We crave to belong to the group. It’s easy to see in children, even moreso in teenagers. We never think that it is affecting our own, grownup attitudes. But it does.
At a market a few weeks ago, a young woman was asking about what she thought was a natural deodorant. I pointed out to her that she was pointing at muscle balm (in an easy to store and apply container perfect for a mostly-solid wax-based product) and the natural deodorant comes in a paste, which you apply with your fingers. She said: “That’s weird!”
I loved her honesty.
Because I have had the same reaction from many adults when I explain the very same thing; however, the adults usually just give me a funny look and then walk away. Without – saying – anything.
From these experiences, I have learned that there are two groups of people looking for ‘natural’ solutions: people who are willing to give up what they are used to to get ‘natural’ and people want the same look, feel, smell and instructions from their new naturals as they get from their current commercial chemical concoctions.
Let’s get this straight: a laundry additive’s job is to help pull dirt from the clothes. A body cleanser’s job is to help pull dirt off of our bodies. A deodorant’s job is to stop sweat from stinking… There are lots of recipes around for mixtures that will do all of these things without also adding the things that an increasing number of us are getting sick from. Logical, right?
It breaks down for some people, though, and I think the marketing companies know this. The people want a hand lotion that looks, feels, smells, absorbs and lasts the same as the lotions they have been using all their lives so the companies give them just that. Label writers have gotten good at making chemicals sound naturally-sourced instead of chemically derived. (Because you can take something real and whole like a coconut and derive from that lovely safe-sounding seed a chemical called sodium lauryl sulphate, which isn’t particularly nice to your body but is a (very) common ingredient in body washes, shampoos, and other household detergents, sometimes even listed as coconut extracts). Other companies have tried to put out versions of personal products that avoid the chemical ingredients and use natural ingredients but try to mimic the mainstream products. This actually backfires (IMHO) because the product is purchased with expectations far exceeding what it can actually do:
- The natural ingredients don’t behave the same way as the chemical ones. They never did. That’s part of the reason why companies started using the chemical ones (to make it last longer, feel nicer, smell fresh… though I’ve never really understood the scent thing since fresh hair and fresh grass don’t really smell the same).
- The chemical-ly ones (yes, I made up a word) are what they are because of the chemicals so trying to be like them forces you to give up results in order to change the physical properties.
- In short, they either don’t work or they are not as ‘natural’ as they seem and produce the reactions the buyer is trying to escape. If you don’t believe me, add a comment and we can discuss the conversations that take place every market weekend about deodorant.
Oh yeah… I was talking about deodorant. Back to my young lady at the market…
I really did appreciate her honesty because it invited a response and started a conversation. So I put it to her: when you’ve been unable to shave for five years because your skin will burn anywhere the deodorant touches it, having to wipe your hands with a washcloth afterwards seems a very small price to pay for an odor-free day.
When I started looking for solutions, it wasn’t trendy to be going all-natural. The people who really committed to it were spoken about in the same category as ‘that hippie friend from college who was vegan and liked incense’ (a less common attitude these days, and I mean no offense to anyone). But I committed to it anyway and I found and tested recipes and replaced everything I could with homemade concoctions that had none (that’s right, none) of the crap that was making us sick and puzzled any visitor who asked to borrow shampoo or do laundry at my house.
So to that young lady, wherever you are, in addition to your honesty I also thank you for your bravery for you raised up your arm right there, in the middle of the market, and applied the deodorant sample right there to see what I was talking about. You didn’t come back to buy it but you made a statement, even if I’m the only one that heard it.
Things are changing.