from product to DIY skin and hair care

Three and a half years ago I started dabbling in DIY solutions. My gateway DIYs were household cleaners: dish-washing liquid, dishwasher detergent, laundry detergent, furniture polish, oven cleaners, and even cultured enzymes for cleaners. While I still make household cleaners, it was the oils and butters for DIY skin and hair care potions that hooked me. I clean, treat, and moisturize everything —from the hair on my head to the soles of my feet, from the rough elbow and heel callouses to the delicate eyelid folds— with things I make.

That’s the DIY thrill. “I made it!”

With what?

Vinegar, sugar, salt, honey, beeswax, baking soda, butters, and oils.

But why?

When I tell people about my journey the responses are mixed.DIY skin and hair care

  • Wow!
  • You’re an overachiever.
  • I’ve been thinking about trying that!
  • How do you find the time?
  • Interesting!
  • Why on earth would you do that?

My answers are equally mixed and often vague. Although I’ve tackled some specific needs, I didn’t start down this DIY road because of specific needs. My DIY journey is more of a meandering response to my “How can I . . . ?” curiosity. How can I . . .

  • . . . live a little greener and remove toxins from our home? I’ll turn orange peels and pulp into cleaners!
  • . . . save money? I’ll make my own eye cream!
  • . . . go hard core with my three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle)? I’ll wash those jars and fill them with DIY foot cream!

DIY is doable

Contrary to what you might think, going DIY for skin and hair care doesn’t take that much time. Once you’re in the groove, it takes less time to make your own than it does to go to the store. And in case you suspect otherwise, I’m not an overachiever. In fact, I’m lazy. In just about every endeavor, including work, my efforts are to find the most expedient way to get from A to Z. Honestly, I’m wont to question why I can’t just stop at M or N. What is the merit of going all the way to Z?

So if you’re poised to dismiss dabbling into DIY because it would take too much time and effort, you’re a little bit right but mostly wrong. The learning curve of the first dabblings might feel daunting, but two batches in, you’ll whip up a batch of face wash and eye cream with one hand, while you toss vegetables in a wok with the other. That’s an exaggeration, but I insist: DIY is doable.

The struggles of the learning curve aren’t all bad. My missteps and flops were rarely absolute failures. Often, I found my way to the perfect potion after a misstep or a flop. I credit one flop with shielding me from two to six weeks of transition misery when I went poo-less.

Poo-Less, my real Do-It-Your-Own-Way adventure

I first heard about discontinuing shampoo when one of my daughters went poo-less. She experienced the oily and itchy scalp as it made the adjustment from being stripped of its natural oils and overproducing sebum, to being left to its own devices.

DIY skin and hair care

I had this taken on the day my hair was 12 months shampoo-free, and a full week without being rinsed.

I dove head-first into the poo-less movement last year, bracing myself for the crown misery. Tight for time and effort, I didn’t do much research. I tried one of the first methods I came across and oiled my hair with a mostly carrier and essential oil solution, rinsed well (very well), then went to church.

I’m a wash-n-go girl, so, on my way to church, I drove with the windows down to help dry my hair, shook my head as I left the car, and entered. After the service, I noticed our minister staring dumbfounded at my head. My reflection when I returned to my car revealed why. My hair felt soft and dry but looked oiled and heavy! Oops!

For the next couple of weeks, I continued to oil my head, but I followed up with generous amounts of baking soda and vinegar. This, I think, is what saved me from the misery of the transition. After a couple of weeks, I had time to do more research and settle into a routine that suited me.

The takeaway from this experience: when you substitute over-the-counter products with DIY methods, allow yourself space and time to experiment (and fail!) so that you find what works for you.

DIY changed me

The changes range from the condition of my skin and hair, to how I stock my pantry, to my shopping list, and to my mindset when it comes to skin and hair care.

I take my skin texture for granted now and forget that, even in my supple 20s, I had bouts of chaffing and chronically dry, flaky skin. That’s the old me. The new DIY me no longer has:

  • Dry skin
  • Rough elbows
  • Cracked heels
  • Foot fungus

And my head? I no longer suffer from:

  • Itchy scalp
  • Oily hair

I haven’t shampooed my hair in over 14 months, and it has never felt better. My scalp never itches, and my hair never gets oily. In fact (and don’t judge, I was experimenting!), I have gone more than two weeks without even rinsing my hair. Still not itchy, not oily.

The changes in the texture, comfort, and health of my skin and hair are so pronounced that today, if I’m stuck somewhere without my DIYs, I will shun over-the-counter skin and hair products and make my way to the kitchen instead.

The most significant change is possibly my shopping list. I no longer buy:

diy dry skin cream

My first DIY potion: easy eye cream

  • Eye cream
  • Face wash
  • Body lotion
  • Foot cream
  • Face cream
  • Makeup remover
  • Shampoo
  • Hand cream
  • Body scrubs
  • Medicated creams for bites, rashes, and other skin irritations

These things have been usurped by essential and carrier oils, Shea butter, beeswax, and vegetable glycerin. Some of the oils are pricey, but even if I use only the most expensive essential oils, I still spend less money on skin care than if I were buying over-the-counter eye and face cream and body lotions. Add to that, the ones I make work as well and often better. So why would I buy over-the-counter?

Getting Started with DIY Skin and Hair Care

DIY skin and hair care

I use my mixer for whipping body creams more than for whipping up cakes.

Skin care

Figuring out how and from where to dive into DIY can be intimidating. Last year, I posted three pieces on getting started with skin care.

  • The first piece (DIY Skin Care Part 1: Oily Pantry) explains how to stock your pantry so that you always have what you need at hand.
  • The second (DIY Skin Care Part 2: Oily Starters) provides some basic recipes for you to get started. I prefer calling these processes because if you understand the basic process, you can experiment with it, tweaking the ingredients and the ratios to make it just right for you.
  • The third (DIY Skin Care Part 3: Oily Personals) is a list of essential and carrier oils, organized by skin and hair conditions, problems, and so on. This will help you personalize the creams, lotions, and unguents you concoct.

Hair care

Many blogs and websites offer DIY advice for hair care.

If you’re considering going poo-less, you can begin exploring ideas online.

But more importantly you’ll need to allow yourself opportunities to experiment and find the right method for your hair. Of the various poo-less approaches, the one that works for me is condition and rinse once or twice a week, and about once a month, rinse with a baking soda solution followed by vinegar before conditioning. For a while, I was using no conditioner, just soda and vinegar, but my hair needs a little moisture and conditioning. I’m experimenting with DIY conditioners but haven’t nailed it yet. When I do, I’ll share the process.

Freedom

One of the unexpected emotions I experienced on this DIY journey is the joy of freedom.

  • I’m free of the toxins that enter homes and bodies through over-the-counter cleaning and beauty products.
  • I’m free to design my products with the scents and textures I want, targeting the conditions and problems I have.
  • I’m free from the advertising mind games. Even the best packaging and slogans can’t lure me to purchase that age-defying unguent.

Knowing how to make things for myself is one of the most liberating feelings I’ve experienced, and one of the best reasons to at least dabble in DIY, even if you’re not willing to dive in deep yet.

Wishing you fun and fulfilling DIY skin and hair care adventures, whether they’re little dabblings or a lifetime journey!

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2017

Knee deep in weeds with friends

Have you ever gone into the woods or walked through the weeds with friends?

weeds and friendsI arranged for a weekend at my home in the hollow with three of my friends. My “country house” sits next to a water hollow, down the hill and through a meadow from my parents’ home. The weather apps told us to expect a combination of thunderstorms and sunshine. The weekend didn’t go off without a hitch or two, but it was lovely. Lovelier even than meadows, water hollows, thunderstorms, and sunshine.

weeds and wings

Walking through weeds with friends

I arranged for this weekend not only because we were overdue for some fun girlfriend time but also because I thought these friends really needed it. They’ve had losses, health scares, work upheavals, and challenges I hope I never have to navigate. Meadows, water hollows, thunderstorms, and sunshine. I thought the weekend was for them, but as I packed to leave and return home, I realized, I was the one who needed it.

My friends

weeds and berry promiesesWe’re knee deep with each other in thorny weeds, simple treasures, corny (sometime crass) jokes, coloring books, tears, Spanish ham, salads, cheese, wine, and whiskey. But the fun isn’t the important thing. The important thing is the net we create for each other. That friendly net is possibly one of the greatest gifts of middle-aged friendships. As parental walls crumble and safety nets of family collapse, that net of friendship is there to catch us when we fall, embrace us when we feel loss, and lift us when we sink down.

I didn’t take photos of the best moments of this past weekend. The photos I took don’t hold a candle to that phone call to the friend who wasn’t there yet, the meals with my parents, playing with colors, spinning wool, belly laughing. Most of the weekend was rainy, but we managed one nice walk, through the meadow, up the hill, in the weeds. These photos are from that friendly walk.wends and fences

Friendship nets form when we let ourselves get knee deep in the weeds with each other. We’ll rarely catch the best of those moments on any kind of camera, because the magic of making the net is better.

 

 

 

 

 

© Copyright Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved. 2017

DIY Skin Care Part 3: Oily Personals

Enhance, customize, and personalize your DIY skin care recipes.

One of the most daunting aspects of diving into the DIY skin care movement is the unfamiliarity of the ingredients. When I cook, I have general notions of how using onions and peppers or adding herbs and sauces will impact my dish. Starting out, I was clueless when it came to why one essential or carrier oil might be preferable over another. As I splashed (flailed!) around in a virtual ocean of recipes and possibilities, my shopping list began to resemble the inventory list of a medieval apothecary.

My goal for this tri-part post is to simplify the jumping off point for others.

  • Oily Pantry (Click here for Part 1, a list of oils and unguents to keep on hand.)
  • Oily Starters (Click here to explore Part 2: four basic skin-care processes to help you get your toes wet oily.)
  • Oily Personals (Part 3, which follows below, is a set of charts with information to help you customize your DIY skin-care venture.)

The Oily Personals are quick references or cheat sheets that will help you make purchase and blending decisions. The information was collected from close to 100 resources. When information was contradictory and I could not resolve the contradiction, I excluded it. This post includes fourteen charts focused on specific conditions, problems, or areas. This will be expanded later with two additional charts of that list the properties of essential and carrier oils that are popular for DIY skin care.

Oily Tips:

  • Use cold-pressed, unrefined, organic oils.
  • Lavender and tea tree oils can be applied neat (undiluted and directly to skin). But most other essential oils need to be diluted in a carrier oil. A 1% or 2% ratio (essential to carrier oil or total emulsion) is a good rule of thumb.
    • 1% = 6 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. carrier oil
    • 2% = 12 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. carrier oil
  • Most essential oils have about a 2 year shelf life, but the shelf life of a carrier oil can be as brief as 3 months. Do not use rancid oils. Quinessence Aromatheray and Viva Woman offer information on why oils go rancid and tips on how to prevent that from happening.
    • Store oils in a cool place. They can be stored in a refrigerator, but a cool, dark pantry or cabinet is sufficient. Keep in mind some carrier oils become cloudy when refrigerated.
    • Keep bottles tightly closed.
  • Always test oils on “tough” skin before applying them liberally elsewhere, especially if you have nut or other allergies.
  • Avoid these citrus oils if you’re sensitive to the sun or will be exposed to it for a long period of time: bergamot,  grapefruit, lemon (cold pressed), lime (cold pressed), bitter orange (cold pressed).

Oily Personals Cheat Sheet List

These charts are provided for informational purposes only, not in lieu of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

To jump to a cheat sheet, click on the title.

  1. Improving Skin Appearance
  2. Treating Skin Conditions
  3. Treating Aging/Damaged Skin
  4. Treating Acneic Skin
  5. Treating Fungal Problems
  6. Treating Injuries, Infections, Growths
  7. Treating Diseases and Infestations
  8. Treating Disorders and Inflammation
  9. Treating Muscle, Joint, Nerve Problems
  10. Treating Blood-Related Problems
  11. Treating and Protecting Against Exposure and Bugs
  12. Treating Feet
  13. Treating Mouth Problems
  14. Treating Hair

1. Improving Skin Appearance

Improve Elasticity

Regenerate Tissue

Rejuvenate Skin

Smooth Skin / Fine Lines

Tighten Skin

Tone Skin

Essential Oils
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Rose
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Argan
  • Hazelnut
  • Hemp Seed
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
Carrier Oils
  • Hazelnut
  • Jojoba
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Clary Sage
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Safflower
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Rose
  • Patchouli
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Argan
  • Camellia
  • Jojoba
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Clary Sage
  • Frankincense
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
Carrier Oils
  • Grape Seed
  • Hazelnut
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Carrot Seed
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lemon
  • Neroli
  • Rose
Carrier Oils
  • Evening Primrose
  • Grape Seed
  • Hazelnut

Back to List

2. Treating Skin Conditions

For normal skin, oils that nourish and regenerate are advisable, for example frankincense, geranium, chamomile, lavender, neroli, and rose essential oils with carrier oils such as sweet almond, hemp seed, and jojoba. The chart lists oils for other skin types and conditions.

Dry

Oily

Dull

Mature

Sensitive

Thin

Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Carrot Seed
  • Coconut
  • Evening Primrose
  • Hazelnut
  • Hemp Seed
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter
  • Sunflower
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Neroli
  • Niaouli
  • Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
  • Ylang Ylang 
Carrier Oils  
  • Camellia
  • Coconut
  • Grape Seed
  • Hemp Seed
  • Jojoba
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Geranium
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Niaouli
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Camellia
  • Jojoba
  • Sunflower
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
Carrier Oils
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Coconut
  • Hemp Seed
  • Rose Hip
  • Sunflower
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Argan
  • Coconut
  • Evening
  • Primrose
  • Grape Seed
  • Neem Seed
  • Sunflower
Essential Oils
  • Lavender
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Camellia

Back to List

3. Treating Aging/Damaged Skin

Age Spots / Discoloration

Cellulite

Sun Spots / Damage

Scars

Stretch Marks

Wrinkles

Essential Oils
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cocoa Butter
Essential Oils
  • Geranium
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lemon
  • Patchouli
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Coconut
  • Hazelnut
Essential Oils
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Grape Seed
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Rose
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Jojoba
  • Rose Hip
  • Safflower
  • Shea Butter
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Frankincense
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Beeswax
  • Coconut
  • Jojoba
  • Shea Butter
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Clary Sage
  • Frankincense
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
Carrier Oils
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Jojoba
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter

Back to List

4. Treating Acneic Skin

Acne

Blemishes

Enlarged Pores

Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Bergamot
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Neroli
  • Niaouli
  • Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Argan
  • Beeswax
  • Camellia
  • Carrot Seed
  • Coconut
  • Jojoba
  • Neem Seed
  • Rose Hip
  • Safflower
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Myrrh
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Safflower
  • Shea Butter

 

Essential Oils
  • Clary Sage
  • Lemon
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
Carrier Oils
  • Hemp Seed

 

Back to List

5. Treating Fungal Problems

Athlete’s Foot

Candida (Yeast)

Jock Itch

Ringworm

Essential Oils
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Clove
  • Geranium
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Geranium
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Neem Seed

Back to List

6. Treating Injuries, Infections, Growths

Blisters, Boils, Burns

Cellulitis

Cuts, Wounds

Skin Infection

Sores, Abscess

Warts

Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Carrot Seed
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Niaouli
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Avocado
  • Shea Butter
  • Tamanu

 

 

Essential Oils
  • Geranium
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Coconut
  • Oregano
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Niaouli
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Beeswax
  • Grape Seed
  • Hazelnut
  • Hemp Seed
  • Shea Butter
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Coconut

 

Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Patchouli
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Tamanu

 

 

Essential Oils
  • Clove Bud
  • Frankincense
  • Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme

Back to List

7. Treating Diseases and Infestations

Chicken pox

Dermatitis

Eczema

Measles

Scabies

Insect / Spider Bites

Essential Oils
  • Lavender
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oil
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Beeswax
  • Jojoba
  • Shea Butter

 

 

Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Carrot Seed
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Beeswax
  • Camellia
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Evening Primrose
  • Jojoba
  • Neem Seed
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Geranium
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Niaouli
  • Tea Tree

 

 

Essential Oils
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Thyme
Carrier Oil
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Niaouli
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

 

Back to List

8. Treating Disorders and Inflammations

Hives / Inflammation

Itchy Skin

Rosacea

Psoriasis

Heat Rash

Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Patchouli
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Castor
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Jojoba
  • EV Olive
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Neroli
  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Avocado
  • Beeswax
  • Carrot Seed
  • Neem Seed
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Neroli
  • Oregano
  • Rosewood
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Evening Primrose
  • Jojoba
  • Rose Hip
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Carrot Seed
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Camellia
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Jojoba
  • Neem Seed
  • Rose Hip
  • Shea Butter
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Clove
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Evening Primrose
  • Neem
  • Shea Butter
  • Sunflower

Back to List

9. Treating Muscle, Joint, Nerve Pain

Aches, Muscle Pain

Neuralgia

Sprains, Strains

Arthritis

Gout

Rheumatism

Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Clary Sage
  • Niaouli
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Clove
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Clove Bud
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • EV Olive
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Clove Bud
  • Eucalyptus
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Evening Primrose
  • Tamanu
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Carrot Seed
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Juniper Berry
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Carrot Seed
  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Clove Bud
  • Eucalyptus
  • Frankincense
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lemon
  • Rosemary

Back to List

10. Treating Blood-Related Problems

Broken Capillaries

Bruises

Chilblains

Nosebleed

Varicose Veins

Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Cypress
  • Geranium
  • Lemon
  • Neroli
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Evening Primrose
  • Hazelnut
  • Rose Hip

 

Essential Oils
  • Cypress
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Evening Primrose
  • Hazelnut
  • EV Olive
  • Rose Hip
  • Sunflower
  • Tamanu

 

 

Essential Oils
  • Lemon
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Evening Primrose
  • Hazelnut
  • Rose Hip

 

Essential Oils
  • Cypress
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
Essential Oils
  • Basil
  • Cedarwood
  • Frankincense
  • Geranium
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Neroli
  • Oregano
  • Rose
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Evening Primrose
  • Hazelnut
  • Rose Hip

Back to List

11. Treating and Protecting Against Exposure and Bugs

Chapped Skin

Sunburn

Sunscreen

Windburn

Head Lice/Mites

Insect Repellent

Essential Oils
  • Frankincense
  • Myrrh
  • Patchouli
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • EV Olive
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Neem Seed
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Carrot Seed
  • Chamomile
  • Frankincense
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Coconut
  • Grape Seed
  • Jojoba
  • Neem Seed
  • EV Olive
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Lavender
Carrier Oils
  • Coconut
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Geranium
  • Peppermint
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
Carrier Oil
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Basil (Sweet)
  • Cedarwood
  • Clove Bud
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Neem Seed

Back to List

12. Treating Feet

Athlete’s Foot

Corns

Sweaty Feet

Essential Oils
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Tea Tree
Essential Oils
  • Lemon
  • Tea Tree
Essential Oils
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium

Back to List

13. Treating Mouth Problems

Bad Breath

Canker (Cold) Sores

Gum Disease

Mouth Infection

Sore Throat

Toothache

Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Myrrh
  • Peppermint
  • Tea tree
Carrier Oils
  • Coconut Oil
Essential Oils
  • Bergamot
  • Clove Bud
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea Tree
Essential Oils
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond Oil
  • Coconut Oil
Essential Oils
  • Clove Bud
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Tea Tree
Carrier Oils
  • Coconut Oil
Essential Oils
  • Clove Bud
  • Eucalyptus
  • Juniper Berry
  • Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sandalwood
  • Tea Tree
  • Thyme
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Coconut
  • Jojoba
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Clove Bud
  • Myrrh
  • Oregano
  • Peppermint

Back to List

14. Treating Hair

Oily

Normal

Dry/Damaged

Dandruff

Fine

Thinning

Essential Oils
  • Basil
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary Sage
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Patchouli
  • Rosemary
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Avocado
  • Grapeseed
  • Jojoba
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
Carrier Oils
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Jojoba
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Lavender
  • Myrrh
  • Peppermint
  • Sandalwood
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Argan
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Coconut
  • Grape Seed
  • Hazelnut
  • Hemp Seed
  • Jojoba
  • EV Olive
  • Evening Primrose
  • Shea Butter
Essential Oils
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary Sage
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Oregano
  • Patchouli
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Tea Tree
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Aloe Vera
  • Apricot Kernel
  • Avocado
  • Jojoba
  • Neem Seed
Essential Oils
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium
  • Lavender
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Avocado
  • Grape Seed
  • Jojoba
  • Sesame
Essential Oils
  • Basil
  • Carrot
  • Cedarwood
  • Clary Sage
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Ylang Ylang
Carrier Oils
  • Sweet Almond
  • Avocado
  • Camellia
  • Coconut
  • Cocoa Butter
  • Jojoba
  • EV Olive

Back to List

Copyright © Pennie Nichols, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

DIY Skin Care Part 2: Oily Starters

4 DIY skin care recipes to get you started

I started dabbling in DIY  household recipes as well as DIY skin care two and a half years ago. Although information, advice, and recipes are abundantly available on the Internet, navigating them can be treacherous.

Oily Starters is the second of three posts to ease others simplify into the DIY skin care revolution. Also check out Oily Pantry (a list of staple oils, butters, and waxes for DIY skin care) and Oily Personals (oil information to help you choose the best ones for you).

If navigating the plethora of information wasn’t sufficiently daunting for me, the recipes were. Even when I cook or bake, I can’t bring myself to faithfully follow a single recipe. I review three, four, sometimes more, recipes, and then go to the kitchen to synthesize or “process.”

Cooking by process in lieu of recipe allows me to use of what I have in my pantry and make substitutions. It also gives me the freedom to tweak whatever I’m preparing based on my mood or hankering. Extracting the process from skin-care recipes, however, took me longer than usual because the ingredients were not as familiar as garlic and tomato paste.

The first process I adopted was for dry, itchy skin, and it has become my most popular post: Dry Itchy Skin? Try This First.

The four processes provided here are a synthesis of recipes and information from some of my favorite DIY sites. Whether you need a jump start to launch your DIY adventure or a little affirmation or redirection for the journey you’re on, I hope these Oily Starters along with the Oily Pantry and the Oily Personals help you develop your own, personalized creams, lotions, and washes.

1. Basic Cream: Whipped Face/Body Cream

Getting the right consistency and texture for lotions, creams, and body bars is a challenge. I followed some recipes faithfully and ended up with lotions that separated. Sometimes the bars were more like creams, and the creams more like bars. Finally I found posts about a process that works for me:

melt → mix → chill → whip

The first recipe I found and tried was from Trash is for Tossers. Now I use a similar process for most of my lotions and creams.

 You’ll need

  1. Double boiler (or a heat resistant bowl that fits tightly atop one of your pots)
  2. Mixer
  3. Base and Additional Ingredients that are right for you
  4. Tub or jar to store it

 Base Ingredients

  • 1 part Coconut Oil 
  • 1 part Carrier Oil (select depending on use and needs)
  • 1 part Shea or Cocoa Butter
  • 1 tbsp. Beeswax granules or flakes for each cup of the oil/butter trio

Additional (optional) Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. Vitamin E Oil for each cup of Base
  • 1 tbsp. Vegetable Glycerin for each cup of Base
  • 5-10 drops Essential Oils per cup of Base

Instructions

  1. In your double boiler, mix and melt the Base Ingredients, along with Vitamin E Oil and Glycerin (if you’re using them). Don’t overheat the mixture, but make sure the Beeswax is melted.
  2. Remove from heat, cover, and place in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Allow the mixture to harden.
  3. After the mixture hardens, take it out and break up the surface a bit.
  4. Add the Essential Oils you’ve chosen.
  5. Whip until you get a creamy, fluffy texture.
  6. Store in a sterilized container (I use re-purposed food tubs with lids that close well).

Notes

  • makeshift double boilerIf you don’t have a double boiler, place a heat resistant bowl over a pot (make sure it doesn’t the bottom).
  • I modify this basic recipe to make Face Cream, Body Cream, Foot Cream, and Lotion Bars.
  • Using different oils, I tweak the recipe to target specific problems or outcomes: thin skin for my mom, mosquito/insect repellent because I live in Louisiana, anti-fungal for feet, anti-aging for my mid-life face.

2. Eye Cream

Although the Basic Cream process can be tweaked to make eye cream, I generally prefer a simpler eye treatment.

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp. Coconut Oil
  • 1 tsp. Vitamin E Oil
  • 1 tbsp. Primrose Oil
  • 3-5 drops Essential Oils (one or a combination of Lavender, Frankincense,  Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Chamomile, Cypress)

Instructions

  • Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl or cup.
  • Whip.
  • Store in a sterilized container.

Notes

  • While this recipe is attractive due to its simplicity, keep in mind that coconut oil melts if the ambient temperature reaches about 76oF. If you prefer creamy vs. liquid eye treatment, store it in a cool cabinet or the refrigerator during warmer months.
  • This eye cream can also be used as eye makeup remover.
  • Tiny jelly or baby food jars and contact eye lens cases are great for storing eye cream.

3. Face Wash Oil

I still remember the scent of my grandmother’s cold cream. As a child I had wondered why she would use creams to clean her face. Shouldn’t she use soap? But cream- and oil-based cleaners are actually very effective, even for skin with acne problems.

Ingredients

  • 1 part Carrier Oil (e.g., Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Jojoba, Avocado)
  • 1 part Castor Oil (Wellness Mama also uses Hazelnut Oil)
  • a few drops of Essential Oil (e.g., Lavender)

Instructions

  • Mix in a sterilized jar or bottle.
  • Before each use:
    • Shake.
    • Pour about 1 tbsp. into hand.
    • Apply, massaging into your face.
    • Remove with a wet warm or hot washcloth.

Notes

  • Several DIY bloggers/sites offer oil-based face wash recipes, but I think Wellness Mama does the best job explaining the practice.
  • I use one part EV Olive and one part Castor Oils (my skin is normal).
  • For dry skin, use less Castor oil and more of the carrier oil.
  • For oily skin, the inverse: more carrier oil and less Castor oil.
  • Don’t mix more than about 1 to 2 cups total. Carrier oils have a shorter shelf life than essential oils.

4. Foaming Face Wash

This recipe comes from one of my favorite DIY sites, Body Unburdened.

Ingredients

  • 1 c Water (preferably filtered)
  • ¼ c Liquid Castile Soap
  • 5 tsp. Carrier Oil (Jojoba, Safflower, Sunflower)
  • 2 tbsp. raw Honey
  • 1 tbsp. Tea Tree Oil
  • 15 drops Lemon Essential Oil

Instructions: 

  • Pour the ingredients in your container.
  • Shake.
  • You’re done!
  • To use:
    • Pour about 1 tblsp. into palm.
    • Massage into face.
    • Rinse.

Notes

  • I initially made this for my children because it targets acne. Eventually, I made some for myself because I love the way it makes my skin feel.
  • I alternate washing my face with this and the Face Wash Oil.
  • I often substitute out the Jojoba oil for Avocado or Grape Seed Oil.
  • Sometimes I use Lavender Essential Oil with or instead of the Lemon Essential Oil.
  • Body Unburdened uses a pump for the foamy wash. I usually pour mine into a sterilized plastic dish-soap bottle, which doesn’t shatter in the shower.

Part 1: Oily Pantry

Part 3: Oily Personals

Copyright © Pennie Nichols, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

DIY Skin Care Part 1: Oily Pantry

Arm yourself for the DIY skin care revolution.

Introduction

Japanese Facial Massage at Ten Thousand Waves. Heaven. As I became aware that my therapist was finishing, I braced myself for her spiel: what my skin needed, the routine I should follow, the products I should use.

“Your skin looks great. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it,” she said as she wiped her products from her hands.

A bit baffled, I blurted. “Coconut oil!”

“Well, keep up the coconut oil!”

Middle-aged, pudgy, and far from fit, I take the compliments that come my way. This one was particularly pleasing. Coconut oil, however, wasn’t the whole story, not even the only story. For the last two and a half years, I have been dabbling in DIY ventures. At first I focused on laundry detergents, dish soaps, furniture oils, and other household products, but I eventually took a crack at DIY skin care.

I’m no expert and I credit other, mostly younger, women, who have explored, researched, and shared information and recipes for DIY cleaning and DIY skin care. Thanks to them, you can Google just about any condition or problem and find a DIY recipe for it. Most are good, some are great. A few, frankly, are hogwash.

Navigating the good versus bad recipes, however, wasn’t my biggest challenge. After a little exploring, I was drowning in new information and I compiled a $300 list of oils to buy. Not only had I never heard of some of the oils on my list, I also wasn’t sure why one oil versus another was necessary, except that it was in the recipe. I tumbled down the DIY rabbit hole.

This tri-part post is my effort to help others avoid slipping down that rabbit hole and arm themselves for their own DIY skin care revolutions.

  • Oily Pantry: Presented below, Part 1 is a list of oils and unguents to keep on hand, with notes about equipment and safety.
  • Oily StartersClick here to explore Part 2: four basic skin-care processes to help you get your toes wet oily.
  • Oily Personals. Click here for Part 3: charts with information to help you customize your DIY skin-care venture.

Oily Pantry

The staples of my oily pantry.

The staples of my oily pantry.

The list of products you should have on hand will vary based on your skin needs and personal preferences. You may be pleased to find out you already have some these in your kitchen pantry.

  • The Staples are your starter kit or must haves for DIY skin care.
  • The Complements are good to have.

They appear in alphabetical order, not in order of importance, because the hierarchy will vary depending on your needs. If you explore the Oily Personals, you may decide that some of my Complements are your Staples, and vice versa. Regardless, this list will allow you to try the Oily Starters.

Staples

  • Beeswax flakes or granules
  • Carrier Oils
    • Castor Oil
    • Coconut Oil
    • 1-3 additional oils: Sweet Almond, Jojoba, Avocado, Sunflower, Grape Seed, Extra Virgin Olive)
  • Liquid Castile Soap
  • Essential Oils
    • Geranium
    • Lavender
    • Lemon
    • Tea Tree
  • Raw Honey
  • Shea Butter
  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Apple Cider Vinegar

Complements

  • More Carrier Oils
    • Argon Oil
    • Camellia Oil
    • Primrose Oil
    • Rosehip Oil
  • Cocoa Butter
  • More Essential Oils
    • Basil (Sweet)
    • Bergamot
    • Carrot Seed
    • Cedarwood
    • Chamomile
    • Clary Sage
    • Clove Bud
    • Eucalyptus
    • Frankincense
    • Juniper Berry
    • Myrrh
    • Neroli (Orange Blossom)
    • Niaouli
    • Oregano
    • Patchouli
    • Peppermint
    • Rose
    • Rosemary
    • Sandalwood
    • Thyme
    • Ylang Ylang

Online sources for buying oils are abundant, but my go-to source has been Bulk Apothecary. Their site provides useful descriptions, and I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the products I receive. You can also Google just about any condition preceded by “Essential Oil for” and find information. Take care when exploring because not all online offerings are equal. These are three of sites I visit that provide some of the most thoughtful, useful information about essential and carrier oils, as well as DIY ideas and health/beauty advice.

Oily Safety and Equipment 

Shelf Life

  • Most essential oils have two-year shelf life, so stocking up on these is fine. However, you should avoid overstocking your pantry with carrier oils, as their shelf life is more limited.
  • Although some DIY concoctions will last much longer, you should only make amounts that you can use within six months. Including oils that extend shelf life (lemon essential oil and vitamin E oil, for example) is helpful. You can also refrigerate your lotions and creams, but this is not always convenient.
  • Store in a cool, dark cabinet.
  • Keep lids tight.

Sterilization

As with canning foods, cleaning and sterilizing your equipment and containers is important.

  • Run containers through the sterilization cycle of your dishwasher.
  • Microwave containers in a baby bottle sterilizer.
  • Place containers on a canning rack in a pot of water and bring to boil. Boil 10 minutes.

Equipment

oily-pantry-equipment

I use a make-shift double boiler: Pyrex mixing bowl and sauce pot. Remember to use plastic or metal spatulas, never wooden, to avoid introducing unwanted bacteria into your lotions and creams.

Although having dedicated equipment is not absolutely necessary, it is advisable. Oils and scents can be hard to remove. You will need some or all of the following to whip you your DIY concoctions.

  • sauce pan
  • double boiler or make-shift double boiler (sauce pan and heat-proof mixing bowl)
  • plastic or metal spatulas: Do NOT use wooden spatulas.
  • whisk
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • mixer
  • containers and lids: I use re-purposed glass and plastic jars, food tubs, and bottles. Baby bottles are a great size for storing face and eye creams.

Part 2: Oily Starters

Part 3: Oily Personals

Copyright © Pennie Nichols, 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Cancer? I’m lifting you up.

lifting-you-up

Your friend has cancer. Every genuine, heartfelt phrase you want to share sounds cliché and the more you delete and rewrite, the more your words become faded Hallmark sentiments. “How can I express to her how I’m feeling?”

Then you ask yourself, “What can I do? Should I call? No, she’s probably flooded with calls, but what if she thinks . . . ? Maybe I’ll pop in to check on her. No, what if her whole family . . . ? I’ll just text. But I need to do something. I’ll bring meals for the family. But what if someone already did?”

Struggling with these questions after you receive the news is a sign that you might be a truly supportive friend. Thoughtful words and gestures are a good beginning. Thoughtful awareness is an excellent delivery vehicle for your words and acts. (Related story: Whose Story Is It Anyway?)

Over the past fifteen years, nineteen friends and close acquaintances have faced cancer. Eight died. Geography, level of intimacy, and personal circumstances were factors in the extent of my connection during their treatment and recovery. While my involvement varied greatly, the struggle with words and acts was a constant. No matter how close I am to the person, physically or personally, I want the things that I say and do to make a difference, even if as simple as a fleeting smile.

I ambitiously set out to write a list of dos and don’ts for interacting with a friend who has cancer. After reaching out to friends with cancer stories, I realized the futility of a concrete list. The perfect thing for one friend is the worst for another. What did come from my conversations and ruminations is this list of guidelines, two of which I touched on above, all of which are relevant to caring for friends in any difficult circumstance.

1. Check in.

Let your friend know that you’re thinking about her. If you decide not to call because her lines are flooded or you’re not sure what to say, send a card, an email, or a text. If you’re struggling with the words, let that struggle go and use the words you find. Even a short text that borders on cliché can make a difference to a friend who is going through a tough time.

Keep checking in. Your friend will be flailing through waves of emotions, physical hardships, and practical concerns throughout her treatment and beyond. Even if you’re not one of the primary people taking care of her, check in regularly to let her know you’re thinking of her or to offer help. When treatment is complete, check in some more. The emotional and physical impact of cancer treatments can linger well beyond the last treatment date.

2. Tune in.

Be thoughtful and aware. Each cancer journey is unique. One friend explained: “the most important thing is to remember that every person is different, and we all have different problems / obstacles / challenges, which means there is no single appropriate response.”

Tuning in is listening. If you ask: “How are you feeling?” or “How are you doing?”, listen to the response.

Tuning in is also practicing thoughtful awareness of your friend’s support network, personality, and receptiveness.

If your friend has a family or community support network, communicate with that network so that you’re not duplicating or hindering the efforts of others. If there is no “built-in” support network, team up with other friends to create one.

Your friend’s personality is your guideline for interactions. Is she stoic or does she need a little extra boost? Is she all business or does she enjoy a laugh? A little levity can be helpful, but only if she’s ready for it. During a chemo treatment, the art therapist told my friend, “You’re back! Remember me?” My friend responded no. The therapist asserted, “Yes, you were here last week,” which wasn’t true. After the fourth insistence, I responded, “Well, she’s got that bald thing going on. They all look alike, don’t they?” The art therapist stood stunned. My friend belly-laughed, and she was ready for that.

How communicative is your friend? Is she open to sharing details about her treatment and feelings? Give your friend a chance to open up if she wants, but don’t pry her for details she’s not ready to share.

3. Be specific about what you can do.

Spell out it out. Don’t carelessly toss your friend an extra burden: “Let me know if you need anything.” Specify: “Can I mow your lawn this weekend?” or “I’m available to run errands for you for two hours on Friday.”

Your friend may not know what she needs; even if she does, she may not reach out. Tuning in and being specific can help. I asked two questions in one afternoon:

“Can I get you anything from Costco?”

“No, I’m good.”

Fifteen minutes later:

“I’m at Costco. Do you need any salmon?”

“Yes, that would be great. And can you check to see if they have any LaCroix?”

In the end, my friend requested five things. After tuning in to her habit of responding, “No, I’m good,” I called back with a specific question. This helped her think through and verbalize what she needed.

4. Be a thoughtful visitor.

Don’t pop in. During treatment, your friend may feel weary and not particularly social or presentable. Call ahead, make sure it’s a good time, and specify how long you will stay. “I can visit for fifteen minutes tomorrow if you like. I’ll bring ice cream.”

Don’t linger. Be cognizant of how your friend is feeling when you arrive. She may not be up for the visit after all, or she may be feeling anxious and need the company. One friend explained that the fifteen- to twenty-minute visits from a friend with a listening ear and comfort food were the best.

Don’t react. Avoid: “This is just dreadful!”, “I can’t believe this is happening to you!”, or “This is a piece of cake! You can do it.” On the other hand, be open to and don’t sugarcoat the emotions your friend is feeling. Her fear and anxiety are part of her story. If she wants to share those, listen but don’t try to qualify them.

Don’t give medical advice. Well-intended advice is often annoying, even disturbing. If you have information that might be helpful, don’t discuss it. Simply share the website or the book. It’s not your place to prescribe or recommend treatments. Your friend will discuss those with her doctors.

Don’t vent or ramble about inconsequential events. This can be insulting to the friend you’ve come to visit. Sure, she may want to talk about something other than her cancer, but let the communication flow from your friend to you. If conversation stalls, ask about other things in her life. “How is Timmy doing in school?” “Is Olivia still playing soccer?” Or, just sit and allow the quiet presence of companionship.

5. Remember the primary caregivers.

Reach out to the primary caregiver. Although that spouse, sibling, or friend may have meals, errands, chores, and visitation perfectly coordinated, he or she may need some additional support. Check in to find out and offer specific things you can do.

6. Don’t try to own her cancer.

Respect the boundaries. Friends often rush in to help a sick friend. Don’t let that become a competition or complication. Coordinate your efforts, avoid squabbles and pettiness. What you do for your friend and your struggle to find the right things to say and do are valid, but that story is the sub-plot. This is her cancer story. It’s her cancer. Not yours. Quiet support is often the biggest expression of love.

Thanks to my friends who shared their cancer stories and whose thoughts helped me cobble together some guidelines. Specifically, thanks to these ladies.

lifting-up-jane-1

Jane with her dad and brother shortly after surgery

lifting-up-mim-1

Mim and her husband, both of whom faced cancer

lifting-up-patti

Patti with her two children

lifting-up-lisa-1

Lisa with her sister, who was with her every step of the way

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Diapers and Dandelions: Mindful Balance

Should I pick it or leave it for the bees?

Should I pick it for me or leave it for the bees?

Last year I was beside myself when I found this dandelion lotion bar recipe.

I had begun my journey making DIY organic cleaners and beauty products a few months earlier, and this recipe was “Wow! Weeds to wonderful!” I loved everything about it.

The walks with the dogs were redefined. We were on a mission to collect dandelions. Unfortunately, I discovered the recipe late in the summer and soon learned that dandelions are more prolific in spring than in summer here. Through my efforts to find the weed, I became familiar with which households eliminated it and which ones simply mowed the lawn. I timed walks along some routes because I knew which tree had a dandelion growing under it.

I had a tray for drying the flowers, a jar for infusing them, and all the ingredients for the recipe. My first batch was small due to dandelion scarcity, and I fumbled the canning lid method, but I was thrilled with my lotion bars.

When we finally broke through our five or six days of Louisiana winter, I made sure to have pockets when I went for walks. Dandelions popped up everywhere before spring had even sprung on the calendar. DIY excitement!

Then it happened. The very first week I began harvesting weeds for wonder, a post: “Don’t pick the dandelions! They’re the bee’s first food in the spring.”

Whaaat?! I had become a bee enemy? I was trying to do a good thing.

I recovered from the sunken heart quickly. I don’t pick all of the dandelions and I provide a smorgasbord of bee sustenance throughout the year in my little yard. Nevertheless, I became more cautious about my harvest.

Bottom line: I am more aware of the impact of my actions. Isn’t that an important key to finding balance? Awareness.

When my children were babies, I used cloth diapers. For some reason this topic came up in a class I was teaching. One of my students mumbled something about bad and wasting water and Clorox. I may have reacted a bit. What did this 18 year old know about diapers. baby poop, and aquifers? Granted, I lived in Austin at the time, and water shortages were an issue, but really? Using cloth diapers worse than using disposable diapers?

In the end, my student gave me pause. Awareness.

I often live in the gray —in the middle, open-to-argument— because I strive be aware of both sides of a topic. Painfully at times when matters are personal, between friends. Happily when that awareness informs me in ways that bring measure to choices I make.

The things we do, even the good things, always have multiple impacts, and some are less felicitous than others. If we are aware and act with care, we can have dandelions for our skin without starving the bees, and we can use cloth diapers without drying up the aquifers.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Figs and Promises

My fig tree always keeps its promises.

Sometimes I break promises. Not intentionally. My intentions are to keep all promises I make.

Nevertheless, on occasion my intentions slip away from me.

I wait too long to pick the figs.

Maybe I pick the figs but don’t make the jam or freeze the fruit before the figs develop a second coat of fuzz and collapse into brown fermenting mush.

Then, for completely unreliable, there are years when the weeks of fig laden drooping branches fall off my calendar before I pick a single fig.

I can count on the fig tree. It can’t always count on me.

To be fair, I have a lot more going on than my fig tree and its fruit. Yet this spread-thin life that leads to broken promises bugs me. Promises, like deadlines, suffer a lexical erosion when we pile our days high but spread ourselves thin. This trend of promises penciled in on work and social commitment calendars feels infectious.

I don’t want the trend to spill into the pool of promises I make to friends, family, and myself. This is my checklist for personal, friendly promises.

Making promises

  • Be thoughtful. In other words, avoid hasty promises, whether to a friend, to a colleague, or to yourself.
  • Be realistic. Part of the thoughtfulness includes a reality check. If your promise involves time, check your calendar. If it involves money, check your wallet. If it involves your physical and emotional energy, check in with yourself. Avoid making promises you know you can’t keep. Being that can-do hero is not always prudent.
  • Do your best. If you make a promise, do your best to keep it.  Suddenly in over your head? Having a change of heart? I don’t advocate the hell or high water route. Sometimes the best we can do is circle back to reevaluate, redefine, or, if necessary, retract a promise.

Oops! The birds ate all of the figs before you picked a single one. What now?

  • Be honest. If you can’t keep the promise, admit it. Everyone at some point in life has to bail on something for some reason. The key to right relationship in those situations is not the goodness or badness of the reason, but the communication. Let anyone else involved know. Sometimes the only person involved is you. Yes, be honest with yourself.
  • Be forgiving. If you’ve been thoughtful, realistic, and honest and you’ve done your best and it still doesn’t work out, the broken promise isn’t a lie. You stumbled and scraped a knee. Don’t rub salt into the wound.

I aspire to be more like my fig tree. I’m not, in fact, a fig tree, but I’ll do my best to keep my promises.

Dear fig tree:figs and promises

I am grateful for your deliciously extravagant promises and I know you will deliver. 

I hope to harvest gallons and gallons of your fruit, infuse my jams and sauces with their sweet complexity, freeze what I can’t jam into jars for the slower days. I can’t promise how much I’ll pick, how many jars I’ll can, or how many bags I’ll freeze. But I promise to do my best.

I’m looking forward to the next round of figs. If you’re looking for something creative and delicious to do with your figs, check out this guy. This recipe is very tasty.

Copyright © 2017 (revisited) by Pennie Nichols. All Rights Reserved.

Take Five and Feel Better

A little over a year ago, I had fallen into a pit of negative emotion.

The pit had formed for a variety of reasons: I was working hideous hours and pushing aside personal or domestic interests; the freezes were killing my plants; it was dark by 5:15 p.m. Even though I understood why I was a grumpy curmudgeon, I was having trouble digging myself out of this pit.

So I decided to take five. Five positive measures for myself, each day before noon.

I chose a combination of physical, emotional, and creative measures.

  1. Five simple exercises

    Not a gym workout, just a few minutes of five exercises to get my blood pumping. Arm swings, toe touches, sit-ups, yoga, curls. I wasn’t scientific about it. I just did five exercises.

  2. Five gratefuls and affirmations backyard-pine-tree

    Practicing gratitude and affirmations has become popular, and while the practice currently borders on cliché, the power of authentic gratitude is real. I made it a point to do this every morning. Some days I shared them, not on status updates, but with my partner, a friend, or one of my children. Sharing made them more meaningful and powerful. More authentic.

  3. Five minutes outside

    Working at home, I often pop out of bed and beeline from coffee to computer, where I’ll stay for rest of the day. Even though I keep a garden, I can easily go days without stepping outside, especially during winter. I made it a point to BE outside. Not to take out the trash or water a plant. Just be out there. Soak in the sun, feel the moistness of the fog, listen to the rain, gaze up the pine. Five minutes of just me and the outside.

  4. Five minutes of quiet/meditation

    For years, I made an effort to meditate 20 minutes a day. I struggled with monkeys chattering in my head. I found myself opening an eye to check the time (how much longer do I have to sit here?). More stressful than quiet, so I stopped. But five minutes? I could do that! Since my Take Five journey began, I’ve worked myself back up to 15 minutes of quiet. When the monkeys chatter too loudly or I peek at the clock, I focus on my breathing. Breathe in for me breathe out for me.

  5. Five written sentences for myself

    This is huge. This is why I’m here now. I already write. I write a lot. “Rental writing”: work, projects, textbooks. Although I would put aside time for my own words, I often felt spent, too weary to write from the heart. Yet I yearned to “write for real.” I knew writing had to be one of the five. I decided on five sentences before noon. No pressure to be a story, a chapter in a novel, a scene for a movie. Just five sentences for me from me.sunflower4

Deliberately doing five things early in the day focused on concepts that matter to me was powerful.

While I wasn’t Ms. Sunshine every day, whenever I would start sliding into that pit, I found it easier to get my footing and pull myself up, into the sunshine.

Sure. I’ve fallen all the way into the pit a few times since. The difference is that now, if I’m not already taking them, I make sure I take five. Exercise, be grateful, go outside, be quiet, write my words: these are my five. This practice centers on self and nurturing, and I find it helpful even when I’m not wallowing in a gloomy pit.

How are you feeling today?

If you could feel better, why not Take Five?

What will your five be?

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.

Dry Itchy Skin? Try This First.

Can’t focus on what you’re working on because that.itchy.spot! Can’t sleep because you can’t.stop.scratching! Don’t have the patience to deal with people because dry.itchy.skin!

When it hits, it’s exasperating. When it lingers, it becomes excruciating. Even when you take the dry itchy skin to the doctor, the cause is sometimes hard to identify or do anything about. Unfortunately, the go-to medical remedy is typically a steroid cream.

Try this easy DIY alternative before resorting to harsh medications. Find more oily DIY ideas here: 1) essential items to have on hand, 2) basic recipes/processes, and 3) oil properties to help you personalize your DIY recipes.


Creamy Itch Relief Lotion

INGREDIENTS 

The ingredients

You need three basic ingredients: 1) a carrier oil, 2) vitamin E oil, and 3) essential oil.

  1. 1 cup coconut oil: I prefer this for my carrier oil in this recipe because I can whip it into a fluffy cream-like lotion. Other carrier oils you can use include almond, aloe vera, jojoba, olive, and sesame, but they will be a skin oil, not a lotion.
  2. 1-2 tablespoons vitamin E oil: This is optional, but I like to include a little because vitamin E oil heals skin tissue and promotes new skin growth.
  3. ~ 10 drops of essential oil: The essential oils step is where you play. Combining essential oils can be fun but if you only have lavender essential oil, go with that. See below for a list of essential oils for dryness and itchiness.

DIRECTIONS

  • Place the coconut oil in a small mixing bowl, and whip with an electric hand blender or beater, using the whisk attachment. It’s best if the ambient temperature is cool as coconut oil becomes liquid around 76° or 78° F
Quick and creamy dry skin relief

Whipped coconut, vitamin E, and essential oils

  • Add the vitamin E and essential oils as you continue to whip the carrier oil.
  • Store in a clean glass jar with lid. You can keep it at room temperature, but if the room temperature is above 75° F, consider refrigerating so that the coconut oil doesn’t melt.
creamy dry skin relief

One heaping cup of dry itchy skin relief. But just a little dab will do the job.

NOTES

My recipes are not scientific formulas, but rather processes. See basic recipes/processes. I cull the Internet for information and recipes, then create my own concoctions based on my needs and ingredients I have on hand. I play around with amounts and ingredients until I get something that works for me. You should do the same.

These essential oils can help with dry skin:

  • Cedarwood
  • Chamomile
  • Clary Sage
  • Geranium
  • Jasmine
  • Lavender
  • Lemon
  • Myrrh
  • Patchouli
  • Rose
  • Rosewood
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang

These essential oils can help with itchy skin:

  • Agrimony
  • Basil
  • Bay leaf
  • Calendula
  • Chamomile
  • Chickweed
  • Clove
  • Geranium
  • Jewelweed
  • Lavender
  • Neem
  • Nettle
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

The following are two of the online resources I used to verify the best essential oils to use for dry itchy skin. These sites have a wealth of additional DIY skin remedies.

Copyright © 2015 by Pennie Nichols, All Rights Reserved.