Did you ever stop to wonder how we ended up in a society that demands we shower at least once a day, slather our underarms with heavy metals to prevent sweating, and clog our pores with chemicals, dyes, and powders in order to give it the appearance of a gently airbrushed, slightly dewy flower petal? These days, people grimace at the thought of skipping every other shower, and some recoil at the thought of using natural (or no) deodorant.
Our Chemical-Filled Beauty Routines
So what happened? Has our growing disconnection from nature manifested as an inability to trust our bodies? Are we so afraid of sweat and sebum and the threat of dull hair that we can’t bear to rely on the natural intelligence of the body?
For me, the answers to the latter two questions used to be a resounding “Yes!” I’d shower once or twice a day to make sure my hair didn’t look remotely oily, I’d slather my face with Retin-A and powder and I’d layer aluminum-filled antiperspirants over my underarms. And you know what? My hair was oily, my skin was shiny and excessively prone to breakouts, I was always sweaty, and I didn’t smell so great.
In my late twenties, I began reading reports about the dangers in our personal care products: sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, parabens, fragrance, dyes and on and on. The funny thing was, I found the presence of toxins in our beauty products less shocking than the realization that our daily beauty routines revolved around the constant application of chemicals.
The Road to Natural Beauty
Since those products had never done a thing to improve my appearance or prevent me from sweating, I decided to try something radical in the summer of 2008. I let myself get dirty. I started showering every other day. I stopped using shampoos and conditioners, and only used castile soap or baking soda on my hair, followed by a vinegar rinse. I made my own deodorant out of baking soda and coconut oil. Once I had used up all my facial soaps and moisturizers, I stopped using soap at all, and only used water on my face, followed by a homemade lotion. My most difficult challenge was scaling back the makeup – no more foundation, powder or mascara. I only used a little concealer, as needed, and a bit of eyeliner.
Guess what? My hair felt healthier than it ever had before. I stopped worrying about sweating too much (which I’m convinced made me sweat less). My skin cleared up. And believe it or not, I didn’t smell bad.
Many people still don’t believe me when I tell them the results of my dirty experiments. They are plagued with worries about oily hair, pimples, and B.O. But it’s time we remember that our bodies are miraculous organisms fully capable of regulating themselves. Our sweat is an important function that regulates our body temperature and releases toxins. The sebaceous glands on our scalps and faces help prevent our hair from dehydrating and protect our skin from certain types of bacteria.
The irony is that the more we interrupt our bodies’ self-regulation, the more we cultivate the very conditions that we are trying to avoid. Over-washing the hair strips it of its natural moisture (that pesky sebum) and prompts the sebaceous glands to produce even more oil. The same goes for the face. And clogging the armpits with aluminum – well, that’s just not natural. Do you really want that junk in your body?
Not everyone is ready to take the leap and get dirty all over. Getting back in touch with our bodies takes time – and a lot of mental reconditioning. I won’t lie to you – in the beginning, it isn’t easy. It can be downright uncomfortable to redefine what it feels like to be “clean.”
At this point, you might be thinking: Why bother? Why attempt to “naturalize” your beauty routine? Why put yourself through a transition that can be so challenging – physically and mentally?
I have several reasons for you. On a superficial level alone, it really does improve your appearance. You will find people say you have more of a glow to your skin – that you look beautiful and alive.
In case your sense of vanity isn’t convinced, getting back to basics with your beauty routine will save you lots of time and money. Lots. You won’t find yourself chained to the half-hour daily ritual of combing, moussing, gelling, blow-drying and styling your hair. And on the days you skip your shower, you’ll likely find yourself with a minimum of 30 extra minutes in your day. Further, as you reduce your water usage and consumption of expensive beauty products, you’ll notice your paycheck lingering in your bank account a lot longer than usual.
Still not convinced? Remember that many of the products we use on a daily basis are filled with hormone disruptors, heavy metals, preservatives and petrochemicals. By avoiding these products and transitioning into a more natural beauty routine, you are keeping all those potentially dangerous ingredients out of your body. This also prevents these products from getting into our precious water systems and poisoning aquatic life. By avoiding these products, you are protecting our fish, frogs, and salamanders.
If you still need a little nudge, consider this: Taking a step back and letting your body follow its natural rhythms is incredibly freeing. No more being a slave to today’s passing trends. No more spending hours grooming, bathing, buffing and powdering. No more smelling like a chemically-enhanced flower.
Embrace your body the way it is. It has lots to teach us. Sit back, skip your shower and enjoy feeling a little dirty.
[Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by afferent]