featured image of a stack of soap with the text "do I need soap?"
Wellness

It’s time to ditch the soap

Your whole life has been a lie. Okay, maybe that was extreme, but you have been lied to your whole life. Now that the band aid has been ripped off let’s talk about soap. What’s the deal with it? Do we even really need it? 

If you’re suddenly feeling grossed out or getting a strong urge to write me off as some weird hippy chick I understand! I had this feeling at first too! 

I was horrified when I first saw the #nopoomethod mainly because I didn’t initially think it was about shampoo. You can imagine how this misunderstanding gave me some serious concerns. But after I saw what it really meant, I was intrigued. 

As I’m just starting to make moves toward being more zero waste I am always looking for ways to cut back on bathroom waste. Years ago in my public speaking class I gave a speech about zero waste. In my research I learned the bathroom is one of the worst rooms in the house for plastic waste. Not only do we have so many single use plastics in our bathroom, but we also tend to just throw an empty shampoo bottle in the trash instead of recycling it. This just wouldn’t do considering my new lifestyle changes. 

Not only am I trying to cut back on waste, but I’m also trying to do things that are better for my body. I’m always on the lookout for organic, cruelty free self care products that are also zero waste. 

I bet you didn’t know the average woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her body every day. Honestly, I forget this regularly, but our skin is an organ too. And that organ is capable of absorbing over 60% of what you put on it. And that absorption rate increases in our sensitive areas like under our arms or in out genital region. 

Are you scared yet? You should be! Seth and I both have fairly dry skin and in the brutal winter months our scalps feel the full effects of our extra long hot showers. I’m talking dandruff here, people. We did what most of the rest of the world would do given the unsightly flakes. We bought a brand name dandruff shampoo. Imagine my horror when I was reading the label and it said “keep out of reach of children. If product is ingested call poison control.” I’m sorry. What? I’m putting this product on my head! And you’re telling me if it gets in a child’s mouth I need to contact poison control? That didn’t sit right with me at all. “But doesn’t all shampoo say that?” Seth asked me. I checked. Nope. 

Okay, so just stop buying that shampoo, simple. Right? Well that still doesn’t eliminate waste. I will say I have used the shampoo bars from Lush to reduce this waste but we are so far from the nearest branch and it’s quite pricey. Not to mention they aren’t all completely all natural. Wastelandrebel talks about this more in this post. 

Of course a simple Google search will produce many alternatives. DIY shampoo is very popular amongst essential oil users and pinterest moms. But what about those of us that don’t have time/energy to DIY some shampoo? Not to mention DIYing products can often procure more waste than just buying in the first place. Well, my interest was piqued during an episode of Adam Ruins Everything. So I started scouring the internet, getting very specific with my Google searches. And guess what? I wasn’t the first person to ask, obviously. There were articles upon articles detailing how to, what happens after x amount of time, and why it’s so much better. 

The solution

Water! It’s a miracle. Honestly. Okay here are some facts before you leave. Just hear me out. 

pH & oils

Okay, so let’s get sciency, shall we? Here’s the truth about soap. Most soaps contain ingredients that strip your natural oils and change the pH of your skin. (Newsflash, your scalp is also skin.) That’s not great. Healthline says your skin has a natural pH of around 5.5 but most soaps have a pH of 11. So maybe you’re reading this and thinking you simply must wash your hair/face every. single. day. because it gets so oily. I feel your pain. Remember when I said my skin is super dry? Well it does this super cute thing where it’s really dry but also really oily? Like I didn’t understand it until now. I get it. It’s because I’m in this harsh cycle of stripping my hair and skin of their natural oils and them having to work extra hard to produce more of that sebum (the substance secreted by the sebaceous glands that help keep the skin and hair moisturized) to return to its natural pH. Then I use harsh soaps to get rid of that oil, and thus the cycle begins again. 

Good bacteria vs. bad bacteria

Did you know our skin is our first line of defense? And just like every other organ in our body the skin has good bacteria as well as bad bacteria. Have you ever had to take an antibiotic? Your doctor probably told you to eat yogurt. Or maybe they didn’t and you experienced some… not so great digestive side effects? Or maybe you experienced some other issues down below. That’s because antibiotics don’t just attack the bad bacteria. They attack all bacteria. In the same way, antibacterial soaps strip all bacteria from your skin, even the good ones. And regular soap doesn’t even do this.  Nat Eliason says “regular soap doesn’t kill bacteria, it moves them around and (hopefully) removes them from your body. This is why your skin is dry after using soap. The soap is doing that whole ‘magic soap bubble oil removing process’ to your skin and carrying away the bacteria that are hanging out in the oil of your body.”

What about BO?

Okay, but don’t you smell bad if you don’t wash with soap? Nope. (rhyme fully intended.) In order to understand why, let’s talk about body odor. First, did you know that sweat doesn’t actually smell? Body odor isn’t sweat but instead a reaction between the bacteria on your skin and your secretions. Considering that, body odor is fairly dependent on our diet. Certain foods create byproducts that, when secreted, react poorly with our skin’s bacteria, thus causing a bad smell. So that’s what BO is, oils on our skin, essentially. Oils that can be rinsed away with water only. 

Lady bits

Please. For the love of all that is good in this world. Please stop putting tutti-fruity perfume filled chemical cocktails in your wahoo. And read this post instead!

So what does soap do? 

Well, soap wraps itself around particles that are insoluble by water and make it easier to wick them away. So if you have a particularly grimy job or activity, then I would say that calls for soap. But everyday, normal wash has no need. And many experts  would say you actually only need three minutes in the shower to be properly clean. 

Of course, this isn’t the right advice for everyone. Many people have special circumstances and specific needs which would be best discussed with a dermatologist or skin expert. But for the average human washing briefly with only water is sufficient.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready to give up shampoo, but more often than not I’m not getting sweaty or grimey enough to warrant soap on my whole body. Are you ready to go all in and toss all your soap products or can you not live without them?

I am a twenty-something college student studying English creative writing and journalism, just trying to figure out life one cake and mistake at a time all while doing what I love - writing!

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