Promising Research on Natural Sunscreen Ingredients: Caffeine and Coral Shown to Protect Against UV Damage

If you follow my blog regularly, you already know how I feel about most of the sunscreen sold in stores. I believe that at best, most of the formulas are not as effective at protecting your skin as large companies want you to believe. At worst, they can actually do more harm than good. Thankfully, there has been a push in the scientific community to find a sunscreen that don’t potentially poison the body with synthetic chemicals.

A number of studies conducted within just the last year have found new sources of skin care ingredients. One of the most promising of these studies was done by Rutgers University, where researchers studied the effects of caffeine on cancer caused by UV rays. Though caffeine was already shown to protect against UV-induced cancer when taken orally, this research focused on the topical effects of the famous stimulant.

The Rutgers researchers used mice to determine the effectiveness of caffeine when applied to the skin and found that it reduced the likelihood of cancer by 72%. It appears that caffeine offers similar protection to humans too. Numerous studies have found that regular coffee drinkers had fewer occurrences of skin cancer than those who drank decaf coffee or avoided coffee all together. Great news for habitual coffee drinkers (like me!).

Caffeine isn’t the only thing that researchers have been investigating when looking for new ways to protect the skin. Research done by Dr. Paul Long at King’s College London has focused on coral and how it manages to get all the sunlight it needs to thrive without burning. Because coral needs sunlight for photosynthesis, it must live in shallow water where it is vulnerable to overexposure.

It turns out that algae living within coral reefs create a compound that is transported to the coral. The coral then modifies this compound to create its own sunscreen which protects both the coral and the algae. One of the long-term goals of King’s research is to figure out if this compound can be used to manufacturer sunscreen for human use. Dr. Long sees his research as also having humanitarian potential, saying “If we [can grow this compound] in crop plants have been bred for high yield . . . this could be a way of providing a sustainable nutrient-rich food source, particularly in need for Third World economies.”

If you could buy a sunscreen made from all-natural ingredients instead of the processed, chemical-ridden stuff sold by most companies, wouldn’t you? I know I would! Does the idea of putting coral or even algae on your skin sound too weird? Let us know what you think below.

If you’re interested in making your own all-natural sunscreen, see our last post.

DIY: All-Natural Sunscreen You Can Make at Home

Hi everyone! I hope you’re all managing to stay safe from the sun this summer without putting anything on your skin that could damage your body. Earlier today I found this video that offers an easy way to make natural sunscreen, with a recipe that you can tweak depending on how much protection you need.  While I’ve shared a number of skin-safe ways to prevent sun damage, it’s hard to beat the all-over protection you can get from natural sunscreen.

If you don’t have time to watch the video, here’s the recipe for natural sunscreen:

84 gr / 6 tbsp of Coconut Oil

28 gr / 2 tbsp of other base oil of your choice (I recommend Jojoba)

28 gr / 2 tbsp of Zinc Oxide (oil-soluble powder form)

14 gr / 3 tsp of Shea Butter

8 gr / 2 tsp of Beeswax

Put all of the ingredients in a double boiler (a mason jar in a pot of water works nicely too) until completely melted, then use a stick blender until all the ingredients combine together and you’re ready to rub it on. Warning: the finished product will make your skin look a little white and pasty but the woman in the video swears by the stuff and uses it on her kids, so there must be something to it!

Blue with Flu? 5 Tips for Post-Holiday Natural Health & Wellness

We all tend to become more gluttonous during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving! This can mean more refined sugars and carbs, extra alcoholic drinks, extra hours up after bedtime, extra stress from cooking and entertaining … you know the drill. All of this, coupled with the natural tendency for our bodies to go into hibernation mode as the days get shorter and darker, can cause us to become dangerously depleted and often result in the unwelcome but all too common post-Thanksgiving cold or flu. This can seem especially daunting as we gear up for the next round of holiday fun! Here are some useful tips for staying well and taking care of yourself after all the indulging:

  1. Get lots of rest! The best remedy for the common cold or flu is to get as much rest as possible. Be sure to have plenty of Chamomile tea and use a drop of Lavender essential oil on your pillow to help you get a good night’s rest. Or try our Sleep Ease natural remedy diffuser blend. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night, or make up for lost sleep by taking frequent naps and sleeping in whenever possible, especially if you are feeling under the weather.

  2. Avoid refined carbs and sugars (I know, it’s hard). This is a tough one for most people with all the delectable desserts that surround you everywhere you go. But refined carbs tend to spike, then deplete, your serotonin levels leaving you worn-out and more sensitive to colds and flu bugs, and can keep you from healing if you are already sick. You can indulge a little, but try to avoid overly sugary items and stick to healthier treats like dark chocolate or seasonal fruits. As a general rule avoid carbs and refined sugars altogether when experiencing flu-like symptoms.

  3. Boost your immune system with Vitamin D and C supplements, essential fatty acids and antioxidant-rich foods. Taking Vitamin D supplements is especially important during the winter months due to insufficient exposure to sunlight. In addition, naturally vitamin-rich green leafy foods, berries, and orange juice pack a punch to protect you from colds and flu. Essential Fatty Acids like Flaxseed or Hemp Seed can alleviate dry skin, hair, and nails; balance and regulate hormones and cholesterol; and help ease depression too.

  4. Surround yourself with uplifting and nurturing smells. Citrus essential oils like grapefruit, orange, tangerine, and lime are especially effective for improving low moods and alleviating depression. Check out our citrus essential oils collection! Simply put a few drops of any oil or blend of oils in a diffuser or potpourri burner, or in a cup of Epsom salts and add to a nice hot bath. Or try one of our Aromatic Bath Salts. Make a lovely spritzer to use as a room and body spray by adding 15 drops of any essential oil or combination of oils to one ounce of purified water, or try one of our Aromatic Mister sprays.

  5. Don’t be bamboozled by Over-The-Counter meds! Don’t be fooled into thinking that the only effective way of dealing with a common ailment is to take harsh meds. Next time you’re tempted to reach for the Nyquil, try an herbal, homeopathic, or essential oil-based natural remedy instead! These can be remarkably effective at addressing a wide range of symptoms associated with colds and flu. For a sore throat try Slippery Elm lozenges or a drop of Organic Tea Tree essential oil in a spoonful of honey added to a cup of Sage or Elderberry tea. For fast relief of congestion whether due to colds and flu or seasonal allergies, reach for an essential oil remedy like our Breathe Ease Diffuser Blend to quickly open nasal passages and improve breathing.

These tips can help you feel great and stay active throughout the holidays. Take advantage of the myriad natural remedies available to help you stay healthy this holiday season!

p.s. Our Cyber Week special starts tomorrow. Get free shipping (no minimum order) at Dropwise.com! Visit our web site and shop the Holiday Gift Buying Guide for great gift ideas for everyone on your list!

Spring Clean Your Air: 5 Tips to Reduce Allergens & Hidden Health Hazards in Your Home Part 2

Here are three more hidden health hazards in your home to pay close attention to. Most people are totally unaware of these and the increased opportunity for allergies and illness they present!

  1. Furniture and Home Furnishings That Can Bring You DownOne major source of hazardous exposure is the chemicals and neuro-toxic solvents used furniture and home furnishings. These include but are not limited to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in paint, solvents used to stain and finish furniture, flame retardants (polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs) and stain resistant coatings like perchloroethylene (the main chemical used in dry-cleaning) added to your drapes, carpets, upholstered furniture and bedding, and even the PVC (polyvinyl chloride)in your plastic shower curtain. Collectively, your home furnishings outgas a variety of chemicals that can become a significant source of pollution in the home.To make matters worse, your carpets, drapes and upholstery can be a gold mine for dust mites, and if your home is damp, a fertile breeding ground for mold –-both common sources of allergy and illness. For this reason, many allergists recommend that their patients get rid of carpets altogether. At a minimum, you can install a dehumidifier and make sure to steam and clean carpets thoroughly and regularly.

    Next time you’re ready to paint, switch to low or no VOC paints. Consider upgrading your home with furniture made from natural fibers like wool, organic cotton, untreated wood or wood finished with a water-based stain. Or buy used or antique furniture that’s at least five years old, where it’s a good bet that most of their chemicals have already been released. Avoid furnishings made from particleboard, polyurethane foam, and PVC.

  2. The Bedroom: An Oasis of Calm or a Chamber of Horrors?It may sound a little dramatic, but the place where you spend a third of your life may be teaming with toxins and dust mites! Most traditional mattresses are made with metal coils coated in toxic chemicals to keep them from rusting and degrading over time. On top of that, they are filled with polyurethane foam, flame retardant materials, and/or cotton loaded with pesticides. Then there are the chemicals added to the outer layer of the mattress to make them water and stain resistant. That adds up to a lot of chemicals that you are frequently lounging around on!Ditch your mattress in favor of a greener, cleaner option like natural (not hybrid) latex, natural rubber, organic cotton, or organic wool. Natural latex is naturally anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, dust mite proof, and relieves pressure points along the body. Natural rubber is exceptionally breathable, naturally hygienic, will not house dust mites, and has been shown to reduce pressure-point pain up to 30% better than memory foam. Wool is an excellent choice because of its high moisture content and the protein (keratin) that it contains, making it naturally flame resistant and hostile to dust mites.

    If you can’t swing a new bed, make yours more comfy and allergen-free by adding a wool or natural rubber mattress topper. The wool in mattress toppers (and in mattresses) is well encased in cotton so if you’re allergic or sensitive to it there shouldn’t be a problem. At a minimum, swing for organic cotton zippered encasings to protect your lungs from dust mite allergens and put a little barrier between yourself and the toxins being out gassed by your current mattress.

  3. Do You Practice Fireplace Safety & Common Sense?If you have or use a fireplace then you may be setting yourself up for possible carbon monoxide poisoning. In addition, wood fires can release a substance called benzopyrene–a carcinogen that can irritate your eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.Make sure your fireplace and/or wood stove are installed properly and the flue is open when you light a fire. Have both inspected annually to remove creosote build up which can block the chimney and force toxic fumes back into your living room. As a precaution, install a smoke and carbon monoxide detector nearby.

Give Your Bathroom Cabinet a Spring Cleaning: What Products Are Safe?

When you consider how many personal care products are on the market today and how few have actually been tested for safety it’s hard to know how to choose products that are safe. The best thing you can do is stick with products made from natural, plant-based vs. synthetic ingredients –ones that are identifiable and even familiar.

Look for soaps and moisturizers made with vegetable and nut oils (preferably unrefined) like jojoba, coconut, olive oil, hemp seed, sunflower, high-oleic safflower or shea butter. These are ingredients that work with your skin to keep it hydrated and protected and will not clog pores or interfere with your skin’s ability to produce it’s own natural and protective sebum.

Replace your anti-bacterial Triclosan-based products with ones made with Tea Tree essential oil and Lavender alcohols. Instead of propylene glycol, looks for products made with vegetable glycerin and aloe vera juice or gel. And avoid products preserved with parabens.

For an added measure of security, look for products that are certified organic or made with certified organic ingredients. And don’t be fooled by products that combine synthetic ingredients with natural ones. While the natural ingredients may be helpful they don’t cancel out the toxic or unhealthy effects of the other ingredients.

Don’t forget that many of the ingredients that are harmful to you, are also harmful to the environment, both on the manufacturing and production side and on the back-end as they make their way down toilets and drains and into our riverbeds and streams altering the ecological landscape.

You may be shocked and even dismayed to learn that you are using a lot of products made with suspicious and potentially toxic ingredients. But take heart! There are many natural plant-based alternatives out there with new ones coming into the marketplace everyday. With that in mind, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just get your spring-cleaning done by resolving to green your personal care routine first. This will motivate you to explore other ways you can deepen the sustainability of your lifestyle and make more healthy conscious choices.

Give Your Bathroom Cabinet a Spring Cleaning: What to Toss and Why?

By eliminating products made with ingredients that at worst, are toxic and potentially harmful to your health, and at best, irritants or allergens that do not serve you on your path to more healthful living, you will greatly reduce your risk of exposure and may even rid yourself of persistent unexplained health problems.

Still not sure what products pose the most harm? Start with the pile or bin of products you use daily. Anything that goes in your mouth or on your skin, are the biggest culprits to watch out for. Toss out toothpastes made with fluoride, mouthwashes made with alcohol, any products made with propylene glycol –as the key ingredient in anti-freeze this substance may be good for your car but not for your mouth or your skin!

Alcohol, commonly used in mouthwashes, as well as styling products and even some moisturizers, is drying, changes the pH of the mouth or skin, and strips away the protective mucous membrane in the mouth and throat. Fluorides are industrial waste products created in the production of aluminum, phosphoric acid, and phosphate fertilizers, that have been linked to bone problems, diabetes, thyroid malfunction, and mental impairment.

Avoid soaps, body wash, cleansers, and shampoos made with SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) or Ammonium Laureth Sulfate. These are harsh detergents that typically strip away your skin and hair’s natural oils, leaving them dry and vulnerable to damage. You can tell when they are present because of the never-ending foamy suds or lather they are specifically designed to create!

Other ingredients to be concerned about in your liquid soap, body wash products, and shampoos: Cocamide EDTA (or similar compounds ending with DEA, TEA or MEA) along with formaldehyde-forming substances such as Bronopol, DMDM hydantoin, Diazo-lidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea and Quaternium-15. These are ingredients that have been known to react with other nitrogen-based ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines after absorption.

And a special word of caution regarding “anti-bacterial” liquid hand soaps, body washes, hand sanitizers, or any product made with Triclosan. This chemical is classified by the EPA as a toxic pesticide, measured in parts per billion, and one of its by-products is Dioxin. Its over-use has scientists seriously worried about the rise of ‘super bugs’ — harmful bacteria that are resistant to existing antiseptics and antibiotics.

One other ingredient that you should be very wary of is unidentified “fragrance” oils or compounds (sometimes referred to as Fragrance or Parfum). These are synthetic chemicals made in a lab, designed to mimic the smell of many things that exist in nature –fruits, flowers, trees, and food. The problem is that “fragrance” often contains Phthalates (industrial chemicals used as solvents and plasticizers in cosmetics) which are now known to be endocrine disruptors (wreak havoc with your hormones) and potentially damaging to the kidneys, liver, and lungs, but especially harmful to pregnant women.

Phthalates don’t appear on the ingredients lists of the vast majority of products containing them including so-called “fragrance-free” or “unscented” products that may contain fragrances designed to “cover up” the smell of other ingredients. And many so-called “natural” products often use a combination of essential oils and fragrance oils, so be vigilant about this when checking labels.

How Make Your Own Deodorant Powder

Here’s the last of my make your own natural deodorant recipe series. This one is for a deodorant powder.

Natural Deodorant Powder
½ cup of Base powder
1-2 tablespoons of clay or ground dried herbs (or a combination of the two)
1 teaspoon of other powders (i.e. Goldenseal, Myrrh, Sandalwood)
12 to 15 drops of EO (your preferred combo –should be compatible with whatever dried herb you use, if any)

Supplies: Cardboard or plastic bottle with sifter top, glass measuring cup, medium glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, glass eye dropper, a canning funnel (stainless steel is preferred), a coffee grinder, and a whisk for mixing.

Ingredients: Your powder base can be made from Baking Soda, Cornstarch, Arrowroot Powder or some combination of these. Follow directions for the liquid recipes regarding essential oils to use. If you want to work with clay powders your best bet is White Kaolin clay or Bentonite clay (which is usually grey) but you can experiment with other clays as well (Rhassoul or French Green)

Directions: Measure and pour all powders into a mixing bowl. Use a dropper to add essential oils and scatter them around the bowl then quickly whisk the mixture to distribute as evenly as possible. Use the canning funnel to transfer to your container. Shake before each use and apply as you would a regular deodorant powder.

Once again, if you’re not sure where to find the appropriate ingredients or supplies I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs.

If you try this recipe and it works for you please let me know and share what you did so other can learn from you. Or if you have one of your own that you really like, please share it with us here. Thanks!

How Make Your Own Natural Roll On Deodorant

In my last post I gave you a recipe for creating your own natural deodorant spray. Since not everyone likes to use a spray, today I’m offering up my recipe for a natural roll-on deodorant.

Natural Deodorant Roll-on
65% Liquid Base (Purified Water, Hydrosols, Aloe Vera Juice, Aqueous Infusions of Herbs or Teas)
20% Witch Hazel Extracts, Herbal Tinctures, or Cider Vinegar (or a combination)
10% Vegetable Glycerine
5% amount of essential oils

rollon deodorantSupplies: Glass bottle with sprayer top, glass measuring cup or graduated cylinder with minimum increments of 5ML, glass eye dropper, a funnel (stainless steel is preferred), and a stirring rod (preferably glass but a chopstick will work too)

Ingredients: See my previous post regarding ingredients for the liquid base as well as suggested EOs. Other ingredients can include things like Goldenseal tincture and in the case of a roll-on you want to add some Vegetable Glycerin as well to help thicken the mixture and emulsify the oils. If you’re so inclined, you can try a pinch of xanthan gum powder to thicken the mixture and make it more gel-like but you’ll need a high speed stick blender and should blend the xanthan gum in the glycerin first then with the remaining liquids.

Directions: Measure and pour ingredients into measuring cup (use dropper for measuring essential oils). Stir gently using a stirring rod, pour into bottle and screw on top. Activate the roller. Gently shake the bottle before each use. Apply under each arm as you would with a regular roll-on deodorant. Note: You may have to experiment with the amount of glycerin in this recipe to get it to a consistency you like. Glycerin is thick and a little sticky so too much will make the finished product too sticky or gooey so go easy n that one (remember the recipe is a guideline).

If you’re not sure where to find the appropriate ingredients or supplies I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. Roll-ons are a little trickier to make than sprays. You may need to experiment and adjust the amount of glycerin to get the consistency where you want it. If spray or roll-on deodorants aren’t your preference, check back in a couple of days. I’ll have a recipe for you for a deodorant powder.

If you try this recipe and it works for you please let me know and share what you did so others can learn from you. Or if you have one of your own that you really like, please share that with us here. Thanks and enjoy!

How to Make Your Own Natural Deodorant Spray

spray canHere are some recipes you can try out if you want to make your own natural deodorant. I tried to make them as generic as possible with suggestions on different ingredients you could mix, match or substitute in a particular category (i.e. powder base, liquid base, etc.). I’ve also used percentages for the liquid products so you can easily calculate how to make them in different sizes, though I recommend you start with small amounts (i.e. 2 oz of finished product) until you find the combination you like best then scale it up.

Natural Deodorant Spray
75% Liquid Base (Purified Water, Hydrosols, Aloe Vera Juice, Aqueous Infusions of Herbs or Teas)
20% Witch Hazel Extracts, Herbal Tinctures, Alcohol or Cider Vinegar (or a combination)
5% Essential Oils

Supplies: Glass bottle with sprayer top, glass measuring cup or graduated cylinder with minimum increments of 5ML, glass eye dropper, a funnel (stainless steel is preferred) and a stirring rod (preferably glass but a chopstick will work too)

Ingredients: Your liquid base can be made from Witch Hazel Extract, Apple Cider Vinegar, Hydrosol, Pure Grain Alcohol, Aloe Vera Juice, Sage, Chamomile, Green, White or Black Tea or any combination of these ingredients. Choose any combination of essential oils that please you but be sure to include at least one of the following to ensure efficacy: Tea Tree or Manuka, Cypress or Pine, Sage, Lemongrass or Petitgrain. One of these should be the primary EO and then you can add others that complement the one you choose like Lavender, Lemon, Rosemary, Grapefruit, Lime, Geranium, etc.

Directions: Measure and pour ingredients into measuring cup (use dropper for measuring essential oils and remember that 20 drops is approximately equal to 1 ML). Stir gently using a stirring rod, pour into bottle and screw on spray top. Activate sprayer. Gently shake the bottle before each use. Spritz 2-3 times under each arm.

Adjustments: To adjust quantities start with a 2 oz batch (60ML). Using the percentages provided above that would come out to 45 ML of Liquid Base (i.e. 75% of 60 ML), 12 ML of Other Liquid Ingredients, and 3 ML of Essential Oil (or combination of oils). If you prefer less scent then lower the amount of essential oils from 5% to 2 or 3% and increase the liquid base accordingly, but keep in mind, the essential oils play an important part in eliminating bacteria so staying in the 4-6% range will yield the best results. When you find the combination you like best then you can double or quadruple the amounts o get a 4 oz or 8 oz batch, and so on.

Do not use more than 6% of essential oils and always do a patch test to rule out any possible allergies before using an ingredient.

If you’re not sure where to find the appropriate ingredients or supplies I highly recommend Mountain Rose Herbs. If spray deodorants aren’t your preference, check back in a couple of days. I’ll have a recipe for you for a roll-on deodorant.

Experiment and have fun with the process. If you try this recipe and it works for you please let me know and share what you did so others can learn from you. Or if you have one of your own that you really like, please share it with us here. Thanks!

Safer, Natural Alternatives to Help You Stay Fresh and Dry

Knowing that the primary action of a deodorant is to either kill the bacteria in your armpits or turn the armpits into a hostile environment for bacteria, you can focus your efforts on finding or making a natural deodorant with ingredients that will do the job without posing the risk of harm.

The good news is there are plant-based and natural ingredients that can produce both deodorizing and (to a limited extent) antiperspirant effects. Some of these include:

  • Tea Tree or Manuka essential oil (antibacterial)
  • Sage essential oil, sage tea or other form of sage extract
    (astringent –helps inhibit sweat production)
  • Cypress, Lemongrass, Petitgrain and Pine Essential Oils (assist in regulating over-production and over-stimulation of sweat glands
  • Witch Hazel extract (astringent and antibacterial)
  • Goldenseal extract, tincture, or powder (astringent and antibacterial)
  • Myrrh or Benzoin powder (antibacterial)
  • Baking Soda (adsorbent and antibacterial)
  • Cornstarch (adsorbent)
  • Arrowroot powder (adsorbent)
  • Kaolin or Bentonite Clay powder (adsorbent)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar (antibacterial -lowers pH of the skin)

Other ingredients that are safe to use as fillers or binders include aloe vera and vegetable glycerin (for roll-ons), coconut oil, shea butter, and beeswax (for solids), and additional essential oils for fragrance. If you’re making your own deodorant powder you can grind fragrant herbs like lavender buds, lemon verbena, or rose petals in a coffee grinder and mix them in with your other powders. Stay away from any form of Talc or Talcum Powder as this can be toxic to your lungs when inhaled. In fact, a 1972 FDA study showed that 39 out of 40 talc samples tested contained up to 1% asbestos! Talcum powder and talc fibers have been linked to ovarian cancer and respiratory illnesses.

Last but not least are natural deodorants made from potassium alum or ammonium alum. Not to be confused with metal aluminum this alum is a compound found in alum salts and used to make solid crystal deodorants -a popular natural alternative. Crystal deodorants leave a layer of natural crystal salts on the surface of the skin producing a hostile environment for bacteria, and have been used as a deodorant throughout history in Thailand, the Far East, Mexico and several other countries.

Using mass-market antiperspirants and deodorants may seem like a simple and innocuous thing to do to assuage your fears about the way you smell. But knowing the facts will help you identify the safest and most effective options to meet your needs. Now you have some more information that can help you make wiser choices. Do you use a “natural” deodorant? If so, which is your favorite and why?