Category Archives: The Healthy Life

Bugs Be Gone! Natural Insect Repellents for the Summer

During these summer months, while you’re out swimming or camping or picnicking, there’s good chance you’ll have some unwelcome guests.

Whether those guests are in the form of mosquitoes, houseflies,  or ticks, chances are you’ll want some kind of protection from them, so that your summer fun isn’t ruined. And ideally, you’ll want a natural insect repellent to help with that.

Details on DEET

Any discussion around insect repellent inevitably leads to the topic of DEET. Developed as a pesticide by the U.S. Army, it appeared to be highly effective in protecting humans from mosquitoes, ticks, fleas and other biting insects.

You’ll find a large number of insect repellents on store shelves contain DEET — but they come with some pretty serious warnings.

DEET has been found to be toxic, and is a known skin irritant. Manufacturers recommend NOT using DEET under clothing or on damaged skin, and that once you don’t need a repellent, you should wash off the application.

Oh yeah, and DEET is a solvent. It can actually DISSOLVE materials like plastics, rayon, and synthetic materials.

But luckily there are safe, non-toxic options available that won’t dissolve plastics. Check out these natural insect repellents below!

Basil

Basil is effective in repelling house flies and mosquitoes — and it tastes great in salads and a number of dishes!

You can use basil by placing containers near doors (where bugs like to sneak in), or you can apply a solution of basil-infused water and vodka to your skin to prevent bites. Yes, vodka.

Rosemary

natural insect repellent
Badger Anti-Bug Balm

We love rosemary for all kinds of reasons (you can check out our previous blogs on the rosemary plant here), and, of course, it’s just as helpful as a natural insect repellent. You can make a simple repellent spray by boiling dried rosemary in water and pouring in a small squirt bottle.

Or you can find rosemary in the Badger Balm Anti-Bug Balm, proven to be effective for up to 3 hours.

Mint

Another one of our favorites! Any member of the mint plant family (peppermint, spearmint, catnip, etc.) can be used to help ward off insects.

Citronella

natural insect repellent
Baby Bug from Acure

Citronella oil is obtained from a species of lemongrass plant, and you’ll recognize the smell in some candles used to repel mosquitoes (especially during summer cookouts).

You can also find citronella in Acure’s Baby Bug repellent — safe enough to use for the kiddos!

Flower Repellents

flowers-369666_1280Chrysanthemums, marigolds, petunias — you can plant these lovely flowers near your garden to protect from all kinds of pests.

 

What about you? How do you prevent bug bites and pests when it’s warm out?

 

THE GREAT DEBATE: Bar Soap vs. Liquid Soap

For years, the only option for working up a good lather in the shower was limited to one item: bar soap. These days, there are thousands of options for getting clean: scrubs, washes, oils, and all kinds of lovely bar soap to choose from.

soap ad
Image Credit: Flickr

The two big players are liquid soaps and bar soaps — both have their redeeming qualities, but just what is it that makes them unique and different?

If you’ll remember our previous post on bar soaps, “castile soap” became the generic name for the hard soaps that we still use today.

The process for soap making hasn’t changed much – fats get boiled with alkali, which then produces soap and glycerin. But there are so many different kinds of bar soaps too choose from now, it’s hard to pick a favorite! (Personally, I’m loving the Bluebonnet Bar from A Wild Soap Bar.)

Bar soaps are awesome, but there are just as many reasons to love liquid soaps, so we thought we’d enumerate all of the great qualities about both.

Bar Soaps

1. Less waste: Bar soaps don’t get wasted as quickly. People typically overestimate how much liquid soap they use and go through their bottle a lot faster.

Sea Salt Zum Bar
Sea Salt Zum Bar from Indigo Wild

2. Built-in exfoliation: When you rub your skin with soap, this helps to remove debris and dead skin while you wash, especially if you use soaps like the Sea Salt bar from Indigo Wild.

3. Ease of use: Bar soap is pretty straightforward — just remove any packaging and get to cleaning up!

Liquid Soaps

1. OOPS: You’re not going to accidentally lose an ENTIRE bottle of liquid soap down the drain, like you might when accidentally dropping a bar of soap in the shower.

2. A better lather: Liquid soaps tend to work up a better lather than bar soap, which some folks just can’t do without! The luxury of a super sudsy clean can feel great after a long day.

Prickly Pear Castile Soap
Prickly Pear Castile Soap from A Wild Soap Bar

3. Variety of uses: If you’ve got a liquid castile soap in your house, you have an arsenal of cleaning power behind you. Castile soap can be used for cleaning you, your kids, your dog, your floor – just about anything.

 

 

So which side do you fall on, when it comes to getting clean? Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

4 Ideas for Self-Care That You Can Use Right Now

It’s been a long week, with errands filling up every free moment that you thought you’d had, surprise repairs needed on the car, and a toddler who seems to be sniffling an awful lot lately.

Sound familiar?

All of us get swept up in our daily tasks and minor crises — and it’s easy to fall into that mindset of constantly moving and staying “productive.”

But not catching our breath or slowing down every now and then can lead to some serious burnout. A high level of anxiety leaves our bodies more susceptible to illness and can cause long term complications like heart disease or stroke.

However, setting aside just 20-30 minutes a day for self-care can go a long way.  In fact, studies have shown that taking time to relax or meditate consistently has the potential to reverse negative effects from stress, like high blood pressure.

“We know stress is a contributor to all the major modern killers,” Dr. Charles L. Raison at Emory University points out. “It’s hard to think of an illness in which stress and mood don’t figure,”

So, set down your phone, turn off the TV, and take a little bit of time to do something that will pay off big time. The dishes in the dishwasher can wait.

Need ideas for self-care? Here are a few you can try out right now!

1. Start by breathing.

Deep breathing is one of the easiest and most efficient ways of slowing down your body and stilling your mind.  Even just five minutes of abdominal breathing can help — the goal being to calm the mind by increasing oxygen to the brain (which helps to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system).

person-802090_1280“Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”

2. Take a bath.

duck-701147_1280Fill up the tub and hop on in — research has shown that relaxing in a bath on a daily basis can be more effective at reducing anxiety than taking a prescription drug.

If you take a bath before bedtime, chances are you’ll sleep more soundly, too, as “it temporarily raises your body temperature, after which it gradually lowers in the cooler air, cueing your body to feel sleepy. ”

Add in yummy-smelling bath salts or a bath bomb for a luxurious and therapeutic soak!

3. Sing/dance your cares away.

The benefits of listening to music are far reaching, so put together a short playlist of your favorite songs and shake what your mama gave you.

music-791631_1280“Music’s neurological reach, and its historic role in healing and cultural rituals, has led researchers to consider ways music may improve our health and wellbeing,” states a recent article from Huffington Post.

“In particular, researchers have looked for applications in healthcare — for example, helping patients during post-surgery recovery or improving outcomes for people with Alzheimer’s. In some cases, music’s positive impacts on health have been more powerful than medication.”

4. Have a cuppa.

living-room-690174_1280Tea is the second most widely consumed drink in the world, and it’s been around forever.

Green tea is especially popular, perhaps for the positive effects that it has on cardiovascular health. A recent study found that drinking green tea “significantly lowered the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. (31% lower risk in women, and 22% lower risk in men.) The risk of dying from stroke was even lower: 62% lower in women and 42% lower in men.”

Test out different varieties of tea and pour yourself a cup.

After all, you’re worth it.

 

Here are a few products from Soap Hope you might consider for your self-care routine.

The Skin We’re In: Caring for Ourselves as We Age

If there’s one thing that’s inevitable about being human, it’s that we’re constantly aging.

No matter how hard we try, our bodies will continue to change and age, regardless of how much we want to stop it.

And when we look at what our bodies are undergoing while we age, it’s easy to see that, the better we take care of it NOW, the healthier we can keep our skin in our later years.

Changes  in our skin are related to environmental factors, our genes,  and personal nutrition — but the greatest single factor is sun exposure. (Which is why we harp on  wearing sunscreen all the time.)

For example, if you’re fair-skinned, you’re at a disadvantage, because your skin isn’t naturally producing skin pigment that serves as a barrier against sun damage.

Those cells, called melanocytes, increase in size, so skin starts to appear as thinner and paler, and sometimes large pigmented areas will appear on our skin.

boy-20233_1280And, understandably with age, other components of our skin start to break down as well:

  • Connective tissue wears out, and skin becomes less elastic.
  • Blood vessels start to weaken, leading to bruising or bleeding under the skin.
  • Blemishes, dry patches, skin tags — all of these issues are more common when we age.

We certainly can’t stop the aging process, but we can make sure we’re taking care of our skin as the years go by.

1. Drink water! Staying hydrated means replacing the large amount of water that we lose on a daily basis. Your skin is an organ, and while water doesn’t go straight towards those cells when you drink it, you’re helping to keep all systems functioning properly by making sure you drink sufficient H20.

2. Moisturize! Avoid lotions with synthetic fragrances, as those tend to dry out the skin.

3. Eat your veggies! Eating whole food that’s rich in nutrients will aid in maintaining your skin health.

4. Stop smoking! There are too many reasons to list why this is beneficial. But yes, smoking damages skin, too.

5. Sleep! It’s your body’s way of recuperating, and your skin needs it, too.

6. SUN PROTECTION! By far, this is the most important weapon in your skin care arsenal. Wear protective clothing and cover up an exposed skin with an effective sunscreen.

So while science has yet to figure out how to stop the aging process, there are a lot of things we can do to take care of the skin we’re in.

 

Here are some awesome Soap Hope products to help care for aging skin:

 

 

The Soap Hope Philosophy: Finding the Right Natural Cleaners For Our Customers

Over the last few months here at Soap Hope, we’ve been working to find the perfect all-natural cleaner — safe for your home, and for all of the people that live in it.

“It’s been quite the process,” said Craig Tiritilli, Soap Hope’s cofounder. “We’ve been researching and testing a variety of different brands and products.”

home living roomThe quality of products that we carry here at Soap Hope is especially important to us. We won’t sell items that we wouldn’t use ourselves or in our own homes.

Which is why, throughout our extensive research, we found that most household cleaner brands with the “all-natural” label weren’t actually ENTIRELY natural.

“There are a lot of quality brands out there with the ‘green’ or ‘natural’ label,” says Craig, “but after digging a little further, we found that a lot of cleaners still contained some kind of sulfate or petroleum-based ingredient. Sometimes they disclosed that information, sometimes they didn’t.”

What we have been able to find, however, is the safest product that we feel is out there on the market.

Meet Better Life — or maybe you already have, if you’ve seen Shark Tank. The team from Better Life pitched on the popular TV show last year, and it’s been exciting to see their progress and growth since being on the show.

Better Life has an important philosophy — one that aligns with our own here at Soap Hope. They develop all of their products in-house, formulating  the safest and best performing products that we came across.

Because of their transparency in business and commitment to quality ingredients, we knew we wanted to include them in our line of safe-for-you products.

So while some of their products include a synthetic preservative, we’ve found that Better Life products DON’T include toxic ingredients that most household cleaners  use (including many “green” or “natural” brands).

It’s worth noting that the preservative used in some of their cleaners prevents them from having to raise the pH levels of the water (part of an alternative way of extending shelf life), which can actually damage cleaning surfaces, wood furniture and your skin.

Also noteworthy: Better Life discloses information on ALL of their ingredients, which we found wasn’t always a common practice with  other manufacturers out there.

And, ultimately, the decision is up to our customers. We’ll continue to research and test products to find the safest option for our customers, and we’ll fully disclose what goes into those products.

“We’re thrilled to have found a solution for our customers that we’re comfortable with,” says Craig.

You can buy Better Life here at Soap Hope – check out their natural household cleaning products here!

 

Men’s Skin Care: Why It Matters

With Father’s Day coming up, we thought it would be a good exercise to review some skin care tips that are specific to men.

While most of our recommendations about skin care are relevant to anyone, there are a few notable differences when it comes to caring for guy’s skin.

Men have thicker skin

First off, men’s skin is made up of thicker layers — they have more collagen, elastin fibers, and fatty tissue directly under their skin.

“As a result, men’s skin is on average 20% to 30% thicker than women’s skin,” according to WebMD.

Which is also why people claim guys “age better” — more oil production, thicker skin, AND lots of hair follicles mean that their skin is held up by a more supportive skin system, so they’re less prone to wrinkles.

What this also means: it’s recommended that men exfoliate more often.

This can be accomplished during the shaving process, but if you’re a fan of the beard (and who isn’t these days?), you might consider using a scrub to slough away dead skin cells.

Speaking of beards

Yeah, beards require extra care, too. Shockingly, they don’t just manage themselves.

To ensure the healthiest skin and beard, as always, a wholesome and vitamin-rich diet will do the most good for you.  “If you optimize your health, then you’ll grow great beard hair,” explains beard champion Jack Passion in a recent interview.

You can also supplement the natural oils from your skin with a beard oil to ensure that the hair is protected. This is especially important if you’re going to be outdoors or going swimming.

Sun protection

And if you’re going to be outdoors, bearded or not, making sure your skin is protected is still important. Men are just as susceptible to skin cancer as women, and should also use a sunscreen, especially during the summer.

We recommend using nonabsorbent sunscreens containing zinc oxide for maximum protection.

“Nonabsorbent sunscreens use zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide for scientifically-proven sun protection. They are not absorbed into the skin or bloodstream. These are minerals that are found abundantly in nature and are very safe for use in body care products.”

The art of shaving

If you’re not growing a beard and if shaving is part of your regular routine, there are a few important steps worth taking.

shavingExfoliate:
Scrubbing away those dead skin cells before you put a razor to your face will help prevent ingrown hairs, making for a cleaner and better shave.

No scraping:
Using a good-quality razor and a lighter touch will save your skin.  “One of the biggest mistakes that men make while shaving is to press the razor into their skin and pull hard,” explains Randy Murray on Sharpologist. “They use their other hand to pull and stretch the skin and bear down with the razor. Stop that. You are literally scraping the skin off with your beard, slicing into your face.”

Let your skin rest: 
Don’t shave every day! Do keep up with a daily wash/moisturizing regimen, but give your face a day off for shaving.

Moisturize:
Hydrating the skin and nourishing it with a vitamin-rich moisturizer will improve not only the condition of your skin, but provides lasting results and prevents wrinkling.  Totally worth it.

It’s a lot to remember, especially if you’re a guy who’s just getting into a regular skin care regimen.  Overall, you’ll just want to find products that work for you, so that you’ll stick to it.

What skin care tips or products do you swear by? Check out a few of our favorite men’s skin care products in our store!

 

The Basics Behind Your Baby’s Skin

We’ve all heard the phrase,  “smooth as a baby’s bottom.”

There’s a lot of truth behind that idiom — newborns and infants have especially soft skin. It’s why we love snuggling them so much!

But that smooth skin also needs to be cared for and protected, especially while our little ones are growing and developing.  Why?

Infant skin is several times more sensitive than yours.

Babies grow and develop at such a fast rate — parents are especially aware of this, especially when little ones start crawling and putting everything in their mouths.

baby feet

Their skin is also developing, and this includes adapting to their new environment.

“Unlike adult skin, newborn skin is thinner and may not fully mature for up to 12 months,” explains Jo Bridgman, Midwife for the Johnson’s baby Professional Team. “It absorbs and loses water faster, leaving it vulnerable to dryness and irritation. Infant skin can be up to ten times more sensitive than adult skin, making it prone to conditions like atopic dermatitis and eczema.”

Take extra care when cleaning your baby’s skin.

Anyone who’s changed a diaper knows the importance of keeping an infant’s skin clean and protected.

From taking care of diaper disasters to battling irritating rashes, keeping your kiddo’s skin clean might feel like a lost cause.

A baby’s epidermis is not as fully developed as an adult’s, so it’s thinner and has smaller cells.  This means your child’s skin has an increased risk of bacterial growth and may be more prone to irritation.”

babyProtective barriers over baby’s skin can be especially helpful here, ensuring that moisture stays in and bad bacteria stay out. Using ointments with zinc oxide are great for healing diaper rash and provide that layer of protection.

Breakouts, cradle cap, and eczema are common, but preventable.

Because a baby’s skin absorbs everything so much more easily, things like acne and cradle cap are going to happen.

Many of these conditions, while they might seem alarming, are totally normal. Something like cradle cap, for instance, is mostly harmless: “Possibly it has to do with overactive sebaceous glands in the skin of newborn babies, due to the mother’s hormones still in the baby’s circulation.”

And if you remember last week’s post about dry shampoo, you’ll recall that sebaceous glands will overproduce oil when skin gets dry — so using natural, nutrient-rich moisturizers and oils on your little one’s skin can help to prevent that overproduction.

Shop Baby Skincare Products at Soap HopeIt’s a lot to digest, and there’s certainly no shortage of advice out there when it comes to parenting and caring for your child’s health.

But never fear!

Skin conditions like sunburn, eczema, and diaper rash are no match for our baby skincare products at Soap Hope — so you and your kiddos can feel clean and safe.

Here’s the Lowdown on Dry Shampoos

Us humans can get especially particular about how we wash, trim, curl, dry, or style our hair.

And it makes sense! Our hair can say a lot about our personality.

Dog

When it comes to hair care, many of us include shampooing and conditioning our manes as part of our daily routine. What we’re discovering, however, is that this might not be the healthiest for our hair.

All About Sebum

Our skin and scalp have tiny little glands all over them that secrete oil, or sebum, called sebaceous glands.

We secrete sebum for all kinds of cool reasons — and we started forming sebaceous glands during fetal development, as a means of protecting and nourishing our skin.  Sebum also helps to provide our skin with vitamin E.

The Greasy Hair Conundrum

Because our bodies naturally produce this oil, you might find that, after a day or so, your hair looks or feels slightly more oily.

Which, for a lot of us, might feel gross. In reality, it’s our body trying to maintain it’s natural, healthy ecosystem.

So keeping your hair squeaky clean and washing it on a daily basis not only prevents your hair from getting the natural oils that it needs, but also triggers overproduction of sebum.

So how can you help keep your hair’s natural oils and maintain a fresh appearance?

The Miracle of Dry Shampoo

Dry shampoos are all over the place these days, and they’ve especially grown in popularity in the last few years. But they’ve been around for centuries — the first mention of dry shampoo was around the 15th century in Asia, where the style-savvy were using clay powder in their hair.

Dry shampoos are great, because they help to control the production of oil, but don’t trigger the scalp’s overproduction of sebum, like washing it can.

So your hair looks fresh AND you get to skip a day of washing and drying!

There are a ton of products out there to choose from, but if you’re looking for a dry shampoo that’s going to be good for you AND the environment, here are a few tips:

  • Check the label! Avoid any sulfates, parabens, phthalates, or petroleum.
  • Make sure the packaging is biodegradable, like Acure’s dry shampoo, which we love!
  • Look for nourishing ingredients like argan and CoQ10 — the dry shampoo will help manage oily hair, but will replenish with good oils, too!

Do you use a dry shampoo? What tips do you have for using this in your hair care routine?

What the heck is a microbiome?

At the end of last year, Fortune Magazine predicted that 2015 would be the Year of the Microbiome,  because of advances in medical technology and the progress around discovering what’s behind some of our trickiest medical issues.

But just WHAT IS a microbiome?

Maybe you remember biology class, and studying microbes — they’re basically any organism too small to be seen with the naked eye.

The microbiome is the collection of all of these tiny living things that live on and in our body. And what scientists are discovering is that the little guys play a HUGE role in our overall health and how diseases might impact us.

Our microbiomes are also constantly evolving, making it increasingly tricky to figure out just what a “normal” microbiome might look like. What we’re discovering is that “it is reasonable to characterize the microbiome as a newly recognized organ, with a great range of metabolic activities.

Why does the microbiome matter?

Well, those little creatures that live on your skin are noted as being not only the most diverse, but also some of the most important defensive players when it comes to our health.

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“New evidence suggests that commensal skin bacteria both directly protect humans from pathogenic invaders and help the immune system maintain that delicate balance between effective protection and damaging inflammation.”

So, yeah, taking care of the ecosystem that lives on our body is really important!

Show your microbiome some love

But here’s what we’re also learning — besides the fact that it’s always evolving, my microbiome is probably different than your microbiome. There are, of course, some similarities, but the differences mean that there isn’t just ONE way of caring for one’s microbiome.

Stay away from antimicrobial products

A few ways that we can take care of the communities of microbes living on our skin involve protecting that balance that they’re creating. That means eliminating antimicrobial products that kill off the bacteria that are actually good for us.

One of the biggest offenders is triclosan, which has  been found to be “no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms and reducing bacterial levels on the hands.” Not only that, triclosan (found in a wide range of antibacterial or antimicrobial soaps) has been found in water supplies and sewage treatment plants, and has been linked to altering hormone regulation functions in wildlife. 

Go for oils over moisturizers — that means no parabens!  Antimicrobial preservatives like parabens consist of wax and water that might make your skin feel hydrated but result in irritations.

Oils, on the other hand, are able to penetrate and clear out pores, dissolving other oils and other gunk. We’re a huge fan of castile soaps and products containing other awesome oils (argan, coconut, olive, etc.).

And of course, eating nutrient-dense, whole foods can ensure that you’re healthy from the inside out. It’s all about that balance!

Want products that are good for your microbiome, and leave you feeling fresh? Here are a few we’d recommend!

Why we love castile soaps

If you do a quick Google search on castile soap, you’ll find it has just about as many uses as a Swiss army knife.

Soap making has a long history, spanning several centuries and a variety of production methods.

The chemical process for making soap has not, however, changed all that much. Fats are boiled with alkali, which then produces soap (yay!) and glycerin.

Castile soap: a brief history

The quality of soap produced is especially dependent on the ingredients used. Early attempts, for example, relied on ash. In Spain, the salsola plant was burned to produce an ash called barilla.

“This, used in conjunction with locally available olive oil, offered a good quality soap which, by salting-out or “graining” the boiled liquor with brine, allowed the soap to float to the surface, leaving the lye, vegetable colouring and impurities to settle out. This produced what was probably the first white hard soap: Jabon de Castilla, or Castile soap, also known to pharmacists as Sapo hispaniensis or Sapo castilliensis.

Eventually, “castile soap” became the generic name for the hard, white, olive oil soaps, which we still use today.

Soap
“Aleppo soap 03” by Bernard Gagnon

Castile soaps can also be made with coconut oil, palm oil, or any other quality vegetable-based oil — and castile soaps also come in liquid form. The liquid soaps use potassium hydroxide to saponify the vegetable oils, while the hard bar soaps use sodium hydroxide.

Just like the food that we eat, it’s crucial that the products we use on our skin are nutrient-rich. Which is why we’re especially big fans of castile soap!

Made of goodness

Castile soap is made with olive oil, which contains all kinds of fatty acids and antioxidants, along with vitamins E and K — all good things!

Vitamin K has been found to help prevent the calcification of our skin’s elastin (the protein that gives skin the ability to spring back). Fatty acids are known to reduce the body’s production of compounds that cause inflammation.

All kinds of remedies

massage-389716_1280

Castile soap (as mentioned before) uses olive oil, which has long been used as a remedy for skin care and health. Greeks, for instance, used olive oil during massage, to help prevent injuries, relieve muscle fatigue, and eliminate lactic acid buildup. Olive oil has also been recommended as a treatment against skin diseases like eczema and dandruff.

Versatile AND healthy

peg-238525_1280Castile soap doesn’t just clean and nourish your skin — you can use it for washing laundry, cleaning carpets, and scrubbing your vegetables!

There are a host of reasons to love and use castile soaps, and we’ve only named just a few here.

 

How else do you use your castile soap goodness? Comment below!

 

Some of our favorite castile soap products: