Every day, we move through a matrix of advertisements—some overt; some subtle—trying their best to convince us to buy things we do not need.
This world of marketing and cultural norms dictates how we clean our homes and ourselves; how we eat and how we cook; how we dress and how we relax. Seriously. Why is a diamond “forever?” De Beers. Why is Pabst Blue Ribbon synonymous with hipster-cool? Clever marketing.
Maybe I’m getting off course. My point is this: there is a massive industry devoted to selling us not only products, but lifestyles, and as a result there are heaps—truckloads, garage-sized piles, closet-height stacks—of things we think we need, but could just as easily do without.
And so, I present to you my totally unscientific, unprofessional, biased list of top health and beauty “things” we could do without—based only on my own experience, research and conversation.
Really. We are conditioned by beauty commercials to shampoo daily, using products comprised primarily of sodium lauryl sulphate. Sulphates are chemicals that lend commercial soaps and shampoos their foamy lusciousness. They also happen to strip our skin and scalp of its natural ability to moisturize, produce oils and generally act as skin should.
Learning this, I first switched to natural, sulphate-free shampoo, before realizing even that was not necessary. Now, I shampoo about once a month, rinsing my hair with warm water the rest of the time, and conditioning when necessary to comb through tangles.
If you are wanting to give this (nearly) shampoo-free lifestyle a try, I would advise patience and a slow transition. If you shampoo every day, start by switching to every other day, then once a week, then maybe once a month. At first your hair will probably become oily, accustomed as it is to a daily stripping down, but you will find that it does adjust. Be patient, and enjoy the shift.
(This is, as far as I can tell from discussions with other women, only applicable to smaller-chested women. I apologize to my larger-chested sisters for leaving you out.)
You don’t actually need them! They don’t stop your breasts from sagging. They can indeed make them appear larger—and there was a brief stretch of time when that was important to me—but they render no true service that I can discern.
There was something to the bra-burning trend of the 70s, I’d say. The modern cousin of the erstwhile corset, the brassiere harkens back—you could say—to an era of female oppression.
Most importantly, though, if an item’s purported function (in this case, supporting breasts) is unnecessary, we don’t really need said item, do we?
All that being said, bras can be a lovely garment—they can make a woman feel sexy and confident, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Too crunchy-hippie for you? Skip ahead to number four.
Shoes…our feet did not co-evolve with footwear. That came much later, and our bodies are still designed to function optimally without them. Shoes actually compromise the natural way we run and walk.
But what about broken glass? Dirt, bacteria, those creepy parasites that enter your body through your feet?
All valid concerns, which is why most of us will probably continue to wear shoes. However, I have visited the dark side of dirty feet and calloused soles, and I can tell you it’s not all that scary—it can even prove to be quite liberating.
Did you know that the FDA classifies deodorant (the product that combats body odor) as a cosmetic product, but labels antiperspirant (the product that stops you from sweating) as an over-the-counter drug? It strikes me as slightly worrisome to be applying medication to our bodies on a daily basis.
The chemicals in antiperspirants are not kind to the body. The link to breast cancer seems to be a popular internet myth; however, there are plenty of other ways to cause damage. Sweating is (one of) the body’s ways of ridding itself of toxins. Blocking that process, then? Not a great idea.
Drugstores carry deodorant without antiperspirant—I highly recommend it.
Like shampoo, most commercial moisturizers—packed with petroleum, glycerin, alcohol and—actually strip your skin of its natural ability to do the same. The instant gratification of soft, smooth skin is just an illusion! The longer you use these products, the more dependent your skin becomes on their charlatan cures. I had the great luck of learning this tip early on from the owner of a natural bath and body store, and was thus spared the cycle of destruction.
There are so many oils that work brilliantly to keep your skin (and hair, if you like) supple and happy. I am constantly trying to convert friends to these alternatives—I hope I’ll fare better here!
I think breaking through the web of clever advertising, social pressures and culture of consumption can be a kind of waking up from the forces that so often determine our buying and living. It can liberate us from mindless patterns, too.
That said, I offer this list without judgement for the choices and priorities of others. These are things I have found unnecessary to me and my life, and I hope that their listing might inspire others to evaluate the products they use—and the products that use them.
What products do you do without? I’d love to see your lists!
~Relephant Mindful, ethical, sustainable Elephant Market offering:
Relephant bonus: Ditching all these won’t just benefit you but the environment too. Here’s 10 more ideas how to live zero waste:
Author: Toby Israel
Editor: Rachel Nussbaum
Photo: Google Images for Reuse