I'm a Reluctant Hippie: How I Got the Hair, Skin and Pits of My Dreams

I want to just state up front that I don't smell like patchouli.
Publish date:
December 14, 2012

I want to just state up front that I don't smell like patchouli.

I don't dig jam bands, I've never been to Burning Man, and I don't own a drum in which to circle with. For most of my snarky, vain, judgmental life, "hippie" has been a four-letter word.

Until I tasted the crunchy, organic, Kool-Aid -- and it tasted good.

Or it just made me feel pretty. Whatever.

I barely remember a time, until recent memory, when my skin wasn't a problem. Acne then eczema, then acne AND eczema. Family, friends, boyfriends all commented on my face -- the tracking on how good or bad my skin was a yearly Christmas discussion in my house. Yay!

When we learned about puberty in 5th grade sex education class, I immediately hid my head on my desk when they started talking about zits. The lady from Planned Parenthood told us that pimples signaled the beginning of puberty. My 10-year-old self freaked. Everyone was going to know that I was PUBESCENT. Shit.

Later that day on the playground, my "friend" Anna saw the giant pimple just below my nose and pointed at me while screaming, "Puberty! Puberty!" and all the kids ran away from me screaming.

Though such an outward display of horror at my face never happened again, my inner 5th grader never really went away, and I still cringe at the word "puberty."

And then there were my armpits. I was an early bloomer in the B.O. department, and even though my mother was always trying to get me to wear deodorant, I refused. My defense against B.O. was denial. If I pretended it wasn't there, then it wasn't! If I talked loudly and often about how much I DON'T NEED DEODORANT, nobody would notice my stink, and I would be normal.

One of the most horrifying moments in my childhood came when my pal Denise said to me while we were playing Build A Trap for the Neighbor Girl, "Sarah (her sister) says I need to wear deodorant. And you say you don't need deodorant, but Sarah says you smell really bad and need to wear it too." I DIED. Other people KNEW?!

Thus began a lifelong battle against B.O.

As for my hair, I just don't think I've ever know what to do with it. I'm essentially the laziest person in the world when it comes to styling, so when my hair was flat and dry, I just assumed that was my lot in life and that everyone else was just born with good hair. I would try fancy shampoos and serums and leave in conditioners, but my hair always looked the same, and was always dry.

Then one day the clouds parted, the Earth Mother sang, and nature's bounty rained upon my parched body.

Actually, far from it.

I've previously mentioned, while on the subject of cats, that I got really sick a few years ago. My brain and body went haywire and I could barely walk. During that time, while stuck at home with nothing but reruns of "House" and my computer, I started researching what I could do to make myself feel pretty again.

You see, along with all my scary and serious problems came problems with my skin and hair. My skin got super sensitive and irritated by my good ol' St. Ives face wash, and my hair just seemed to give up, becoming extra crispy and limp. Let's not even talk about the pure evil that was emanating from my pits.

So, one day, I ordered a whole new beauty regime from the interweb -- all natural face wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, body wash. Something had to change.

When my products eventually arrived, I threw out all my old stuff and started exclusively using my hippie dippy chemical free products. It was hard, and I missed the delightful scent of Tresemme, but slowly, I started noticing a change.

After a couple weeks, something was different. My face didn't hurt. My hair was starting to have -- gasp! -- body, and -- WHAAA? -- shine!

My pits not only smelled GOOD, but were soft and smooth. WTF?

But it was so expensive. I was on sick leave and my paycheck -- or what was left of it -- had to go to oodles of doctor visits and meds. What's a newborn hippie to do? Go DIY and multipurpose, bitches, that's what.

And that's what brings us here, to my daily beauty products. As natural as I can possibly handle.

Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps or Any Pure Castile Soap

I use castile soap for everything. I wash my face with it, I wash my hands with it, I wash my body with it -- I have even washed my hair with it in a pinch.

Typically, I alternate between castile soap and the Oil Cleansing Method (see below) to wash my face. And I only wash my face once a day, at night. It has made a huge difference in my skin -- I'm no longer stripping the oils off my face so that my skin has to overproduce oil, thus catching dirt, thus harboring bacteria and thus causing breakouts.

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil

If you decide to buy one natural product, and one only, invest in a tub of Extra Virgin Coconut Oil.

I'm obsessed with it. I use it as a skin moisturizer at night, a pre-shampoo conditioning mask for my hair, a leave in conditioner, a primary ingredient in my homemade deodorant, lip balm and body balm, and as a face cleanser.

EVCO can penetrate super deep into your skin and hair, much deeper than most commercial moisturizers, and it doesn't carry with it any nasty chemicals. The result is glowing skin, no more face-eczema, fewer wrinkles and strong shiny hair. Plus you can eat it! Smear it on some toast! Add a dollop of jelly! Now who's happy?

But wait -- how can you wash your face with EVCO? Why, the Oil Cleansing Method!

Traditionally, OCM is done with a mix of castor oil and another oil of your choice, but I've found Castor Oil dries out my skin too much, so I just use EVCO.

You're essentially replacing dirty oil with clean oil, and giving yourself a mini facial. All you need is some EVCO, a clean washcloth and access to hot water. I do this a few times a week in lieu of using castile soap, and I feel like my face can breathe again. (Yeah, that was a pretty hippie dippy thing to say.)

Keys Solar Rx Moisturizer with Sunscreen

Don't wear sunscreen every day? Neither did I. I don't need to hit you over the head with all the reasons that it's important, but if you don't want to end up looking like a leather raisin or even worse, end up with skin cancer, I'd highly recommend a daily sunscreen.

Preferably one without oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. Anything you put on your skin, your body will absorb in some way -- and it could get into your blood stream. Why gamble with an ingredient that could potentially cause cancer?

The Keys moisturizer and sunscreen is pretty awesome, and while not perfect (it's really difficult to make a completely non-toxic sunscreen), it absorbs quickly, is pretty light and adds a bit of luminosity to my skin. It's not cheap, but sunscreen is one of the things I'm willing to shell out for.

DIY Deodorant Cream

I know, I know. It's like you cross a line once you make your own deodorant, but this is hands down the greatest deodorant I've ever used. Mind you, I said DEODORANT, not antiperspirant.

Antiperspirants use aluminum to stop you from getting sweaty. There has been some research that links aluminum absorption from antiperspirants to breast cancer. This is a topic that goes back and forth in the natural and not-so-natural communities.

Believe what you like, but I wasn't taking any chances. Plus, a lot of the perfumes and ingredients in regular deodorants really irritated my pits. So, I made my own.

It's stupidly simple:

1 part baking soda (some people are sensitive to this, so do a patch test)

1 part arrow root powder

Extra Virgin Coconut Oil as needed to get a creamy consistency

A few drops of Tea Tree Oil or another essential oil of your choice

Mix it up, smear it on, smell no more. Really, I smell no more. I do sweat. This doesn't stop sweating like an antiperspirant, but the arrow root powder does a great job in helping stay on the dry side.

NOTE: You may STINK for the first week as your pits detox, but after, you'll find you smell better than you ever have before.

Bar Shampoo + Apple Cider Vinegar

I don't wash my hair every day, probably once or twice a week, but when I do, I use a bar shampoo.

What's that? It's a solid shampoo that looks like a bar of soap because, well, it is. It's a soap that has saponified oils in it, which gently cleanse and condition your hair, while removing environmental build up and styling products. They are typically chemical-free and use various oils for scent and different cleaning properties. I like Chagrin Valley Soap's shampoo bars: lots of choices and they smell divine.

For conditioner, I've yet to find something that beats apple cider vinegar (ACV). ACV smooths the hair cuticle, removes buildup and keeps your scalp flake free. I just mix one part ACV and one part water in an old shampoo bottle and I rinse my hair with it after shampooing. Don't worry, as long as you thoroughly rinse the ACV mix from your hair, you won't smell like ketchup after your hair dries.

Ta da! My hippie dippy daily regimen.

After lots of trial and error and some truly terrible concoctions (clay + honey + hair = accidental avante garde hair sculpture), I've refined my daily body care to a few simple products that have finally given me, and my inner 5th grader, the post-pubescent hair, skin and pits of our dreams.