Shortcomings in the Shower

Hygiene, nutrition, sleep, and exercise are the foundation of a healthy look, lifestyle, and body. It’s important to feed your body with a wide range of macro and micronutrients that we derive from a wide ranging shopping list. We can keep our cabinets well stocked with dozens of different dried goods and supplements and our refrigerators with probiotic drinks, fruits, and vegetables. When I was a kid my mom would always say, “The more colorful your plate is, the better it is for you!” Variety is the spice of life, but should our bathrooms follow en suite?

Let’s use my life as a case study to examine the volume of waste in our bathrooms. In college I shared a 3 bed, 1 bath apartment with 5 other guys – we can call it 6 if you count Alex squatting in his camper van in the driveway. The shower was always saturated with bottles. They usually numbered close to 20, which meant roughly 3 bottles per person. This naturally breaks down into shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and face wash. Not everyone owns all 4, but some find a way to buy more. I get it, we all want to be clean, look spiffy, and smell good for ourselves, society, or that cute girl in Econ101. How far do we take it, though? Can we achieve the same effect with less money, fewer bottles, and shorter showers?

People love multifunctional, 2-in-1, wide range of application type products. So, let’s skip past all the imitators and jump straight to the king of multipurpose, Castile soap. According to Soap History, Castile soap is a derivative of Aleppo soap, which is arguably the oldest and purest cleaning product. Here is how they compare:


-Laurel Oil (Laurus nobilis, Evergreen Tree), Lye (Sodium Hydroxide), & Water


-Olive Oil (Olea europaea), Lye (Sodium Hydroxide [Bar Soap] or Sodium Peroxide [Liquid Soap]), & Water

That’s it, just 3 ingredients.

Laurus nobilis is abundant in Syria, but not so much in Spain. So, Castile soap came about because olive trees were more accessible. Today, Castile soap represents any product made from a healthy vegetable fat like coconut oil (The Healthy Home Economist).

The Effects of shampoo, conditioner, and permanent waving on the molecular structure of human hair outlines the main function of our hair care routine:

The main purpose of shampoo is to remove dirt and oil from the surface of the hair fibres and the scalp, while the main purpose of conditioner is to ensure that the hair is smooth for combing. Some commercial shampoos may also have additional components to control dandruff and condition hair. Similarly, conditioners may also prevent static electricity, improve the cosmetic shine and increase protection. Due to the multitude of purposes of these hair care products, they contain a long list of ingredients with various effects on the hair. Shampoos typically contain a primary and a secondary surfactant for thorough cleaning, a viscosity builder, a solvent, conditioning agents, pH adjuster and other non-essential components such as fragrance and colour for commercial appeal. Conditioners usually contain silicone polymers to increase shine and soften hair, cationic polymers such as quaternized nitrogen compounds to reduce static electricity, bridging agents to increase absorption, viscosity builder, pH adjuster and components for commercial appeal (Robbins, 2012; Preedy, 2012). (Zhang et al.)

Once we push past the attractive adjectives accompanying beauty products, showering really comes down to getting clean. This means removing excess dirt and oil from our skin and hair. As we all know, water and oil don’t mix. The job of a surfactant is to act as an intermediary between these two immiscible substances. Surfactants, like soap, have hydrophilic (‘Water’-‘Love’) and a hydrophobic (‘Water’-‘Fear’) ends, which act to disrupt the once strict boundary between the shower water and your bodily oils.

I get it, some people are on extreme ends of the spectrum because of genetics, environmental factors, and other predispositions. Some of you need a product that can specifically combat tough dandruff, seriously dry skin, or other ailments. However, for the remaining majority of us, we need to stop prescribing ourselves this buffet of products as a preemptive measure against issues that haven’t manifested yet. Stick to one bottle of Castile soap – better yet, go without and only buy bulk bar soap and skip packaging altogether – and see how it can simplify your shower routine and save you money. Lather up!

I will end by making a recommendation for Castile soap. Dr. Bronner’s is probably the most popular commercially available option and many, including myself, swear by it. The ingredients are all organic and fair trade, the bottles are filled with fantastic propaganda you can read in the shower, and it’s incredibly concentrated. Personally speaking, one 4-oz. bottle lasted me 3 months abroad showering everyday.

Remember, the point of this discussion is to cut down or eliminate waste in discrete ways. By substituting Castile soap as an all-in-one for your shower routine, you spend less time lathering and rinsing, which saves water. It can be heavily diluted, which means you save time and money by shopping for it less frequently. Lastly, it can substitute a plethora of other household cleaning products. It’s a panacea for your overflowing cleaning supply cabinet. When you go to buy Dr. Bronner’s be sure to purchase their largest size then use other pre-owned bottles for different dilution ratios. Better yet, find a store that sells it in bulk and fill up a pre-exsiting container so you don’t produce any waste.

Dilution Cheat Sheet for Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Soap

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