Stressed out? You’re not alone. A 2017 survey by Accountemps found that “58 per cent of Canadians feel stressed every day while at work and 70 per cent said work-related pressure had increased in the past five years”. And an increase in stress is nothing new. An IPSOS survey in 2000 found that 42% of Canadians felt more stressed than five years earlier. The only thing that seems to have changed is that men are now feeling almost as stressed as women.
Even in my 15 aromatherapy case studies, 80% of participants named stress as one of their top issues. And of those participants, most didn’t see their doctor about it. Those that did see their doctor felt that their doctor couldn’t do anything for them or didn’t care.
What happened to technology making our lives easier? Maybe it does make tasks easier, but I think instead of using that extra time to enjoy life, we just try to achieve more. Instead of enjoying the moment, we’re busy checking email and social media or booking our calendars full of events.
So what’s causing all this stress? Usually its work, finances, relationships, school or health and mostly like a combination of these. There’s just not enough time to get it all done.
Stress can affect your sleep, increase headaches, lower your immune system and make you irritable. Because stress leaves you feeling tired and short on time, we tend to drop all of our healthy habits (healthy eating, exercise, sleep, socializing and relaxing), even though these are the very things we need to combat stress. And our health only gets worse when we’re chronically stressed, leading to more stress. “Stress carries several negative health consequences, including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, as well as immune and circulatory complications” (Perceived Life Stress, Stats Canada, 2014).
We are all familiar with at least some of these stress reducing activities:
We know what we need to do, so why do we struggle with it?
The main problem is these activities all take time, time that we don’t have. When we’re stressed we often feel like things are out of control and we promise ourselves we’ll do these things just as soon as we get A, B and C done. And as you know, those things are replaced by new priorities that can’t wait either. The truth is, nothing is going to change unless you take the time to change it. Because believe it or not, you ARE in control! And if you don’t take care of you, who will?
The best piece of advice I’ve received in all of my 48 years, is this: If you don’t like something, you have three options: accept it, change it or leave it. Some things we may not like but can accept. If you can’t accept it, you need to try to change it. If you’ve tried to change it and things don’t improve then it may be time to leave it.
Assuming you don’t want to accept feeling stressed all the time, you can try to change it. To make that easier for you, here are things I’ve learned about de-stressing my life:
And there is one last thing you can do to help with your stress which isn’t mentioned in most articles and books and takes no time at all - aromatherapy! 92% of my case study participants confirmed that essential oils helped with their stress as well as sleep and headaches. You can inhale essential oils using a diffuser, a couple of drops on a tissue, an aromatherapy inhaler or by diluting it in soap, lotion or oil. Here are some common oils you can use separately or in a blend:
Some of you may need to change or leave a job, your studies or a relationship to improve your stress or life. None of it is easy but only you can improve things by taking control. And trust me, when you do it you’ll wonder why you waited so long!
That’s a tough question! My short answer would be, if you’ve bought your cosmetics in the European Union (EU), you can certainly consider them safe. If you’ve bought them here in Canada, you can consider them mostly safe. If you’ve bought them in the USA, I would personally throw them in the trash (or become an expert label reader)! In an earlier blog, I talked about what Health Canada does to control cosmetics and compared that to the EU and the US. Read it here.
Now grab a coffee and a chair because tough questions don’t scare me! My long answer would have to factor in when ingredients are banned or restricted, scientific research, opinions and bias (industry influence, media coverage), contaminants, the type of risks we are willing to accept, how you use the ingredient, the amount of it in a product, available alternatives and whether we’re talking about human safety or environmental safety (not an exhaustive list!).
I can see your eyes glazing over already but stick with me. You can either do the work yourself, and believe me, it’s not easy, or you can do a little bit of work to find someone you trust to guide you. Maybe, even me! Either way, the only way to discern what is safe is for you is to be aware of all the factors. At the end, I’ve attached my own list of ingredients of concern for your reference.
You see, here in Canada, ingredients are banned or restricted only when its proven that they ARE harmful. This poses quite the problem as most companies aren’t going to spend the money to test this. The groups that care about ingredient safety often don’t have the funding to sponsor the research. So, we have to wait until there’s a number of reported incidents or there’s a public outcry about an ingredient that triggers Health Canada to consider performing a risk assessment. See Health Canada’s Hotlist. By contrast, in the EU, an ingredient has to be proven safe before it’s accepted for use.
New ingredients are only screened by Health Canada and there are a LOT of new synthetic ingredients coming out all the time.
So, what does science have to say about all of this? Not that much unfortunately. As I mentioned earlier, research is costly and someone has to foot the bill. There are some studies that are done but not published because the results were not "desirable". And there are studies published but all factors weren't controlled which makes them less reliable. When you’re reading information, ask yourself if the author has provided scientific references, not just referred to a “study”. Next, is the author and study creditable? Where has it been published? And sometimes it takes a scientist to point out the weaknesses of another’s research.
When there’s a lack of science, all you have to go on is opinions and hearsay. I think personal experience counts for something but I take it with a grain of salt. Is the source biased? Industry, media and other groups certainly can be.
Let’s use talc as an example (Health Canada is currently performing a risk assessment on it and it may soon be added to the Hotlist). “My Grandma used talcum powder all the time, but she never had lung problems or ovarian cancer, so it must be safe”. Whoa there! That’s a pretty big assumption. How much did Grandma actually use and how often? Where did she use it? Was it 100% talc or was it mixed with something? Did she avoid inhaling it? Did she still have her ovaries? Was she lucky? What about other Grandmas? You get the picture.
Contaminants are a tricky one. They may not be added intentionally so you won’t find them on the ingredient list. However, they can exist in an ingredient because of how its processed.
It also comes down to what we’re willing to accept as safe. If it causes allergies, dermatitis or skin irritation, some might be willing to take that risk but not those with sensitive skin. What if it’s been linked to cancer or hormone disruption? There’s a chance its responsible but there isn't enough evidence yet. What if it causes reproductive toxicity in rats but we don’t know the effect on humans?
This ingredient that you may be using, is it in a rinse-off or leave-on product? Rinse-off products will pose less of a risk. Where is it on the list of ingredients? If it’s near the end of the list, there’s less of it present. How often do you use it? Something you use every day would be more risk than something you use occasionally.
What if there are currently no alternatives to that ingredient? Does the convenience it brings outweigh the possible harm it could cause?
And finally, what if it’s safe for humans but harmful for the environment?
Phew! Are you still there? Awesome. Okay so now what? With all that in mind, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions. Is there a trusted reference you can use? Well, sort of. Here are the three I rely on most, but even they have their problems. You can use Safe Cosmetics but they are very conservative and make unvalidated claims. For instance, in oxybenzone (used in sunscreens) they say it causes cancer and refer to California’s EPA which states that it’s a “possible carcinogen”. They also refer to a study on feeding the oxybenzone to mice and rats to infer that topical use can lead to cancer in humans. They also rate ingredients as toxic when there’s not enough information and when the risk doesn’t affect the consumer (i.e., inhalation in manufacturing). There’s Cosmetics Info which has a safety section and sometimes outlines the status of the ingredient in other countries. However, this website is sponsored by the Personal Care Products Council which represents cosmetic companies. So, it might be a bit biased. Looking at oxybenzone again, they include ‘myth busting’ where they allege that the studies were misleading, generalize their major concerns and refer to other supporting studies. However, I find them weak and could shoot a few holes in their arguments myself. They even mention their greatest concern about banning this ingredient: it may result in fewer people using sunscreen and the risk for skin cancer (heard of zinc oxide?). There’s also Cosmetic Ingredient Review which is so scientific it may be difficult for most people to navigate.
That’s a whole lot to consider for a single ingredient! Now, I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve taken what I’ve learned and put it into the attached reference for you. As more studies are done, some of these will drop off the list because they have been found to be safe or because they have been found to be unsafe and are prohibited or restricted by Health Canada. And there will always be new ones. But now you can decide what’s safe for you!
There seems to be a number of stories out there about how essential oils are toxic for pets. And it’s no surprise really, as there’s very little scientific research readily available on how they affect pets. Because of this lack of information, people are quick to believe opinions. I can’t say I blame anyone, as it's better to be safe than sorry and digging for the truth is time consuming and difficult.
These often unscientific opinions conclude that an essential oil was responsible for an effect on their pet. Most likely it was their misuse of the essential oil rather than the essential oil itself.
Anytime I need to research something, I start by googling it, reviewing the results and the frequency of the information. Skeptically, of course. I think about what sources would be trustworthy. In this case, aromatherapists, veterinarians and reliable scientific studies.
My search turns up no results from aromatherapists, probably because few of them specialize in pets. I found a few vet clinics that were happy to publish some information that sounded scientific and reliable. These veterinarians want to help protect pets, even though they are not essential oil experts, which is great, but none of them seemed to reference any scientific studies.
Then I hit the jackpot! An Alternative Care Veterinarian. There’s so much scientific reference here it even made MY eyes gloss over! Melissa Shelton has been working with essential oils and pets since 2008 and has dedicated her practice to it since 2011. In her article she dispels all the myths and bad science that is sometimes referenced. Here’s an overview, but you should really read it here: https://londonalternativevet.com/2018/01/12/essential-oils-with-pets-dr-melissa-shelton/:
Most issues with pets occur because of misuse. It’s like making prescription medicine available to everyone without any dosage or instructions. A leading expert in aromatherapy, Robert Tisserand, cautions that it’s not that we need to avoid certain essential oils but that we need to use essential oils responsibly. See https://roberttisserand.com/2011/06/cats-essential-oil-safety.
So how do we use them responsibly? Treat them more like medicine and less like an air freshener, being conscious of how much and how long you use them. Don’t trap your pet in a room with a diffuser running all day; they need to escape if they're impacted negatively. And do not use essential oils topically, unless advised by your veterinarian.
See the attachment below for some rules that you can print or share. Happy and safe diffusing!
More reading: https://www.canadianveterinarians.net/documents/cats-and-essential-oils.
Health Canada regulates all cosmetics in Canada, as well as drugs, pesticides, natural health products, etc.) and each classification has their own list of requirements. First, let’s start by looking at how Health Canada defines a cosmetic:
"Any substance or mixture of substances manufactured, sold or represented for use in cleansing, improving or altering the complexion, skin, hair or teeth, and includes deodorants and perfumes." Cosmetics
Side note: A sunscreen is considered a natural health product and requires a product license. In order to obtain a product license, you must have a site license. In order to obtain a site license, you need to follow all the Good Manufacturing Practices. And sure, those practices sound like a good idea but it’s overkill for a small business like mine. However, I do follow as many as I can and keep working towards more! (This is why I will no longer be making my Sunny Day Lotion.).
Back to cosmetics….
All products meeting the cosmetic definition, no matter where they are from, MUST have a Cosmetic Notification Form (CNF) submitted to Health Canada. This form contains:
Submitting the form ensures that the ingredients used, and their proportions, are within acceptable guidelines. Health Canada reviews the CNF and follows up with any questions, but they never approve products. This process can take six months to a year!
Is it effective enough? Let’s look at what other countries are doing:
So, we fall somewhere in the middle which isn’t too bad, but there’s always room for improvement. I’m not one for mediocrity! Industry exerts a large amount of pressure and influences some decisions, not necessarily for our health or benefit. More on that another time…!
Additionally, cosmetics also have to follow the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act. I’m saving that for another day too but you can learn more here: Labelling Act.
If you’re shopping in another country, you might want to pay attention to the ingredient lists. And what about right here at home? Handmade markets are always offering cosmetics for sale, but the makers may not be aware of the requirements. If you’re concerned, ask the vendor if they’ve filed anything with Health Canada.
For more information see International Cosmetic Lists.
You’re running low on essential oils and start shopping for more, but what’s the deal with the range of prices? How do you know what you’re really getting?
Start by reading the label:
If you think something is shady, there is a test you can perform:
Now that you’re armed with knowledge, enjoy your shopping!
Healthy body products and a healthy lifestyle are important to me but I also try to consider the environment in everything I do. My products are made with organic coconut oil, shea butter, sunflower oil, aloe, tea tree, eucalyptus, cocoa and jojoba oil and Alberta beeswax. Although I minimize packaging, at least 79% of my packaging is recyclable. The paper bags I use for your purchases are made from 100% recycled paper and are reusable and recyclable. If I'm shipping your purchase, I reuse boxes and packing material that I receive from my supplier orders. I shred all the Kraft paper I get my hands on to cushion and fill gift boxes. And I even reuse my personal coffee grinds in my Coffee & Spice soap! There's still lots of room for improvement but its a start!
Essential oils have amazing properties and unlimited uses. Today I'm going to talk about seven ways you can use them - some might just surprise you!
Cause life should smell good!
Do you have another use for them? Tell us about your essential oil hacks!
Some people balk at the price of my natural deodorant. And I understand, it shocked me a bit too! But I'm not interested in making a cheap deodorant, I'm interested in one that is effective. Here's the short version of how I arrived there.
I research all the possible ingredients I can use, how they work and their benefits. I look at problems with other deodorants. I learned stories about deodorant stains, irritation such as armpit burns and deodorants that pulled out armpit hair! Ouch! I make a list of requirements my deodorant needs to meet and some added bonuses:
Did you notice that price is not in there?
I select a few different recipes and test them on myself. I test out arrowroot powder, bentonite clay, magnesium myristate and zinc oxide for their ability to prevent odour. I find that arrowroot powder leaves me a little stinky and eliminate the bentonite clay as it can cause irritation. The magnesium doesn't seem effective but wow, that zinc oxide! I keep improving the recipes and testing the scents, oils and butters for the best results. I spend a lot of time smelling my pits! I ensure it's moisturizing and use clary sage in one scent, which is known to help with sweating. Once I'm happy with it, I provide samples of my top two formulas to my testers to get their feedback. My testers confirm the zinc oxide sample was more effective (no odour for 8 hours or more!). As an extra bonus, you won't sunburn your pits! And then, and only then, do I calculate the price! And yes it shocked me a little but I confirmed its in line with similar products. I mean, I could make it cheaper by substituting other ingredients but why?
So if you find a cheaper one that works for you, that's great. Every body is different. If you can't find anything that works - please give mine a try!
For more information on natural deodorant and how to use it, see here.
Last weekend I tried a lotion bar, a face scrub and two face masks from Pinterest recipes. Based on how other recipes turned out, I was a little afraid! Here's what happened:
It was a rainy and snowy weekend so I decided to try out some body care recipes I had pinned on Pinterest. I wasn't very optimistic based on my previous experience but I thought I'd try out products I've never made before. I chose hairspray, a face mask and his and hers shaving creams. Here's what happened:
Come back next week when I try lotion bars, a face scrub and two more face masks!
Have you tried making something from Pinterest? Was it a tragic fail or super success?
Loves living a healthy lifestyle and sharing what she learns along the way.