One of the best ways for us to eliminate unnecessary plastic is to eliminate the water. No water = no plastic bottle. The easiest step in that department is to switch from liquid hand soap and bath gels to solid bar soaps. But there are other products that many folks don’t realize come in solid form, like shampoo, so here’s an update on my experiences with solid soaps, shampoo bars, and even plastic-free deodorant.
Plastic-free soap bars are hard to find in mainstream grocery and drugstores, I will admit. Even Ivory comes packaged in plastic wrap these days. But natural stores like Whole Foods are chock full of castile soaps wrapped in little to no paper. Dr. Bronner’s is a good choice for many. Right now, I’m enjoying two different solid soaps:
Dessert Essence lemongrass calendula soaps that I found, believe it or not, on sale at Grocery Outlet for a buck a piece and are packaged with just one strip of paper.
Iyoba Body Essentials handmade soaps that I buy directly from her stall at the Berkeley Flea Market on the weekends. I love the fact that the soaps are handmade right here in the East Bay and that I am supporting my local community. And they smell great. Unfortunately, the kitties think the oatmeal soap is food, so we can’t keep that particular one within reach of little paws.
The thing I have noticed about natural castile soaps is that they do tend to dissolve fast if you let them sit in water. You need a good soap dish with holes to let the water drain. Or a bowl of little stones, which is what I use. Or a bowl with a strategically shaped and placed seashell, which is what Axelle uses. Or a handmade soap drainer like this one made by The Green Cat (10/2013: The link to her homemade soap drainer is gone. But she has other cool handmade things on her page.)
I’ve tried three different solid shampoo bars to date:
Lush Re-Incarnate Shampoo Bar comes with zero packaging if you buy it directly from a Lush Store. Through the mail, they wrap it in paper for you. (Correction: Per comments below, sometimes they wrap it up in plastic. Not good. Maybe you have to specify no plastic when you order. *Sigh*) As I’ve explained before in my original post about Lush, when you shop at the store, you buy the product by weight and it’s cut to order from a big block. Lush shampoo bars are a great from a packaging standpoint. But the ingredients in the bar itself are questionable. This shampoo contains Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS), a detergent which can be irritating to some people. According to their web site, Lush has developed some SLS-free shampoo bars, but I haven’t tried them. [07/24/2012 Update: It looks like Lush is using SLS in all of its shampoo bars again. I have sent a message to the company requesting clarification.] My main objection to the Re-Incarnate shampoo was the smell. I just didn’t care for it. And that’s really my main objection to Lush products in general. Most of them are very strong-smelling. In fact, I kind of get a headache when I walk into the store from all the strong fragrances (albeit from natural sources) bumping up against one another. Your mileage may vary.
[05/13/2012: Information about Burt's Bees shampoo bars removed from this post. The product has been discontinued.]
J.R. Liggett’s Old Fashioned shampoo bar is the one I’m using right now. It has the mildest fragrance of the three. It comes wrapped in paper with a biodegradable corn plastic inner lining. Okay, but here’s the thing. Read the ingredients: Olive oil, coconut oil, caster oil, fresh pure New Hampshire spring water, sodium hydroxide [aka lye], Rosemary-Lavender-Cedarwood and other essential oils for fragrance. My question: how is this any different from the natural soap I’ve been using on my body???
But why am I spending extra money for a bar labeled “shampoo” when perhaps I could just be using the same olive oil-based soaps on my hair that I use on the rest of me? Iyoba’s soaps are made from olive and coconut oils. The main difference I can see is that instead of pure New Hampshire spring water, she probably uses Oakland’s finest. Not a problem.
So, when these shampoo bars are used up, I’m either switching to soap OR baking soda. Colin Beavan, the No Impact Man, cleaned his hair with baking soda for a year. And there are all kinds of instructions online for “no-poo” hair cleaning and a whole no-poo community using baking soda and apple cider vinegar. Life Less Plastic is already doing the cider conditioner portion of the no-poo procedure. We’ll see. I already use baking soda for a lot of other things. Including the next item on this list.
But before that, I just want to mention one more thing. Conditioner. Remember that homemade solid hand lotion I made a few months ago? Well, a tiny bit of that run through my hair after showering, and I’m tangle-free and good to go. Really.
I’d been using a Lush Aromarant container-free deodorant block since August and for the most part it worked just fine. But it’s expensive. And after reading that Colin Beavan was also using baking soda as deodorant, I swore I’d try it when this bar ran out.
Well, the bar is almost gone, but not quite. I was scared to switch to baking soda without having some deodorant bar left as a backup. Just in case. Because I can get pretty funky sometimes, and I was just not at all sure that plain baking soda was going to do the trick.
But a few days ago, I had an idea: what if I added a few drops of tea tree oil to the baking soda, just for insurance? Tea tree oil is an antibacterial. And bacteria are what cause body odor. So here’s my recipe: Add few drops of tea tree oil to a jar (in my case, a tea tin) of baking soda. Shake well. Apply with a fuzzy powder puff (which I already had.) And guess what:
And guess what else:
No wetness either!
Huh? How can that be? I don’t know, but my pits are not only odor-free; they’re also dry. I’ve never used antiperspirants because of the nasty ingredients in them. So I just live with sweat-stains under my arms occasionally. Maybe this is a fluke and the sweat will return. Or maybe I’m not drinking enough water. Any ideas?
P.S. You should see me secretly sniffing my pits all day when I think no one’s looking, just to make sure. Am I paranoid about B.O. or what? Another victim of advertising perhaps?