What was bathing like back in the day?

Updated: Aug 2, 2020

Getting used to using natural bath and body care products does not come naturally to most of us raised in a consumerist, all-encompassing brand-name society. However, bathing with all-natural products brings us closer to others, across time and continents.


 
Audrey Hepburn bathing.
Audrey Hepburn back in the day, taking care of business.

Why does this feel so different?

When you are just starting out using all-natural products in your daily hygiene routines, let's face it— it feels different. Shampoos that are solid bars instead of silky liquid, subtly-scented natural body wash bars instead of over-perfumed gel body wash, and tooth soap or powder instead of tubed toothpaste.

If you've decided to give this different way of caring for your body a try, you will inevitably think about how you used to perform these daily routines in the past. This is not a somber time of recollection, but a curiosity: How did the social norms become so entrenched?



 

Washing like they used to do...

Standing in the shower, rubbing a solid shampoo bar over my hair instead of squeezing out the viscous, clear liquid shampoo that hasn't gotten removed from my ledge since I started on my all-natural journey, I begin comparing. It feels a bit alien to me, since, from birth, shampoo has always been liquid.

I instantly start summizing that this must have been the same feeling as solid soap bar washes experienced by those who lived in the wild west, with wooden walls and floors, and tin or copper tubs. The thought that I might be washing in the same way, with the same sensations, made me feel strong. This is the same strong you feel after a primitive camping trip, or making your first meal from scratch. I felt proud. A synthetic-filled liquid shampoo has never done that for me.


Photograph by Paul Van Baardwijk
Rough and tumble Wild West Bath House.

After showering, my curiosity peaked, I dive into a little research. Washing, hygiene, bathing, soap, and shampooing histories all have interesting timelines. Different cultures, over a tremendous amount of years, had their own "norms" for how one should keep their body (and hair) healthy. I soon found out just how short of a lifespan shampoo actually had.


From Egyptian, to Japanese, to Indian, to British, French, and American, keeping oneself clean has existed in its own "norm" for the time and place that the culture provided.

 

My New Normal is the Best for Me

The takeaway, after looking accross history and cultures, is that there are proven benefits to using more natural (and historically healthy) bathing products. The natural oils, flowers, herbs, and minerals used by those in the past are worth using today on my own body. After understanding that industrial/commercialized soaps and shampoos evolved into using synthetic and harmful ingredients to make production and profits rise, these won out their place in our modern bathrooms.

What I know as "normal" is not the same "normal" that others knew before me. Hopefully, the future will know natural and earth-friendly products as the "norm" for their own hygiene routines. Each time I shampoo and condition my hair with a solid bar, it still feels different from what I was trained to experience. However, the end result of naturally soft and healthy hair without the use of plastic bottles and synthetic ingredients is a strong and culturally connected person.


How Have You Been Connected to the Past in Your Use of Natural Products?

Be sure to comment and share how you've been connected to the past by using natural and earth-friendly products in your daily hygiene routines.


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