Sunday, October 5, 2014

Yes, I am Clean

I was reading an article today about this man who is traveling the US without any money. It's an interesting article, and I think a lot of the suggestions he makes for living free while traversing the country are applicable also to people who have a home to support. With the exception of the few bills suburbanites are naturally going to have to pay that he won't have to pay (like property taxes and the like), most of us could live with a lot less cash than we think we need.

Through much of the article, I was nodding my head and thinking, "yeah, I already do that, anyway," and while it felt good to note that I live a pretty eco-friendly life, I started wondering, if maybe, most of us do, and that the media hype about what the average American uses is just that - hype.

In particular, the man biking the country was talking about the personal hygiene products he uses. He says the only products he carries are toothpaste, Dr. Bronner’s Soap, a toothbrush, floss, and essential oil, which is interesting to me, because those are the only commercial products I use, too. In the interest of full disclosure, I also use a homemade deodorant, especially in the summer (not as much in the winter), consisting of baking soda, cornstarch, coconut oil and an essential oil (usually lavender, which is both nice smelling and anti-bacterial).

I don't use shampoo or conditioner. I don't use hairspray or gel or styling mousse. I don't use shaving creams or exfoliants or night creams or wrinkle creams. I don't use commercial deodorants or antiperspirants.

Most of the commercial products people use thinking they're getting cleaner or smelling better, not only don't make them cleaner, but they also cause one's body to produce more of the substances that those products are designed to take away. Using shampoo actually makes hair MORE oily rather than less. I wash my hair every other day using Dr. Bonner's bar soap (almond scented is my favorite). On the days I don't wash my hair, it's actually more silky and smooth than on the days I do wash it. Yes, that's right. I wash my hair only four times a week, and I never use conditioner ... and, yes, I have long hair.

I just wonder, though, if maybe we're being sold a bunch of lies. Like, maybe there aren't nearly as many people with a ton of products in their cabinets as the media claims. Maybe this guy - and me - with our austere stash of personal hygiene products are actually normal, and the media claims of the average American having a closet full of smelly stuff is just an attempt to get us to buy more.

In the interest of science, I would like to take a small poll. What's in your bathroom cabinet, with regard to personal hygiene products?

Gratuitous Fall Photo


  1. I think your poll is going to be heavily skewed. No offense! But so many of your readers are people already leading towards the minimalist lifestyle.

    I wash my hair twice a week - I do use shampoo, and conditioner, but I've been trying to convince my husband to move to a no-shampoo lifestyle. I'll make the move once he's comfortable with it.

    We grew up poor, so I rarely had anything other than the basics - in fact, I didn't even KNOW about conditioner until a friend let me use hers at a sleep-over. So our family was unusual in that mother and I have sensitive skin, so those products were never in our home in the first place.

    That said? I babysat almost every weekend from the age of 13 to adulthood. I babysat mostly in people's homes. And OMG they had a shitload of products. I remember one woman who had a shelving unit she had installed above her shower, going lengthwise along the length of the tub. And it was CROWDED - completely filled with shampoos, conditioners, and hot oil treatments for hair. That shelf was JUST hair products for washing. Her hair styling products were in a cabinet with her makeup and lotions, and the cabinet was the kind you normally see bought for kitchens, to have extra pantry space. The thing was taller than I was.

    She was extreme. But most of the other people I babysat for weren't much better. Everyone had at least one small cabinet in their bathroom with products, or loaded their products on shelves where I would normally store towels.

    And I don't think I ever sat for a family that all shared a bottle of shampoo, like my family did (and still does). Every family member had their own bottle of shampoo...and body wash...and conditioner...and deodorant...many even had an individual tube of toothpaste per household member.

    I think it's far more common than you think.

    1. I agree that my poll is probably going to be skewed, because you are correct that most people who read my blog are minimalists.

      I was hoping, however, that the hype about American hygiene practices was just hype.

      I think I live in a bubble ... with my one, little bar of Dr. Bonner's soap ... that everyone in my family shares.

  2. I agree that there are lots using oh-so-many products...reassured by those who don't succumb to the marketing. Good on you!
    As for us, homemade soap and shampoo bars (couldn't find any without the chemicals to avoid) and lemon juice 'conditioner'. Antibacterial mouthwash is cold-steeped white tea. Homemade laundry soap and vinegar softener. Cleaning done with baking soda and vinegar. Deodorant as you do. This is not only for our own health but for that of others, and our Great Lakes nearby.

    1. I've learned to make lye soap, and when I make soap, we'll use that. I like the feel of it.

      What kind of soap do you make?

  3. I fit in the middle somewhere. I shampoo every night because I like to. When I get sweaty, which I do at night sometimes, or really dusty at work, I like to be really clean going to bed. I use a simple non-allergen soap. I use less shampoo than I used to, I only shampoo my scalp. Leave my hair fluffy and clean. My hair has gotten curlier (and I color) , so I do use a detangler/light conditioner. I use pretty simple organicy moisturizers, and regular deodorant. Working with staff I need to be odor free and I don't like my work clothes to stain from sweat. If I were home full time some of those concerns wouldn't matter. Typically, from what I observe, I use a lot less stuff than most people- little makeup, no perfumes, etc. Cheaper too...

    1. If I get really sweaty or dirty during the day, I will occasionally take a second shower. I do shower every day, but I don't always wash my hair - just wet it with the hot water. I do like my showers - I will admit ;).

  4. My bathroom looks a lot like a kitchen!

    Coconut oil...remove makeup, use straight as deodorant, swish in mouth to kill germs, heal bleeding gums, and it works great to stop/heal canker sores.

    Activated charcoal, with hot water and a drop or two of peppermint oil, makes my teeth whiter and breath fresh.

    Nutmeg to exfoliate my face, with the coconut oil.

    Spent coffee grounds mixed with coconut oil to exfoliate in the careful; it's slippery!

    Baking soda mixed with water to make a barely gritty liquid...poutr it into my hair, rub into my scalp, and rinse.

    Apple Cider Vinegar .mixed with hot water, pour through my hair after I rinse the baking soda. My hair is so soft and shiny, and I have no yellow tint to my white/grey hair.

    I will use Dr Bronner soap for extra stinky summer days, but a good rinsing, using a nutmeg/coconut oil mixture cleans me wonderfully the vast majority of the time.

    The biggest sure to pour hot water down the sink pipe to heat it a bit, so the coconut oil doesn't coagulate and slow drainage.

    I also use flannel family cloths to wipe for "#1" and remove coconut oil from my face. I keep a mesh bag on a hook on the side of the sink cabinet, and when it's full, zip it and wash it with whites (hot water).

    1. Your hygiene products sound perfect! I'm intrigued by the nutmeg/coconut oil combo. It sounds perfectly delicious, and I'll bet you smell nice - like pumpkin pie ;).