I stopped using soap in 2010, back when I was still in high school. There was an artist-in-residence at my school and I used to hang out at his studio a lot. One day, we were chatting and it somehow came up that he hadn’t used soap in 20 years. My first reaction was, ‘Ew, gross!’ But he replied by asking me if I thought he smelled bad, and he honestly didn’t. That’s basically what started it all for me.
I stopped using soap, cold turkey.
Honestly, I wasn’t worried about smelling – I considered the artist a good friend, and if it worked for him, then it was good enough for me, right? And you have to remember, I was 16 and in high school. If I had been the slightest bit stinky or sticky or gross, I would have immediately gone back to soap.
But there was no ‘transition period’ or anything. That’s why I’ve stuck with it for so long – there’s been no deterioration to my hygiene or health.
The decision wasn’t exactly a life-changing moment or something I agonised over or put a tonne of thought into, to be honest – it was kind of something I just did. And it’s not something I think about regularly or consider a core part of my identity or anything like that. I just … stopped using soap one day, and that was it.
I’ve noticed no difference in regards to washing with just water after being sweaty or dirty. I’ve been on long hikes, lived in tropical climates, worked long shifts as a server at a banquet hall – water alone has cleaned me off just fine afterwards. I think for a lot of people, using soap after working out or otherwise getting dirty is more psychological than anything – we’ve been taught that we must use soap to get “properly” clean, even though that might not actually be the case.
If anything, I have noticed that my skin has become less dry and my face, less oily.
Most people are mildly grossed out, shocked, surprised, or a combination of the three. That’s usually followed by curiosity, and if that’s the case, I’m happy to chat. There have been some harsher reactions from folks online, but hey, that’s the internet for you.
I’d like to note here that I don’t exactly go around telling people I don’t use soap, like, “Hi, I’m Jackie, I don’t use soap, nice to meet you!” It rarely, if ever, comes up.
My boyfriend stopped using soap shortly after I did, and I’ve influenced a few other people to give up over the years as well!