Au Naturel


I’m taking a break from my usual introspective posts about the sometimes bittersweet journey of parenting; the sometimes arduous task of raising a child battling obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD); the sometimes anxiety-riddled existence of not knowing if I have a hereditary cancer disorder; and of course my love of the New York Rangers and all things hockey to speak for a moment about something that might seem a bit more shallow – skin care.

I have written about looks before – in both Skin Deep and The Mirror – but, that wasn’t about actual skin care, really. It was more about my views on aging and what I would or wouldn’t do to try to stall the process. And, how hard it can be as we get deeper into middle age to reconcile the young person inside and the older person staring out from the mirror. (Though, I have to admit – I got carded in NYC last week and it made me so happy. I asked the bouncer, incredulously, are you carding me for my age? Because if you are, I love you – I’m old!)

This is just about actual skin care and my quest to find products that don’t leave me covered in giant welts. Not as easy a task as it may seem. I’m writing this, because I’m sure at least some of my readers have searched for natural skin and hair care products too. (If you don’t wish to read what spurred this quest and just want to know the solutions I found, scroll down past the next few paragraphs.)

It all began last May, specifically May 7, 2014. My husband colored my hair for me – as he had been doing for over a decade. But, the burning and itchiness that I always felt was the price of beauty suddenly felt like someone was slicing my scalp with razor blades. It was, quite frankly, unbearable. But, I felt I had no choice. That Feria “Espresso” needed to sit slathered on my head long enough to get rid of the pesky grays that were far too numerous for me to pluck (and yet not numerous enough to give me a gorgeous silver hue). You see, my son’s Bar Mitzvah was a mere ten days away. Temple photos were just a week away.

I know people who have gone a striking silver and look beautiful. My friend, Debbie, has sparkly blue eyes and a lush silver mane that she wears in a stylish up-do in her simply stunning author photos. She looks gorgeous and I’m more than a tad envious. I also know people with salt and pepper who look just lovely with silver strands interwoven. But, I just look washed out when the grays start growing in. So, I sat with that torturous mix of harsh chemicals on my head for the full twenty-five minutes and within an hour I had hives on my neck and one cheek looked like I had been slapped by the hand of a giant. By the morning both cheeks were bright red – my son said I resembled a Disney character with apple red cheeks drawn on.

The allergist confirmed that I had an allergic reaction to the hair color. He gave me a steroid cream, told me to continue taking Benadryl (a children’s dose of which knocks me out cold) and informed me that I could get much worse over the next forty-eight hours. “You could wake up tomorrow looking like you have chemical burns covering your body,” he warned me.

Thankfully, the Benadryl and steroid worked their magic and I was just left with a small red circle on one cheek. But, I suddenly became allergic to everything. Really – everything I put on my skin engendered a vicious reaction. To make a long story short, after seeing my allergist, internist and two dermatologists, no one could tell me what I’m allergic to, so I cut out all chemicals. After trial and error, I found an amazing skin and hair care line – Shea Moisture. I now use their body wash (the Argan Oil & Raw Shea smells so yummy – like chocolate), shampoo, conditioner and Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Milk. It’s sold at Target, CVS, etc. And, I can still use Origins, thankfully. I’ve used their skin care for twenty years and love it.

But, my secret weapon is Trader Joe’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil. I slather it on my face, hair and hands. I mix it with oatmeal for a homemade scrub. It can get a little messy, but it’s so worth it. People are always asking me what I do to keep my skin looking young – Origins and coconut oil are my staples. I’m not sharing this to sound arrogant. In fact, I thought twice about even writing that last sentence. But, people do ask me often (see getting carded above) and they really do seem surprised that such a simple item can do so much. I also feed it to my dogs. After they’d always lick it off every time I rubbed it on my legs in the summer, I Googled it to see if it’s safe for them. Not only is it safe, it’s wonderful for them.

And, if you’re wondering about my hair color – I’m able to get foil highlights. So, now I’m blonde. It’s odd to think I’ll never be a brunette again, but I’ve gotten used to a sunnier look and the grays aren’t as noticeable when they grow in, so I can stretch coloring a bit longer. Which is good, because it certainly costs more than $7 for a box of hair color. But, if I divide it over the eleven years I spent $6 – $7 every couple of months, it’s not so bad. And, it’s certainly worth not having an allergic reaction – the price of beauty can be way too high when it comes to your health…


2 thoughts on “Au Naturel

  1. DebraDruzy says:

    Stef, you’re adorable and have an amazing youthful glow which radiates from the inside out.
    I’ve also been slathering coconut oil… for years because it feels so good, and my pup licks me like a fiend, too. (I also use olive oil with a couple of drops of lavender oil bc my coconut oil is a solid during cold months.)
    How are you with perfumes? If you have a problem with perfume, try vanilla extract, straight from the bakers section of the supermarket. A dab at your pulse points and you’ll smell delicious.
    You’re so lucky you can carry being blonde. I can’t 😦 Looking forward wait to seeing your highlights!!

    • stephaniekepke says:

      Thank you so much!! And, I much rather be able to carry silver! Or even have silver – mine’s gray. Those are great tips! I think I’ve used vanilla before – when I was young. Love it. Right now my perfume is Origins Ginger Essence – the body oil is so hydrating, I even use it on my super dry hands and the roller ball doesn’t irritate. But, I’m going to try vanilla again! Looking forward to seeing you soon!!

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