The one where I talk about no-poo haircare…

So just before I started blogging over here, I shared about my hair issues. I’ve had wavy curls since I was a teenager, but didn’t realise it until I was at university and someone told me about hair mousse and what that weird flying saucer with spikes attachment was that came with my hairdryer was for. Suddenly I discovered what my hair had been needing all those years before GHD hair straighteners were invented.

However, depo provera has (I think) caused me to age more prematurely. My hair began to fall out and started going grey. I started getting it dyed blonde. I was using heavy conditioners and washing my hair every day because my scalp was in a terrible state and the conditioners left build up, plus stripped my hair of natural oils. It was a state.

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Before I went shampoo free

In addition to this, I was concerned about my environmental impact after learning more about marine litter from Surfers Against Sewage. I wanted to find a haircare routine that was better for my hair and for the environment. A few curly haired pals suggested the Curly Girl Handbook, and it was a godsend. I went investigating, tried lots of things. 6 weeks of ups and downs as my hair and skin got used to it’s ‘new normal’ I began to find the products that worked vs. the ones that claimed to be all-natural that were actually full of rubbish. My hair is still not something that people desire, but it’s so much better than it was before I went shampoo free.

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My hair today – it needs cut and hasn’t had a deep condition treatment in a while, but a vast improvement in my opinion!

Shampoo Alternatives: From Sulphate free to none at all!

My first step was trying sulphate free shampoos, as I wasn’t *quite* brave enough at first. There were also people on internet saying that using baking soda and apple cider vinegar was terrible, had done really horrible things to their hair. However, I didn’t find the sulphate free shampoos all that much better. I tried the Body Shop’s Rainforest range, L’oreal sulphate free  and ‘botanical’ conditioner ranges (they were awful), Naked Bodycare (which was good, but then got bought over by Boots and disappeared) and then I gave up as they were all pretty rubbish.

So I decided to try baking soda solution laid out in the Curly Girl handbook. I was mainly worried about how to manage it, given that I’m not a morning person so tend to be in a rush because I’ve hit the snooze button too many times.img_8476I found a friend in a small measuring jug and measuring spoon. I was able to run the hot water tap while I used the toilet (TMI? Well, I always have a pee before I get in the shower!!) so the water was running warm by the time I washed my hands, then could fill the jug to the 1 cup mark, then add 3 teaspoons (as the tablespoon didn’t fit into the baking soda recepticle) of baking soda into the warm water, stirred it quickly for a few seconds until I heard the fizz and then took it into the shower with me. I have a little metal basket thing that I can place the jug in that is out of the shower stream while I soaked my hair, then poured the solution over my head and hair. I massage the whole of my scalp, and then rinse it out. Voila! Clean hair. I was also astounded on how long it took for my hair to get greasy again. I still had issues with my hair frizzing and tangling (so I wore a lot of headscarfs and also carried around some conditioner in a travel pump bottle, a comb and some lavender water spray during that first winter – as wooly scarves and long frizzy hair didn’t mix well) but I was soon only washing my hair every 4-5 days instead of every 1-2 days. I also used coconut oil on the ends of my hair if I did straighten it (which sometimes I did for work during that first winter because it was very long and still knotting badly), and a few times I went to bed after putting it all over my hair and scalp and washed it out the following morning with baking soda solution. I eventually cut it short as I realised that it was so badly damaged from hair dye, but was shocked to find the next winter that though my hair was getting longer it wasn’t tangling and knotting as it previously had against woolly scarves and jumpers.

I saved my baking soda containers that I got from the baking ingredients section of the supermarket, then was able to get a larger bag from my local health foods store to continue refilling it. This helped me reduce and recycle the plastic containers.

Although I will admit that this week, I did get totally sales pitched into trying out and then buying this shampoo. The health food shop hasn’t had baking soda last two times I was in, so on my way home I stopped in Lush…

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It was a shocking £11.50 (thank goodness for birthday money) but I couldn’t resist how yummy it smelled. You do not need a lot – like literally a coin sized dollop – so hopefully it lasts for months! I also like that Lush let you bring back in the tubs and they’ll reuse them.

Finding a conditioner

The conditioning part was harder. My hair was so damaged, and my scalp was a mess. I tried lots of the ‘recipes’ in the Curly Girl handbook, and eventually I found a conditioner that has served me well. I need quite a lot of it to detangle my hair, but it doesn’t seem to make my hair go greasy or leave build up on my scalp like others did. It is annoyingly £5 a pop (which is expensive in my book) so I try to wait until it’s on offer in Boots and stock up. The other annoying part is that it doesn’t come in a recyclable container. However it is free from lots of nasty chemicals we don’t want in our water.

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Scalp Treatment

On the scalp issues. I now don’t have as much of a problem, other than I’ve not shifted the scalp scratching habit I picked up from when I had psoriasis in my early teens and years of itchy scalp. My scalp is rarely itchy now, but I still scratch and pick at it out of habit. YUK! (Again, sorry for the TMI). But during those first months, I used a conditioner and some quinoa to make a hair scrub. It’s about 1tbsp of quinoa to 3tbsp of conditioner. You mix it up, and then massage all over your scalp from the base of your neck up. It helps exfoliate your scalp, and moisturise it at the same time. I was trying out the ‘Yes-To’ brand at the time, after the original conditioner I was using went out of business. I’ve found their scalp relief conditioner best for doing the scrub with. Weirdly I don’t find it great as a hair conditioner, but it has worked for the scrubs.

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I will however warn you that the quinoa scrub will make quite the mess in your shower or bath. Do make sure to rinse it out quickly, and unclog your plug hole. Also, don’t do what I did at surf camp one year and pre-make your quinoa scrub and keep it ready made in a container. That quinoa sitting in moisture filled conditioner will start to sprout and smell really bad after a few days. BOAK!

Styling Curls

Onto the curls…I wanted to stop using hair mousse because of the aerosol type cans that again, I don’t think are great for the environment. Curly Girl Handbook recommended using aloe vera gel, however I’ve never been able to find a shop that sells this (other than as a drink and I don’t think that’s what she means). I’ve also killed all my aloe vera plants because I’m basically a serial plant killer. The best thing I could find was in the ‘Afro Hair’ section of Sally Hair Design (according to the hairdressing world, everyone should have straight hair, and it’s only recently that places have started to properly cater for curly hair, and it all seems to be in this section).

The closest hair gel I could find to the Curly Girl recommendations was this one:

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I found it a bit sticky still though, but when I went back to get more, I found some new products in a range called Cantu. They’ve also started making leaflets for curly hair care, and this got recommended for wavy hair so I’ve been trying this

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It smells divine, but I have to say that if I use too much it makes my hair a little greasy. I find it’s usable if I put a dollop’s worth on just on the ends of my hair and scrunch it in when my hair is soaking wet. I’ll then blow dry with the diffuser.

From hair to skincare?

I’ve also been going make up and other beauty product free for the last two years after realising that my headaches seemed to  coincide with wearing eye make up, and last year after a bout of eczema got it on my lips every time I wore a lip gloss. However, after a year of unsuccessfully applying for jobs, I’m wondering if my natural look is hindering me at interviews. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I guess most women in their 30s are expected to turn up with tamed hair, a face of make up, skirts and heels. So I’m now looking into ethical make up and trying some products out. Again, it’s expensive for my budget, but I do miss wearing make up and if it helps me get a job that I love then I’m willing to spend a little bit. I’ve discovered some products at Lush, and been recommended Neal’s Yard who do a few things as well. I expect that will be a whole other post though!

I hope this helps for those of you asking me about going ‘no-poo’ and trying to use more ethical products. I definitely recommend Lorraine Massey’s Curly Girl handbook if you have curly  hair. I also found the Ethical Consumer website hugely helpful too, and trying to use that more to inform where I shop and what I buy.

I will say that this is just what worked for me. All of us have different bodies and different hair. I had someone who I massively respect and is experienced ‘no-poo’ natural haircare person (much more than I am). She swears by using a boar bristle brush to stop you having to wash your hair as often. I tried it and my hair went nuts. She told me it would definitely work when I said it didn’t on curly hair, so I did keep trying because I knew from experience of it taking a while for my hair and scalp to appreciate the no shampoo and being washed less it might be that…but nope! It just makes my hair greasy at the top and frizzy and static. It’s not a good look. So please know that if you try anything and find it doesn’t work for you…that’s ok! I’m personally sticking with my brush free life with just my wide toothed wooden detangling comb for company (and it only gets used on wet hair).

Let me know if you’ve got any tips on what has worked/not worked for you, as I’m sure others would like to hear your experiences too.

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Earth Day…

Today is Earth Day. You don’t have to look too far to notice that there are a lot of issues about the way we are treating this planet. Between whales washing up on shore with stomachs full of plastic, to freaky weather, to earthquakes, droughts and the rest…we are not living in a sustainable way.

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Here’s just a few simple things that you can do to make things a bit better…

Reduce your plastic.

Refuse those shopping bags, and take your own reusable NON plastic ones. Bring your own mug or bottle for putting drink in.

If you want to get radical, write to companies who have unnecessary plastic packaging. It is really sad that we are moving from glass (much more reusable and recyclable) to plastic!

Recycle

Does it really need to go to the general waste bin? If it can be recycled, do recycle. We don’t have dusters in our house. We use (clean) old knickers and t shirts that no charity shop is ever going to want!

Save on fuel

Can you walk, cycle, get the bus, train or car share? Save money and save the need for more drilling and fracking…

Save water

Turn off the tap when you are brushing your teeth. Don’t leave the shower running for ages before you get in. Also help the water system by making sure you don’t drop litter or put anything other than the 4 Ps (pee, poo, (toilet) paper & the other one I don’t like mentioning or ever happening) down your toilet.

Save electricity

Use those low energy bulbs, don’t leave your phone/laptop/mp3 player/tablet plugged in longer than it needs charging, switch lights off when you leave a room. Don’t fill your kettle with more water than you need to boil…

These are all just simple things you can do to help our earth a little more. 🙂

Happy Earth Day!

Keeping hydrated while reducing your plastics

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Water.

We are supposed to drink 2-3 litres of liquid a day. Water is a cheap way of doing that, keeps the dentists happy (none of those sugars in it) and I’d say that drinking water over fizzy drinks, caffeinated drinks is going to improve your skin, your energy levels etc – assuming that you are eating healthily too!

As I mentioned in my last ‘eco-koala’ post, I’m trying to get rid of my evian addiction. I loooovvee Evian mineral water, and somewhere there is a picture of me joyfully holding a bottle of Evian in Copenhagen airport after over a week of separation from the stuff while doing work experience as a Dance Teacher in Sweden.

There are few reasons I want to cut down on my bottled water addiction. One: it’s not good that we are taking all the water out the ground, adding stuff to it and selling it. Not to mention all the air travel and plastic manufacturing involved. Two: I’m lucky enough to live in a country where clean fresh water is plentiful (thanks to all our mountains and rainy climate). Three: As mentioned in reason 1…I want to reduce my plastic waste.

The only issue is that I seem to have some kind of crazy tastebuds that can totally tell the difference between Coca Cola and Pepsi, Sainsbury’s Orange Juice to Innocent Orange Juice and between Volvic and Evian. I can’t stand the taste of Volvic, and I don’t like the taste of Edinburgh tap water (or as I affectionately call it: council juice).

But I need to drink more water…so I’ve found a solution. Last term when many of the Senior Section girls were on exam leave we had a pamper night. I brought lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and dip as snacks while the girls did face masks and manicures on themselves. I also filled up two jugs with water and put slices of lemon and cucumber in it. I actually got the idea from an episode of Brothers and Sisters – or more importantly Nora Walker who is raving about how it gets you to drink more water. I did drink more water!

For the last month I’ve been trying new things to add to the water. I think the raspberries with a slice of cucumber and lemon is my favourite. Today, I have strawberries that I bought as they are currently in season (and therefore about half the price they would normally be at other times of year). I may have to buy punnets of strawberries to freeze for winter – purely to put in my water!

And yes, I’m making use of the reusable water bottles I have. I find the camelbak flasks with straws the easiest to drink out of – I’ve been taking these to work where I often forget to drink and end up very dehydrated by the end of the day. I already owned two different camelbak flasks, but I know that it is better to get non-plastic reusable bottles (that plastic manufacturing thing again).

I also recommend keeping a jug of water in the fridge too.

Have you tried anything to help you drink more tap water?

Trying to be more Eco-Koala: A request for help

Growing up I was aware of environmental issues. I think partly because I loved Geography which was a lovely exploration of the natural and human world and how they effect (affect?) each other. And also because I fell in love with sea turtles when I was 10 when I discovered a non-profit conservation organisation ARCHELON (The Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece) while on holiday in Zakynthos.I got lazy about environmental issues when I got older, and in recent years my faith has led me to realise that the earth is this amazing creation of beauty – and we are destroying it. And that just ain’t cool!

SAS in Dunbar

About six years ago now, I had the opportunity to meet Andy Cummins who heads up Surfers Against Sewage when he was visiting Dunbar. I had learned about SAS in high school briefly when studying Politics in my Modern Studies class, and learned a bit more from my good friends Brian and Vicky. I even took a picture of Brian, Vicky and their daughter that was published alongside an interview article when they were featured in SAS’s magazine. And campers and leaders at Surf Camp have learned about Surfers Against Sewage and done beach cleans as part of the camp too.

While doing the beach clean at surf camp, I was shocked to discover on a relatively clean beach that was lacking in litter compared to many I’ve been on was the amount of mermaid tears in the sand. Mermaid tears are the nickname given to resin pellets used in plastic manufacturing.They are teeny tiny – like beads you might get on a bracelet, and it’s not until you look closely at the sand that you see them. I can assure you once you spot them, you’ll realise you can see 100s of them. Plastic doesn’t decompose. And yet we now use it loads – because it is lightweight compared to glass I guess.

I’m also an ex-health scientist. I haven’t done any health science research in a while, but what I learned in those years has stuck with me. It has definitely got me eating healthier (though I still have a sugar addiction!). Part of my reasoning for my natural haircare experiment was to reduce the chemicals I was pouring through my hair and down the shower drain and into the air. I haven’t used hairspray since last year. I haven’t used any shampoo or conditioner containing Phthalates, parabens or silicones since last year. I’ve also pretty much stopped wearing make up, and have discovered that I seem to be more prone to headaches when I’m wearing eye make up which I think may not be a coincidence. I’m currently looking for better make up, better cleaning products (for my home and for my body!) and trying to get rid of my addiction to evian.

And so I’m now looking for answers.

I would love to try (and feature on my blog) more ethical and environmentally friendly alternatives to skincare and beauty products, as well as everyday ways we can reduce our use of plastics, toxic chemicals and more. I am not looking to earn any money from doing this. I don’t really have a disposable income and I blog purely for pleasure. But also with this, I would like to  help anyone else interested coming along for the journey with me in trying to live a more earth friendly lifestyle. If you are a company/organisation/individual that would like to help me with that, please do get in touch with me.

 

Curly Girl Hairdressing Experiences

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It’s been a while since I mentioned my natural haircare experiment. After giving up shampoo and expensive silicone based conditioners that all hairdressers seem to have a sales pitch for, I discovered that my hair doesn’t need washed every second day. There was also noticeable improvement to the health of my scalp (which would usually get worse in the winter months). However, what didn’t change was the insane tangles and knots in my hair which led to me having to straighten my hair during the Christmas period because long curly hair + black cardigan or scarf = giant knot of matted hair.

My hair had been wrecked from very expensive hair dye, and there was only one thing for it…I had to chop it off.

It was with trepidation that I went to a hairdresser recommended by a friend to get my haircut. I discovered they did student discount and went in to speak to them explaining that I was doing some natural haircare experimenting. I didn’t have the confidence to turn up with a jug and some baking soda, so I decided to take in some sulfate free shampoo from the Naked Bodycare range. I did let them use their own conditioner – and a day later my scalp was caked with build up and hair was feeling greasy. However I really liked the haircut. Even my Mum who hates when I have short hair, had no bad word to say about it. They did blow dry it straight, but I was super impressed they did this without a straightener (flat iron)

My hair had begun to grow longer again and was getting straggly, so I booked an appointment again for a trim that would hopefully reshape my hair into a style that is better for when it grows longer. I’d been working the cafe for the previous two days – so my hair hadn’t been washed in three days, had been pulled back in pony tail and hairband. I get sweaty, covered in cream cheese and bacon grease so when I sat down in the hairdressing chair I was surprised when not only did they not bat an eyelid when I pulled out my own shampoo and conditioner to use, they talked about the best cut and how they didn’t want to cut it this way or that way for my natural curl.

Then came the kicker…they asked me how I’d like my hair dried – styled, straightened, curly? I told them to do whatever they liked, and what they decided to do was not to take a brush to it or blow dry it in any way – but to get this giant heat thing to help my hair dry in it’s natural wavy curls.

I won’t lie – I was shocked.

This has never happened.

And for the first time ever, I felt like I was in the hands of a hairdresser who didn’t make me feel like a loser for letting my hair be natural…because she encouraged me to keep it natural.

So thank you Georgia from Charlie Miller. I really, really appreciate you taking the time to treat a curly girl like a curly girl instead of trying to force my curls to be something they just aren’t going to be.

My next challenge: taking care of my hair naturally while away from home at surf camp. This will be the first time that my toiletries bag will not contain dry shampoo, hair serum, shampoo, conditioner and hair mousse but instead a jug, a measuring spoon, conditioner, a bag of quinoa and a small tub of baking soda…! 🙂

Eating well and living well on a budget…

The church I attend is home to an organisation called Christians Against Poverty. They do all kinds of helpful stuff to help people get out of debt and stay in the black. Recently one of the CAP volunteers posted on one of our church facebook groups saying they were doing an event to talk about living well and eating well requesting some ‘expertise’.I’m gutted I can’t go to the event. For those of you who don’t know, I have a degree in Health Promotion. Despite having done no science at high school, I found myself headed to the medical school to do a Bachelor of Health Sciences from my third year of a Master of Arts in Geography after spending a lot of time doing cooking on a budget and health education workshops with young people in my first paid Community Education job. It has been a while though, so don’t ask me which Vitamins and Minerals are in which foods when I’m not near my old textbooks!

I’ve written a few guest posts for the Postgraduate Search website which included one on helping your money go further as a student, and I also did a guest post for my friend Caroline on her ‘Have a Whole Foods Holiday’ series she did a few years ago. Given that I’ve spent the last year trying to make my redundancy pay and teenage savings last as long as possible while finishing my postgraduate degree, I have had to get more creative and find some ways of living without the disposable income I once enjoyed (by disposable income I mean I could pay my rent, bills, run my small car and go out to the pub once a week with my friends. I may also have bought a new pair of shoes or a nice top once every few months). I struggle with depression and the thing that can often set me off in a downward spiral of never ending duvet days without showering is not eating well, not getting exercise, not having opportunity to socialise with friends and not having my brain engaged. So I wanted to share some of what I’ve found that has helped me stay sane and (relatively*) healthy.

Eating Well

Eating well on a budget and not going completely insane eating the same meal for days on end when you are single is a challenge. Add some annoying food intolerances/allergies to that and well…yeah. It’s a recipe for food becoming something you put off because you simply can’t face having to eat it again.

I have three main tips that I’ve found helpful…

1. Use your freezer and your plastic tub collection.

Buying in bulk is often cheaper. I’d also take advantage of deals – as long as it was on a product I use regularly and would keep – when I saw them. However, buying in bulk could mean you end up eating the same meal every day for a week when you are single. The way to take advantage of the bulk buying bargain without being sickened of the sight of the same meal over and over is to cook in bulk…then deposit it into portion sized containers and freeze them!

I managed to adapt a recipe for vegetarian chilli that was a godsend during my first year at university. My first couple of weeks at uni I really struggled as most of the foods on campus were pre-made and had stuff I couldn’t eat in them. Leaving my house at 7.45 a.m. and not getting home until 7 p.m. (or later if I needed to study or something happened with the trains) took it’s toll. I would feel physically sick by the time I got home – and some of it was from hunger. My wonderful friend Kathy suggested buying a food flask, and this £10 investment paid back its value! Once every six weeks, I would make a huge pot of chilli. I would defrost a portion overnight, heat it up and boil some rice to go with it and spoon it into my food flask and that was my lunch every day at uni. It was wonderful to  have a proper hot meal. I’d also pack a ton of snacks – a flask of water that could be refilled if needed, nuts, celery sticks, fruit and some chocolate banana teabread. The teabread I also made in a batch and cut it into portions and froze it. It was always defrosted by lunchtime if I took it out before going to uni in the morning. The snacks would help keep me going during class or when I was starving on the train home – and stopped me using expensive vending machines or the train snack trolley.

Another great meal to take for lunch was soups. Again, I’d make a big batch and freeze it in portions to take with me to work. Lasagne, Meatballs and Fruit crumble are other things I’ve made and decanted into smaller containers to be frozen.

2. Plan your meals

You need to get organised for this. And I tried to have things overlap. For example if I was making chilli, I’d often have half a jar of tomato passata leftover. This with some spinach and pasta would be my dinner or lunch for the next two days. I also had celery leftover when I made my veggie chilli. Celery sticks would be my choice of snack to use them up.

Make your shopping list up accordingly, and be disciplined in sticking to what is on your list and ignoring all the marketing strategies they have to make you buy stuff you don’t actually need in the shops!

3. Eat seasonally

One of the best ways to get lots of fruit and vegetables in you without breaking your purse strings is to eat seasonally. I confess, as a lass who grew up in the middle of a city and has never had a garden to keep I had no clue about where food comes from. It was only when I bought a recipe book from Innocent Smoothies that I learned about seasonal foods – they had a great calendar type chart that I use all the time now. There’s also a really helpful website called Eat Seasonally that will help you too. Not only does it taste better when it’s in season, it’s also way cheaper. You’ll also find that if it’s produced closer to home it’s cheaper too. A punnet of strawberries will be half the price in Scotland in July compared to March!

Staples in my cupboard and fridge:

Pasta

Basmati Rice

Egg noodles

Unsalted butter or a soya spread

Milk

Chilli powder, cinnamon, italian herb seasoning, reduced sodium salt, peppercorns

Balsamic Vinegar

Olive Oil

Light Soy Sauce

Cornflour

Self Raising Flour

Plain Flour

Baking powder

Eggs

Tea bags

Growing parsley, rosemary, coriander and basil in their little plant pots (when I haven’t killed them)

Porridge Oatmeal

…and then whatever ingredients you need for your meals – spinach, broccoli, milk, bananas, apples, beef, chicken, carrots, peppers, sweetcorn, potatoes…?

Some of my favourite regular meals & snacks

-Carrot and sweet potato soup

-Tomato and basil soup

-Toast with Scrambled egg and salad

-Vegetarian chilli

-Pasta with tomato sauce, spinach and mozzarella

-Turkey meatballs in a tomato sauce

-Chicken and broccoli bake

-Baked Sweet Potato with salad and a filling

-Grilled fish with boiled potatoes and broccoli

-Cheesey spinach macaroni

-Stir fry vegetables with soy sauce

-Vegetarian Lasagne

-Apple porridge

-Chocolate banana teabread

-Cous cous with leftover vegetables

-Olives

-Celery sticks

-Apple slices

-Bagel with sliced banana

-Sugarsnap peas or mangetout

-Pumpkin and sunflower seeds

-Fruit Crumble

Living Well

If you are really not sporty like me, the living well part is quite difficult on a budget. Pretty much every sport I’ve liked costs money to do – whether it’s dance classes, rock climbing or surfing. That’s not much help with you don’t have spare cash to buy/rent equipment or pay for the classes. Or a gym membership. Even swimming was too expensive, especially if I was on my own. Not only did I have to pay the price of swimming pool access but I needed contact lenses or special prescription goggles so I could find my way from the changing rooms to the water and back.

It’s worth seeing if there are any groups in your local area running a walking club (there are several groups in Edinburgh who meet up to do walks along the Railway Path, Corstorphine Hill, Blackford Hill and so on that costs nothing). You may even find some folks getting together in a local park to play football or do keep fit. Find your local community centre and go in – have a look on the noticeboard and see what opportunities and groups you didn’t know about.

If you have a device that plays podcasts (like a phone or mp3 player), you’ve got a good sports bra and a pair of trainers then the NHS Couch to 5k podcast comes recommended by several of my other unsporty friends. I did download it and then realised that I just hate running!

I did however, really find myself getting energised doing Pilates. I went to a class for a while when I had a local authority gym membership, but couldn’t afford to keep it up. Instead I went to TK Maxx and got a pilates mat (which was about £8) and a DVD off amazon called Pilates for Dummies that cost me about £4. Every week my friend and I got together in my house to do that Pilates DVD together. Not only did we feel great (if a little sore at times) but it was a lovely cheap social activity that we kept up for a year. It cost nothing after our initial £12 investment!

I’m also a huge fan of walking. Sometimes I’d get a bus to hang out with a friend and then walk back home. Sometimes I’d meet up with a friend and we’d walk along Silverknowes and Cramond, or walk around the Old Town, up Arthur Seat, along the Union Canal or Water of Leith Walkway…I didn’t even need a sports bra for that!

Keep your brain engaged

Books are one thing I don’t think I could live without. I’ve been kept afloat with numerous generous book tokens from friends at birthdays and Christmas, and I won’t lie – in the last year I’ve at least twice gone a week barely eating because I’ve spent my food budget on books. So if you’re a book addict like me, joining the local library is a must so you don’t have to buy them (you do however, have to remember to take them back on time…something I was terrible at doing because I often take months to finish a book because I like to have about 6 on the go at the same time).

The other thing I found really helpful was to go out. Going out was tough when I had no money. Sometimes I didn’t have enough money for a bus fare. When I did, I loved to go and take advantage of the free stuff in Edinburgh. A trip to the Botanic Gardens. A trip to the National Art Gallery. The Fruitmarket Gallery. The City Art Centre. Sitting in Princes Street Gardens people watching. The Museum of Scotland. The Museum of Childhood. The Writers’ Museum. The Museum of Edinburgh.

We are truly blessed with all this culture on our doorstep, and when I have a job again, I will do my best to give donations to these places so they can coninue staying open for free. These city centre locations I frequented on days when I was pounding the pavements handing in my CVs to any business with a ‘Staff Vacancies’ sign (and anyone else that would take them). A walk through the Grassmarket and down to one of the art galleries was a needed cheer up after every visit to the Job Centre for my weekly interrogation.

One week I found myself with an extra bit of cash and I bought a ukulele for £21 and started teaching myself songs with chord tabs and YouTube videos I found on the internet. It was just something to keep me sane during hours and hours of job searching and applications…because when there’s only the TV, social media (which is just a way to stir up the green monster of envy when you see all your friends eating in restaurants, buying a new fancy outfit, going to pubs and enjoying sunshiney holidays!) your brain gets bored and dulled…and that would sometimes push me close to the edge of the depression pit. Whenever I could I’d save up money to meet up with a friend for coffee (I’d get the cheapest thing on the menu – but hey I was going ‘out’) or go to the cinema for the Filmhouse Friday matinee (£4 concession) or Cheap Tuesday at the Vue (half price tickets). Sometimes it was as simple as organising a fun night in with a friend – bringing our own snacks and watching a DVD we already had or a film that was on the telly. And did I mention that many libraries have DVDs and even CDs of music you can borrow too?

Maybe for you, you might like playing guitar, writing poetry, painting, crafting, sketching. Whatever it is, make some time to do it.

Those last things may seem really daft because they aren’t about staying physically active. But I found that doing something fun, and experiencing some kind of art and culture inspired me. I don’t know what it is but it just reminded me that I’m a human being with the potential for ideas and creativity. For me, the arts and culture activities were just as important as eating well and doing physical exercise for keeping me emotionally and mentally well.

Anyway, for any single people trying to stick to a budget, and/or working out how to stay sane while you’re in between jobs…I hope this helps you. It isn’t easy, and in our materialistic, voyeuristic, expensive western culture it is hard to stay positive and live well. However, it is important that we do. We all have something to give in this world, and staying as healthy as we can is going to benefit ourselves and others.

Good luck, and feel free to share your own ‘Eating and living well’ tips!

Australia Day

Today is Australia Day (I think…I get mixed up with this date and ANZAC day in April to the actual numerical date). I realised I hadn’t done many ‘Eco-Koala’ posts except the ones about the natural haircare experiment (thank you all for your tips and suggestions).

If memory serves me correctly (and I apologise to the Bunjulung elders if I have remembered incorrectly), I was cycling around Cape Byron when I came across this sign.IMGP1831

I love those sentiments, and think we’d all do well to remember them. Because we do belong to this country we are in…this earth is where we have come from. And we shouldn’t do harm to it. We should look after it.

So on Australia Day, I thank the aboriginal people (or at the very least the Bunjulung elders) for reminding us with these wise words.

B

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The natural haircare experiment: Sorted. Sort of.

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Ok. This is my second time writing this post, as I had it written and scheduled to go live a few days ago….and then I discovered it had totally disappeared. Not sure why or how, but there we are. So here goes attempt number two!

I’ve been going ‘NoPoo’ for two months now, and my hair is much better for it. I’m still struggling with tangles which I think is down to my hair being damaged from the hair dye from the last couple of years. I’d never had as bad a problem with my hair going static and knotting as I did in the last two years. I did have to start straightening again while I was working in shops over Christmas because it was just too difficult to handle and that won’t be helping my hair in the long term.

However, it has been great not having to wash my hair as often. Now I only wash my hair every 3-4 days. I’ve heard many people say “I could never do that, my hair just gets too greasy”. Well, I can assure you I used have to wash my hair every day or at least every second day. Often using dry shampoo, hairspray and all sorts. Now that I don’t use that stuff…not an issue.

I’ve also worked out what works on my hair, and these are the only things I use on it…

Naked Rescue Intensive Care Conditioner.

This costs about £4.32 in my city centre Boots chemist. I have gone through a lot of it, because I use it to make scrubs and hair masks, and a leave in conditioner spray to keep in my handbag. It is totally vegan friendly.

I use a small drop and massage my whole head as shampoo, make sure it is well rinsed and then apply more to the middle section and ends to detangle my hair before getting out the shower.

Incidentally, a friend of mine who I hadn’t seen in a while was telling me how she’d found these ‘great’ hair products that had made a noticeable difference to her hair with her hair not being as greasy, having more volume and better condition…and it turns out she’s been using the Naked shampoo and conditioner. I’m actually going to try the one she has been using as my ‘shampoo’.

Baking Soda Rinse

I have a small measuring jug and fill it up with a cup of warm water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda and stir it until it’s a solution and not just baking soda on the bottom. I then pour this on over my head in the shower, massage my head and rinse.

I will say if you don’t massage and rinse it out properly, you may find you get build up on your scalp. However, it’s great if you have found that you’ve got a build up of product on your hair since you last washed it, or if you’ve been using a mask with oils in it.

Quinoa Scrub

1 part quinoa to three parts conditioner. I usually mix it in a small plastic bowl and massage into my scalp from the neck up to the top of my head. I’m actually intrigued to use quinoa to make homemade body scrubs. This has been great and really helped with my previously itchy scalp, and I try to do this once a week. I got the bag of quinoa in the picture for about £1.30 in my local Sainsbury’s supermarket.

Lavender Spray

Rather than using dry shampoo, I recommend using lavender spray. Especially if you struggle with an itchy scalp. Those of you who studied French may recall that the verb ‘to wash’ is ‘laver‘ in French and that’s no coincidence! Lavender has disinfectant qualities and is known to be good for skin conditions.  Plus, it apparently helps protect against head lice (I’ve been lucky to stay nit free my life so far, but others – especially if they live in a house with multiple children aren’t so!). To make it you get four pints of water, boil it in a large saucepan and then add three drops of lavender essential oil. Once it is cool you can decant it into reusable spray bottles. I keep a big garden spray bottle in my bathroom, and small travel size ones for my handbag. It is important you use proper pure essential oil, and you’ll be able to get lavender oil in pretty much any health food shop, and possibly your local chemist too. A 10ml bottle of lavender essential oil will last you ages and cost you around £5.

Keracare Clear Protein Gel

I’m not convinced by this hairgel at all, and felt like it built up on my hair and actually made my hair less curly. I have found one of the ingredients: hydrolised wheat protein on a list of ingredients to avoid.

If anyone has any recommendations of a good hair gel with none of the rubbish, I’d love to know! I’ve not been able to find any edible aloe vera gel (only juice) which is what is recommended in the Curly Girl handbook.

Clearspring Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

While straightening my hair, I’ve putting this on the ends of my hair by getting a teeny 1p sized scraping rubbing it on my palms then applying to the ends of my hair. It doesn’t make my hair greasy at all. I’ve also been using it to moisturise my skin which can get very dry. I got a 200g jar in my local Health Food shop which cost me about £4 with my student discount. 🙂

Have you found anything that really helps rather than hinders looking after your hair? Please share in the comments…

Natural Haircare Experiment: Weeks 3&4

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So weeks 2-3 were not good for the hair. My hair was unbelievably frizzy, and my scalp felt gross and my hair smelled yucky.

I really didn’t like the conditioner I was using, and I think it was the problem. I noticed when checking out this ‘WikiHow’ on how to determine if a product is ‘Curly Girl’ approved that my conditioner that I didn’t like had Mineral Oil in it. And I think that’s perhaps why the products felt like they were building in my hair between washes. Particularly as often after sleeping or being outside with scarves or a winter jacket on, my hair was so tangled I had to soak it, put conditioner in it, then gel spray to get the waves back.

So last week while hunting down black clothing for my work uniform I went to the big Boots chemist store equipped with my list of ‘no poo’ requirements for conditioner and finally found something that seems to meet the requirements. Botanical oils near the top of the ingredients list? Check. No silicones? Check. No drying alcohols? Check.

To try and deal with the frizz and the itchy scalp I decided to take a brave step for a wavy curly lass! No shampoo. Not even baking soda. I bought a bag of quinoa fairly cheaply at the supermarket and decided to use an exfoliating recipe from Lorraine Massey’s handbook which is basically 1 part quinoa to 3 parts conditioner.

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Not only does this conditioner smell soooo much nicer than the L’Oreal one, I even conditioned my ends after doing the exfoliating and rinsing all the quinoa and conditioner out of my hair. I worried that maybe my hair would be greasy.

It wasn’t.

I put gel in my hair while wet, partly dried my hair with a diffuser, partly left it to air dry…and for the first time it was not super frizzy. In fact it’s the least frizzy it had been since winter coat weather came on the scene!

I’ve also now invested in some scrunchies which are gentler on my hair for times when I’m tying it up in a bun to keep my hair out the way (like doing the dishes, studying, in the shower…)

I think my next challenge is going to be hairdressing…how to explain to a hairdresser that you don’t want them to use shampoo and trying to get a cut I’m happy with without them blow drying and straightening my hair into submission!

Any advice?

Natural Haircare Experiment: Week 2

So it’s been two weeks that I’ve been on the ‘NoPoo’ method. I found that after four days of no washing my hair went crazy frizzy one day, so ended up sticking a headband on and piling my hair into a bun before I headed to a Girlguiding unit meeting last week. On our way back from the Remembrance services one of our Young Leaders asked how the hair experiment was going…

Well…

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My hair is getting curlier. But in strange ways! This was yesterday (three days after a wash). My hair wasn’t greasy but I seem to be growing a short curl in the middle of my forehead, which likes to stick up like a horn (?!)  and random curls sticking out my head. There’s a layer of my hair that remains straight underneath, and often gets tangly if it has any contact with fabric of any kind.

The baking soda washes definitely work, and before I washed my hair last week I did a recipe from the Curly Girl Handbook which involved putting on oil mixed with a few drops of lavender on my hair for 30 minutes, then rinsing my hair with their “Lemon-Aid” recipe (basically lemon juice and conditioner).

I tend to find that the first day after a wash my hair is a bit mental, but about two or three days after it is calmer and curlier. In the mornings between hair wash days, I will wet my hair over the sink with my hands and scrunch it or spray my hair with the lavender spray. Then I’ll scrunch in a little bit of gel spray.

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This is the conditioner I’ve been using which you can get in chemists and supermarkets. I’m not a fan of this conditioner, but it’s the best I’ve been able to find so far. I’ve noticed some conditioners in the health food shop I often go to and I might try with that. This week I tried using Rainforest Moisture hair butter from the Body Shop (which has more natural ingredients) as I had some leftover but it did not help get the tangles out of my hair.  It’s a real shame, The Body Shop used to do a  hair mask which was amazing on my hair (like a friend noticed the difference the day after I first used it without may saying a word about it) and they discontinued it when they brought out the Rainforest haircare range.

Do you notice that they are advertising the conditioner as ‘No Sulphates’? I’ve never actually had a conditioner that had sulfates in it. You want your conditioner to be silicone free.

You also want any styling products (like gels and sprays) to be free of alcohol, silicones, parabens and phthalates. The Keracare is the only hairgel product I was able to find that met these requirments. I would love to try Lorraine Massey’s suggestion of using aloe vera gel, but trying to get a hold of some that is ‘edible’ (as she recommends) is proving difficult!

If anyone has any natural products they’ve found that help with frizz, please share your recommendations in the comments! 🙂