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Permanently Moved / Podcast

301 – 2041 – Going Soapless

S03E41

In the abstracted hell world of 2020 it is more important than ever that we all reconnect with our bodies. Consider going soapless.

Show notes: https://www.thejaymo.net/2020/10/16/301-2041-going-soapless/

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Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo

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Going Soapless

As we move towards the inevitable second lockdown here in the UK. I’d like to make a proposal. For Lockdown Redux, consider giving up soap, shampoo and deodorant.

The first numbered post on my blog is from way back in July of 2012: 001 :: Soapless

I gave up washing with soap and using shampoo on January 1st 2010.

I’m not going to try and convince you. Read Ed Yong’s I Contain Multitudes if your interested. Instead I’m asking you to just consider it. 

I was convinced by a paleo blog called freetheanimal.com with the post title I DON’T CARE: I LIKE NO SOAP; NO SHAMPOO back in 2009. Written about 6 months after the author had given up soap.

I haven’t used soap or shampoo any place on my body for six months, save hand washing in advance of food prep. That’s it. let me just report my observations and leave you to judge.

I DON’T CARE: I LIKE NO SOAP; NO SHAMPOO

They go on to say that:

  • Their hair was greasy and skin oily for 2 weeks and then it cleared up.
  • Their skin & hair now had never been softer.
  • And that their hair now was less greasy than ever.

“I’m soap free for life on this point alone. I feel as though I’ve been scammed — and liberated. I can’t explain further. You’ll just have to try.”

I DON’T CARE: I LIKE NO SOAP; NO SHAMPOO

It was December. The perfect time for new years resolution. Lockdown 2 is coming, the perfect time for you maybe too.

Back in 2012 I reported.

“The first week was the worst. My hair was greasy by lunchtime. But I resisted the urge to shower a second time in the evenings and powered on through. (…) by the end of the second week things had started to settle in a bit and my head was less of a disaster area”

001 :: Soapless

I remember being paranoid in the initial weeks. Thinking my colleagues thought me a grimey greebo. In case you were wondering my hair at the time was chin length. 9 – 10 inches? Not exactly short. But I checked in with the person I sat next to and they hadn’t noticed. After a month my hair was softer and shinier than ever before.

Of course I wash my hands after going to the bathroom, or before preparing food. Because I’m not a maniac.

Giving up deodorant was similar. 

I’ve used a rock salt crystal now for 8 years. I think I’m on my 3rd stick? I use the brand PitRok in the UK. You apply it on slightly damp skin right after you shower or bathe. 

There is an increase in body odour initially. I can imagine it would be worse if you used anti-perspirant. But it adjusts.

The bacteria that salt crystal deodorant kill means it leaves other ones on your skin obviously. The ones that remain smell slightly of crayon.

If you don’t use any soap or deodorant on your body, you develop a more complex relationship with the way you smell. I don’t smell… bad. I just smell of … me. Or crayons as Eve likes to remind me. I was speaking to someone over the summer that has gone soapless too. They said they’ve detected a slight crayon smell too. 

There is not enough time to talk about class, consumerism and the toxic ideology of the health and beauty industry. But stigmatism of body odour began as an advertising strategy in the 1920’s to sell soap. A century later, we still live in fear of anyone detecting the slightest hint of BO on us. It is truly wild to me that society has convinced us to purge the body of all odour. To scrub it clean and obliterate the complex cultures of the microbiology we co-evolved with.

Scrubbing them off, along with the natural oils on which they feed, Is not in fact a good idea.

When people say the word BO. I think of that ‘sharp gym shirt left in a bag’ smell. Or the gorilla enclosure at a zoo. I don’t think about peoples cent.

I want to share an anecdote:

I used to work with lots of folks from India, working in our office as part of a contract with Dell.

Occasionally after work a colleague would shock me (usually a white one, but not exclusively) and complain that our colleagues smelt of curry.

I’d say they were racist.

With a healthy dose of toxic indoctrination from advertising to boot. But mostly racism. It’s a fact that people in modern western society who turn their nose up at body odours are more likely to have authoritarian attitudes.

Now here’s the thing. If you know exactly what YOU smell like, then you also become more aware of what others smell like too.

Standing on a packed tube, you can tell that the person next to you eats a lot of meat. Other people smell of milk. I don’t mean like rancid milk. More like when you pull the top off a milk bottle you opened 2 days ago. Not fresh, not off, just … milky.

As for me? I’ll know if I’ve eaten garlic, or curry, or spices the day before. A faint hint when air gets pushed up out of your shirt collar when you move your body. Sometimes if I drink a lot of coffee I’ll detect that too. I even know when I’m stressed or depressed. I smell different. 

There’s plenty of other testimonials online, go check them out if you want. they may or may not work for you. I like it, it changed my life for the better. But it does connect you back to your body in a way that (I think a decade in) is important. 

In the abstracted hell world of 2020 it is more important than ever that we all reconnect with our bodies. I can think of no better way than opting out of a part of our culture created by advertising 100 years ago. Consider going soapless.


The above is the original script I wrote for the episode. It may differ from what ended up in audio due to time constraints.

About Author

Jay Springett is a Solarpunk, Theorist and Strategist for hybrid environments. His concerns are with culture, humans and technology and the environment. He is currently writing his first public book: Land as Platform.

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