This post is part of my series, “Kickin’ It Old Skool: Why and How We Are Old-Fashioned” or KIOS for short. If you’re new to the series, please read my disclaimer before continuing on. I’m keeping a table of contents to this series here so you can see what I’ve already written about and what more there is to come.
We’re finished with “Cleaning” (if only we really could be! :)) and now, on to “Grooming”!*
Before our wedding, Nik and I registered for lovely, plush maroon towels. I loved having plenty of matching towels and they added some nice color to our white and grey bathroom. The summer after we got married, I was struggling with acne (which was pretty much the story of my life up until a couple years ago). I was using a acne spot treatment that I thought was pretty mild (something like this). I would put it on my pimple then wash and dry my hands. Soon, I noticed that there were some crazy light spots showing up on our beautiful new hand towels. They looked like they’d been bleached. I finally figured out that even though I’d been washing my hands after applying that acne stuff, some of it was still there when I dried my hands and was ruining the towels.
This scared me. I was thinking, “If this stuff does that to those towels, what is it doing to my skin? How safe can it really be?”
So I threw out that stuff and decided I’d prefer that my pimples last longer rather than put that stuff onto my skin. At the time, I didn’t really think about the rest of what I used, but I should have.
Back then, we had a crazy full medicine cabinet and bathroom, full of products including face wash, toner, face lotion with sunscreen, at least two other lotions for the rest of my body, sunscreen for my body, toothpaste, shaving cream, lots of makeup, lip balm, hairspray, hair gel and mousse, regular shampoo and conditioner, anti-dandruff shampoo, fingernail polish and remover, liquid antibacterial hand soap, shower gel, tangerine-scented bar soap, contact solution, antiperspirant, and probably more. I used almost all of these things on a daily basis.
When I traveled, I needed a really big toiletries bag.
As we started to make changes in the rest of our life, slowly but surely, two things changed in me. First, I started to apply the same rules we use about food to what we used on our bodies. Almost everything we used had crazy long ingredient lists and incomprehensible ingredients. I did some research into some of the ingredients that were in our products (such as in my beloved Herbal Essences shampoo) and didn’t like what I learned. As we used them up, we didn’t buy any more. This was the practical side of the change.
Second, on the emotional side of this change, I had to learn to accept that God created me perfectly, that it was OK for me to look like the real me, that I didn’t have to force my hair or my body to meet certain media-driven stereotypes, and that I didn’t need all of that stuff to be beautiful. There is a very fine line between, “I want to take care of myself and feel good,” and “I have to use all of this product in order to be considered beautiful and acceptable.” I was over 30 before I was finally able to say, “I’m OK the way I am. I don’t need all of that stuff to look or feel right.” The companies who want to sell us all of that stuff want us to believe that we are somehow “neglecting ourselves” or “letting ourselves go” if we don’t use an array of bottles and jars on our face and body. These were hard lessons for me to learn.**
Now, 5 1/2 years after I started finding light spots on our towels, here’s all that we have in our medicine cabinet and sink now:
All of that, plus a bottle of shampoo and a bar of soap in the shower and lip balm, is everything that Nik, Ellie, Mark, and I use on our bodies, faces, and hair on a daily basis. I do have a salve that I use on my hands when they are particularly dry or chapped. We also keep sunscreen to use when we’re going to be in the sun.
Last summer, when we traveled for a month, our toiletries bag was very small. It was striking to me how little we needed to be clean and presentable.
For the rest of this series, I’ll be writing specifically about how and why we both discarded the products that we did and chose the products that we do use. In some ways, this topic is hard for me to write about because it’s so personal. By now, though, I hope you understand that I really do believe what my disclaimer says, that each of us can look at the same issue with the same information and still make two very different choices. This is just as true for the kind of shampoo you use as it is for how you choose to parent your children or what kind of food you eat.
Next week, I’ll start by writing about the only non-product-oriented topic of “Grooming” – in praise of infrequent hair-washing and showering. I’m sure you can’t wait!
*If anyone has a better word for “taking care of yourself and your body’s needs”, please speak up. Somehow, titling this section, “Grooming” makes me think I’m just going to be talking about how to take care of pets and their fur coats. 🙂 I just haven’t come up with anything better so far. I need a verb – all the other sections in the series end in “ing” so I need this one to end that way also!
**Please don’t read here what I am not saying. I am NOT saying that if you use [hairspray, makeup, fingernail polish, antiperspirant, ______] that you are insecure, maladjusted or any other negative word relating to body image or self-confidence. The problem comes when a person feels like he/she has to use [hairspray, makeup, fingernail polish, antiperspirant, ______] in order to be beautiful or accepted. If we make the conscious decision to use any of those things because we want to, then it’s not a problem. But for me (and sadly for too many other people), the need for using all those products was/is both unquestioned and compulsive.