Sunday, December 30, 2012

How to Make Flax Seed Hair Gel

Happy Holidays greenies! I've got a special recipe for you today, flax seed hair gel! Now I've tried  many homemade hair gels in my journey to "go green" and none quite get the job done...until now.  

I have a rule with green swaps that they have to at least do the same as their not-so-green counterpart, if not better. If the results are worse than before, I abandon the swap. So with hair gel, it's simple. Make my hair look the same, if not better, and you're in!

That's pretty much how it went down with my flax seed hair gel. I gathered the ingredients (only one: flax seeds), made my gel, and waited. The results were not shockingly better, but at least they were the same! Even better, the cost to make one batch of flax seed hair gel, only cost me 16 cents! My traditional, green, organic hair gel was $13 a bottle, ouch!

Time for a green swap.  So today I'm going to share with you the recipe that I use to make flax seed hair gel and how I style my hair with it.

But before we begin, why flax seeds? Aside from being high in omega 3 fatty acids, flax seeds (when used in hair gel) have been shown to make hair softer, shiner, and offer a soft hold. I like that it gives my curls soft definition  instead of being hard and crunchy. Other people have noted that the flax seed hair gel promotes hair growth, which is always a plus.

The gel will come out thick like this.

For me, two of the biggest benefits are the cost, and fact that there is such a short ingredient list... (flax seeds and water!). As I said above, my old hair gel cost me $13 a bottle and I was probably buying a new one every 3-4 weeks. I purchase my brown, organic flax seeds at my local health food store in the bulk food section. They cost $2 a pound. When you measure out the 1/4 cup of flax seeds needed for one batch of this hair gel this brings the total to 16 cents! Woo hoo! Can you see me doing cartwheels over here?! Love it!

With the savings and benefits in mind, let's get right into that recipe:

Flax Seed Hair Gel
  • 1/4 cup brown, organic, flax seeds
  • 2 cups filtered water

That's all!

Equipment needed to make the gel:
  • 1 medium saucepan
  • 1 strainer of some sort (I use a fine mesh strainer)
  • measuring cup or bowl to pour flax seed gel into
  • 1 container to store the gel in when finished

Watch in this week's video about how to make the flax seed gel:

No time to watch it, no worries. Here's a picture breakdown of the steps:

1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan.

2. Once boiling add 1/4 cup flax seeds. In these pictures you'll
see golden flax seeds...but once I made this batch, I decided I
like the brown flax seeds better. See more info below...

3. Once you add the flax seeds, reduce the heat to medium
or medium high and give the flax seeds a good stir.
We will now cook them for 7-9 minutes. To watch my
time, I like to set a timer.

4. The most important way to check to see how the flax seeds
are cooking is to see how the water/gel drips from the spoon.
Here it is in the beginning, with hardly any dripping.

5. Here we are 5 minutes in with a little bit of a drip. Keep
stirring, keep cooking.

6. When it's done, about 8-9 minutes for this batch, it will
be pretty thick like this.  If you end up cooking it too long, it
will just get extra thick, which isn't the worst thing in
the world, but you just won't get as much gel out of it.

7. Now place the mesh strainer over a large measuring
cup or bowl and strain the flax seeds from the gel.
I've seen others use pantyhose to drain the gel, but
I did that for my first batch and it was a mess and I didn't
get much out. I like this strainer method the best.

Here's what we've been working for...flax seed gel!

8. I use a spoon to push the flax seeds into the strainer
a bit more.  I don't stress too much about this part, whatever
comes out with the first pouring is usually the most that
I will get.

9. Next I transfer it into a storage container, like a Pyrex
storage container, or a small jar.

10. Now be sure to keep it in the fridge! Others have added
various preservatives to help their flax seed gel stay at room
temperature, but I don't mind keeping it in the fridge.
Now it's ready to use and style in your hair.  When styling it in your hair, here's a technique I would recommend:
    A glob like this is probably a bit much, I usually try to
    get a smaller glob.
  1. Pull a small glob from the big glob (love my terminology?).
  2. Take the little glob and rub it around with your fingers or with your two hands separate the little glob.  This will help keep from a big glob of gel in the strands of your hair.
  3. Now apply it however you like, like all  over or just on the tips. Whatever works for you!
When it's done...
The flax seed gel will last about 2 weeks. The best way I know to keep track is to smell it. This may be hard if you've added essential oils, so in that case I would probably just make a note on your calendar to make another batch two-three weeks from when you made the last batch. But like I said, if you haven't added any essential oils, the best way to tell if it's "done" or time to make a new batch is that it starts to smell different. With a fresh batch, it will be pretty much odor-less, maybe it will smell a bit like flax seeds, but not much. When my gels are about to be "done" they take on a sweet smell, fruity almost. I found one of my original batches in the back of my fridge that was about 3 weeks old and it just straight up smelled like if you ever smell that just toss it and make a new batch! 

Add anything else?
Some other flax seed recipes I've found online add various essential oils or aloe vera to the hair gel, but when I first made the recipe I didn't have any of those so I figured I'd give it a go without to see how it turned out. The result, worked just fine! Granted I'm sure some essential oils could have some helpful benefits to my hair, but I kind of like that it doesn't have a scent, and I don't have to add any other ingredients. But if you want to add anything else, feel free to experiment!

Now what to do with the remaining flax seeds? I had high hopes for reusing them again, but once I froze them and made a batch, I found it to be much more "watery" and not quite as thick as the previous batches. 

My attempt to freeze the flax seeds.

So for now, my verdict is...toss them out. Sorry greenies. I have read that other people just refrigerated the flax seeds in the fridge, but I'm not sure how those would keep. If anyone has tried it with good luck, let me know. 

Verdict: toss them.
Now for the great debate: brown flax seeds vs. golden flax seeds...

Which one is the winner?
From my research, it didn't seem like there was much difference between the two types of flax seeds other than the fact that the brown flax seeds have more omega-3s. But after making a batch of each, check out the results I discovered...

As you can tell, the brown flax seed gel made double the amount of the golden flax seeds! I know which one I'm using. Also, isn't the color comparison interesting too? I'm sure the two work pretty much the same, but to get that much more gel really tips the scales for me! What is your favorite flax seed to use?

So there you have it, how to make your own flax seed hair gel! Not too bad right? I love that short ingredient list and the fact that it only takes a few minutes to make...oh not to mention that I'm saving nearly $12 on hair gel a month!

If you use or have used flax seed hair gel in the past share your experiences below, I'd love to hear about them!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How to Wash Your Hair with the No-Poo Method (Video)

I have a confession to make. I haven't washed my hair with shampoo in months. Although this may sound odd to you, it's actually part of a big movement going on called, "No-Poo Method". With the No-Poo Method, individuals forgo using traditional shampoos and conditioners that are loaded with chemicals, toxins and fragrances, and instead use a combo of baking soda and vinegar to wash their hair.  When I first heard of this idea, all I could think of was the vinegar/baking soda volcano project I did in fourth grade, and the thought of putting that on my hair freaked me out a bit. But then I realized, the two ingredients are used separately on your hair, so no "volcanic" action is involved...whew!

On top of this, users of this method claim that after switching to the No-Poo Method, their hair seemed healthier, shiner, softer, and more manageable...not to mention that is was much cheaper than buying bottle after bottle of shampoo. So since I wasn't quite seeing the results as promised by my natural, organic shampoos  like being "moisturized, silky, and smooth" I figured the least it could do was make my hair look the same and just cost less (as $8 a bottle for shampoo was getting a bit old). So I dove in a gave it a try. The results?

After 5-6 months of using the No-Poo method, I can say that my hair is the healthiest it has ever been. It's growing faster, looks shiner, and is much softer. As you can tell from the pictures, I have thick, curly hair and I've battled frizzies and dryness for many years, and even though I still have my "days" and frizzes still come around, it's no where near as bad as it used to be. My hair also seems so much more healthy and is softer than ever. Clearly I'm hooked and will never go back to traditional shampoo or conditioner.

If you're interested in giving the No-Poo method a try, here's some quick facts about it and how I make it work for me...

What is the No-Poo Method?
The No-Poo Method involves avoiding sham-"poo" and conditioner and instead washing your hair with  a mixture of baking soda and water (this acts as the new shampoo) and vinegar and water (this acts as the new conditioner).

What's wrong with traditional shampoo?
Chemicals. That's what wrong with shampoo. As I touched on in this post about my favorite green soap, Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap, shampoos now days are loaded with chemicals, preservatives, fragrances  and dyes. Some of the nasty ones include:

1. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)-This is what makes your toothpaste, shampoo, and body wash so nice and foamy.  Unfortunately, those soap bubbles aren't so innocent.  SLS can cause skin irritation, strips your skin of important oils, could affect eye sight, and possibly cause cancer.  SLS is has industrial uses too as engine degreasers...and you want me to put on your body or in your mouth, no way! (read more here)

2. Fragrance- This is one sneaky little ingredient because under the name "fragrance/parfume" manufactures can include a whole slew of ingredients, but not have to tell you because they are all part of the "fragrance"...not cool.  One common chemical used to preserve fragrance is phtalates,  (pronounced THAL-ates). Phtalates are a toxic petroleum-derivative that has been associated with cancer, disorders of sexual maturation in girls, and birth defects of the penis and desmasulinization in boys (when exposed to phtlates while in the womb).  Also causes asthma, liver and kidney damage.  Not to mention fertility problems in men.  Hmm...makes you wonder if that sweet little scented soap is worth it for all the health problems that might come from it. (read more here)

Now these chemicals are all fine and nasty on their own, but when we put them in our hair, their effects get even worse. Basically the "lathering up" that we all know and love with traditional shampoo is actually stripping our hair of their natural oils.  As a result, our body gets the message that our hair is dry and it sends the message: "We need more oil!" And as more oil comes, it begins to get greasy so we wash it again, thus stripping it of it's natural oils. The process repeats: strip the hair, send more oil, strip the hair, send more oil. As a result, we end up using more and more products, to try and tame the vicious cycle.

How can the No-Poo Method help?
Since the baking soda and vinegar do not contain harsh sulfates or other chemicals that strip the hair  a normal balance of give and take can be created with the hair and the oils will balance themselves out, leaving healthier, happier hair.  On top of this, the baking soda mixture is alkaline, and the vinegar mixture is acidic. Bear with the chemistry talk...all you need to know is that the combo of these two helps balance our hair out even more (for the better).

The Dream Team: Baking Soda + Apple Cider Vinegar

Is the transition to the No-Poo method easy?
For some, yes. For others, no. After years and years of being stripped of oils, our bodies are used to serving up quite the large allotment of oil to repair the damage. When you take away the stripping shampoo, the body takes a bit to catch up, leaving you with lots of oil and no where to go...but your hair (which doesn't need it anymore).

It's kind of like supply and demand, say you have a factory that produces a product that is needed in high demand. So production goes up and stays up. But say one day production stops at a jolting halt, what happens to the factory that is on auto-pilot? It keeps producing products, which start to pile up, and pile up, and pile up. The same goes for the oil in your hair, in the beginning your body will continue producing it's usual amount of oil, but eventually it will learn  that it does not need to produce as much so it scales back (cue "end of transition period" here).

Some say this transition time can last from a few days, to a week, to 3 weeks. Keep with it, it's so worth it!  Before trying the No-Poo Method, I used a natural shampoo that was free of sulfates, and traditional "stripping" ingredients. So I think that helped ease my transition period, as it seemed like it was only a little bit "off" for about a week or two. On top of that my hair is curly, thick, and unruly on most days, so the results seemed more like I could just chock it up to a bad hair day than being caused by the new baking soda/vinegar wash.

Other ladies have said that during this transition time they wore their hair up more often, wore baseball hats, or just stuck it out. I know that probably doesn't sound desirable at all, but the end result is so worth it. When I was going through the transition phase, I used the financial savings as my motivation just because I'm frugal like that.  I told myself, "If I can stick this out, I will never have to buy traditional shampoo or conditioner EVER AGAIN." I'd add up the savings, $16 total and think about how nice it would be not to spend have to spend that money on a monthly basis.

If you've ever gone through the switch to the No-Poo Method, share your experience below about what your transition period was like. How long was it? How did you get through it?

Now that I've probably scared you off with the "transition talk" let me bring you back in with a discussion of the benefits of the No-Poo Method (that I've experienced and that other bloggers have mentioned):
  • hair is softer and shiner
  • less frizz, more body
  • can be helpful for dandruff and even cradle cap in babies (specifically the apple cider vinegar portion)
  • cheaper (1 box of baking soda $1.24, 1 jar of acv $3-4) given the ratios listed below these two ingredients alone would probably last me many months!
  • less toxins (no icky "poo" from shampoo, so long sulfates!)
  • greener (less products, packaging, trips to the store)

How to do you make the ingredients needed:
The ingredients are simple and cheap and I just store them in small spray bottles that I found in the "travel size items" section at Wal-Mart so they are easy to use in the shower. You can use any type of container you like, I just found I was washing most of the ingredients down the drain by pouring them from a bottle or jar to my hair, so I like how the spray helps me keep more in the bottle. *I wish I could have found a greener option like BPA-free bottles, or a special glass spray bottle, but was unable to find one. And as for the glass, I've learned it doesn't go so well in the shower...slippery hands and glass=bad combo! These spray bottles are easy and convenient for me, but if you find something that works for you...go for it!

My travel-size spray bottles for holding the "shampoo"
and "conditioner".

Baking Soda Shampoo
  • 1 Tbs. baking soda
  • 1 cup of filtered COLD water (to keep baking soda from clumping)

A funnel helps get the baking soda
in the bottle.

Traditional Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner 

Funnel comes in handy once again.

*Apple Cider Vinegar Conditioner for Dry, Thick, or Curly Hair  * This is the recipe I use for my thick, curly hair and it works great. Even with all that apple cider vinegar, I've yet to see my hair look greasy, one positive of dry hair I suppose. ( :
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/cup filtered water
Note: The quantity mixed up in these recipes, usually last me a month or so, in case you were wondering.

Here's a video of me making the ingredients needed for the No-Poo Method and a "PG-version" of how I wash my hair with it in the shower....

As you saw from the video, I wash my hair with the No-Poo Method in this order:

1. Wet hair and then apply baking soda shampoo.
If you watch how much I spray in the video, that is the amount
I use. You can vary it if you would like. Then scrub throughout, 
especially in circular motions on
your scalp.

2. Rinse it all the way out.

3. Now spray on the apple cider vinegar conditioner.
I spray all over and everywhere. Some people just spray
the tips or ends of their hair because it makes their
roots oily. I've never had this problem (probably because
of my thick, dry hair), so I spray everywhere. Again,
watch the video to see exactly how much I spray, feel
free to vary the amount to fit your hair.

4. Then I clip it up and let it sit while I do other shower
 "tasks" like shave, or wash my face or body. I see the
vinegar like a conditioning treatment, so the longer it's on,
the better!

5. Then I rinse it all out. Don't worry, the vinegar smell
comes right won't smell like a salad, I promise!

6. Now you've got clean, poo-free hair!
Dry and style as you would normally.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Will my hair smell like vinegar?
No, it will not, as long as you get it all rinsed out. Once you start to rinse it out of your hair, the smell will go away. I have noticed that the smell is a bit stronger when I apply it in the spray bottles, since  because more of it is being released into the air that just on my hair, but it goes away quickly. Trust me, once you get out of the shower, your hair won't smell like vinegar!

Are there other ratios for different types of hair?
I've read that if your hair is more oily, that you can increase the baking soda or decrease the apple cider vinegar.  Now if your hair is more dry (like mine) you can decrease the baking soda and increase the apple cider vinegar.  I just keep the baking soda the same, and increase the apple cider vinegar. Feel free to experiment.

How often do you wash your hair?
I only wash my every 2 days or so. I wish I could go longer in between washes, but my curl starts to "die down" and become flat after 2 days, but when I wash it, it springs right back up. You could easily go several days if you wanted.

What other products or styling tips do you do?
I never blow dry my hair, I just let it air dry. Blow drying just added to the frizzy-ness. I only use one product on my curls, Beautiful Curls Shea Butter Curl Activating Cream ($14 at my local health food store)

I would love to find a homemade curl gel/hair gel to use in place of this store-bought one, but most recipes have coconut oil in them and although I love coconut oil on my skin, it just makes my hair greasy and stringy for some reason.  Anyone know of a good, homemade curl gel without coconut oil?

Update: I have been making my own flax seed hair gel and loving it! Here's the recipe (only 2 ingredients!), "How to Make Flax Seed Hair Gel"...

Can I do the No-Poo Method if I color my hair?
From what I've read and experienced myself, yes. Granted everyone is different  but I get minimal highlights in my hair (which I do with caution to keep from touching my scalp) and it hasn't affected my color. I've read about other bloggers that color their hair to cover gray, and it works just fine. If you have any experience with using this method with dyed hair, share your experience below.

My hair is still really dry? Any suggestions?
Try filtering your shower water. This simple tip worked wonders for my hair and skin, especially now that it's getting colder outside and the air is drying out.  Here's a video about how and why I filter my shower water. (Here's my favorite shower filter too $60)

Want to learn more about the No-Poo method (and see that I'm not the only crazy person doing this) check out these other cool bloggers who have jumped on the No-Poo bandwagon as well:

So that's the low down on the No-Poo method, as I've mentioned above, feel free to share your experiences below. Maybe it worked out great for you or maybe you just couldn't get it to work with your hair. I get it, we all have different hair, sometimes it's just nice to try something new! Have fun getting rid of that poo!

Recently this post was linked up to:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Squatting on the Potty for a Healthy Body

So I'm not talking about literally squatting on the potty, attempting to balance with your feet on the rims...that would be difficult and probably not very safe! I am talking about squatting on the potty with the help of a step-stool type device called a Squatty Potty, which you use when you're having a bowel movement. Bam! There it is. That's what we're talking about today...poop, fecal matter, excrement, you name it...we're talking about it. I'm going to keep it clean and stick with calling it a bowel movement, but if the talk of this makes you squeamish, then this post might not be for you.

Chances are though this post may help you. Since pooping/bowel movements are something that EVERYBODY does, you could probably benefit from hearing about the "squatting revolution  that's going on right now.

What is it?
The idea is simple, anytime you are going to have a bowel movement, you opposed to sitting in a normal toilet-style sit, and as a result your body gets healthier in a number of ways. The squatting position is created with a step-stool style device, which elevates your feet.

Why would I want to squat?
Traditional toilets have it all wrong when it comes to posture. Did you know the original toilet was designed by a watch maker? Later it was improved upon by a cabinet maker...and although they made the toilets look nice...they did not have our digestive anatomy in mind.

When we sit on a toilet in the traditional way our anal canal is at 90 degrees, which just so turns out to be counterproductive to helping us get bowel movements out. In this position, our anal canal is kinked....almost like a garden hose, not allowing bowel movements to pass through.  This is a good thing since it keeps us from "going" while we sit and work on the computer or eat dinner at the table.

Traditional toilet, all wrong. 

Unfortunately when we take on this position at the toilet  our bowel movements are more difficult to get out. Sometimes we have to strain or push...thus causing uncomfortable things like hemorrhoids or stress on our pelvic floor muscles.

This is where squatting comes in...
Since the beginning of time, humans have been squatting to have a bowel movement. They didn't have fancy, upright toilets and yet they got the "job" done just fine. They also didn't have the issues that burden our health today like hemorrhoids, constipation, and colon cancer. Could toilets be the smoking gun? A possible source to point our finger at when looking to the source of our ailments? While it's certainly not the answer to all the problems, it can certainly help.

Doing a yoga squat.

I do yoga a lot and when I was pregnant with Avery I made sure to practice squatting daily. I found that this not only helped prepare me for birth, but it also helped me see how beneficial the posture can be for going to the bathroom...lovely I know.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm not about to abandon my toilet and start "going" in a hole in my backyard for every bowel movement just for the name of "health"! Lucky for us there's an easier solution...a Squatty Potty.  This simple device that looks similar to a step stool, slides conveniently under your toilet seat when not in use and when you're ready to have a bowel movement, you simply pull  it out, elevate your feet, and let it "slide"...literally!

Feet up on the Squatty Potty.

I purchased the ECCO Squatty Potty on Amazon for $40. I got the ECCO version that is 9 inches high. They have a variety of other styles too like bamboo and their "classic style". I'm sure there are other squatty-like products out there but this is the one I have the most experience with so that's what I'm sharing with you today.

Personal benefits that I've noticed since using the Squatty Potty are:
1. More of a bowel movement (larger amount because the bowel can completely empty)
2. Less time on the toilet (anal canal is completely open so the you don't have to strain, push, or wait around)
3. Decrease in bloating (less excrement remaining in the intestines means less bloating for you)
4. Less toilet paper (with the Squatty Potty, bowel movements empty right out, so there is not much to wipe. Even better, you don't have to make multiple trips to the bathroom, since you can empty out the first time thus equaling less toilet flushes.)

Other benefits as cited by the Squatty Potty website include:

  • helps avoid constipation
  • ends hemorrhoids
  • prevents colon disease
  • strengthens the pelvic floor

One more thing I love about the Squatty Potty is that it slides under the toilet nice and easy.

The Squatty Potty slides
under the toilet easily.

See the Squatty Potty in action (well, not literally) in this week's video...

Don't have a Squatty Potty?
Get resourceful. I used to use a laundry basket flipped upside down. You could also use a box, small trash can or whatever you can find that helps get your knees up above your hips.

Laundry basket can work to create
the "squat" if needed.
Additional tips:

  • When "squatting" try to get your knees above your hips as much as you can and bring your abdomen forward to your thighs. This really enhances the squat without you having to lift your bottom off the toilet seat.
  • Still having trouble with constipation? Start your day with a glass of warm water with the juice from half of a lemon like I mention in this post, then when you feel things moving along have a seat on the Squatty Potty and see if that helps solve your problem. It usually gets the job done!

Want to learn more? Check out this awesome video by the Squatty Potty company. I found the graphics and information very helpful!

So there you have it, the talk about "bowel movements" is complete...yeah! What do you think about "squatting on the potty"? Would you be willing to try or is it just too strange for you? Or are you an avid "squatting" fan? Share your experiences below!

Happy squatting!
*Disclaimer: I purchased this product with my own money and this is my honest opinion of it.*
Recently this blog post has been linked up to:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Technical Difficulties...

Hi greenies, as you can see, nearly all the pictures on my blog have been replaced by black boxes with a minus sign.

When I log into my Picasa Web Photo Album where all the pictures are usually stored, my the photos are completely gone. I am attempting to restore them but I'm not sure how to do this or how long this might take (other than just uploading every single picture from my computer). Any advice would be helpful!

*Now you may see some posts with pictures, but those are ones I have re-added recently...most are still missing though. Bear with me. (  :

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