Popular “Crunchy” Product Recipes: Why They Don’t Work

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The word “crunchy” — meaning natural, sustainable, toxin-free — is so overused online that it has become cliché. However, there’s no denying the popularity of the crunchy crowd; the bloggers who spread the word, their loyal readership who hang on their every idea. Thousands, if not millions, of people have changed their ways, ditched their store-bought products, and vowed to make their life as crunchy as possible by making their own cleaning products, toiletries, and even makeup.

On the surface, it’s easy to see why this is the case. Who among us wouldn’t opt for a way of living that was purported to be better for our entire family? If there’s a toxin-free way of going through life, then it’s pretty clear that most of us would decide that was probably the preferable way for us to live our lives. As a result, it’s easy to see why so many people have hopped onto the crunchy bandwagon, especially when you investigate the claims for the efficacy of crunchy living:

  • Crunchy living will save you money. As you’ll be making products for yourself, you won’t need to spend on store-bought cleaners, toiletries, and all those other distinctly non-fun ways of spending money.
  • Crunchy living will allow you to be more ecologically-friendly. Who doesn’t want to find ways to live their life in a “greener” fashion? There’s no doubt that the crunchy claims behind certain cleaning products are entirely true; there is a chance that your washing powder is damaging the environment, for example.
  • Crunchy living will ensure that the products you use in your home and on your body are “chemical-free”…

Okay, time out: we can’t leave that one lying there. The “chemical-free” statement is one of the most ridiculous you will ever see in crunchy circles. If someone has made a vinegar cleaner (which is incredibly likely; the crunchy crowd just love their vinegar cleaners), then they may proudly declare that their finished product is “chemical-free”. Which is incredibly impressive, given that everything is a chemical, including vinegar, which moonlights as acetic acid and dihydrogen monoxide.

  • Anyway, let’s reserve the term “toxin-free” in replacement for “chemical-free”, because it’s easy to see what the crunchy advocates are getting at when they say chemical-free; they mean something natural, that won’t cause harm to the human body or environment.

So those are the claims by those who advocate a crunchy lifestyle: save money, save the environment, save your health. As Carl Sagan once put it: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Sadly, for the crunchy fans, there’s no extraordinary evidence that their homemade products are effective or able to achieve their lofty aims.

Below is a deep dive into two of the best known “crunchy” alternatives. Rather than throwing out your all your cleaning products and toiletries, why not read through these first? There’s many reasons that nerdy moms should be skeptical of a crunchy lifestyle, and these two ever-popular alternatives are the perfect example as to why…

Soap Nuts For Laundry

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Soap nuts (sometimes called soap berries) are a natural compound that do contain a cleaning agent of sorts, called saponin. Thousands of crunchy-loving fans say that you don’t need washing detergent when you’ve got a handful of soap nuts on hand; throw the nuts into the drum with your clothes, and your clothes will be fresh and new in no time.

This doesn’t work.

While soap nuts can remove stains, for rather complicated reasons, they can’t truly clean clothes. If you have been using soap nuts, then — just as an experiment — place supposedly clean clothes into a bathtub of water. You will soon see that your “clean” clothes are actually turning the water a milky, grey color; add a little bicarbonate of soda and this will become even more obvious. Soap nuts may remove stains, but they do next to nothing for all the other problems that can make clothes dirty– such as mineral deposits, water residue, or contact with your moisturizer or deodorant.

Ultimately, if you want to truly clean your clothes and thus prolong their life, you need to use a specialized laundry detergent. However, that doesn’t mean you have to go back to grabbing whatever is nearest to you when shopping in the grocery store. Instead, opt for natural laundry soaps that can do the tough work without any of the potential environmental issues.

The “No Shampoo” Method For Cleaning Hair

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The “no shampoo” method, often referred to as No Poo, is a popular theme for those in crunchy circles. The idea behind it is simple:

  • Conventional shampoos strip natural oils from your hair
  • As a result of this, your scalp panics, and over-produces oil to compensate for the sudden dryness
  • This leads to hair that gets greasy in record time, and which has no life or natural volume of its own
  • To prevent this, switch from using conventional shampoos
  • Replace your shampoo with bicarbonate of soda, washing using nothing but water and conditioner only, or one of the numerous homemade shampoo recipes you can find online
  • As these methods don’t strip the oils from your hair and scalp, after an adjustment period, your hair will be thicker, stronger, and cleaner
  • Your scalp will also be happier, as these crunchy shampoo methods don’t contain potential irritants such as SLS or sulphates.

Well, that’s the idea anyway.

The reality is… very different indeed. Let’s go through it point-by-point:

  • Conventional shampoos strip natural oils from your hair.

True! With that said, those “natural oils” are actually just sebum, which is your scalp’s way of keeping itself moisturized. When this sebum builds up, our hair becomes greasy… so you’re going to wash it in an attempt to remove those “natural oils” you’re meant to so adore. So, the fact that shampoo removes natural oils… is a really good thing.

  • With the natural oils removed, your scalp then over-produces oil to compensate.

Erm! This is theorized, but there’s no evidence to prove it actually happens. What will happen is that your scalp begins to produce sebum again after washing, which is exactly what your scalp is meant to do.

  • This leads to hair that gets greasy in record time, and which has no life or natural volume of its own

Not Quite! Sure, your scalp and hair will get greasy of its own accord, but again, it’s meant to do that. Volume issues more tend to be caused by your hair type than anything to do with scalp oil production.

  • To prevent this, switch from using conventional shampoos

Well! If you’re switching from conventional shampoos to prevent your hair from getting greasy, then you’re fighting against nature here. Once again, your scalp is meant to get greasy. This really can’t be stated enough.

  • Replacing your shampoo with bicarbonate of soda, washing using nothing but water and conditioner only, or one of the numerous homemade shampoo recipes you can find online.

Okay This Is Bad!

  1. Bicarbonate of soda is going to outright ruin your hair.
  2. Conditioner-only “washing” tends to only be effective for those who have naturally dry, usually curly hair. If your hair is thin and tends to develop sebum quickly (this tends to go hand-in-hand with oily facial skin), then conditioner-only “washing” isn’t going to cut it.
  3. While there’s no way of judging any homemade shampoo recipes, look at the comments from any post with a shampoo recipe. Almost without exception, there will be readers reporting they tried this method and it just didn’t work for them.

So unless you have curly hair, it’s fair to say the crunchy ways are scoring zero for three here.

  • As these methods don’t strip the oils from your hair and scalp, after an adjustment period, your hair will be thicker, stronger, and cleaner.

If these methods aren’t stripping oils from your hair and scalp, they’re not cleaning your hair effectively. Secondly, changing hair thickness is nigh-on impossible without a comprehensive regime of both internal and external treatments. Thirdly, hair strength is not decided by a shampoo, but more from how you treat your hair– such as avoiding heat treatments and wearing it tied back.

  • Your scalp will also be happier, as these crunchy shampoo methods don’t contain potential irritants such as SLS or sulphates.

Yes! This point actually is true. Many people do experience problems with SLS and sulphates, which can cause scalp conditions and severe irritation. However, if you are one of these people, you’ll find more benefit if you switch to a natural, SLS/sulphate free shampoo instead of trying a homemade concoction.

In Conclusion

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There are many, many more popular crunchy recipes and falsehoods flying around online; these two were selected as they’re the most commonly mentioned and repeated. They are also emblematic of the problem that faces the crunchy way of living, in that the initial problem is misunderstood, the science is misapplied, and then a solution (that isn’t really a solution) is suggested. You can extrapolate these realities from pretty much every crunchy recipe out there.

It’s admirable to want to live a better life, be kinder to the environment, be kinder even to your own skin and body. However, there’s a reason humans stepped away from crunchy living to begin with– because we came up with alternatives that were more effective.

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