I’ve been very lucky to have two close friends who make their own, chemical and preservative-free skin food ranges that feel like absolute bliss to the skin. Using their products for about a year now has inspired a new sense of responsibility and awareness about what I put on my skin and in my hair.
Everyday on the internet, you get the fear-factor version of all the atrocities surrounding make-up production, the morbid lists of chemical ingredients and some award-winning evidence photography of some poor woman whose eyelids have fallen off because she used a moisturizer from a known and recognized manufacturer, perhaps someone you’ve been using for years, so I will spare you the theatrics.
Instead I’ll talk about Irish moss. Irish moss is a red seaweed that grows along the rocky parts of the Atlantic coastline of Europe and North America (wiki). Colours range from light yellows to dark purples. In the picture above, we have the reddish variety. Irish moss. This kind of seaweed is commonly consumed in Taiwan as part of a salad.
In raw food cuisine, Irish moss is used as a thickening agent. Indeed in most mainstream food production as well. It contains a polysaccharide called “carageenan”. Carageenan is extracted from Irish moss and used as a soldifier/ thickening agent in canned foods, it’s used in ice cream, it’s used in most shelf-stored desserts and it’s also used in toothpaste. I’m sure the list is longer but this is just what I remember from what I read.
Recently, Irish moss and more especially, carageenan have come under fire from academics who claim that it is a cancer-causing agent and has been linked to diabetes and heart conditions. Although I can link lots of those research papers here, I’m not going to. My point is not to cause distress. Also, there is always the question one should ask when reading a research paper: Who is funding this research? Asking myself this question when trying to understand the soy bean debacle has brought some clarity on the matter and now I know that non-GMO soy from outside the US is a healthy food source.
I chose not to work with Irish moss because I don’t like how it works as a thickening agent in raw food. But, I do use it as a hair conditioner and a face mask. It’s got a lot of good stuff in it: vitamins, amino acids, iodine, calcium, potassium, protein, sulphur and zinc. It’s a great de-tangler, moistens the skin and hair and adds a gorgeous shine and sleekness. I have used it a few times and will now make it the sole conditioner I use on my hair and face.
It’s easy to get in Taiwan. I found mine at the Cotton Lands organic store.
1. Take about 1/2 a cup of Irish moss and soak in a large bowl of water for 12 hours. It will expand in size, so be sure to use enough water and a big enough bowl.
2. Rinse it out under running water then pop it into your blender and add just enough water to create a thick paste.
3. Spoon it into a container and let it set it in the fridge for a few hours. It is now ready to use.
It is said that it lasts for up to ten days in the fridge and indefinitely in the freezer. I have long hair so half a cup gets used quickly as a conditioner and face mask. However, I also have some frozen in ice cube trays in the freezer.
I wash my hair with a solution of bicarbonate of soda and water and after rinsing, I lightly press the water out with a towel then apply the Irish moss as a conditioner. I leave it in for about 20 minutes, doing a face mask (it tightens and lubricates the skin) at the same time, then rinse it out.
I blow dry my hair downwards so that it stays sleek and after drying, I dip my finger tips in the smallest amount of olive oil and rub them through the ends of my hair. It really helps to tame humidity-abused hair. It also feels so good to know that everything that I put on is natural and nourishing.
Give it a bash. Let me know how it feels.