My shampoo solution

I have basically two kinds of readers here: serious plastic reduction folk, and co-workers. (Hi gang!) The later group might not understand how seriously some of the former take the issue of not using commercial shampoos, which includes the plastic bottle and for some the chemicals included. The baking-soda-and-vinegar alternative didn’t appeal, and it’s not because I’m afraid of either. (I clean my teeth with one, the mirror with the other.)

I was prepared to keep using plastic-bottled shampoo because — must I say it? — dandruff. Which, as it turns out two doctor-visits ago, is really some kind of allergic thingy and not the garden variety. Since over-the-counter zinc and selenium shampoos weren’t cutting it, I decided to change tack and that — mirabile dictu! — got me away from plastic.

I bought a bar of Grandpa’s Wonder Pine Tar Soap: a Tootsie Roll-colored cake in a cardboard box. No plastic. Now, its maker is very keen to couch any claims of treating skin ailments as folklore and with deep caveats. But I also wasn’t convinced that people buy it for the scent, which is not unlike the smell of leaves burning. Not bad, but not great. I made a lather in my hands and worked it in wet hair. It tingled just for a moment the first time, but not long and not since. And dang if the flaking came to an almost complete end after two, perhaps three days. Seriously. (And of course, your experience might be completely different.) And it doesn’t itch nearly as much.

Now, as to my hair. The soap is drying, but I find if I use it to wash my scalp and treat the cleaning of the hair as an afterthought, the dryness is lessened. Of course, the weather has been very dry, my hair was far longer than usual when I started (which probably explains some flyaways) and I’ve stopped using any product. (I should probably resume; a pomade perhaps.)  If you smelled my hair — nose on head — you’d smell the pine tar. But with my nose several inches from my scalp, I’ve never noticed it.

Sometimes the soap leaves a faint residue: a very fine mist — for lack of a better word — of resin that adds some body, and which for all I know is causing the scalp to get better. I like it and recommend it for people who want a bottled shampoo substitute and have dermatitis or eczema.  I am experimenting alternating shampooings with Vermont Soap shampoo bar, which I’m also trying out as a shaving soap. Got that one at Greater Goods in bulk.  I’ll review that when I come to an opinion.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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