Are we too obsessed with cleanliness? Let’s get dirty.

We live in a culture that’s crazed with cleanliness. We’re drawn to sterility, perpetually reaching for our hand sanitizers and cringing at the idea of eating something that’s been on the floor. Some of us shower twice a day, and use crazy chemicals and drugs to ensure disinfected spaces and bacteria-free bods. But what if we’re going too far, inadvertently sabotaging ourselves by succumbing to this fanatic decontamination?

Increasingly, evidence shows that those who were exposed to more microbes as children are less likely to have allergies and asthma as adults. This is because we actually build up resistance to harmful bacteria through exposure. Researchers call the idea the “hygiene hypothesis,” proposing that spotlessly clean environments may actually be detrimental to our health. Similarly to working out your muscles to build strength, our immune systems need to be exercised in order to function effectively. Our bodies are entire ecosystems, influenced by bacterial interactions in both our internal and external environments. Overly-sanitizing our spaces or always defaulting to strong antibiotics weakens our immune systems. It’s like trying to ace a test you haven’t studied for, or going into a presentation completely unprepared: Your body simply doesn’t have the tools necessary to defend itself.

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Fall Fitness: Cycling with SoulCycle Instructor Madeleine Starkey

Our ongoing fall fitness series continues with this week’s feature: indoor cycling! We admit we’re a bit biased here, as S.W. Basics’ founder Adina Grigore happens to be a huge cycling fan, with her studio of choice being – you guessed it – SoulCycle. And for good reason, too. For those unfamiliar with cycling or SoulCycle, the gist is this: You work your ass off, rock out to awesome music, and leave feeling totally zen. Yet we know that reducing cycling to simply “it’s awesome” isn’t going to help anyone be less intimidated by it or more motivated to give it a try. To that end, we commissioned Madeleine Starkey, a SoulCycle instructor here in New York City (she teaches at both Brooklyn Heights and Union Square), to discuss everything cycling. Her interview is below – but first, some Certifiably Awesome questions!

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S.W. Recipe: Skin Cleanse Hair Conditioner

This recipe is straight from our founder Adina Grigore’s book Skin Cleanse. Pick up your own copy here!

DIY conditioners are usually full of oil, but it’s often very difficult to get oil out your hair. We prefer this recipe, which is still very conditioning but really light and easy to rinse out.

Beer is full of B vitamins, repairs damaged hair, and adds volume. The fatty acid content of eggs helps moisturize and condition your hair, and apple cider vinegar will help make your hair shiny and also clear you of scalp issues and buildup. The nice thing about this conditioner is that it’s good for your hair and your scalp. This recipe is especially great for fine hair.

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The Self-Massage: How to Do It, and Why It’s Awesome

 We all know how miraculous it is to get a massage: Your stress levels lower, your heart rate evens out, your muscles relax, and you can breathe more easily. Basically, you feel like your best self. Indeed, touch has important physiological effects on our systems. Among the researched effects of daily massage are improved digestion and circulation, a more balanced nervous system, smoother skin, and more luscious hair.
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S.W. Recipe: Tightening Bloody Mary Toner

This recipe comes straight from the pages of our founder Adina Grigore’s book Skin Cleanse. It’s the perfect DIY for a lazy Sunday afternoon spent cozied up at home. Feel free to make a Bloody Mary on the side, too!

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Certifiably Awesome: Emerson Fry

In our sweetest dreams we are outfitted in Emerson Fry’s entire collection of clothing and accessories from head-to-toe. Emerson, a US-based designer, creates the type designs that you feel good about wearing season after season: A testament to their timelessness, superior quality, and effortless modernity.

Our attraction isn’t just based on looks, either – the main Emerson Fry line is produced here in the United States (smaller heritage capsule collections are carefully produced elsewhere), using ethical production methods and sustainable materials. While this dedication to conscious design isn’t something Emerson blatantly wears on her sleeve – ha ha – it lends her work an air of quiet, considered thoughtfulness.
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Your Skin Cleanse Cheat Sheet

The term “Skin Cleanse” tends to freak people out, so I thought I’d offer a few tips to make it easier! Perhaps you’ve read the book but need a little nudge, or perhaps you haven’t read the book but you googled “Do sliced cucumbers really make my eyes less puffy?” and landed here, confused. (The answer is yes, they do. And welcome!)

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Why Organic Matters in Skincare

Our founder Adina Grigore recently spoke with Harpers Bazaar about popular “beauty buzzwords” – namely the differences between natural, organic, non-toxic, and hypoallergenic. Given we’re announcing that four of our products – our Cream, Body Scrub, Exfoliant, and Organic Lip Balms – are now officially certified USDA Organic (the rest of our product line will soon be, too!), we’re sharing what the designation really means – and why you should be wary of “natural” marketing.

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Natural: “Legally, this means nothing—it’s a completely unregulated term and should be thought of as pure marketing,” says Grigore. “It will generally mean that at least some natural ingredients have been used in the formula, but a product can be labeled as natural and contain up to 30 percent synthetic ingredients.” Look at the label and if the product is full of ingredients born in a lab (ethyl acetate, nitrocellulose, red #11, etc.) and the only from-the-earth one you recognize is buried at the bottom, that means it’s hardly natural. If all the ingredients listed are just the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) Latin names for things you recognize—for example: sodium cocoate is saponified coconut oil—the product is all-natural.

Organic: “The use of the word organic is actually highly regulated, and legally means a brand or ingredient has been certified by the USDA. You should see an accompanying logo that confirms this; if you don’t, it means nothing and they are about to get in trouble. If you do see the logo, it means that said ingredient (or almost 100% of the ingredients in an organic product) have been grown and processed under a very strict code of cleanliness, with no pesticides or fertilizers, and absolutely no genetically modified organisms.”

Non-Toxic: “This is a newer designation, also mostly marketing,” says Grigore. “When companies claim to be non-toxic, they are specifically referring to leaving out ingredients that have been linked to toxic responses in humans: neuro-disruption, hormone disruption, cancer, even death. A great, or I should say horrible, example is phthalates [found mostly in household products and shampoo and conditioner, they give products a uniform consistency and make them easier to pour.].” Here are some of the other offender ingredients to always avoid: formaldehyde (found in nail polish, hair gel and color cosmetics); petroleum (found in moisturizers and lip balms); asbestos (labeled as talc or hydrous magnesium silicate); lead acetate (found in hair dye and lipstick); coal tar (found in hair dye and anti-dandruff shampoo).

Hypoallergenic: Products labeled hypoallergenic are making the claim that they cause fewer adverse reactions than their competitors, but any product can be marked with the word, according to Grigore. “It holds no meaning whatsoever.”

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