Staying Healthy on the Outside — Plant-Based Body Care to Feed Your Skin

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With a name like GreenGut Wellness on my logo and an Audible library made up largely of books about food and the microbiome, it’s obvious I’m a little obsessed with gut health. But true health is about a lot more than what you put inside your body — what goes on the outside matters just as much!

Think about it: how often do you later, exfoliate, shampoo, condition, shave and moisturize? How many body care products are you using every day? And what the heck is in them, getting absorbed through your skin and winding up in your bloodstream?

An integral part of going plant-based should be to replace the harmful chemicals in your shower and bathroom cabinets with natural alternatives. Here are five of my personal favorites to get you started.

RAD Soap Co.

In the past, I’ve sung the praises of the truly RAD products made by my friends at the RAD Soap Co. This family owned and operated natural body care company has been growing steadily since I first discovered their table at the Schenectady Greenmarket several years ago. In fact, as I write this, they’re prepping to open their very first retail store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, NY — stay tuned for more on that! (I’ll be plastering the opening all over Instagram, I’m sure.)

RAD stands out with their unique approach to personal care products. Starting with a base of all-natural ingredients derived almost exclusively from plants (a few products do contain beeswax), they add ingredients like beer, coffee, tea and medicinal mushrooms to create soaps, creams, sugar scrubs and lotions unlike anything you’ll find from other companies. They’re big fans of oils like hemp, coconut and olive, and they produce several products specifically targeted to manage common skin conditions.

Over the years, RAD has added pet care products, hand sanitizer, bug repellent and roll-on perfume to their line, using the same all-natural ingredients I fell in love with when I bought my first bar of their soap.

I can’t possibly pick just one product as a favorite from this company, but I’m currently loving the entire line infused with Death Wish Coffee (which yes, is as strong as it sounds). The soap, cream and scrub incorporate caffeine and actual coffee grounds to give your entire body a wake-up call. Turns out caffeinated body care products can also:

  • Tighten skin
  • Fight inflammation
  • Combat free radical damage
  • Reduce the appearance of under-eye circles

I’m fond of using the Shuga Bubs scrub when I’m feeling “blah” and need a quick pick-me-up. It does everything — cleanses, moisturizes and exfoliates — so you get your entire skin care regimen taken care of at once. (Incidentally, if you wash your hair with peppermint Hempstile afterward, your bathroom will smell like a peppermint mocha latte. Just sayin’.)

You can keep up with RAD as they expand the reach of their fantastic vegan-friendly products around the world (literally) by following them on Twitter and Facebook.

organic soap round by mzeynepd freeimages

The Fanciful Fox

I first met Kathie of The Fanciful Fox at a vegfest — I think it was my first year at Vegetarian Summerfest, but it may have been a smaller local festival like Valley VegFest. The reason I can’t remember is that her products pop up at just about every vegan event. Unlike some ubiquitous vendors who you can’t believe keep getting a table, The Fanciful Fox is a spot you’ll want to stop every time you get a chance.

What will you find? A completely vegan line of soaps, hair care, body lotion, lip balm, deodorant and men’s personal care products. My first purchase from the company was, of course, a bar of soap, and it was no small feat to choose which one. With names like Through The Woods and Vegan Bakery, how do you make up your mind?

I have the same problem when picking out a lip balm. Her scents are so spot on that it’s more a matter of deciding what “taste” I want to experience than being concerned over whether or not it will help my dry lips. Since the blend of natural oils and shea butter more than takes care of the latter, the former can become a bit like a trip to a candy shop or soda fountain. I’ve tried the chocolate peanut butter, the peanut butter and the chai tea, and so far it’s impossible to pick a favorite. (Although the chai spice does complement the fall weather nicely.)

Recently, I tried Kathie’s cocoa butter body lotion in the Beatnik Poet scent. Like some of my favorites from RAD, this lotion has a sort of “hippie” vibe thanks to the inclusion of patchouli. I’ll admit that, since discovering RAD, I’ve been reluctant to buy lotion from anyone else, but since I’m already a fan of the “intense” healing balm from The Fanciful Fox (which, for some reason, I can’t find on the website), I wanted to give it a try. It’s smooth, rejuvenating and has a fantastic smell that lingers for just long enough. It’s not quite as thick as some of the lotions I’m used to, but a little still goes a long way.

All ingredients in products from The Fanciful Fox are 100% vegan and “tested on dirty vegans, not animals.” (Best tagline EVER!) Many of the ingredients are fair trade and organic, and every flavor and scent is natural. Check her out on Facebook!

J. R. Liggetts Solid Shampoo Bars

I’ve been a fan of solid shampoo pretty much since I first started dabbling in natural body care and discovered some rather unusual (and kind of over-the-top) shampoo bars. I can’t remember where I first stumbled across J. R. Liggetts, but it’s a far cry from the crazy colors and wacky scents of my first solid shampoo encounters.

The company makes a whole line of bars, but my favorite is the tea tea and hemp. No artificial colors or scents are used — it’s just a blend of natural oils and essential oils with a mild smell and smooth feel. It lathers up richly and leaves your hair squeaky clean — almost literally! I’ve found I need to use conditioner or some other product for added softness to get manageable hair with this one, but that’s okay because there are plenty of natural and vegan options for that, too! My personal favorite quick finisher is a dab of coconut oil rubbed into a combed through damp hair.

The biggest benefit I’ve found from using natural solid shampoos is they bring out my hair’s real color. I didn’t know what my hair actually looked like until I stopped dumping a bunch of chemicals on it. After a while, I noticed it was lighter, shinier and more vibrant — and other people, including my brother and some male friends who don’t usually pay attention to that sort of thing, remarked on the change.

Solid shampoo is great for traveling, too. No worries about your shampoo exploding in your bag and leaking everywhere, and no TSA restrictions if you’re like me and don’t like spending a gazillion dollars on checked baggage.

Flagship Pomade Co. “Insubmersible” Pomade

I had long hair for the first 30 years of my life (except, of course, for those early years when it was first growing in), and last winter I decided I wanted something different and had most of it cut off. This opened up a whole new world of hair care products, including pomade. After some searching, I decided this particular product was the best idea for controlling the inevitable fluffiness and frizz my hair experiences and to ensure my new haircut kept its shape.

(As a side note, I don’t recommend going from long hair to an asymmetrical bob in quick succession when it’s cold out. Your neck will not thank you!)

To find a natural and vegan option, I hit up Etsy and discovered the Flagship Pomade Co. Not all their products are vegan (the oil-based pomades contain lanolin), but The Insubmersible is. Made with a combination of natural wax, oils, borax and essential oils, it’s a thick pomade that works in quickly and leaves hair with a matte finish. The scent is an amazing blend of bay, clove, citrus and vetiver. To me, the predominant scents are orange and spices. It might be too bold for some tastes, but I enjoy it quite a bit.

There’s not much that can tame my hair when the humidity sets in, so the Flagship Pomade Co. gets extra points in my book for creating a product that’s not only vegan but also able to keep my hair smooth in all kinds of weather. I find I can easily pat down or comb out any “imperfections” without a lot of effort when I use this pomade. It’s also great for adding body and texture to layered haircuts.

How to Find Vegan Body Caretake a shower by vierdrie freeimages

With the cosmetics industry responding to consumer demands for more natural products, it’s getting easier to find vegan-friendly products made without a host of potentially harmful chemicals. Look for products sporting official vegan certification, the vegetarian mark or the Leaping Bunny logo to identify vegan and cruelty-free options. Vegan Cuts also offers a monthly beauty box subscription, allowing you to try different products every month and find new favorites.

Just like your gut, you skin has a diverse microbiome that can be disrupted by outside assaults, including common chemicals in body care products. Consider what you put on your body as mindfully as what you put in your mouth — you are, after all, “feeding” your skin every time you apply a product. A good way to determine if a product is safe is to ask yourself if you’d be okay if you ingested it. If it can’t go in you without causing harm, it has no business being on your skin, either.

Of course, in addition to the health benefits of moving away from chemicals in body care, you’ll also enjoy better skin and healthier hair!

What are some of your favorite all-natural, organic and vegan body care products? Share in the comments!

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About the Author:

Sam has been a vegan since summer of 2009 and has spent the subsequent years experimenting with all manner of vegan food. She holds a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies and is a graduate of the Bauman College Nutrition Consultant Program. She is a member of Toastmasters International and currently serves as part of the Capital View Toastmasters club. When she's not blogging or cooking, Sam likes to read and study the Bible, play silly card games and knit socks.
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