Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Corn-y Solution

No, that's not a typo.  Or perhaps I should title this, "A Corn-less Solution."  Nahhh.  The puns I do like, the puns I shall write...

For those of you who know me personally, you know I've been battling a corn allergy for about 7 years.  I say "battling" as if it is a disease.  Those in the know understand this.  It is a disease.  In effect, I'm allergic to progress.  Modern society makes me sick (and not in the usual, metaphorical way).  I joke that they'll be fitting me with my bubble, soon.  At least, I try to tell myself that I'm joking...

For those not in the know, I'll take a brief interlude to explain.  I don't have a "food allergy."  I can't get well again just by avoiding corn on the cob.  You see, every tiny thing you take for granted is made with corn.  It's not just sweeteners (fructose, maltitol, some glucose and dextrose among them), thickeners and flavorings.  Acetic acid (that's white, distilled vinegar like you use for your cleaning and pickles if you're boring) is distilled from corn.  I had an ear infection, once, that took three rounds of antibiotic drops to clear up.  I know why, now: it contained acetic acid.  So did the antihistamine drops they gave me for the eczema that caused it.  In fact, they helped, but by the time the antihistamine wore off, the acetic acid was still working away at my skin.  The vegetable glycerin in my Advil Liquigels is made from corn.  I can't take the tablets because they're made with cornstarch (which is worse than corn oil on my system).  In fact, I can't take any medications pretty much because they're cut with corn.  I can't cleanse a wound with alcohol.  It's made from corn.  I can't wear a bandaid for more than an hour.  The adhesive is made from corn.

Many stores now use "bioplastic" bags.  I can touch them, okay.  If they disintegrate, I have to wear a mask to dispose of them (I learned this last Christmas when I opened a box of ornaments I wrapped in them-- they do disintegrate).  I've had to change to a mineral makeup (and actually, I like it, because I never really liked anything except powders... and yup, non-mineral powders are made with cornstarch).  I'll also be promoting the most AWESOME mineral makeup in the world, here, so forgive me.  I don't own stock in it.  It's just such a relief to find people who understand.  I can't wear hairspray, use anything but special soaps, shampoos and conditioners (it took me 3 months to find those).  The best pomade in the world for short hair breaks me out in a rash if I'm not absolutely careful not to touch it after applying (god forbid I should sweat and my bangs should hang in my eyes).  But all of the above is just the tip of the iceberg.  You can't even begin to imagine all the things with corn in them, nowadays.  It really is in everything.  Toilet paper, for crying sake.  All paper now contains corn fibers, but toilet paper dusts the rolls with cornstarch and uses corn-based adhesives not only on the first sheet but to adhere it to the roll.  Yes, my dear friends, imagine wiping your ass with poison ivy.  *Shudders.*

Sorry for that last image.  Too much information, I know, but lots of people still aren't convinced it's a big deal until I hit them with what should be the smallest part of modern society.  Yes, I still use toilet paper.  (I'm a modern gal.  The alternatives are just creepy.)  I'm the Benadryl Cream Queen (which, btw, interesting factoid: Benadryl and every other brand of antihistamine tablets or elixirs have corn products in them.  I'm allergic to my allergy medicine).

That wasn't so brief, but I'm sure everyone gets it, now.

So what is this blog post really about?  Not TP.  Not even corn.  Actually, this post is about the blessing behind the curse, and how freaking fun it is, sometimes, to go corn free.  I'm not being sarcastic (or even ironic).  This past week, I've been playing Mad Scientist (having taken over my husband's kitchen, and I guess he's cool with that as long as I don't ask him to cook).  I am on a quest for an all-natural pomade (as in, "I could eat this and it wouldn't make me sick," not all-natural like Borax).  Yes, I know you can buy it.  Everything I've tried sucks.  Yes, I know there are recipes.  All the recipes suck.  Yes, I know this is my third batch and I've still failed and I suck.  But I'm going to keep trying.  It's fun.

In the meantime, here is a recipe for a decent hair tonic (leave in deep conditioner for curly hair).  My first "failure."

Frizz Control Pomade (for curly hair)

2 oz bee's wax
2 oz olive oil
4 oz coconut oil*

Using a double boiler or a pan with 1-2 inches of water** and a glass jar for ingredients: melt bee's wax.  After bee's wax is melted, add coconut oil and stir (with a folding motion, to move liquid bottom-to-top) until melted and mixed (about 5 minutes).  Add olive oil and use the same motion to stir until oil is mixed thoroughly (about 5 minutes: the olive oil will form droplets in the wax that you can clearly see: it is mixed when the droplets are either so tiny they look like glitter, or are unnoticeable).  Turn off heat and remove mixture (jar or pan) carefully.  Bee's wax and hot oil both burn, even if it doesn't look that hot!  As long as it's liquid, it will strip your skin off.

Place mixture jar (or pan) into an ice bath.  Stir consistently and constantly.  Do not let mixture build up hard on the sides.  If this occurs, remove from the ice bath, stir on the counter at room temp until it blends, and then return to the ice bath to stir some more.  When the consistency is creamy (thicker than gravy), test with a finger.  If it feels warm, keep stirring.  Once the mixture is blood-temp (it will not feel warm to your skin) you can remove it from the ice bath and leave on the counter.  Do not test the temp until it's thicker than gravy, as it might still burn you.  After it's down to blood temp, you can ignore it until it comes down to room temp.  Stir vigorously one last time and then spoon into a clean glass jar.

This process takes... oh, I don't know.  A half hour.  The consistency is a very thick lotion.  It actually makes a decent lotion, too.

* I used processed, refined, 100% pure coconut cooking oil.  It's odorless, so if you don't like smelling like coconuts (or if you want to add fragrance) it's a neutral base.  On the other hand, I have a whole organic coconut oil that I use as a leave-in conditioner because I love the smell, so it's up to you which to use.  Both are edible and natural.  Both were purchased at Whole Foods (the refined oil was in the cooking aisle and the whole oil was near the lotions and soap.)

** If you use a double boiler, just add water as you normally would to the lower pan.  If you use a glass container set inside a pan of water (which I do), then you'll want the water to rise about 1/4-1/3 of the way up the filled volume.  In other words, if I am using 8 oz of ingredients, the water-bath should go about to the 2-3 oz. mark.  I also only bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Boiling it the whole time won't make it melt faster, but you might get splattered by a roiling boil.

How to use pomade:

It works best on wet hair (captures moisture and locks it in).  Dab fingertips and then spread onto palms, work into hair and then comb through.  For longer hair, section into three or four layers.  Dab onto fingertips, spread onto palms, work into each layer (repeat up the layers) and then comb through.  Reduces volume (the halo fluff), straightens a little (by gravity, when you pull the comb through) and adds significant shine to dull, dry, "nappy" or over-processed hair.  Warning: if you use too much, it may look a little greasy.  On short hair, this is the bedhead "wet look."  On long, straight hair it's not cool.

Last but not least, as promised:

Signature Minerals is a high-quality, affordable, corn-free makeup.  Stress affordable.  They're not only cheaper than most mineral makeup, they're not much more expensive than Cover Girl (which I used 10 years ago before I was cursed because I am cheap-- wait, make that "frugal"-- not because it's high quality).  Hell, stress high-quality, too, on Signature Minerals.  I love the stuff, especially their multi-tasking concealer because I'm an old woman prone to melasma the past two years, but I'm not yet beyond vanity.  Their stuff makes me feel purdy again.

For the cost of shipping and handling (around $5) you can order a sampler kit customized with only the colors you want to sample (most sample are large enough to get 10-20 wears from them).  If you order something from them at the same time (I really recommend the goat's milk soap-- I've tried many, and theirs is the only one that doesn't make me itchy or blotchy), then there is no extra shipping charge.  No, wait, that's not true: you pay $.01.

Some of their products (lotions, etc.) may not be corn-free, so always ask if in doubt, but all the ingredients are usually listed clearly, and they're very good about getting back to you quickly and thoroughly if you enquire.  They're very helpful.  Maybe this is blatant consumerism, but I believe in them, their company and their product completely.

One final note on Signature Minerals: they're currently out of fragrance free soap.  This is because it is handmade by a woman who raises her own goats.  It takes weeks to process more.  When it is available again, don't buy it or you'll be extremely unhappy.  Not because it isn't good stuff: it's ambrosia.  I've been waiting a month for a new batch and if you get there first, I will hunt you down.  If you don't hand it over, I may do you bodily harm.  For sure-- choose one of the lovely, scented bars.  You won't be disappointed :)

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