SHOWER GEL

This subject sparked a surprisingly difficult conversation.  A group of us were sitting in my friend Margaret’s lovely California garden, talking through various ideas for this blog.  As we were throwing around suggestions, I piped up with the words “shower gel”!!!!

There was an uncomfortable shifting of bottoms, and several throats were cleared.  I do believe I remember someone whistling tunelessly. 

After a long silence, someone spoke in a voice so studiedly neutral that I should have known I was on dangerous ground.  

“So!   Er… what do you wash with instead?”

“Soap,’” said I, still unaware of the thinness of the ice beneath my feet.

A polite but tense conversation followed.  Then someone uttered the following words:

“I can’t bear the idea of washing myself with something that’s been up someone’s bum!”

Dear oh dear oh dear.

Let it be said here and now that I would never do such a thing.  Here is my shower routine in egregious detail.  

  • I takes off me clothes.
  • I turns on me shower.
  • When it’s running nice and hot, I enters and stands under the spray.  Ooh, wet!
  • I takes the bar of soap in my hands
  • I works up a nice lather
  • I puts the soap back on the rack
  • I then washes me bits.

Far too much information, I know, but sadly essential information in the crazy world we inhabit.

Shower gel is a con trick.  Big companies have subliminally persuaded us that watered down soap with added chemicals in a plastic bottle (which will take thousands of  years to decompose) is somehow better than soap in a bar which came in a paper wrapping.  Why?  My bet’s on the simple fact that soap lasts far too damn long for their liking. 

And how often have you squeezed a goodly blob onto your hand, only to have it plop onto the shower floor?  So then you have to squish yet more into your hand.  Intentional waste on the part of the company? Surely not… 

Folk love shower gel because they don’t like gooey soap and the advertising is frothily persuasive.  Actually, you can avoid the soap going gooey, but we’ll come to that later. 

Time for a photo

Yes, an entirely unnecessary picture of the towel cupboard under our sink, but I did a masterclass in blogging and I was told that regular pictures were vital for keeping the reader interested.  And there’s a strong link between showers and towels.

The dogs’ towels are the ones bottom left.

What’s in shower gels?

They’re all different.  There are “ethical” ones, but here’s a list of things the less savoury – but hugely popular – gels might contain. (Sorry to be snarky to ethical companies, but anything packaged in plastic can no longer be entirely ethical, no matter how good the intentions.)

            1         Parabens.  A chemical that stabilises the liquid and has been linked to various skin conditions including rosacea, a nasty condition that leaves the skin red and irritated.  My own personal evidence is entirely anecdotal – so if you know better, please contact me.  However, my eczema is now virtually gone since I returned to soap.  Not only that, a very close friend who shall be nameless had really horrid rosacea which included pimples all o’er his pate (he won’t thank me for sharing this) and since he has shifted to paraben-free shower gels, his pate is a lovely shining thing, entirely free of pustular infestation.  (He won’t thank me for that either.) (But he is nameless.)

            2         Palm Oil.  You know those photographs of great swathes of beautiful jungle being ripped up and young orang-utans orphaned in the process?  Much of this is to plant oil palm trees to produce palm oil.   Palm oil is made from the fleshy fruits;  it has a high yield and is very stable once processed, which makes commercial developers simply dribble with pleasure at their future profits.   Oil palms have long been used as a cooking oil in the East.  This was all well and good when used in moderation.  But en masse, in great uniform monocultural blocs,  palm oil plantations are utterly lousy for the environment, lousy for the wildlife that lived in the jungle. lousy for the long term health of the planet, lousy for the air your children and grandchildren will breath, lousy lousy lousy.  And no, I dunno why they use it, there are enough shower gels that don’t… 

Miles and miles of uniform planting. Ugly, damaging, and all for Big Corporation Profit. And yes, I paid £7 for this photo from iStock

           3         Microbeads.  Teensy weensy, incey wincey bits of plastic so small you can feel them, but hardly see them.  Marvellous for exfoliating the skin, dahling – but shit for everything else. Happily, these are now being banned by more and more countries.  But not everywhere yet.  And they’re really worrying scientists now, because they think these tiny beads might get into our bodies through the food chain.   Fish and microplastic chips, anyone?   Scary. And dangerous.

           4         Long lists of chemicals you and I don’t understand, like sodium lauryl sulphate which makes it sudsy.  Oh, I’m sure they’re all ok.   No, really, I am.

And all the above chemicals wash into the system and need to be washed out by yet more chemicals so that we can have drinkable tap water. 

Believe me, soap is a much simpler beast, and there are some wonderful hand-made soaps out there.  Unfortunately, it seems that men are harder to persuade.

Men and their gels!

The Beloved won’t have it.   It’s gel all the way with him.   Minty-zesty-hunky gel with manly, inky-blue packaging.  Butch, pine-infused gel intended to waft the impression that he has just felled a stretch of virgin forest with his teeth. If he saw a gel called “Polish Steelworkers Body Wash – only a Real Man can squeeze me!!!” I swear he’d buy it.  He pops his bottle in the shower and within a month he’s replaced it with another preposterously marketed bottle which panders to his masculine ego while I’m still waiting for the silvery label on my Cussons Imperial Leather to fall off.

His ‘n’ hers view of our shower. This month, the Beloved prefers to imagine he’s cresting a wave. Note my deeply industrial looking soap. The tiles are hideous, I can’t think why I chose them. Oh yes, they were cheap.

Mind you, it’s not just about marketing;  it’s the Ease of the Squeeze.  Soap involves work!  And it’s so exhausting!   He has to reach his poor tired arms up to the soap dish, lift the offending bar – oh my, how heavy can soap be? – and then rub like the blazes to create some frothy suds!  Not only that, he would have to do it several times every shower!   Exhausting!   With eezi-peesi-squeezi gel, especially the kind that comes in a bottle you can hang up thus saving the effort of actually lifting up the bottle, he just reaches out, squishes with thumb and forefinger and suddenly, he is Tarzan.

Actually, there is a Tarzan soap on the market!

I don’t have permission to use this rather fab photo, so here is the link in case you fancy ordering some. https://edgarriceburroughs.com/store/product/tarzan-soap-rectangle/

Yes, I know there are gels aimed at girls.  Probably designed with pink pearly packaging and a honeyed voice that says, “Go on, pamper yourself!” every time you twist the top.  (If it hasn’t been invented yet, it will be.) 

So how is soap so superior, then?

A bar of soap comes wrapped in a bit of paper and lasts months if you take it out of its packet immediately you get home.  That makes it harden so when you come to use it, it lasts longer. 

Oh, and just in case you enjoyed that completely unnecessary sexual innuendo, turn the soap over when you put it down so that soft side is facing upwards.  This way, the soap doesn’t go gooey in the soap dish.

So come on folks, come back to soap.  It’s cheaper, it’s greener, it almost always has a lower carbon footprint as it doesn’t travel nearly as far, it lasts much longer and it does the job just as well.

Some soaps are almost too cute to use. We live in a converted piggery so I love these cute piggy-wig soaps!

A quick warning

Although soap is a much simpler product than gel, some soaps are made with tallow (animal fat) which persons of a veggie leaning would prefer to avoid, and others are made with Palm Oil which is the Great Satan of the tree world.  So check contents. 

Confession

I fall by the wayside too sometimes.  I was once given a present of some Jo Malone grapefruit gel and it was so divine I’ve occasionally bought it as a gift if I’m going to stay with a chum.  (I probably won’t from now on, though – I’d feel a bit hypocritical.)  I’m not advocating a hair shirt lifestyle.  Just trying to inject a little thought into our automatic shopping….

And no, I am not being sponsored by Jo Malone.

What you will save

It’s impossible to be specific because it depends on what brand you buy, but let’s say a family of four uses a bottle of shower gel every month.  I mean each of them.  That’s 48 bottles destined for landfill every year.  Imagine what a street of 100 dwellings with, say, 2 adult occupants produces every year.  That’s 2400 empty shower gel bottles.  Imagine a city.  A state.  A country.   Millions and millions of empty bottles, bobbing their way to the sea.

Now do you think soap is a good idea?

What you can do

  • Attend craft fairs.  There are usually stalls of gorgeous handmade soaps.  Just check they aren’t made with palm oil which in my book is a great deal worse than tallow.
  • Make your own soap.  Personally, I’d prefer to make chutney, but if you fancy it, there are lots and lots of recipes out there in internet-land.  I have to say, however, that I was disappointed to see how many vegan soap recipes contained Palm Oil…
  • Invent a soap that smells strongly of a mix of petrol and pine and market it for BLOKES.   Include some pine needles to give him some scrub-a-dub-dub exfoliating goodness.  Let me know and I will certainly order some for the Beloved  Actually, given his equestrian leanings, eucalypt and horse manure might do just as well.  (I promise I will still love you, darling… ) 
My dog, Piper, enjoying the spring by the spring a couple of days ago. (That’s a spring, not a pond.) She loathes gels and soaps of any kind, and prefers to bathe in 100% fox poo.

63 thoughts on “SHOWER GEL

  1. Loving your blog, and especially when there are pics of Piper obviously! Shower gel and hand wash abandoned in favour of soap Chez Lilac many moons ago.

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    • Ah, thanks so much. I’m hoping it’s entertaining, rather than preachy. And I realise that I’m probably preaching to the converted at the moment, but I’m very much hoping that the converted will spread the word to the unconverted!

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  2. I have just been to my bathroom and gathered up all the shower ‘crap’ and into the bin it shall go. Thank you so much for the amazing informative, educational post; I love you ❤ x.

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  3. There is just as much variety in soap as there is in shower gel. Unfortunately, just not in supermarkets. I am a huge soap fiend, and it is often one of my holiday souvenirs. It just needs to be a bit more accessible if you’re not a fan of Pears or Imperial Leather….

    I am however stocking up on soap as my key bartering item when the economy collapses post Brexit….

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    • Good point! This could be a great way to expand our support of smaller (online) businesses that are leading the eco trail.. in the wake of chemical giants. They are already making a contribution and difference, lets embrace them!

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  4. While on the subject of washing, perhaps you could do a piece about washing machines. I’m not advocating wearing the same undies for days on end, smelly socks or stained tops, but we could wash clothes less often. Result: less water, less detergent, less electricity, fewer plastic fibres washed into the oceans.

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    • Duly noted! I need to do a lot more research on this particular topic. The challenge would be, how would we wash sheets, towels etc? Especially as from time to time we run a b&b here. If you could point me in the direction of any pre-researched articles in this area, it would be a great start? In the meantime, I am a great advocate and user of the ‘QUICK WASH’ cycle.. lets all go down this route as a starting point!

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  5. I’ve been using soap to shower for a few months now and having just read your article I feel quite righteous! Also I’m quite star struck to be in the exalted company of Dillie Kean✨🌟⭐️

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  6. For sure! Always use soap….don’t like bottled goo. Never have…. Your American friends might have their own personal soap for those worrying doubtful moments…colour coded….one each…..

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  7. Am loving your blog and am definitely one of the guilty ones in the shower although I also have a bar of soap sitting there reminding me of what I should be using. Making us more aware of what we can do rather than just think about it. Thank you Dillie xxxx

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  8. I use soap and never thought anyone might clean their nether regions with the bar! Something new to dwell on ah well I’ll carry on using soap. 🙂 and spread the word of Dillie!

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  9. Loved this blog and the toilet paper one, as you see we are paying attention, shared to all my friends.

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  10. I discovered a hand made shampoo soap in Lausanne, lathers a dream and leaves your hair squeaking can also be used for body. Smells not a dot of any perfume!

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  11. If you want to be a real man or should I say person just water will do. I haven’t used soap of any kind for 40 years. And I know what the riposte to that will be so don’t. Try it. Rxxx

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  12. Great blog post! I gave up shower gel 3 years ago cos I was always putting bottles in the recycling. It’s a marketing con trick as you say, and a great waste. Soap works perfectly well. Oh, I have gone further, I haven’t used shampoo for 3 years either and my hair seems fine.

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    • Great advice! I have friends who haven’t shampooed their hair for 30 years and they both have think lustrous hair.. AND one of then is female. However, I’m not sure I could possibly follow their example – how else could I become a natural blonde every month. Thanks for posting.

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  13. I’m not an eco warrior but I try to do my bit so thanks for this Dillie.
    Shower gel is something I never think about, I never ever buy the stuff but it’s become the new socks and hankies at Christmas for men of a certain age.
    I shall now unearth the forgotten and forlorn tablets of male type gift box soap hiding at the bottom of my sock draw and begin to use them in the shower in lieu of gel.

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  14. Pity’s with dry skins who cannot even handle soap. Imagine the comments we get.

    My justification is now that I am protecting my external microbiome.

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    • So I’m all sympathy for your very difficult situation. I spent a couple of very difficult years being allergic to certain HARD WATER – I came out in a horrid Urticaria, and when I went to stay with friends in Scotland, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed having a bath is the lovey soft water, because washing had become a real trial for me. It eventually subsided and I’m glad to sad I can wash with impunity now. Thanks so much for posting and please keep following.

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  15. Can I give a shout out to my favourite soup – Droyts glycerine, small firm, uses sustainable palm oil, smells lovely.

    Thanks for the unwrapping tip. I’m off to open all my stash and put them in the airing cupboard.

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  16. I agree and would also add – please look for all products with the leaping bunny or a statement which says it’s not been tested on poor wee animals, quite hard to find on the shelves. thank you Dilly

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  17. I love every bit of this blog!!
    You are so right. I switched to using bars of soap just before Christmas, I use one of those shower puff things to get up a good lather. I’m a total convert.
    My husband has been using soap for as long as I’ve known him (he uses something called coal tar soap which smells revolting) so it’s about time I joined in too!
    Didn’t know about the palm oil though, will certainly check that from now on.

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  18. Without intending to sound too preachy…I got fed up with all the rubbish being put in soap, together with not ‘quite’ trusting where all the tallow was coming from – over 2.5 million cats and dogs are killed every year, and those corpses have GOT to go somewhere – so a few years back made my own. It’s really easy, and there are recipes all over the internet. I made a big batch that we started to use after letting it ‘cure’ (if you don’t, the caustic soda will burn your skin off!) and we’re using it still. I suspect that I’ll still be using it long after my divorce goes through. Husband uses a ‘pump-action anti-bacterial hand sanitiser’ though quite what he thinks he’s achieving is beyond me. If he didn’t keep putting his hands where he puts them, he wouldn’t keep needing to sanitise them. And he might find himself still married…

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  19. Saying it as it is with humour, thank you Dillie. We’ve always been users of bar soap and, due to very dry sensitive skin, stick to Simple soap or Boots baby soap. We did try shower gel once but the one bottle we tried was bliddy annoying. Yes, it blobbed off my hands onto the shower floor with no possibility of retrieval and it lasted just a couple of weeks. So just one bottle purchased years ago. We’re sticking with bar soap.

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  20. D.K for P.M or at very least Loose Women Eco Panelist; with you humour-paw-punch to the masses.
    You’d soon have a huge following Dilly – think of the millions of bathroom shelves all a lot lighter and more ‘green’ as a direct result of your Panelist Eco Power [PEP]

    I’ve moved over to ‘leaping bunny’ bottles but now its time to step up to the Bar !

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    • Ha, love “step up to the Bar”. I don’t know whether this will ever have the reach I hope for, but your words are super encouraging! Thanks so much.

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  21. Up to now I have spent endless hours cursing about the voluminous amounts of non-recyclable food packaging, all the while ignoring the fact that I use shower gel and every day without giving the packaging any thought. No more, came the cry! I have seen the light! I had never heard of shampoo bars. Where have I been? I will investigate further and await your next blog for further enlightenment.

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  22. Brilliant. YES! absolutely. Ive been trying to do this for a while now. More soap less shower gel/liquid soap/shampoo. Keep em coming Dillie. LOVE this. x

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  23. YES! Not sure why plastic straws and cotton buds have got more press really? Masses more plastic in shower gel plus the unhealthy content. Don’t know what your friend has been watching if s/he equates soap with anus? Weird.

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  24. Great blog and I love reading it. Best soap I’ve come across is VINOLIA cold cream bath soap, which comes in 2 sizes,lasts well and doesnt go soggy, and it has a soft scent. It was used aboard the Titanic. Which is meant to be a compliment. Not generally available from shops but you can get it through Amazon.

    Auf wiederstein Badadas !

    Nick B

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  25. An allied subject you may wish to consider is frequency of showering. I’ve found that it’s possible to shower less than twice daily without being ostracised. In percentage terms, this is a huge reduction in use of resources.

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