Natural Dental Care

Well, I’ve blogged about no ‘poo, natural soap, and natural skincare; so I guess it’s time to write about taking care of oral hygiene naturally.

My dental background: Truly, Alhamdulillah, I’ve been blessed with nice and straight teeth. So much so that when people meet me, they’ll ask if I’ve ever worn braces. I am very thankful and grateful that my teeth naturally grew in place and I have never had to go to a dentist for anything except for a check-up (and for an occasional scaling because I felt like I needed something for the dentist to do). I’ve never had any cavity and the dentist would always say my oral care was great. To be honest, I didn’t do anything special and I only brushed my teeth once a day with a regular toothbrush and toothpaste. Could also be due to my diet where I don’t like to drink tea, coffee and other teeth-staining beverages; amongst others, and I also don’t snack on sugary stuff.

Since my teeth were doing good, it didn’t occur to me to go with a “more natural” oral care. Until one dreadful day when I went to the dentist and he found 2 small cavities. They weren’t serious and were easily patched up. I wondered what I was doing differently. It could be due to getting older or not getting enough calcium or a number of things. It was then that I decided to google up natural dental care.

So I read about oil pulling, homemade toothpaste, healing tooth decay and all. I tried out the oil pulling method whereby you swish virgin coconut oil (VCO) in your mouth for 20 minutes to draw out the toxins. The process is fine but since I always swish at the bathroom sink, I will automatically spit out the oil there (which isn’t good for the pipes). Plus your sink gets dirtier faster with the oil residues. I figured that it wasn’t worth the hassle.

I also tried a homemade toothpaste mixture of just baking soda, and then I tried mixing it with VCO, and then I tried baking soda with clove oil. My tastebuds have gotten used to the awful taste of baking soda that when my mom gave me a tube of herbal toothpaste (because she said she gagged a lot and didn’t like the taste), I told her it tasted just fine.

The homemade toothpaste mixture and brushing my teeth with a toothbrush just wasn’t doing it for me. I felt like I wanted a truly natural way to brush my teeth and wondered what people used to brush with before toothbrush and toothpaste. That’s when I remembered that our beloved Prophet Muhammad S.A.W liked to clean his teeth with a miswak/siwak/tooth-stick. You really should google it and read about it. This is what they’ve used since thousands of years ago, and it’s as natural as you can get! Honestly, I don’t think you can get anything more natural than a tooth-stick. Also, there are many benefits to using the miswak, not just religion-wise but health-wise too. So I went to one of those “Islamic” stores which sells pomegranate juice, argan oil, all-natural olive oil soap, and all kinds of other stuff which I didn’t really pay attention to because I was looking for the tooth-stick.

Once I found it in its lovely individually vacuum-packed plastic, I saw that there were different types. There were some thin ones, thick ones and medium ones. I bought them all to try which I liked best. The following results would differ with different people. For me, the thin one didn’t feel like it cleaned my teeth much. The thick one was just too big and wasn’t comfortable to brush with. The medium one was juuuuuust right. It was the best out of all the sizes and it made my teeth feel clean and my breath neutral.

So the next time, I bought a whole bunch of the natural medium-sized ones. No fancy mint-flavoured ones for me. The lady at the counter was amazed with the amount I wanted to purchase that she gave me a small discount. The next time I went, it was a different lady and she asked if I actually used it. Another time I went, it was a different lady and she asked if I was going to re-sell it. (Heck NO!) The times I went after that, they would immediately recognise my car when it entered their parking lot and once I entered their store, they would just smile and point me to the miswak section. I guess they were intrigued with me as you don’t really get “young-and-modern-looking girls” coming into that kind of store to buy handfuls of miswak.

And, Alhamdulillah, I’m proud to say that I’ve been on the miswak for a few years now without fail! And the last time I went to the dentist, a few months ago, she said that my teeth were perfect with no cavities. So yes, you can survive with just a miswak and not get cavities. Alhamdulillah. In the beginning, I used it once a day. But my mouth didn’t feel fresh throughout the day. So I felt compelled to use it more frequently. Plus, we know that it’s sunnah to use it when taking ablution (which should be done at least 5 times a day). Our beloved Prophet Muhammad S.A.W used it all the time, as often as he liked. That’s how safe it is! The more I used it, the fresher, better and cleaner my mouth felt too.

It’s also great for when traveling. You know when you have a long flight and you just need to brush your teeth before landing or after a meal or whenever you feel like you need to clean your mouth? Well, you can easily bring this little tooth-stick in your carry-on bag and use it with great success! It’s just one item instead of two (toothbrush and toothpaste).

I love my miswak and the only time I get really sad is when the store is out of stock!

 

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The BEST Yogurt!

Remember My Yogurt Buying Adventure Part 1My Yogurt Buying Adventure Part 2 and my Update on Yogurt Buying posts?

Well, I haven’t been a good blogger so yes, the following info is much too late. But better late than never. All I want to say is that the best yogurt (you can buy in stores) that I have ever had so far is FAGE Total Classic Greek Yogurt (the full-fat version please) and it has the Live Active Yogurt Cultures that I was looking for in my initial search (L. Bulgaricus, S. Thermophilus).

The texture is just superb. It’s thick and creamy. It’s tang is lovely when paired with dates. I love eating my yogurt with dates. You have to try it and tell me what you think.

Anyway.

It is pricey but for the taste and great health benefits, I would splurge a little. It can be found at Village Grocer, 1Mont Kiara but if you know of anywhere else, please let me know.

Natural Soap

Every time I start to take ablution, I would wash my hands first with soap and then rinse my mouth with water. I really didn’t like the taste of the water after washing my hands with soap because I could taste the fragrance and all the other stuff in it. Try it. Wash your hands with one of those commercialised, fragranced soaps and after rinsing off all the soap and suds, rinse your mouth with some water. If you don’t taste the nastiness I tasted, then you’re all good.

Since I started with No Poo, it just seemed natural to go with natural soap too. I read every ingredient on every natural looking bar soap I encountered and I tried the pure olive oil bar soap, the olive oil soap with other natural ingredients mixed in and coconut oil with palm oil soap.

My Results:
– I did not like the pure olive oil bar soaps I tried because they smelled awful when wet and the bathroom would have this annoying smell when wet and dry.
– The olive oil soaps with other natural ingredients mixed in smelled better but they would still have that distinct awful olive oil soap smell. And yes, the bathroom too.
– The coconut oil with palm oil soaps didn’t have any smell and I really liked them a lot!
– These natural bar soaps were great for washing hands with and when followed by rinsing my mouth with water, there was no nasty taste.
– I buy my coconut oil with palm oil soap from Radiant. You can easily find this at Village Grocer’s organic section in Bangsar Village I.

Natural No Poo Hair Care

I’ve been blessed with a head full of dark locks, Alhamdulillah. I grew up desiring a certain kind of hair while that certain-kind-of-haired girls dreamt of having my kind of hair. Typical of wanting what you don’t have and thinking that it’s always greener on the other side. But yes, in my late teens, as soon as I had enough money to have my hair’s texture changed, I went to a salon and had it done. And I went through all that hassle of its upkeep and whatnot. After learning to love almost everything about myself, I let my hair grow naturally and had all the chemically processed hair chopped off. When I started to let my hair go au naturel, whenever my girlfriends saw me, they would ask if I just came from the salon or if I had my hair done.

I’ve tried a lot of those popular shampoos you see in stores but would only be happy with them for the first few washes. Then it just doesn’t feel spectacular anymore. I tried switching to natural shampoo, but I find that it makes my hair feel stiff when wet and even worse after it’s dried.

One day, I stumbled upon “No Poo“. Google it and see if it’ll change your mind and make you test it out. A friend of mine tried it and told me that because she had such big hair, she couldn’t do it properly and didn’t like the outcome. So she ditched it. After I read so many peoples’ stories online about their No Poo journey, I figured that I would try it out after I cut my hair shorter. That way, I wouldn’t tangle my hair out too much in the beginning. I think this was wise because after No Poo-ing with short hair, my transition stage wasn’t noticeable and I’ve been No Poo-ing for more than a couple of years now. Sure, there are a few times I think about going back to normal store-bought shampoo but since I’m happy with the way my hair looks and feels, there really is no reason to change back.

The Truth About No Poo
Okay, is it really that great? I’ve had to learn the hard way, so read up if you want to try this out.
* Disclaimer: This is my story and every person will have different hair conditions and reactions. There is NO one cure for everyone. I’m just penning down my experience in case anybody would like to take this route.
– No Poo uses baking soda mixed in water solution as your “shampoo” and vinegar mixed in water solution as your “conditioner”. You’ll see that there’ll be different measurements as to how much baking soda, water and vinegar is used. When I found my “perfect measurement”, the nth time I tried it, it didn’t feel so awesome anymore and I had to change the amounts used. So for me, the amounts used on my head always changes. There is no perfect solution (pun intended).
– Don’t go overboard with the baking soda. Always, always make sure it is thoroughly rinsed out. You do not want to look like you have a bad case of dandruff!
– Some blogs I’ve read said they used about 1 tablespoon baking soda in a cup of water or something like that. I find that less than 1 teaspoon in a bowl of water suits me better. The water when the baking soda is mixed in will have a slightly “slimy” feel.
– People say to rinse with a vinegar solution (I use apple cider vinegar [ACV]) and that the smell dissipates as your hair dries. True, the smell from the hair does dissipate. BUT, the ACV that gets onto your scalp and into your pores will make you smell when you sweat it out. Trust me, I live in hot, humid Malaysia. So from then on, I would rinse it out really well. For a time, I tried to only apply the ACV solution to the length of my hair and not the roots and scalp. But I feel that putting it on your scalp helps get rid of any excess baking soda, so please make sure to rinse it out well.
– My ACV solution would be just a few drops of ACV in a bowl of water as I don’t like the strong smell. Use what works with you as everybody’s needs will be different.
– If I feel like I want my scalp to be rinsed as well, instead of using ACV, I rinse with plain 100% carbonated water only. You wouldn’t want sugar or lemon flavour on your scalp!
– I love air-drying my hair and the texture my hair gets after it’s dry is pretty awesome.
– Plus point when traveling! You do not need to lug or fill your tiny travel bottles with your special shampoo and conditioner. Mostly every store all around the world (hopefully!) will sell baking soda and vinegar (white distilled is fine if you can’t find ACV). I never worry about liquids when I go through security at the airports!
– If there is a time you want to feel like having a soapy, bubbling feel on your head but you don’t want to revert back to those commercial shampoos, try out Radiant Shampoo which is made with coconut oil and palm oil. I get mine at the organic section of Village Grocer, Bangsar Village (BV). I then rinse with carbonated water.
– You will find that your hair will smell like nothing. I like it. If you don’t, you will need to add some essential oils to your solution — you can google it to find out what kinds of essential oils are safe.
– I know most No Poo reviewers say that they don’t need to wash their hair as often, but when living in a hot and humid country like Malaysia, that might not really work. And when you’re sweating, washing with only water just doesn’t cut it. I find that I will need to wash every other day or after.
– Washing too often makes me feel like I need to treat my hair weekly or every fortnight. I like to condition my whole head with ripe, mashed avocado. You will need to make sure that no green bits stick in your hair after washing! I’ve read people like to condition their hair with coconut milk (santan), but I find it gets too oily for me.
– I find that this No Poo works best with shorter hairstyles. Once your hair grows more than shoulder-length, it might tend to tangle more in the shower. When this happens, I condition my ends with nice oils like Virgin Coconut Oil (VCO), Argan Oil, or Jojoba Oil (all are 100% oils).

Tips – How I No ‘Poo:
– I use Wilton’s Mini Decorating Squeeze Bottles (sold in a pack of two) – you can google this to see it. I make a baking soda solution in one bottle and a vinegar rinse in the other. The cone tip ensures I get this solution onto my scalp well.
– I’ll squeeze the baking soda solution all over my scalp and then use a round shampoo comb (google image this) and massage my head. If you don’t have this, just use your fingertips and rub your scalp to ensure the solution gets on every surface. You can leave it on or rinse it off immediately. I don’t usually leave it on for more than a minute as I feel the massage has done its job well.
– After I thoroughly rinse the baking soda solution off my scalp, I’ll squeeze on the ACV solution (or carbonated water) all over my scalp and then massage with the round shampoo comb. I will also comb through my hair until the end (unlike the baking soda step. With the baking soda, I just concentrate on my scalp). If I use carbonated water, I won’t rinse my hair. If I use the ACV solution, I will rinse my scalp and hair thoroughly because I do not want it to get into my pores and make me smell.
– Leave to air-dry or blow-dry. If you feel the need to oil your ends, do it. I feel anything shorter than shoulder-length is basically fuss-free.

Skin Care (Face)

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The top-most square of the picture above was the condition of my skin during my teen years and early twenties. Overall, my skin was smooth but I remember my face being oily and having the usual pimples during that-time-of-the-month.

The horrendous group of pictures in the middle was during my mid-twenties where pimples started to erupt all over my face. Long story that I’ll tell you about later.

Lastly, the group of 3 pictures on the bottom is the condition of my current facial skin (late twenties). The terrible acne condition has gone away (Alhamdulillah) and my skin is ok. Of course, not as smooth as my school and university years, but definitely better than during that horrible pimple phase. Will also jot down of how I cured it.

How My Face Erupted
* Disclaimer: This is my story and every person will have different skin conditions and reactions. There is NO one cure for everyone. I’m just penning down my experience in case anybody would like to take this route.

First of all, during my teens and before my mid twenties, I remember having combination skin and was always trying this product and that. Cleansing, toning, moisturising; spending money unnecessarily on beauty products that made me think the product was working or improving my skin. In retrospect, I believe I didn’t have to use anything on my face and could’ve just washed with water. That’s definitely the power of the media having me believe that my face condition could “heal” or get better with beauty products. I think that if your facial skin condition is without any serious problems, you can just clean your face with water. (Alhamdulillah as Muslims, we wash our faces 5 times daily during ablution before performing our prayers. I feel that 5 times [plus 1 final wash with just water before going to bed] is sufficient for daily facial washes.)

Wow, that intro was long! So, how did my face erupt? Well, it happened after I graduated from university and went on an island holiday in beautiful Malaysia. In all that excitement, I religiously slathered on sunblock lotion to my face and all over my body because I didn’t want to get burnt by the sun as I was out all day. This was my first time using a lot of sunblock on my face for a couple of days so I guess my face reacted with all the “chemical” ingredients that it wasn’t used to coupled with the amount of sun exposure I was getting. My face was okay during the first day. The second day, I noticed it getting red all over and brushed it off thinking I was getting burnt by the sun by being out too much. The third day, it got even redder and started to itch a bit. The condition just worsened and by the time the holiday was over, I thought that if I rest and cool off by staying indoors, my face would heal itself and go back to normal. I don’t really remember how the eruption started to look because I was traumatised. But I can say that after a month, my face did not heal itself. I tried so many products and my face just stayed red with big, ugly acne (filled with pus sometimes) all over my cheeks, chin and forehead. Very gross.

After many months, my dad was concerned as he saw that it didn’t go away and he is a big advocate of healing naturally and using natural products (always was and always will be. I wasn’t aware of this fact while I was growing up because as a young adult I thought I knew better than my parents). I don’t remember what he made me try but I do remember that he bought a lot of fresh goats milk and had me drink it. (I didn’t try washing my face with it though because of the smell.) But I think the condition of my skin was something that needed to be repaired with something more than natural products.

Oh yes, I think I must mention that my eating habits has always been quite healthy in the sense that I LOVE drinking water only and I liked eating fruits and I REALLY dislike junk food, fast food and soda. I didn’t eat as many vegetables as I should but I did eat the vegetables that I liked. I did increase my water and vegetable intake but still no change with the acne problem.

Later, my dad suggested I try Clinique and I went to the counter but the lady there said that my facial skin condition was too severe. Even the lady at the SKII counter told me to check with a dermatologist first and only try their products once the inflammation died down and the huge pus-filled pimples were gone.

Going to a skin specialist at the time was out of my parents’ budget so I had to endure my bad skin problem for 2-3 years until I got a job and saved enough money to see one. During that whole time, I had to tell myself that my face wasn’t that bad and I still looked good. I know the pity looks and the disgusted looks I got from people who knew me from before it happened.

Anyway, life went on and I wasn’t actively looking for a cure. On one fateful day, I got sick and went to a normal clinic to see the doctor for my flu or whatever it was and he got concerned with my acne. He was so kind and gave me some antibiotics for the acne and told me to see him once I’ve finished those pills. (During this time in my life, I hadn’t learned and cared about organic products and healing naturally, etc. But in retrospect, even if I had, I believe I would’ve taken this route anyway because nothing else was working.)

So after I finished the course and went to see the doctor, he saw that the pimples were still there and the medication he provided didn’t help. He then suggested I see a specialist and wrote me a referral letter. His kind nurse wished me luck and hoped my skin condition would improve. I called up the specialist’s office and set up an appointment for as soon as possible.

Like most popular skin specialists in KL, it’s normal to wait for a long time as there will always be many people wanting to see the doctor. This was no different. The specialist I was referred to almost a decade ago was Nathan Skin Clinic at the PKNS Building on Jalan Raja Laut in KL. If you’re interested to see him, google the info because I went many yonks ago and for only 6 months. I wouldn’t know if they’ve moved or changed phone numbers, etc.

So Dr Nathan took a look at my face and prescribed me some pills which I was under strict orders not to get pregnant as it could harm the fetus. I told him that that was no problem as I wasn’t married yet. I believe these were Retin-A pills; I don’t remember the exact name of the pills. Anyway, he told me to just wash my face with water and gave me an liquid lotion which I was to put on my face before bedtime. I think my first consultation costed me about RM180 (not sure about the prices now as this was almost a decade ago!). After the first week, I could see that my skin was improving.

During the second visit, I got my pill supply topped up and I think that visit costed RM300+. Every subsequent visit after was about RM300+ as well. Basically, my skin regime during that time was washing my face with water and eating the pills as prescribed. My face cleared up extremely well and after 6 months, I stopped seeing him. He didn’t say to stop; but I didn’t see the need to keep up with the medication as my face had cleared up of the nasty, pus-filled acne. It was clear but not baby-butt smooth. But I was ecstatic.

Current Facial Skin Condition
Now, after many years of pretty clear skin, I guess I can say that the Retin-A pills had killed whatever bacteria was in my body that made those mean, red pimples. I don’t even get pimples as often anymore (could be due to getting older anyway). I also am more aware of my whole body and its changes so I can tell that I might get some of those little, sandy acne when I’m stressed or the weather is too hot, etc. And I still am just washing my face with water ONLY (for at least 5 times a day)! I don’t spend on any beauty products but then again, I don’t wear makeup. I don’t use any cleansers or toners. I don’t moisturise my face. I don’t wear sunblock (heck, I stay far, far away from it since it scarred my face and traumatised me!) This current skincare regime suits me especially when I travel cos I don’t have to worry about packing any skin care essentials. I’m not saying that my face is flawless, but I like the fact that I don’t need special or specific facial products. Simple and minimalist is the best way for me.

Things I Now Know & Tips
1) Face condition:
– I’ve gotten in tune with my body and have discovered that before and during my “monthly visit”, my face will become slightly oilier and I will need to wash it more often.
– During my fertile days (when I’m ovulating), my skin can either be super smooth and beautiful OR I can get a friendly pimple or two on my face. My skin condition during this time will be a surprise. And these pimples only last a few days so they will go away. No pimple cream will make it vanish faster, I’ve tried.. However, if it’s one of those stubborn ones, I dab some baking soda mixed with water on it, let it dry; then wipe it off with some Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) diluted with water. Do it at night before bedtime because ACV is a nasty smell.
2) Since I’m into natural things now, when I feel like pampering my face, I’ll try out a one-minute face mask with either spreading :
– plain yogurt on my face (don’t wear it too long because the smell of yogurt even after you rinse it off isn’t that nice)
– oats mixed with plain yogurt (rub the oats off in a circular motion)
– honey (it’s sticky and you just need to spread a thin, even layer on)
– a solution of baking soda mixed with water (not too much baking soda that will make it pasty, but just a little so the water feels “slimy”; then wipe off with a bowl of water with a few drops of ACV mixed in)
3) Makeup remover: Like I’ve said before, I don’t wear makeup but during the rare times that I do, I will wipe off the makeup using the Oil Cleansing Method (OCM). Have you tried this? It’s pretty neat and I like it. I’ve tried it a few times (even if I’m not wearing makeup and want a night pampering session). Google it cos there are many types of face-safe oils you can use; but for me I like to use castor oil mixed with either almond oil or virgin coconut oil (VCO). I massage it on my face then place a hot (make sure you can tolerate the heat or else let it cool a bit) face towel and steam my face until the towel is cooler and wipe the oil off with the towel. You can repeat the towel-steam-face step. I find that my face feels soft and smooth the whole of the next day. Plus, my skin doesn’t break out! Pretty awesome, methinks.

My Yogurt Buying Adventure Part 1

Buying yogurt in Malaysia used to be such a hard task for me. I’m a full-fat girl because I don’t believe in low-fat foodstuff (as you can tell from my previous post) and whole milk/full fat is better for you. Plus, I only like plain natural yogurt. That way, I can add in my own choice of honey and/or fruits.

Anyway, while grocery shopping, I looked at the various brands of yogurt and saw that 99% were all proud to say they were “low-fat” or “fat-free”. Since I wanted whole milk yogurt, I found this particular brand which sold natural yogurt and Greek yogurt. I was relieved that it didn’t say low-fat/fat-free so I quickly bought those two to try. Rookie mistake. I didn’t read the ingredient label as I normally do.

When I ate the yogurts, I was wondering why it didn’t taste nice at all. It was nothing like the delicious whole milk yogurt I was used to. While pondering, I examined the tub closely and began reading the ingredients. First up, it said “Skim Milk”. *insert sad face* I’m pretty sure it tasted the way it did because it skimmed the delicious fatty yet healthy cream from the milk.

So, I went on a mission. Whenever I saw a Cold Storage, Village Grocer or Mercato, I’d check out their yogurts (amongst other things). Being my usual self, a label nazi, I read all the ingredients. Browsing through the yogurt shelves, I skipped through all the flavoured yogurt and ignored those that were clearly marked low-fat/non-fat/fat-free. Those unmarked would warrant me to read the ingredients label and weed out those that used skim milk.

Lo and behold, what did I find? That there are NO yogurts made with whole milk! I’m stunned as I cannot believe that the whole of Malaysia really eats only low-fat or non-fat yogurt. Why??? Does no one want the creamy, full of fat whole milk yogurt? It’s good and healthy! Then again, I don’t really know Malaysians who really love yogurt for its taste (because they’ve only been sold the low-fat/non-fat variety).

So I checked out online how to make my own yogurt and was disappointed that you need yogurt to start with. Sure, I can use a bit of the low-fat yogurt and use whole milk; but then I needed the live and active cultures. And guess what? Most of the yogurts sold do not claim they’re made with LIVE cultures, so of course I would assume the cultures were not live and active as I’m sure it would be a selling point, no? I did find some yogurt that said it was made with live cultures, but when I read the ingredients, it didn’t state which cultures. I had 2 specific cultures that I wanted in mind — Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus. Since they weren’t disclosing which bacteria they used, I wasn’t going to use them.

I also looked at those dried yogurt starters but was even more disappointed when I read the ingredients. It had so many additional things that I didn’t want to consume. To Be Continued…