Consumerism in the Natural Realm

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This has been on my mind for a while.  I put off blogging about it, but it keeps slapping me in the face every time I browse through message boards and Facebook groups.  Let me start by posing a question.

“I’m looking for a natural facial cleanser and exfoliator.  What would you (the natural community) recommend?”

Seems innocent enough, right?  But then the responses start rolling in.

“I sell *insert MLM company*, and we have the best!  PMing you!”

“You can order *insert $47 3oz cleanser* at this website, and shipping is only $12.”

“I will only ever use *insert product claiming nonGMO, certified organic, soy-free, vegan, sustainably sourced, cruelty free label*”

“Have you tried blahblahnaturals on Amazon?  Target has so-and-so brand.  Earth Fare also carries the blerbidyblerb brand.”

The same responses get doled out for body care products, hygiene items, household cleansers, and almost anything else.  And nine times out of ten, these suggestions are quite pricey.

My beef with this particular outlook is that it seems to totally circumvent the whole point of trying to live more naturally.  I understand the convenience factor.  I understand that it’s sometimes easier to just go out and buy what you need rather than make it at home. But the consumerism in the natural community is getting to a near overwhelming level of unnecessary… Maybe even to an exploitative degree.

This brand obsession is what makes people believe they can’t afford to live naturally.  They ask for suggestions on replacing their $3 Johnson’s Baby Wash, and they get rushed with brand names sold hundreds of miles away at double, triple, or even ten times the cost of their original item.

The pressure to not “use poison on your family!” is so blindly powerful that many of us succumb to the fear and start throwing dollars and sense to the wind.  My baby NEEDS this special soap-free soap!!

You know what you can use to wash your kid AND yourself?

Water.

Need a facial cleanser?

Try the oil in your spice cabinet.

Exfoliator?

A wash rag.

Clean with vinegar or hydrogen peroxide. Bulk shea butter for moisturizing.  Shampoo your hair less frequently.  Grow your own food.  Upcycle your old clothes into cloth diapers, menstrual pads, family cloth, kitchen rags.  Learn to love your face without makeup.  Nourish your body with food, exercise, water, and sun. Rid yourself of excess stuff and get with the multipurpose life.

I’ll continue to buy a couple of my favorite products.  But my goal is to decrease my dependence on brand names. Let’s face it.  A good chunk of the costs involved with these big, natural brands is not the value of the item itself.  Often times, we’re just paying these companies to do the research and thinking for us and then have them hand us a simple, safe product.


What are your thoughts on consumerism in the natural community?

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Girl Talk (that means vagina stuff) 

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Forewarning. This post will include words like vagina, vulva, moist, and discharge. 

If that squicks you out, you can back out now, OR you can put on your big girl (cotton) panties and keep on keepin on. 

This is a less than enchanting, slightly embarrassing post. But I also feel a need to share what I’ve experienced and learned just in case there’s another beautiful, itchy queen out there experiencing the same issues. Those issues being horrid happenings in the nether regions accompanied by raging desperation for relief.

We’re gonna talk about yeast infections.

YEAST INFECTIONS.

(bolded just in case anyone sitting nearby doesn’t have a clear view of the topic at hand)

First things first. Yeast infections are incredibly common. If you end up with one, please know you’re not alone. Your sisters are with you. Your provider has seen it before. The receptionist has heard it all. The CVS cashier will have a far more awkward transaction within the hour, I assure you.

What are the symptoms?

Burn, itch, discharge, swelling, redness, rash.  Severe cases can lead to excessive swelling, extreme pain/discomfort, or splitting, peeling skin.

Lovely, yah?

It’s important to note that the symptoms of a yeast infection can mirror those of other issues like bacterial vaginosis or STDs/STIs.  If you’re not sure whether it’s yeast, grab yourself an OTC test (some tests may not test for ALL types of candida) or see your provider for confirmation.

What causes it?

Sex (any type of sex, with or without a yeasty partner), menstrual products, cleansers, vaginal sprays, underwear fabrics, friction, hormones, medications, pregnancy, diabetes, diet, booze, poor hygiene, douching, a full moon on a Tuesday.

Basically anything.

What should you do?

You can go to the doctor and receive a pill or suppository. They may not prescribe anything, but rather advise you on which OTC products to buy from your local pharmacy.

OR you can attack that thing (the infection, not your vagina) with a slew of natural remedies that honestly, legitimately, really work.

The most important step after confirmation is to start your chosen treatment method immediately.  Many various types of bacteria live inside your body at any given moment, but an imbalance can lead to infections or other complications. The longer it’s left untreated, the greater the imbalance.  The greater the imbalance, the more gnarly the manifestation.

Do this.

  • Cut out sugars. Yeast feeds on sugars, so ex-nay that crotch poison ASAP.
  • Nourish your body with the things it needs to restore balance and fight off infection. Good, candida balancing foods, sunshine, water, a rested but exercised mind and body. Candida overgrowth can happen in the intestines, so plan your healing on a broad scale.
  • Keep the area clean and dry. Yeast thrives in moist places. Rinse yourself with warm water every time you use the restroom. (A peri bottle is excellent!) Pat thoroughly dry. You could even use a hair dryer on a low, cool setting.
  • Give it some room.  Go commando when possible and stick to appropriately fitted cotton underwear.  If it makes you feel sexy or makes your butt look awesome, it’s probably not the best option for the time being.
  • Give the bad bacteria a run for its money. Use PLAIN yogurt (as in one ingredient) topically. Topically? Yes, topically. Rinse and reapply often to the vulva, getting between the labia and inserting into the vagina if you can. The yogurt contains probiotics which help to neutralize and balance the baddies. It’s also very soothing for the irritation. (Get the Greek version and carry a few fresh panty liners. You’ll thank me.)
  • Take a quality, refrigerated probiotic.  I take two a day when I’m having symptoms, one in the morning and one at night. Probiotics have majorly affected my life in the best ways. Get some.
  • Go full blast if necessary. Inserting garlic cloves (with a knotted string threaded through for easy removal), grapefruit seed extract supplements, apple cider vinegar baths, and diluted tea tree oil are all popular options.
  • If you choose to go with an OTC suppository, choose the longest treatment available.  Usually a seven day kit.  The one day kits will SET YOU ABLAZE, and the three day kits may not supply the area with medication over enough time to fully cure the infection.  (pro tip – These suppositories can have side effects similar to that of the infection itself.  You might notice your symptoms worsen a bit before they improve.)

Be diligent with your regimen!  Even with OTC suppositories or prescription medications, it can take a good 7-14 days for most infections to completely heal.  If your symptoms noticeably worsen without any eventual improvement, get yourself to your preferred provider for expert assistance.

How can you prevent it?

  • For the love of genitals, PLEASE don’t use “products” on your lady bits. Special feminine washes, SPRAY FRESHENERS… It’s a reproductive organ, not an old sofa.
  • Be serious with your food intake.  Some foods can exacerbate candida overgrowth while others help your body maintain it’s natural, ideal flora.  Yogurts, fermented foods, vitamin rich meals…  Your body is a masterpiece.  Treat it kindly.
  • Stay in tune.  Sometimes after a little panky hanky, I realize that maaayyybe I could have used a little more lubricant of some sort. Or maaayyybe I should have asked my husband to shave.  (I’M JUST BEING HONEST WITH Y’ALL.  Don’t side eye me too hard, ok?) Sometimes I feel a little off during ovulation or just before my period arrives.  These are the times to pop a probiotic, have some sauerkraut, and skip the frappuccino.
  • Wear vulva friendly clothes.  Breathable, dry fabrics.  Not too tight.  Nothing that rubs the wrong way. Always, always, always bring a change of pants when going to the beach or pool.
  • Cross your fingers, jump on one foot, sing Hey, Diddle Diddle thrice, and hope you never have to endure the flames of such evils ever again.

Care to share your own harrowing experiences and preferred treatment options?

The Ultimate Cloth Diaper Post

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Somewhere along the way, it was apparently agreed upon that all cloth diaper moms with a blog must write at least one post about cloth diapers

Even if the blog doesn’t have anything to do with babies or reusable products… We find a way to make it happen. 

You knew this post was coming.

And it’s gonna be a doozy.

A little backstory… I’ve been cloth diapering for almost five and half consecutive years. That’s half a decade of washing poo rags every three days. I’ve diapered a boy and a girl from birth through potty training. I’ve done big name brands, no name brands, and I’ve made my own diapers. I’ve used cloth on vacations and we use exclusively cloth at night. I’ve diapered through bad trends (washing diapers in a dishwasher?!) and through good trends (using appropriate amounts of detergent?!). I’ve admined cloth diaper groups and helped troubleshoot and solve problems. (Check us out at the Lowcountry Cloth Diapers Facebook Page or join our group.)

I’m going to share a few (<<LOL) awesome links and a bit of information that I found to be most helpful throughout the years.  Topics are in huge, bold type so you can scroll past anything you don’t find relevant.  This is likely the longest post on the whole innanets, so get your coffee NOW.  Let’s go. Continue reading

Natural Alternatives That Are Actually Bunk 

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I’ve been wanting to create a few posts about some of the natural remedies and alternatives floating around. Some of these methods are extremely popular and even touted as THEBESTTHINGEVAR by some users. 

But once you start digging, it starts to get sketchy. Sure, these items involve organic products or they’re mixed up in a cozy kitchen, or that other crunchy lady said it worked. But… These alternatives…  

Do they actually work?

Are they safe?

Do they make a lick of sense?

I love natural options as much as the next hippie, but far too often, the answer to these questions is a big ‘ol nope. Snake venom is natural, but I’m not gonna brush my teeth with it, ya know?

Instead of rewriting what other exceptional writers have already written, I’ve decided to do a link round up post. This also proves I’m not just being contrary and that many others have come to similar conclusions as myself.  I’m not crazy.

I preemptively apologize for the bubbles I’m about to pop.

Continue reading

A WEE Bit Greener

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Bad puns. Gotta love ’em!

But yes!  I’m ready to test these waters.  (there’s another pun there somewhere)  I’ve always used cloth wipes on my babies, but I’ve been hesitant to try them for myself.  I don’t think I’m ready for adult #2’s in my washer just yet, but I can handle #1’s!

I prefer to use nursery flannel to make my kids’ cloth wipes.  It’s soft and even softer when two layers are turned and topstitched together.  It does the job so well and they’re super cute.  It’s also a really easy sewing project for beginners.

Alas….I care not even a little bit about cuteness when it comes to grown folk wipes.  But that’s what makes this DIY so awesome.  It doesn’t matter what they look like.

I’m taking this little leap, and I want to encourage you to try it as well!  This is so easy.  Just minutes from start to finish.

The secret to this DIY is KNIT FABRICS.

If you’ve done much sewing, I bet you already see where I’m going.  Knit fabrics don’t fray.  No sewing required, no serging, no special scissors needed.  Just cut it up and go.

BOOM.

Knits are available at any store that sells fabrics, and you can feel free to skimp a little and buy the cheaper stuff or check the discount/remnant bin.  This DIY is also perfect for those of us clearing out closets.  Tshirts, PJs, tank tops, etc…A lot of these are made with knits.  Minimize, recycle, DIY, and save the planet all in one go!

I chose to cut my fabric into rectangles so I could easily fold them into thirds for use.  I didn’t measure or get too fancy.  However, keep in mind that knits will roll around the edges a good bit, so plan accordingly when deciding on a rough size.

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Perfectly Imperfect!  Full size to the left, folded in thirds to the right.

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Ample hand coverage!

That’s all it takes!  I store mine in a basket underneath my bathroom sink and pull out a tiny stack each day.  Used wipes get dropped into a mesh lingerie bag for washing.  If you don’t already have a mesh bag, I’d definitely recommend getting at least one.  Tiny wipes could get stuck in your washer!  The bag also makes it easy to refill your basket.  Just dump the clean wipes out of the bag and carry on.

We can do this!


Do you use cloth wipes?  What do you use?  What are your experiences?

The Lowdown on DIY Deodorant

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Let me start by saying that this is not a recipe post.  I do make my own deodorant, but in the process of learning how, I’ve come across about a zillion recipes “that really work!” and comments like, “What if I don’t have organic mango butter and an instant read infrared thermometer?”

Fret not.

The truth is that homemade deodorant is one of the easiest things you can DIY.  You may have to go through a couple versions to find out what works best for you, but it is literally as simple as stirring a mixture in a bowl.

In this post, I’m going to share some basic natural product DIY tips and break down the pros, cons, and properties of various ingredients you can use for deodorants.   You can start developing your personalized product by choosing ingredients that fit your skin type, your budget, or any other preferences/needs.

The Ingredients

Coconut Oil

  • Coconut oil is super popular as a cream or paste deodorant base and mixes very easily
  • Light/white in color
  • Light coconut scent
  • Vegan
  • Soft solid at room temperature, melts easily when applied to skin
  • Pros : Contains antioxidants, antimicrobial, moisturizing, antifungal, mixes easily
  • Cons : Slightly greasy feel, can cause dryness in some users, known comedogenic

Shea Butter

  • Shea butter is very firm and easier to apply when blended with a softer base.
  • Cream color
  • Nutty aroma
  • Vegan
  • Melts at around 110*F
  • Pros : Moisturizing, anti-inflammatory, good for a firmer deodorant
  • Cons : Requires melting either by microwave or double boiler, may cause a reaction in those with nut/latex allergies (very rare!)

Cocoa Butter

  • Cocoa butter is very firm and easier to apply when blended with a softer base.
  • Tan color
  • Sweet aroma
  • Vegan
  • Melts at around 95*F
  • Pros : Long shelf life, anti-imflammatory, great thickener, reduces the appearance of scars or blemishes, good for firm or stick style deodorants
  • Cons : Requires melting either by microwave or double boiler, can cause crystalization or “balls” in your product.  (still safe and usable, just less homogenous)

Beeswax

  • Beeswax is too stiff and waxy to be used alone, but it adds stability and firmness to other softer bases.
  • Various shades of yellow
  • Sweet, warm aroma
  • NOT vegan
  • Melts at around 145*F
  • Pros : Soother, protective barrier for skin, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial
  • Cons : Waxy feel, requires melting either by microwave or double boiler

Arrowroot Powder

  • Arrowroot powder is a root starch used in many natural products as well as foods!
  • Very fine, light, white powder
  • Vegan
  • Pros : Moisture/oil absorbing, thickener, helps to neutralize odors
  • Cons : Can be messy to work with
  • Cornstarch or potato starch may be substituted.

Baking Soda

  • Baking soda is extremely accessible and inexpensive and makes a great addition to DIY deodorants.  However, it sometimes has negative side-effects and should be paired with other ingredients to avoid excessive concentrations.
  • Fine white powder, slightly abrasive
  • Vegan
  • Pros : Moisture/oil absorbing, thickener, excellent odor neutralizer
  • Cons : Is known to cause irritation, redness, or rash in some users

Probiotics

  • Probiotics are the “good bacteria” that help to fight and balance the “bad bacteria.”
  • Can be purchased in capsules or loose powder
  • A shelf stable probiotic is necessary for deodorant usage! Refrigerated probiotics are amazing but won’t survive the heat/air of this DIY.
  • Capsules may not be vegan
  • Pros : Helps to fight odors, anti-(bad)bacterial
  • Cons : You body’s natural micro-flora may require you to tweak the amount of probiotics you include in your deodorant.

Essential Oils

  • Essential oils are a staple for many naturally minded DIYers and offer endless possibilities and combinations.
  • Pros (depending on the oils and amounts you choose) : can soothe the skin, fight off bacteria, prevent odors, lift your mood, or just make you smell fabulous.
  • Cons (depending on the oils and amounts you choose) : can irritate the skin, can result in sensitization, photosensitivity
  • Always dilute oils in appropriate ratios and choose your oils wisely.  For example, don’t load up your deo with cinnamon bark oil because it’s Christmas…ouch!
  • Common favorites include tea tree, lavender, citrus oils, pines, ylang ylang, frankincense, patchouli, sandalwood, bergamot, mints, etc.

Other Great Add-Ins

  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Mango Butter
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Various Oils (grapeseed, avocado, etc)
  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Bentonite Clay, French Green Clay
  • Herbs or Herbal Powders (calendula or chamomile powders, for example)

Where do I find these things?

Some of these items can be found easily at your local grocery store.  Coconut oil, baking soda, and arrowroot powder can be found almost anywhere.  Some of the butters and oils can be found at health food stores or vitamin shops.  Earth Fare, Whole Foods, and so on.   And there’s always Amazon!  But here’s a list of natural friendly online stores to give you even more  options.

Mountain Rose HerbsStarwest BotanicalsFronteri Co-opiHerbPlant TherapyBulk Apothecary

Try to aim for organic, unrefined, nonGMO, cold-pressed, fair trade, virgin, etc.

What do I do with all this information?

This is the really beautiful part…  You choose what you want to use and just toss it all together!  The most elaborate recipe would still only require some sort of heating method, a bowl, a utensil, and a container for your finished product.  You can’t mess this up.  Remember that this is a Do It Yourself project, not necessarily a Do It The Way Someone Else Did It project.  Pick one or two ingredients or pick twenty.  It’s yours.

General DIY Tips

  • Work in small batches.  You don’t want to waste ingredients or end up with a gallon of product that you don’t like.
  • Clean up properly.  Things like coconut oil and beeswax should not go down your drain.  A flexible spatula ensure you get most of your product from your mixing bowl into your end product container.  Before washing, and ideally when your mixture is still pliable, use a paper towel or bit of toilet paper to wipe out any remaining product from the bowl and discard.
  • Remember that some of these ingredients will change in texture once they’ve been allowed to come to room temperature.  Coconut oil will naturally soften and melt a little as it’s being stirred, but it will stiffen up again if left in a cool room.
  • Be ready to adjust your product as your needs change.  Some of us can get away with a simple swipe of just arrowroot powder on wintery days.  Suit YOUR needs.
  • Be on the lookout for adverse reactions.  You may need to use less baking soda, you may need to add a few less drops of EO, you may need to skip them altogether.
  • Make notes as you go.  I’m horrible at this, but I absolutely see the merit in it.  Nothing is worse than ending up with the perfect product and then not having any idea how to replicate it.  Record how many spoonfuls, how many drops, how many tablespoons…

If you haven’t already jumped on the natural deodorant train, I hope this post encourages you to try! If you do already make your own, I’d love to hear what you use, your tips, and where you like to gather your ingredients.

Smell ya’ later!  ….OR WILL I?!

 

har har

 

Unexpected Minimalism

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I’m super duper busy this week, so this post might be a little blurby! Our church is having a sweet little Valentine’s banquet this weekend for about 30 people, and I ended up in charge of setting up, decorating, shopping for the food, and making desserts.

Does anyone else love being busy?

Stick with me through this.  I have a point, I promise!

We usually go with paper, plastic, or foam plates for church functions since there are so many people.  But if you’ve ever once in your life used a disposable plate, you know those babies would never hold up when loaded with a hefty steak and a generous baked potato.  And who wants to eat off of plastic at a Valentine dinner?  

And I also needed salad plates, dessert plates, bread plates, cups, sturdy forks, knives that actually cut more than butter…

I was starting to feel quite nauseous pricing out “good” plastic.

And then…

I remembered real plates are a thing.

I searched our church kitchen, and I found them!  A few years ago, someone had donated some dinner plates, bowls, and saucers.  We also had a pretty decent collection of matching drinking glasses.

Y’all….I went out and bought enough real dinnerware to feed 30 people for less than what it would cost to use plastic.


I wanted to share all that with you because I think it makes an *excellent* point that minimal is whatever you need it to be.

Sure, the stack of dishes in our church kitchen got a little bit taller this week.  And, yes, I’ll be washing dishes for a long while afterwards.  But…

  • I saved money.
  • I have better quality items that can be built upon and reused. (Imagine a future potluck with NO PAPER PLATES!  Insane.)
  • The church kitchen has plenty of empty cabinet space, so storage is a non-issue.
  • I ensured that the only thing going into the trash cans this weekend will be paper napkins. (I’m working on making cloth napkins to pair with our fabric tablecloths!)
  • People can eat comfortably without having their forks snapping in half :/

Minimalism can be based on so many factors.

Environmental impact, cost, storage space, long term usefulness, quality, personal value, etc.

For this banquet, I considered all of these things, and I concluded with keeping more stuff than I started with.

As I’ve said in another post, minimal is relative.  I also believe it’s much more broad than going through your trinkets or wardrobe and labeling each item as joyful or not.  It can be based on deep pondering, not just an immediate emotional reaction.  It can be based on what you need, it can be based on what you want, it can be based on what you know you don’t want or need.

One person’s method doesn’t have to be your method!  If your method is bringing you peace and joy, don’t let anyone else take that away from you in the name of “doing it the RIGHT way.”

Chocolate covered strawberries, anyone?!

Two Ingredient DIY “Everything Butter”

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A goal of mine as an aspiring minimalist and crunchy gal is to be more simplistic with the products I use.  Minimal products with simple ingredients serving multiple purposes.

This “Everything Butter” is my jam.

It’s made with two ingredients, coconut oil and beeswax.  Both items can be found easily and are pretty inexpensive.  Each ingredient also has multiple uses, so there is no waste.  This butter lasts forever and can be used for a multitude of things.

  • A body moisturizer
  • Lip balm
  • Essential oil carrier
  • General “booboo ointment”
  • Frizzy hair control
  • Homemade deodorant base
  • Baby butt cream
  • A quick and easy, made-with-love gift
  • Errthang

I wish I could say I have beautiful photos of my ingredients laid out on a classy wooden cutting board and all that jazz, but I’m not that blogger.  My DIY experiments are…heavily experimental.  This is actually the only thing I’ve ever made that I have measurements for!  Everything else I’ve made involves me side-eyeing my homemade concoctions, flicking in a little more of this or that, and hoping for the best.

But this is so simple.

All you need to do is…wait for it…

Using a double boiler, melt together 1/4 cup of beeswax pellets and one cup of coconut oil. Then let it cool.

You read that right.  Melt.  Cool.  Done.

The beeswax gives the coconut oil just a bit of extra stability and adds some moisture retaining qualities.  It holds as a solid but melts quickly when applied.

It’s impossible to mess up and the tweaks are endless.  If you want a firmer consistency (for example, making it into a deodorant stick or using in a chapstick tube), you can simply add more beeswax.  If you want to add some essential oils, just drop them into the melted mixture.  Add some colored clay or natural powders to make colored lip gloss.  Blend in some arrowroot powder and/or baking soda, and voila, you have basic deodorant.   I like to whip my cooled butter so it’s extra light and fluffy.

I love this stuff! And this is a great DIY for beginners. If you try it, let me know how it goes, how you tweaked it, and what you like to use it for.

#DIYALLTHETHINGS

Be My Tribe. Your Favorite Shampoo & Conditioner.

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I’m on the hunt for better, faster, stronger hair care solutions.  Please share your favorites with me!

I can comfortably go an entire week without shampooing my hair.  This is absolutely amazing because I used to shampoo, condition, blow dry, and flat iron my hair daily.

Just thinking about it now makes me feel exhausted.  Ugh.

However, I still use a very cheap and very mainstream shampoo and conditioner.  I’ve made the switch to natural and minimal body and face products.  My hair is the last frontier.

I’ve read about various no-poo methods, and I have my struggles with each.  The baking soda rinse followed with apple cider vinegar doesn’t quite suit me because I take issue with the alkalinity and acidity clash between the products and human skin/hair.

I also found this blog post over at Just Primal Things that made too much sense not to try.  While I do believe the water only method could be amazing, a few attempts at it was enough to know it was just too much maintenance and prep for me.  I’d love to sit and massage my head and distribute oils through small sections of my hair, but…actually, no.  I wouldn’t love that…  LOVE the premise.  Not so much the actual effort required for it.

And so the hunt is on!  I need a natural shampoo and conditioner!  Or at least more natural than Tresemme!