No Soap in the Chicago Tribune

Just a quick note before heading out for the weekend.

I was contacted by Julie Deardorff of the Chicago Tribune for some supplemental info for an article she was doing. And here it is: How to give up soap. I was particularly gratified that she got in a few bits about paleo, particularly that it’s not reenactment.

Proponents of a paleo-type diet generally avoid dairy and grains and try to eat as our ancestors once did. Nikoley said he isn’t trying to emulate a caveman, but he lost 60 pounds and his health improved after he eliminated grains, sugar, modern processed cooking oils, and most dairy.

"My high blood pressure normalized, I got off allergy meds I’d been on since college, and GERD meds I’d been on for a decade," he wrote in an email. "In other words I do it because I get excellent results, feel better, have stable energy, and so on."

Giving up soap, he reasoned, was primarily a matter of convenience as long as the results were acceptable. But then he found that washing only with water was actually better than using soap.

Still in a bit too much shoulder pain to blog much, but we’ll give ‘er a try as soon as possible.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More


  1. JUPITER on January 21, 2011 at 13:52

    I have been on and off the no soap for about a year, but on jan 1st i quit using it for good and also have not had a problem, but in the last year i got to thinking about why i smell fine with out soap, the only think i was able to come up with is that the soap residue that is leftover on the skin is giving the bacteria something to feed off and that is what causes BO, now i have no idea if this is right but i decided that if that is what is happening then bacteria can live of the soap residue left on my cloths as well, so i stop using laundry soap also. It has been only 21 days and yes i do wash them, i just use hot water only and it all smells just fine, none of my friends know this is going on and my wife dose a smell check on my clothing often

    thinks i have learned, socks and underwear get 1 day,shirts are fine for 2 and pants will smell fine up to 5 days.

    • Alex on January 22, 2011 at 01:10

      You are right. Standard soap is not inherently toxic to bacteria. When you wash your hands, it is merely the mechanical action of rubbing your hands together and the chemical action of the alkaline soap (which cuts through the grease and grime that bacteria can cling to) that makes them clean and perhaps a little less ‘germy’!

      In fact, here in the UK, many hospitals will not allow bar soap on the premises due to the growth of a particular type of bacteria called pseudomonas that occurs on them.

      Another possibility is that the chemical perfumes used in soaps and other toiletries react with skin flora or other natural skin secretions (even sweat) and create by-products that pong!

  2. LeonRover on January 21, 2011 at 14:32

    First I gave up shampoo and shaving cream and used ordinary soap.

    Next I read an article by dentist that the main benefit of brushing teeth as that colonies of bacteria were broken up by the action and that the toothpaste made it taste fresh. I applied this idea to tooth hygiene, and then began to use Na (CO3)2 – baking powder – for the whitening.

    I next applied this principle to bathing by using hard skin rubbing – it also removes dead skin cells. Finally, I grew a beard and have no need for soap except when my hands are really dirty.

    I also apply the principle to washing dishes — rinse in hot water and rub with a brush.

    (Mind you, at present, I live alone . . . . . So ? ? ?)

    • rob on January 21, 2011 at 17:18

      Has anyone tried not brushing or rinsing their teeth for a year? There is every chance that once you got used to the change they would wind up pearly white.

  3. Eric R on January 21, 2011 at 14:57

    I’m surprised you still use deodorant. Not something I ever got into. Does you wife like the way it smells or something?

    • LeonRover on January 21, 2011 at 16:24

      No deodorant – believe in the power of phero-moans!

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2011 at 09:29


      It’s more of a small accommodation and playing it safe, for me. If I can smell the pits, others probably can too.

      • Eric R on January 25, 2011 at 20:40

        Ha! Richard, you don’t strike me as a “small accommodation” kinda guy. Deodorant is just like shampoo – it keeps us coming back by throwing off our normal chemistry. Kick the habit!

      • Richard Nikoley on January 25, 2011 at 21:31

        Small accommodation for a very large one: having a wife. While she does admit my skin and hair smell fine and pleasant (her words), I can still get ripe in the pits.

        It’s not such a big deal that I am that interested in trying to work around it. 95% is good enough, I guess.

  4. julianne on January 21, 2011 at 20:32

    I haven’t used soap on my body for some time. Just a hot shower and I’m done. I do wash my hair with shampoo though – it’s hard to get my hair looking good without shampoo. I did try for a few weeks but it looked sticky.
    I’m also lucky in that I don’t smell, ever, I can go a week or more without a shower and no-one would notice. (Even my husband) I’ve never used or needed deodorant. Something to do with the type of bacteria colonizing your skin. I’ve heard a company is trying to develop a bacterial spray for skin to replace bad smelling ones with good smelling ones – makes sense.

    When I had bad breath a few years ago – I used a mouth and throat probiotic , it completely eliminated the bad smelling bacteria, by replacing it with bacteria that doesn’t produce a bad odor, BlisK12.

    • Mike on January 22, 2011 at 15:38

      Thanks for sharing… very interesting! Where can I obtain this product. Thanks you.


  5. Richard Laurence on January 22, 2011 at 03:51

    One of the functions of toothpaste maybe to stop your toothbrush colonising bacteria. Washing them in the diswasher works well.

  6. Steve S on January 22, 2011 at 10:31

    after what is a long and boring story, I was duped by doctors into taking antibiotics for acne and for the past ten years of been cycling between these and benzoyl peroxide soap. Anytime I’ve tried to stop all together I’ve broken out with scarring acne all over my body, much worse than I ever had before I started taking their drugs. Prior to this I was soap free for a couple of years and loved it; cannot remember for the life of me why I ever went back. Would love to stop again but am a bit scared of the acne outbreaks.

    Has anyone had any experience with this? It would ease my mind if I knew that there would be a light at the end of the tunnel. Thanks

    • jikin on January 23, 2011 at 11:35

      I had acne bad enough that a doctor tried to talk me into meds, but I refused. I got my face partially cleared by stopping using soap and make-up on it about 2 years ago. Everything cleared up the rest of the way once I went primal in my diet last summer. Two weeks ago I decided to go the whole way and quit the soap everywhere else (including shampoo), and what was left of the “backne” is finally clearing up.
      Give it a try. You won’t know if it will work for you if you don’t try.

    • Richard Nikoley on January 24, 2011 at 09:19

      Steve S:

      I don’t have the link handy here on my mobile device, but Google Loren Cordain, Paleo diet for acne. You want to get to the underlying cause, which is likely inflammation, and the Paleo diet will fix that. This will make your no soap experience as it should be.

      Good luck, and please report back.

    • Korwyn on January 24, 2011 at 14:44


      If I break my paleo diet for any extended period of time (a couple of days), two things give it away to my wife: 1) I start to develop BO; 2) I start to break out in those huge painful pimples that are closer to boils than anything.

      On a side (related) note, I used to get infections in the smallest of cuts. If I cleared brush, cut wood, or worked outside, and got a scratch (or from one of the cats), it would get infected. Not bad (usually), but I have many, many, little scars from this. It got to the point a few years ago that after working outside, I would just go soak a washcloth in 90% rubbing alcohol and wipe down my arms, legs, face, and anywhere I had a scratch, cut, or abrasion. Since going paleo (diet – 2.5 years past) and paleo (skin 1 year past) this problem has vanished. I chalk part of it up to gut flora imbalance (intestinal dysbiosis), and part of it to bacterial evolution from constantly using anti-bacterial soap on my skin which I’m sure was killing off the good bacteria, and stripping off the natural protective oils which should have helped prevent infection.

  7. jf on January 23, 2011 at 13:17

    Hope you recover soon, in the mean time you might enjoy George Carlin’s take on germs:

  8. jeff borsato on January 23, 2011 at 07:07


    regarding shoulder issues,
    have you considered the possibility of it being related to TMS?

    ive been struggling with low back pain for about 6 years now, and after having unsuccessfully tried every treatment out there along with seeing the poor efficacy of standard treatments, i turned to the work of a Dr. John Sarno. most people reject this concept outirght but i figure this is a place where heretical ideas can get their due.

    shoulder joint pain can turn into a nightmare when ultrasound/MRI scans reveal degeneration and tears that are for all intents and purposes the normal signs of aging, but taken by mainstream medicine to be the cause of one’s pain. the fact that these abnormalities exist in much of the population w/ no signs or symptoms appears to be lost on the profession.

    short of a physical ligament tear, muscle damage or bone fracture, your shoulder is fine if given some rest and return to regular activity. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has proven to do some fantastic work treating chronic back pain vs. physio treatment, I wonder if this applies to other joint conditions such as shoulders as well.

  9. Ozzie on January 24, 2011 at 15:12

    Tim Ferriss on Doctor Oz show today!

  10. sarah on January 24, 2011 at 17:54

    Hello Richard! Congrats on your success and I hope your shoulder gets better soon! I just discovered your blog today while researching the whole “no soap/shampoo” idea. A lot of what you are saying is making a lot of sense to me except for one thing, if you are truly trying to eat as man ate prior to the neolithic revolution, wouldn’t all the meat you eat have to to be wild game? Because even grass-fed beef is still domesticated, which makes it a neolithic food, and probably vastly different nutritionally from anything a paleolithic man would have eaten. In addition, all the veggies you eat are also farmed and are therefore also post-neolithic. I feel like the only way to eat a true paleo diet would be to eat only wild game/fish/fowl and wild roots/veggies/berries etc. Or maybe I’m missing the whole point and this diet is just a modern interpretation of the hunter/gatherer diet? Also, meat, especially organic/grass-fed meats are SUPER expensive. Any reccomendations for some one on a very tight budget? Thanks for your help!

    • Anand Srivastava on January 24, 2011 at 23:33

      We are living in a modern world. We cannot escape this situation. It is better to try to get as close as possible. Also most of us believe that we don’t know the paleolithic diet very well, and are just guessing at it. We don’t know what tweaks they would have done in which conditions. It is very easy to abuse the knowledge and go to an extreme.

      You don’t need to use grassfed anything. It just has better nutrients. Even the worst CAFO meat will have a better nutrient profile than grains or legumes. Dairy is a bit on the fence, but avoid the processed milk. The higher fat dairy products are better, like cheese, butter, ghee. Everybody does the balancing of the nutrients from the meat with veggies differently.

    • Anand Srivastava on January 25, 2011 at 05:03

      You might also want to read the Conventional Beef guide by Don Matesz.

      The above is the third part. The others can be found at the site.

  11. Rachel on January 24, 2011 at 21:15

    Richard, let me add my wishes for your recovery. I’ve also gone soap free, to the horror of my boyfriend, although I sometimes use a glycerin only bar when I feel like it. My skin feels so much better now that I’ve thrown out my lotions. Still working on the shampoo, which is a bit harder when you’re a girl with longish hair.

  12. Abe on January 25, 2011 at 10:24

    There has been a big following on this topic lately. I have a simple Q&A setup on for No Soap/Shampoo related things, and we have been getting tons of hits and new followers lately. I guess it has gone viral!

  13. Kristján on January 25, 2011 at 13:03

    I like using soap every now and then, but only when my hands feel dirty.

    Plus I work at a fast-food restaurant where it’s pretty much required of you to wash your hands multiple times during each shift.

    I’ve almost given up regular shampoo though. I just use an “organic” one without preservatives about once or twice a week. My hair starts to smell bad if I only wash it with water for a long time.

  14. golooraam on January 25, 2011 at 15:29

    Hey Richard,

    I do this with my hair a couple days a week – actually looks and feels nicer.

    Btw – how are your workouts going? I am reducing mine to 2x a week and focusing on getting stronger while I work on losing a lot more bodyfat. I read that Tim Ferris book and am incorporating Super Cissus Rx on days where I eat a lot more food than I should. Only time will tell how it works out.

  15. Jackson on December 4, 2011 at 19:00

    I’ve noticed many comments on the no soap/shampoo posts that refer to toothpaste and thought I’d share something from my own family. My great grandfather was adamantly against toothpaste and never used it. Instead he flossed religiously and chewed gum (which had a small amount of sugar but that would have no positive effect on tooth health).

    He lived well into his 90s, never had any cavities and died with his teeth. All his children (who used toothpaste against his advice) up to my generation all suffered the normal dental problems so it was not some genetic fluke. In fact his son, my grandfather had to get dentures because he brushed very regularly and wore the enamel of his teeth. I hadn’t remembered this until I came across this blog.

    Think about it. Who is always telling us to brush three times a day with an abrasive paste? The very people who make a great deal of money on fillings and other dental procedures. They don’t have much motivation to look into things that could put them out of business much like optometrists and their disdain of methods of improving vision.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Follow by Email8k