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Archives for July 2012

Natural Pedicure Treatment

By: Susan Gonzalez, RN

The summer is almost here and that means that you will be showing parts of your body that no one has seen since Labor Day….including your feet.

Guys, you may be tempted to skip this post, but I will tell you that toe cheese is not sexy….no matter what your buddies tell you! And if you lack the masculine confidence to be seen in public, soaking in a scented foot bath, then read on, for this is a treatment you can do in the privacy of your own bathroom…doors locked, shades drawn. After this treatment, your feet will scream “I belong to a guy who knows how to take care of himself and values his appearance.” Your partner will want to play footsie with you without having to think if she is up-to-date on her tetanus shot.

Guys, if your feet can be registered as lethal weapons, it may be time to take action.

Girls, in these days of tight budgets, it makes sense to be able to pamper your feet at home with natural healthy products that are inexpensive and common to most kitchens. And isn’t it time that you reduced your exposure to breathing in harmful fumes from nail salons and being exposed to chemicals like phthalates or formaldehyde?

So let’s get started!

This natural pedicure is best done in the evening. It helps you to relax, and wearing the socks keeps the moisture on your feet all night to help absorption and make your feet silky smooth.
The ingredients can be mixed and matched, so don’t worry if you don’t have everything on the list.

You probably have all the ingredients for this home pedicure right in your pantry.

What you will need:

*foot basin, or any container that you can soak your feet in (you could use the bathtub filled to your ankles)
*baking soda
*peppermint extract (not artificial peppermint flavor) or essential oil of peppermint
*1 avocado-cut in half-remove flesh and use for lunch ☺ Save skin
*coarse sea salt and/or epsom salt
*honey (a natural exfoliator)
*olive or safflower oil–these household oils have great beauty value making skin soft and silky
*clean cotton socks
*pumice stone (natural volcanic rock that smooths callouses)
*nail clippers & nail file

Make a scrub by mixing 1/2 cup coarse sea salt, 1 tsp honey, and 3 tBs oil. Set aside.

Dissolve 1 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup epsom salts, or sea salt, (or better–dead sea salt) in a basin or shallow tub of warm (on the hotter side of warm since it will sit for a while–but not hot) water. Add 1/4 tsp of peppermint extract if you have it, or a few drops of essential oil of peppermint. This is optional, but makes your feet feel fresh and tingly.

Soak your feet for 10 minutes. Try to relax during this time with some deep breathing or soft music. If you meditate, now would be a good time.

After feet have been soaking for at least 10 minutes or more, scrub with the pumice stone paying attention to callouses and rough spots. Run your fingers over the surface of your feet to find the rough spots. Don’t try to remove all the roughness in one treatment. Repeated weekly treatments will remove more and more dead skin, until they are very soft.

Take the 1/2 avocado skin and rub the inside of the skin on heels or other heavily calloused places. Massage gently for several minutes. Use one half of the skin for each foot.

Before you rinse the avocado off, take the honey/oil/salt scrub you made and massage into bottoms and tops of your feet, and up your ankle and calf as well. Scrub for several minutes (you can use the pumice stone for this as well) as this increases the circulation and removes dead skin and callouses. Want your partner to fall madly in love with you? Do this step for them.

You can use the pumice stone with the scrub for added effect.

You really won’t believe how great this feels! If you have scrub left over, take it in the shower to use on knees and elbows.
Rinse feet in the warm water and pat dry with soft towel.

Clip nails neatly, if needed, leaving some nail to file, and file edge to follow the shape of the nail bed. Guys, a nail file works the best, but you can use the little file on the clipper if you don’t own a file.

**If you want to apply nail polish, see below.

Place some of olive or safflower oil on your hands and massage into your feet-tops and bottoms. Be generous with the oil without being drippy. Pay close attention to your cuticles massaging the oil into each toe. Another step you can do with a partner.

If you need to, push cuticles back gently with orange stick. Do not try to remove or cut cuticle. Guys, the cuticle is the skin that grows up your nail at the base of the nail bed. An orange stick is a wooden stick that is shaped so you can push the cuticle skin back giving a neater look.

Put the socks on. Leave on overnight. (You can apply the oil, massage it in, leave on for as long as you can, and wipe dry or wash with mild soap and water if you don’t want to put on the socks. The softness of the oil will remain even after your wash.)

**If you want to apply polish: apply a few drops of oil to nail beds only. Push back cuticles and wash oil off with mild soap and water. Wipe nails down with acetone-free and methanol-free polish remover and apply safe polish. Allow to completely dry.

You can apply oil to your feet with socks any and every night you choose. The more you grease up the softer you will be. These natural ingredients without preservatives of chemical thickeners work with your body to soften your skin.

When you take a shower, the oil washes off, but the softness remains. (be careful in the morning, as your feet might be slippery in the shower until you wash) You won’t believe how soft your feet will feel!

And let’s face it…when your feet feel great, so do you!

PLEASE do not use Vaseline in place of the oil! Vaseline is a petroleum product that you shouldn’t be using on your body. It is a petrochemical that is made from the refining of crude oil. Would you rub motor oil all over you? (guys…don’t answer this).

Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is one of those products that should be sitting in your trash can. It clogs your pores and blocks sweat and oil glands and gets absorbed into your body through your skin. Your skin provides a direct pathway to your bloodstream (this is how medication, like nicotine patches, work) By applying the petro products to your skin it is similar to ingesting them. Would you eat motor oil? (again…guys don’t answer)

After your all-natural, at-home pedicure, you can be confident about prancing around and showing off your terrific tootsies! And you can be proud that your home pedicure cost next to nothing and was chemical-free!

The Savvy Sister is a cancer survivor and RN who looks for simple ways to make positive impacts on our health. Click here to visit her website for more healthy living articles.

What’s in your “naturally derived” hand soap?

By: Susan Gonzalez, RN

The ingredients in “naturally derived” soaps aren’t. One such case: Method hand soap.

Is this their “Method” of deception?

So I am in a rush and I pick up some hand soap at the market. I make sure it doesn’t contain triclosan, an anti-bacterial chemical that actually has it’s own law suit groupies and is currently under investigation by the US FDA for health concerns including being suspected to cause cancer.

I put it out for the family to use. After all, the label says “naturally derived” and the scent is juicy pear…how could it be bad??
But then I get looking more closely at the label. Here are the ingredients:

water (ok so far…)
sodium laurel sulfate (not exactly from nature, but ok)
cocamide DEA (while it starts out as coconuts, it gets mixed with chemicals and ends up a possible carcinogen and irritant)
cocamidopropyl betane (known skin irritant)
glycerine (fine)
aloe vera gel (wow! something natural!)
vitamin E (fine)
citric acid (OK)
sodium chloride (salt, ok)
benzophenone 4 (a chemical that causes a high degree of dermatitis when tested)
sodium citrate (fine)
methylisothiazolinone /methylchloroisothiazolinone -OK here’s where I go nuts…

Methylisothiazolinone is a registered pesticide. The EPA approval is for industrial use. (preventing mold and bacteria on heavy equipment in oil field operations, cooling systems, paints, dip tanks and sprayers) No where in the approval documentation does it list a use for “personal care products”.
The EPA, in it’s own document reviewing methylisothiazolinone states, “it is highly acutely toxic when applied dermally or to the eye and is considered to be corrosive”

Workers handling methylisothiazolinone making products that are category I or II toxicity level must wear:
long sleeves
chemical resistant gloves
protective eye-wear
chemical resistant apron

Under “safety recommendations” it states if exposed:
“users should wash hands before eating, drinking, chewing gum, using tobacco or using the toilet”
Wait, I’m confused….should they use this hand soap containing methylisothiazolinone to wash their hands after being exposed to methylisothiazolinone?

Wait we’re not done with the list of ingredients:

parfum (fragrance that could contain up to 50 different chemicals including formaldehyde)
yellow #5 (this artificial color also known as tartrazine, was associated with hyperactivity in children and removed from the UK safe list)
green #5 cl 61570 (the safety data sheet states ” wash hand thoroughly after handling” more confusion…)
Well at least the bottle is 100% recycled plastic. It also says “recycle for good karma”.
Well, Method hand soap-that-says-you-are-naturally-derived-but-you-lied, karma can be a bitch.

Granted, you are not eating this stuff, you are merely washing with it, but remember: your skin is a carrier, not a barrier. If you think you are washing this stuff off before it has a chance to be absorbed, you’re wrong.

It turns out “naturally derived” has no meaning on labeled goods. Only 5 out of the 16 ingredients could be considered to be “naturally derived” if we stretch it in this product, so if you see “naturally derived”, don’t be fooled.

You can use just simple castile soap to clean your hands. I am in love with Dr Bonner’s soaps and use them in mixtures all over the house. Using just coconut oil (for real), jojoba oil, olive oil and hemp, they add essential oils (pure oil) to scent the soap with lavender or peppermint. Nothing artificial. Fair trade. All natural. Family owned. USA made. I get mine at my local supermarket with the body washes and loofahs.

I love you Dr Bronner (don’t tell my husband)

The Savvy Sister is a cancer survivor and RN who looks for simple ways to make positive impacts on our health. Click here to visit her website for more healthy living articles.

Better Health – It’s As Easy As Washing Your Hands!

Everything you need to know to clean your home naturally – (the lungs you save may just be your own)

By: Susan Gonzalez, RN

We all want clean happy homes.  But sometimes in wanting “clean” we get “chemically-induced-smells-like-it’s” clean.   And the chemicals that “clean” sometime do so at a cost to you and those living in your house.  Most were formulated for industrial use and are totally unnecessary for day to day cleaning in a home.

I fear that we, as consumers, have been scared into believing that sickness comes from dirt and have all bought into the “anti-microbial” propaganda that conditions our brain to think we need toxic chemicals to rid our homes of bacteria, viruses, and odor when inexpensive ingredients (that we probably have around the house anyway) will do just as good a job.

With hundreds of cleaners on the market all over the world, it is impossible to list them all.  However, here is a list of noted ingredients that you should avoid. You may want to note that companies are not required to list all ingredients on a label.  For example “fragrance” may contain phthalates a known endocrine disruptor (the US EPA is trying to limit phthalates overall) and sometimes you have to go the company’s website to get a complete list of ingredients as only the “active ingredient” is listed.

organic cleaners

The great offenders:

chlorine bleach (sodium hypochlorite) wait…bleach is in pretty much EVERYTHING I use! Yes, that’s right. Because we have been conditioned to believe that bleach does everything and it is GOOD…from getting your clothes white to killing 99.9% of germs on any surface.  Manufacturers know if they have “contains bleach” on the label people will buy it.  In reality, bleach is a corrosive chemical that can cause liver damage with low level exposure.  The “white” you see when you bleach you clothes is the bleach acting on the fibers to optically make things look whiter, but that doesn’t mean it’s cleaner.  Bleach mixed with the following chemicals will produce a toxic gas that can be fatal and can overcome victims in minutes:

phosphoric acid (found in toilet bowl cleaners, mildew and lime removers, bathroom cleaners and dishwashing detergents)

sodium dichloroisocyanurate dihydrate (found in toilet bowl cleaners, deodorizers, dishwashing detergents)

ammonia (found in many various cleaning products and floor cleaners)

vinegar

–Aerosol products: anything that is sprayed from a can needs a “propellant” to make it airborne.  Airborne particles are very small and are easily inhaled deep into the lungs.  Two common propellants are formaldehyde and methylene chloride. Both are known carcinogens.   Other propellants are propane (fuel) and nitrous oxide (laughing gas used as anesthesia at the dentist).   Aerosol products are used by those seeking a quick “high”, but often lead to death instead.  Pump spray dispensers do not use propellants.

-DEA (diethanolamine)  listed as a suspected carcinogen by the state of California you can find this in many many cleaning products. Can be absorbed through skin, and lungs. (also known as TEA lauryl sulfate) “DEA” at the end of anything contains it (even if the word “coconut” appears before it).

Fragrence: “fresh breeze”…”mountain rain”…”field of flowers”…sounds nice, but these added fragrances contain toluene (mthylbenzene) a known reproductive toxin which can damage a developing fetus.  It also is found in breast milk.  US EPA found almost 100% of perfumes contained toluene. Fragrances can also contain phthalates which are endocrine disruptors.  Exposures to phthalates in the workplace showed increased incidence of male breast cancer, testicular cancer, and genital abnormalities in baby boys when mothers were exposed during pregnancy. (reference here) (FYI..phthalates are found widely used in nail polish)

2-butoxyethanol:  a powerful solvent found in window cleaners.  The EPA sets exposure standards for this kidney and liver damager.  But if you are using this cleaner in a poorly ventilated room, you are getting a higher exposure than what the EPA sets.

These are just the biggies.  There are plenty more.  See a complete list of household chemicals here.
organic  safe cleaners


Everything you need to clean your house is probably in your house already

If you have these ingredients, you can make natural cleaners and deodorizers for every corner of your house and save an amazing amount of money.  You can also pat yourself on the back that you are not exposing you or your family to harmful chemicals.  And reusing your containers means you by-pass the recycle bin.

You might also think about investing in microfiber cloths for cleaning. I find that I don’t even need to use anything but water when I use these because the fibers are made to clean grease and oil.  They work great on windows.  You wash these in the washing machine and they come out great. (wash them separately because they tend to collect fiber and lint). Here are the one’s I have, but you can find these anywhere.

Just buy these cheap items the next time you’re out:

  • white vinegar – only white as others might stain. Yes, there is a vinegar smell when it’s wet, but when it dries there is none. For most recipes a bit of lemon juice will cut the smell.
  • lemon juice – fresh is best, but reconstituted in a bottle will do.
  • borax – where has this stuff been all my life!!? I love this stuff! You can do pretty much all your cleaning with just borax.  It’s been around for over 100 years.  Borax has just one safe ingredient (sodium tetraborate decahydrate.  I know it doesn’t sound safe but it is)   The only caution is not to inhale the powder when you’re using it.  My laundry has never smelled so clean!
  • baking soda – you can clean with it, deodorize with it, and even drink it for an upset stomach.  Costco sells it in 13.5 pound bags.  We buy it by the case.
  • liquid castille soap – “castile” soap means it is derived from plant oils and fats. You can purchase this already made (in nice scents like peppermint) and some grocery chains carry it. Or you can make your own.
  • hydrogen peroxide – you can get this at any drug store in the first aid aisle
  • olive oil – low grade cheap will do for cleaning
  • scented essential oils if you wish: lemongrass, cinnamon, lavender, or tea tree – these can be purchased at any health food store.  Make sure you buy essential oil and not “fragrance oil” as essential oils are pure. I get mine here.
  • Coke  – yes, as long as you don’t drink it, this unhealthy American drink has a purpose!

Kitchen

All purpose cleaner: 2 cups water, 1 cup hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup lemon juice. Mix well in a spray bottle. Use on any surface like you would any spray cleaner.

Dishwashing detergent:  Mix equal parts borax and baking soda (slightly more baking soda if you have hard water) and store in a tightly sealed container.  Use 2 tBs per load.  Put vinegar in the rinse dispenser. You may add 1 tsp of lemon juice to the detergent for greasy dishes.

Disinfectant:  1/8 cup borax to 1 liter warm water (one hospital used this formula and it satisfied the hospital’s germicidal requirements) Another solution is: 2 tsp borax 4 tBs vinegar, to 3 cups hot water. Wipe on with damp cloth or use in non-aeresol spray bottle.  You can add 1/4 tsp castile soap if desired.

Drain opener:  Pour 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar and cover drain if possible. Let sit for 5 minutes, then pour a kettle of boiling water down the drain. (don’t use if you have used a chemical drain opener and it’s still in the drain.)  You can use this weekly to prevent clogs.  Throw a piece of lemon peel in the garbage disposal every week to keep it smelling fresh.

Floor cleaner: for all floors including wood: 1 cup of vinegar to a pail (1 1/2 gallons) warm water.  For wood floors, you can also add 1/4 cup castile soap.

Stainless and chrome cleaner:  Dip cloth in undiluted vinegar. Wipe surface.

Scouring powder: 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup borax, 1 cup regular salt. Combine and keep in a tightly sealed container. Use on sinks and tubs.

For burnt-on pans: Pour Coke into pan and boil on stove. The stuck on mess should soften and be easy to clean

home made bathroom natural cleanersNatural toilet cleaners would even work on this guy’s bowl (hmmm I wonder what his urinal looks like?)

Bathroom

Disinfectant: see above

Lime and mineral deposit remover: Soak a rag in vinegar and apply to lime deposits around faucets. Wait 1 hour. deposits will be soft and easily removed.

Shower heads:  Place 1/2 cup undiluted vinegar in a plastic bag and secure bag to shower head with rubber band (I used a large plastic bag and secured it with a zip tie leaving enough room to cut the tie. I found I needed more “bag” on top to keep the shower head immersed without sagging)

Tub and tile cleaner: 1/4 cup baking soda and 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Toilet bowl cleaner:  Pour 1 cup borax and 1/4 cup vinegar in bowl and let sit overnight. Scrub with brush in the morning, or  pour 1 can Coke in toilet.  Let sit for a 1 hour and flush. (This is where Coke belongs :)

Laundry   

Whitening: 1/2 cup hydrogen peroxide in bleach dispenser or 1/2 cup borax in with the detergent. (adding borax will also soften clothes)

Fabric softener: 1/2 cup white vinegar, baking soda or borax in the rinse cycle, add a small ball of aluminum foil in the dryer with the clothes to reduce static cling.

Stain remover: 1/4 cup borax, 1/4 cup baking soda in 2 cups cold water.  Soak for 10 minutes or so before laundering. For severe grease stains add 1 can of Coke to washer with your detergent.   Full strength hydrogen peroxide will remove blood stains.   Full strength lemon juice will remove ink spots.

Starch: 2 – 3 tsp cornstarch in 1 pint of water. (you way need to dissolve the cornstarch in a small amount of warm water first, then add that to more water to make 1 pint) Use in refillable spray bottle.

Shoe shine: rub shoes with the inside of a banana peel  or olive oil and buff with paper towel.

House 

Air fresheners:   Mix 1 oz vodka or witchhazel with 20 – 40 drops of essential oil (lemongrass, lavender etc.) and mix that with 6 oz filtered or distilled water.  Put in a spray bottle and spray as often as needed.  Or,  simmer cinnamon or cloves in a saucepan with water on the stove.  Zeolite   is a mineral that safely and naturally absorbs odors and can be purchased commercially.  Most air is stale because of poor ventilation…open windows and run fans to circulate air. (Caveat: Wait till you’re done cleaning to drink the remaining vodka)

Windows and mirrors:  Use plain water and microfiber cloth.  Consumer Reports (1992) found that plain water worked as well as half of the products tested. In addition, the most effective cleaner for oily fingerprints was lemon juice and water.  2 tBs of lemon juice in 1 quart (1 liter) water or 1/2 water 1/2 vinegar poured into a spray bottle.

Carpet deodorizer: Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet and leave overnight. Vacuum in the morning.

Dusting:  dust with microfiber cloths or mix 1 tsp olive oil with 1/4 cup vinegar and apply with soft cloth.

General cleaning tips when using cleaners:  These tips are important whether you use chemicals or naturals.

  • Always wear thick gloves.  The skin that you rely on to absorb your favorite hand lotion is the same skin that will absorb phthalates and chemical fragrance in hand soaps.  Most bathroom cleaners are extremely irritating to skin and bay cause chemical burns.    Even if you’re cleaning with alternative cleaners like vinegar, too much exposure can cause skin redness.
  • Never mix cleaners.  Ever hear of chloramine gas?  That’s what you get when you mix ammonia and bleach or bleach.  The gas can overcome you in minutes and do permanent harm to your lungs and eyes.  The gas can render you unconscious in minutes.  (see “bleach” above) Even if the surface was cleaned with one product, the chemical will remain and should not be cleaned with another right on top or gasses may be produced.
  • Always ventilate.  You can never be sure of what will happen or how you will react to a cleaner.  If you are spraying, the particles are in the air that you are breathing.  Make sure you open windows and turn on fans when cleaning.  In most of the reported injuries from gas formation, inadequate ventilation was the reason for poisoning.
  • Rinse everything away.  Never clean without rinsing all the cleaners away from the surfaces that will touch your skin (feet, butt, you get the idea) Don’t ever clean and let dry.

Which brings me to another reason to use naturals:  the water system.  How long can we continue to pour these toxins  down the drains and into the water system and expect clean water to drink and swim in?

So there’s no excuses.  Here’s everything you need to have a TRULY “clean” home.

Disclaimer: Always test a small amount of cleaner on the surface you want to clean to see if it will react.  Always keep cleaning products, natural or otherwise away from children and pets.

A very well written article by The Savvy Sister. Click here to visit her website for more healthy living articles.

 

Cleaning with Chlorine

By: Susan Gonzalez, RN

Chlorine is all around us.  It is in our household water supply.  That means we are drinking, it, we use it for showers and baths, and we cook with it.  And if that’s not enough, we clean with it and put it in our     laundry (Clorox, chlorine bleach) and swim in it.  Tampons (unless stated otherwise on the box) are bleached and the cotton fibers contain chlorine.

So? Isn’t that OK? If chlorine was so bad, someone would have said something, right?

Well there is plenty being said.

First off, chlorine is a harmful chemical. In liquid form it is a strong skin irritant.  It can “burn” your skin on contact (we’ve all gotten some bleach on us at some point I know) and it is a potent lung irritant if inhaled in gas form.  Anyone who has a pool can tell you, the bucket of chlorine used for the pool has to be handled as a “dangerous chemical” because it is.  When mixed with ammonia, it forms a harmful gas which when inhaled for just a short time will kill you.  (It bonds to the oxygen in your blood and without immediate medical attention, you suffocate)

It also has been linked to many forms of cancer including breast cancer.  A study carried out in Hartford Connecticut, the first of it’s kind in North America, found that, “women with breast cancer have 50% to 60% higher levels of organochlorines (chlorination byproducts) in their breast tissue than women without breast cancer.”

Chlorine bleach…..it’s the “wonder” cleaner. We love to pour bleach everywhere…down the toilet, down the sink, we use it on our countertops….etc.

Clorox is a household name.  And if the Clorox people had their way, they would want you to think that there is no other way to get your house and clothes clean than adding Clorox.

As far as your laundry goes Clorox is an “optical brightener”. That means it just makes you clothes look whiter because it absorbs ultra violet light and emits it back as blue light. So your clothes look cleaner, but really are not.

Clorox (and any bleach) when mixed with water and the dirt from clothes, forms new toxic chemicals called organochlorines which can be cancer causing as well.

Use other products in your laundry such as chlorine-free bleach or put 1/2 cup of lemon juice in with your detergent.  Hydrogen Peroxide is a harmless way to make you laundry brighter as well (the same thing that is in the teeth whitener mixes) Many supermarkets make their own brand of this. The hydrogen peroxide exposure is safe, and when it goes down the drain, it turns into water and oxygen, so it’s much better for the environment.

I use both Oxy clean and the hydrogen peroxide. (my family likes my whites white)

When it comes to cleaning, there are a lot of options.  One of my favorite cleaners that does an amazing job in the kitchen and bath is BarKeeper’s Friend. It does not contain chlorine bleach, but you would think it does. I have found the powder works a bit better than the liquid.

 

Excerpt from The Savvy Sister blog. Click here to visit her website for more healthy living articles.