SOAP STORY PART III | BULK SOAP STORES
Jenn here! Amanda and I both love yoga and, over the years, have developed a deep interest in it's sister science, Ayurveda. Needless to say, ayurvedic philosophy heavily influenced this 3-part blog post series that focuses on soap use and the effect it has on the skin's microbiome. When I first started reading through all the research and resources we compiled for part I and II, I was really intrigued and fascinated, but also very overwhelmed. This is exactly why Amanda and I thought it would be most valuable to integrate our own personal stories into each of these posts. In part III, I am excited to step in and share where I am in my soap journey.
While Amanda is currently into grass-fed beef tallow soaps, I have to admit I am not quite there yet :) BUT I have definitely become more aware of what I put on and in my body. In the final blog of this 3-part series, I want to share some stories of where I am with different products, lessons I've learned along the way, and tools that helped me become more knowledgeable about the products and ingredients out there.
One of my favorite new tools is an app that Amanda introduced me to called Think Dirty. We recently went on a grocery store run together to buy toothpaste. We went to a small, local, all-natural health food store, so like most, I just assumed that anything I picked out would be good. I sorted through their options and chose a few. Amanda whipped out her phone and scanned them all with her app. I was surprised to see that 2 of the 3 options I chose were rated between 4-7 (out of 10) on the app's "dirty meter" rating system- meaning, some of the product's ingredients have potential negative long-term health effects. It was such a quick way to chose the ONLY option in the store that kept me in the 0-3 zone (a product that does not contain any ingredients which have a documented potential negative health impact). Another great website I use is EWGs Skin Deep Database (they have a similar 1-10 rating system on products and ingredient list breakdowns).
Growing up in Florida and playing sports, deodorant was always a part of my every day routine, but as I got older, I started using the prescription strength deodorants. The more I used them, the more I noticed that I HAD to use them or risk bad BO. Finally, years later when I moved to Hermosa Beach, California, I realized how horrible those deodorants are for your skin, glands and lymph nodes. As I became more informed on ingredients, I started making the switch to deodorants with less chemical additives. I have since noticed that I no longer smell like a trucker and I can use them less frequently throughout the day. As Amanda has shared in the earlier parts of this series, your body has its own amazing systems for cleaning and detoxifying itself. By using products that prohibit these natural functions, your body's systems start to fail and you create a dependency on the products. That's where I am right now... trying to break the dependency.
Soap-wise, on a trip to Morocco two years ago I discovered African Black Soap and am totally obsessed with it. According to Better Shea Butter, "this soap’s distinctive color comes from its main ingredient: the ash of palm bark and plantain leaves. The leaves and bark are first sun dried, then roasted at an even temperature. Palm kernel oil, water, and Shea Butter are added, then the soap is left to cure. It can help to soothe and heal problematic skin, as well as provide gentle exfoliation. Because it is such a gentle product, it can be used on sensitive skin, as well as by people suffering from psoriasis and eczema." A quick google search for "african black soap" pulls up a list in which the first few links are for the brand "Shea Moisture." Now lets say, like me, you have sensitive skin and you take a gander through their products, and based on what I just explained above about this soap, you are drawn to the one product manufactured and marked specifically for "Eczema + Psoriasis Therapy." Upfront, it seems like an easy purchase. After entering it into the Think Dirty, Shop Clean app, I find out that a soap I was under the impression only had about 5 ingredients is now suddenly a product that has 23 ingredients (!). AND unfortunately, comes with a 9/10 rating, putting it in the category of products that have ingredients that have potential SERIOUS negative long term health effects. Isn't that wild? Just goes to show a little research goes a long way.
Thanks to my Pitta (fire) dominant dosha (ayurvedic mind-body type), my skin struggle is with rosacea. From an Ayurvedic perspective, this condition is provoked when pitta (the fire element) is aggravated by excessive work, chronic stress, spicy foods, and alcohol... to name a few. It's definitely on my to-do list to try these all-natural ayurvedic tea and face mask remedies for rosacea. Until then, one thing I know that has definitely helped to restore some balance to my skin's microbiome is opting for skin products with less toxic ingredients. I have to admit, I LOVE my Beauty Counter products. Many of their products use organic ingredients and I support that the company's mission is to help create more transparency around the ingredients used in the cosmetic industry (on their product page, they state each of their product's EWG skin deep rating score). They definitely make me feel better about what I’m putting on my face, and my rosacea has totally calmed down which rocks.
Becoming an ingredient-conscious consumer and educating myself on my skin's microbiome has been an eye opening experience, but before I fully went down this path, I actually approached "cleaning up and greening up" my soap use from the perspective of trying to make it a more eco-friendly experience. This all started when I stumbled upon a bulk soap store down here in San Diego. I told Amanda that I'd love to write a blog post on this earth-friendly, plastic-reducing trend. We went back and forth trying to determine...should we write about soap from an ayurvedic perspective? A microbiome perspective? An eco-friendly perspective? Initially, it seemed that trying to cover all these different perspectives on soap would be conflicting and perhaps confusing, but then we realized they each have their place and relevance depending on how you look at it. Consider this... research shows that hand-washing your dishes by hand reduces allergies. "How?," you ask. Well, apparently, "hand washing dishes cleans less thoroughly than highly efficient machines, which sounds gross, but the exposure to more microbes when you are young may help develop the microbiome and immune system. While this study is not perfect, it still shows us that exposure to bacteria is potentially a good thing for the new and developing microbiome." BUT other research shows that using a dishwasher is more eco-friendly (and uses less soap) than hand washing dishes. So what is one to do? We think that's the beauty of it, you get to chose. Maybe the microbiome approach to soap appeals to you and you're inspired to make changes, or maybe the idea of reducing your plastic use is what draws you into this conversation. Either way, we see it as creating awareness around several good topics and that's what we at IWR are all about.
To close out on my soap story, I leave you with one of my favorite discoveries- bulk soap stores. The idea of buying in bulk is not new, nor necessarily earth-friendly (think Costco), but these stores are popping up in trendy neighborhoods in California and are helping to revolutionize the way we buy soap... and all other cleaning products for that matter. Although single-use plastic bottles (PET & HDPE) are the most recycled plastic product in the waste stream, less than two thirds are actually recovered and recycled into a new product- EPA 2012 statistic.
The idea with bulk soap stores is that you bring empty bottles from your house and refill them at the store. If you don't have any empties, then they usually have some there that have been left by others as a "pay it forward". Even better than filling up plastic bottles, is that you invest in glass dispensers for your soap. Plastic leaches estrogen-mimicking chemicals, meaning that anything you put in plastic... food, soap, water, etc... becomes infused with hormone disrupting chemicals that you then put in or on your body. If this interests you, I like this great article on 10 life hacks to help you cut plastic out of the picture. Back to the bulk soap store...hand soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, laundry detergent, etc... are all available in earth-friendly versions to fill up your bottles with, you get charged by the ounce and return time after time with the same old bottle. Only about 9% of recycled plastic actually makes its way to a facility, the rest ends up in a landfill or the ocean. Having lived near the ocean my whole life, I have a great appreciation for it and the way I am purchasing soap these days makes me feel like I am creating a ripple effect in the right direction. Below you'll find my guide on where you can find these stores from San Diego to San Francisco.
Blue Dot Refill
4799 Voltaire St., San Diego, CA 92107
Blue Dot Refill’s Mission is simple: To reduce the amount of single-use plastic bottles in circulation.
Refill stations reduce the pollution being generated to produce new or recycled bottles, in addition to reducing the enormous amount of plastic pollution currently choking our landfills, beaches, lakes, rivers, and oceans.
The Refill Shoppe
363 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001
Founded by Michelle Stevens in 2010, this Ventura County shop places an emphasis on refilling your used containers with environmentally conscious products. The Refill Shoppe has personal-care products, cleaning supplies, and a wide variety of essential oils and fragrances.
105 Avenida Del Mar, San Clemente, CA 92672
A nationally distributed brand of natural household cleaners, Common Good products can be purchased, literally, all over the world. In addition to purchasing product, you can refill product at many of their retailers including at Reclamation Ink in San Clemente.
104 Argall Way, Nevada City, California 95959
Opened in 2010 with the intent to reduce plastic waste in the environment, S.O.A.P has helped to refill over 19,000 bottles in Nevada County. Providing a wide variety of products including household cleaners, personal care products, and even salts S.O.A.P’s mission is to help customers become part of the ‘refill revolution’.
EO Exchange - San Francisco
1355 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94103
In 2015, EO opened a second location in San Francisco. EO Products and their brick-and-mortar store EO Exchange offer customers an opportunity to refill all containers with their favorite personal-care products. At their proprietary Refill Bar, customers can fill empty containers with soap, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner all on tap.
3980 24th Street San Francisco, CA 94114
Opened in 2009, Green 11 provides shoppers an environmentally friendly opportunity to refill used containers with both personal-care and cleaning products. Now with three store locations in San Francisco and San Mateo you can refill anything from toothpaste to dish soap.