Thursday, September 13, 2012

Going Natural

Between being a newb feminist, discovering my inner greenie, and being physically unable to bend and reach repeatedly, my personal grooming habits have totally changed. It's not something I bring up a lot, but today I saw an advertisement for eyelash extensions, and I suddenly feel the urge to preach my efficient, yet minimalist version of self-care.

My hair was one of the first changes I made when I got sick. My shampoo and conditioner were perfumed, as are 99% of the self-cleaning products on the shelves, and when scents started bothering me, taking a shower became a torment. I googled around for unscented shampoo options and came across the no-poo method. It's been years now since I've used anything on my hair other than baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, rosemary tea and cornstarch, and it's normally just the soda and vinegar. This method has also reduced the frequency with which I need to wash my hair, which is great because the reaching while shampooing and being cold while my super-thick hair takes HOURS to dry are both potential head triggers and I'd rather not do them four times a week.

I've also turned to natural, unscented soaps. I've been switching off lately between a basic olive oil soap and a goat's milk soap, which does have a slightly... goaty scent. On my face, I use the oil-cleansing method, and I really love what it's done for my skin. I break out a lot less than I did when I used the non-comedogenic, medicated, supposedly gentle for sensitive skin, commercial cleansers. Now, I just rub my face, neck, shoulders and chest down with an olive oil/castor oil blend, sometimes I steam with a hot washcloth, then wipe it all off, gently, and my face is soft like a baby's butt.

My facial skin is also probably improved because I hardly ever wear makeup anymore, and can't actually remember the last time I wore anything more than chapstick. I have no good makeup recommendations, because all I have is stinky stuff that I hate, I can't afford replacements, and I think makeup is a bullshit institution anyway. Why can't I have visible blemishes? I'm a person, not a mannequin. I might be on a makeup strike.

Speaking of strikes, let's talk body hair. Until the last few years, I was the master of the razor. I wore short-shorts and bikinis and rarely was stubble ever seen. But with migraines, I've been unable to shave my legs without triggering head pain, from all the bending and the reaching. During the winter, this isn't an issue at all; I'm not wearing anything skimpy when it's less than 80 degrees anyway, so I leave it alone.

In the summer, I'll use a razor on my legs once or twice, but mostly, I rely on a trusty electric trimmer to mow the leg-lawn. It leaves stubble, so it really only changes things from fluffy to prickly, but it's better than feeling like a total sasquatch when I have to be in public on a hot day. Depilatories and waxes aren't an option for me, I hate them for their smell, skin irritation and ingrown hairs.

I do pluck my eyebrows a bit and wax my upper lip every now and again, though. I prefer not to have a moustache, or a unibrow. I'm only exaggerating a little.

I do eventually hope to come to terms with my body hair, embrace my sasquatchiness, and to be able to simply leave it alone, without feeling self-conscious. I consider the requirement of females to be hairless to be sexist and unfair, and I'm trying to reclaim a love for my body, as it is. Body hair isn't gross, it's certainly not unnatural, and it's no one else's business but mine. And, now yours, I guess. Hi!

My one purely self-indulgent, totally toxic grooming behavior is painting my toenails. After migraines hit, I didn't for a long time, but just this summer I've started it back up. The fumes are really noxious, and I have to be outside to withstand them, but it's worth the effort, when I can handle it. I've been rocking some white metallic paint on my toes for the past few weeks, but the next time I'm feeling up to it, I'm thinking of going cobalt.

Besides all the superficial stuff, a big part of taking care of my physical appearance is protecting it, and sunscreen is the one thing I haven't been able to change about my routine, yet. If I will be in the sun for more than a half an hour, I always wear it, though I really dislike the feeling, the smell and that every brand I've ever tried has made my skin break out. But, if I can't stay in the shade, I have to suck it up. Sunburns are the worst.

Being chronically ill can really take the wind out of your sails when you are trying to appear socially acceptable. And I have a secret for when I feel too tired or I'm in too much pain to keep up the charade: I don't. Those normal social rules that dictate what we should look like and how we take care of ourselves? They're crap. If I feel terrible, I will walk the dog in my pajamas, or go to the pharmacy without brushing my teeth or hair. I will even go out without washing my face, if I don't have the energy. If get funny looks from strangers (and I do), I just keep moving and get my stuff done so I can get back home and lay the hell down.

So, my priorities have shifted over the last few years. Appearances still have some import, but my health takes precedence. And it's sad that it took getting sick for me to realize what really matters.


Migrainista said...

Love this post! I didn't even know you could wash your hair with b-soda and vinegar. Do you have a recipe for this mixture you use?

I am also wowed by the olive oil mixture for your face. I would love to do something like that but have fairly oily skin and worry that it would make that situation worse. So interesting!

steph said...

Thanks Migrainista!

I use a about a teaspoon of baking soda per cup of water, and the same ratio for the vinegar rinse. It took some experimenting to figure out what worked best for me, and almost everyone has a hair detox or transition period, but it was SO worth the effort.

I used to have oily skin, too! Well, it was more combination, with oily and dry patches, but I've read that our skin often overproduces oil because we're stripping it daily with harsh cleansers. Try out the oil-cleansing, I bet you'll be surprised! :)

Migrainista said...

I'm going to try it - Thanks Steph!

WinnyNinny PooPoo said...

Steph: My family has always been know to troop out in public in pajamas. I will try the baking soda vinegar combo - have used the vinegar rinse for years (we have hard water and it removes the water scale on my hair) but have never done the baking soda part. Hope you are remaining well away from the urban ickiness of it all....