Hooly dooly, did I stink! My armpits smelt so bad even I was repulsed. And I couldn't even move away! This was a new thing for me. I'd never had body odour. But for some reason I had bypassed 'strong' and arrived at 'toxic'. I was showering every day (as I'd always done) and regardless of a mad lathering of my armpits it only got worse. I figured it was my diet. I cut out everything I could think of. I didn't quite arrive at plain rice gruel but I was getting there. Unbelievably the problem just got worse and worse. I really couldn't stand myself. Never mind me, friends were dropping hints - subtle things like, 'Jesus Christ You Stink!' It was capitalised and everything.
But then it was all put on hold when I ran over to Shanghai for a couple of weeks for a job. As if by magic I ceased to stink. More confusion! My Shanghai diet included copious quantities of the various things I'd cut out - vinegar, soy, beer, all that fermented stuff. Do my head in! This made no sense. Job over, it's back to Sydney, back to my diet, and back to... my usual soap. A lightbulb goes off! It was the fucking soap! Even then I was non-corporate and the soap I used was Thursday Plantation tea-tree oil soap. Tea tree is a native Australian shrub, the oil of which is famed for its medicinal properties. Anyway, it all stood to reason. The stinkier I got, the more soap I used. The more soap I used, the stinkier I got. Out, damned soap! And it was as simple as that, and the problem was solved. Go figure.
Mind you, I was already hell-bent by this stage so I thought bugger it, why don't I skip the whole damn thing. It's not like I can smell as bad as I did with that bloody soap. And besides, what did humans do before they had soap? Soap has been around for a long time but I'll bet that if all of human existence was a clock face we'd only have been using soap for a minute maybe. And that was the beginning of the experiment. What is the least amount of soap, shampoo, deodorant, and yes even water, that I can use and still be socially acceptable?
NB. I do not work in a coal mine. For me, like the majority of people reading here, hygiene consists of nothing more than dealing with oils, sweat, dead skin, and um, 'bacteria'.
Don't need it! I haven't used it for years and I don't smell. Spooked by my previous experience, for a while I actually asked people, like the osteopath who fixed my neck, if I was on the nose. "I live on my own and have no idea if I smell bad. If you were to quietly say, 'Well you do smell a little strong', I'd appreciate it." No? Nothing? Okay. I now no longer bother asking.
Given my experience I'd wonder if people who do have body odour aren't that way because of soap. Regardless of what may or may not be the cause of the problem, deodorant as the answer is a poor one. It's nothing more than a concoction of industrial chemicals. Anti-perspirant is even nastier. Aluminium zirconium tetrachlorohydrex gly, anyone? If you want to argue that they're not bad for us, you're grasping the wrong end of the stick. We actually have no idea if they're bad for us or not. The only thing we know for sure is that they aren't good for us and that the corporations would lie about it anyway. This is the truth of industrial chemicals.
Colognes and Perfumes
Absolute madness! I spent ten years of my life in workshops foolishly breathing horrific amounts of industrial toxins. My tolerance for these is now trashed. One good lungful of nail polish remover (acetone, one of the worst poisons on the planet) and I've got a splitting headache. Ha ha ha ha, that poor woman at the outdoor cafe in Bondi who thought she'd do it there! She barely knew what hit her - Cyclone Nobby! BTW. these toxins are absorbed through the nail. Women who use them might want to check this out and decide if it's a good idea or not.
Nail polish aside, if you can smell a perfume, you're smelling solvents. The scents per se might not be bad but the vehicle for bringing about their necessary evaporation is by definition a solvent. It's as simple as that. I will admit that there are one or two perfumes I find quite attractive, but anyone wearing a perfume whose scent travels more than a metre is, in my opinion, overstepping the mark. The tiniest amount is plenty. Perfume beyond one's personal space is a variety of rudeness. Cyclone Nobby has spoken. Ha!
Shampoo and Conditioner
Ditched! Utterly! I always had a problem with the concept of stripping out the hair's natural oils with one lot of chemicals and then replacing them with another. Admittedly it's not easy giving shampoo and conditioner the flick. Your hair wigs out and goes greasy (yes, yes, pun). The obvious response is to panic and go back to the chemical routine. I can offer no clear answer for how long hair takes to settle down to a state of equilibrium. It's either a month or a year, I forget. Since my experiment in hygiene involved chopping and changing everything simultaneously, it took my hair ages to settle down. I suspect that if I hadn't spent months and months variously not washing, or washing solely with salt water, it would have been a great deal quicker.
In its current natural equilibrium, what my hair is not, is that variety of splintery-dry that results from shampoo. But you'd only notice by running your fingers through it. To look at, you'd never spot the difference, and people are surprised when I tell them that I don't use shampoo. My routine merely involves doing the same scalp massage that I do with shampoo, running a comb through it, and all under running hot water. I do that every time I shower. And that's it.
It doesn't feel greasy, it combs out fine, and is healthy as hell. The oils that shampoo strip out are meant to be there. They're good for your hair and anyone who tells me that conditioner is better for your hair than the natural oils is nuts. My hair by the way, is long. I cut it to shoulder length once a year at the beginning of Summer on account of it being too hot otherwise when I sleep. That's the sum total of my hair care. I am the hairdresser's despair, ha ha.
Saltwater and No Soap
I live at the beach and have a Pacific Ocean's worth of saltwater just five hundred metres away. The beauty of saltwater is that it more or less renders soap unnecessary. Salt kills bacteria. That's why we put pickles in it. If you wash in saltwater, your body will be as clean bacteriologically as it will ever get in a shower by way of soap. If you're squeamish about what may be left on your hands, no problems, plunge them into the sand under the water a couple of times and they'll be scrubbed, salted, and good to go. Don't fool yourself imagining that soap magically kills all bacteria. It doesn't. And nor would you want to do that anyway. Fact is, there are minute trace amounts of faecal matter on every inch of your skin right now. Yes, YOU, recent shower or no. This is normal. Reducing your skin to a bacteriologically sterile wasteland is actually unnatural, and counter-productive to health. Go figure.
'Bloody nobody! Who the hell lives at the beach?' you say. But that's beside the point. I do live at the beach, and who's experiment is this anyway? And this experiment's sub-question was - what happens when you wash with nothing but saltwater for a couple of months with no freshwater or soap at all? Ha! All sorts of things. Straight up - I did not smell. Which is good. What's bad is that salt as an anti-bacteriological agent has a flip side - it's also a vital ingredient for life. Salt left on your skin for months feeds things - fungally things. I shan't go into it, but it wasn't pretty. I'll admit that my daily consumption of beer, bread, and other yeasty, fermented things that directly feed fungi, probably muddied the results. One day I shall give these things up, but here, in this place, it's impossible. That will be an experiment for a later date.
Regardless of that, there's also the simple fact that saltwater is always cold. Cold water will remove less excess oil and dead skin than hot water. And between 'soft' water and 'hard' water, with soft being preferable for removing this detritus, saltwater is as hard as nails. If you wash with saltwater alone, the skin's muck is not removed and has an unpleasant tendency to build up. In my case, no amount of vigourous rubbing with my hands seemed to deal with this. If I'd taken a cloth into the surf with me that might have helped, but this is a public beach and using a wash cloth in this fashion would be one step too far in terms of yours truly making a public spectacle of himself.
And besides, there's the sheer historical logic of it all. Humans cannot live without fresh water. Sure enough, there has never been a case of human settlement that had access to saltwater but not to freshwater. Obviously humans have always washed in freshwater. Saltwater is not bad, in fact it's particularly brilliant for the sinuses, but it fails when used in exclusion to freshwater. The other obvious aspect of saltwater is the inconvenience of it all - between: crummy weather; frequent three metre dumping surf; and the frothy green foam that results from this beach being situated next to the river mouth (nasty after the frequent heavy rain we get here), whole weeks would go by with me not being able to go for a swim. Not forgetting Winter of course. One way or another you have to use freshwater.
Freshwater and Soap
Is Australia still in drought? Maybe not, what with global warming being renamed on account of global cooling. But regardless, it was only a couple of years ago that the dams were all empty and water consumption was a big deal. And whether the newly dubbed 'climate change' is a con or not, I have no desire to needlessly use a resource anyway. I am sparing in all things. (Except for verbiage, ha!)
But first, soap. If I'm showering with freshwater, I'm using soap. But the point of the exercise is to use as little as possible. Thus I restrict it to the, ahem, underpant region. Everywhere else just gets hot water and a scrub with a wash cloth (yep, armpits included). The logic here is the same as the logic with my hair. The oils in the skin are good for it. They're meant to be there. Hot water and a cloth is all you need to take off the excess (along with sweat, dead skin etc.). Subsequently one bar of soap would probably last me a year.
The next question is, how infrequently can I wash and still keep my hair and skin clean, and not smell? After much experimentation, I decided that twice weekly is plenty. If I skip one every now and then and wash weekly, I can barely tell the difference. And I live in a warm climate don't forget. By the way, I wash my face in cold water morning and night, and I am in inveterate hand washer. My experiments do not involve ditching common sense.
In terms of brands of soap, I have no preference. I use whatever is there. Since the old man likes Cusson's, I use that. Given my druthers, I'd pick the blandest, most addditive-free, non-corporate thing I could find. One day, I'll make my own soap. Apparently it's not rocket science.
I have a heavy beard. In amongst all of the above, I went the whole hog and grew it out. It was really something. My beard juts forward, not down, and I looked like some mad Cossack. Which was fine with me but the beard's inevitable tendency to behave as a soup strainer drove me nuts. And so I shave. When my moustache starts getting in my mouth, it's time. This seems to take a fortnight or so. And surprise, surprise, shaving works brilliantly without any clever products. I merely use the same soap that I wash with, which I lather up with a shaving brush. A fig for shaving cremes and gels.
Oh yeah, I have to use a trimmer first. No problems, it cost $25 and does the job just dandy. On the resulting stubble I use a Gillette G3. The absurd price of the blades drives me nuts. A pox on the Gillette Corporation! God, how I'd love to ditch that fucking razor. It's my intention to lay my hands on a cut-throat razor that one merely re-sharpens. So far I've yet to find one. I figure an antique store is the go, but here in Bullshit Tourist Town there aren't any. And yeah, yeah, I've heard all the horror stories. Hell, I've got my own. But experiments of this nature exact a price and you either pay it, or you succumb to the corporations.
Is there a single product more obviously under the control of a cartel than toothpaste? Here in Oz, we have 28,000 varieties of toothpaste and they all come from two corporations. My attitude is that if they can't figure out how to make a single toothpaste that adequately does the job, then they're obvious bullshit artists and we're being scammed. And we are being scammed.
Besides that, they don't even clean my teeth very well. I figured this out when I found a brand in China called Bamboo Salt. It's made by LG, a Korean corporation, but I'm prepared to overlook that on account of the astounding difference between it and every other toothpaste I ever used. The tiniest smidge is plenty (about a tenth of the absurd amounts they use in the commercials) and my teeth are squeaky clean. Also I used to be prone to mouth ulcers, but haven't had any for ages. Whether it's due to the toothpaste or some other thing, I really can't say. Regardless, I do like that toothpaste. I'm still running on the supply I brought back from Beijing so I haven't checked to see if it's available in one of the big smoke Chinatowns, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't. Bamboo Salt - as used and recommended by nobody!
As for brushes, I have no opinion. One's as good as another as long as the bristles are soft. I've never used a machine and I never will. Amongst other things, I couldn't be fagged carrying it around when I travel.
My Bathroom Travel Pack
Ha! You should see it. There's nothing in it. Toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, shave-brush, comb, and that's it. All that other shit, that entire aisle at the supermarket? Completely unnecessary! Hey, Colgate-Palmolive and Reckitt Benckiser! Go fuck yourselves! You ain't got nothing I want or need!