Signs of Aging? Nah – those are Signs of Living!

Go into your local store and you see it. Row upon row of beautifully packaged potions all claiming to ‘Reduce visible signs of aging!’, or ‘Erase fine lines and wrinkles!’ or some other phrase designed to make you insecure and shell out mega bucks for the promise of looking eternally young.

I admit, I’m a sucker for those fancy packages and slick marketing. I gaze on them, pick them up and read all the wonderful descriptions and fancifully named active ingredients, dream about having the perfect, wrinkle free, smooth skin that only this product…or maybe that one…or what about this system?…can provide. But why? Was I happier when I was younger? No. Did I know more, was I smarter? No. Did I have healthier skin, or fewer blemishes? No.

I am actually happier and more content with each year that goes by. Each year brings joy, grief, contentment, peace, and upheaval, resulting in learning, growth, laughter, tears, and becoming more comfortable with who I am and where I am. I have earned every crow’s foot, every laugh line, and every worry wrinkle. Those gray hairs? The first ones showed up when I was teaching my oldest to drive. The rest…well, I have one young adult and two teens. ‘Nough said.

When I think about it, I don’t want to erase those things. Those ‘signs of aging’ – well, they’re signs of living a full life. They’re signs of growth and hard earned wisdom. We should be proud of them.

I’m still going to take care of my skin. I’m going to eat well, drink plenty of water and tea, and continue to use nourishing natural products so that my skin is clear, glowing, and healthy. But I’m going to choose to be proud of my signs of living – because a smile, kindness, confidence, and a joyful attitude are what make you beautiful, not the fiction of youth.

What do you think? Are you proud of those ‘signs of living’, or do you try to erase the ‘signs of aging’? Let me know in the comments below.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Coconut Scrub Recipe

Wow the weather has turned cold! I don’t know about you, but when it gets cold, my skin gets D.R.Y – think lizard skin. And itchy? Hoo mama, I’d say so! This is the time of year when I start to use massive quantities of body polish. The sugar feels soooooo good as it removes that dry flaky skin – like a gently scratchy massage – and the oils help to seal in moisture. One of the first that I ever made, and still return to several times a year, is a Brown Sugar Cinnamon Coconut scrub. And yes, it smells as delicious as it sounds. The nice thing about it is that it is gentle enough to use on your whole body, and it’s edible, so you can use it to smooth those chapped lips as well.

Now, I call this a recipe…but it’s really more of a dump in a bowl and eyeball. I’ll give some suggestions, but you can customize this to be more oily, less oily, add different spices…make it your own. It’ll turn out great!

You need:

1 cup brown sugar (dark or light, it doesn’t matter)

3/4 cup coconut oil

1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, take it into the shower, and scrub away! You’ll emerge with softer, smoother skin.

Notes:

This makes a fairly ‘dry’ scrub – the consistency is similar to that of the moldable sand you can buy for kids. If you like a looser consistency, just add more oil.

Cinnamon, while great for your skin, can bother some people. If you have sensitive skin, reduce or omit it.

If you don’t have coconut oil, substitute any natural oil – olive, sunflower, etc.

It is completely edible. No need to worry if you turn your back and your little one takes a taste.

A safe, natural (and cheap!) disinfectant

For those of you who know me, this is going to be old news. I’ve been preaching about the effectiveness of this particular disinfecting combo for years. So if you’ve heard me go on about this one too many times (yes, you, sister dear), feel free to look away. But, for those who are new to the natural life, or are taking the next step in converting your household to safer products, read on.

Let’s start by looking at the difference between cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Cleaning is simply removing any visible dust, dirt or other gunk that may be on your surfaces. This is what most of us do in our daily (ok, ok…weekly) housekeeping routine. Dusting, wiping down the counters, mopping…this is all cleaning. Sanitizing takes cleaning up a notch. It reduces most of the bacteria on the surface, but does not affect viruses or fungi. It also does not kill all of the bacteria – just most. This is good for most daily applications, but will not be helpful during flu season, or when the stomach bug is going through the house. For the ‘ultimate in clean’ you want to disinfect. Disinfecting kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi, so it will help prevent the spread of those dreaded winter diseases such as flu, and all those viruses that cause vomiting and diarrhea.

When I’m cleaning, I don’t bother with sanitizing – I go straight for disinfecting. We entertain often, and I want to make sure that we A) aren’t making our guests sick, and B) aren’t getting sick from our guests. My husband also travels frequently for work, and I want to make sure that anything he brings home gets killed before it makes us ill. So I want a disinfectant solution that will kill most of the nasties out there, yet be gentle and safe enough to use around my kids. Bleach works well, but the fumes are nasty and it’s definitely not safe if the kids were to get hold of the container. There are many commercial products out there as well – both claiming to be natural and not, but they don’t have to list their ingredients and I worry about them reacting with other cleansers. Not to mention, many still aren’t safe if the kiddos were to get hold of the container. Fortunately, the web is full of information. A few years ago I came across a study (article about it here) that examined a combo of vinegar and peroxide. It was found that the two, sprayed one after the other on a surface and left to air dry, were extremely effective as a disinfectant. Not only effective, but safe. This combo is so gentle that it can be used on fruits and veggies as well as all your hard surfaces.

To use you will need a few things:

2 spray bottles (one opaque)

white vinegar (the basic bottle found at the grocery)

hydrogen peroxide (3%, found at any pharmacy, grocery, or Walmart/Target type store)

essential oils (optional)

In one bottle, pour straight white vinegar. Don’t dilute it. If you wish, you can add some essential oils. Tea tree, lemon, orange, thyme, or rosemary are all good choices. Add the spray cap and set aside.

In the opaque bottle, pour the hydrogen peroxide, add the spray cap, and set aside. Again, don’t dilute and you may add essential oils if you wish.

And that’s it! After you clean your surfaces just mist them with vinegar and follow immediately with a mist of peroxide. Let air dry and say goodbye to the nasties. I use this on doorknobs, light switches, sink and toilet handles, countertops, and anything else that I think needs something more than soap and water.

Some notes:

The hydrogen peroxide must be in an opaque bottle. Exposure to sunlight causes it to break down. I can often find it sold already in a spray bottle.

If you add the essential oils, I would not use this on food. Many are not safe to ingest.

Your surfaces must be clean (free from dust, dirt, and other organic matter) before you spray. Otherwise, the solution is blocked from reaching the microbes.

Santizers, Soaps, and Sniffles, Oh My!

It’s that time of year again. The weather is fickle – hot today and frost tomorrow. The annual tissue and tea supply has been laid in, and the never-ending refrain of ‘Wash your hands!’ has begun. Cold, flu, and rampant stomach virus season is upon us.

It’s also the time of year that I start looking for the magic bullet – the guarantee that this year will be illness free – the one elusive product that will kill any germ that dares to so much as look at my family. Antibacterial soap? No, tried that in ’04 – the year of the Killer Stomach Virus From Heck. Hey, what about this hand sanitizer? It kills 99% of germs! Oops…nope. Tried that in ’09 – the year of the Foul Flu of Forever.

Truth is, not much works better than plain, old-fashioned soap and water. In fact, the CDC likens handwashing to a ‘do it yourself vaccine’. Simply by wetting your hands, lathering up, scrubbing for 20 seconds (hum Happy Birthday twice), rinsing well under running water, and drying you significantly reduce your chances of getting ill. And no need to run out and stock up on antibacterial soaps. To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap.

What about hand sanitizers? Well, they work. Sometimes. If your hands are already clean. A hand sanitizer needs to be 60-95% alcohol to be effective, and the CDC says that they don’t work well on soiled hands. Why? Hand sanitizers work by killing microbes that come into direct contact with them. If there is dirt, food, or some other type of soil on your hands, the sanitizer can’t reach all the microbes. So, if your hands are clean, and you just want some extra insurance after grabbing onto that stair rail in the subway, then a hand sanitizer should work just fine. But if you’ve been helping with craft time at the local school? Soap and water is the way to go.

So, this year we’ll stick with soap and water. And maybe a tape recording of me saying ‘Wash your hands!’. My throat gets sore after the hundredth time.