Archive for Living
February 1st, 2016
Over the years I’ve been asked many times about which personal care products I use. As a fun way to share, I thought I would give you a sneak peek into some of the products currently in my shower.
We all know the personal care products marketplace is constantly changing and the marketplace is extremely confusing for consumers. Finding safe, non-toxic products that work isn’t always easy. The government does no safety testing of products or their ingredients, nor does it approve new products before they’re placed on the shelves in our stores.
If we want safe products we’re forced to become experts by doing extensive research before investing in a product.
I’ve spent some time researching safer products and shared a few of my favorite green beauty products, shampoos, body lotions, nail polish and lipstick. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of what other trusted sources are using. Micaela over at Mindful Momma shared her favorite creamy facial cleansers. Lindsay from LindsayDahl.com shared some of her finds for safe and effective exfoliators for face and body.
Non-toxic personal care products are constantly evolving, and ingredients are always changing. Part of my job is to test out new and improved personal care products and let you know about them.
My overall advice when making the switch to safer personal care products is to replace products you’re currently using with a safer version as they run out. Take the time to educate yourself and to do the research, then make the switch.
And here’s that sneak peek into my shower for that rare opportunity to check out the personal care products I’m currently using.
Personal care products on the top shelf in my shower
Avalon Organics Cream Shave ($8)
We’ve been using this for many years. As you can see from the photo, we need to replace it. Maybe we’ll make the switch to something different. I always use the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database as a starting point for determining whether or not something’s safe. Avalon Organics Cream Shave received a 3 out of 10 (on a scale of 0-10 for low to high risk), which reflects a few questionable ingredients.
Tom’s of Maine Lightly Scented Baby Shampoo and Wash ($9)
Even though this is “baby” shampoo and wash our entire family uses it. It’s great for sensitive skin and is made without artificial ingredients found in most conventional body washes. It fared just OK on EWG’s Skin Deep site, receiving a 4 out of 10 with the concern focused on the added fragrance.
Acure Organics Conditioner ($19)
I’ve been using this along with the Acure Organics Shampoo for quite a while. I really love them both. I visited the company website and liked what I saw. Their mission is to create high quality skin care products made from the purest, fair trade, natural and certified organic ingredients. The smell is interesting (can’t quite place my finger on what it is) and mild. The Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database has rated this product a 3 (on a scale of 0-10 for low to high risk).
Bella Organics Refreshing Jasmine Facial Cleanser ($38)
I’m hooked on this foaming facial wash, made with a variety of organic oils and peppermint. It’s a bit pricey, but a little bit goes a long way.
And on the lower shelf in my shower.
Acure Organics Shampoo ($8)
I recently spotted Acure Organics Shampoo on the shelf at my local Whole Foods Market and decided to give it a try. The shampoo makes me hair feel silky and soft. The Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database has rated this product a 1 (on a scale of 0-10 for low to high risk).
Juice Beauty Green Apple Brightening Gel Cleanser ($43)
Another pricey product, but it’s one that’s well loved and always in the shower. It really makes my skin feel clean and fresh. I love that it’s formulated without parabens, petroleum, propylene or butylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfates, pesticides, phthalates, artificial dyes or synthetic fragrances. Juice Beauty never tests their products on animals.
Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Castile Soap Bar ($8)
I’m hooked on this soap. It doesn’t have an overpowering scent and does the job. It’s made from certified organic ingredients. The packaging is bio-degradable and there’s no animal testing. Great bar of soap. Buy the 6 pack for a big discount (6 for $26).
What’s your favorite personal care product in your shower? I’d love to hear what you use and love.
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March 3rd, 2015
A person is more likely to die from heart disease than cancer, but cancer is closing in quickly and could take the lead.
According to a recent New York Times article, the most encouraging gains in the war against cancer come from taking steps to prevent this disease. We all know that not all cancers are preventable, but through some simple lifestyle changes we can sometimes lower our risk.
The home is an easy place to begin since there are several possible cancer-causing substances that might be lurking under your very own roof.
Non-Stick Pots and Pans (Teflon)
Many homes are filled with nonstick pots and pans, which are loved for their ease and convenience when it comes to cooking and cleaning. Nonstick finishes have come under fire in recent years due to the toxic fumes emitted when the cookware is exposed to high heat. Most nonstick pots and pans are metal pans (such as aluminum pans) coated with a chemicals from the Perfluorinated chemical or Perfluorochemicals (PFC) family. Studies in humans found that workers with exposure to PFOA have higher risks of bladder and kidney cancers. Another study showed that PFCs have been linked to infertility in women.
Bottom Line: Ditch the Teflon.
Candles come in varying scents, colors, shapes and sizes. If you’re not careful about your candle purchase they could add nasty pollutants to your indoor air. Most of the candles on the market are made with paraffin wax, derived from petroleum, and scented with synthetic fragrances, also derived from petroleum. In a study by the American Chemical Society the researchers found that the petroleum based candles emitted varying levels of cancer-causing toluene and benzene, as well as other hydrocarbon chemicals called alkanes and alkenes, which are components of gasoline and can irritate respiratory tracts and trigger asthma.
Bottom Line: Time to replace those petroleum based candles with a safer alternative.
For many years BPA has been on the minds of parents, consumers and public health advocates. I’ve been following the BPA issue closely and devoted much of my writing to this topic. I was even interviewed by ABC World News about the FDA’s decision not to ban BPA. There have been some wonderful victories surrounding BPA. The good news is that many companies are starting to listen and BPA is transitioning out. The bad or unsettling news is that even though a product is considered BPA-free the replacement could still be releasing high levels of other chemicals that mimic estrogen.
Bottom Line: Just say not to plastic as much as you can.
According to the National Cancer Institute “Radon is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas that seeps up through the ground and diffuses into the air.” People who inhale high levels of radon are at an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Believe it our not radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer after cigarette smoking. Radon can enter your home through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations, and collect indoors.
Bottom Line: Test your home for radon.
Household Cleaners and Cosmetics
There could be cancer-causing chemicals in your household cleaner and cosmetics. Seems crazy, right? Unfortunately our system is broken both of these industries are highly unregulated. This leaves it wide open for these toxins to land in our products. Remember Tide and 1,4 dioxane (a known carcinogen)?
Bottom Line: Become an avid label reader and find products that contain simple ingredients and avoid products that contain long chemical ingredients that you can’t pronounce (*update see comments for additional information). Best bet-make some of your own personal care and cleaning products at home.
Much of the furniture in our home is filled with flame retardants. It’s no secret flame retardants have been linked to cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption and other serious health problems. The market place seems to be shifting as more and more retailers decide not to use toxic flame retardants, but as consumers we still need to be cautious.
Bottom Line: Let your dollars do the talking and seek out furniture retailers and manufacturers that commit to carrying furniture without toxic flame retardants.
How do you prevent cancer-causing chemicals from entering your home?
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photo credit: The House, Lately via photopin (license)
August 11th, 2014
Mosquito bites are running rampant in our family. Legs, arms, and any other exposed body part- mosquitoes don’t discriminate. My ankles are under attack.
Did you know that only female mosquitoes bite? They need our human blood in order to lay their eggs.
Thankfully there are a few techniques out there that really work to take the itch out of those pesky mosquito bites.
5 Ways to Stop Mosquito Bites From Itching
Mix baking soda and warm water.
- Mix together until a paste forms.
- Once you have a good consistency apply the paste directly to the bug bite.
- Leave the paste on for a few minutes and then wash off with warm water.
- Baking soda paste can be messy so try to remain still while the paste is on your skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apply apple cider vinegar to the mosquito bite.
- Soak a cotton ball or the tip of a Q-Tip in apple cider vinegar.
- Once saturated place directly on the mosquito bite.
- Hold in place for a few minutes to relieve itching.
Use a cold, used tea bag for mosquito bites.
- Use a tea bag for regular use.
- Cool it off. I like to place it in the refrigerator so it’s cold when applied to the mosquito bite.
- Apply to the affected area and hold for a few minutes.
Lavender Oil kicks those itchy mosquito bites.
- Dab a small amount of lavender oil directly onto a mosquito bite for instant relief from itching.
- Lavender oil is soothing and acts as a natural anti-inflammatory.
Rub a small amount of non-gel toothpaste onto a mosquito bite.
- Don’t rub it in completely. Be sure to leave a visible amount on top of the bite.
- If you can stand to leave it on overnight give it a try.
- Rinse off in the morning with water and soap. The toothpaste will dry the bite out.
What’s your favorite way to treat a mosquito bite?
HERE are a few more ways to treat itchy bug bites. If you’re looking for DEET-free bug repellent take a look HERE.Also, these 3 mosquito repelling plants are good to have around.
Please note: if the bite doesn’t seem to be going away or continues to get larger please visit your doctor.
photo credit: vipin baliga via photopin cc
March 20th, 2014
My morning routine needs a makeover. The past few mornings have been rough. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time we have sprung ahead into very dark mornings. The combination of cold temps and darkness make for a very active snooze button. I just don’t want to get out of bed.
How you begin your morning often sets the pace and tone for the rest of the day. Over the years I’ve found it extremely important to add a few simple healthy habits to my morning routine to help start the day off on the right foot.
As an aside, these are things that work for me and they might not work for you. It’s extremely important to figure out what morning routine fits into your life and own it. If you don’t, it won’t last.
Here are 5 of my favorites to add to my morning routine:
- Floss. Did you know that flossing your teeth can extend your life and improve your gum health-yes it can! Brushing your teeth without flossing is like cleaning 70% of your body. Everyone should be flossing-if you have teeth you should floss. Make sure you’re using floss without petroleum and Teflon. HERE are a few safe alternatives.
- Sunscreen. There’s no question, the best form of sun protection is to stay out of the sun (although a little outdoor time is recommended for much needed Vitamin D). It’s not realistic to stay out of the sun or cover-up 24/7 so we need to turn to sunscreen for some additional protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Find a safe, non-toxic sunscreen (don’t use a spray) and apply it every morning before you head outside.
- Exercise. Working out in the morning jump starts your metabolism and gives you an energy boost that will many times last throughout the day. I’ve been exercising in the morning for years and it works. Once it becomes part of your morning routine you won’t want to give it up. Remember to find a form of exercise that you love so you can stick with it.
- Screen-Free. I have to admit that most mornings I’m drawn to my phone to check emails and catch up on the latest news. But that can all wait. Take an hour or so for yourself before diving in.
- Breakfast. We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and there’s a very good reason: a healthy meal in the morning can balance your mood and help you handle what the day has in store for you. HERE are a few of my favorite foods to eat before my run or visit to the gym.
What are your favorite healthy habits in the morning?
photo credit: H is for Home via photopin cc
August 20th, 2013
The quest for fresh breath has been around for ages. We flock to mints, mouthwash, gum and toothpaste all for temporary fresh breath. Take a stroll down the aisles at your local pharmacy and you’ll likely find an entire section of products dedicated to the promise of fresh breath.
Bad breath is big business.
Contrary to popular belief, your alcohol-laden mouthwash may actually be making your bad breath worse. Most mouthwash contains alcohol which can mask your bad breath disappear for a while, but the alcohol actually dries your mouth out. Gum and mints can contain nasty ingredients that are only a temporary fix. The sugar in some breath mints and gum can actually causes bacteria in the mouth to reproduce, which will keep the bad breath coming on strong.
If bad breath is a recurring problem you might want to rule out any serious health conditions. Once this is ruled out there are a few natural lines of defense for fresh breath.
- Good Oral Hygiene. The best defense for bad breath is to brush twice a day and floss. Also, head to the dentist for regular cleanings.
- Parsley. Parsley is commonly used as a garnish, but can also help to freshen your breath. Parsley contains chlorophyll which has anti-bacterial properties and when chewed neutralizes bad breath. Chew on parsley leaves anytime you need a quick breath freshening boost. Large amounts of parsley shouldn’t be consumed by pregnant women or anyone with liver disease.
- Lemon Rinse. Lemons and other citrus have a high acidic content and help to prevent the growth of bacteria on the tongue and gums. Gargle with a cup of lemon juice when needed or suck on a lemon wedge.
- Salt Rinse. Using a salt water rinse to freshen breath has been around for a long-time. Mix together salt and water in a glass and gargle for 15 seconds then spit it out. The salt kills bacteria in your mouth. You might want to add a drop of peppermint oil to make the breath smell minty.
- Oil Pulling. Oil pulling is an ancient Ayurvedic method for detox and rejuvenation. To oil pull, simply swish your choice of unrefined, high quality oil in your mouth for 5-20 minutes each day. Most people I know who do this use coconut oil because it has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and enzymatic properties which will have the added benefit of killing unwanted bacteria.
- Cardamom, Fennel and Coriander Mixture. Make your own breath freshener mixture by mixing together fennel, coriander and cardamom seeds. Keep the mixture in a glass, airtight jar and chew on a small pinch when your breath needs a boost.
A healthy, balanced diet and drinking a lot of water also help to combat bad breath.
I recently went to an Erba Vita event in Boston and had a chance to check out some of their herbal and dietary supplements. Breath is a natural dietary supplement that supports fresher smelling breath. It contains many ingredients that combat bad breath including chlorophyll, licorice, cardamom and fennel. There are a few ingredients such as Maltodextrin (a processed food additive), gum arabic and natural flavor (a term that can be a catch all and is unregulated) that aren’t ideal, but overall this product seemed to work well as a breath freshener.
What’s your favorite natural remedy for fresh breath?
*If bad breath is a recurring problem you might want to rule out any serious health conditions.
Disclosure: I did receive a sample of Erba Vitta Breath Supplement to try. All opinions are my very own. Promise.
June 28th, 2013
I always get hiccups. They usually hit when I eat certain foods-especially carrots and pretzels. Strange, I know. Once the hiccups come they generally decide to stick around for a while. Not great for conference calls or anything work related when talking or communicating is needed.
In hiccup desperation I turned to my active Facebook community and asked their advice for getting rid of hiccups. They came up with some interesting suggestions, some that were familiar and others that were way out there. At this point I’m willing to give anything a shot to keep the hiccups away. Here are a few hiccup remedies (some I’ve tried and some I have yet to experiment with).
- Swallow a teaspoon of sugar followed by a glass of water. (Thanks Anna and a few others for this one!)
- Stick your tongue out as far as you can and pinch your tongue (one finger on top and one on the bottom) as close to the connecting part you can for 30-60 seconds. It is an acupressure tool that works for a huge percentage of people. Repeat if it does not work on the first try making sure your tongue is sticking out far and you are pinching hard enough. FYI chronic hiccupping can be caused by acid reflux and may need an antacid therapy for a few days. Thanks to Leigh for this interesting technique that I have yet to try.
- Drink a glass of water, upside down. Take a glass, half-full & tip your head forward, towards your chest. Put the rim of the glass on your top teeth and tilt glass forward. Take a small dip and swallow while still leaning forward. Voila!
- This is one of my favorites: Take the hand of the person afflicted and squeeze hard on the surface of the fingernail of the pinky finger for ten seconds. This guys swears it works he was told it works because there are acupressure points in the pinky that control and relax the throat. Pretty cool.
- Relax and wait for them to be over. It’s a muscle spasm, so stretches or a warm tub/drink sometimes helps.
- Take a deep belly breath in and push the air as far down into your lungs as you can to help stretch out your diaphragm. Hold it in for a few seconds. Works like clockwork!
- Eat a teaspoon of peanut butter.
- Light a match and extinguish it by dropping it in a glass of water. Do this with about 6 to 8 matches. Then drink the water. Works every time! This is a new one for me. Would be interested to know if it really works.
How to you get rid of hiccups?
photo credit: Caro Wallis via photopin cc
January 3rd, 2013
On an icy cold day in December a sporty new car landed in my driveway. As the keys were handed over I was given my mission: test drive the car for a week and report back. Not a bad task at all.
The car was a Kia Optima Hybrid filled to the brim with all the bells and whistles. At first glance I was mesmerized by the sheer newness of this car. I’m on my own quest for a new car and have been on and off looking for the past six months or so. It’s been challenging to find a car that meets all of my criteria: a car with some redeeming eco-friendly features that fits a family of five, one dog and lots of ski, soccer, karate and baseball gear.
This was my first experience driving a hybrid and a Kia so I knew I was in for an interesting ride. Over the course of the week the car was mainly used for transporting my boys from point A to point B. Rarely were all five of us in the car together. The car worked perfectly for this. The best was when I drove the car alone. The stereo speakers were incredible-hopefully you didn’t see (or hear) me singing at the top of my lungs.
Interior of the Kia Optima Hybrid
Overall the interior of this car was pretty plush. A favorite feature was the heating and cooling seat options for both the front and back seats. It took a while to get used to the low bucket seats in this car. I’m an average height, coming in at 5′ 4″ on a good day, and the bucket seat on the driver and passengers side felt very low. The car was easily able to fit my three tall boys in the spacious back seat. They were seated next to each other which probably wouldn’t be ideal for a long trip.
The touch screen stereo system was a nice feature and very intuitive. I was able to get my fix of satellite radio. The navigation system was also very simple to use and aesthetically added to the loaded interior of the car. If you have a newer iDevice you will have to get an adapter to plug in-the car is fitted with an older plug.
Another favorite feature was the rear-view camera display which clearly showed when I was about to back into something. My kids were all over this.
The smart key remote system was incredibly convenient. The key never had to come out of my bag to start or unlock the car.
Exterior of the Kia Optima Hybrid
The car arrived all shiny and beautiful and left with snow and ice. The Kia Optima Hybrid is a sporty looking sedan with snazzy looking alloy wheels. The large sun and moon roofs allowed plenty of sunlight into the car. My one big complaint was the size of the windows. They felt extremely small and coupled with the low bucket seats they presented a bit of a challenge when checking my blind spots.
The true test was when it snowed and the roads were incredibly slippery. The Kia did very well with minimal slippage.
The car has heated side mirrors which were fantastic in the cold and snowy conditions.
Fuel efficiency and environmental performance
This car has great fuel efficiency. I was doing mainly city driving and it came in around 33 MPG. The expected range is about 34 MPG for city driving and 39 MPG for highway driving. Not bad.
The warranty on this car is fantastic. Kia offers a 10 year/100,000 mile limited warranty.
This was my first time driving a hybrid. It took a while to get used to the transition from hybrid to gas. I could actually feel the engine kicking over from one to the other. When the car was in hybrid mode it was extremely quiet. At various times I wasn’t sure whether or not the car was on. After driving the car a bit I began to figure out how it was operating.
Kia Optima Hybrid value
The MSRP of the Kia Optima Hybrid is $25,700. Add in the bells and whistles and your now up to $32,620. This car qualifies as a bit more than a commuter car. It’s a mid-sized sedan with a lot of perks.
Overall impression of the Kia Optima Hybrid
I could get used to driving a mid-sized sedan. The Kia grew on me as the week went by and I was sad to see it go. It’s not a practical everyday car for our large family, but it could easily work as a second family car. Overall the car was luxurious and comfortable. Tall family members had no problem with head or leg room. The fuel efficiency and other options made it a comfortable ride.
Disclaimer: The Kia Optima Hybrid was loaned to me from a 3rd party. I was not compensated or asked to write a favorable review. All opinions are my very own.