Saturday, November 15, 2014

Soap free? But how? UPDATED: New deoderant recipe!

Here's something I don't normally tell people because I'm afraid of looks of astonishment and disgust - I don't use shampoo, conditioner, body wash, facial scrub, or deodorant. At least, not in the form most people are familiar with. Instead, I use natural ingredients to make my own substitutions for those items.

So here’s what I do:
Shampoo – baking soda. That’s it, nice and simple. Either sprinkle dry powder onto your scalp, rub a bit and rinse in the shower, or make a paste in the palm of your hand and work into already wet hair.

Conditioner – 500 ml chamomile tea (I use Sleepytime, which is chamomile & mint), 100 ml apple vinegar, 100 ml lemon juice (adds acidity to help balance out the baking soda, plus can lighten hair) , and 5-10 drops of your choice of essential oil. I like lavender or rosemary. In Japan I can find two types of apple vinegar, and one is much less potent than the other, so I use it. However, in the U.S. I think there’s just apple cider vinegar, and it can be pretty stinky. I would suggest trying other types of vinegar, preferably something fruity but without sugar. This vinegar mixture works well if you let it sit in your hair, so I generally do my hair first, using a spray bottle to wet my hair and scalp, and then rinse it out at the end of my shower. If your vinegar is stinky, rinse really really well!

Not so stinky kind on the left, really stinky kind on the right.

Body & facial wash/scrub – 1 lemon, a chunk of ginger, and a couple extra tablespoons of lemon juice. The citrus acts as a de-greaser, antibacterial, keeps your skin acidic which it should be (soaps don't), plus the rind chunks are a good scrub as well. Blend it all up until it’s nice and smooth. Keep this refrigerated when you’re not using it! It can last up to a week, but eventually it will start to smell a bit odd. Also, be sure to rinse well! It’s surprising the places you’ll find little pieces of lemon and ginger later if you don’t thoroughly wash it all off.

Making my scrub.
My itty bitty blender is not so strong, so I pre-chop the lemon and ginger.

I’ve substituted lime instead of lemon in the body wash, but it’s a bit more expensive for me and I found that the lime skin was a lot tougher than lemon, so it didn’t blend as well. Other ideas of what to add are apple to cut the harshness of the lemon, orange or grapefruit, carrot for texture, and some refreshing mint. Another idea if you have dry skin is to add some coconut milk. If you try different variations and come up with a good one, let me know!

Some other ideas that I have tried but don't do regularly are oatmeal and honey. You can get some old fashioned oats, blend then up until they're like a course flour, and use that as is. A great benefit is that it's super portable, so good for traveling. Honey has antimicrobial effects and makes a nice moisturizing scrub. It can be really sticky, but getting your face wet first can help it go on easily. I guess I don't use these much because they're my traveling alternative, but recently I've been too lazy and just use regular soap when traveling.

Deodorant – again, you can just use baking soda! If this is too harsh on your skin, mix in some corn starch. I use 50/50 baking soda and corn starch. It’s not an antiperspirant, so you’ll still sweat (which is healthy!), but baking soda is a great odor absorber so it makes a good deodorant. Use a dry cloth or cotton ball to pat in on. For extra odor fighting, use some baking soda while your washing your hair to give your pits an quick scrub too. I then follow this with my regular lemon scrub.

UPDATE: I mentioned to a friend that a downside of using baking soda as deodorant is that it gets all over the bathroom, and she recommended mixing in some coconut oil. She sent me this link, and I'm excited to try it! Apparently it's even the same texture as regular deodorant. I bet it's a nice moisturizer too. If only I could find coconut oil for a more affordable price...

 416g of coconut oil for ¥1,650 ($14) is the best price I've seen at Kaldi or Jupiter

In addition, I use olive oil as a make-up remover, and a little bit of baking soda instead of shaving cream. That might sound weird because baking soda is rough, but when mixed with water it actually becomes smooth. I've heard that a tiny bit of olive oil can also work well for shaving, but I didn't like it at all. I felt like it was almost sticky, and gummed up my razor really badly. But it's a good moisturizer, so sometimes I use a bit after I shave.

If you’re reading this and thinking, “So that’s why Laura smells so bad,” please tell me! Everyone is either too nice, or these soap free alternatives work well because I’ve been doing this for 2-3 years now and haven’t had any complaints. Although I’ve also been single this whole time…

At first when you make the change, you may not notice much of a difference. However, now, if I use regular shampoo and soap for more than a few days I can clearly tell that my hair is more dry and frizzy, my skin is also drier and more sensitive, and most importantly, my acne gets way worse. So that’s why I’m totally hooked on soap free! It’s also much better for the environment. Everything that goes down that drain ends up somewhere!
Look at that clear complexion!

One exception I have is that I still use regular hand soap. I work with hundreds of children every day, so I wash my hands with soap frequently. In this case I think that not catching the flu is worth it. Although, I should look into getting alcohol-based sanitizer instead.

Slightly related question, why do public bathrooms in Japan so often not have soap? Or when they do have soap, so many people don’t use it. Everyone just briefly runs their hands under cold water, if they bother washing their hands at all! Is this even remotely effective?


  1. Laura, your great grandmother Gammon never used soap on her face or body, only her hands. She lived to be 89 and always had a beautiful complexion.

  2. I tried your deodorant with the baking soda and coconut oil. Works very well. I used 3 parts baking soda to 1 part coconut oil. :)

    1. Awesome! I just tried it for the first time today too! It's no loner the season to really put it to the test, but I'm already liking the coconut smell :D