I Went Soap-free and I Liked It

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Soap bubble

I've gone soap free. I like it. And I'm not alone.

Okay -- I'm not entirely soap-free, but I'm definitely very soap-lite. But before I get into the details, here's the story. It all started with a little curiosity, when I read Sean Bonner's soap-free story on BoingBoing. The local L.A. blogger revealed he's been soap and shampoo-free for a year -- aside from his hands, which he still washes with soap -- and enjoying softer, healthier skin, a dandruff-free scalp, and more manageable hair -- while smelling sweet too!

That story went viral -- at least among environmental bloggers -- and soon, two dirty-clean challenges entered the blogosphere. GOOD asked its readers to replicate Sean Bonner's challenge for a month, basically saying bye bye to all hair and skin products. I wasn't ready to go that far, but the girlier green beauty site No More Dirty Looks kicked off a less hard-core challenge: To go soap-free -- with exceptions for the face, hands, and private parts where soap would still be allowed -- for at least 5 days.

If you're asking why anyone would go soap-free, here are the reasons that have attracted curious minds and bodies. Most obviously, there's the financial savings. No soap means no need to buy soap! Then there are the health and environmental reasons. Many soaps are made with a whole lot of chemicals, fragrances, and antibacterials that aren't good for you or the planet.

That leads to the third reason to try a soapless lifestyle: The potential for a better-looking you. Take away those weird, artificial chemicals, and your body might heal itself from unsightly problems like flaky dry skin or greasy dandruff -- and leave you with healthier, better-looking, easier to manage skin and hair.

Sound too good to be true? It did a bit to me -- but I decided to give the soap-free challenge a personal try anyway. Besides wanting to keep an open mind, I wondered if less soap could mean less dry winter skin. Although I only use gentle, organic, eco-friendly soaps, this unusually cold winter in L.A. had been drying out my skin -- an annoying phenomenon I'd been dealing with by constantly putting on body lotion and cream. Those efforts had been working, but I was going through a lot of lotion. Could taking soap away from the equation simply lessen my need for lotion?

So I took More Dirty Looks' soap-free challenge. I washed as usual, just soaplessly -- except as allowed by the challenge, I did use soap or cleansers for my face, hands, and privates -- and also let myself use soap lather to shave. Still, that meant I was using like a tenth of the soap than I was going through previously.

Three weeks later, I have to say I'm really liking my new almost soap-free lifestyle.

My skin is less dry. As far as I can tell, I don't smell. People have gone from not commenting on how I smell when I used soap -- to still not commenting on how I smell now that I'm sans soap. I threw a party for 35 of my favorite girls -- and everyone seemed to be mingling happily, sans nose plugs.

Were my friends just being polite? "Do I smell different?" I asked my boyfriend, without telling him the reason for the query. After a lot of sniffing he declared I smelled clean and a bit sweeter than usual -- and demanded to know why.

The next morning, with no prompting from me, he showered sans soap.

To be clear, my new soap-free lifestyle's quite different from Sean Bonner's. He basically did away with all skin products, with the idea that his skin would balance itself out. I only did away with the soap, with the idea that my skin would get a little less dry. I still smooth on a shea butter-based body cream on an as-needed basis.

Would my skin just learn to moisturize itself better if I cut off the moisturizing regime? I'm not sure, and I'm not willing to try -- at least not until the summer, when my skin is less dry. The fact that I already know my skin is drier in some times of the year than others, however, makes me think that I'm unlikely to ever go completely moisturizer free.

I have, however, gone almost soap-free and moisturizer lighter -- and am happier as a result. Not all who tried the challenge have been totally converted, however. Kim at Our Daily Green tried going soap-lite -- even roping in her teenage daughters into the challenge. The result of a week or so of soaplessness?

My family did agree that we felt a little itchy. I'm relatively sure that is more a function of the hard water (and we always are a little itchy, just not paying as much attention and trying to decide if there was any effect of the soaplessness)....

I think ultimately the point of the experiment was to show us that we don't need soap as often or in the quantities we think we do. There is no doubt I love a good lathering up. I'm not prepared to give up my artisan soaps however, now I see that smearing it on my skin repeatedly day after day is not NECESSARY to good hygiene.

Have you ever tried going soap-free or soap-lite? What has your experience been?


BlogHer Contributing Editor Siel also blogs at greenLAgirl.com.

Photo by squigglycircle

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