Update at the bottom.
OK. Let’s talk about some seemingly superficial stuffs. Anyone who knows me well may note that I never talk about these things as they speak to my vanities and I am so vain that I am careful to hide such vanities. But in the interest of the betterment of societies—and my internal organs—let’s talk skincare products.
One of those hidden blessings of moving to Morocco is having to rethink my bee-u-tee products, such as facial moisturizer, exfoliates, shampoos and so on. I am fairly low maintenance, don’t use any styling stuffs at all, though I like to use Good products on myself. By ‘good’ I mean natural, environmentally friendly and the like. At various times in my life I have brushed my teeth exclusively with baking soda and used castile soap to clean everything else. At other times I have used the full line of expensive face products or others from conscientious companies. Currently I haven’t used a face wash in nearly ten years, but I do exfoliate a couple times a week and use moisturizer at least twice a day—still trying to use my products responsibly. Well, that’s a bit harder here in Morocco where the most toxic product makers have a firm hand on the market. And I insist that I don’t want to have to rely on stuffs from back home. I want to live here wholly. You know, buy local blah, blah, blah.
So. It’s kind of stupid how I have gone about this, but here is my winded story about going green in Morocco with my personal products. When we first got here we tried to find a “natural” or “gentle” shampoo to share with the kids. I brought a little bottle of Dr.Bronner’s for the baby’s needs. Well. We didn’t really find anything. “Natural” bar soap is available but it doesn’t list the ingredients (one of which is definitely fragrance) and man do I hate soap scum. So we made do with some Spanish-labeled (meaning European made) “suave” shampoo for babies/kids. To be clear to folks who maybe haven’t read or thought about this stuff and wonder why we didn’t just get baby shampoo: Johnson and Johnson was offered to us at a few places where we asked for “natural” or “gentle for babies” shampoo and J&J is toxic, nice marketing work though. Most shampoos have toxic stuffs in them, even baby shampoos. So, a couple days ago, this is several months that we have been using it, I compared the label of our “gentle for babies” shampoo to another regular big name shampoo we have and the ingredients are THE SAME except the “gentle” one has chamomile extract in it. I stopped using shampoo that day, again. I have tried to quit shampoo a few times in my life, but we will get to that in a minute.
Hair and Body
About a month into Morocco and our search for natural products, the husband brought home some black soap shavings and some hair stuff called Souplesse Shampooing Crème or Ghassoul Moussant.
I haven’t worked with the raw black soap other than letting the kids carve it. I started using the Souplesse exclusively, but continued to use shampoo as body wash and on the kids. That was really dumb. The kids and their porous lil bodies should be my primary concern, but I felt that I was guinea piggy myself to see if it would work. Anyway. This new system basically meant that I was quitting shampoo, but using a deep conditioner though I didn’t know that was what Souplesse is, and actually I am still not clear about what it is because we have interpreter/translation complications. So with this quasi-shampoo-free system, as so many people have testified before, my hair adjusted to my natural pH level (or whatever, let’s not get too technical here) and was gorgeous within about a week. I mean super model thick and lustrous and gorgeous, masha Allah.
But. Psychologically I couldn’t handle it. And this is where I always get hung-up when I try to quit shampoo. To a lesser degree I worry about my face breaking out from all the natural oils in my hair, but that doesn’t happen. What I am really hung up on is being indoctrinated to believe that my hair is not clean. I must use shampoo and therefore conditioner which is just dumb, dumb, dumb as well as bad for my skin, organs and the environment. Even though my hair was looking great, I hadn’t adjusted to the different feel of both my scalp and hair. I caved and used shampoo.
So, here we go again. I cut off a few inches of my long hair, (all by myself and I did a pretty good job, this being the fourth time I have done so) and now it really is at its healthiest best and again I am going shampoo-free. I just hope I can stop being a dastard (not a typo) and go through with it this time. I may look into making a vinegar rinse if I get too freaked out. I also want to quit using it on the kids and use only the “natural” bar soap on their bodies as well as mine. I guess this means a quick scrub and rinse off after they play in the tub for a while. When did I become such a fussy old lady, stuck in her ways?
As for my face products I have been down to just exfoliating a couple times a week and moisturizing twice daily for about nine years. At times I have attempted to add onto that regime, like using straight vitamin E on some dry areas during the sub-arctic winters, but that’s the daily routine. So those are products which I brought a little extra of until I could find new ones here. I have searched the beauty suppliers—upscale and common—and you basically have two options here for buying cosmetics and beauty products 1) affordable toxin-filled big name stuffs or 2) expensive toxin-filled fancy name stuffs. Then there is natural. Really natural, like olive or argan oil. There is a whole line of natural oils available at the common shops and I hope to look at those more closely in the next few months. For now I found an argan-based moisturizer that is working really well, though I am not completely satisfied with the ambiguous label. Being able to use 100% pure oil on my face is the ultimate goal. Whew, “oil on my face” sounds exactly what I have been trying to get rid of for years, so that’s one to work towards.
I am extremely pleased with my little industrious self for finding a new exfoliating regime. My good friend Iman, started cleaning here face here in Morocco with baking soda and avocado after she nearly killed herself (exaggeration, but it hurt!) by accidentally inhaling Nivea when she sneezed in the shower. This burned her throat, led to infection and got her on anti-biotics–an abrupt shove down the path to natural! Now, I can’t use baking soda on my sensitive skin, but avocado sounded very tempting. Too tempting, I kept eating the avocados before I could get them into the bathroom! So, I thought about all the other “natural” ingredients that I have used in store bought products. I considered pineapple, oatmeal, apricots, and rice. Rice! A friend of mine once had some very high-brow “Japenese rice skin polishing powder” or something like that and it occurred to me, hmmm. A couple weeks ago I started making The Bebeh her very own custom, handcrafted babyfood. Using a coffee grinder I finely grind rice into a powder before cooking. Viola! I add a little water to make a paste and now have a fabulous exfoliating mask. I have only used it twice (I have to stop myself from exfoliating no more than twice weekly!!) and it has really done a great job. My skin is smooth and lovely.
So, the plan is: Commit to quitting shampoo. Investigate those pure oils at the shops and try to find a purer moisturizer. Experiment with the black soap shavings. Include the kids. Go Moroccan Green!
**Update: A few friends have tried the rice polishing thing and are very happy with it. It seems the starch tightens up the pores and draws out yuckiness while it also sloughs off dead skin. It does feel like when I used to get facials. I’m loving the suggestions in the comments. Thanks all