Chemical Free Beauty Challenge



Welcome to the January 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Experiments in Natural Family Living

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have reported on weeklong trials to make their lives a little greener and gentler. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


My choice for this Carnival challenge was easy:  I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with beauty products.  1  I’m taking a week away from commercial/chemical beauty products, from cleansers to makeup, and replacing them with natural alternatives.

My goals:  My main goal is to not be gross and disgusting by the end of the week.  A secondary goal is to find at least one new alternative natural product that I can substitute for something chemical-based that I use on a regular basis.   A final, ideal goal would be to see improvements in my daily routine thanks to these substitutions.

Preparation:  Sunday Night (December 25)

I made a mental list of all of the different things I’d need to substitute.  Shampoo, conditioner, soap.  Moisturizer.  Makeup.  Deodorant.  Toothpaste.  The list sounds a little scary, but I had some good alternatives planned for most of them.  I already had some all-natural soap made by a local soapmaker.  I know that baking soda works as a toothpaste

Baking soda

alternative.  I had tried a coconut/milk concoction for shampoo with a vinegar rinse before, so I could revisit that.  I had a crystal deodorant stone which I have used in the past and love.  For moisturizer I could use coconut oil.  That’s a good start.

Right off the bat, I can foresee a few challenges.  First, in winter I am a chapstick junkie.  I must have chapstick.  I’m not sure how to replace that.  Second, I love scented lotions.  I’m a frequent flyer at Bath & Body Works and I have no less than three seasonal scented lotions on my desk at any given time, which I apply generously throughout the work day.  Those will need to go.  Finally, I don’t know whether the deodorant crystal will be sufficient when I work out.  I’m well into my half-marathon training and am hoping to get a ten mile run in on Saturday, so I’ll surely find out.

Monday night:

Showering with the natural soap was no big deal.   It felt nice and clean, and my skin didn’t feel dried out when I was done.  I still wasn’t sure about the shampoo so I just washed my hair with water – I had washed it earlier in the morning so that wouldn’t be a big deal.  Post-shower, I always need tons of moisturizer in the winter as the dry air wreaks havoc on my skin.  I used a generous amount of coconut oil and hoped for the best.  Either it would work, or I’d have try patches on my arms, legs and face come morning.


I woke up to find that my skin was still really soft, smooth and supple.  No dry patches, no itchy skin, nothing.  That’s incredible for this time of year.  Is there anything coconut oil can’t do?  Coconut oil has impressed me, but we’ll see whether the results last all week, or whether this was a fluke.   My teeth feel clean from the baking soda, but I miss that minty fresh feeling – I’ll need to read up on how I can replicate that.  Crystal deodorant stone works like a charm, as always.  All was well until I looked in the mirror.  Ugh.  I can’t stand going to work without makeup on.  And then I remembered that I had some kohl from my bellydance days.  I kept it in a pretty green glass jar with a silver lid that had an apparatus for holding the applicator, which was nothing more than a stick of wood.  Better than nothing, I thought as I applied my eyeliner with a sharpened stick.  With a little creative shading I looked no worse than I do on a day when I’m rushed.  Morning routine: mission accomplished.

Biggest challenges so far: As anticipated, chapstick and hand lotion.  I’m an obsessive lotioner and lip-balmer when I’m at work.  Not having those things is hard.  Also, my hair felt weird.

End of the first day results:  Teeth feel clean.  Body feels clean.  Deodorant did not fail.  Makeup looks okay.   Hair feels like it needs to be washed.  Skin feels smooth, although my hands are dry.  Lips feel terrible and chapped.


I cannot stand my hair Wednesday morning.  I must wash it.  I found a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap 2  The soap left my hair feeling clean, but with a residue.  But not a bad residue.  For the first time this winter, my hair doesn’t feel frizzy and static-clingy.  It feels very soft to the touch, and smooth.  The jury is out on whether I like it, but it seems manageable.  I made no other changes to my morning routine between Tuesday and Wednesday.


I sort of miss wearing perfume.  I have a bottle of Dragon’s Blood perfume that I bought from a woman at the Rennaissance Faire.  She had kind of a crunchy vibe so I thought maybe it would be all natural.  Nope!  More chemicals with number-names than I would have guessed.  No perfume for me.  On the positive note, my hair looks and feels great.  I wore it up today, which usually requires a copious amount of hairspray to prevent the “flyaways.”  I used none today – just a tiny smudge of coconut oil as a pomade.  I washed my hair with Dr. Bronner’s soap again.  No other changes to the morning routine I used Tuesday.


Here’s a great test:  Running 5 miles on the treadmill in a really hot gym first thing in the morning.  My crystal deodorant stone did just as well as any commercial brand I had previously used.  Nice.  I washed my hair with just water because I forgot to bring anything else to the gym.  To my surprise, I was able to brush it out as though I used conditioner.   That never happens – my hair is usually very tangly.  I’m feeling good about all of this.


I still haven’t changed anything in the beauty routine.  My hair feels great.  My skins is great.  My lips are soooo dry.  I need to find an alternative to Carmex.  My ten-mile run on the treadmill was instructive:  yes, I was sweaty and gross as you’d expect afterwards, but the crystal deodorant stone didn’t fail any more than my Secret would have.  I washed my hair with Dr. Bronner’s again, and it still feels good, although a little more tangled today.  Overall I’m pleased with my routine.


The final day of the challenge.  My hair actually feels thicker.  Is that possible?  There are definitely some changes that I’ve made this week which I’ll incorporate into my regular beauty routine, and others that I’m excited to be leaving behind.

Hair – I like how my hair feels.  For the longer term, I may be looking more into the “no ‘poo” cleaning method for my hair.

Moisturizer – Coconut oil it is.  I’m keeping this change.

Chapstick – I need my Carmex.  My lips are awful after this week.

Makeup – I’m always looking for more natural makeup because of my allergies.  Kohl isn’t a great solution for me because it is limited and hard to use.

Soap – The soap from my local soapmaker is doing its job just fine.  I’ll keep this change.

Deodorant – I’m a total convert here.  The crystal deodorant stone is the best.

Perfume – I missed having perfume.  I’ll go back to its occasional use now.

Toothpaste – I love using just baking soda, but I miss the minty fresh taste.  I’m thinking I’ll brush with baking soda but use a mouthwash rinse.  (Unless one of my crunchy friends has an alternative suggestion!)

Hand lotion – I’ll probably still use my pretty scented Bath & Body Works lotions just because I like the smell.  I did notice though that my urge to put lotion on my hands (which I had been doing 6-10 times a day previously) has really subsided.  Interesting.

In all, I made some great changes that I’m going to keep, and I’ve been inspired to look further into some other changes.  This has been a fun week – I encourage you to give it a try in your own life.  I’ve been really surprised at what worked out for me.




Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Make your own moisturizer! — Megan at boho mama whips up a winter skin-friendly moisturizer.
  • Cold Water Only — Brittany at The Pistachio Project talks about how you do not need hot water to wash laundry.
  • Family Cloth… Really?? — After lots of forethought and consideration, Momma Jorje finally decides to take the plunge with family cloth.
  • Reduce, Reuse, Recycle : 5-5-5 Things A Day — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about decluttering her home in an attempt to create a gentler living space. She takes on a new project where she sets a goal of reducing, reusing and recycling every day.
  • Pros and cons of family cloth — Lauren at Hobo Mama would love to continue replacing paper products with family cloth … if she could only get over how damp she feels.
  • Craftily Parenting — Kellie at Our Mindful Life finds that crafting makes her a better parent.
  • Changes — Laura at Pug in the Kitchen couldn’t choose just one area to experiment with, so she wrote a long post about all the fun changes initiated in her life!
  • Life without Internet: Not all it’s Cracked up to Be — Adrienne at Mommying My Way tries to go a week without the Internet, only to realize a healthy dose of Internet usage really helps keep this stay-at-home mom connected.
  • My Progression to Raw Milk — Kerry at City Kids Homeschooling shares her natural parenting progression all the way to trying raw milk.
  • mama’s new little friend. — Sarah at Bitty Bird tries a menstrual cup to “green her period,” and is pleasantly surprised when she falls in love with the product!
  • Before you throw it out, try homemade laundry soap! — Jennifer at Practical OH Mommy shows visual proof that homemade laundry soap is cheaper, easier, and works better than the store-bought chemicals!
  • Oil, Oil, No Toil, No Trouble — K from Very Simple Secret talks about her foray into the oil-cleansing method.
  • I Need a Hobby — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro couldn’t decide which experiment to run, so she did them all.
  • 7 days of macrobiotics for a balanced family — The Stones make a [successful] attempt to release the “holiday junking” with 7 days of macrobiotic meals to balance their bodies and souls. Elisabeth at Manic Mrs. Stone includes an explanation of macrobiotics.
  • Chemical Free Beauty Challenge — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction turned to natural alternatives for her daily beauty and cleaning routine, with great results.
  • Greening my Armpits!? My Green Resolution — Shannon at The Artful Mama talks about how she decided to give up her traditional antiperspirant and make the switch over to crystal deodorants and definitely isn’t looking back!
  • Going Raw (for a while) — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares her family’s experience with raw food.
  • Do we get to eat gluten today? — Sheila at A Gift Universe has been trying to figure out if her son does better with or without gluten in his diet … but it’s really hard to tell for sure.
  • Hippies Can Smell and Look Fabulous Too! — Arpita of Up, Down And Natural details her experience of going shampoo-free and overhauling her cosmetics to find the balance between feeling beautifully fabulous and honoring her inner hippie.
  • Our cupboards are full…but there’s nothing to eat — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud takes on the challenge of chomping through the contents of her storecupboard rather than going shopping — but there’s something that she just can’t bring herself to do …
  • Elimination Experiment 3.0MudpieMama recounts the messy adventures of her baby daughter trying to be diaper free.
  • Family Cloth Trial — Amyables at Toddler in Tow talks about making and using family cloth wipes in the bathroom for the first time.
  • Taking a Hiatus — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares how her experience of much less internet interaction affected her family and how it will change her approach in the future.
  • Trying Out the Menstrual Cup — Lindsey at an unschooling adventure ditches the tampons and gives menstrual cups a try.
  • Managing Food Waste in Our Home — Tired of the holiday waste, Robbie at Going Green Mama takes a weeklong focus on reducing food waste in her home, and learns some lessons that can take her through the new year.
  • Going Offline, Cloth Tissues, and Simplicity — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama muses over her time away from blogging and social networking. In addition, she shares her newfound love of cloth tissues and simplicity.
  • The Oil Cleansing Method — Erica at ChildOrganics explores an easy, organic and natural way to tackle skin care.
  • Experiments in Natural Family Living – Natural Toys! — Lani at Boobie Time enjoys the silence of natural toys and being more present with her son.
  • Discovering a New City and Organic Foods — Amy at A Secure Base describes her family’s switch to and search for organic foods for one week.
  • My Experiment in Homemade BreadCrunchy Con Mommy tried — and loved — baking her own homemade bread.
  • Menu Planning: Stop the Excuses — Gaby at Tmuffin stopped the excuses and started planning her weekly meals, drastically cutting her grocery budget and stress level and improving the quality of foods she fed her family.
  • My First Menstrual Cup — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children was pleasantly surprised with her first experience using a menstrual cup.
  • My Natural Beauty Regime — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares the results of banishing cleanser and soaps from her bathroom, as well as a couple of natural homemade recipes that have worked well on her skin.
  • Unplugging and Creating a Rhythm: Our Experiment in Natural Family Living — Dionna at Code Name: Mama focused less on gadgets and spent more time with her family to create a healthy rhythm for the new year.
  • Experiments in Natural Family Living: 5 First Steps Toward Preparing for a Natural Birth — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama discusses how she tackled the pressing matter of how to begin preparing for a natural birth.
  • All you need is…vinegar! — Kristen at My Semi-Crunchy Life learns that one household product can replace all the cleaners in her cabinet.
  • Nope Nada Ixnay Negative Pass Decline — Zoie at TouchstoneZ finds out what shakes loose if she says, “YES!!” to anything anyone asks of her over the space of 10 days.
  • Reducing our exposure to toxins found in plastics — Syenna at Gently Parenting Twins throws out the melamine and BPA plastics which have been hanging around the kitchen for too long.
  • Duh! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment shares how she began the process of helping her 2-year-old son stop physically acting out.
  • Experiments in Natural Parenting: Starting, Stopping, and Gaining Perspective — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings explains how pregnancy brain interfered with her attempts to complete an experiment, but how she gained some interesting perspective as she started and stopped several.
  • From Experiment to Lifestyle — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares her experience avoiding processed foods for a month, and deciding to make it a permanent lifestyle change.
  • From Disposable Paper to Reusable Cloth – AGAIN! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle stops flushing trees down the toilet and switches to the softest ever butt-wiping material: cloth.
  • Extra! Extra! Water Heater Turned Down, Mom Doesn’t Notice! — Thomasin at Propson Palingenesis finds an energy-saving experiment that’s so easy she didn’t even realize it was happening.
  • Worm TeaCatholicMommy isn’t sure how successful her worm bin will be, but she’s having fun anyway.
  • Miles to Go … — Rachael at The Variegated Life learns that when it comes to sleep debt, she’s in real deep.
  • My Month With Water Kefir — Paige at Baby Dust Diaries experiments with a new fermented probiotic drink homemade in her own kitchen.
  • OMG Mom is Home… All Day Everyday: A Week-Long Experiment in Connecting — What a difference a week makes! Ana at Pandamoly is afforded a week off from work and takes the chance to reconnect and reattach with her 16-month-old son through an experiment in simply being there.
  • Creating Healthy Family Recipes — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares her experiment with healthy, gluten-free recipes and a chocolate muffin recipe that was created during the experiment.
  • Adventures in Alternative Haircare: No ‘Poo — This guest post at Natural Parents Network from Amy at Anktangle chronicles a months-long journey into the world of no ‘poo.
  • My Experiment in Natural Family Living: Natural Family Planning — Birth control options are seriously limited for those of us trying to live a little closer to the earth, so Mama Psalmist experiments with natural family planning.

  1. About 12 years ago I developed a terrible allergy to hair dye.  Ever since then, I have become very sensitive to all kinds of chemicals in beauty products.  An eye makeup that works well for me one week causes my eyelids to swell the next week.
  2. The baby mild version of the soap contains Water, Organic Coconut Oil*, Potassium Hydroxide**, Organic Olive Oil*, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Jojoba Oil, Citric Acid, Tocopherol.  * CERTIFIED FAIR TRADE INGREDIENTS; ** None remains after saponifying oils into soap and glycerin.
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20 Responses to Chemical Free Beauty Challenge

  1. Lauren @ Hobo Mama

    So interesting! My hair’s been feeling thicker with no-poo, too — odd, isn’t it? Wonder if the chemicals were weighing it down.

    I have to admit, I’ve been having trouble finding acceptable natural alternatives to lotion and lip balm, too (in my case, a mean Vaseline addiction). The search continues…
    Lauren @ Hobo Mama recently posted..January Carnival of Natural Parenting 2012: Pros and cons of family cloth

  2. Lucy

    Can I recommend some lip butter?

    I used to have a chapstick addiction too, then I started using this all natrual lip butter. It is so much better and I LOVE it!
    Lucy recently posted..comparison

    • Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction

      I have never heard of natural lip butter! I sit here today with dry and cracked lips, so I’m going to take you up on that recommendation.

  3. Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

    After that post on coconut uses, I’m curious about trying it on my skin too – I am not a huge moisturizer, but I do need it in the winter. You may have convinced me to try it!

  4. christina hudler

    I may have missed it, but did you try using the coconut oil on your lips? I love chapstick but now use coconut oil. I went out and bought little screw top containers that are lip-balm sized (used for having airport sized amounts of things) and filled it up and use that :) .

    When it comes to perfume did you consider trying out essential oils mixed with water? I bought a mini sized spray bottle and mixed lemon and sweet orange oils with water. Shake and spray on like a body mist….I get complimented all the time :)

    • Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction

      I hadn’t thought of essential oils mixed with water! That’s a fantastic idea. I have a really nice collection of essential oils and I don’t do much with them other than scent some of the cleaning products I make. I have a few citrus ones that would make wonderful perfumes. Great idea, thank you!

  5. Jenny

    my husband loves the BBWorks handsoaps. but bummer on the SLS content. so we’ve stopped buying :(

  6. Christine

    Ive just started doing no’poo (as a new years resolution – not for this carnival) and have been pleasantly surprised at the results. My hair doesnt feel dirty, is soft, manageable and shiny :)
    I have a homemade toothpast recipe on my post, in it I use grapefruit essential oil but I have made it with peppermint before and it worked well :)
    Christine recently posted..My Natural Beauty Regime

  7. Elisabeth@Manic Mrs. Stone

    I love how you detailed your experiment each day for us to see! I am very interested in doing natural beauty products. I’m pretty low-maintenance as it is – especially now. I used to wash my hair 1-2 times a day w/ Prell Shampoo (I am an oiiiily person) but then I decided enough was enough. I wanted to conserve water and stop using so many chems. I switched to Dr. Bronners soap but couldn’t stand the residue…so I got dreadlocks LOL. The first week of that was H.E.L.L. my head itched and burned so bad, but now at six weeks I have no problem doing a rinse once every week and a half. I would love to switch deodorants but I’m super sweaty…not sure how it’d work..I’d love to learn more about crystal deodorants!

    Seriously enjoyed this!

    Elisabeth@Manic Mrs. Stone recently posted..7 days of macrobiotics for a balanced family

    • Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction

      I was afraid of crystal deodorants at first too because I get really, really sweaty when I run. But I found that my crystal works just as well as the Secret that I had been using, and without the sickly-sweet flowery scents that commercial deodorant comes in. Plus, the crystal lasts so long – no more running out of deodorant at inopportune moments. I totally recommend giving one a try.

  8. Melissa

    You really went all out for this experiment! So cool! I love many of the alternative methods you tried, but still struggle with toothpaste. When I have made my own, though, I have added lots of peppermint essential oil for minty freshness. Maybe that would work for you? I’ll add a lip balm recommendation, too, because I am obsessed with this stuff!

    Anyhow, I really enjoyed this and am inspired to try some new alternatives!
    Melissa recently posted..What’s New, Babe?: Mamatography and More

  9. Shannon @ The Artful Mama

    I used Nipple Butter on my lips and loved that. I totally agree on the convert to the crystal deodorant – glad to hear yours stood up to your run. Did you consider using the coconut oil as hand moisturizer? Also what about peppermint oil in the baking soda while you brush your teeth?
    I’ve been totally converted to using Beauty Without Cruelty Shampoo and Conditioner since Dionna gave me a sample. I love what it did for my hair and I actually started to wear it down (which I haven’t done since 1989 – lol). Also have you considered the mineral makeups or Kora Organics? I haven’t tried the Kora one but I use a mineral makeup and for the most part I like it.

    I definitely enjoyed how your organized your post and we got to experience your days as they went and not just an in the end type of wrap up. Thanks for sharing.
    Shannon @ The Artful Mama recently posted..Mamatography Edition #1

  10. Thomasin

    First, I love the goal of your challenge: to not end up disgusting. That made me laugh!

    Nice post. That Carmex—it’s powerful stuff. I second the nipple butter suggestion, if you’re still searching for a replacement. Can smell strange, but seems to work well.

  11. Sheila

    A friend of mine makes her own chapstick with castor oil and beeswax, with an essential oil added. She says it’s not hard! And you can pour it into an old chapstick container, too.

    However, if your lips are always chapped and dry, you might be dehydrated. Drinking more water helps a lot. Though even after drinking more water and spending a long time kicking the chapstick habit, I’ve come back to it because I realized I really do need it during the winter. The air indoors is too dry, and the wind outside is fierce. Still, I only really put it on once a day, before bed, and that seems to be enough now that I’m well-hydrated.
    Sheila recently posted..Toddler challenges

  12. Amanda

    What about trying coconut oil on your lips? I mean, it’s not like it would hurt right? :)

    I’m so proud of you for making all the switches you did! You are on your way to extreme crunchiness!!

  13. Loldri

    Nice write up!

    I often wonder about this, how much do we miss things purely because we have got used to them but not because we need them? For example I have never ever worn deodorant, I know I dont smell. I wonder how many people just belive that they need it when really, if they showered every day, they would not?
    Loldri recently posted..Provisional Insurance

  14. Amy

    I know this is an old blog, but I just wanted to toss out a couple suggestions for those dry lips and the “good smellies”. If your lips are that dry, you might be SUPER dehydrated. I’d suggest drinking A LOT more water. Like maybe a gallon a day. Even more if you are training for a marathon and its dry and cold outside. As for the smells, have you looked into essential oils? There are so many options out there and they have the added benefit of providing a therapeutic effect at the level of the nervous system. The only trick is to find “pure” essential oils. A little bit of research online will lead you to the right place, maybe even a local source. :)

  15. Jenn @ Monkey Butt Junction

    You are probably spot-on about the water, actually.

    I really need to learn more about essential oils. I actually bought some awhile back from an online shop that was going out of business, and I’ve used them occasionally, but I’m always worried that I’m going to use one that is an irritant. I made some soap this morning (nothing fancy, just the melt and pour stuff with little added extras in it) and I was tempted to try essential oils in them but again, I don’t want to mess with something that could be an irritant.

  16. Hemp Oil

    whoa, thank you very much for posting this! It is gonna help when I research Hemp Oil at the market! Very Fab!

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