Personal Care Heresies

If you listen to popular culture and the ads which “inform” us about acceptable conduction you would be inclined to believe that there are numerous specialized products and activities that we must engaged in for the sake of properness. I ran a series of experiments in the last ten years to see if these were actually necessary. Here are a few results.


I went two months using no shampoo, though I did get my hair wet when I took a daily shower. The first week I felt my hair was a greasy mess and didn’t feel good. After around a week things stabilized. My hair no longer felt greasy and looked fine. I asked several people if they noticed a change in my hair. No one had. While my hair didn’t feel greasy, I noticed that it felt “heavier” than when I used shampoo. After several months I went back to using shampoo because I enjoyed the activity of washing my hair and I preferred the “lighter feel” after I used shampoo on my hair. Note: hair care products are critical if you regularly using a chlorine swimming pool. The chlorine is extremely damaging to hair, you should use a shampoo formulate for swimmers.

I tried to use Dr. Bronner’s all-in-one soap as a shampoo. For a bit more than a month it seemed to work well but then my hair texture begin to feel more like straw than hair and I abandoned the experiment.

For the last year I have been a 100 sense body bar as my all-in-one soap/shampoo/shaving cream and found it works well. One of my experiments was getting my hair cut, and then using the body bar on one side of my head, and Aveda products on the other side. After two months I asked a couple of hair professionals if they noticed a different. They indicated that both sides were “healthy”. One didn’t think there was any difference the other had a very slight preference for the side using Aveda. The 100 sense bars lasts around 1/2 a year when I use it for everything and I don’t have a plastic container to recycle. I plan to try less expensive bars in the future.

Body Wash / Soap

Unless I was working in a dirty environment (digging in the garden, backpacking in dusty conditions, working in the shop, etc) I don’t need to soap to clean most of my body. Just letting water run over my skin is sufficient with four exceptions. I found that washing my hands, armpits, groin, and ass greatly benefit from some sort of cleaning product. I found that skin that was sometimes “dry” and other body parts that tended to be “oily” generally cleared up after a few weeks when I stopped using cleaning / moisturizing products and gave my body’s system time to adapt. I expect this will vary person to person. I have never had extreme skin problems which may need serious treatments.


I am sure that body odor, in particular from arm-pits, varies person to person. My personal experience is that if I washed my arm-pits at least once a day (either shower or using a damp wash cloth) and after vigorous exercise, no one noticed when I stopped using deodorant. I am pretty sure this wasn’t just because they were being polite. I explicitly said “I am running and experiment not using deodorant. I had expected you would notice… and it’s ok if you did. If you don’t tell me I am smelly I am going to continue the experiment.” While there is a slight odor if someone was to stick their nose into my arm pit, there was no perceivable odor for everyday activities. No one indicated I “smelled” or should end this experiment.

While I went years without using deodorant without any issue, I have recently started using Potassium Alum crystals. Ammonium Alum is supposed to be similar. It’s best to apply right after a shower since it needs to be wet and works best on clean skin. It’s not an anti-perspirant and doesn’t cover up existing odor. Rather it produces it environment that is hostile to the odor creating bacteria. They are inexpensive, seem to last a long time and reduce odor almost completely even when I am doing a hard workout without the risk of underarm stains or clogged pores.

Wearing Clothing Multiple Days Between Washing

I discovered that the number of days I could wear a particular clothing item without it washing it varied significantly depending on the material of the garment and the conditions I experienced. For example, denim jeans worn in extreme heat felt like they needed to be washed after a few hours. Polypro long underwear would get super stinky after a day of use. At the other extreme, I found I could wear wool clothing for several weeks without any noticeable odor or feeling of uncleanliness provided I didn’t spill food or end up in the mud. Many clothing manufacturers will recommend to maximize the useful life of a garment, it is best not to wash it after each use, because the washing introduces wear and tear that isn’t necessary needed.

Wearing the “Same” Clothing Everyday

Over the last several years I have come across numerous “style” articles about people who have chosen to radically simplify their personal wardrobe often adopting a personal uniform. A few examples:  Insanely successful men wear the same thing every day, the women’s  why i wear the same thing to work everyday. As in the article Shoppers on a ‘Diet’ Tame the Urge to Buy observed: often no one notices people are wearing the same style/color clothing day after day. People are sure others will notice a lack of variety of their clothing style, but this often comes from spotlight effect bias.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.

I Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)

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