The Dirty Theory

We have a little secret. Maybe not something to bring up at a dinner party or in mixed company, but here among friends? Why not.

Alexandra and I both hate soap.

Aside from certain obvious body parts (the sexytime ones, and our pits), we don’t use the stuff. Basic hygiene, yes? Soaping up our…calves? And elbows? And the small of our backs? Why on earth!

Since we both stopped using soap, we find our skin much softer and naturally balanced, which obviates the need for body lotion. We like this, because it supports one of the central tenets in the book, which is that the fewer products you use, the fewer products you need. And when you’re buying less stuff, you can afford to get things you absolutely love when you do go shopping.

Back to faces for a second. We won’t use soap or anything foaming on our mugs. Our skin needs the natural oils that live on its surface and below. When we strip that with harsh, carcinogen-contaminated chemicals, our skin acts like a moody teenager.

Still, if you wear sunscreen and makeup, and who doesn’t, you obviously have to wash at the end of the day. I use a new Tata Harper cleanser some days, and an Evan Healy milk on others (reviews to come!). In the morning, I gently wipe my face with a clean wash cloth and water. That’s it.

Alexandra has lately been experimenting with honey. When she bothers to wash her face at all, she skews more DYI: a little honey as a cleanser here, coconut oil to remove makeup there. The point for both of us: Our bodies are marvellous! They do all kinds of magic tricks on their own. Let them be, and they work juuuust fine. And no, you won’t stink, we promise.

What about you? Do you use soap?

47 Responses to “The Dirty Theory”
  1. Emily says:

    I made an oil “soap” from a mix of different plant oils, which I use to wash my face and body (with a warm washcloth). Roughly half of it is castor oil, and the rest is a mix of jojoba, olive, coconut, and some vitamin E oil. Needless to say, it’s super concentrated, so I only need a little bit to soak in and wash off. I found that Dr. Bronner’s scents were too overpowering, and the unscented was still weirdly musky, so when I made mine I added a few drops of jasmine. My experiment cost more than I would’ve spent on a regular bottle of soap, so I don’t think it’s that sustainable, but I do see it lasting quite a while before having to re-mix it. I *just* started using argan oil as a post-cleansing thing, which I’m hoping will help with blemishes and whatnot. (I have a tube of BB’s herbal blemish stick on hand for breakouts, but so far so good.)

    Also, I tried making a green tea mask myself. The secret ingredient? Baking soda. (Really, what can’t this thing do?) It was a little messy at first because I put too much liquid, but when you get the concentrations and proportions right, it’s perfectly good as a purifying mask. I also have some Dead Sea mud from Israel, but those are trial-sized and won’t last.

    After this little experiment with different products, I’m hoping I’ll find a regular method that will save me time and money in the long run. I’ve already skipped out on more than half of the stuff that was in my drawer previously, and I hope to never buy an unnecessary, unsafe item ever again. Unless it’s a safe treat.

    Thanks for the continuous advice! Between the book, this blog, and the rest of the internet, I’m feeling a lot more confident about my skin (and in turn, my health).

  2. This is such a great post. I have been on a steady mission to reduce the number of products I use, but battling acne for over 10 years makes me hesitant to barely ever was my face. Of course, I don’t use soap per se – at least not bar soap. I use a gel cleanser from Kiss My Face, but I have reduced the # of times I was my face to 1 a day, if that … so eager to read all of your book & see what advice you have for acne!

  3. Emily says:

    It was bound to happen – multiple Emilies…

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I, too, use honey as face wash, and love it! Plus, when it sugars, you have a natural exfoliant.

  4. LaniePainie says:

    for the most part, I don’t do soap either – just the stinky parts. RInsing off with good clean water is plenty. I confess that I still use shampoo, though. No hairspray, no make-up, only sunscreen when it’s unavoidable.

  5. Trudi says:

    As of 2 days ago, I decided to only use soap on areas that needed it. I am already seeing results because today, my second day, after showering, I didn’t feel like slathering on lotion!

  6. Janella says:

    I’ve been doing this for years! I only wash what I need to, and it makes such a huge difference. My skim is so soft and happy because if this.

  7. Janella says:

    Oops! *skin*

  8. Lisa says:

    that’s crazy! years ago, my dermatologist said all/most of my skin issues (eczema, bumps, random rashes) were from using soap ALL over & excessive scrubbing! she suggested i only wash armpits, feet & the naughty bits… my skin would do the rest and no scrubbing period! i have since received compliments my skin was unnaturally soft since abandoning the bar! (though on the parts i DO use soap, i buy local organic soap that lasts forever.)

  9. Lindsay says:

    I started using less soap this week and it’s crazy how fast you can notice a difference! It’s also really crazy to sit and think about how society is so manipulated by crap in commercials and ads to think they need all these billions of products that are unnecessary and actually doing harm to them in the long run. When I use to use all these products from Sephora and what not I seriously think it didn’t do me any good. My skin was bad and spotty and high hazard chemicals seeped into my body day after day. I think it’s really sad and disgusting that these issues aren’t regulated by the government better. It is a dirty cycle. You have to get out there yourself and research and educate yourself to be fully aware of this situation. I’m buying all my loved ones your book for Christmas to help them see the truth!

  10. Siobhan says:

    I sort of had the same thing, except for me it was from things in shampoo. Another point for the “less is more” nontoxic team.

  11. elisha says:

    im with ya on that one and yes it is true that when you stop using product you don’t need it. i stopped using deodorant years ago and since then i never need deodorant and i barely wash my hair. maybe once a month! i do use a mild pure soap on the body and i use lotsa ecologically and ethically harvested honeys (colony collapse disorder is clear and present. use hone that comes from cared for bees) on my face and hair as well. glad to see you guys on the same path:)

  12. arianne says:

    i use jojoba oil for pretty much everything! make-up remover, moisturizer, lotion, hair…everything! but i am wondering what you think about the dr. haushka products? i confess to being victim to the pre-mature aging paranoia so i bought their fancy eye cream and face products. thoughts? can’t wait to read the book. i know ill love it cause i already love the blog. thanks ladies!!

  13. Alexandra says:

    I haven’t used much soap or washed my face regularly for years. I find my skin soft and happy; never had a rash or any sort of skin ailment. But I confess that I don’t admit it in public ;)

  14. Alexandra says:

    Dr. H definitely makes great products, though there are all kinds of recommends in the book. So great that you love the jojoba! It’s supposed to be a very skin-compatible oil. :)

  15. Brianna says:

    I just started reading your blog after seeing TIME’s coverage of “No More Dirty Looks,” and I *love* what both of you have to say, especially about not using soap! Last week while I was volunteering as a camp counselor and working with twelve year-olds 24/7, I honestly only had time to wash my pits and privies. Within that one week, my skin got so much softer. However, I am wondering: do you recommend exfoliating sans soap…? Is there a point…?

  16. Natalie says:

    Wow – funny for me to come across this now, just three weeks into my soap-free (almost) life. A few weeks ago, I read a silly article in the NYT about French women and how they age much more effortlessly and gracefully than we dowdy Americans, and though I’ve heard it all before (Regular facials! Cultural beauty worship! Cigarettes for weight control!) one bit that piqued my interest was the notion that the French don’t use soap anywhere other than those most discrete places. I’d been having some seriously itchy skin despite using what I thought was a really gentle, nontoxic bodywash, so I gave soap free bodycare a go for a week. SUCH A DIFFERENCE! It’s incredible how much better my skin feels. I’ve also added dry skin brushing every couple of days pre-shower, which I think feels really good and was recommended by an acupuncturist friend of mine for getting rid of dead skin and stimulating circulation, etc. I hope more women see the light on this! Thanks, ladies, for your work in spreading the word.

  17. Siobhan says:

    Right??? God. It’s like day and night. We just read that body wash has outpaced BAR SOAP in sales. How messed up is that. At least with soap you’re getting like, five ingredients, often nontox. With bodywash you’re looking at a cocktail of 40 plus chemicals that dry our your skin and possibly worse. Ew.

  18. gi says:

    I once had the bad idea to say in public that I only washed the “naughty bits” and the armpits with soap (in winter I don’t even bother to wash my feet with soap because well, they’re basically kept clean in socks all day and I don’t have any odor issue with them, plus they’re soaking in water for the 10 minutes I remain in the shower, I consider them more than properly washed)… What on earth did I do. I was laughed at for ever and obvioulsy considered a not very hygienic person, though I look and am indeed clean. Old habits and ideas die hard.

  19. Cynthia says:

    I read somewhere that extra virgin olive oil works well as a makeup remover, but does jojoba oil work better? Can olive oil also be used as moisturizer / lotion?

    I cant wait to get your book. I have thick, sleek ‘asian hair’ that tends to get greasy if I dont wash it every morning. But I see now that may be because I shampoo/condition it too much… switching to your natural method would save me so much time every morning! Thank you for enlightening me :)

  20. Siobhan says:

    It’s true! Coconut oil is our fave for makeup but they all work great.

  21. Anna says:

    My MIL makes soap which she sells at Farmer’s Markets which has about five ingredients in it – no detergents or anything like that. It is very nice stuff. Needless to say, family politics dictate that I use soap!

    What do you guys think about soap like that? Does even this soap cause drying?

  22. paul says:

    I work for a living and by work, I mean laboring around dirty things; so soap, all over, is an imperative.

  23. june says:

    Since most commentors seem to be ladies: I was told by my gynecologist that the vagina is self-cleaning and doesn’t need washing, just rinsing with warm water. If you must use soap, use unscented. Just FYI.

  24. melissa says:

    Wow! It’s great to hear there are other females that are catching on. I have a theory also. I do not wear makeup and or us any products on my body. I also do not wash my hands ever, especially not after using the washroom. the reason being. I just cant justify it. You go to work and open the door, but I dont see anyone washing their hands after doing that!! Also, i have made a vow to myself and also have made others hold me accountable for this too. I WILL NOT GET SICK for 3 years. It has been 2 years and a few days now. I mean no cold, flu, headache, cramps. The whole schaaaabang. How do I do it.? First, I only showering when my body tells me too. By not taking any pills,shots, medications, perscriptions. nothing. I still go out, I dont live in a cave. My skin, teeth, body are all healthy and happy. Anyone can do and you don;t have to rely on the Tv or celebrites to tell you how. Just living natural, the way it was intended. I also think good thoughts. Thats one of the big secrets as well. Negative thoughts oputs too much stress on the body and only create more negative things throoughout different parts in your life. I also never eat meat or ingest any preservatives. I feel great,, look great and save a whole lot of money. inecourage everyone to try it. If you feel you can’t go without make-up, yo should ask youself why, I did, and now I wear none, my skin and smile sys it all.

  25. Ann says:

    A couple of weeks ago I gave up on my expensive department store brand (because my skin was getting worse) and gave into the harsh acne products to even out my skin (which damaged and wrinkled me). Last week I discovered “No More Dirty Looks” and proceeded to load a garbage bag full of product. My new routine…

    Morning – A splash of warm water to my face followed by rubbing my skins natural oils back in (with clean fingers).
    Night – I remove makeup & sunscreen with pure coconut oil and rinse with pure local honey & warm water (sometimes adding baking powder). If I’m feeling particularly dry, I’ll apply a little Earth Science lotion.

    Less showering has left my skin soft and balanced. Now to revamp my makeup, hair products & house hold cleaners. It’s not just about clean food anymore, it’s clean living!

  26. Siobhan says:

    That’s wonderful news! Stick with it and let us know how it goes.

  27. emu says:

    I stopped using soap almost completely a few months ago (I still use it OCCASIONALLY on the important bits if I happen to get really gross during the day), and I literally have never smelled better. I’ve always had a problem with odor, especially “down there”, but since I stopped soaping up, the problem has disappeared. Plus, since I stopped using soap, my skin has gotten a trillion times softer. I can’t even count the number of times somebody has said to me “Your skin feels amazing! What lotion do you use?” (here’s a hint: none at all =] ) Now that winter’s come along, my skin IS starting to get dry again, but that’s more due to the combination of cold dry air, and my habit of taking blazingly hot showers when it’s cold out.

    I have yet to give up shampoo, but not for lack of trying. It’s just extremely tough to stick to when my scalp starts itching and flaking TERRIBLY after only a day of using just water. I want to try the baking soda rinse, but an earlier commenter mentioned that after a few uses it started irritating her scalp, so I’m worried that it’ll just make the dandruff and itching worse. Has anybody with dandruff tried the “no shampoo” route? If so, how did you make it work? I’d really love to know.

  28. Janelle says:

    This information sounds great, but I am terrified to try it! I have really bad acne, and hate leaving the house without makeup on. I wish I could stop wearing makeup, but it doesn’t seem to be possible.

    I have recently stopped using Clean&Clear products and switch to Aveeno face wash and Cetaphil lotion. My main problem is that I have acne, but also get dry skin consistently. Should I really stop washing my face and merely splash it with water? Should I try washing with honey? I know that everyone’s skin is different, so it is hard to be determined to use a new way of thinking, like this.

    Also, the makeup I use on my face is Bare Minerals. This is the best makeup I have come across thus far. Is this a makeup you would recommend, if one was to use makeup at all? I don’t think I’m ready to give up face wash AND makeup.

  29. Arial says:

    My asian friend suggested combining lentil and rice powders and using it as a gentle scrub instead of soap. I now use it all over the body including private bits and it is soooo amazing! No more moisturiser and very little deodarant needed!

  30. Viktoria says:

    I wash my body with salt and it works great.Ive ever used soap since a kid and Ive always been asked what I use on my skin…..I highy recomed it to anyone o matter what skin type.

  31. Chelsea says:

    I have used a goat’s milk natural soap bar for two years now. I have never been a real makeup/hairspray/ lotion user and I used baby shampoo when I needed it. I do wash the usual of course, but my skin is rather happy I’d say. I’m not a no-bathe hippie, but I do believe our bodies are happier with as few highly processed and chemical things around us as possible. I found this worked well with food also!

  32. Disha says:

    I think you have conveniently forgotten about those who live in areas that have more pollution and dirt than where you live.
    In India, where I live, it would be impossible to come back home and not wash your face at the end of the day. There’s just so much dirt accumulated on the face.
    Also, I think that basic hygiene must be maintained, the human body isn’t capable of carrying out everything!
    If that were possible, we would survive on water, and we wouldn’t need food at all! Now, don’t tell me you think that is true too.
    Hence, a part of our basic necessities is hygiene – basic hygiene. Which involves soap/shower gel etc. You don’t need to overscrub, overuse them. Use the minimal amount.
    Also those who have oily skin cannot use oil to clean their faces.. so not realistic.
    Just thought you should know.

  33. murt says:

    I use soap on my body (just a castille soap), but on my face I don’t! Lately I’ve been using PSF Green Tea Cleansing milk, which I really like.

  34. Sarah O. says:

    All right, I’ll be the dissenting voice here. Please understand that by no means do I intend to be disparaging, nor do I think you’re all dirty hippies or anything like that. In fact, I think you’re absolutely spot-on about one thing: the American media is making billions selling us ridiculous products to gunk up our bodies, 99% of which are pointless. The human body is remarkably resistant to bacteria (ask any college student who’s ever eaten some questionable-looking eggs from the back of the fridge), and since bacteria is the cause of body odor, there’s really no need to worry about smelling bad unless you’ve been sweating heavily for hours. And I too only use soap on, well, the dirty parts. Washing your limbs with soap seems asinine to me, since it’s nigh impossible for bacteria to collect there. I certainly don’t use it on my face, since if I did my entire face would dry out like an overbaked casserole. BUT. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think using soap or shampoo regularly is going to HURT you. The invention of soap and the average human life expectancy shooting up into the 70’s simultaneously seems like an awfully convenient coincidence. Soap, like so many other things in life, is very good for you in moderation. The same goes for deodorant. Is using it going to make you superhuman? Of course not. Will it make you a lot more popular? Absolutely. I’m sorry, but once puberty hits you are lucky to escape with your sweat glands intact, and for the rest of us, I consider it a service to those I interact with to use a little deodorant each morning. Nothing is worse than a three-hour lecture next to someone who forgot their Dove that morning and smells like last night’s fried food.
    I hope I haven’t offended anyone. Long story short, it’s your body and you should be able to do whatever you want to it, soap or no soap.

  35. Caitlin says:

    I am looking into quitting soap. I have been doing baking soda and apple cider vinegar rinses for my hair for months and it works wonderfully! For those of you hesitant to ditch shampoo – baking soda and ACV is the way to go. Also – for acne – baking soda also works wonders. I had used pro-activ for about 4 years and switched to baking soda for my face the same time I did for my hair. I do a baking soda scrub on my face once or twice a day – and my skin has never been better! I don’t have naturally clear skin – but baking soda truly is a miracle substance when it comes to beauty products.

  36. jenny says:

    Love you guys, and am especially happy to see this post! This has been my own personal secret, too–I brought it up with one (Berkeley-raised, kombucha-brewing, devoted-to-organic vegan!) friend and after she expressed her utter disgust, I could see her mentally calculating whether or not we should even shake hands anymore. It just seemed so obvious to me, though–even the gentlest soap makes my skin feel awful, so I stopped using it years ago—even before I started shifting all my products over to natural ones. Since then, I’ve used it on my armpits and bikini region, and sometimes on my feet, if I’ve been walking a lot in sandals. But even in these areas, I prefer to use just a homemade sugar and oil scrub–I probably use that half the time, and only use dr. bronner’s soap when I absolutely feel I need to. I do like to dry brush, and I love my muslin washcloth in the shower. But that’s it! I live in the desert during the summer, and I still only need to use oils on my elbows and knees, and then sometimes on the rest of my body in the winter. It works great for me!

    I do wear makeup some days, so I love tata harper’s cleanser for my face on those days (though I’ll give honey a try, too!). And my hair is problematic—curly but very fine, so I haven’t been able to find a great low-maintenance solution for it yet. I like Rahua 2-3 times a week in the meantime!

  37. Rachel says:

    I’m confused, tho. ‘Cause I’ve seen/known/met many, many people who probably don’t even own a bar of soap. They were disgusting, couldn’t stand being anywhere near them. The smell alone was too much. What makes what you say so different from the reality of them????

  38. Rosabella says:

    I tried reading all this crap……i don’t see any reason why someone will not wash up properly. some wrote that is because the cost of soap while some said is for healthy look. i want to say one thing if you have a good skin its natural and if you don’t its also natural. everybody is sharing some daunting ideas. because its been said that natural look is better. well i will advice why not stop brushing your mouths, stop wearing lingerie and even dresses then i will accept that you are natural. some will say i don’t make up. well 90% of such people admire people with makeup and they can’t stop saying she is so pretty. being beautiful is a gift to you even before you were born same goes for being ugly. if you are pretty and you tend to enhance to create different mood. that is fine and if you are ugly you as well try to upgrade to a better look or mood.
    The research i did some years back showed that 50% of those who don’t makeup either look awkward or they don’t know how to makeup.
    As for me i do what suits me not what i hear and see on others…..some days i don’t makeup due to my program. i use home made soups that suits my skin.
    i don’t see any reason why someone will just wanna make money trying to condemn a well known personal hygiene and for those of you who can’t wait for the book i wish you luck….i guess is not wasting money rather i should say is investing money…people tell us what we want to hear and read for their own benefit.

  39. Coni says:

    Wow, I’m so happy I found this website through Pinterest. I would love to stop showering as often and washing my hair every day. I’v tried every other day but my hair is so oily that it looks horrible and I get big bumps all over my scalp. I saw that you recommend coconut oil to remove makeup, but what to you recommend as a hair cleanser? I even tried Wen, by chaz dean, since it’s not soapy but I still broke out all over my head. I would love to be more natural and completely agree with the notion “the less you use the less you need”. Any advice?

  40. Alex says:

    My hair is Persnickity if i use shampoo every day i end up with over dry, britle, rats nest however if i dont shampoo well enough when i do wash my hair i end up with the unwashed “hippy” look my compromise? Scrubing my scalp and barely any conditioner on the tips. The big thing is that its every other day i just have to be sure to give my hair 100 strokes before bed and every morning when i get up. And while i will probly never give up soap/body wash completely i still only use it when and where needed. Spent some time in the garden? Needs some soap. Sent all day being a book worm at home? GET REAL!!

  41. Kate says:

    So, one thing no one has brought up is shaving. How do you shave your legs without soap? I use a coconut oil/baking soda combo on my face (haven’t noticed any difference), and I can see the benefits of using less (or no) soap on most body parts, but I can’t shave with just water. And I hate not shaving my legs.
    I’m interested in the shampoo concoctions too… for the ACV/baking soda combo, do you pre-mix that and leave it in the shower? Or mix it up each time? How much of each do you use? I still plan to use conditioner, because I love how it makes my hair feel, and I don’t want to deal with long tangled hair, but I’ve checked out the ingredients and my shampoo seems to be much worse than the conditioner. I’ve tried deep-conditioning with coconut oil or egg/honey mix, and that’s great but I have to wash my hair twice afterwards otherwise it’s really greasy.

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