Make Your Own Shampoo!

I’ve wanted to make my own shampoo for a long time. After learning bits and pieces about the potential dangers of some chemicals commonly found in shampoos and soaps and considering the fact that other shampoo ingredients are derived from or tested on animals, I decided to experiment this week with some homemade beauty products.

ShampooIf you’re not interested in reading further about the process of making your own hair care products, but still want to know a bit about chemicals to watch out for, I’ll provide a bit of information first. Two common and potentially harmful chemicals I’ve read about are laurel sulfates (particularly sodium laurel sulfate) and parabens.  Laurel sulfates dissolve grease from your hair, but are also used to degrease car engines.  Laurel sulfates are also responsible for making our shampoos sudsy. Parabens are chemical preservatives identified as methyl, propyl, butyl, or ethyl that can disruptively alter estrogenic hormones, interfering with the body’s endocrine system.

Although the amount of laurel sulfates and parabens we actually absorb from daily shampooing is arguable, it’s important to note a few things:

  • Both laurel sulfates and parabens are absorbed through intact skin and have caused severe irritation—and damage—to the skin and eyes in higher concentrations.
  • Higher concentrations of laurel sulfates and parabens alter the body’s estrogen hormones, which can stimulate breast and ovarian cancers in females and decrease male fertility rates.
  • The laurel sulfates and parabens we wash down the drain in the shower are later absorbed by the fish we eat and the water we drink, raising an important environmental concern.

Laurel sulfates and parabens are inexpensive, which is why cosmetic companies use them not only in shampoo but conditioners, lotions, toothpastes, and a variety of other cosmetics instead of natural, more expensive cleansers and preservatives.  Natural products such as castile soap, baking soda, essential oils, and vinegars, however, can cleanse just as well, last up to several months, and do not carry potential health risks.

Besides potentially harmful chemicals, many cosmetics—or specific ingredients in shampoos—are tested on animals and/or contain animal byproducts.  Although animal fats can make our hair smooth and shiny, slaughterhouses often sell their unusable animal products to cosmetic companies for use in our soaps.  Glycerin is one common animal ingredient (although there is vegetable glycerin), but there are many others.  The best way to be sure that your product is animal-free is to call the manufacturer if your product is not labeled accordingly.

If you’re not up for making your own shampoo, which can take a bit of work, and often doesn’t result in the color and consistency we’re used to, there are many companies that make products without laurel sulfates, parabens, or animal products.  Some brands include Burts Bees, Kiss My Face, Jason, Nature’s Gate, and Avalon Organics, although there are many others.  Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods also make body products without laurel sulfates, parabens, or animal products.

This week, I tried two types of shampoo recipes and one conditioner.

Rosemary Chamomile Shampoo (Adapted from Ecobites.com)

Ingredients:

  • 1 4oz. bar Castile soap (I like Kirk’s www.kirksnatural.com/)
  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup strong chamomile tea
  • 10 drops rosemary oil

Using a cheese grater, finely grate the soap.  Place in a large saucepan with the water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium, and stir until soap dissolves completely.  Add tea and rosemary oil and pour into a glass or heat-resistant plastic jar.  Soap will be paste-like at room temperature.  If it’s too thick for your taste, reheat, adding more water.

How it really worked: I liked this shampoo recipe because it degreases my hair, suds nicely, and the rosemary and chamomile combination balances soothing and refreshing.  It leaves my hair with a slight residue, but the conditioner recipe cleans that out beautifully.

Olive Oil and Baking Soda Shampoo (Adapted from The Daily Green)

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 Tbsp. water

Knead the olive oil into your scalp.  Wait 30 minutes. Mix baking soda and water together in a cup to make a paste.  Knead mixture through scalp and hair in the shower and rinse.

How it really worked:  My hair is not naturally oily, but kneading olive oil through my scalp left my hair way too greasy and heavy feeling.

Cider Vinegar Conditioner (Adapted from Ecobites.com)

  • 1 part cider vinegar (I like Whole Foods brand)
  • 3 parts water
  • rosemary oil

Mix ingredients together in a bottle.  Pour over hair in the shower and rinse well.

How it really worked: This conditioner works fantastically well for removing residue and leaving my hair shiny.  It also enhances my natural curls.  Definitely a keeper!

If you’ve made your own shampoo and conditioner before or have more information about natural hair care products, I’d love to hear from you!  I’m by no means and expert on the subject, but hope to try—and post—more shampoo and conditioner recipes in the next few weeks.  Happy shampooing!

Tips For A Great First Date

We all know that bittersweet moment after we get over a breakup and are ready to get back into the dating game. Thank goodness we broke up with that guy, right?  But now it’s back to the search for Mr. Right.  Time to start dressing up again, blowing your hair out, and wearing that extra bit of mascara to make the best impression.  Here are some helpful tips to help you attract the man of your dreams.

A First DateFirst, decide whether you are ready for another relationship.  Do you feel emotionally stable and confident, or do you want a boyfriend because you’re lonely and lovesick from your last relationship?  Self-confidence starts from within, so if you’re not feeling good about yourself, you’re not likely to attract a guy that’s going to make you feel your best either.

Once you decide that you’re going to get back in the game, you need to form an idea of what type of man you’re looking for.  Examine some things that went wrong in your past relationships.  Was your beau too clingy, never letting you do anything or go anywhere alone?  What are some traits you’d like to see in your next boyfriend? Although opposites can attract, most people find that they need to share a basic set of values with their boyfriend, so if you value honesty and trust, your next man needs to as well.

Next, you need to put yourself out there!  An intuitive place to start meeting men is at work, but just be aware of the complications of office romance.  Many workplaces have rules against dating a supervisor or someone that reports to you. If you’ve been working at a particular place for a while, you might want to look elsewhere.  Here are some suggestions:

  • At a pool hall or sports bar: make it a girls’ night and get your friends to talk to his friends.
  • Join a MeetUp group or other club in your neighborhood where you can meet men with similar interests.
  • Join an online dating site: I know a lot of people who have met their boyfriend online, just use extreme caution with how much information you disclose at the outset.  When you actually meet your online boyfriend in person, make sure you meet in a public place during the day for the first several dates to avoid any possibility of being harmed.
  • Join a sports league: “Where there’s a ball, there’s a boy…” It still holds true when they’re older.
  • Join a biking or running group: Another safe way to meet men in a group environment, particularly if you enjoy biking or running.  It will make a great first few dates as well.
  • Keep your eyes open while doing errands: You never know who you might meet waiting for your clothes to dry at the Laundromat or waiting in line at the grocery store.
  • Stop trying so hard! You never know where you’re going to meet the man of your dreams, and odds are, it’s going to be in a place you least expect.

Once you meet someone you’re interested in and they ask you out!  We all know how important a first impression is, so you’ll want to make your first date lead to a second, third, and more.  Here are some tips for your first few dates:

  • Have a positive attitude: If you’re not excited about dating, why should your date be interested in you?
  • Don’t get tipsy: You won’t act like yourself and you won’t be able to know his true personality through your beer goggles.
  • Don’t bring up your ex-boyfriends: The beginning of a relationship is not a time to unload your baggage.
  • Be confident: Now is the time to be a strong woman. You can lament to him about your problems later.
  • Keep the conversation positive: Don’t complain about the traffic on the way to the date or all the work you have to do.  Your date wants to know that you’re happy to be out with him, not worried about everything else on your mind.
  • Don’t be too chatty: Great conversation is essential to dating, but don’t be a chatterbox.  Natural pauses in conversation are great to show him a flirty twinkle in your eye or sexy smile.
  • Always look your best: Ultimately you want a guy that loves you for more than your looks, but how you dress is a reflection of your personality.  Looking great will assure that you’ll be confident and excited about meeting someone new, not bored and apathetic.
  • Don’t be too available, even if you are: Better to leave your man always wanting more than to give him too much too soon.
  • Let him pay: Even if you’re the most independent woman out there, one way to tell if a man’s interested in you is by whether or not he’ll pay for your meal, movie ticket, or a cab ride home.
  • If you think his personality isn’t compatible with what you want, dump him right away (no matter how cute he is)!

Good luck!

Surviving and Thriving as a Single Mom

MOMWe’ve all heard the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” Ironically, if you’re a single mom, you might be embracing this adage more than traditional two-parent households.  But don’t worry.  Take comfort in knowing that you’ll be a successful single mom by following these helpful tips.

One of the first things you’ll need to do as a single mom is organize your finances.  Raising a family—let alone supporting yourself—on one income might be your biggest challenge.  You may be relying on your ex-spouse for child support or on government aid for health insurance.  Make a household budget to track your spending and figure out where you can cut costs, if you need to.  At the very least, understanding how you spend money will help you spend smarter and think about long-term saving and investing, whether it’s saving up to pay for an annual insurance premium or investing in your child’s college education.

Next, be sure you have a reliable support system.  As a single mom, you probably feel like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders: you are the sole breadwinner, the emotional and spiritual caretaker, the cook, housekeeper, bedtime story teller, playmate, and so many other things.  Realizing that you will not be able to do everything yourself is the first important step in setting up a successful support system.  Don’t be afraid to call on able and willing family members and friends to get your kids on the bus in the morning or watch them for an hour after school until you get home from work.  If daycare is a reasonable option for you, research your neighborhood’s offerings and take the time to choose the right one.  And for those days when you’re just too overwhelmed with your responsibilities, make sure you have a good friend to just sit and listen to your worries.

Another important single parent strategy is being consistent.  This means having a regular daily routine: scheduling waking up, meals, activities, chores, and bedtime at regular, normal hours.  Children feel more secure when they have a consistent routine to follow and having a schedule will also help you feel more organized and confident.  You’ll also need to be consistent in disciplining your children so they learn which behaviors are accepted and which are inappropriate.  This will avoid problems at home, at school, and in social situations.

Finally, it’s important to take time for yourself.  Find ways to reward yourself for your hard work: take a bubble bath or read a book after the kids go to bed, organize a girls’ night out, and give yourself permission to date.  When you decide to start dating, however, be sure to keep everything in balance.  If your relationship becomes serious, make sure that your children become comfortable around your boyfriend and that your kids are still a priority.  Don’t miss out on their soccer games and dance recitals because you have a date.

There are a lot of resources online for single moms, as well as financial assistance and even education grants.  Check out some of them here:
SingleMom.com
It’s A Mom’s World
Parents
Single Mom Financial Help