Dry Skin? Try This!

Welcome to Winter, the season of perpetually dry skin. I always have trouble with dryness in both my hands and my face during the winter months. My hands get especially dry because of all of the added washing that comes along with germ season. My kids have both been sick a couple of times, as has my boyfriend and both of his kids. As for me? So far I’ve dodged the bullet, and a lot of that is attributed to quarantining my sick kiddos, cleaning everything they touch multiple times per day while they’re sick, and washing my hands constantly.

As for my face — I’ve learned something new. If you read my year-end posts, you may have heard me mention that I wanted to get my Holistic Nutrition Certification. Well friends, that is no longer just a dream! I have paid for the course, received the materials, and have dove in head first! One of the first things I’ve learned is the inner workings of the skin, which has led me to a new skin care routine based on the science of how the skin actually works.

The top layer of the skin (epidermis) is dead, and steadily falling off every day. It is made up of keratin, the same cells that comprise our hair and nails. The bottom layers of the skin are the living layers that are always busy generating new cells. The middle layer (dermis) is where our follicles and sweat glands live, and this is where sebum is produced.

Sebum mixes with sweat to form an acid mantle on the skin, which protects our skin from pathogens and environmental toxins. When sebum is depleted, our skin becomes both dry, and vulnerable to pathogens and other damage. It is important to make sure that our day-to-day routines are not depleting this vital element of our skin health.

One of the first things I found is that our daily bathing habits are a key source of sebum depletion. Soaps and detergents strip away sebum, and then we apply lotions to try to ease the dryness, which expose us to a wealth of toxins. A good way to stop this process is to stop soaping up in the shower. Wash the important areas well with soap — armpits and groin, for example — daily. But unless you’ve been doing something that has you dirty or covered in sweat, just rinse the skin with water everywhere else and only use soap maybe once per week. And, make sure it is a mild soap — I use goat milk soap from Bend Soap Company on Amazon.

I have seen a very noticeable difference in my face. I’ve begun doing yoga in the mornings a few days per week, and when I do this I don’t have as much time to get ready in the morning and have therefore been skipping out on the makeup (which in and of itself is counterproductive to skin care because it prevents the skin from breathing). I don’t wear makeup on weekends unless I’m going out for something special. So most days here lately I am makeup free.

What I have noticed is that the dryness in the skin on my face is completely gone. I have not needed to use my facial moisturizer at all in at least a couple of weeks, when normally I need it every day in the winter. At first I attributed this to the lack of makeup, but now I know that it is because of the soap. When I was wearing makeup, I had to scrub my face, twice, every night to get the makeup off. After my shower my face was so dry it almost hurt, so I had to use moisturizer.

I stopped using soap on my face because I had no makeup to scrub off. I’ll just wipe my face with warm water under the shower head. My skin is now soft, smooth, and more elastic than it ever was when I was wearing makeup, and therefore scrubbing with soap, regularly. My acne and complexion have also cleared quite a bit, although this may have just as much to do with cutting way back on the dairy recently as well.

So — limit soap use to allow sebum production to maximize. This will not only resolve dryness in the skin, but it also helps protect your skin against pathogens!

Something else you can do is dry brushing. This is good for stimulation of the lymphatic vessels as well, so it serves a dual purpose. Pick yourself up a good bath brush, preferably with a handle so you can reach your middle back. I found one at Target for $4.

Before your shower, start with your feet and softly brush up, in short strokes, towards your heart. When you reach your ribs, switch to your hands and, again, work your way up towards your heart. You’ll do your chest last, brushing again towards your heart.

To make this a spa treatment (once or twice a week), follow this with an Epsom salt bath — 1-2 cups of Epsom salt in hot bath water, plus about 10 drops of a lavender essential oil — for about 15 minutes. With dead skin cells removed, this will help your body to release toxins through the skin more efficiently. Follow this with a cool shower to close the pores.

Otherwise, take a hot shower afterwards, turning the water to cool at the end to cool the skin and close the pores. Once your skin is dry, you can also use an organic oil, like jojoba or coconut oil, to rub into your skin. This will help protect your skin without disrupting sebum production.

Do not use any lotions unless they are completely natural and unscented, like the goat milk lotion I use, also from Bend Soap Company, because standard lotions are filled with toxins and your skin is a very absorbent organ. In fact, it is the first point of contact for many of the toxins we are exposed to which end up causing us harm. That means our skin can also act as our first line of defense if we treat it right!

So to recap:

  • Only use soap in target areas, like armpits and groin; rinse the rest of the skin with warm water only
  • Dry brush often
  • Follow hot showers with cool water to close pores
  • Apply a safe skin care oil, like organic jojoba or coconut oil, after showers
  • Avoid standard scented lotions
  • Take Epsom salt baths, followed by a quick cool shower rinse, once or twice per week

I personally use jojoba oil on my skin after an Epsom salt bath. And I do really like the goat milk soap, which I use as a hand moisturizer since washing cannot be avoided for that part of my skin. You can get a package deal of three bars of soap plus a bottle of lotion for around $30 on Amazon:


If you try this out for a little while, please let me know how it’s working for you. I would love to hear from you!


How We Spent Our First Summer Weekend + Natural Sunscreen and Bug Repellent Reviews

Dear Friends,

We’re still a little more than three weeks from the official Summer Solstice, but the unofficial start of sweet summertime is here! If this past weekend is any indication of what’s to come this summer, then I am over the moon excited for the upcoming 10-12 weeks. I truly can’t remember a more fulfilling and invigorating Memorial Day Weekend than the one that is now behind me.

Our weekend was busy and nonstop on-the-go, but in all of the best ways. Michael and I both had to work on Friday, but we kicked off the weekend on Thursday night by getting three of the four kids (he didn’t have his son until Monday afternoon) together for the first time. I met his daughter on Wednesday, so Thursday all five of us got together at my house. Michael and Hunter piddled around on the guitars for a bit, then we all moved to the dining room table to play Trivial Pursuit. Hunter won that game, and Mia was begging for some ice cream – a love shared by both of my boys – so we made a spontaneous trip to Andy’s Frozen Custard. We got the kids some late evening ice cream, then went home so I could go to bed and get ready for the last workday of the week.

It was the first evening we all spent together, and I couldn’t have asked for it to go any better. Michael and I had a seamless connection from the moment we met, but there’s no guarantee that the kids will all get along well with us and each other in these situations…especially when there are four kids between the two of us. But, every single one of the kids gets along great, my boys took to Michael immediately, and his kids both warmed up to me easily too. Mia especially has taken to me – female solidarity since we’re grossly outnumbered by testosterone – plus a shared love for crafts, singing and Gilmore Girls! It is difficult to express in words how it feels to have everything come together so effortlessly. It has been completely uncomplicated and definitely feels kismet.

Friday evening was originally going to be our date night, because Mia was going to spend the night with her grandma so they could go to the 100 mile yard sale early the next morning. But it turned out she wasn’t going to go until later, so we decided to take all of the kids with us for Tunes at Twilight, an outdoor music event downtown on Fridays in the summer. Sugar Chic Creamery is right around the corner from the courthouse and the gazebo where the band plays, so the three kids, who are stair-steps in age at 14, 13 and 12, walked down to get ice cream while Michael and I enjoyed some music under shade trees on the courthouse lawn (where a new natural bug repellent worked like magic – more on that at the bottom!).

I also took my camera along to get some pictures of our first outing with the big kids:

Mia ended up wanting to come with Michael to our house after Tunes at Twilight, so they both came over and stayed the night. The next morning he took her to his mom so they could go yard sale shopping, then he came back over for breakfast. I made us the omelets from this week’s Mediterranean Monday post, then he headed home so we could both get some house work done before our afternoon at the beach.

We live close to Trail of Tears State Park, which has a small lake with a beach, and the boys and I frequent that beach in the summer. We packed towels, chairs, our inflatable kayak, plus a cooler with watermelon, pineapple and strawberries, some mixed nuts, pistachios, and three kinds of cheeses. Then we joined Michael and Mia and the five of us spent the afternoon at the lake.

Of all the things we did last weekend, the beach day was our favorite. We inflated the kayak and the three kids took turns paddling around the lake on it. Michael and I lounged on the beach and soaked up the sun…or tried to, because my sunscreen honestly worked a little too well and I didn’t even get the start of a tan (more on that later)! The kids took frequent breaks to raid the cooler, and Michael went to splash around in the water with them a couple of times. The kids were eating that up, because I don’t spend much, if any, time in the water when we go. He had all three of them on him in a group effort to dunk each other. The kids definitely ganged up on him, and I watched from the shore, my heart as warm as the summer sun. It made me so happy to watch them all having fun together!

That night we spent the night at Michael’s house, ordered pizza and ate way too much ice cream, and watched some Jeff Dunham, which was Hunter’s pick for us. On Sunday morning, Michael made us all pancakes while Mia and I painted our nails. Then the boys and I went home to get things ready for their departure for the summer. They spend their school years with me and their summers with their dad, and we switch every other weekend in between. Sunday afternoon was their time to go for the summer.

Sunday evening I had an outing with a few friends at El Sol for fajitas and a couple of beers, while Michael and Mia had a daddy-daughter movie night. I got a good night’s sleep, and was up and ready to tackle projects on Monday. Michael and Mia came over and helped with the gutters and blowing out the carport, then I packed up my tanning stuff and went to their house for the afternoon.

The boys were gone to their dad’s, but Gabriel came back from camping with his mom and I hung out with Michael and both of his kids. Mia had some craft projects she was working on – painting and cleaning up some new frames and mirrors for her room – and I helped her with those. She was talking about painting her room, and painting is an area of expertise for me. Originally I suggested that we work on that the next time she comes to visit. But then I sat back and thought about it, and realized it was only 3:00 and we should be able to knock out the bulk of it that evening.

I asked her if she wanted to go ahead and redo her room right then and there, on a whim, and she jumped at it! We cleaned out her room, moved her bed to the spare room, put a few things she’d outgrown into storage, then made a run to Menards for some paint and roller pads. When we got back Michael had the outlet and light switch covers off, had vacuumed the floors and filled in some holes. So I ran the sandpaper over where he mudded, then Mia and I teamed up to get the painting done. I can do the edging without taping it off, so I tackled that with the angled brush while she did the rolling.

We got one coat done, then called it quits for the night and I made plans to come back over on Tuesday to get the last coat on, and then get her room back together. I went home to shower and take care of my dog, and Michael got some fresh salmon ready for the oven in a glass dish with lemon slices, salt, pepper, garlic and thyme. I grabbed my bag of rice since he was out, then cut some cilantro from my back yard because Mia wanted cilantro lime rice, and then I went back to their house for dinner. We got the salmon in the oven and I made the rice, then we all sat down to a healthy and really delicious dinner, complete with a glass or two of chardonnay. It was the perfect ending to a full, exhausting and very well-spent weekend.

The weekend also gave me an opportunity to put some new products to the test. I shared with you the new, safer-for-your-skin, mineral sunscreens I picked up at Target in my summer skin care post, and also mentioned wanting to try a natural bug repellent. I’d tried out the mineral sunscreen while gardening in the back yard, but last weekend gave us the chance to put it to the test in the highest UV index of the day, and in the water.

I’m honestly not even sure why mineral sunscreens aren’t the standard, because I have to tell you that they work infinitely better than any metal-filled sunscreen I’ve ever used. I have both the Babyganics SPF 50 sunscreen lotion, and the Bare Republic Vanilla Coco SPF 50 spray. I put them on myself and the boys, then I laid on the beach to tan while they spent the entire time in the water. We were at the beach somewhere between two and three hours, I did not reapply one single time, and it blocked the sun so well that I didn’t even have a tan line! I thought by the time we left I’d have the start of a tan, but I walked away just as ghostly white as I was when I first touched the beach. The boys had the exact same result, even thought they spent their time in the water.

Friends, this stuff has made a believer out of me! A lot of times I’m just not a fan of natural products, no matter how much I’m dying to use them – like deodorant and conditioner, for example. Those are two things that, no matter how many brands I try, they never work well. This sunscreen, however…it’s made a believer out of me and I’m never looking back!

On Thursday, before our Friday night on the lawn at Tunes at Twilight, and my Sunday morning getting outside projects done, I stopped at Target to pick up some Babyganics bug repellent. This is something I was skeptical about, because the only thing that has ever seemed to work well for me is Off, or the equivalent, that is swimming with deet. I know it isn’t good for you, but neither are mosquito-born illnesses, and I can’t stand the itching. So I’ve continued to use Off in spite of knowing it’s harmful for the skin, because it was the only thing that provided relief from the blood-sucking little jerks. This natural stuff, in all honesty, I didn’t have high hopes for:


I figured sitting out in the grass on a summer evening, this was about the best place I would find to test out the effectiveness of the natural repellent. As soon as we got there, the first thing I did was spray down my arms and legs and rub it all in. It’s oily, and definitely smells of citronella…but even so, it’s a far more pleasant smell than the chemical shit-storm that is Off. We sat on the lawn for an hour, and I left with not one single bug bite! Honestly, I was shocked. I had already told myself that if I only had a couple of bites, I would consider it a success. But I was definitely not expecting to have zero!

On Sunday, I sprayed it on again before I went out to mow, clean out my shed, and clean gutters. I was outside from around 8:00 until 11:30, only applying it once when I first went outdoors, and I had only two mosquito bites by the time I went inside to shower. I did spray my back yard down with Cutter repellent for the grass to help with the mosquitoes this year, since we have a large concrete drainage ditch on the other side of my neighbor’s house that always has standing water in it. Mosquitoes are always bad in my yard. But between the Cutter spray and the Babyganics repellent for my skin, it seems I might have discovered how to peacefully use my back yard this summer, and I’m SO excited about it!

With that, I’m off to do some work in the garden. I will have another garden update coming soon. Sneak peek: my Spring garden still doesn’t get enough sun, so more changes are coming.

Happy Summer!




Summer Skin Care – Safe Sunscreens and Where I Found Them

Believe it or not, summer is here. It snuck in on me like a back-door visitor while I was busy lounging on the front porch. I stepped back inside and was startled to find it sitting on the couch to greet me, ready or not. Suddenly I was scrambling to prepare myself for this unexpected guest and I’ve found myself coming up short.

The year-end field trips began last week with a zoo trip for Logan, and I realized I hadn’t even opened the drawer where the sunscreen has been in a deep slumber since last October. It was time for him to spend a day in the sun, and that very morning was the first time I opened the drawer to take a peek, fingers crossed that there would be something inside to ease my ill-prepared mind.

And there was…but just barely. I had two cans of Target-brand sunscreen spray in SPF 30, left from last summer, and both almost completely empty. I resigned myself to accepting that there should be enough between the two cans to get him through the day, so I handed them off to Logan and added sunscreen to my shopping list. Luckily he arrived home with just enough sunscreen left for me to coat myself in a light spray pre-winery trip this past weekend — a few girlfriends and I had a girls’ day at Apple Creek Winery, which was hosting their annual Crawfish Boil that weekend:

I knew that meant that I had to get some sunscreen this week. Last summer began my quest for a good, natural, mineral-based sunscreen. The good-for-your-skin sunscreen can definitely come with a shocking price tag, but in all honesty even the “cheap” stuff has become a bit exorbitant on pricing, so the difference is no longer that great. I had already bought a sunscreen for my face that I wear year-round on days when I’m not wearing makeup (my makeup already contains SPF) and want a protectant for my face. But I also had a mineral sunscreen by Two Peas Organics (photo below) saved to replace my Target brand when it ran out, so I went back to take a look.

two peas

In all honesty, I wasn’t overly pleased with it. The price wasn’t terrible — $12 — until you take a look at the size of the container and realize it’s only three ounces. What?! That’s about half of a normal-size tube of sunscreen, for the same price. Which means in order to truly compare, it’s actually $24 for this sunscreen…and that is way too much for me. The Think Dirty app loves it, of course, with a big shiny green 0 rating, but I find it unrealistic for a single mom with an average Joe paycheck.

Thus began a search for a good, or at least much-better-than-standard, sunscreen. Preferably one that I could buy locally for the sake of convenience, and that wouldn’t break the bank.

My go-to store for all things personal care is Target, and they’ve been much better in the last year or so at carrying natural personal care products. I’ve finally been able to find shampoo, soap and toothpaste there that eliminated my need for relying on Amazon Prime. So maybe I would get lucky and find some good sunscreen too. I equipped myself with the Think Dirty app (I will share more about this and link you to it farther down) and started searching the Target app, narrowed down to only products available in my local store. Here is what I found:

Bare Republic, the same brand of sunscreen that I use for my face, has some of their products available at my local Target this year. I looked up the sprays and the lotions on Think Dirty, and found that the spray can of Vanilla-Coco in SPF 50 is pretty darn good, earning a score of 4. Considering it’s an aerosol can, that was especially surprising. The Bare Republic Sport lotion in SPF 50 had a rating of 7, which is considered “half and half” between being clean (0-3) and dirty (8-10). It would do in a pinch — the Bare Republic Face is also a 7, but the skin on my face is extra-sensitive and prone to breakouts and the “clean” options don’t always work well for me.

I kept browsing, finding “natural” brands and looking them up, only to find that they get a dirty rating. I finally found Babyganics, a sunscreen marketed for babies and children, and found a sunscreen lotion in SPF 50 with a 5 rating — lots closer to “clean” than the Bare Republic lotion with a 7 rating. I like to use a lotion for areas I can reach, because lotion tends to last a lot longer. The spray cans are easier to apply, but they tend to run out fast, so you get less sunscreen for your money. I like to have a spray can because it’s the only way I can get my back, but I like lotion for everywhere else. So I added the Babyganics lotion to my list. At six ounces for $12, it’s half the price of the Two Peas Organics brand I had picked out last summer, and I can pick it up at the store rather than ordering it.
babyganicsWith a history of leukemia on my mom’s side of the family, I work pretty hard to find personal care products that aren’t filled with chemicals, since leukemia especially is attributed to chemical exposure more than any other environmental factor. I’m wiling to pay a slight margin above the standard prices for products that are more natural than the run-of-the-mill, mainstream personal care products.

Once upon a time I had to research all of the chemicals in our products and find out which ones were safe and which ones were not. Then I had to read labels ad nauseum to find the rare product that was truly safe. When I began this health journey back in 2008, when my youngest was still under a year old, living a “natural” lifestyle was excruciating. Clean products were few and far between, and I actually had to resort to making a lot of things myself. These days the word is much more widespread on the harmful effects of the chemicals in our everyday products, and there are so many alternative products out there on the market. There are, however, a lot of dirty products out there masquerading as clean with misleading labels and marketing ploys.

That’s where Think Dirty comes in, and I thank the good Lord above for whoever the app’s creators are, because it has saved me countless hours of research and label-reading. I can look up products on the app and it shows the ingredients in the product, what each ingredient scores on its own, and what the product scores as a whole. And if you’re at the store, it has a scanner where you can just scan the barcode and the product pops up. If the product isn’t in the library yet, you can even submit it to be added.

It has definitely simplified my life. Now I just bust out this app, and anything that gets a red 8-10 I don’t buy. Anything in the yellow “half and half” category from 4-7 I will get if I can’t find a better alternative. And if it gets a green 0-3, I buy it and make note of it, because if I really like the product it will become my new go-to. Anything in the yellow middle of the road ratings I usually keep searching to find better alternatives, but they’ll do for now.

So while I haven’t found an affordable sunscreen just yet that gets a fully clean rating, I feel like I’ve found something very close, with only 1-2 points above the clean rating, which is also available locally and without breaking the bank. I picked them up yesterday after work, then went home, applied them, and went outside to get in my walk and then do yard work to see how they faired in the late afternoon/evening sun.

The verdict: both products are a win. Granted I haven’t tested them in a pool yet, but they definitely covered well and protected my skin while I walked and worked in the yard. I have my new go-to’s for this summer, and now I move on to my next quest for a natural but effective product – insect repellant. If you know of any…please share!

Happy summer, friends!