Every year I can't wait for summer to arrive. Life gets taken out side, put on the road, in the garden or the swimming pool. Longer sunny days bring with them a sense of freedom and holiday. Nature is in her stride, exploding in colour everywhere! So much beauty, bloom and buzz in the air.
Yes. Buzz. Of the bug variety.
Bug bites are definitely uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. So of course we want to repel those bugs, right? But how? By using chemicals or natural ingredients? Which direction to go in?
EWG, (Environmental Working Group) surprisingly, leans heavily towards the use of chemicals over natural ingredients. When I first read this, I had to give my head a shake. What?!? Then I read a little closer, between the lines. They focus on an increase of tick-born diseases since 2004 as the basis of their recommendations. As such, they are erring on the side of blanket-blasting all ticks and bugs with everything in the arsenal. This feels like a panicked overkill to me, given the research on DEET being potentially damaging to brain function.
Bug repellents in Canada are regulated by Health Canada. They recommend everything from DEET (in concentrations ranging from 10%-30%, depending on the age of the user) to blends of specific essential oils. Their approach seems more evenhanded, taking into account safety considerations and individual preferences--allowing something for everyone. How Canadian, eh? I just love that!
My preference is to go natural, as much as possible. I also want to empower you to DIY. So here are a couple of recipes that can bring and your family some relief.
1. Natural Ant Killer
My son, Javid is no fan of the creepy or the crawly. So when the neighbourhood ants started conducting long parading visits through the house, something had to be done. Our research took us to WikiHow, where we found the recipe that did the trick.
Its a simple but effective blend of three ingredients--Borax, sugar and water. The sugar attracts the ants, the ants ingest it. The borax interferes slowly with ant digestive systems, giving enough time for an ant to get back to its colony and share it with its fellow ants. Once shared, the borax can take out the whole colony. Most humans don't have major reactions to this small an amount of Borax. That being said, handle the Borax carefully and follow the cautionary advice on the Borax box.
What you'll need
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 tablespoon Borax
1-1/2 cups warm water
A Jar for mixing
Stir stick or chopstick
Cotton balls or pads
Shallow dishes or Yogurt container lids
Pour the sugar and the borax into the jar. Cap the Jar and shake, shake, shake the sugar and borax together. Uncap the bottle and pour in warm water. Use stir stick or chopstick to stir water until borax and sugar are completely dissolved. Place cotton ball or pad on container lids. Pour ant killer liquid onto cotton ball or pad until it's saturated. Place the container in a high ant traffic zone indoors. Give it a few days, and then buh-bye ants!
2. Natural Mosquito Spray
This recipe is from Scratch Mommy. It's a simple, four ingredient blend that relies mostly on the wonderful properties of Tea Tree and Geranium Oil. I've adjusted the amounts of essential oils in the formula to reflect Health Canada safety standards and metric volumes.
Tea Tree or Melaleuca has been used for centuries by Aboriginal peoples in Australia. It's really a superpowered plant, known for its antimicrobial, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps human wounds heal, and it is toxic to many insects, including mosquitoes. Its some pretty stong stuff, so Health Canada recommends that it make up only 1% of your total formula.
Geranium Oil has some of the same properties as Tea Tree Oil (anti-bacterial, wound healing). It's also known for its ability to keep mosquitoes away. Health Canada recommends between 1-5% of the total formula.
Vegetable Glycerin helps hold the essential oils to your skin.
Combine the following ingredients in a 113ml spray bottle.
Glass or metal is best. I get some of my supplies from here.
• 1.5 ml (22 drops) Tea Tree Essential Oil
• 0.5ml (8 drops) - 5ml (110 drops) Geranium Essential Oil
(Scratch Mommy recommends only 0.5ml. Health Canada says you can go up to 5ml. My recommendation is somewhere in the middle--2.5ml (55 drops). The choice is yours, depending on your skin and scent sensitivities.)
• 15 ml (1tablespoon) Vegetable glycerin
Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water and shake until well mixed. Spray on as required and reapply as needed.
In case you don't feel like making it yourself...
If you don't feel up to making it yourself, I'm happy to do that for you. My Shoo Fly! formula has a number of extra goodies that make it useful for keeping more than just mosquitoes away. It also has soothing ingredients that can help in after-bite care.
So here's some anecdotal evidence about Shoo Fly! and its efficacy. Free Lion Body Care was at the Mission Folk Festival, enjoying both sunshine, music and meeting people who were trying out our products. Along came a little guy with a sad face.
"Why so glum, chum?" I asked. he told me he had been stung by a wasp. He showed me a huge, angry red welt on his forearm. His mum asked if I had anything for that.
"Try our Shoo Fly!" I suggested. I told her more about the formula. In a nutshell, Shoo Fly has witch hazel and aloe vera in it to help soothe the itchy feeling and speed up healing. There's Tea Tree, Geranium and Peppermint essential oils to help heal and cool the wound. These, plus the rest of the essential and carrier oils in it, work together to help keep other bugs away.
So Mum sprayed some Shoo Fly! on his red, swollen sting and off they went. The next day they came back. The little guy was smiling and eager to show me his wound. It had almost disappeared! Thank you, said Mom. She bought a bottle for the rest of the summer. And I had the satisfaction of a job well done.
Sherazad Jamal, Free Lion Team
Do you have a favourite natural way of keeping the summer bugs away? Please share it with us.
You've been asking me to come up with a body lotion for some time now, a lighter option to our Body Butters. After much deliberation in the kitchen lab and much testing, I'm proud to announce the birth of 8 bouncing bundles of skin hydrating and moisturizing joy!
About Hydration and Moisturizing
First up, a little about skin and why it needs both hydration and moisturizing. Your skin is your largest organ. And its made up mostly of water, like most of our body cells. Water is constantly evaporating from those cells--especially the ones on the surface of your skin as well as the ones deeper down in the epidermis. In relation to skin care, hydration means increasing the amount of water in your surface skin cells, which results in a healthy, smooth and plump complexion. That's what the water-based ingredients in our body lotion are busy doing. Moisturizing means putting a layer of emollient (meaning soothing and softening) ingredients on the skin to prevent water loss from the deeper layers of the epidermis. That's what the oil-base ingredients in our body lotion are busy doing.
97% of the ingredients we've used in our body lotion are natural and plant based. So what are the rock-star natural and non-toxic ingredients doing your skin such a solid?
1. Calendula Tea
Most Body Lotions are made with water. We've infused our distilled water with the soothing, skin-calming treat of Calendula petals. Calendula is loaded with powerful skin-healing, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, yet is gentle enough for most people and animals to use safely. That's why we also use it in our Paw Wax.
Calendula Tea is just that little extra oomph we put into our lotions to give your skin some soothing calm while bringing out your inner glow. Yes, this is a thing. Read our previous post on The Magic Of Calendula Tea for more information.
2. Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe Vera is full of nutritional qualities and antioxidant properties that soothe, nourish and repair skin. Its leaves contain a plethora of antioxidants including, beta carotene, vitamin C and E that can help improve the skin's natural firmness and keep skin hydrated. Not only that, it feels cool on the skin--a definite benefit during hot months or hot flashes!
Aloe Vera is brilliant for all skin types, delivering amazing benefits to skin. Read more about the wonders of Aloe Vera in a previous blog post. If you're up for making your own Aloe Vera Formulas at home, here are some suggestions from me.
3. Rice Bran Oil
Rice Bran Oil is one of my favourite moisturizing ingredients. Oh, for so many reasons. Let me recount the ways!
The oil, extracted from the germ and inner husk of rice, has been a staple in Old School Asian beauty regimens for centuries. For good reason, too! Rice bran absorbs quickly into the skin. It is flush with skin-loving omega-6 fatty acids, wrinkle-busting Squalane and Vitamin E, and skin firming Vitamin B. Antioxidants like beta-carotene and lycopene protect your skin from environmental stressors; enzymes like CoQ10 provide active components that help skin maintain its youthful glow. Rice bran oil also has a slight ability to brighten the look of your skin, helping to fade out the appearance of dark spots and to even out skin tone. And what's not to like about that?
4. Macadamia Nut Butter
Macadamia butter has become one of my new favourite ingredients. Not just because its so easy and forgiving to work with; but because it's so wonderful on the skin. Like Rice Bran oil, it absorbs quickly into the skin without feeling greasy. Nutritionally Macadamia Butter is a moisturizing all-star. It is high in both Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which are moisturizing, softening, anti-inflammatory and regenerating for skin. Omega 6's help restore skin's barrier function and reduce water loss. It also contains Omega 7's, an active anti-microbial that is found naturally in youthful skin, helps slow down signs of aging. Added bonus: Macadamia butter can improve the appearance of scars, sunburn and other minor skin irritation.
5. Non-Toxic Synthetics
So, I do add some non-toxic synthetic ingredients to our Body Lotion. They make up 5% of the overall formula. Now why would I do that in a natural product? True confession: I have struggled over this question. I really wanted to be "all natural all the time". But the fact is that science does some things really quite well and ca really give Nature a helping boost without compromising the effectiveness of natural ingredients.
So, for these reasons I add lab-made ingredients to my lotions: to improve the glide, absorbability and texture of the lotion; to give your skin an added protective barrier; to extend the shelf life of our lotions; and to ensure your lotion doesn't go moldy on you. I add two silicones--cyclomethicone and dimethicone for a smooth texture and to help your skin absorb the oh-so-good natural ingredients. I also add Germall Plus, a broad-spectrum preservative, necessary in any formula containing from both water and oils. Water is a hotbed for mold. Germall Plus provides for complete, broad spectrum preservation against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, yeast, and mold. It is composed of Diazolidinyl Urea, 3-Iodo-2-propylbutylcarbamate, and less than 1% Propylene Glycol.
So what do you get when you put all these wonderful ingredients together? Free Lion Body Lotion in our eight fragrance blends! And hydrated, moisturized skin.
A few years ago, my sister and brother in-law adopted a dog through Mex Pup, a non-profit dog rescue organization based in both Mexico and Canada that rescues dogs from the streets of Puerto Vallarta and eventually finds permanent homes for them in Canada.
The streets can be a scary, mean place for dogs, especially little ones. When their humans can’t afford to keep them, pups are often left to fend for themselves. When they should be bonding with their mother or human caretakers, they are begging, scavenging, learning to protect themselves, and trying their best to avoid getting yelled at, beaten, abused. In addition, they can get flea and tick ridden, which can lead to serious and often fatal illness. Yeah, no. Not a good way for any species to have to live.
Mex Pup finds homeless, sick and sometimes traumatized dogs and removes them from the street to foster homes in Puerto Vallarta. During that time, the dogs receive medical attention, are spayed/neutered and socialized until permanent homes are found for them in Canada. A volunteer Guardian Angel will eventually fly with the Mex dog safely to its new Canadian home.
Enter Joey (aka Joey-Girl, JoDog, JoBean, BeanDog, Bean-Bean) into our family. Joey came as an answer to many prayers for caring and companionship, both doggy and human. It all happened quickly, serendipitously, just the way things that are meant to be do.
Mex Pup had rescued Joey and her siblings from streets of Mismaloya (Puerto Vallarta) just in time. A day more and she might have died from elichia, a tick-borne disease. In the same time period, my sis-in-law received a newsletter looking for Canadian families to adopt Mex dogs. Without thinking about it, she impulsively said yes, and the good karma train left the station.
At first, when she arrived in Canada, Joey was skittish, a little jumpy, exhibiting a doggy version of PTSD and possibly immigrant-style culture shock. Understandable, a reaction to trauma and big change. Its seems dogs and humans are not so emotionally far apart; they are “best friends” after all. But just as traumatized, relocated humans benefit from kindness, loving care, friendships and activity, so too did Joey. Over time, she settled in and it is hard to imagine that her household was ever without her.
Joey has fully embraced the West Coast lifestyle. She loves the outdoors and loves all of our seasons (except for maybe the really rainy days). A couple of years ago, I got a text from Joey’s Mom asking if I could make some paw wax for Joey. Her paws were drying up, getting chapped and cracked in the cold weather. I was happy to give it a go and equally happy to have it test driven by Joey.
Her paws responded well to the wax. It protected her during the snowy-cold days and just before bed, her Mom would put some on again for a little extra overnight moisturizing. The wax is made without harmful ingredients, so if she does lick her paws it wasn’t a concern.
A Final Word on Free Lion Paw Wax from Joey's Mom
“Free Lion’s Paw Wax has gotten our girl Joey through the last 2 very long cold snowy winters. Her paws are not cracked or chapped anymore. When she did get a crack in her pad it caused her some discomfort. This has definitely helped with that and I’m so thankful for the natural, handmade product from Sherazad/Free Lion. I would highly recommend this product!”
– Cori Andrews (Joey’s Mom).
The monkeys have it folks, we’re grubby: we live in a pile of dead skin. If you want any moisturizer to work on your skin you gotta get down to the good healthy layers. Your skin is like an onion, you gotta take that flakey dry layer off first to get to the healthy layers. Now onions make most people cry but you don’t want to cry when you exfoliate!
Here are some keys reminders to have in mind when incorporating exfoliating into your skin care routine. For oily and normal skin, lots of scrubbing and sloughing may not be the answer to reducing your oil production and you may be exacerbating the problem by over exfoliating. Think of it as gently brushing off the old dead skin rather than scrubbing at the young living skin. For Dry skin, be mindful of how your skin is feeling, and go slow and less often.
Which exfoliant is right for which job?
Natural Exfoliants range in hardness, sharpness and durability. General rule of thumb? Soft and gentle for the face; mid range hardness for the body and full on hard for the calloused feet. As always, do a test patch first to make sure your skin isn’t irritated.
Lovin’ your Face
Here are some natural options for Face Exfoliating.
Here are some natural options for Body Exfoliating.
Feet don’t fail me now!
Here are some natural options for Feet Exfoliating.
Be gentle with yourself inside and out.
When you look in the mirror, consider and reflect on the thoughts that rumble around in your mind. Are they who you really are or someone else's idea about who you should be? Our minds are fluid and we can shift our thoughts at any time. Compassion comes with choice and self-care. Slough off the old expectations and images of yourself, so you can nourish and grow the liberating and living pictures of who you actually are. Life's an adventure, enjoy yours!