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Sulfates 101: The Good, the Bad, the Allergy

By Justine McGrath, Guest Blogger

I found out I was allergic to sulfates while taking medication. Once I started taking it, my skin suddenly turned bright red, uncomfortably tight, and itchy all over. Studying myself in the mirror, I remember thinking that I looked like a monster that had been scorched by the sun. I immediately called my mom for words of comfort and wisdom, while wailing into the phone, “What’s happening to meeee?!”

“Sulfate allergies are quite common,” my doctor said as she jotted down notes on a metal clipboard.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, sulfates are in a ton of major beauty products, but it took ingesting them for me to notice my allergy.

Since my sulfate-sensitivity surfaced, I’ve made it a goal to become more educated about the little buggers and eliminate them from my beauty regimen entirely. But even if you’re not allergic to them like me, sulfates can still do damage to your skin and hair. I’ve compiled some FAQs about sulfates below with the hopes you’ll proceed on the path to better beauty health:

What are sulfates?

You probably guessed by now that sulfates are derived from sulfur. They masquerade in the form of compounds called sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). You can find them listed on the ingredients label of many beauty products, usually displayed as the second or third ingredient (which is super helpful when you need to do a quick check). These compounds create foamy lathers and are essentially what make your beauty and household cleaning products bubbly.

Why are sulfates damaging?

Chances are, you use products with sulfates in them all the time, so how bad can they really be? Sure, you might not have drastic reactions like I do, but your skin and hair could still be getting damaged. As surfactants, sulfates work to remove dirt and oil from your skin and hair. But oftentimes, these ingredients strip your body of essential oils, break down skin cells over time, and cause follicular damage. Essentially, they dry you out and leave you with broken hair and dry skin.

What products contain sulfates?

I was shocked to find out how many products contain sulfates: shampoos, bar and liquid soaps, toothpaste, and even the moisture strip on your razor! Aside from beauty products, you’ll find sulfates around your house in the form of carpet cleaners, dish detergent, and even toilet soaps. Let’s face it, do you want to brush your teeth with things you put down your toilet? I sure hope not.

How can I avoid them?

Luckily, nowadays many items at your local drug or beauty store are labeled “sulfate-free.” A quick label check will also reveal what’s lurking in your products. Personally, I’ve become fond of brands like Desert Essence ®, Acure, and Burt’s Bees®, which typically use more mindful ingredients. Take it a step further and browse the beauty aisle at your local health food store because they usually have a myriad of sulfate-free options.

It’s true that sulfate-free alternatives can sometimes be more expensive, but the result is well worth it. Since switching over, I’ve noticed my hair has grown noticeably longer and softer, and I haven’t fallen victim to as many random breakouts on my face. My skin and hair feel healthier and less dry overall, and I feel better for being more informed about what I’m putting on my body. If you’re not 100 percent sold on switching over, challenge yourself to a three-month trial period and see if you notice any differences. I’m betting you’ll be a sulfate-free convert before you know it.

Justine McGrath is a copywriter by day and a stargazer by night. She was born and raised in San Diego, California and is passionate about travel, J.K. Rowling, and burritos. Check out more of her writing here.

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Coconut Banana Smoothie

When I’m craving something sweet and tasty, I whip up this tropical treat. Think pina colada, without the guilt. It’s one of my favorite “dessert” smoothies or a great option for a hearty breakfast. To further boost the health factor, I like to add a dash of turmeric, which is a warm tasting spice with anti-inflammatory properties, and some chia seeds that pack omega-3’s, calcium, and fiber into your diet.

-1 organic banana
-1/2 cup organic frozen pineapple
-1 TBS chia seeds
-1/2 TSP cinnamon
-1/2 TSP turmeric
-1 TSP vanilla extract
-1 cup coconut water*
-4 cup unsweetened coconut milk*
-1/2 cup ice (if drinking immediately)

*Measurements are approximate, depending on size of blender

Place banana, pineapple, chia seeds, cinnamon, and turmeric in the blender. Add liquids and ice. Blend until smooth. Drink immediately, or refrigerate/freeze in airtight, glass containers.

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Green Smoothie for Beginners

I recently presented a workshop at Digital Volition, where I spoke about holistic health and served up four different smoothie blends. The beginners’ green smoothie was a crowd pleaser, as it got everyone talking and coming back for seconds. It made my smoothie-loving soul shine because this green blend is a great stepping stone for an eventual all veggie-based smoothie! Be brave, give it a try it, and get ready to glow!

-1/2 organic banana (freeze other half for later smoothies)
-1/2 organic apple
-1/2 bag of organic mixed greens
-1/2 organic lime squeezed
-1 TBS chia seeds
-3 cups coconut water*
-2 cups filtered water*
-1/2 cup ice (if drinking immediately)

*Measurements are approximate, depending on size of blender.

Place banana, apple, greens, and chia seeds in the blender.  Add liquids and ice.  Blend until smooth. Drink immediately, or refrigerate/freeze in airtight, glass containers.

Note: Vegetable-based smoothies provide more health benefits, with less sugar. Aim for a 3:1 vegetable to fruit ratio when you’re ready to take on more greens!
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REVAMP YOUR WORKOUT OUTLOOK

By Chloe Mulliner, Guest Blogger

Sometimes I wince at the very thought of working out. I dread the huffing and puffing, sweating, and the cramping in my muscles. There’s a whimper as I lace up my running shoes and a last-minute attempt to bail on yoga class. If it were up to me and my lack of drive, I’d count my laps around the mall as a workout and call it a day.

Fortunately, my exercise routine isn’t completely up to me. My sister and I have agreed to remain workout partners till sixpacks do us part. We attend hot yoga sessions, go on 5am runs, and take evening walks between blending up green juices.

When I’m twisting myself upside down in an awkward yoga position, I look over at my sister, silently giggle, and suddenly I don’t feel so silly and self conscious. And there’s something so refreshing about sharing the serenity of a morning run on the beach with the first morning ocean breeze and colorful horizon. With a workout partner, I’m not alone on the journey to wellness. It holds me accountable. If I backout on a workout, I’m not only letting myself down, but I’m letting down her and our agreement too.

Instead of taking the easy way out and squeezing in a couple more zzz’s, we encourage each other through that first stretch. I push her to run an extra leg and she gives me the thumbs up when I master a new yoga pose. We high five each other at the end of our exercise sessions with our endorphins releasing and our muscles aching with gratitude.

Its the way we feel after our workouts, flushed faced and determined, that reminds us why we’ve made our pact in the first place. When my skin radiates with that post-workout glow and my jeans fit a little looser, I’m so appreciative for that support. Thanks to my workout buddy, I realize my potential. I may huff, puff, and sweat, but I know I’m capable and stronger because of it.

When you’re in a exercise rut or lack the motivation to take your wellness up a notch, consider finding a buddy to bring some accountability to your workout regiment.
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A FAUX CARAMEL DIP FOR YOUR NEXT VEGAN BASH

By Chloe Mulliner, Guest Blogger

No eggs? No dairy products? No problem? Well, not exactly. While I’m all for experimenting with the vegan lifestyle, I run into a problem when it comes to whipping up a dessert for a vegan-inspired party. I’m no chef in the kitchen, so when my friends have hosted vegan bashes this year, I’ve panicked without my go-to dishes. From blueberry pies to chocolate chip brownies, all my signature recipes entail beating eggs and whisking butter.

However, come my second or third round of health-conscience party invitations, I discovered just because I’m creating a dairy-free concoction doesn’t mean a lackluster arrangement of veggies and fruit. After a lot of investigating and a little bit of experimenting, I found a simple, yet impressive, vegan caramel dip. Sans the cream, sugar, and butter, this faux caramel sauce just may fool your junk-food loving friends.

-2 cups dates
-½ cup almond butter
-5 TSP fresh lemon juice
-1 ½ TSP vanilla extract
-1 TSP sea salt
-1 TSP raw honey

Remove the pits from the dates and soak them in a bowl of water overnight. When the dates are soft, place them in your blender, but keep the leftover date water on the side. Blend all the ingredients together and add the date water in at your discretion to create the desired consistency. Less date water will make more of a thick dip, while more date water will yield a sauce. Serve chilled with some sliced organic apples, and surprise everyone with this caramel counterfeit.

Chloe Mulliner is a writer and dabbler in the healthy living scene. She vows to try everything three times before forming an opinion, and that includes tasting green juices and sweating it out in hot yoga. Look forward to more guest blogs from her in the future, but in the meanwhile, find more of her musings here.