My favourite philosopher, Alan Watts, has an interesting idea that humans are not born into the world, they are born from the world. We are not manifested out of thin air into our mothers’ wombs; we are grown in the same way apples grow out of apple trees. Following this line of thought is the concept of oneness, unity within the universe. We, every person and entity in existence, emerge from the earth, and eventually we make our way back into the earth.
Now think about the obsessions with cleanliness that has grasped the past few generations. Germs are mentioned with a sour twist of the mouth, bacteria is said with fear. We shower once a day or more, and inside every shower can be found a collection of bottles, all with their own purpose; like ingredients in a pantry. Each bottle contains a brightly coloured mystery lotion that cleans, cleanses, scrubs and smooths until you emerge from the shower a new person. While this feeling is undeniably lovely, it is not necessary and, in my unprofessional (yet still worth listening to) opinion, a bit over the top. Our ancestors got through millennia without soap and shampoo and the fact that you’re reading this now proves that they survived the battle against germs, among the other (more) deadly things they faced.
This idea has been germinating in my mind for a while. It coincided with my growing consciousness of what I was putting into my body (this year I stopped drinking and smoking, became vegan, and decided to stay far away from sugary and processed foods) as well as what i put on my body. I did some research online, and my own personal field study. I became an experiment. My hypothesis: that soap, shampoo and conditioner, and products used in the shower aren’t benefitting my body, and may even be doing it a disservice. I knew that soap and face wash dries out your skin, and kills the bacteria on it (note: not all bacteria is bad. You want to keep the good bacteria on your skin because it aids your immune system in fighting off nastier stuff). It also contains chemicals that are as mysterious as an abandoned haunted house on a stormy cliff – you don’t want to go near either of these. Shampoo strips your hair of its natural oils and exposes your scalp to those mysterious chemicals, disturbing the autonomous way your hair looks after itself.
So at the start of 2017 I replaced soap and shampoo with bicarb soda, conditioner with apple cider vinegar and coconut oil, and face wash with bicarb soda or a coffee and honey scrub. Now it’s really starting to sound like a pantry. The thing to remember when looking after your body is to maintain the PH levels of your hair and skin. Balance is key. The combination of bicarb soda and apple cider vinegar work in harmony (unlike governments), creating a perfect democracy all over your body. Germs and bacteria are not something to be feared – there are much more terrifying things in the world (like Donald Trump). They don’t need to be scrubbed away fastidiously like shameful thoughts, and the good ones don’t need to go at all. As long as you keep yourself clean within reason – don’t take it way too far and stop showering altogether – you can embrace your oneness with the universe and all the bacteria that comes with it. Because in another incarnation you were probably a little bacteria just trying to live out your existence in someone’s armpit until they washed you away with soap. Somebody think of the bacteria.
Over the summer I have spent a lot of time outdoors, getting sweaty and dirty, swimming in creeks and the ocean, walking barefoot, getting soil under my nails. At the end of the day I’ll wash myself with the recipe above, and I feel and look (if I might say so myself) great. I don’t feel dirty with the absence of soap, because there is nothing unclean about letting the natural bacteria and microorganisms thrive on my skin, as they rightly should (equal rights for all). My hair only needs to be washed once a week now, and a little bit of coconut oil every few days keeps it smooth – not oily or frizzy. And lastly, but definitely not least, it is so much cheaper than buying shampoo, conditioner, soap, body gel, face scrub, cleanser, whatever else one might fancy adding to their shower routine. A packet of bicarb soda, and a bottle of apple cider vinegar – both under $4 AUD each – will keep you going for about a month. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what else will.
(And yes, you do smell a wee bit apple-cider-vinegary after using it, but your friends should love you regardless (or because of?) your smell. It’s all in the pheromones…)