Sunday, May 24, 2015

My senior year of college, I got really into the idea of soapmaking. 

I never actually made soap but I did start to take a second look at my beauty products, thinking twice before I reached for that $2 bottle of Suave shampoo at the drugstore. All the blog reading I did, the experimenting with making my own products, was fun and reminiscent of my days as a kid playing arts and crafts but I've come out the other side a moderate.

Mostly I've made the switch from commercial products to eco-friendly ones because I like things that are cheap and all-purpose. Coconut oil, Borax, vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, Dr. Bronner's, the DivaCup are my go to products but I'm not a purist. I wasn't a fan of making my own deodorant because well, sometimes I don't even have time to make my own dinner. My hair is also addicted to commercial shampoos, and when it comes to make-up, I just check the Good Guide before making any purchases and the highest score wins. 

I do believe that we should think about what we put in our waterways but in terms of personal health, I throw up my hands and honestly couldn't care less. I'm not wholly convinced parabens can kill you, and if they can, I'll just put it on the list of all of the other things I do that are potentially unsafe like ride a bike in the city, live in Honduras, drive a car and really, just walk out my door into the world every day.

The truth is that I know that those other choices like flying to Honduras and driving a car are more taxing for the environment than my soap choice. I try my best to minimize as best as I can. I think about my environmental footprint probably to an unhealthy degree, and in the end, remind myself to subscribe to Anne Lamott's advice that a good night time meditation is just saying to yourself "Oh well". High ambitions are great for the morning but also, come the end of the day, it might not hurt to forgive yourself every once in a while. 

Mark Bittman recently wrote a thoughtful piece in the New York Times about whether or not our health conscious, vote-with-your-dollar food movement is making any real wins. He made valuable points, as he tends to do, reminding us of an often forgotten part of the whole struggle: "[We need to learn] how to use basic organizing skills and how to fight. We need to prioritize one or more issues, we need to unite on those issues, and we need to gather others to apply pressure on politicians at every level and directly on corporations when possible." Rather than rearranging my medicine cabinet, the real fight (regardless the cause) should be to organize. Not that rearranging one's medicine cabinet is bad. That's the fun part, whereas Bittman's suggestion is the more complex and frustrating option.

There are a lot of ways to be an advocate. "Change requires a constant drumbeat," Rex Huppke wrote in an op-ed about an entirely different subject. "It requires calls and emails to lawmakers, support for legislation that rights what you see as wrong, a continuous hand stretched out into communities in turmoil, mentoring, donating, advocating. It requires presence and a relentless will to turn things around, preferably before something tragic happens." 

I don't know how I ended up quoting an article about Chicago gang violence in this post about coconut oil but I guess to me the message is all the same. 

But back to beauty. Here are some resources that I found helpful in my quest for a bit kinder beauty routine, which I think emphasis sense and simplicity:

A french woman's beauty routine
Lykke Li's favorite products - for those who are a bit more luxurious
Sierra Club's guide to safe cleaning products - sadly the original PDF is MIA
Also, just for fun, some Instagram beauty that's been coloring my days recently

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