I think I'll start a new stream of posts on this topic. If you have read Ishmael, you have at least considered the idea of "mother culture" before; I like to find places where I've just accepted what I've been socialized to accept. Then, I like to look a little more closely and see what is really behind it.
The current one is about hand lotion and sodium laurel sulfate and shampoo.
When I was about eight and visiting my grandmother, who knew everything about keeping house and tending herself, she said, "Well, Sister, your hands need some lotion. Here- put this on and you should do it every day." I slathered on that lotion that smelled exactly like my perfect grandmother, delighting in the smell and the feeling of being like her. The slimy feeling on my hands was kind of gross, but I was a well-behaved child, and I tried really hard to do as she advised. I have used hand lotion pretty miuch daily ever since.
My first shampoo memory involves a green bottle on the side of the tub and then a clear bottle with a picture of Eve draped in flowers. Again, the smells in these two bottles make an even stronger memory than anything else. I also remember my perfect grandmother once saying nothing cleaned hair "these days" like her mother's homemade soap. She said they would wash their hair once a week, then braid it, and that was it until the next hair washing.
The thing I am questioning is the value of these products and if we have really progressed with all our washing and slathering. Someone suggested to me that we have become addicted to sodium laurel sulfate, and if we give our skin some time, we can just use soap on our hair and oil when our skin needs a little help. I have tried before, but I am trying again, as my question to reduce our plastic intake is never-ending, and it is surprising how much of the "new" plastic in our house is from hygiene products.
I have not used shampoo in two weeks, and there were about three really scary days that involved me actually hiding my hair. Then, I used baking soda paste followed by a cider vinegar rinse, and things look pretty awesome. The baking soda comes in a paper box and the vinegar I can either make myself or buy in a glass bottle. Side benefits are that my hair doesn't seem to tangle anymore and it's easier to put up. I figure the hair oils play into this, but I reiterate, my hair looks great, not nasty.
I'm using a homemade hand salve composed of beeswax and olive oil. Again, it took a few days, but my fingers are not split, and the feet I abuse by going barefooted as much as possible seem to have many fewer cracks. I have tried a million things for my feet and my cracked finger tips, so I am pretty amazed with the difference. What I understand is that the ingredients actually dry out our skin and hair so we soak up this little bit of oil but are ultimately more parched.
I'm not really willing to try to convince you, because I can already here the, "No, but my hair..." comments, and it has to be up to you. I'm just saying if you get really tired of bring all that trash into your house and your hands and hair being a mess, you could at least try this. It's a lot cheaper than any other thing I've heard of.