On October 31st, 2010, the New York Times published a piece entitled “The Great Unwashed” which featured a number of individuals who are a part of a new “natural” movement. Some of these individuals have chosen to forgo (or moderate) the usage of shampoo, soap and even showers, while others never wear deodorant.
The article begins with the statement “A DAILY shower is a deeply ingrained American habit. Most people would no sooner disclose they had not showered in days than admit infidelity.” This is undoubtedly true. Showers have long been a part of the American lifestyle, and the term “the great unwashed” used to refer to something else entirely.
In the 1991 book “Washing the Great Unwashed“, Marilyn Thornton Williams writes that “By 1897… public baths were accepted as one of the important services which progressive American cities must provide for their poorer citizens. Personal cleanliness had become a necessity, not only for social acceptability and public health but also as a symbol of middle-class status, good character, self-respect, and membership in the civic community. If slum tenements failed to provide the poor with bathing facilities so that they could attain the proper standards of cleanliness, then cities must provide public baths to wash the great unwashed. Cleanliness had become a right of all citizens.”
Although Williams’ book is really a study on the advent of public baths, it also illustrates the importance and desire for cleanliness that pervades our society. A walk through any store deodorant, shampoo, or soap aisle illustrates that this desire for cleanliness is something that has not faded over the years. If anything, it seems to grow stronger.
According to the 1935 “Odorono” ad above:
“The care you give to that little closed in hollow of your underarm can make an important difference in your social acceptability.”
Do you think that still holds true today? Or do you think that our “natural scent” is becoming more and more acceptable? What about after a workout? Or on a particularly hot day? What about when you are on a date with someone new, or a longtime beau? When you are leaning in for that first kiss?
Is natural the way to go? Apparently, for some, it is.
But is the “unwashed” movement just a fad, or is this movement here to stay?
1. The move to do away with soap, shampoo and deodorant has been growing in popularity in the last year. What are your thoughts on this trend? Umm…. it scares me? Just kidding. Kind of. I think that, like all trends, this will work for some and not others. Personally, I could never imagine a life without soap, shampoo (conditioner too!) and deodorant. I have to admit that out of all three things listed, it’s the idea of foregoing deodorant that seems ludicrous to me. Have I ever forgotten to put on deodorant? Sure, doesn’t everyone on occasion? But to intentionally decide to stop wearing it? No way.
In the NYT article mentioned above, they share that for 55-year old Jennifer Palmer, the chief executive of Osea skin-care:
“a soapy washcloth under her arms, between her legs and under her feet is all she needs to get “really clean.” On the go, underarm odor is wiped away with a sliced lemon.”
Again, that might work for some, but not others. I know I wouldn’t feel clean with that regime. It will be interesting to see how long this trend sticks around. Movements toward more “organic” products and a more “green” lifestyle have been growing for a long time, but this is something else entirely. There are ways to be “green” without giving up these things.
The NYT piece also suggests that some choose to follow this lifestyle because of the “good bacteria” that naturally lives on our skin.
“Of late, researchers have discovered that just as the gut contains good bacteria that help it run more efficiently, so does our skin brim with beneficial germs that we might not want to wash down the drain. “Good bacteria are educating your own skin cells to make your own antibiotics,” said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California, San Diego, and “they produce their own antibiotics that kills off bad bacteria.””
The existence of “good bacteria” on our skin isn’t a new discovery – it was something I learned about in my science classes as a child. I believe that over-washing (i.e.: standing under the shower spray for an hour) and using extremely hot water are bad for the skin. I also agree that the products found in some soaps and shampoos and deodorants can be bad for the skin. That just means I do (or should do) more research into the products I use.
2. Be honest how often do you wash your own hair? I have long, thick, fine hair that gets oily if I don’t wash it every day, so that is what I do. Every. Day. (with a few exceptions). My scalp gets oily if I don’t wash my hair with shampoo every day, so I make sure to do so. The only time this isn’t the case is if I get it colored. On those occasions, I’ll use Klorane Brand dry shampoo for 2 or 3 days, and then go back to my regular wash routine.
3. Have you tried to go the more natural route by forgoing shampoo? What happened? Or would you be tempted to try it? I did try it, and it doesn’t work for me. When I first started coloring my hair in college I tried to wash my hair 3 days instead of 7. I would still rinse with water when I showered, but didn’t use shampoo. As I shared above, my scalp gets oily, and having fine hair – it looked awful. Then I tried 5 days instead of 7. Same travesty. So now I stick to the routine I mentioned above.
Truthfully, I could get away with only washing it 4 or 5 days a week if I used dry shampoo in my “off days” but I don’t want to do that. I’m not convinced dry shampoo is any better for my hair than shampooing in the shower, although it definitely comes in handy on the days when you might not have time for that shampoo first thing in the morning or after your workout!
4. What products do you use and have you ever gone with more organic alternatives? Through my childhood and teens, I always used Pantene products. When I entered college I began using AVEDA because I loved the smell and it made my hair manageable and shiny without feeling weighed down. I also liked the fact the line is a bit more “natural” than others and tries to avoid any unnecessary chemical additives.
Today, I generally use sulfate and paraben-free shampoos and conditioners. I mostly use Alterna TEN and David Babaii for Wildaid products. The Alterna product is expensive, but a little goes a long way, and my hair has never looked better or been healthier.
I also use a clarifying shampoo once a week and, on occasion, still use AVEDA products, especially for styling. However, my styling routine has changed since I began using MoroccanOil. Lately, that is the only styling product I need!
As for deodorants – I use Secret. Body washes – Korres. Soaps – Dove. I am not that picky on these.
5. What about that daily shower? Would you forgo that opting to shower three times a week instead? Absolutely not. I work out 5 days a week, and there is no way I would ever forgo a shower following a workout. I’ve even been known to shower more than once a day (gasp!) because of a late workout. Hey, it happens.
Showers keep me clean and fresh and they help to wake me up in the morning! The only way I think I could ever forgo showers is if I absolutely had no choice. For example, if I was stranded on a deserted island or in a third world country where water (or plumbing) was scarce.
What I would love, however, is a “greener” way to shower. Right now, I use a Jonathan Product Water Purification System in my shower (which I swear it also has made my hair healthier). It’s a nice start, but it is nothing like the experience I had when I visited Roatan, Honduras in March.
My shower at the Santé Wellness Center and Spa was the best I have ever experienced in my life, even though I had to make it a quick one. Why? Because they collect, store and use rainwater on the grounds. I will never forget the purity of that water and how it felt on my skin. Pure heaven. I wish I could set up that type of system here, but I just don’t see it happening…
What do you think of these new trends? Are they here to stay, or just a fad?
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