No soap lady-o

20 Mar

I haven’t used soap in two months.

Let me explain. Back in January, I happened to catch this post on the BoingBoing feed that Google Reader ever so helpfully suggests to me incessantly, but I don’t actually want to subscribe to because I don’t want to become a slave to my lurking feeling that I MUST READ THEM ALL. But this one I caught in previews, and I thought to myself, “Hey, I’m a dirty, tree-hugging, nature-loving, The-Man-fighting hippie, this sounds like my kind of experiment!”

In case BoingBoing is somehow like unto the plague for you, the basic concept here is that the human body is generally designed to manage its own chemical levels, and using soap/shampoo with all its included sodium chloride and ammonium xylenesulfonate and Yellow No. 10 tends to kind of mess with our natural balance, causing a downward spiral of increased stink leading to needing to scrub the stink off with more soap until ultimately we’re cowering in the corner of the shower, scrubbing until bloody. I may be exaggerating. There’s also the caveat that one is still supposed to wash one’s hands with soap after sneezing, coughing, excreting, handling meat, handling one’s own meat, and before any contact with food that will actually go into someone’s mouth, because while it may mess with the pH balance of your hands, it will also keep you from contracting terrible diseases and perishing horribly, so the trade-off there leans on the side of soap.

So that’s the theory. And for some people, it does seem to work. But as with any crazy hygienic idea, mileage varies, and here’s my mileage after two months:


The Good: As advertised to me, my skin has felt better. It does seem softer, and most importantly, I do not climb out of the shower with the sensation that my face has crystallized like five-year-old honey. It doesn’t feel at all greasy when I leave the shower, despite my skin’s tendency to discharge Deepwater Horizon levels of oil spillage. My persistent mild acne has receded a bit: I still get zits, and have gotten them in a few extra-creative places of late, but they’re mostly smaller and vanish quicker. And, true to the point of the original article, I don’t stink. I’ll have to see if that holds come summer, but without soap or deodorant, I’ve been better off than I usually am with both.

The Rather Less Good: This mostly focuses on my hair. I may have to call off the no-shampoo portion of the experiment, because it is driving me absolutely up the wall. My hair is not a simple thing: it reaches to my butt, and while pleasantly straight, it is the exact target market for Pert Plus “for fine or oily hair,” as it is both fine and oily. The concept of getting into the shower and putting water on it without any soap to actually help extract the Danny Zukoesque layer of grease my scalp produces and shares with six inches of my hair was mind-boggling, but I tried it anyway, and have continued to do so since the second week of January. While I was surprised to find that yes, after a bit of getting used to it, my hair is not disgusting when I get out of the shower, it is also not manageable. It does not like to stay down, and prefers to frizz in various interesting directions. Furthermore, ceasing to use shampoo has not corrected the problem that I thought might have been caused by shampoo: the dandruff from hell. My dandruff does not come merely in flake form: it also appears as a white film on my hairbrushes that must be scrubbed away with hot water and industrial equipment. My new theory is that this happens because I air-dry my hair rather than blow-drying, but heck if I am going to make the effort and electrical commitment that testing that would require. Given that the supposed peril of shampoo has not vanished, and that I miss the light, fluffy, tame creature my hair used to be, I’m not sure this portion of the experiment will make it to May.

In summary, this is the kind of experiment that I would recommend everyone try for a few weeks. If nothing else, it’s a journey of self discovery. And, if what you discover is less than pleasant, then hey, it’s easy to shove back under the rug.


8 Responses to “No soap lady-o”

  1. Anna March 21, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    There are a few other non-shampoo hair cleaning options that you might try. My hair is also fine, with an oily scalp and extremely dry ends, and reaches almost to my butt. Mine, however, is curly.

    I have not used a bottled detergent shampoo on it in… well, years probably. Anyway, there are a number of people who wash with baking soda and rinse with a diluted apple cider vinegar mix that have great success, especially on oily and/or straight hair. You might also consider “conditioner” washing (which is what I do) since most inexpensive conditioners contain mild surfactants that will clean your hair without stripping it. And there’s also shampoo bars – which I wrote a post about for this very site, but that will go live next week-ish. SO.

    Many no-poo options that don’t involve JUST WATER that you might try, at least two of them (baking soda/vinegar, organic soap shampoo bars) that don’t involve commercially produced weirdness and chemicals you can’t pronounce. 😀

    Ping me on IM if you want more infos >.>

    • Claire March 21, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

      About a year ago I made the transition to a shampoo bar, and eventually changed from that to an oil based soap (I use Chagrin Valley, I’m sure Anna knows who that is). My hair and scalp went through about a 2 month adjustment period, and after that I’ve never looked back. My hair never looked or felt this good when I used shampoo.

    • Bika March 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

      I knew either you or Claire would offer hair advice here, hee. Not to mention I’ve been waiting for you to write that post forever ’cause I’m a Chagrin Valley soap fangirl.


    • Anna March 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm #

      Indeed, my post about soap that will go up next week is about Chagrin Valley. I use a shampoo bar from Ida about once a week, and conditioner wash (which I’m happy to post info about as well) the rest of the time. Happy Hair!

    • haemonic March 21, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

      Baking soda and vinegar, huh? I keep imagining one of those grade school volcanoes on my head. But I think I might give that a try. Thanks!

      • Bika March 21, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

        You totally should. I keep a bottle of diluted vinegar in my shower and it does wonders when my hair starts getting weird.


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