Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – The story of my pill boxes

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder about six years ago. That seems like such a long time ago now. A different life, a different era.

During these years, as part of my medical treatment for this mental illness, I was directed by various psychiatrists to try various different types of prescription medication.
(Read: Trialling different medications, different dosages, different combinations, taken at different times, and all with different instructions).

As those of us who take any medication on the regular would know, having a lot of different pills that need to be taken at different times of the day can be tricky to successfully and consistently incorporate into a busy and unpredictable lifestyle.

And like many of us who have had to make the decision about medication and mental health can understand, initially, I was very uneasy about taking medication for my bipolar disorder. How would I know what was me and what was the medication?
I remember thinking that taking medication would blur the already shaky lines I had of my self-identity or maybe make me numb to my emotions when all I wanted to do was control the soaring highs and the catastrophic lows i.e. have all the high energy and good moods with none of the moodiness or depression (basically have my cake and eat it too).

Every time I had to take my medication, it was a constant unwelcome reminder that I had a mental illness. Two or three times a day.

I remember upon revealing my diagnosis to a close friend, I was embraced and made to feel like I was accepted. We had known each other for years and it didn’t change who I was, the experiences we had had, the love and respect that was there.

This same friend also happened to see my pill boxes at the time, which were split into morning and evening doses for each day of the week and labelled very simply with pieces of scrap paper.

Next thing I knew, my friend presented me with these custom-made personalised labels,  for each day of the week, to fit into my pill boxes, each day with a special drawing of one of my beloved toys. See photos below.

As a bit of background, I had a number of plush toys scattered around my room; toys which I hugged to sleep, carried around the house, or sometimes even brought out with me into the outside world. Some were bought, some were gifts, all with many memories.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This may sound silly, but looking at these hand-drawn labels on my pill boxes every single day really made a difference in how I viewed taking my medication for my mental illness.
Yes, taking medication multiple times a day will be a constant reminder of my bipolar disorder, but it was also a constant reminder that I was loved, and that I was taking medication because I wanted to get better. That was the goal.

So, my suggestion to anyone out there with a generic pill box:
Customise it now! Make it yours!

Make your pill box a reminder that medication isn’t about being ill or abnormal,
it’s a conscious daily action towards positive mental health that we do because we want to get better and be a better version of ourselves. That is the goal.

Never forget that.

 

Thanks for reading.

^_^”

Love, accidentalbirds

Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – Planning ahead

When I was first diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder I was overwhelmed and scared of what that label meant, yet at the same time, relieved that my demons finally had a name, and that there was treatment.

I remember early on as I started taking medication that I had so many questions. Some were easily answered, while others I had to develop my own answers.

I’ve separated them into categories to try to make it easier to make sense of.
I hope these questions and answers can be of use to you.


Planning ahead so you never run out a.k.a. Maintaining your supply

  1. Do I have enough of each of my medications to last me till the next time I plan to go to the pharmacy/chemist?
    I don’t count each and every pill I have, but I do make sure I have enough of each medication to last me at least until the weekend when I can go to a pharmacy. It’s always good to stock up a bit so you have an emergency supply. Generally, once any of my medications goes down to about a two week supply left, I make a point of going to the pharmacy.
  2. Am I low on repeat prescriptions for any of my medications?
    Your general practitioner or psychiatrist can give you more scripts for your medications as needed. Medication prescriptions have finite authorised repeats which means your GP or psychiatrist will have to routinely write you new ones in order for you to get your medication from the pharmacy. It helps to be aware in advance if you are close to maxing out your repeat script for any of your medications so you can ask for one at your next appointment. Many psychiatrists charge extra if you need a script outside of your appointment times while a doctor’s appointment generally involves a long, tedious wait beforehand.
  3. Do I know where the best pharmacies in my area are in terms of:
    • Location – Convenient and accessible, perhaps near your local shops, near home or on the way to work.
    • Type of stock – I found out through experience that some pharmacies only stock the generic brand of certain medications or only the brand name. It’s important to differentiate between generic and non-generic brands of medication. Although they would both have the active ingredient, the ratios will vary as well as the “filler” ingredients used in each pill. A good example is the drug quetiapine, which is also known by the brand name Seroquel. I was specifically directed by my psychiatrist to avoid the generic brand as it simply was not as effective. Always check with your doctor if it’s okay to get the generic brand to cut costs, otherwise you’ll have to make do with the more expensive, but also potentially more effective brand of medication.
    • Cheaper costs I’ve found that the cost of medication is highly dependent on location, with suburbs closer to inner Sydney or the city being more expensive than in the western suburbs. 
    • Opening hours Late night chemists may help to cater for after work if you do long hours or if you need to buy any medication on short notice.
  4. Special considerations when travelling
    If you plan to travel, it’s important to make sure you have enough in stock to take enough of each medication with you in carry-on luggage only (not checked luggage). As a precaution, I always get a medical certificate along with any necessary vaccinations from my doctor to certify me for carrying medication, just in case I’m questioned by airport security.

Correct storage

5. Am I aware of the correct storage of each of my medications?
All medication has specific storage specifications. Always read and follow the medication instructions. I store my thyroxine sodium medication in the refridgerator at about 4-5 degrees, my lithium carbonate pills at room temperature, and my omega-3 capsules at room temperature away from light.
I generally store my medication in their original blister-packs or containers until I prepare my daily doses in pill boxes. I do this every two days so my medication isn’t exposed to air for more than 48 hours.

6. Storage when travelling
Many medications require storage at room temperature away from direct light and thus do not require any special care. Other medications, such as thyroxine sodium as mentioned above, need to be refridgerated which can make things a little tricky when you’re travelling overseas. A product like the Medication Travel Pack from The Australian Thyroid Foundation would have been handy on my previous trips as it is designed for the transportation and cool storage of medical supplies. It’s on my wishlist for future travelling adventures, though is a bit expensive at $69 (including membership).


 

Clear daily schedule

7. Do I have a clear daily schedule of when I take each medication?
By clear daily schedule, I mean a succinct and detailed timetable of what medication I take, each dosage, at what time, and any other specifics. I found this especially important after undergoing electro-convulsive therapy (ECT) treatment and suffered from some memory loss. It is also helpful for your emergency contact or loved ones to know your medication routine and to act as a reminder or in case of emergency.

8. Am I aware of how to take each of my medications?
Each medication has different and specific instructions on how to take it.
For example, I take my thyroxine sodium pill thirty minutes before food every morning (or whenever I wake up). I take my lithium carbonate tablets with food and I take my Seroquel tablet one hour before I get in bed.

9. Do I have my medication easily accessible and ready to take on a daily basis?
The main idea is to make taking medication on a daily basis simple and an automatic part of life i.e. minimum brain power required. The more I minimise the decision-making involved, the easier and seamless it becomes as part of my everyday life. It becomes less of a chore and just something I do everyday, like brushing my teeth.
Plus it will lessen the probability that I will miss or skip any doses.

10. Can I prepare my medications in labelled pill boxes in advance?
Consider trying different types of pill boxes to suit your needs. I’ve tried quite a few over the years depending on my medication as you can see in the photo below. I started by using seven-day pill boxes, then moved to split pill box containers with personalised labels for each day, and finally two handcrafted wooden pill boxes from an Etsy seller. My pill boxes evolved to suit my needs as I changed medications and dosages over the years.

pill boxes sa title

11. Do I need a split pill box to separate my morning medication and night medication?
This is helpful if you take pills that look similar at different times so you don’t mix up the doses, or if you’re like me and just like taking all the pills in the morning section in the morning, and all the pills in the night section at night.

12. Do I need a pill splitter to break any tablets and get the correct dosage?
Pill splitters are available at most pharmacies/chemists. You only really need it if you’re in-between doses under the instruction of your psychiatrist. I’ve found it to be quite a handy tool over the years as I’ve trialled different medications that required a gradual increase in dosage.

pill splitter sa title.jpg

13. Will it help if I set regular alarms/reminders on my phone so I can take my medication at set times?
I have my alarms set at 8 am, 12 pm, 8 pm, and 9 pm for the different prescription medications and vitamins I take. 

14. Would it be helpful to trial the different mobile apps available for recording and taking my medication?
There are lots of apps available to help you take your medication on time. A key search term would be “Medication reminder“. I personally use an app called “Medisafe Pill Reminder” to monitor my changing medication. I have trialled others in the past but have stuck with this one for many years and find it helpful in monitoring my compliance i.e. if I take/miss/skip certain pills, as well as changes in dosage and changes in overall medication.

medisafe screenshot sa title.png


Coping with side effects

15. Do I know the potential and likely side effects of each of my medications?
This one is hugely important and means I prepare myself to cope with the side effects I experience as a result of all my medications. For example, lithium causes me to experience dehydration on a regular basis and constant thirst, so I will make an effort to drink a minimum of two litres of water a day and also always carry a reusable water bottle on me at all times. One of my medications, Seroquel, makes me very drowsy so I make sure to take it at night just before I sleep instead of in the morning, and I also make sure I don’t do anything that requires too much concentration like driving.
It’s a necessary evil to cater for the side effects of your medications, especially if that particular medication is working to help balance the chemicals in your brain. It’s a matter of striking a balance between what you are able or willing to tolerate in terms of negative side effects versus the gain in positive effects on your mental health, and to adjust accordingly.


In case of emergency

16. Do I have a complete and up-to-date list of all the medications I take in case of emergency (with dosages)?
I have a written reminder in my yearly planner to review my “Current medication list” every six months. I make sure to list all my current medications with today’s date, each medication dosage, when I take each in a day, and even a basic drawing of what each pill looks like. It is important to set aside time to regularly review and update this list so that you, your emergency contact, and any loved ones have this information on hand when needed. Pictured below is my actual current medication list. As you can see, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just as long as it conveys the necessary information.
On another note, this list is also handy to bring along to different doctor’s appointments as I’ve often been asked what medication I take and it’s easier to show this list than verbally list each one.

current meds list sa title

17. Have I made this list available/accessible to my chosen emergency contact?
I have my current medication list typed up as a digital note on Google Keep which I’ve shared with my emergency contact. I have also emailed this information to my emergency contact in the past and left a physical, written list attached to the front of our fridge with a magnet. You just need to find out what works best for you.

18. Do I know the important contact details of all my health professionals for emergencies? (Including full names, profession, contact number, address)

  • General practitioner
  • Psychiatrist
  • Psychologist
  • Other key therapists, support groups, etc

I find it helpful to keep this in one spot so it’s easy to refer to when needed. Include contact numbers as well as location.

19. Have I educated myself on the potential side effects of each of the medications I take in case of toxicity/overdose?
I learnt about lithium toxicity the hard way when I overdosed and had to admit myself to hospital. It’s important for you as well as your loved ones to know the signs so you can act fast. Find out what the signs and symptoms are for each and every medication you take, make a list, then share it with your emergency contact and loved ones. They may recognise emergency symptoms before you do and can act fast to get you help.


Regular review of medication

20. Am I aware of how regular my blood tests need to be?
In order for my doctor to monitor the correct level of medication in my body, I need to have regular blood tests. My test results help my psychiatrist to adjust my dosages accordingly and determine the number of tablets I need to take to achieve an optimum level in my blood. I think in general, it’s best to ask your doctor if you need a specific regular blood test each year to keep on top of things, or as often as every three months as in my case to track lithium levels. For myself personally, I ask questions specific to my medication such as:

  • Quilonum (slow release lithium carbonate) – How often should I be having blood tests to check my lithium levels? What is the optimum range? What happens if I’m below the optimum range? Will I experience symptoms? What happens if I’m above optimum range i.e. toxic level?
  • Thyroxine sodium – How often should I be getting thyroid function tests? Am I currently on the correct dosage of medication? Do I need to see an endocrinologist?

It’s important to become an active participant in your own healthcare because, ultimately, you are responsible for your own mental health. Your doctors, other health care providers, and loved ones are just your support team; they can’t take those steps forward for you.

I have found that this way of thinking strongly contributes to my mental resilience and the drive to get better and stay well even after every setback. I have to regularly remind myself that I am the catalyst; the game-changer; the one that makes the decision whether to try again. When, not if, I fall over, I can choose to get right back up; I can also choose to lie there for as long as I need to and recover. It’s a tough journey towards prolonged stability, especially if like me, you experience rapid cycling, so make sure you make the choices that are right for you to support your well-being. Yes, it will be a lot of trial and error, with a lot of setbacks, but you can do it. We can.

21. Are the medications I take regularly reviewed by my doctors? I’ve seen many different health professionals in relation to my bipolar II disorder and over the years, it’s easy to lose track of when you started or stopped different medication doses. I’ve often been asked when I started a particular medication and at what dose, so I found it helpful to make a concise record a.k.a. my treatment timeline, which includes both medication changes and treatment changes (see screenshot of my actual treatment timeline below). For example, I started Quilonum in November 2011 at 450 mg, or had 12 rounds of ECT treatment in August 2016.

tx timeline sa title.png

It also helps to make a note of what medications you used to take and why you stopped. E.g. Escitalopram, 20 mg, taken from February to May 2017, stopped due to side effects (add details).


Medication waste

Medication blister-packs are currently not recyclable in Sydney and can only go to landfill -_-” As someone who is trying to minimise their waste, this is a pretty big disappointment. Of course, I do recycle the cardboard boxes that the blister-packs come in, but I also regularly feel pangs of guilt as I drop yet another blister-pack in the bin.
This photo below is the amount of medication waste I generated in about two weeks T_T”

meds waste sa title.jpg

I am hopeful that TerraCycle in Australia will eventually offer a program in collaboration with the big pharmaceutical companies to recycle their pill packaging and force them to embrace a closed-loop environmental solution. This basically means that the  companies that produce the pills and profit from the sales become accountable for their products from manufacture through to disposal (which is the way it should be!). Fingers crossed that future accountability and sustainability isn’t too far away.


I hope you have found at least one of these tips to be useful to you.

Keep embracing the adventure.

Thanks for reading ^_^”

Medication & Bipolar II Disorder – Overcoming the stigma of medication

As someone with bipolar II disorder and I assume like many others, I eventually decided to go on medication after overcoming the stigma associated with it and listening to my psychiatrist who wanted to help me get better.

I started off slowly on low doses of medication, and over the past six or seven years since I was diagnosed, have been on about a dozen or so different medications, combinations and dosages.

As you can imagine, keeping track of medications can get a little tricky when there are different instructions for each. And taking different medications multiple times a day can prove to be monotonous and if I’m honest, a bit of a slap in the face; a constant reminder that you need this medication to help you live your life.

It took me a long time to come to terms with taking medication and I’m sure I’m not the only one who struggled through the questions: Do I really need to take my meds? Will it change me and who I really am? How do I know what’s me and what isn’t?


The answers are simple.


Yes, I need to take my meds, because my brain isn’t able to balance the chemicals I need it to alone. When I am on my medication, and my brain chemicals are finally balanced, then I will be the real me. Without the meds, I am a shadow of myself as my brain struggles to maintain stability. Me without medication is a version of me that isn’t coping with life.


I think I understand some of the fear, because I’ve been there. And if I look closer, there’s a lot of hope there too.


I am not saying that medication solves everything. But it helps. Along with daily mood charting, regular psychiatrist appointments, regular psychologist appointments, and constantly striving for a healthy lifestyle such as regular exercise, good nutrition, plenty of water, good relationships… you know what I mean.


And this stuff is lifelong. It’s not just a short stint and then bam, permanent results. It’s a constant evolution of self. A regular reflection of who you are, what your values are, and where you want to be. I wish I could tell you it’s an easy road, but there are ditches you won’t see till you fall in. You and I, we will always fall. This life isn’t about avoiding the fall; it’s about knowing you will, preparing for the consequences, and then planning for the recovery and the climb back up.

You just have to make the choice in your mind that you will make the climb, because you want your life to be better, because you want to know that life can be better.


Embrace the climb, my friends.


And enjoy the simple adventures in life.


Thanks for reading.

My Water-Only Hair Routine – Giving up shampoo and embracing simplicity

*Please note that this article is regularly updated as I find better ways to simplify my hair care routine, add better content and share it with you. I prefer to add to this blog post to create a comprehensive list rather than have several scattered posts related to the same thing. Let me know if this method is good for you. Constructive feedback is welcome. Thanks. ^_^”


Over the years, I have purchased and used various brands of shampoos and conditioners to clean and look after my hair. Like most people, I want my hair to be clean and smell good and for the longest time, shampoo was the only product I knew of that ticked those boxes.

If I didn’t wash my hair regularly with shampoo, I just felt greasy and unclean, especially after a sweat session or being out in smokey environments. 

I’ve tried many of the various brand names that you find in the supermarket, which typically had a lot of fragrances and packaging to go along with the marketing.

I’ve experimented with hair waxes, sprays and creams to keep my hair tamed or conditioned and also tried many short and long hair styles that involved their own types of maintenance costs. I noticed the amount of products and items I had accumulated just to maintain the hair on my head seemed a little, well, a lot, and we’re not even talking body hair maintenance yet!

I realised how long and expansive the hair care aisles are in the big supermarkets and when I stood still and watched, I found I wasn’t alone. I was typical of many as I observed the very same multitude of hair care products in the trolleys of fellow consumers. I saw the same uncertain expressions as they gazed back and forth at the different colourful bottles on the shelves and thought to myself, “They probably just want clean hair too”.

So, I decided to experiment and go on a simple adventure to change my hair care routine. I wanted to simplify my routine and minimise how long I spent on my hair day to day, so I researched online to see what was out there and what might suit me.

In terms of alternative hair products, I came across various brands that either had interesting or exotic-sounding ingredients, were advertised as eco-friendly, natural or vegan, or just came in pretty non-plastic packaging. The multitude of products seemed a bit overwhelming, but in the end, they seemed just like the same types of products I was already buying but dressed up in different outfits, so to speak.

When I looked into the possibility of making my own shampoo, I discovered some interesting alternative methods to replace standard shampoo which included rinsing with apple cider vinegar, washing with baking soda, using soap nut water, sticking with regular shampoo and conditioner but just washing less often, the “no poo” method (i.e. no shampoo method), and finally, the water only method.

In the end, I found that I just wanted it keep the process as simple as possible, so this is what I decided to do:

  • I washed my hair less frequently – this really depended on my schedule but it went from every day, to every other day, to maybe once a week.
  • I eventually stopped using hair care products altogether – No more shampoos, conditioners or styling products. Just water only.
  • I started simply maintaining my hair by brushing it with a good bristle brush from roots to ends and giving myself the occasional scalp massage to help move the oils and naturally condition my hair.

And the result? Well, if I’m honest, a bit hit and miss.

My hair initially felt a bit oily. I read that this was common as our scalps go through a “detox” period where it realises it is overcompensating by producing more oil than needed. A “transition” period is therefore required which means your scalp needs to take a little while to regain control since you’re no longer stripping your hair everyday using shampoo, thereby forcing your scalp to overproduce oil. I guess that makes sense. 

Using water only to wash my hair and scalp felt like it didn’t quite get all the greasy feeling out. However, after really sticking to it for a couple of months or so, I found that my hair has responded really well and looks healthy and tangle-free (after brushing). Whenever I wash my hair with water only, I always give myself an inadvertent scalp massage as I’m running my fingers along the roots to remove any excess oil. Along with regularly brushing my hair with a natural bristle brush, I believe this is the main reason why the water only method has been so successful for me.

My hair generally doesn’t feel oily or weighed down anymore, the lengths feel soft and conditioned from my own scalp oils, and my hair is simple to maintain. Best of all, my hair feels clean and does not smell like a mix of synthetic perfumes from various products. My hair just smells like me. ^_^”


My Essential Simple Hair Care Tips:

  • Keep your hairstyle simple to minimise maintenance. This means no need for waxes, sprays, ironing, curling. etc. I have found that keeping it shorter in general means less tangles and maintenance.
  • Don’t heat-style your hair – Give up the hair dryer, curler and straightener. Heat damage makes your brittle over time and harder to maintain without using products. Try better alternatives such as braiding your hair when still damp for soft waves. Think of it as aiming to work with your body‘s natural groove instead of forcing it with heat or chemicals to hold to an artificial standard of beauty.
  • Invest in a good natural bristle brush that will help to distribute the natural oils in your hair from your scalp to the ends. This helps to condition the entire length of your hair with no need for extra conditioning products. Buy quality, sustainable and cruelty-free.
  • Wash your hair using water only if you can. Some people have commented that the water only method doesn’t work for their hair, so try it to see if it works for you and the area in which you live. Everyone is different and the water available to you will be different. I live in a soft water area and the water-only method works very well for me. The advantage of using water only is there’s no need to purchase shampoos, conditioners or other disposable hair products. You basically just need a good brush and to wash with water when you feel like it needs it. Definitely a simple, cost-effective routine.
  • Troubleshooting – I have found that I do still have some days where my scalp feels a little bit dry and itchy. During these times, I’ve found that using dilute apple cider vinegar really helped (I would approximate one capful of apple cider vinegar to one full glass jar of water as shown in the photo below). The smell is a little bit strong on the nose initially but fades in a short time. It leaves your hair surprisingly shiny and soft and your scalp soothed. Yes, I know this is technically still buying a product but I think using the water-only method for your hair and the occasional apple cider vinegar to condition your hair and scalp is much better than the concoction of chemicals we use in standard hair products. Not only that, but it’s about using minimal products with minimal ingredients. Stick to locally made, organic apple cider vinegar with the “Mother”.
    Water-only ACV.jpg
    Important sidenote: This Bragg brand of organic apple cider vinegar (as pictured above) is not locally made (made in the USA and imported to Australia), but I did recently discover a brand made locally here in Australia that I plan to switch to once I finish this bottle called Barnes Naturals Organic Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother. They seem to be pretty much the same on the label (certified organic, raw, unpasteurised, with the “Mother”) and both come packaged in reusable glass bottles, but the fact that the Barnes Naturals brand is made locally here in Australia proves to be a more sustainable option.  Interestingly, it also turns out to be cheaper which I suppose is a result of not having to import (Bragg is $1.37 per 100 mL as opposed to Barnes Naturals at $1.25). Remember to vote with your wallet and support local companies who are doing the right thing by sustainability. To read more about this topic, please check out my other post: Conscious choices – Vote with your wallet

  • Troubleshooting – On some days where my scalp is a little oily but my hair still feels pretty clean and I don’t want to wash it, I sometimes use arrowroot powder and massage very small amounts directly onto my scalp with my fingers. I’ve found this works quite well at extending the days in between washing your hair with just water only. I don’t do this often though, just when I feel like my scalp is still clean (i.e. not sweating from exercise) but is a bit too oily for my liking. Just remember to use arrowroot sparingly and massage thoroughly to avoid your hair looking white and powdery.
  • I personally also love the little bit of self-care that goes hand-in-hand with washing with water only too, which is a regular scalp massage. Because self-care is important ^_^”
  • Cut your own hair – or ask a good friend that will help. It will not only save you money and time going to a hairdresser, but regularly allows you to be creative and have fun with your own personal style (cause hair grows back… or alternatively, you could rock a hat till it grows out). I’ve had cheap haircuts that cost me $20 to designer ones that cost me $250 for the whole wash, cut and style combo O.o I’ve cut my own hair for a number of years now and I definitely recommend it. I even enlist the help of my partner sometimes to help me shave the back of my head when I need another pair of eyes. (In case you’re wondering, I am currently rocking an undercut with shoulder-length hair and eyebrow-length bangs) ^_^”
  • Avoid dying your hair – Rock your natural colour loud and proud! Your natural hair colour will always compliment your skin tone, plus it requires zero chemicals and wasteful packaging for both you and our environment. I do however, support the freedom of expression that changing your look can bring with a new colour so if you do dye your hair on the regular, it’s just about making conscious choices and knowing the effect of your actions, both positive and not-so-positive, on both your body and the environment.
  • What do I do with all my unwanted hair products that I have already accumulated? Well, it is always better to give your unused/unwanted products to someone who will happily use it rather than have it clutter your space remaining unused or added to landfill.  I donated an almost full can of hairspray and a bunch of elastic rubber hair ties to my brother (who happens to rock a hip top-knot style do). I also no longer use bobby pins and have passed my huge collection of them on to a friend who rocks a more high maintenance hairstyle and will put them to good use. I slowly used up whatever other hair products I had with the assistance of my partner before beginning my adventure with the water only method. Remember: Donate, Repurpose, Upcycle, or Recycle only after using up your products. Don’t just toss things in landfill because it’s the easiest option. Be creative. Live with intention. Make conscious choices.

Other benefits of a Water-Only hair routine:

  1. Using water only means this hair care method is vegan and cruelty-free. Stick to natural plant fibre bristles for your brush instead of synthetic (unsustainable) or animal hair (animal welfare cannot be guaranteed).
  2. Water is generally toxin-free and extremely cost-effective as you only pay for your water usage. If you add in a navy shower style to your routine you’ll save even more in both water costs and time showering. To read more about navy showers, please read my blog post “Why I choose to have cold showers – And why you should try it too”
  3. You really only need water and a good bristle brush so that makes this hair care routine super minimalist and simple.
    Water-only essentials.jpg

  4. Eco-friendly. Low impact on the environment. Sustainable. Zero waste. Zero packaging. 
  5. You save storage space because there’s no need to store any hair products or styling tools (except for your brush).
  6. Travelling is easier as you don’t need to pack anything in your luggage but your brush. No more bulky containers or liquids to pack or declare.
  7. Save time. Hair maintenance will likely be a lifelong repetitive chore for most of us, so the less time we spend cleaning, primping and preening our hair in our lifetime, the more we can experience all life has to offer ^_^”
  8. So in summary, essentials for your hair care are water and a natural bristle brush. Optional items are apple cider vinegar and arrowroot powder (go for organic and locally made with sustainable packaging), sharp scissors and an electric shaver for DIY haircuts, and maybe an additional wooden comb to style your fringe or beard if you’re so inclined.
    My water-only hair care routine.jpg


I hope my simple adventure into simplifying my hair care routine has inspired you to rethink how you take care of your hair too. I really hope this method works as well for you as it does for me.

Thanks for reading ^_^”


 

My simple eco-friendly oral health routine

We all want nice teeth and bright smiles but I think as a consumer, it is important to make conscious choices – to know your products and learn what alternatives are out there that are sustainable, produce minimal waste, and contribute to a simple daily routine.

I should probably mention that I have a slightly more complicated history with my oral health than most as I was born with a cleft lip and cleft palate. Essentially, it meant that I had to have a number of surgeries to reconstruct the bone in my upper jaw, but perhaps I’ll save the details of that for another post. ^_^”

Anyway, I suppose you could say that my condition and subsequent surgeries led me to be very grateful and extra appreciate of my oral health. I was lucky enough to receive dental implants as well as years of braces that helped to straighten my teeth and normalise my bite. So after all that, you can be sure I was inclined to take extra good care of my mouth so I could keep my teeth for life.

Enter my oral hygiene routine.

Originally, my routine didn’t differ from the average person: standard toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental floss. Maybe even the occasional rinse from a store-bought mouthwash. Brush twice a day, try to remember to floss, and visit my dentist once or twice a year.

After I decided I wanted to be more conscious of simple living and produce less waste, I did some research into sustainable or “almost” zero waste alternatives. I was excited by the idea of making my own products so I dived straight in!

I trialled some recipes for toothpaste and mouthwash, but these are the ones that worked best for me in terms of simplicity and minimal ingredients:

DIY – Make your own toothpaste!

Ingredients: Bicarbonate of soda + Virgin coconut oil
Make: Mix the two ingredients in a small jar until you get a paste consistency.
Use: I use a small stick to scoop some paste onto my toothbrush. Brush your teeth as usual using small circular motions. Spit. Floss. Rinse.
Note: You can add peppermint essential oil for that minty flavour if you like. I found I actually preferred this recipe without it, but experiment and see where it leads you. ^_^”

DIY – Make your own mouthwash!

Ingredients: Water + Hydrogen peroxide (3% solution).
Make: I actually make this mouthwash as I need it. I use half a capful of peroxide and add it to half a measuring cup of water (about 125 ml).
Use: I use this every couple of days or so to rinse my mouth after brushing and flossing. Simply gargle as you would a regular mouthwash for about 15 seconds and spit out.
Please note: Hydrogen peroxide will whiten your teeth, but I don’t recommend daily use as it could make teeth and gums sensitive.

I have looked at the possibility of moving from plastic toothbrushes to bamboo toothbrushes which are compostable, but as I used to work for a dentist, I still have a small supply of soft plastic toothbrushes that my partner and I need to use up before we try bamboo.

I currently still use regular floss (again, small supply from work), although I have noticed a lot of zero waste bloggers/YouTubers promoting a certain brand of silk floss made in Germany that comes packaged in a glass vial. Maybe something I’ll look into at a later time, though other than being less waste, it is not a local product by a local company that necessarily meets my criteria for sustainability and simple living.

A tip on recycling toothpaste tubes and floss containers: In general, oral health products tend to end up in landfill. However, if you choose to continue buying your toothpaste, floss, and mouthwash products you can still reduce your waste by sending your used product containers to TerraCycle. They have branches in countries all across the world and recycle the odd items that would normally go to landfill. Best of all, it’s a completely free service. You just collect your empty containers and print off a reply-paid label to send it to them. For more information, please check out their website. ^_^”

So this is my new daily oral health routine:

  1. Use a stainless steel tongue scraper – removes excess bacteria and prevents bad breath.
  2. Brush my teeth with my DIY toothpaste (currently still using a plastic toothbrush but hoping to transition to bamboo toothbrushes in future).
  3. Bonus tip: Use your soft-bristled toothbrush to buff and exfoliate your lips! Just use water and use gentle circular motions. No more need for lip scrubs!
  4. Floss – I use a combination of Super Floss which has a hardened end for between my dental implants, and regular floss for all my other teeth.
  5. I use my DIY mouthwash every other day (not daily) to whiten my teeth and maintain gum health.
  6. On a side note, because I used to wear braces, I have a retainer that I need to regularly wear when I sleep. I use the same DIY mouthwash to soak my retainers and clean them before putting them in for the night.
  7. Bonus tip: Rinsing your mouth and gargling with a salt water solution will help with any gum bleeding or inflammation you may have. This can be easily helpful if you are guilty of not always flossing daily like I am -_-” Just add a teaspoon of salt to a cup of warm water to dissolve. Swish, gargle and spit. Any type of salt will do. I personally use pink Himalayan Rock Salt because it’s what’s on hand.

I hope that my adventure in simplifying my oral health routine has given you some ideas in not only being a more eco-conscious consumer, but also getting you to embrace the concept of self-reliance that making your own products entails.

Thank you for coming on this simple adventure with me. ^_^”