Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Reducing the Need for Body Lotion

This post is the second in a series on healthy skincare for the whole family. For more about healthy skincare, check out the Pregnancy and Parenting Index.
 
Depending on where you live, lotion can be an essential item for daily use.  Here in the desert southwest, our very low humidity and wide range of temperatures can lead to very dry skin.  I used to apply lotion to my whole body daily, but over time I have figured out a few ways to reduce the need for lotion.

A bit about sebum
Our bodies produce their own moisturizers in the form of sebum.  Tiny glands in the skin secrete sebum, everywhere except the palms of our hands and the soles of our feet.  More sebum is released on the face and scalp than on other parts of the body. 

Don't use soap on your whole body
Instead of lathering up your whole body when you bathe or shower, try just using soap on the "dirty" parts.  I find it works well to only lather up my face, armpits, bum, and feet.  The rest of my body just gets a nice rinse.  This really helps to keep my skin from getting very dry, because it leaves the sebum on the large surfaces of my arms, torso, and legs.    

Ditch the daily shower
Instead of showering or bathing daily, try every other day.  I know some people will think this is gross and others may have been doing so for ages.  I started showering every other day a few years ago, and I've never looked back!  On days when I don't shower, I still wash my face, armpits, and private areas; I still feel fresh and clean every day. Skipping the daily shower allows the sebum to remain on your skin, so that daily lotion isn't required. 

Eat adequate fats
Eating a low-fat diet can contribute to dry skin since there may not be enough essential fatty acids in the body.  One way to help dry skin is to increase your intake of healthy fats, such as butter, tallow, and coconut oil.  Eating plenty of fat is also great for your health.

Tips for your hands
My biggest problem area for dry skin is my hands.  I've found that I can reduce the need for lotion by wearing gloves when washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and working in the garden.  It also really helps to not use soap every time I wash my hands; rather I only use soap when it is needed.

Tips for babies and children
Children, and especially babies, have sensitive skin.  No harsh soaps are needed; in fact, I don't think soap or shampoo is needed for kids (barring sticky or greasy stuff on the skin or hair).  Young children also do not need daily baths; they don't get smelly the same way adolescents and adults do.  I aim for once/week baths for my kids (sometimes more or less depending on what they've been up to), and I only use soap when needed. (I should mention that we have a wonderful bidet attachment for our toilets that cleans their bums whenever they use the bathroom, so they do get their privates sprayed clean with water daily). Such infrequent baths and use of soap keeps my kids' skin nice and soft, not at all dry, and I rarely apply any moisturizer to them.

Do you have any tips for reducing the need for lotion?

This post is part of Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Pennywise Platter at The Nourishing Gourmet and Real Food Wednesday with Kelly the Kitchen Kop!

17 comments:

Chris said...

The skin on my legs used to be very dry all the time...for years I put baby oil on my legs after showering, 'til I realized I was basically rubbing a petroleum product onto my skin. UGH. Anyway, I started making my own lotion with coconut oil, shea butter, and olive oil and used that for a while, but in the meantime, also switched to using homemade beeswax soap. I began noticing that my skin didn't get as dry. Now I don't use any lotion and I shower infrequently, and my skin does not get dry. I learned from my friend who makes soap that because beeswax is naturally hydrophilic--it grabs moisture--it helps keep the skin moist. I think that helps with immediate post-shower dry skin, but that not showering daily helps keep the skin from feeling dry between showers.

We also have a mini-shower attached to the toilet that we use as a bidet. I love that--really helps keep us feeling fresh between showers.

Washing my and the kids hair with baking soda/vinegar keeps our hair from feeling dirty between showers, which helps us shower less frequently, too. Shampoo and conditioner leaves residues that hold onto to dirty and oil, while the BS & V just leaves the hair clean and pH balanced so it doesn't attract and hold dirt.

Danielle said...

Great post! I definitely use less lotion now that I eat plenty of healthy fat. We pretty much do all the other recommendations, too, and it's so helpful. Every once in a while, after a really messy project, I'll soap up my whole body, and it's amazing how dry that makes my skin. By the way, I think the best thing about not bathing the kids daily is that they think it's a really special treat to get their weekly bath!

Tara said...

What about baths? GAPS protocol recommends detox baths. Do baths with epsom salt, baking soda, etc, dry out the skin in the same way a shower with soap does?

I've found that different soaps (and I mean only natural soaps) dry me out to differing degrees. Some are terribly drying, while I'm finding that the Kiss my Face olive oil soap is not so drying, and I can use it on my face as well. We'll see how it does through the winter. Last winter I was so dry and my legs were so itchy, and even coconut oil slathered on my legs would provide only moderate relief. Maybe I'll try showering less this winter and see if that helps. My greasy hair is usually what draws me back to the shower!

Sarah Smith said...

Tara, I'm not sure about baths as I've never really done them much on a daily basis (except towards the end of my first pregnancy when I was to do epsom salt baths twice daily; that was long ago enough that I was still slathering lotion every day anyway so I'm not sure). I've never really done the detox baths for GAPS since I'm still nursing my youngest and therefore supposed to take it easy on the detoxing protocols (and anyway, I find it hard to find time to take a bath with two kids under 5 running around the house; they always just want to get in with me and it is way too crowded).

Kelsey said...

I used to only shower every other day, but lately I've been showering at night (it makes my morning routine before work less of a hassle, especially since I have adrenal issues and usually don't feel well in the mornings) and I find that my hair gets way too greasy to skip a day of showering. I do try to not use a ton of soap - I've stopped washing my face twice a day - now in the mornings I just rinse it off with lukewarm water - and I've finally ditched conventional lotions and only use coconut oil and shea butter for lotion. However, even after washing my face less and using coconut oil on it at night, I STILL find my face feeling dry and itchy. I try to eat lots of good fats - I could probably do better, but I get as much as I can - but I did read somewhere that dry skin can be cause by a calcium deficiency. Have you ever heard that? I do drink a glass of homemade goat milk kefir each morning, but I'm allergic to cheese and so I don't get a lot of dairy other than that. Do you have any tips for getting more calcium in the diet? Or any other tips for a dry face? I use bar castille soap sometimes and just baking soda to wash it.

Sarah Smith said...

Hi Kelsey,
I've never heard of calcium deficiency causing dry skin, but I wouldn't doubt it. A great source of calcium would be homemade bone broth; if you let it cook a long time, it should be loaded with minerals including calcium. You could also try eating some of the very soft bones (I posted about that here: http://nourishedandnurtured.blogspot.com/2011/03/chicken-bones-nourishing-snack.html)

In addition to soup, you could try drinking a glass of warm broth just like you would tea. I like to add a little splash of coconut milk and plenty of salt, and that makes it really delicious.

I find that castille soap is a bit harsh for my face. The California Baby Super Sensitive soap we buy works really well on my face as it is very gentle (not cheap, but only a tiny bit is needed). Like you, I use coconut oil for my face. I wonder if it would help to rinse your face after the baking soda with apple cider vinegar (1 tsp ACV to 8 oz water)? I use baking soda followed by ACV rinse for my hair; without the ACV, the baking soda seems to really dry out my hair but with the ACV it is fine.

Anyhow, just some thoughts. I hope they help!
Sarah

Nikki said...

Nice information. I have recently stopped using lotion on a daily basis. I shower every other day and sparingly use Coconut oil (not virgin...I use non-virgin expeller pressed so it is less expensive) and it works wonders! For a real splurge I use Jojoba - with a splash of lavender. Yum! Visiting from the Nourishing Gourmet.

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

We are not real big on showering at our house, but when we do we use a vegetable base soap like Dr. Bronner's. Since most lotions contain harmful ingredients, we stick to things like cocoa butter and bees wax in their pure form. But I don't even use on a daily basis, except for on my psoriasis to keep it from cracking.

Kelsey said...

Thanks for the tips, Sarah! I had forgotten about calcium rich bone broths... I definitely need to get back to making that regularly. I'll try the vinegar rinse too - I hadn't thought of that! But I know when I use it to condition my hair it feels amazing!

Kimberly @ The Brown Eyes Have It said...

Great tips! I've recently started NOT soaping up my whole body and it really has helped.

feedthemrealfood said...

I've been doing most of these things including the no 'poo method with terrific results. The only thing I'd like to find is a good, natural shaving soap. One that will allow a razor to glide when shaving but won't strip my legs of too much moisture. Any recommendations?

Sarah Smith said...

The only soap we buy is California Baby super sensitive. I rarely use it, except for the once/week leg shaving. It works great for that! I also like it as a very gently face cleanser.

Jason G. said...

I first heard about this around 4 years ago and I though it was nuts. I still do actually. I just can't believe that I'll be able to get the smell of cider vinegar our of my hair, and even if I can't smell it I'll be convinced that it's just because I've acclimated to it and everyone else can still smell it. I'll have to give you a good sniff the next time we all have dinner. ;)

Sarah Smith said...

Ha, Jason! Sniff away! Then again, I don't mind the smell of ACV...

Barb @ A Life in Balance said...

Wow! Nice to hear I'm not the only one who doesn't bath their kids every day when they're young.

Where we are, our skin doesn't get really dry which is nice. I only use lotion if I'm washing a lot of dishes. I don't like the feel of gloves on my skin. Just my thing.

bearsbud said...

Feed them real food--I use organic conditioner to shave my legs. It is a lot less expensive than shaving cream and it softens the hair for a closer shave and leaves my legs feeling wonderful.

Stephanie McGuirk said...

Gelatin supplementation has been helping me not to need lotion. Also bone broth. Also switching to a natural practitioner for monitoring my supplementation for hypothyroid + adrenal + sex hormone balance. Her testing through energy work has been more beneficial to me than the blood work I've previously relied on through functional MDs. It's hard to say whether improved thyroid function or gelatin supplement has been responsible for the improved skin moisture.

And here is my no-poo alternative to the soda & vinegar wash. In the mornings, I massage an essential oil into my scalp, usually rosemary. At night if I feel like it I do the same with lavender. This is separate from showering, just dot the essential oil onto my fingertips and slide it under the roots of my hair and massage the scalp. Most days, if I wash my hair I wash with water only. About once a week or be-weekly I wash it with a mix of coconut milk & honey. It looks good and smells good. If frizzy, I smooth the outer strands with a couple drops of jojoba.

No-poo 4-ever.