aloe vera gel works as a moisturizer, the sweet almond oil works as an emollient – it softens skin rather than hydrates it. It also acts as a humectant to help prevent the loss of moisture, effectively fighting diaper rash.

Vitamin E Capsules – Acts as a preservative. Vitamin E contains natural antioxidants which extend the life of oil based products. Just a few drops do the trick.

Lavender Essential Oil – Not only does the lavender oil add a nice scent to the wipes,but lavender oil is known for its skin healing properties and its use as an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antispasmodic and deodorant!

Lemongrass Essential Oil – Known for its analgesic, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, bactericidal, deodorant and fungicidal properties.

In my opinion, these wipes work FAR BETTER than conventional wipes. After using them my hands feel SO SOFT. I seriously want to use these as hand and face wipes, they are that gentle and cleansing. I last changed Tessa’s diaper 2 hours ago, and my skin STILL feels clean, fresh and gently moisturized.

While making the baby wipes, I also made a small batch of “butt spray” to keep on my changing table for the really, uh, generous diapers of Tessa’s. (How is baby poo so.. sticky?!) It’s essentially:

1 cup warm water

1 tablespoon castile soap

1 vitamin E capsule

2 drops sweet orange oil

Again, the castile soap is cleansing and does not require rinsing, the vitamin E serves as a preservative, and the sweet orange essential oil drops are mainly to add fragrance, though the oil is a natural antiseptic and bactericidal. Just mix well, put in a spray bottle, and then spray directly onto babies bum for really sticky messes.

Not even ten minutes after whipping up a batch Tessa was kind enough to supply me with a test diaper to try out the effectiveness of my concoction. And let me tell you, it works like a charm. It cuts through poo quickly, cutting down the number of wipes used, so there’s no pushing around and spreading the mess. It also made cleaning her little lady parts free of wayward butt goop much easier.

I thought that going the DIY route would be a form of sacrifice, using sub-par product with superior ingredients. But in all honesty, the wipes and spray work BETTER than the store bought variety, and they are roughly the same cost, if not cheaper. Happy me, realizing that giving your baby the best is so EASY! ^_^

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