Nfld. & Labrador

$20 Lady: Getting down and dirty (and cheap) with all-natural hygiene

A switch to all-natural products has left Dara Squires with shiny, smooth skin, healthier hair, cleaner teeth and arm pits that are worth smelling.
An 89-cent box of baking soda can do wonders for your teeth, says Dara Squires. (Submitted)

I haven't used deodorant in a week. Nor toothpaste. And my hair? It hasn't seen a lick of shampoo in almost two weeks now.

No, I'm not sick. But I am sick of mouth ulcers and a near-constant rash on my back.

I know by process of elimination that commercial hygiene products hurt me. When I switch to those all-natural products like Tom's toothpaste or $15 Sodium Laureth Sulfate-free shampoo, things improve.

However, I can never afford to switch permanently and I'm never very impressed with these products.

Instead, I use the cheapest shampoo and toothpaste I can find, as I figure if it's hurting me, I'm darn well not going to waste money on it.

Time to 'reset' the hair

A couple of weeks ago, though, I finally took a good look at the social-media-popular "no poo method."

This lovely-named method involves "resetting" your hair by not washing it for a few days and then not letting shampoo or conditioner touch it. Instead, you use baking soda to clean it and vinegar to rinse it with.
Dara Squires has discovered the benefits of all-natural hygiene products. (Submitted)

After reading a few posts detailing different ways to try the method, I put away my backscratcher and headed to the grocery store.

In most of the posts, people had talked about using similar products for toothpaste and deodorant. In for a penny, in for a pound, I say.

At the grocery store I grabbed some virgin unrefined coconut oil for $12.49. Then, I went over to the baking aisle for baking soda at 89 cents, and corn starch for $2.79. Finally, I bought apple cider vinegar for $1.29.

Loving the new method

After letting my hair go four days without shampoo while I was stuck in the house doing home repairs, I did my first no-poo wash. I dissolved about two teaspoons of baking soda in a cup of warm water and massaged it into my scalp. I then followed it with about one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in cool water to rinse.

I love this new method of washing my hair! My hair is thin and fine; usually it seems so greasy that if I'm going out in the evening I'll wash it a second time in one day.

However, since the switch I can go two to three days between washings. There's no smell — my hair just smells like hair, nothing else, not even vinegar. It seems a lot healthier too.

The same evening I tried the baking soda wash. I mixed myself up some baking soda toothpaste. I put roughly equal amounts of baking soda and coconut oil in a small jar and stirred it until the oil went soft and absorbed the powder.

I added a couple of drops of peppermint extract I have at home as well, as the last time I tried using baking soda on my teeth I gagged on the taste.

Again, I was shocked! Not only was it not gag-inducing (the coconut oil really lessens the saltiness of the soda), it cleaned my teeth really well.

In fact, my mouth feels even better between brushings now. My teeth feel smoother and cleaner all day long. I can't stop running my tongue over them. And my mouth feels better too — less peeling of my lips and dry mouth. I have made the permanent switch on this as well.

Whether this particular mix will survive a gym visit, though, I can't say. But for day-to-day use, it's goodbye $5 Secret ultra-strength and hello coconut oil.- Dara Squires

A couple of days later I mixed up a similar concoction to use as deodorant: equal parts coconut oil, baking soda, and corn starch into which I dropped a few drops of an essential oil I have on hand.

Again, I was impressed. I'm sure I looked mighty awkward constantly smelling my pits, but I couldn't believe it was working. And it still does. Once again, it seems after making the switch that in between applications my natural state is much less gross than it was previously.

Whether this particular mix will survive a gym visit, though, I can't say. But for day-to-day use, it's goodbye $5 Secret ultra-strength and hello coconut oil.

Getting sweet on honey

While I was at it, I decided to mix up my facial cleansing routine. Previously I used whatever I could afford that purported to be good for sensitive, combination skin. My face is prone to breakouts (particularly once a month) and dry spots. It's hard to find the right balance in skin care.

But in my cupboard I have a lowly jar of unrefined honey that my father got for me. A dab of that on my face in the shower as a cleanser and a little wipe of coconut oil as a moisturizer and once again I am greatly impressed with the results.

This trial took place during a breakout-prone time for me and I had one lowly pimple on my forehead rather than the scattering of acne I'm used to. My skin looks nicer too — shiny and smooth.

For a total of $17.46 (plus a good connection in the bee-keeping world), I made the complete switch. Judging by my usage thus far, the coconut oil will last the year but I may need another box of that 89-cent baking soda before the year is through.

Considering my typical toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner and facial wash costs about $8 a month, I've achieved substantial savings and improved my health.

The backscratcher, by the way, has been retired.


Dara Squires is a single mother of three, working, living, and scraping by in St. John’s.